Using Amazon Effectively

When you go to Amazon to shop for books, what are you looking for?  A good, or better yet, a great read, right?  As a reader, you want to know in the quickest way possible:

  • what the book is about
  • what kind of reviews it’s getting
  • what else the author has to offer you

You readers out there, weigh in, tell me what I might have missed.  But from a marketing standpoint, these are the items that Amazon readers are saying that they want.  So as an author…

Why Are You Not Doing This?

I’ve done a lot of research on this and I want to share what I’ve learned with you.  As authors, you need to capture your readers’ interest as fast as you can, and compel them to buy your book.  Here’s what you don’t do (using my book, Reel Estate Rip-off as an example):

Reed Ferguson is a wannabe private eye living in Denver and is asked by a client, Ned Healy, to help solve a crime.  Reed has been flitting from career to career, but tracking down this killer brings Reed to life.  Follow Reed as he travels throughout Colorado to solve this case.

Can you say boring?  I took a description from a book on Amazon and tailored my book to that one.  The author who wrote the blurb that I used as an example is missing out on so much!  Remember, this little area is a reflection of your writing!  If it’s so-so here, what might your potential reader think of the book you’re trying to sell?

So let’s break this down a bit…

Amazon’s Product Description

First thing is to zing your potential buyers with praise from your book.  Something like this:

5 out of 5 stars

Witty dialogue.  Powerful action.  A great detective to spend time with.  This is a classic page-turner right up there with Chandler and Hammett.

Put your best reviews right up there where those book shoppers can see it, because I’ve got news for you, many of them don’t scroll down and read all the reviews.  So capture their interest right away!  Select the best reviews and edit them (meaning cut out what drags the review) – you want them short and punchy.  If you have reviews from other authors, this is a great place to put those with a credit.

The Story

Once you have some great reviews, now you want the description of the book itself.  Here again, I see numerous bad examples (and in the past, I include myself here).  Remember that bad (or not-so-good) example from above?  The last thing you want is to bore your readers.  So I follow the advice of Blake Crouch and others.  Write a short description that zings (I think that’s my word for today).  Here’s what I used for Reel Estate Rip-off:

Lights! Camera! Reed!
That’s right – Reed Ferguson, the intrepid hero of This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies, is back.

A mysterious death.
A brother searching for the truth.
A devious ex-wife.
Real estate shenanigans.
More danger for Reed than a film noir plot.

Could it be better?  Sure (and I’ll take your suggestions), but do you see what I did?  Reed Ferguson, the hero of my series, loves film noir.  So I’ve made a movie reference, and I’ve used movie terms in the titles.  This is a marketing strategy – interest those people who like movies and film noir.  Then I’ve kept the description to short sentences with active, powerful verbs.  Less is more.

Product Description Continued

Here’s where authors can really miss the boat (and I did too).  Amazon allows a lot of space here, so use it!  Put in a sales pitch for your other books. along with reviews.  You just might get buyers who will check out your other works.  Here’s an example of what I did, and remember this is in the product description for Reel Estate Rip-off:

Praise for Renee Pawlish’s This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies

5 Star Review
I hope you revel in the vicarious thrills as much as I did. The plot works on all levels, the supporting cast is great, and Pawlish reveals key elements of Reeds character with light brush strokes and a master’s touch.
RJ McDonnell, author of The Rock & Roll mysteries

5 Star Review
I’d recommend this to people who like mysteries. I’d recommend this to person that likes a good book. I’d recommend this to anyone who just wants to enjoy some quality time with quality material. But if you have a pressing engagement (like finishing writing your own book) – stay away until AFTER you finish, because once you start, you won’t be able to put this down.
John DeJordy, author

Praise for Nephilim Genesis of Evil

5 out of 5 stars
Carefully plan when you will begin reading it because it’s more than likely you won’t be able to put it down. Renee Pawlish is now on my favorite writer list and it’s not a long one.
Bert Carson, author of Southern Investigation

5 out of 5 stars
Nephilim Genesis of Evil is a chilling, horror outing that uses The Apocrypha as source material for its menacing beings. It’s a well-crafted tale of the re-emergence of spirits who are the offspring of humans and angels. This is a powerful and well-written effort.
Sidney Williams, author of Midnight Eyes and Blood Hunter

Now I’ve got information on the page about other books, along with some of the best reviews for each of them.  Readers will take note of this, and you may just get them to browse for your other works.  See how much more powerful this is than just trying to get buyers to click on your links in a list of your books?

About The Author

Now we get to the part where you can tell the readers a bit about yourself.  The anonymous author who I referenced above had a little paragraph telling his potential buyers that he tried traditional publishing, then decided to self-publish it and offer it for free.  After reading reviews about his bad grammar, spelling and story flow, he decided to fix the grammar to make it more readable.  And then he asks that his readers check back for a revised version.

Oh, where do I begin?  First, if your story needs editing, don’t publish it!  That author acknowledges that if he’d gone the traditional route, an editor would’ve done this for him.  Um, no…you would never have gotten that far, because an agent would’ve turned you down flat because of the poor writing.

Here’s another issue with that – he’s lost future readers.  If one product was bad, who’s going to come back for more?  Don’t kid yourself, they likely won’t.  If you want a steady readership, don’t publish until your book is rock-solid perfect.  It should be edited for grammar, punctuation and content.  You want to know your story makes sense and is not full of plot holes and the like.  Believe me, I’ve read too much by indie authors that should be reviewed for content as well as punctuation and grammar before it got published.

What You Should Do

Have a short, punchy little bit about yourself.  Make yourself human.  If you’ve written other things, mention them.  Here’s mine:

Renée Pawlish was born in California, but has lived most of her life in Colorado. When she’s not hiking, cycling, or chasing ballplayers for autographs, she is writing mysteries and thrillers. She also has some middle grade novels waiting to be published.

Renée loves to travel and has visited numerous countries around the world. She has also spent many summer days at her parents’ cabin in the hills outside of Boulder, which was the inspiration for the setting of Taylor Crossing in her novel Nephilim: Genesis of Evil.

Could it be better?  Sure, but I’ve kept it short, and I put an amusing tidbit in about being an autograph collector.  But I said it in a funny way – chasing ballplayers for autographs.  You want something that will stick with your readers, so they think, oh, that’s the author who…

I’m very long-winded today, but I hope you find this useful.  Remember, you have to be a marketer as well as an author.  If you have any questions, please let me know, I’m happy to help.

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About Renee Pawlish

Author of mystery novels, thriller novels, and horror books. Check out Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, the Noah Winter adventure series for young adults, Take Five, a short story collection, and The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within. Renee also offers writing lessons and writing strategies in the Writers Workshop. Twitter: http://twitter.com/reneepawlish Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/reneepawlish.author Blog: https://tobecomeawriter.wordpress.com/ Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/reneepawlish
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10 Responses to Using Amazon Effectively

  1. Good advice! I think I’ve done a good job on mine – both the book description and the author bio – I’ve just put my book up on Amazon so I guess time will tell. Darlene Jones, Author

  2. Oh, Lord, the horror stories we could swap, Renee! Good advice, here.

  3. LKWatts says:

    Some good tips here, I might experiment with mine at somepoint to see if I can alter my sales. You never know what works really unless you try the tactics.

  4. zencherry says:

    Very good advice! I like the rock-em sock-em intros. Always an eye-grabber and a tie-breaker when purchasing. 😀 You’re one smart lady. 😉

  5. blackalchemy says:

    Thank you, excellent post! I find it is much harder to write a description of my stories than it is to write the stories themselves. Great suggestions, and thank you for the examples as well – a true help for me, a wanna-be writer!

    • Renee Pawlish says:

      Thanks, glad you liked it. I agree that writing little blurbs and such is much harder than writing the story. When I’ve queried agents, I avoid the ones who want a synopsis because I hate writing them 🙂

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