I’ve published more than 10 books on Amazon. Some have made it to the top of the best-seller list on Amazon in more than one category, while others didn’t do as well. I’ve learned from both my successes and my failures over the years, and I’ve put all of those lessons into this post about how to successfully launch a book on Amazon.
Who This Is For: How to Launch a Book on Amazon
If you want to self-publish your book (fiction or nonfiction) on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, this launch plan is for you.
Also, I’m assuming that you have signed up for Amazon’s KDP Select program, which is optional. In exchange for an exclusive publishing deal, KDP Select gives authors a few benefits, such as higher ebook royalties in some international countries (i.e., you cannot publish your book anywhere else).
You should join KDP Select because it’s the only program that lets you give your book away for free for 5 days every 90 days. I’ll explain why this is important in the steps that follow.
Keep in mind that you can leave KDP Select after 90 days, so you’re not stuck with the exclusivity agreement forever.
How to Launch a Book on Amazon: Activities Before the Launch
About a month before you start your launch plan, make sure you’ve done everything you can to market and spread the word about your book.
Talk to people who have a lot of influence, like bloggers, podcasters, and journalists, and let them know what the book is about. Tell them you’re willing to write guest posts or do interviews with them if they’re interested.
You might want to tweet or blog about your process to show people what you’re doing. This will get more people interested in your book.
You can also look up websites, Facebook pages, Twitter handles, and any other forums that accept submissions for free or cheap Kindle books, and start sending in any online webforms ahead of time.
During this time, I’m still getting feedback from the first people to read the book. I also start looking for potential Amazon reviewers who would be willing to review the book in exchange for a free copy. This is the most important thing I do.
I ask my email subscribers if they’re interested, and I also look through Amazon’s site for reviewers who put their contact information in the open.
If someone wants to read the book, I send them a PDF copy of the manuscript in advance so they have time to read it.
How to Launch a Book on Amazon: My Overall Plan
During a launch, my main goal is to get as many people as possible to know about the book and to get Amazon to promote it for me. I think of books as business cards on steroids and as assets that make more money in the long run than in the short term.
So, my plan is to put the book out for free at first and then slowly raise the price over time. This increases the number of downloads and word-of-mouth advertising, and it makes people feel like they need to act quickly to get it before the price goes up.
The most important part of this strategy is finding Amazon reviewers, because book reviews are so important (both for social proof and for Amazon’s algorithm), and I think they’re the key to a successful launch.
Here’s an example of the plan for the launch. As you read the steps, you can click on the picture to open it in a new tab and see a bigger version of it.
How to Publish Your Book on Amazon
Step 1: Secret Test Launch
Price point: $0.99
Between 2 and 5 days
When your book is ready to be published, the first step is to launch it in secret. This means that you will hit the publish button, but you won’t tell anyone that the book is out.
Your book isn’t really “private” in the sense that it can’t be found in public, but if you don’t talk about it, it’s not likely that people will find it on their own.
The goal of this launch is to see how things look and make sure they work right.
For example, you might notice that the cover doesn’t load right or that your book description has a formatting mistake.
During this step, you can also do a few important things, such as:
Putting your Editorial Reviews on Amazon on Author Central (i.e., the reviews you receive as testimonials).
“Linking” the different formats of the book (ebook, paperback, audiobook, etc.) if they aren’t already linked (sometimes you’ll need to submit a manual request for this).
Getting in touch with support to change your book’s categories (so you can list it in a category with less competition and increase the chances of it becoming an Amazon #1 Best Seller).
If you launch in secret, you’ll also be able to make a test purchase. You or someone you trust can buy your book, download it, and then make sure everything looks right.
During this step, you can launch the book at any price, but my suggestion is to launch at $0.99 because it will be cheap to buy a few copies to test (ninety-nine cents is the lowest price you can list a book on Amazon).
This step can take anywhere from two to five days after your book has been published, because any changes you make can take up to 72 hours to show up (Amazon’s review process is slow, and changes are not made right away).
Step 2: Private Amazon Reviewer Launch
Duration: 2 days
After you’ve tested everything and are ready to go, go to the KDP dashboard and choose two days from your 5-day promotion pool to give your book away for free. You’ll have to choose those dates at least one day ahead of time.
The goal of this step is to let a small group of potential Amazon reviewers know about your book.
Start reaching out to your Amazon reviewers the morning after your book goes free and ask them to download it and leave a review.
A quick guide to verified reviews vs. unconfirmed reviews
There are two kinds of reviews on Amazon: ones that haven’t been checked and ones that have.
Anyone with an active Amazon account, even if they haven’t read your book, can leave a review that isn’t checked.
People who have bought your book from Amazon are the only ones who can leave verified reviews. These reviews are marked with the words “Verified Purchase.”
Here is a picture of how a verified review and an unverified review look on one of the pages of my book.
Amazon puts a lot more stock in verified reviews than in ones that aren’t. They show up higher on the page with the book’s description and count more toward your overall review average.
The good news is that Amazon counts free downloads during the KDP Select period as actual purchases. This means that if someone downloads the book during that time and leaves a review, the review will show up as verified.
During this step, your goal is to get as many verified reviews as you can (the more, the better).
Step 3: Private Price Increase
Price point: $0.99
Three to five days
After you give your book away for free for two days, you should raise the price to $0.99. Technically, you’re not really doing anything to raise the price because after the two-day free trial, the price will automatically go back up to $0.99.
At this point, you’re not making any announcements either, and your book launch is still a secret.
In this step, you will wait for the Amazon reviews to appear on your page.
There are two things that take time about Amazon reviews.
People are usually busy, so they need more time to read your book and write a review. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to reach out to potential Amazon reviewers early in your pre-launch phase and send them the manuscript.
Even after the reviewers upload their reviews, it could take a few days for the Amazon verification team to approve them. Some reviews will show up almost right away, while others will take a few days or never show up at all (probably because Amazon thinks they are fake or break their rules).
So, I use the three to five days after a private price increase to reach out to all the reviewers and remind them to upload their reviews. I don’t have a minimum goal for reviews (again, more is better), but I try to get at least 10 reviews.
Step 4: Make it public [Free]
Duration: 3 days
After you get reviews, the next step is to make your book available to everyone for free. This is where you use the last three days of your KDP Select program (given that you already used two of the five free days in Step 2).
I send an email to friends, coworkers, bloggers, and anyone else I contacted earlier to let them know the book is out. I also update Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, relevant forums, and other social media sites on a regular basis.
This helps me get a lot of people to download my work. I also ask people who read this to tell their coworkers about it. To get more reviews, I also ask people who like the book to please leave an honest review.
Even though I don’t make any money during those three days, I get a lot of people interested in the book, which helps me with the next and most important step.
Step 5: Launch to the public (paid)
Price point: $0.99
Duration: 7 days
After the three-day free trial, the book will be officially released at a paid price. This is your big launch day, and everything you’ve done up to this point, like getting reviews, has been to help you make as much money as possible on this day.
I put the book up for sale at the lowest price possible ($0.99) for about a week.
My main goal is to ride the wave of publicity that my book got when it was free. Most people won’t think twice about spending $0.99 on a book they’re interested in, especially if it’s already gotten some attention and good reviews.
This phase is more important than the last one because Amazon’s algorithm cares more about actual sales than free downloads.
If Amazon sees that a lot of people bought your book in a short amount of time (called a “high sales velocity”), it will start promoting it to its customers on its own, which will lead to more sales.
The key to getting your book on the Amazon bestseller list is to sell a lot of copies quickly and put it in a category with little competition.
Step 6: Prices go up for the public
Price range: $2.99 and up
Time: still going on
The next step is to raise the price to $2.99 after your public launch. This is the lowest price you can set your book at to get a 70% royalty from Amazon. If you set the price anywhere between $0.99 and $2.99, you would only get a 35% royalty.
Then, I keep the price at $2.99 for at least a month to get some steady-state data. I then try out different prices by raising the price by $1.00 at a time. For example, two of my best-selling books (this and this) have made the most money at a price of $6.99, so I usually keep them at that price unless I’m trying out promotions or raising the price.
Every 90 days, you can offer special deals to your readers if you use KDP select. So, after your first free book promotion, you can choose to give the book away again for free (for another five days) after 90 days.
You can also offer something called a “Kindle Countdown Deal.” This is a program that lists your book at a discounted price and shows customers how much time they have left to buy it at that price.
Make sure you use all of those offer promotions to keep people talking about your book months or even years after it came out.
That’s just about it! A step-by-step guide to launching a book on Amazon in six easy steps.
How to Launch a Book on Amazon: A Simpler Process
You might find that a few of those steps aren’t necessary (or don’t apply to you). Here’s an alternative method that combines a few of those steps into one that’s a little easier and faster.
The basic idea is that after you finish Step 1: Secret Test Launch, you go straight to Step 4: Public Launch [Free] and skip Steps 2 and 3.
Here, instead of giving your book away for free for two days, you’ll give it away for the full five days that KDP Select gives you. Steps 2 and 3 are then put together in Step 4.
In other words, once you’re done testing everything in Step 1, you’ll make your book public for five days. During that time, you’ll reach out to your Amazon reviewers and ask them to upload their reviews.
The downside is that you probably won’t get as many reviews as you would if you waited, but the upside is that you can speed up your launch plan by a few days.
Here’s a new picture that shows how the process has been made easier.
As a side note, I used this simple method to write all of my books before this one.
What You Need to Know About Amazon Reviews
Reviews are very important, and Amazon uses them a lot to figure out how successful a book is. So, Amazon carefully checks the reviews to make sure they are real.
They only want real reviews to show up, so don’t write a fake one or pay someone else to do it for you. You’ll get caught, and it’s likely that you’ll be punished.
Amazon protects its review system very well, so it’s getting harder and harder for authors to get reviews.
In fact, when I launched my books in the last couple of years, I cared more about getting reviews on Amazon than about making sales. Because it’s easier to get more sales (through paid advertising and marketing) than to get more reviews.
After writing more than 10 books in three different genres, I’ve gotten more than 600 reviews for them all.
What has worked for me is a simple mix of hard work and following up with emails all the time.
I hope you enjoyed this launch plan. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any suggestions on things that have worked for you in the past.