How to Launch an Amazon Best Seller

Start with your launch team

There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year and the best way to get yours noticed is with a structured launch.

Begin by creating a launch team months before the actual launch. Engage with launch team members, and educate and motivate the group to review your book so it will launch with dozens of reviews. Those reviews will provide invaluable momentum because Amazon's algorithms will notice and promote the book further.

I'm going to break down the launch of my client's book, Pocket Mentor (which stayed on top of the charts for a year!). We created the entire book for Mark Nureddine. We interviewed him. Rev transcribed his interviews. My ghostwriter wrote the book. My team promoted it to become a No. 1 bestseller. Mark didn't have to write a single word, and he’s now a bestselling author!  

I'll walk you through the launch so you can see how we did what we did. Everybody wants to know about launches because they're a bit of a specialty. 

The first step is that one to two months before launch we scout for reviewers and create a landing page, which says “Get a free review copy before launch day on July 28” (I have a person on my team who scouts full-time for book reviewers).

On the landing page, it says, “Download your review copy here.” The reader clicks and receives an automatic download of the book. I ask that he leaves a review in my Google Docs form. This is so that I can remind him what he wrote when it’s time to launch. I collect his review, name and email. 

Then, when the book is ready, I can say, “Hello! You wrote this review a month ago. It’s launch day. Can you please copy and paste this on the book's page on Amazon?” 

Advance Review Copy

What I send to these readers before launch is called an advance review copy (ARC). You can write on the front page that it is unedited and unformatted, as it is an ARC. You don't want anyone to say, “Hey, this looks unedited and unformatted!” When they click to get the book, it’s hooked up to my email provider, so their email goes on my list and automatically, an auto-responder is sent to them that reads, “Here's the link to the book. The launch is on July 28, and I'll keep in touch during the prelaunch time.” 

I set this process up one to two months before launch. This is important, as when there's a tight deadline, you send out an advance review copy which hasn't been edited or formatted because the book is with the editors during this time. In the meantime, you use that version as an ARC to get those reviewers on board. Moreover, you explain the process to set expectations.

For example, you could say, “This is not a ready book. It's an advance review copy for reviewers' eyes only,” so they feel privileged because it's for their eyes only. 

Book launch PHASE 1

I divided Mark Nureddine's launch into three phases.

Phase 1 lasted four days. I released the book as a preorder at 99 cents and kept it priced that way for four days. I enrolled it in KDP Select so it's only on Amazon at first. Amazon favors the books that are enrolled KDP, and the trick is to start sending traffic immediately. When you publish a book on KDP, it will say that your book will be available within 72 hours, but it’s usually available within 6-10 hours. When you see that it's live on Amazon, first of all, immediately buy the copy yourself, because you can buy one copy of a Kindle book. Next, send your emails to your list promoting the book, but not your launch team, because they expect to get the book for free.

I have about 20,000 subscribers (not counting librarians) on my lists. I mailed 50 percent of my business list first (I have a list of 3,000 authors and entrepreneurs), which was on the Monday. On the Tuesday, I mailed the other half, so another 1,500 emails. On the Wednesday, I mailed half of my author list (which is about 17,000). (It was applicable because Pocket Mentor is about building a business and as authors we are all building a business.) On the Thursday, the book went from preorder to live. I mailed the other half of my author list. As soon as the book is live, it’s no longer a preorder. I set it for free for the next day. So on the Thursday, I set in up in my KDP dashboard, so the book was free on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On the Thursday, I used a promo site mailing.

I don't mail the launch team in Phase 1; I only mail them in Phase 2 when the book is free. You do, however, want to have another group of people to mail, and they can come from promotional sites. Separate those people you're going to scout from your acquaintances and family members. Have the family members buy in Phase 1, and have those launch team members review in Phase 2. 

Book launch PHASE 2

Phase 2 lasts three days, during which time the book is free. You can set it for free only when it’s live because you can't set a free promotion when the book is on preorder. I make the book free for the reviewers because reviewers expect to get the book for free. They've already received the book because they signed up, but I need them to download it again so that the review is verified, and this must be explained to them in your emails. 

The big hit is on this last day when you want the biggest mailing. You want to have this grow because then the algorithm understands that this book is getting popular. To keep the numbers reasonable, five people buy on Day 1, 15 people buy on Day 2, 30 people buy on Day 3, 40 buy on Day 4, and more than 50 buy on Day 5. Amazon sees that your book is getting more and more popular, so that's why you want to spread out your emails throughout the launch. I didn't mail 20,000 people on the Monday. I mailed 1,500, 1,500, 8,500, 8,500, and I also used a promotion site. 

I expected to rank around 10,000, yet we were at about 8,000. Then the book went live and free — and making the books free hurts the rank. During the promotion, we were in one of the Top 100 most downloaded books and one of the first nonfiction books. We were at 7,000 here when we came out of the first days of the promotion, but then we were at about 40,000 after the free promo. The conclusion is that the three free days hurt the ranking, but we have to do it for the reviewers. 

On the Friday, I mailed the launch team and said, “The book is out. Please download it even if you have it because when you download, it will make your review verified and it will be on top. Readers will read it and be influenced by your opinion.” I share what's it in for them. You used to be able to incentivize these but you can't anymore. With the setup I have, I was able to get 100 reviews during those three days.

During Mark's launch, we got 20 reviews because of two reasons. First of all, you can't incentivize reviews. Second, the reviewers now need to have made at least $50 of purchases on Amazon. So that disqualifies many people who reviewed before. I tell the author also to tell his friends that the book is free, and they can review it, and he sees how difficult it is to get those reviews. The following Saturday, when the book was free, I mailed the launch team again. (I mailed them every day, and that gave us about 20 reviews.) 

Book launch PHASE 3

Phase 3 lasted four days. I priced Mark's book at 99 cents for the next four days. You have to promote after those free days heavily. On the Monday, I mailed my list again, and I did a promo sites mailing. On the Tuesday, I mailed my list. On the Wednesday, I used a promo site. On the Thursday, I included a link to the book in my super signature ,and I will include it every week. Once the book is out, you put it in your super signature, and that's it. Soon the ranking starts to stabilize.

I also run Amazon ads. Another thing I did was to play with categories. When I saw that we were about to drop in the category in which we were listed as a No. 1 bestseller, I looked for some other categories in which we could easily rank No. 1. Playing with those categories helped and boosted the ranking. You can have up to ten categories by mailing KDP support and asking for other categories to be added to your book. Then you appear in all ten different categories. 

I also use promo sites such as Bargain Booksy, Book Gorilla, Book Sends, Choosy Bookworm and Robin Reads. Some sites have criteria, such as your book has to have ten reviews, or has to have an average review of four stars. Some don't want to take preorders, but since I have a relationship with some of them, I managed to get a slot in for preorder. When the book was on preorder, I already managed to get a slot here for one of them to promote. Some sites will promote preorders without reviews; you don't have to know anybody. 

What you can do is to increase the price every three weeks or so by a dollar and see how the royalties turn out. When you hit that sweet spot, for the most optimal price level, you'll keep it at that. 

To recap, the new thing that I discovered and I haven't heard anybody talk about is that as soon as you see the book is live on Amazon as a preorder or as a live book, you need to send traffic immediately. That's the No. 1 takeaway.

Amazon does notice if you send traffic immediately. What I used to do in the past was similar but I didn't do preorders. I used to publish books at 99 cents, do nothing for a few days then during the free days, get the reviews and then put it back on whatever the price was supposed to be. That was a simpler strategy and it still works but the strategy we just went through is more sophisticated, advanced, effective and lucrative.

The 2-phase launch 

Another strategy that I've been using recently is the 2-phase launch. This means we bypass the free days because they hurt the rank. Just take a look at how well it worked for our best-seller Next Level Selling!

And you know what the best part is? We guarantee each #1 best-selling status to each author we take onboard!

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Suli says September 3, 2019

Warm Greetings from New Zealand ❣️ Alinka, I need help but this may be a challenge for you because it book is very niche and is short creative non-fiction piece. I’m a new author. I’ve finished writing/editing and have almost finished my book cover and interior formatting for KDPAmazon. The book marketing freaks me out. I only have a handful of followers and no email list! Please let me know how you could help as I’m not confident to do what’s required to achieve Amazon Bestseller status. I’m a technology-challenged introvert so it’s not good. Intellectually I know what to do but my skills are seriously lacking. I’m down here in little NZ and would love to achieve my author bestsellers dream to encourage other budding authors in my niche – veganism/animal rights activism. Alinka, are you up for this challenge?! Arohanui

    Alinka Rutkowska, CEO Leaders Press, USA Today and WSJ bestselling author says September 4, 2019

    Hi Suli,
    I focus on business books but with commitment, determination, organization and time, you might be able to pull it off!

Amanda C. says September 3, 2019

Finding reviewers in my genre is always the hard part for me! I’ll try being a little more public about passing out ARC’s in the future.

    Alinka Rutkowska, CEO Leaders Press, USA Today and WSJ bestselling author says September 4, 2019

    Good move, Amanda!

Kathy says September 3, 2019

How much did you charge the author to do all this for him?

    Alinka Rutkowska, CEO Leaders Press, USA Today and WSJ bestselling author says September 4, 2019

    The pricing is in the menu at the top, Kathy.

Neil Gurney says September 4, 2019

Truly awesome advice that will help this book launch go better
Thank You

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