How Launching a Book on Amazon Is Like Launching a Product on Amazon

During the process of marketing my new book, “The Amazon Expansion Plan”, I’ve been nerding out on the differences & similarities between successful book launches and successful product launches on Amazon.

Two people provided me with a lot of insight in this area, Author & content expert Laura Hanly and boutique book publisher Tom Morkes.

Tom Morkes basically does for Authors, what my company Bobsled Marketing does for owners of consumer products - implementing strategies for launching products and growing revenue on Amazon.


How selling a book on Amazon is a lot like selling
a product on Amazon

You must understand and leverage the Amazon search algorithm. Amazon is just like Google - with hundreds of millions of products and books available, there needs to be an intuitive and algorithm-driven method to rank search results. Amazon seems to prioritize the following factors: Relevance, Conversion rate, and Sales Velocity.

Although Amazon does not share the secrets of its exact algorithm with us, we know that optimizing product or book listings for these 3 factors generate more significant sales than if you just uploaded your products or books without doing any optimization in these areas. Let’s review  each in more detail and how each factor compares for books versus physical products.

1. Relevance

Are the keywords in the title, description, and back-end relevant to what the customer searched for?  It’s important to conduct keyword research and integrate strategic and long-tail keywords into your title, description, and the back-end keywords section.

2. Conversion Rate

What percentage of people bought your product or book after visiting the detail page? The better your conversion rate, the more likely it is that customers will click that “Add To Cart” button - meaning that Amazon is more likely to direct traffic your way.

So how do you improve conversion rates? For both books and products, the same concepts hold true:

A. Reviews

Reviews from real customers or readers create social proof and give other potential customers confidence in buying. They can be one of the most powerful ways to improve conversions.

In October 2016, Amazon banned “incentivized reviews” for all products on the platform - meaning you can no longer give away free or discounted samples in exchange for a review in any category…. except books.  So, Authors have an upper hand in this area since they can still offer their book for free, as part of their promotional plan. It makes sense to keep your book free for a short period (say, a week) and drive as many potentially readers to download the book and urge them to write a review. Keep your friends, family, fans and followers up-to-date on your book launch and remind them to “buy” the book and leave a review once it launches. Some authors even maintain a core group of ambassadors who pre-order the book & write a review before it officially launches, so that there are already reviews on the page before launch day.

It’s now far more difficult to get product reviews for physical products. Some options are to reach out to your existing customer list or social media followers who might have already bought your product through other channels. You can also send Amazon customers a post-purchase email to solicit reviews. Be sure that whatever plan you put into motion stays within Amazon’s terms of service - never offer to reimburse the purchase price of a product or write your own products reviews. I recommend even avoiding asking family and friends to write reviews for your products as Amazon has some advanced ways of linking things like IP addresses, mailing addresses, and other data, and the penalties for “Manipulating” reviews are fierce.

Make sure you pick up my book for more tactics on getting product reviews!

B. Description

Product detail pages and book detail pages alike have a section to add a description and explain who the book/product is for, what problem it solves, etc. Make sure you’re selling features and benefits and pointing out what is unique about your product or the unique content/perspective covered in your book. The main differences here is that with physical products, you can add up to 5 bullet points to summarize the key product features, as well as having the main description section. Authors get no bullet point list, but do get to create their own dedicated “Author Page” which can be useful to establish expertise in the subject area.

C. Images

Since customers can’t pick up a book or product and inspect it when buying online, Sellers and Authors alike should try to give potential customers as much visual information as possible through the use of images, videos, and sample content.

Physical product brands can add up to 9 images of physical products, and even videos if selling as a Vendor. While Authors have less options for images, its possible for Authors to provide a sample chapter of their book as a way for customers to “try before you buy”.

 Above: The Book Marketing Canvas by Tom Morkes

Above: The Book Marketing Canvas by Tom Morkes


3. Sales Velocity

Sales velocity refers to the number of purchases of a book or product in a recent period, relative to other books or products in the same category. The goal here is to get a large number of sales in a short period of time, thereby boosting the “Best Seller Rank” and making it more likely that potential customers will see your book or product closer to the top of the search results.

Authors who give their book away for free at launch can leverage this tactic to great effect. While your promotion helps to acquire critical reviews to help with conversion, all of those “purchases” are helping your organic sales rank and improving your chance of discoverability.

How about physical products? It’s probably not a great idea for brands to be giving away their products for free - not only is there a hard cost associated with this, there’s the potential for enterprising customers to buy large quantities of your product and then re-sell them at a profit when the price goes back up. Authors selling digital books don’t have this problem.

What brands should do instead is look at other methods of creating sales velocity. My top recommendation here is PPC, or pay per click advertising, which you can run through Amazon’s Sponsored Products or Amazon Marketing Services program. Even with all the competition from other sellers, it’s still possible to get a great ROI with Amazon PPC.

Authors also have the ability to run paid advertising campaigns for their book.

Putting it all together

Tom Morkes wrote an epic blog post about his process for launching a book in 7 days, which included his “Book Marketing Canvas”. If you replace the word “Book” with the word “Product”, you’re pretty close to a comprehensive Product Launch Canvas.

 Above: Kiri Masters' modified Amazon Product Marketing Canvas

Above: Kiri Masters' modified Amazon Product Marketing Canvas

My Amazon Product Marketing Canvas could be completed just once, if all products that a brand carries are fairly homogenous; but in most cases there will need to be separate canvases completed for each main product type. (Download the Canvas as an Google Sheet).

As you can see, while the 3 core elements of ranking on Amazon are the same for books and physical products, there are differences in the resources and tactics at your disposal. In either case, planning your launch strategically using something like these Lean Canvases is a great place to start. And if you’re looking to skip the learning curve entirely, you can always outsource the hard stuff to experts (that’s what we do all day, every day here at Bobsled Marketing)!

Get my book, The Amazon Expansion Plan, for free when it launches on November 10th. And it goes without saying that I’d be delighted if you left me a review after you check it out.

PS: For those of you who are serious about growing your sales on Amazon, I launched a Thunderclap campaign and a valuable prize to make sure you make the most of the insights shared in my book. Enter here and you could be the one to win a one-on-one 30 minute consultation with me.

If you’re not yet selling Amazon, I’ll spend some time coaching you on a suitable product launch plan; or if you’re an established seller I’ll review your storefront and walk through a suggested action plan. Pledge to my Thunderclap campaign and you can skip the learning curve of selling on Amazon!