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A Muse on Marketing: Free Amazon Tools to Promote Your Book

I love Amazon. Seriously. Though I’ve heard grumbling for years about Amazon sweeping other booksellers into oblivion, it seems clear to me that Amazon might just be a writer’s best friend—the website that attracts and informs millions, offers writers opportunity to publish their work through a variety of companies, and has a ton of tools to help invisible writers become visible.

I talk about this last point often, and I’m always surprised that more writers aren’t aware of it. Do you realize you can promote yourself on Amazon FOR FREE (which Amazon not only approves of, but provides tools for)?

How about:

1)  Your Customer Name. I’m not suggesting that if your name is John Smith you start calling yourself Carmen Miranda. BUT… if you’re a writer, why just say John Smith? My customer name on Amazon is not ‘Susan Sloate’. It’s ‘Susan Sloate, Author, Forward to Camelot and Stealing Fire’. Why? Because EVERY SINGLE PLACE where my name appears on Amazon, it’s a free advertisement for me and my book.

How do you use it?

WRITE REVIEWS. Book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews—whatever products you like and want to voice an opinion about. You don’t even need to buy it on Amazon!! If you got a good book at a yard sale for 50 cents, you can still write an honest review about its merits, and your name shows up on the review. Pick items you like, so your review is positive. If you write a snarling review, it might make you feel better, but will potential readers reading your review want to check out your book, given your attitude? Doubtful. And try if possible to pick stuff that’s ALREADY GETTING A LOT OF TRAFFIC and is in the same genre as your book (better yet is if it’s also the same subject matter as your book). Recent bestsellers are good, or books by authors who are already popular. You’re getting YOUR NAME AND TITLE on THEIR PAGE—for nothing! Isn’t that worth a few minutes of your time? I think it is. Besides, I like boosting other writers. It’s fun. Remember to write a review long enough to get some attention. Two sentences won’t impress other customers. A thoughtfully-written paragraph will.

I’ll admit I disregarded my own advice this summer, when yet another Kennedy assassination novel came to my attention. It was truly so awful–so historically wrong and so ridiculous–that I really had to comment on it. (What really angered me, though, was that the silly book was #7 under Political Assassinations!!! Can you imagine?)

So I did write a review–not  a nasty one, but pointing out several errors (including the fact that the book described Oswald physically and GOT THAT WRONG. How is that possible? Had he never bothered to look at a simple photo?) It was respectful but clearly negative. So what’s the benefit here?

THE POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS ARE READING ABOUT ANOTHER JFK ASSASSINATION BOOK BY READING MY REVIEW. I’m going straight to my target audience, and by mentioning my book (which I did, you betcha) and yet being polite in my review, I don’t think I alienated anyone. You never know who might click through to find the book and sample it. Worth a try, anyway.

Next great free Amazon tool?

2)  Listmania. Hard to believe more writers don’t take advantage of this one. Listmania allows you to create a list of items that have something in common—in the case of books, often books with the same subject or in the same genre. The list shows up on the page of EVERY ITEM that’s listed.

Example:  For the original 2003 edition of our time-travel thriller, FORWARD TO CAMELOT, I created a Listmania list titled “Best Time-Travel Novels Ever”. I listed THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, at that time a New York Times bestseller and #2 on Amazon, along with Jack Finney’s famous TIME & AGAIN and a few others. I also listed FORWARD TO CAMELOT. You as the list creator can make a comment on each item you list. Under CAMELOT, I wrote, “Best time-travel book ever”. Hey, it was an honest opinion. That list appeared on ALL the pages of ALL the items I’d mentioned—and customers look at them. You can also put the same item on more than one list. So I also listed CAMELOT with “Best JFK Assassination Books Ever”. You can create multiple lists using the same book, to take advantage of the buzz around OTHER books—why not? It’s a free and very simple way to leverage the power of others’ popularity to help yourself. Try it and see.

3)  Author Central. Amazon WANTS you to have an author’s page where you can post your published books (and Amazon will have all of them!), your photo, your blog URL (and if you don’t have a blog, shame on you!), your bio, and many other items of interest. Keep it up to date. Give people a chance to find you. That page has its own simple URL you can promote on Facebook, Google +, etc. Here’s mine:

Amazon has created a host of wonderful tools (these are just a few) to help you get noticed—if you take the time to learn them and use them. Amazon is by far the world’s biggest bookseller, so why not devote some effort to using it well? I guarantee you’ll sell more books on Amazon than anywhere else online. See it as a friend.

When my new novel, STEALING FIRE, went live on Amazon, it went live ONLY in the Kindle edition, and it was not available anywhere else on the web. After I mentioned it on my Facebook page (and I don’t have that many friends), the book went to #2 in its category and was listed as a ‘Hot New Release’. Without doing ANY of my planned promotion, I had an Amazon bestseller WITHIN 12 HOURS.

That’s the power of Amazon. Take advantage!

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