How Amazon’s book pages sell
There are hundreds of thousands of titles competing for each visitor’s money and Amazon has clever ways to get it. If you understand how it Amazon does this, you’ll be better-placed to improve your own books’ performance.
So let’s take a detailed look at a book page and examine where — and how — you can boost the performance of your own titles.
The view ‘above the fold’
Web designers use the newspaper publishing term ‘above the fold’ to refer to the first part of a web page that visitors see without having to scroll down. It’s critical screen real estate.
Here’s the first thing a visitor to an Amazon book page sees — the view ‘above the fold’. Examining it will give you a good sense of what Amazon regards as the most important elements for making the sale.
Amazon lets you upload a special cover image for promotional spots. If you don’t, Amazon uses the cover image inside the ebook file. One advantage of producing a special version is that you can tweak the colors and contrast to work better in the small formats while retaining a more subtle design in your ebook cover. Don’t make the images too different – Amazon can reject it.
If you want to stand out a little more, you can create a square cover image that uses the full amount of screen real estate available. You can find more details on Kindle cover design in the Ebook cover design section.
Look inside (‘Search in the Book’)
This gives users a sample of the book’s contents. With ebooks, unlike print, there’s no need to submit a special file for this programme since Amazon uses the ebook file and displays 10% by default. It helps sell books, and it improves your chances of appearing in Amazon search results because Amazon extracts search terms from the submitted book extract to feed into its site search engine.
The 1-click ‘Send sample now’ button makes it very easy for users to send this sample to one of their registered Kindle devices so they can take it away and read it at their leisure.
Immediately underneath the book’s title is a star-rating and link to a number of customer reviews. It’s one of the most important sections of the product information page, as indicated by Amazon’s prominent placement of this summary and the extensive coverage further down the page.
This is an area you should put some work into, especially early on when your book is just getting traction so that you don’t lose early sales before the reviews and ratings start coming in from buyers. Getting advance copies out and encouraging friends, fans, bloggers, your social networks, etc to review and rate your ebook here will make a big difference to its early sales chances.
Any registered user can create a written or video review. Amazon reviewers who’ve bought the book from Amazon can highlight their reviews with an Amazon Verified Purchase label to add more weight to them. It’s likely Amazon adds this to its algorithm weighting reviews, though it hasn’t stated that it does this.
A recent addition is the Like button, just to the right of the reviews link. While it looks like Facebook’s Like button, this is Amazon’s own. Signed-in users can Like an item, giving feedback which Amazon says it uses to improve the personalization of your shopping experience. Chances are Amazon also uses it to drive other aspects of its recommendation and ranking systems though, again, it doesn’t state this.
The full reviews run further down the page, ‘below the fold‘ (that is, below the first screen full of the page).
Amazon’s recommendations engine
The last item ‘above the fold’ of the opening product screen is Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought. It’s the first of several ways that the user, in the course of reviewing the book, will be presented with alternatives (or additions) to their purchase. Amazon collects an enormous amount of data on buying behavior and feeds it into its sophisticated recommendation engine.
While this is driven by an Amazon algorithm, there are things you can do to influence it. This can be especially important early in the book’s life when organic (ie naturally occurring) activity is low and you need to convince those early buyers.
Sales activity – and browsing activity – will feed into recommendations. Here are some tactics commonly used:
- Ask friends and contacts with previous Amazon purchases to buy your book early (before you embark on any major promotion). This will help to fill this ‘Customers Who Bought’ section of the page, giving subsequent buyers comfort that they’re not alone.
- Use a low opening price like $2.99 or even $0.99 to help get some early traction. Even if you don’t make any money from these sales, you can use the limited period offer (make sure you clearly state that it’s limited) to kick your promotional network into action.
- While they’re on the site, ask contacts to visit pages of popular similar titles to boost your chances of appearing in other recommendations (Customers Also Bought Items By, What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?)
Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.