Tips on Using Your Amazon Toolbox

Book marketing
Contributed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Excerpted in part from the third book in Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.

You need only a few essentials in your Amazon toolbox to build the traffic crucial for your reviews to be seen—the reviews that will convince readers to buy your book. I believe reviews are the most important tool available—even more important than search engine-friendly keywords across the web. After all, you must have a “convincer” once readers are looking right at your beautiful book cover.

My book—the third in my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers—How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career  helps you get the reviews that influence Amazon’s sales ranking, That ranking influences Amazon’s other logarithms that affect sales across their site!

Amazon sales rankings are dandy little aids for evaluating how your book is selling. Not that you should fixate on that, but having an indicator that your book might need a little sales boost is nice. And—when those ratings are nurtured—they prod Amazon’s algorithms to lead people who read books similar to yours to your Amazon buy page.

The problem is that most authors and publishers know little if anything about how those rankings come about. That isn’t their fault because I doubt if Jeff Bezos, the brains behind the entire Amazon model, knows exactly what his algorithms measure. If they’re anything like the rest of the Amazon site, they change from day to day anyway. You don’t need to know the magic behind them; you do need to know what they are and how to prod them a little:
1. Find your sales ranking (or rankings) on your book’s buy page under “product details.” Often called “metadata,” these details are the specifics for your book like ISBN, publisher, number of pages, etc. Scroll down a bit to find this section on your page.

2. If you have a ranking of 24,800, that means that 24,799 books listed in your category are selling better than your book and that up to millions of books in your book’s category are selling less well.

3. The lower your sales ranking number for your book the better. Sales rankings for your Kindle (your ebook) page will not be the same as the one on your paperback page.

Note: When the pages for your paper book and ebook are digitally connected properly, your reviews and the other sales tools Amazon offers may be the same on both pages. (There should be a link on each page pointing to the other—you may have three, paperback, hardcover, and ebook. But don’t count on it, check!)

4. If you market and promote, your efforts may lower those rankings (lower is good!). If so, celebrate because this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the marketing you are doing does not improve your rating much or at all, though it should contribute to your overall branding effort.

5. Don’t try to translate a better ratings to the number of books sold. Algorithms are a lot more complicated than that.

6. Sales rankings fluctuate (sometimes wildly) during the day, so don’t hurry to celebrate or panic unnecessarily.

Warning: Do not spend a lot of time checking your ratings. They should be used as indicators. It’s best not to obsess, but if you can’t avoid it, and others provide services available for pinging ratings to you in your email box.
So, now you know the basics about sales rankings and have an inkling about how important book reviews are, here’s your nudge! Learn as much as you can about getting reviews ethically (and free!) using my Great Book Reviews book. It’s fat, but MSNBC has a saying, “the more you know.” When considering the health of your book, that would be rewritten “the more you know about reviews, the better your sales, the better your career-building efforts.” 

To get started today, go to your Author Central feature and start poking around. 
-Install your author page or author profile if you haven’t already.

Use the build-your list-feature. If you have only one book, that’s OK. Add it.

-If you have first and second editions of a book, contact the Amazon Elves with the contact feature (email or phone) and have them install a widget that points readers from the first edition to the second so they get your best, up-to-date work.

-Now go to your KDP account and find the place that lets you add reviews yourself. Yes, yourself. Choose your best, most prestigious one of under 4,000 words and post it.

-While you are there, note that this feature lets you post more than one review yourself.

-You’ll also see there are other self-post features. You can even add a note from you directly to your prospective reader. You can add a synopsis or pitch from the back cover or flyleaf. You can add endorsements or blurbs (your copy of , How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career will help you do a professional job of getting these by excerpting from everything from your fan email to your reviews.)

And, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically will also help you keep getting reviews for as long as you want to keep your book alive. That goes for all online reviews including the ones your readers post on your Amazon page, use for their blogs and Goodreads and on and on. I call them “forever reviews.” Forever reviews can be your frugal path to making your book a classic.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The series includes The Frugal Book Promoter, now published in its third edition by Modern History Press, and her The Frugal Editor.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing.  She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. Find her Amazon Author Page at
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