The day is finally here. You’ve finished your novel, decided to go the Indie route, and have completed all the formalities on KDP. What’s next? Conventional wisdom suggests you set your book up for pre-order, then market the hell out of it. You tell your mom, your neighbors, and your childhood best friend. And being the lovely people that they are, they all end up buying a copy. 

You have 5, 15, or maybe even 30 pre-order sales before your book officially launches. An excellent thing in the short term, but it might just doom your sales in the long haul. Writing and selling a book isn’t a 100-meter dash, with the publish button representing the finish line. It’s a marathon, and hitting that button simply signifies the end of the first leg of the race. 

Publishing for vanity or self-satisfaction is one thing, but most authors expect to make at least a little money, if not a living out of their books, and as an Indie Author, the entire onus of marketing your book is on you. In such a scenario, it helps to know the hidden traps that might cause you to stumble in your race. 

One such trap is the Amazon algorithm. We often consider the algorithms of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook while making posts and marketing, but neglect to take into account the Amazon algorithm. It’s a huge mistake, seeing as that’s your primary marketplace, and the majority of your sales will likely come from searches and ads on there rather than the posts you make on social media. 

How do you game the Amazon algorithm to optimize your book sales? 

Here’s where that seemingly counter-productive advice comes into play. Do not tell your mother, your neighbor, or your childhood best friend about your book. Even if you do, specifically ask them not to buy it unless they read the genre. Tell them if they want to support you, you’ll email the book to them, but make sure they don’t get it from Amazon. 

There’s a reason for this. Say your mother and your childhood best friend are voracious readers of Romance, and you’ve just written a Crime Thriller. They may buy your book to support you, and may even end up reading it. But they won’t buy any other Crime Thrillers. They’ll buy Romances. Amazon sees people who usually buy Romance Books buy your book. The algorithm then suggests your book to other people who search for these Romance Books, but unlike your mother or your childhood best friend, these people won’t buy your book. After a strong initial start, your book will slump in sales and ranking. The algorithm will notice that people are not interested in buying your book (without taking note of the fact that it was the one who suggested it to the wrong audience in the first place, helped by you, of course), and bury it further, trapping you in a vicious cycle.

This, dear author, is how you lose the marathon. 

So while it may seem counterintuitive, do not set a long pre-order period for your book. Do not ask everyone you know to get a copy. Getting a good sales rank on release day is great, but sustaining it is much more important in the long run. So, when you market your book (whether it be on pre-order or post-release date), target potential readers of that particular genre instead of people you know. It’s harder going initially and much more work, but it will help you achieve steady sales in the long run.    

What if I’m Already Trapped in the Vicious Cycle?

It’s difficult to get out of it, but not impossible. You might need a marketing strategy, a strong word-of-mouth game, and most importantly, an ad run on Amazon.

The beauty of Amazon Ads is that you can target readers of your book genre and subgenre with pinpoint precision, ensuring a higher chance of returning in the algorithm’s favor. If you want to learn how to run Amazon Ads on a Budget, check out the series of articles on my website!

(Editor’s Note: Leave a comment below and join in on the discussion about tips and tricks for releasing your work on Amazon!)