In this article I am going to share the step-by-step launch strategy I used to market my most recent book, Lifestyle Business Blueprint, to #1 Bestseller status on Amazon Kindle.
I have tried my best to be as transparent and detailed as possible. My hope is that by doing so, you will be able to experience similar results be implementing these steps in your next book launch. That being said, I am sharing these steps with you under the following assumptions:
- You have already written, edited, and formatted your book. It is ready to upload to Amazon Kindle.
- You have a professional book cover that is appealing to your target audience.
- You have a compelling book title that contains some of the keywords Amazon customers are likely to use when searching for a book on your topic (this helps with organic sales after the book launch).
- Your book’s content is high quality and likely to receive positive reviews from readers.
- You have some sort of a platform online (blog, podcast, social media presence, etc.) and an email list to promote your book to (a few hundred subscribers or more is ideal).
A successful book launch definitely does not happen by accident. There is a lot of preparation and a lot of very specific decisions that are made behind the scenes to ensure the launch is successful. Before I walk you through the exact steps I followed to launch my book, I want to give credit where credit is due. Here are some of the resources I utilized to piece together my launch strategy:
- Nick Loper’s Kindle Launch Plan (Udemy Course)
- Steve Scott’s Self-Publishing Questions Podcast
- Tom Corson-Knowles’ Publishing Profits Podcast
- Stefan Pylarinos’ Kindle Money Mastery Program
- Spencer Hawes’ How To Self Publish A Book On Amazon (Niche Pursuits blog post)
Okay, here we go…
I’m dividing my overall book launch strategy into 3 different phases: pre-launch, launch (5 day free promotion), and post-launch. The steps I took during each phase are listed below:
1. Upload your book to Amazon Kindle 1-2 weeks before your official launch date
Choose your launch date and then upload your book to Amazon Kindle 1-2 weeks before that date. There are a few reasons why this is important. Firstly, you want give yourself enough time to download your book and make sure it is formatted correctly. If you notice any formatting errors, you have time to fix them and upload a revised version of your book. Secondly, you want to give yourself enough time to collect some positive reviews (Step 4) before your launch date.
Don’t upload your book to Amazon Kindle more than 2 weeks before your launch date. You want to give your book a chance of being featured in the Hot New Releases section of your book’s category. If you leave your book on Amazon for too long before you start promoting it, you risk missing that opportunity.
2. Write a compelling description that sells
The book description is one of the most under-utilized opportunities to encourage potential readers to buy your book. When you upload your book to Amazon, you are permitted to include a book description of up to 4,000 characters. My advice: use as many of those characters as you can.
Think of your book description as the “sales page” for your book. A well written description should give potential buyers a very clear understanding of what they will learn if they read your book and persuade them to purchase it. You may even want to hire a copy writer to write your book description for you.
It is also important to include specific keywords in your description. Just like Google, Amazon is a search engine. A lengthy and well written description that includes keywords that book buyers are using to search for your topic will help your book rank higher in Amazon’s search results.
When I wrote the description for my book, I strategically included several different keywords that I wanted my book to rank for on Amazon. Some of those keywords include: lifestyle entrepreneur, online business, and make money online. The screenshot below shows a portion of my book description. As you can see, there are several keywords throughout the description, placed strategically in the headers (the orange font) and in the paragraphs. As a result, my book ranks on the first page of the search results for many of these keywords.
3. Choose your book’s categories
As you’re uploading your book to Amazon, you will be asked to select 2 categories to list your book in. Since there are bestsellers lists for every book category on Amazon, I recommend selecting 2 very specific categories rather than broad ones.
For example, Business & Money is a very broad category. To rank #1 in that category is extremely difficult. If you niche down a few levels, to a category such Home-Based Business, you will have less competition for the #1 spot.
When your book launches, you want it to have the highest chance of claiming the #1 spot in its category, so my advice is to pick a category that makes sense for your book but that also doesn’t have too much competition. After checking the competition in several categories, I decided to categorize my book in Home-Based Business and Internet Marketing.
4. Enroll your book in KDP Select and schedule your free promotion days
As you’re uploading your book to Amazon, you’ll be asked whether or not you want to enroll your book in their KDP Select program. By doing so, you agree to sell your book exclusively on Amazon for a period of 90 days (you’ll be asked every 90 days if you want to keep your book in the program). During that time, you will not be permitted to sell your books from any other websites, however you will be given 5 “free promotion” days to use per 90 day period.
Since I wanted to launch my book with a 5 day free promotion, I chose to enroll it in the KDP Select program. Research shows that Amazon book sales spike on the weekend, so I decided to schedule my free promotion to start on a Saturday and end on a Wednesday. Remember to schedule your free promotion to start 1-2 weeks from the day you upload it to Amazon.
5. Collect several positive reviews
Reach out to your personal network (friends, colleagues, other authors, etc.) and ask them to download and review your book. Having a few reviews for your book helps it get more downloads during the free promotion period (the launch) because people are more likely to download a book that has already been enjoyed by other readers versus one that appears to have not.
I priced my book at $0.99 so that the people I reached out to didn’t have to spend much money to download the book, and those downloads counted as paid sales (paid sales also help to show Amazon that there is demand for your book). I used Facebook to send out about 30 requests. This resulted in 10 5-star reviews before my official launch date.
6. Upload a paperback version of your book using CreateSpace
Most self-published authors will agree that the majority of their book sales on Amazon are in Kindle format. However, having a paperback version of your book is beneficial for a few reasons. Having both prices displayed (Kindle price and paperback price) helps make the Kindle version of your book look like a good deal when compared to the price of your paperback version.
I priced my paperback version at $18.99. As I write this post, my Kindle version is priced at $3.99. Amazon will often calculate the difference between the two prices and display a “savings amount” when the Kindle version is purchased (in this case, the savings amount is $14.99). This helps encourage potential buyers to buy the Kindle version.
Another benefit of having a paperback version of your book is it makes your book look more professional. Many book buyers still do not perceive eBooks to be “real books”. If you have a paperback version, anyone who does not like reading eBooks can order your paperback version instead.
To make your book available in paperback format, set up an account on CreateSpace and upload your print-ready book files (cover and interior). Once approved, Amazon will connect your paperback listing to your Kindle listing so potential buyers can choose which format they want to purchase.
7. Submit your book to book promotion websites
There are dozens of book promotion websites that can help spread the word about your book to their respective audiences. I honestly have no idea how effective this strategy is, but since it only takes a few minutes to submit your book details and promotion dates to these websites, it is worth a try. Not every website will promote your book, and some of them will charge you a fee to guarantee that they will.
I sent my VA (virtual assistant) a list of book promotion websites, and she spend about 3 hours submitting my book to approximately 30 websites that accept submissions for free book promotions. Make sure you submit your book at least 1 week in advance of your scheduled free promotion dates so that these websites have enough time to review your submission and schedule it into their promotions, should they choose to.
The list of websites I gave to my VA can be found on this article: www.sarkemedia.com/free-kindle-book-promotion/
8. Increase your Kindle price before launch day
The night before your book launch, I recommend increasing the price of your Kindle version to an amount that is equal to or higher than what you plan to eventually sell it for long term. This tactic increases the perceived value of your book during its free promotion, which encourages more people to download it.
For example, if a book is priced at $0.99, then a free promotion isn’t as appealing to an Amazon customer, since the amount of money they save by downloading it for free isn’t significant. I increased the price of my book to $4.99 the night before the launch. The people who downloaded the book during the free promotion therefore perceived a savings of $4.99.
9. Bonus “Case Study” strategy
This step only applies if you feature other people in your book. In Lifestyle Business Blueprint, I featured 12 people as case studies in the book. I sent each of them an email about 2 weeks before the book launch date, requesting that they share the link to the book with their audience during the launch to help maximize the book’s exposure. I provided them with the link to the book and a few images to use for posts on social media. Not all of them ended up sharing the link with their audience, but I am definitely grateful to the ones that did. The exposure to their respective audiences likely helped the book get more downloads during launch week.
Launch (5 Day Free Promotion)
There are two types of book launches. There are free launches and paid launches. There are benefits and drawbacks to each strategy, but for this book, I chose to do a free launch. I chose this strategy because I wanted the book to reach as many people as possible, and I was willing to forego royalties from paid sales to make this happen. Also, since I featured several people as case studies in my book, I wanted those people to be able to invite their audience to download the book during the launch without asking their audience to buy it. I assumed their audiences would be more receptive to a free gift than a sales offer.
On the first day of my book’s free promotion, I sent an email to my list of subscribers (mainly people who listen to my podcast). I simply let them know that I had a new book on Amazon and that they could download it for free. Judging by that email’s click-through-rate (the number of people who actually clicked on the link to my book), about 100 people went over to Amazon to download the book.
You don’t need a huge list for this to work. Even if only a few dozen people download your book from Amazon in a short period of time, that should be enough to get your book ranked in the Top 100 of its category. Once it’s there, it will be exposed to hundreds, maybe even thousands of Amazon customers who browse that category and will see your book. Making it into the Top 100 of your category will help to create some momentum over the next few days. Because I chose very specific categories with less competition, I was able to rank #1 in those categories almost immediately.
Day 1 Results:
- 663 free downloads
- #1 in Web Marketing, #1 in Computers & Technology, #1 in Home-Based Business
- #461 Free in Kindle Store
On the second day I started to promote my book on social media (posted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and Instagram). I also tagged the people who were featured as case studies in my posts. Here is a screenshot of my post from my personal profile on Facebook:
I also started sharing the link to my book in various Facebook groups that allow people to promote their book’s free promotion. I am not sure how effective this strategy is, but it’s worth a try.
Day 2 Results:
- 920 free downloads
- #1 in Home-Based Business, #2 in Computers & Technology, #2 in Small Business & Entrepreneurship, #2 in High-Tech Businesses, #2 in Marketing & Sales, #2 in Web Marketing
- #334 Free Kindle Store
On Day 3 I kept posting on social media about the book. I remember sharing some screenshots of the book climbing the bestsellers list to help entice people to download a book that lots of other people were already downloading. That was about it. By this point I was relying mostly on organic downloads from Amazon customers who were looking at books in my categories.
At this point, since my book already claimed the #1 spot in its categories, I decided to take a shot at claiming the #1 spot in other, more broad categories. I logged into my Amazon KDP account and changed the book’s categories to Entrepreneurship and Small Business. I figured this would help expose my book to Amazon customers that were browsing those categories instead of the book’s current ones.
Day 3 Results:
- 852 free downloads
- #1 in Home-Based Business, #2 in Web Marketing
- #156 Free Kindle Store
I sent another email to my list that basically said “this is the last day to download my book for free”. This created a bit of urgency, and gave the people who didn’t download it the first time I emailed them a second chance to get it. About 60 people clicked on the link in the email to download my book from Amazon. I also shared one last post on Facebook, which you can see below:
You’re probably wondering why I would tell people that the 4th day of the promotion is the last day to download my book for free when in fact I scheduled 5 free promotion days. I was actually testing out a specific tactic that I learned, which I will outline in detail on Day 5.
Day 4 Results:
- 2,480 free downloads
- #1 in Entrepreneurship & Small Business, #5 in Business & Investing
- #63 Free Kindle Store
Day 5 (Transition Day)
Day 5 of the launch is what I refer to as “Transition Day”. This was the day my book transitioned from free to paid. The reason that I marketed Day 4 as the last day of my free promotion was because I knew that the transition from free to paid was going to happen on Day 5. I didn’t want to tell anyone that the book would be free on Day 5, have them go to Amazon, and then discover that it was no longer free. So as far as my audience was concerned, Day 4 was the last day of the free promotion.
Day 5 Free Promo Results:
- 517 free downloads
- #61 Free Kindle Store
The first thing I did when I woke up was change the price of my book to $0.99. Then, at around 11:00 am Pacific Time, I logged into my Amazon KDP account and manually cut off my free promotion. This resulted in a 1-2 hour window where my book was still being displayed on the bestsellers list for free books, but was actually listed for $0.99 (Amazon Bestsellers lists are updated hourly, hence the 1-2 hour window), as seen in the screenshot below:
The theory behind this tactic is that if you do not manually cut off your free promotion mid-day, then it will expire at midnight on the last day of your free promotion. As you can imagine, not many people are busy shopping for books on Amazon at midnight, so your exposure during your transition period from free to paid is minimal. Manually cutting off the free promotion in the middle of the day ensures more exposure and therefore gives you a better chance of climbing the paid bestsellers list immediately after your free promotion ends. Thanks to this tactic, I received over 100 paid sales @ $0.99 each, which was enough to help my book climb the paid bestsellers list in multiple categories and get featured in Hot New Releases.
Day 5 Paid Results:
- 155 paid sales @ $0.99
- #1 in Hot New Releases (Small Business & Entrepreneurship)
- #1 in Home-Based Business, #4 in Small Business, #6 in Entrepreneurship & Small Business
- #1,551 Paid in Kindle Store
Launch Week Review
The screenshot below shows the overall download numbers from the launch week. The green line represents the free promotion downloads. As you can see, the biggest spike occurred on the 4th day of the free promotion (I marketed this day as the last day of the free promotion to create urgency).
On the 5th day of the launch (February 25) can you see that there were both free downloads and paid sales. This was transition day, so technically speaking my free promotion was actually 4.5 days long. On Day 5 of the launch, I sold 155 copies of my book, and the day after that I sold an additional 97 copies before increasing the price to $2.99 on February 27.
The day after my book promotion ended (February 26), my friend Jesse Krieger included my book in his publishing company’s Buck Books promotion. This exposed my book to their list of email subscribers who opted in to receive notifications about books that are on sale for $0.99. I sold 97 books that day, so I assume some of those came as a result of that promotion.
1. Reduce the price to $0.99
On the last day of my book launch I changed the price to $0.99. This low price point gave my book the best chance of climbing the paid bestsellers list in its category. Once Amazon gave my book the official #1 Bestseller Status in its category, I took the screenshot for proof and then increased the price a few days later.
2. Add testimonials to your book and book page
I actually started to do this during launch week, and some more after the launch was over. I added testimonials that I had collected directly into the first few pages of the book, and uploaded that revised version to Amazon. I also added testimonials to the book page under “Editorial Reviews”. You can do this from your Author Central account, and they will automatically appear on your book’s sales page on Amazon, as seen in the screenshot below:
3. After a few days, increase your price to $2.99
At $0.99, Amazon only pays a 35% royalty on unit sales. Once your book has climbed the bestsellers list in its respective categories, I recommend increasing the price to at least $2.99. At this price point, you will earn a 70% royalty on each sale. So even though your book sales will likely decline, you will make more money than if you leave it priced at $0.99.
I increased the price of my book to $2.99 on February 27 (2 days after my launch), and then I increased it $3.99 a few weeks after that. I may test a higher price point again shortly, but I have a feeling that $3.99 is the sweet spot for this particular book. Right now, one month after the launch, my book is averaging about 10 sales per day, resulting in a passive income of about $500-1,000 per month.
This may not be a significant amount of money to some people, but keep in mind that there are many other benefits to publishing a book other than book royalties. I’ve now got more people visiting my blog, more people on my email list, more people listening to my podcast, more invitations to speak and be a guest on other podcasts, and more coaching clients too. Overall, it was definitely worth the time and effort it took to write and market the book.
If you made it all the way to the end of this post, congratulations. I don’t normally create blog posts this long, but a lot of people were asking me about how I launched my book so I decided to reveal my strategy in as much detail as possible. I hope that my transparency will help you to achieve similar results in your next book launch on Amazon Kindle.
If you have any specific questions that I did not answer with this post, feel free to ask them in the comment section below or reach out to me directly.