Monday, December 26, 2016

Selling Books on Amazon

In May 2015, Ty Cohen, highly successful author of books sold as paperbacks primarily on and as ebooks sold through its Kindle Direct Publishing Program (KDP), presented a generously detailed webinar on writing and publishing his way, followed with a short pitch for his program that you can see at

He has been dubbed “King of Amazon Kindle Publishing” and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his works.

I summarize his talk:

What’s Your Problem?

New authors typically have one of the following three problems:
1. Being a procrastinating perfectionist. The writer finds his work is never perfect, so he never publishes it.
2. Not knowing what the audience wants.
3. Needing a way to get in front of the right audience.
These new authors have other problems, as well, with decisions that need to be made about: attracting readers, setting prices, choosing covers, selecting genres, and getting started rapidly.

Prospects for Publishing

Publishing is undergoing a radical transformation from the publishing of physical books to the publishing of digital books:
1. The book 50 Shades of Grey got its initial success on Amazon’s Kindle.
2. Amanda Hocking made $3 million in her first 18 months; she was self-published.
3. Stephen Leather sells 2000 ebooks per day containing his novellas.
4. Novelist John Locke sold $1 million in ebooks in his first year, under nine different titles.

Clearly there is money, distribution, even fame to be obtained through the use of self-publishing in digital media.

Keys to the Kingdom and Its Treasury

Ty Cohen’s keys to success on Amazon:      
   1.   Discover what readers want.
   2.   Determined which price points are optimal.
   3.   Build a huge, loyal fan base.
   4.   Generate large sales so readers and publishers seek you out.

Amazon’s royalties dwarf those of traditional publishing houses. Often Amazon gives authors 70% of the price of their ebook. Conventional publishers typically give 5 to 10% royalty for a printed book.

Not only are there 7 billion devices worldwide that can receive ebook content, but Amazon itself has 700 million credit card numbers already on file, simplifying the purchasing process for its customers.

Use Amazon for Research

Authors can use Amazon’s sales information and review information to determine what the public is interested in having them write about.

Go to and type in the genre you want to investigate. Sort by the number of reviews that the books have received or more specifically five-star and four-star reviews. Amazon makes it easy to sort by other characteristics as well.

Look at the most popular books and determine their strengths and weaknesses by reading the very favorable and the very unfavorable reviews. This will help you understand what the readers want and don‘t want.

In general, the book’s title is the first thing that captures a potential reader’s attention. Next is the cover. Finally, those still interested will read the description of the book.

Give Them What They Want

You are trying to seduce your reader into going past page 20. The title beckons. The first few pages continue to entice. You must continue to battle for attention.

Price Wisely

Although a high price will give you more money per book, it can easily become too high and cut your total revenue. Amazon gives 70% for ebooks priced at $2.99 and above, and this $2.99 price Cohen has found to be optimal. Books over $10 sell at 1/6th the rate of those at $2.99. Not only does this $2.99 price get your more money up front, it gets more readers to swell your fan base, valuable for sales of follow-on publications and other uses.

In pricing the paperback edition of my WYBWM, I chose to make it roughly a dollar more than the minimum allowed by its publisher.  Gaining wider distribution trumped profit-making. If I make it a Kindle book, I will probably charge $2.99, as lower prices produce much less income, and very inexpensive books are often not given much respect. Besides, 70% of $2.99 nets the author $2.07, and 35% of $0.99 nets $0.35, one-sixth.

Get Many Honest Positive Reviews

The number of reviews the book has and how enthusiastic they are keys to successful sales. Even if you are giving the book away, people will be reluctant to spend the time to read them without some reasonable assurance that they are likely to find that effort worthwhile. Favorable reviews give that reassurance.

How to obtain such reviews?
  1.   Write a good book.  
  2.   Contact people who have already written reviews on Amazon. 
      Unfortunately, Cohen does not indicate how to do this.
  3.   Having contacted them, ask if they would like a copy, and gently request that they review it. Those who do agree to accept a copy of the book will usually end up giving favorable reviews, partly because they are predisposed to liking such books and partly due to feeling that a gift should be reciprocated.

Use Translations to Speak to Reader in Own Language

Second to English is Spanish for world-wide use, and English books can be translated to Spanish readily using or hiring a translator from or

Create Your Own Amazon KDP Account

Amazon provides some free instructions or one can pay for more detailed help from Ty Cohen’s site at


Excerpted from my WRITE YOUR BOOK WITH ME, published by Outskirts Press in 2016 and available online from OP and from and, among others.

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