In this section:
Which retailers will offer my book?
What will help readers buy my book online?
How easily will customers be able to order my printed book?
How easily will customers be able to order my ebook?
The Author Central program for authors
The Instant Bestseller Program
Online retail now dominates bookselling. In 2015 60% of JHP sales were online, 30% of that in traditional bookstores, 10% to non-bookstores, the remainder to Amazon.
Which retailers will offer my book?
We sell your book on Amazon, your ebook on Apple, Google Play and Kobo, and your printed book on Books etc, Wordery, The Book Depository and on all key online retailers.
We also make your book available online through traditional chain booksellers Barnes & Noble, Folletts, Blackwells and many other retailers through intermediaries such as Overdrive. We support smaller local independent booksellers by offering your title through sales channels on Indiebound in US and Hive in UK. These appear in the BUY ONLINE link on your book webpage at http://www.johnhuntpublishing.com. You may see aggressive discounting between retailers on Amazon marketplace as these online retailers fight for market share.
What will help readers buy my book online?
Readers will find and buy your book if they
- search by your title AND surname. There are millions of books now sold online so the more specific the search for your book the better
- can find it in the correct category, see CATEGORIES
- can sample the book online using Preview & Look Inside features
- like your cover – book covers matter
- see a long list of high scoring customer reviews, see more in REVIEW COPIES
- can read positive, informative customer and editorial reviews
- read a well crafted description, see more in DESCRIPTION
- know who you are, your credentials and online presence and platform, see more in PROFILE
- read endorsements by well-known names , see more in ENDORSEMENTS
- see details of previous editions and titles
- can read, listen to or watch quality content beyond the book e.g. blogs, articles, podcasts, reviews
- see deep discounts like those on Amazon marketplace and during special promotion periods. The "selling price" may not be the same as the recommended retail price of the book. RRP can be discounted by a few % to 80%. This is at the discretion of the retailer. You will receive royalty on the discounted RRP we give the trade, irrespective of the retail discount to the reader. Trade discounts vary between 35% and 55% off RRP. You may also see discounts counterbalanced by national taxes added to the price of your ebooks e.g. 20% VAT on ebooks in UK.
- use any strong keywords tagged to your book, see more in MARKET POSITION.
- can browse and discover your book from amongst the almost infinite choice that is available from online retailers, unlike traditional bookshops with finite shelf space. Your book has more competition than there ever has been.
Some of these features will be in the book itself, some reach retail sites through our new title data feed to the trade, others you will be able to add through your author pages such as Amazon Author Central. The information you give us on your book pages helps get your book noticed online. This metadata is distributed far and wide throughout the distribution network. Once this has been sent it is very difficult, almost impossible, to retrieve or change. We can access source databases such as Nielsen Bookdata and Bowker and the bigger online retailers, but we will never reach every retailer. At every stage both before and after publication, we can use any marketing and publicity that you are doing to encourage retailers to order books. Please keep adding Marketing Activities.
How easily will customers be able to order my printed book?
The metadata information about the different formats of your book goes to the trade in the month after text and cover files are finished. We always schedule a publication date of the last Friday in the month, although we set the release date earlier so as not to hinder sales. We release books to the trade as soon as they reach the warehouses four to six weeks before publication. If stock is ordered earlier than six weeks into our US warehouse, NBN, they advance the publication date which can complicate things. We aim to deliver stock so as not to alter pub date.
These days retail stock control is highly automated, shipping is fast, and books in the distribution chain aim to match reader demand. This means many retailers can keep low stocks and order books from distributors non returnable. Initially big retailers often buy a single print copy from the distributor to switch on systems and seed their hub warehouse. This works well for bigger retailers buying direct from our distributors. However some wholesalers hold large stocks ready to supply these big retailers faster than their competitors. This has meant high returns, which you may see as negative sales on your Financials page.
The number of copies the retailer shows as being in stock is not significant. Big retailers like Amazon pick up several times a week from the distributor. Our US distributor NBN can deliver books within 8 working days, similarly for our European distributor Orca Marston.
You shouldn't be alarmed if your book is listed as Temporarily Out of Stock on your regional Amazon; this only refers to Amazon's own stock. In the meantime your book will likely still be available for customers to purchase through Amazon but from other sellers, such as Book Depository and Blackwell's, by clicking 'New' beneath the large Paperback buy-button and choosing from the subsequent list of sellers.
If you don’t see your printed book available correctly on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Hive, Indiebound or your preferred retail site, post a query with title and publication date on the HELP forum Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online, and we will follow up. This is especially important around publication day and before any major publicity. These sites restrict authors from accessing and making changes to the descriptive copy for their books, we can do this for you.
This is also the case for adding any new reviews of note. Post them in the Reviews section of your book page on our system and leave a note in the Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online forum, we will then go in an add them to Amazon. These will appear in Editorial Reviews on Amazon.com, and as part of the Product Description on Amazon.co.uk and other regional Amazon sites.
How easily will customers be able to order my ebook?
On most ebook sites your ebook will be available to pre-order one month before publication and can be downloaded and read from publication day onwards.
If you don’t see your ebook available correctly on Amazon, Google, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Hive, Indiebound or your preferred retail site, post a query with title and publication date on the HELP forum Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online, and we will follow up. As for printed books, the availability of your ebook is especially important around publication day and before any major publicity.
Ebooks can also be bought and read on subscription. We offer your ebook to subscribers through two services, Scribd and 24 Symbols, but not as yet through Amazon’s subscription services. For $8.99 readers can download from Scribd and 24 Symbols as many ebooks as they can read in a month. They can also buy individual books and download them outright. Revenue is reported on your Financials page monthly.
Selling from www.johnhuntpublishing.com
We offer BUY ONLINE buttons to established retailers on your webpage and earn affiliate fees. We don’t yet sell books direct to readers from our own website.
However we do sell your book on these retail sites:
Google is the world’s biggest search engine. Google sells ebooks and other entertainment media on its digital distribution platform and media store, Google Play, which offers over 5 million titles in 65 countries. In addition to downloading books from Google Play, users can upload up to 1,000 books to the cloud free of charge.
We offer your book for sale on Google Play through the Play Books Partner Centre via the NBN ebook Fusion program. Publishers selling their ebooks on Google Play are required to make the book available for a limited preview. This offers readers up to 20% of the manuscript and aims to mimic a reader browsing in a traditional bookstore.
Google Analytics: Find out if people are looking for your book on Google; how many, what they did, where they went. Use to track traffic to your own website. http://www.google.com/analytics/.
Google Alert: The best way of finding all mentions of your book on the internet is to set up a Google alert with either your name or the name of the book. You then get alerted to any mentions. If you just want to search through blogs, look under “your name + blogs,” and that will bring up any mentions or reviews of your book that have been committed to a blog anywhere.
Google AdWords: we have tried this on a few books and seen a small rise on sales.
Apple is the world’s largest IT company by revenue and the world's largest technology company by total assets. Its iBooks Store delivers ebooks to any Apple device such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod. Apple is fiercely competitive and bans any book which mentions Amazon or contains a link to Amazon. It also censors books strictly and takes down books containing adult content. After Amazon, Apple sells the most ebooks.
Yes, its name is an anagram. Newest of the big four online bookstores, Kobo was founded in 2009 and is owned by ecommerce company Rakuten. Kobo is based in Canada and offers more than 5 million eBooks and magazines in 77 languages to millions of users of the Kobo ereader device and app. Its platforms support popular e-book formats, including EPUB, EPUB3 and PDF. All our titles are available as ebooks on kobo.com but Moon Books sold particularly well in 2015.
The Book Depository
The Book Depository was founded in 2004 by an Amazon employee and sold back to Amazon in 2011. Since 2011 TBD sells only printed books, no ebooks, and specializes in reaching far flung customers in countries outside US and UK. It competes hard with home-grown internet retailers, Loot in South Africa and Booktopia in Australia. Although, any titles ordered by Australian customers from Amazon/TBD are being supplied from UK or US. The Book Depository never order from our Australian distributor Brumby.
BOOKS etc online rose phoenix like from the ashes of Borders UK in 2010. Books etc is based in Hampshire, England and fights hard to bring print books to readers, mostly in UK, from their own website and other online marketplace platforms on Amazon, eBay and play.com. We run regular promotions on booksetc.co.uk including a John Hunt Publishing shopfront.
Wordery is UK book wholesaler Bertrams’ online retail venture started in 2013. It offers readers 10 million titles, in print format only. It sells on platforms Play.com, eBay, Amazon Marketplace and offers free delivery to over 100 countries.
Booktopia is the largest Australian online book retailer, outselling even Amazon and The Book Depository in Australia. It is a 100% Australian-owned online-only retail store selling books, eBooks and DVDs. Based in Sydney, Australia it offers over 4 million books in print and ebook from local and international publishers to readers in Australia and New Zealand. Our distributor Brumby supply Booktopia.
Loot is South Africa’s independent online entertainment retailer. It sells over one million books and thousands of CDs, DVDs and games. Loot doesn’t sell ebooks yet.
Familiar chain bookstores also sell online
Barnes & Noble
The biggest book chain in the US is Barnes & Noble. They sell print books in store and online. They also sell ebooks or nook books for their Nook ereader and tablet.
The biggest book chain in Britain is Waterstones. They sell print books in the high street, on university campuses and online. When Amazon first started selling their kindle ereader in the UK Waterstones raised eyebrows by selling these ereaders in their stores. However, this partnership is now over and Waterstones stopped selling ebooks in 2016.
And now for the big player in the market:
Amazon accounts for 40% of all book sales in the English-language market, and is the largest single account, on both sides of the Atlantic, for all publishers.
What we do
We make every edition in print and as an ebook available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The print edition will appear for pre-order on these two sites as soon as they receive book details 8-9 months before publication. The information from Amazon.com feeds through to regional Amazons in France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico, but may not appear on some until publication date or just after. Amazon typically buys 85% of books direct from our distributors NBN & Orca and 15% through wholesalers.
In the UK, Amazon.co.uk accepts two dates, release date when the book is available to order and ship out of the warehouse and publication date which is the official launch date. In US Amazon.com can only accept one date so the Amazon release date is set to match the Amazon publication date, which is first day of the month of publication. This means books can be released to customers in the month running up to the official publication date on the last Friday of the month (ie. a title publishing on September 29th may begin being shipped by Amazon.com from September 1st). This also means that US customers can post reviews onto Amazon.com from release date, four weeks earlier than UK customers (although Amazon.com reviews may be visible on Amazon.co.uk book pages). It takes a little time for all the worldwide databases to get information accurately reflected on their sites. Amazon may include an inaccurate publication date in the beginning, please ignore this, it will correct itself nearer publication. Other idiosyncrasies may occur early on, but should correct themselves with time.
Your Kindle ebook takes longer to appear, Amazon displays details of the Kindle version from four weeks before publication and says “Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on .” Readers can buy and download the ebook from the publication day. Other ebook retailers follow Amazon.
Amazon.com buys non-return from our North American distributor, NBN (National Book Network), at 50% discount on RRP. Omuni Barnes is NBN's dedicated National Accounts Manager for Amazon.com and is able to use NBN's standing to actively sell our books to Amazon.com through Vendor Central, giving us an advantage over many publishers who can only use Amazon as a marketplace to make books available.
Amazon.co.uk buys on consignment, paying 45% of RRP on books sold. We are on the Amazon UK Advantage program for publishers, which speeds up supply and allows us to exchange editorial, sales and marketing information with Amazon.
As a Vendor, we also participate in Amazon Marketing Services, where we can organise advertising campaigns on titles, please see CHAPTER 11 MARKETING ACTIVITIES – ADVERTISING, TRAILERS, PODCASTS.
Amazon.com.au only sells ebooks and audio books, not print.
Amazon prices are usually below retail price, but can also go above, especially in UK. Since the demise of the Net Book Agreement in UK in 1997 Amazon UK has the right, as does every retailer, to sell books at whatever price they choose. More in
Offering readers a few pages to preview mimics browsing in a traditional bookshop and has been shown to increase sales. We submit all new titles to Amazon “Look Inside” soon after publication date has been scheduled. Readers read random pages from no more than 20% of the text.
What you can do
You can influence availability status and stock levels. If you get your friends and contacts to order from Amazon, your book’s Amazon availability status will rise higher and the book is more likely to be picked up, stocked more and promoted. However, don't place large orders untypical of an average household—and don't let friends do it for you; Amazon monitors irregular ordering activity and will remove your book from sale at the least suspicion.
With well over 30 million books on sale, good reviews on Amazon are the determining factor in selection. With the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" system a potential reader immediately has a choice. Even if they've looked for yours, they may opt for another.
Another reason why numbers of reviews are important is that it determines which ebook marketing service we can use for your title when it comes to the three-month review. The higher the number of subscribers to the service, the higher the number of reviews needed for selection. So encourage everyone you know to write one. Join one of the closed groups we have for authors, and review other titles coming out in the same month (more on Review Copies in Chapter 11). A customer doesn't have to have purchased the book from Amazon to leave a review; they just have to have an Amazon account that they use regularly.
- Amazon reviews influence sales more than the reviews written by professionals in newspapers. Many buyers on Amazon make their choice on the basis of reviews. A good article here: https://booklaunch.com/amazon-reviews/.
- 10 good reviews is sometimes described as an acceptable minimum to trigger a purchase. Many other book sites only consider featuring a title if it has at least 10 reviews.
- Customers cannot post reviews until the publication date; however, authors can post reviews through their Author Central account, separately for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
- Amazon has a stringent policy about honest reviews, actively seeking out and deleting reviews it deems from known associations (family and friends). It has also recently cracked down further by stating "people will no longer be able to give a free or discounted product in exchange for reviews." So it’s fine to give copies of books or ARCs away as long as you don’t require a review in exchange. Jennetta Penner recommends language like “I received an ARC at no cost from the author” – so you might want to ask your readers to stop using the word “exchange” in book reviews.
- Add any print reviews you get to your sites.
- You can add your best reviews to your book sales page on Amazon.
- Although Amazon policies on reviews change frequently. Check their latest Customer Review Guidelines (UK here, US here). They will remove reviews they deem to be biased.
- The URL is the unique website page address found in the top address bar. You can copy and paste this address into your promotional activities (shortening as indicated) to help your audience buy your book on an impulse.
- Amazon.com only shows reviews which have been entered on that site. Amazon.co.uk only shows them in full where they have been entered on that site, but there is also a link to the reviews that have been entered on Amazon.com. It doesn't work the other way around yet though.
- Make yourself easily accessible by including contact info. If someone contacts you, ask if they will post a review on Amazon for you.
- And do not forget other key internet sites like BN.com (Barnes & Noble), Waterstones and the many other online retailers you and your network may buy from.
- Amazon charges publishers and other vendors for the Vine program, a service which pays “Vine Voices” to review products. This is expensive for publishers and dubious ethically. We prefer honest reviews freely given.
- If someone has posted a review of your book that seems really unjust you can complain to firstname.lastname@example.org or report it through your Author Central account. We as publisher have no power to remove negative reviews. Try to remember that you are not writing to please everyone. Besides, a good mix of honest reviews can impress more than a handful of five-star ones, of which customers can be suspicious.
- The main thing is: be honest. Don't cheat, you will be found out—it's called “sock-puppeting.”
- For Amazon reviews that you would like to see appear on the company website, on your book page, please add them to the Review section on your Book Details page, and they will automatically feed through.
- Become an Amazon top reviewer: go to the Amazon.com website, type in “top reviewer” in “web search,” and you’ll find the details. Aim for your badge. Do the same for Amazon.co.uk and the other bookselling internet sites. There are two different public lists of the top 10,000 reviewers; a classic ranking and a new ranking that are both updated daily. In addition to emphasizing reviewers who have been rated as helpful, the new ranking gives more weight to recent reviews and attempts to weed out friends who might be "stuffing the ballot box." Top reviewers have large fan bases of their own, with readers following their recommendations, and are often sent free books for review.
Tips on writing a great review on Amazon
- Include the "why": The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
- Be specific: Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. For video reviews, we recommend that you write a brief introduction.
- Not too short, not too long: The ideal length is 75 to 500 words. Video reviews have a 10-minute limit, but we recommend 2 to 5 minutes to keep your audience engaged.
- Be sincere: We welcome your honest opinion about the product-—positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions.
- Full disclosure: If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that that you received the product free of charge. Reviews from the Amazon Vine™ programme are already labelled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.
- Even if a review is one sentence, it still counts towards the overall number, which helps with promotion.
To count as a "bestseller", you have to rank in the top 100 for your category. There's more on Amazon categories and how to alter them in Chapter 5: Categories.
The Seller Central program for publishers
Amazon deducts money from sales revenue in return for promoting our titles to customers. We can't influence these promotions directly. If we find out that Amazon have picked your title for a merchandising program such as Kindle Daily Deal, we will record it in your Marketing Activities as an “Advert.”
Amazon offers other publishing merchandising programs. They cost between $5000 and $100,000 and are only worth thinking about once your title has held onto a top 1000 sales ranking on Amazon for a couple of months. These programs are run through our distributors NBN & Orca.
The Author Central program for authors
Join. It links your books together in an easy way, gives your readers more information about you, helps you build your brand, gain fans and learn about how to sell more books.
- Sign up to the USA first and then UK and your "home" versions and complete as many sections as you can. You can keep the USA version open in a different window, and then it is relatively easy to follow the same routine for other nations.
- Click the “Book” tab and then “Add More Books” to include all of them.
- On Author Central USA (not UK) you can narrow the category to increase the book’s visibility, and add keywords. There’s more on categories in the Author Guide/Categories & Metadata/ CATEGORIES and on keyword in the Author Guide/The Market/MARKET POSITION
- Add reviews (but be careful about adding ones by fellow authors which sound too promotional).
- Click the “Profile” tab and paste in your biography.
- Add up to eight photos, and videos, Twitter feed, Blog feed.
Amazon run a giveaway program, but with books it's better to do it through GOODREADS (also owned by Amazon, more in Chapter 15) as it's more likely to lead to recommendations.
The Instant Bestseller program
There are various programs around offered by freelance PR and self-published authors, which you have to pay to join, which tell you how to create an instant Amazon bestseller.
They revolve around borrowing other people's mailing lists, getting them all to buy your book on the same day, and offering them in return free material, usually ebooks, or vouchers for a workshop, or similar. Treat with caution. It is a bit like pyramid selling, it tends to work for books that tell you how to get rich, and punters want to buy the book to find out, and it tells you to start your own workshops on how to create instant bestsellers. It does not work for our kind of books; do not hand money over for it. Focus on building steady, sustainable sales, with the right kind of people who are going to recommend your book.
Do not worry about short-term movements. It is like the stock market, downs as well as ups. The sales ranking function is programmed to have a short memory. Track long-term trends, if you want to, rather than weekly ones.
- Amazon keep how they rank books as a trade secret, so no one really knows what it’s based on. The common understanding is that each sale counts as one point toward a rank score. Each day, the preceding day's score decreases by half, and is added to today's points. So it’s calculated as a rolling figure, usually based over a period of 30 days, but this keeps changing over time and between regions. The top 1000 are recalculated hourly. The next block, up to 10,000, are recalculated weekly, while the rest get checked monthly. A book with no sales ranking has not sold a copy.
- It's not quite as simple as that though, because as your book rises in the ranks, it will displace others, and similarly your book may be pushed downwards. It’s possible for your book to rise even if it hasn’t sold any copies.
- Because the formula weights sales by date, it favors steady sales over a dramatic surge. Publishing success is a marathon rather than a sprint. It takes half as many sales to sustain a rank as it takes to get there.
- Sales decrease by approximately half as the ranking doubles. So a title at number 2000 is selling half that of number 1000. Anything in the top 10,000 could be selling 100 and upwards a month online, several times more than that overall, and is strong.
- It varies amongst the different Amazons by country of course, and by season, but, very approximately, the top-selling book on Amazon.com may be selling as many as 3000 copies a day (though to get into the top 5, a few hundred are usually enough). A book at sales-rank number 100 might be selling 1000 copies a month. 500 would be around 400 a month. 1000 would be 200. 5000 might be selling 100 copies a month. At number 10,000, 50 a month. 20,000, 20 copies a month, etc. That is in the overall category. But the sales can be much lower in the different subject categories, or sub-categories, sub-sub-categories, by factors of 10. It is quite possible to be ranked number 5 in a minor category one week and 500,000 overall the next. A spike in rankings could mean one or two copies sold.
- It is significant though, in that as your book’s ranking goes up, so does its visibility, especially if you can crack the top 100 in any popular category. This is because Amazon provides hyperlinked top 100 lists in every major category right on its site. Your book is more likely to be noticed by readers browsing the site by category if it’s on one or more of those lists, and this tends to become a self-feeding loop. Also, the higher your book’s sales rank, the more likely it is to be recommended as a “Buy this book and that book together” candidate on other popular books’ product pages.
- Results tend to be weighted against books bought at lower discounts (not a problem with us as we give them 55%) and at lower prices. A good way to check sales rankings on the different Amazons (USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Japan) in one go rather than having to look them up separately is to go to www.salesrankexpress.com, orwww.novelrank.com.
- Pre-orders are counted on the day the book is ordered, rather than on the date of the book's release. Which is some books that have not yet been released have a high sales rank.
- Most books on Amazon tend to take a year to reach their potential. You can also check sales performance over a 90-day period at Junglescan.com. These sites aren't retrospective, so for a more complete picture of your sales, sign up, and set up and track your book as soon as you see books being printed for the warehouses on your Production page.
- In the first 30 days of publication, Amazon lends more weight to sales of a new book and it is reflected in where it sits in the "new and popular" rankings. So promotion in that window has the most effect. It begins at the time of pre-order. Other self-pubbers tend to use a short pre-order time window, maybe a week or so.
There is plenty of discussion on the internet as authors and publishers try to fathom Amazon’s popularity rankings and bestselling algorithms.
If you plan to buy similar books to your own on Amazon, as well as your own, buy them together. It will enable your title to show in the Amazon "Customers who bought this bought these others" section.
Printed books are rarely pirated. Piracy of ebooks is more common. Along with most publishers, we do not build digital rights management (DRM) into our ebooks because it would restrict their readability and distribution. Third party stores (e.g. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble) add a layer of DRM that locks the book to a specific user account and device. If you do come across an instance of your manuscript being offered as a free download and you can find a contact email address on the offending site, post this and the URL link to your book on the Help forum in Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online. We will issue a take-down notice to their service provider. Word Press and Youtube are on our side and will take down any offending URL.
One publishing guru we recommend is Jane Friedman. Here is the link to her blog on how to sell books.