Self-Publishing Profits: How Amazon’s Algorithm Can Help You Sell More Ebooks

Amazon Self-Publishing Algorithm Tips to Help You Sell More Ebooks

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on ebook marketing because I wrote my first contemporary romance novel. As it’s a new genre for me, it’s kinda like starting my self-publishing career all over again.

While conducting this research, I probably read over 50 posts. I concentrated on those authors who had managed to sell 1,000 or more ebooks per month via major outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Why this criteria?

Well, take Amazon for example. If you price your ebook at $2.99 on Amazon, you net 70 percent of the sales price, which works out to about $2.09 per copy in pure profit. So, if you’re selling 1,000 ebooks per month via this outlet, you’re pocketing almost $2,100 per month from that outlet alone.

Note: I still sell the vast majority of my ebooks – which are in mostly the non-fiction, how-to sector — from this website. But being on megasites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble has definitely increased my exposure. I’m interested to see if this trend continues as I self-publish more fiction titles.

Have You Ever Heard of Amazon’s Algorithm and How It Can Help You Sell More Ebooks?

One of the interesting things I learned in my reading is that apparently Amazon’s algorithm kicks in when certain parts of your ebook marketing strategy is working, eg, you get a certain number of reviews or you sell a certain number of copies.

What does this mean?

Basically that Amazon starts to help you sell your ebook — thanks to its algorithm.

For example, take my new ebook – which can be classified as an African American Contemporary Romance. If it was selling 1,000 copies per month (from my lips to the creator’s ears!), then when readers bought in that genre, my ebook might be one of the “recommendations” the algorithm makes because it’s in the Top 50 ebooks in that genre. FYI, I only use these numbers as an example; so don’t put any stock into the figures I mentioned.

Note: Prices on some of Inkwell Editorial’s ebooks will increase on June 1st.

The Amazon Algorithm: 5 Ebook Selling “Secrets” Revealed

Amazon Self-Publishing Algorithm Tips to Help You Sell More EbooksNow, following are some facts and figures you can put some stock into. Here are some good discussions I ran across in my research regarding Amazon’s algorithm that can help you sell more ebooks.

1. How many ebooks do you need to sell to crack Amazon’s bester-seller list?

According to a recent study by Publishers Weekly, you need to sell approximately 300 print books on Amazon in a single day to crack the top 5 bestsellers (fun fact–Amazon guards their secret algorithm with the same staff that protects Google and the recipe for Coca Cola–jk). [Source: How Many Sales to Amazon Bestseller?]

2. Is it worth it to enroll your ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Select program?

Here’s a rundown of how it the program generally works …

These free downloads impact the Amazon sales algorithm in a number of powerful ways and often boost future sales after the free download day(s) have accrued. …

Over time the sales and free downloads of ebooks available on Amazon compound the sales strength of a particular book, the Amazon algorithm see’s activity (again in the form of free downloads and purchases) and pushes these books out to even more customers, which in turn results in more purchases and a great selling book. [Source: Sell More eBooks on Amazon Now! With Kindle Select]

Here’s some more recent insight into how Amazon’s algorithm accounts for free downloads.

Amazon recently changed its algorithms to reduce the boost in rankings authors get by giving away books for free. . . “Free books used to be equal to paid books when Amazon decided popularity ratings, but these days it’s about 10%,” Robertson said. “So ten free books equal one paid book. The volume you need to move the needle is a lot higher than it used to be.” [Source: Indie Published Writers Start to Shun Amazon’s KDP Select]

3. How important is an ebook cover to Amazon’s algorithm, and does it impact sales?

The whole point of the algorithm is to bring two people together (author/reader) — to a book they’ll enjoy.

To accomplish this, your every action (non-action) is  “measured, turned into a number, and plugged into a mathematical formula (the algorithm) that is very good at predicting your future behavior. And this is how/why the site can recommend certain books to you.

A picture is worth a thousand words here because what is returned in these “suggested” or “also bought” sections? Thumbnails of your ebook cover, right? NOT the full, glorious size, but a thumbnail. And if that ain’t interesting enough – like a photo of a person on a dating site – your ebook is probably not going to get clicked on.

This is discussed in grave detail in the post, My Online Date with the Almighty Amazon Algorithm (Part 3 of 3): Beauty Is Only Thumb(nail)-Deep, where the author of the post writes:

When designing an e-book cover, you MUST assume that every potential reader will see it first as a thumbnail on a suggestive selling ribbon and not as a full-sized graphic. … [Remember] at any given moment, your title is in hand-to-hand combat with at least six other thumbnails on the “Customer Who Bought This Title Also Bought” ribbon—all dying to be noticed. Put a “blah” thumbnail in a lineup with six other better covers, and it practically disappears.

Is the thumbnail of your ebook as enticing as the full-sized image?

4. Does the way Amazon’s algorithm rank a book have anything to do with actual sale numbers?

Following are some rough guidelines.

8-12k… 10-15 / day? Daily fluctuations still have a big effect on rank this high up tho

5-8k steady = I dunno, 20/day, plus or minus a few books? Not many books are steady / sticky at these ranks though; stuff seems to stabilize at 3-4k or better?

Better than 3,500, sticky, you’re probably selling at least 1000/month. Rank of 800-1k is probably 90-100 copies per day? Pus or minus some?

After that it probably gets kinda wild

In general, I’d say this is an excellent way to evaluate an ebook only publisher [Source: Amazon Sales Rank vs. Author Earnings, Comments section; specific commenter – Genevieve, June 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm]

5. Does feedback (ie, reviews) really have an impact on Amazon’s algorithm? If so, does it mean more sales?

It definitely does, as I discussed a bit above. Here’s a better explanation of just how feedback impacts Amazon’s algorithm.

Selling on Amazon is like a positive feedback loop. When you make enough sales, your book starts to gain steam in Amazon’s algorithms, which will then suggest your book to consumers in the “Customers Also Bought” section of their site, among other places. The free advertising through algorithms gains you new sales, which in turn boosts your standing in the algorithms, so that you get more exposure, netting more sales.. [Source: 7 Tips for Selling Your Ebook in a Global Market]

I hope these insights help. Learn more about how Amazon’s algorithm works to help you sell more ebooks here.

Share Your Amazon Self-Publishing Insight

Know anything about how Amazon’s algorithm works? Did you know any of the above, or is it all “news” to you? Have any other Amazon ebook selling tips – what worked or what didn’t work? Please share in the comments section below.

Hope you’re having a great start to the work week, and for my American friends, are looking forward to the upcoming holiday weekend.


P.S.: Get 4 Ebooks for One Low Price — The Ultimate Self-Publishing Package!

P.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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    1. Adrianne says:

      I had to chime in because I am someone that has over a 1,000 Kindle ebooks on my Nook Color!

      First of all, you don’t need to have a Kindle. That is a big misconception. There is the Android app for Kindle, there is the Kindle for PC, there is even the Kindle Cloud Reader…you don’t even need an app! You can read Kindle books in your browser. Amazon is “on it”, honey.

      In fact, I was able to use the Google Chrome app for the Kindle Cloud Reader…used it today. But it wasn’t even necessary as like I said you can read the books right in the Cloud from the Amazon site.

    2. Francesca Thomas says:

      Why do you insist on using only Amazon for e-book sales? The trouble with using Amazon is that ONLY kindle users can purchase e-books from Amazon.

      That is called a MONOPOLY and goes against business marketing rules.

      There are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people who do not have kindles, but who have other readers and would like to be able to read e-books in the E-PUB format.

      I am one of them.

      I found an e-book yesterday that I really wanted to purchase but when I clicked the link and it went to Amazon, I was unable to purchase it since my e-reader is NOT a kindle.

      For the same reason I cannot purchase any of your books, because you only sell from Amazon, and my e-reader is not a Kindle.

      I was given an e-reader that is NOT a Kindle, precisely so I would not be LOCKED INTO just one place to purchase my e-books.

      That is called a monopoly and goes against all business competition rules.

      Thank you.

      • @Francesca:

        FYI, Inkwell Editorial’s ebooks can be purchased as pdf files, right from our site. This means all you need to read them is Adobe, NOT any kind of reader (eg, Nook, Kindle, etc). They open and read just like any other pdf file you come across on the web. I don’t know how you got the impression that our ebooks are only available on Amazon.

        Also, about half the titles are available on Barnes & Noble (hope to have all of them on this site by the end of the year).

        As for “why” publish on Amazon — as a small self-publisher it’s because it’s in my company’s best interest to. Whether Amazon is a monopoly or not can be discussed all day long. But the simple fact is, I write and publish ebooks to make a living — so I’d be silly not to make them one of my main publishing outlets (in addition to my own website, which is where, by the way, the majority of my ebook sales still come from).

        Hope this additional insight helps, and thanks for dropping by.