Amazon Best Seller— a title that sparks excitement in the hearts of authors worldwide. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have that written under your name? I know I’d like it, right below my chosen title of “over-caffeinated writer.” And, of course, we’d all like to know how to become an Amazon Best Selling Author.
However, doing a quick search regarding the current publishing state might dishearten you. About 7,500 new Kindle titles are published daily, and 4 million new books are released worldwide yearly. You might think that is a lot of competition — and you’d be a hundred percent right.
But we wouldn’t be talking about this if it was impossible to crack the platform’s best seller list. A lot of people have done it, so don’t sell yourself short before you even try. Besides, you have me to help you, and I think we author types should stick together.
So go get your coffee, stretch a few times, and we’ll start talking about how you can become an Amazon Best Seller.
But first, some context.
Table of Contents
What are best seller lists?
Best seller lists are rankings for products (in this case, books) within a given category. There are several notable lists in the writing industry, like the ones for The New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, Barnes and Noble, etc. Different companies may have slight differences in how they calculate their rankings, but the general gist of these lists are that they all have books that sell well on their platform.
Simple enough, I hear you say, but still, we have to ask ourselves—
How many books does it actually take to get into the Amazon Best Seller List?
Amazon has a lot of categories, and getting into the best seller list of any category requires you to break into the top 100.
Sources all over the internet vary, but the baseline sales of getting into the top 100 of the most popular categories are around 500 – 1000 book sales per day. Getting into the top 100 of the Amazon best seller list is already quite the achievement, but if you want to aim for higher plaudits, then the number you’re looking for is up to 4000 daily sales for the 20th to 5th position. Cracking the #1 spot requires you to sell upwards of 4000 copies within 24 hours, and that number is subject to change, depending on how much the competition is selling.
The ranking also distinguishes between ebook and print sales up to a certain point. You’ll generally need a lower number in order to rank in the print best seller lists as compared to the ebook category.
In any case, these are lofty numbers and you’ll need tons of exposure or a pre-existing audience base to get into the rankings. There are certain instances when a book can earn the best seller tag by selling a handful of copies, but those are rare incidents and I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to earn your best seller title with what could charitably be thought of as a fluke. Besides, Amazon is already working hard to crack down on these loopholes.
Now, onto the good stuff.
Perks and benefits of being an Amazon best seller
It is a truth universally acknowledged that having “Amazon Best Seller” on your product page is going to earn you a bunch of benefits. Some of them are fairly evident (sales, clout, what have you), but there are a few more perks that you’ll enjoy with the title. Here are some of them:
Generate more interest and sales
Ah, the coveted orange badge. Looks nice, doesn’t it?
But it’s not all for show. Having this badge means you’ve earned the warm regard of Amazon’s algorithm. This means your book will frequently appear in search listings for your category and suggested purchases. You might also get recommended through the company’s occasional emails to users subscribed to newsletters and suggested products. Imagine, if you will, that Amazon suggests your book to 10,000 people. With a 2-4% conversion rate, you can get 200- 400 new readers.
Now, consider how big Amazon actually is. The site has 197 million unique visits each month, 1.9 million active users, and they sell billions of items each year. Getting even a small slice of that pie can mean the difference between “I sell my books on Amazon” and “Behold my orange badge; look, it’s oh so shiny.”
Get a boost in credibility and gain authority on your subject matter
People tend to trust authority figures. Having “Amazon Best Seller” on your CV is a great way to show that you know your stuff, or are at least competent enough to write a book about it.
While there is some contention as to the inherent significance of Amazon’s best seller status (see Category later on in the article,) you cannot deny its weight when seen on your author bio, website, or social media account.
Receive marketing opportunities and engagements
Authors don’t just sell books. People can book them for speaking engagements, interviews, signings, convention appearances, and a whole lot of other cool stuff. And if I were one of the people organizing these things, seeing an Amazon Best Seller title on an author bio will make me very interested.
It varies from category to category, but you can also get offers for various rights to your book. Getting a profile boost can also lead to your work getting adapted for TV or film. And this is not limited to fiction work, oh no. Think The Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short: big movies with big names attached, both based on non-fiction books.
How to become an Amazon best seller
Now that you know what you stand to gain for earning an Amazon best seller title, let’s talk about how you’re going to become one.
However, you and I need to understand that Amazon is a big company and that it is entirely possible for things to change in a short time. Algorithms and SEO practices are evolving as we speak, and this is going to be more evident with the advancement of AI technology. Nothing is set in stone, everything is subject to change.
But right now, these are the most recommended factors to focus on when trying to get into the rankings.
Your Amazon listing
This one’s pretty straightforward: the better your listing, the better the chances of you getting noticed. Let’s break down the moving parts of your book’s product page and how they can be enhanced:
First impressions last, and your title (along with your cover art, but more on that later) pretty much sums up that experience for your reader. Having a catchy, evocative title goes a long way in grabbing your prospective readers’ attention. Incorporating your keyphrase in your title also works.
Aesthetics and media
These usually are pictures of the front and back covers. Some authors include one-page summaries, blurbs, or artwork on their listing. It’s a great way to market the contents of your book without having to spoil what’s inside.
Another great way to showcase your book is by shooting a video for it. While not usually found in book listings, having unboxing or highlight videos in your product page isn’t going to hurt your chances of being noticed, especially if you have a nice cover to show off.
Now about the cover. Any author old enough to walk in a straight line knows the importance of good cover art. It’s the first thing readers see, even at a distance, and it can communicate important details about your book. Making your cover as attractive as possible to your target audience will earn you their consideration.
Writing a striking description for your book is practically mandatory, but technology has come a long way since the days of rocking up to a bookstore and reading back covers.
In the age of search engines and algorithms, keywords are king. Amazon’s algorithm operates a lot like a Google search. Users type in the product they need, and the search page shows the exact or closest possible product. Optimizing and incorporating relevant keywords on your listing gives you a better chance of being noticed by the algorithm. You’ll need to perform keyword research, of course, including relevant searches and other questions asked. Amazon has a list of guidelines on how to do this. Highlighting your book’s first line is also common practice, and we have this handy guide for making yours memorable.
Getting noticed is just one part of the job. The next thing you need to consider is the price tag.
Getting a book out to market can cost a pretty penny and there’s no shame in being mindful of your bottom line. Any business worth the title will take production expenses into account when pricing its stuff. But — and this is a big but — if your goal as an author is to get into the Amazon best seller list, you might want to consider dropping your price, at least for the first few days. You can put it up at breakeven. Or, if you’re not a fan of half-measures, really drop it all the way down to the lowest possible price of $0.99.
The logic here is simple: low prices attract customers. Quality coupled with low prices attracts customers even more. You don’t have to keep it low forever, mind you, just for the first week. It’s a solid strategy to sell books on Amazon.
And there’s also another consideration at play here, which leads us neatly to the next topic—
Your initial sales
Don’t get me wrong, developing consistent sales over time is still the preferred way to earn. But for the purpose of this list we will consider this a sprint, not a marathon.
Getting a lot of sales a few days after launch is not likely to get you into the Amazon best seller list right off the bat, depending on your category. But what it will do is get you noticed by the algorithm early. The more sales you get at first, the more Amazon suggests your product, the more sales you get, the more Amazon — well, you get the idea. This makes your book relevant, giving it a bit more priority in coming up on searches. Once you’ve built up momentum, you can bring up your price to reasonable levels.
Your chosen category
Quick story time.
So there’s this guy named Brent Underwood, right, and one day he decided he was sick of seeing how easy it was to manipulate best seller rankings. So he took a flattering picture of his left foot, used the site’s cover creator to overlay some texts, browsed through the available categories and subcategories to find two of the most obscure ones (which also happen to be completely unrelated to his book), and put it up for sale. He then contacted a couple of friends to buy his book. One did so straightaway, bless his soul, but Brent needed a bit more boost. So he bought two more copies himself, racking up a grand total of three sales upon release.
One hour later, he had a #1 Amazon Best Seller badge.
The point he was trying to make was how easy it was to game the system. And he succeeded in no uncertain terms.
Now, let me be clear: you can do this and get your ranking. A lot of websites out there are wholeheartedly encouraging others to do just that.
But if you’re anything like me, you know deep in your heart that it’s going to feel like an empty victory.
But we don’t need to walk away from Brent’s story with only a “what-not-to-do” list. We can take his strategy and tone it down to acceptable levels. Namely, picking the best, most specific category you can find for your book. Amazon allows you to pick up to ten subcategories. You can do competitor research on each APPLICABLE category and see where the competition is thinnest. Doing it just right will give you the chance to get into the rankings without sacrificing your dignity.
Oh, and here’s a nice conclusion to that story. Brent’s one-page foot book is now a full paperback release talking about the whole incident, with his insights into the world of digital publishing and marketing.
Your marketing and PR
Getting the word out for your book is step one here. Classic marketing strategies can be applied here, but don’t feel that you’re limited to those. There are a bunch of things you can do prior to launch, like giving away advance reader copies (ARC) to influencers in your sphere in exchange for reviews. Bonus points if your book gets recommended or put into a top 10 list. You can also find where your target audience tends to congregate online and make your presence known there. It might be a type of forum, subreddit, Facebook page, etc. The point is to generate as much interest and gather emails for your author subscriber list. Going to events and promoting your book offline is another good way to get people talking about your book. If you’re a self-published author and want more details, you can check out our guide on marketing your work. You can also check out Amazon’s KDP promotion and marketing programs here.
What else can you do after setting up your best seller strategy?
Now, let’s say that you’ve covered everything in this list. The price is right, the listing is perfect, the category choice is pristine, and marketing is chugging along quite nicely. Is there anything else you can do to help with your goal of becoming an Amazon best seller?
I’m glad you asked! You can get professional help. PR and marketing firms are everywhere on the internet. They offer different services for different needs, and you’ll have to shop around to find the one that best fits your requirements.