How I Made Amazon’s Best Seller List – And You Can Too!

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Last week my debut novel ranked as high as #11 on Amazon’s Best Selling Fiction in the Thriller/Crime category. Here it is at #12. Notice that James Patterson’s novel is AFTER mine. Yes, CACHE a PREDATOR was only there for a day but hey, it really happened. (That’s why I had to take this photo, to capture this historical moment in my career.)

A few people asked, “How did you do that?”

So I decided to write a post on what I did, hoping to help you–which is what I love more than anything–helping and encouraging writers.

The very first thing that helped me with all of my self-publishing knowledge was connecting at World Literary Cafe. I bought Melissa Foster’s FOSTERING SUCCESS Marketing course. It was well worth the money spent.

Also, keep in mind I recently had a 10-book Goodreads giveaway and a two-week book promotional tour with daily bloggers reviewing the book, interviewing me, and sharing excerpts of the book. This resulted in 35 great reviews, which helped the credibility of the novel.

What I Did — What You Can Do

Steps to Success

1. Write and edit the best book possible. This is probably the most important thing. Several reviewers told me that my book had the least typos of any Indie book they’d read. This was a huge compliment and reinforced my decision to pay an editor and an OOPS editor to comb for errors.

2. Join Amazon’s AUTHOR CENTER and upload editorial reviews, book descriptions, and fun facts about the book. Even if you published with a traditional publisher you should do this because I’m not sure they will do it for you.

While you’re there be sure to write a great BOOK DESCRIPTION. Here’s a site that shows you how. After searching best selling Indie author’s Amazon pages, I recently rewrote mine based on feedback from them and the linked site above. The first description I wrote was from the back cover of my novel. It was great if readers had a few minutes, but I needed something attention-grabbing for readers who only had a few seconds–which is all it takes for fingers to click away from my page (and yours).

I asked myself, “What do I like to see before I buy a book to know if it’s good, if it’s worth my time?”

I like to know what other readers thought of the book before I buy it. So I took a few quotes from readers and included them like this below. I still have the back cover blurb if the reader wants to scroll down and read more, but if they don’t have time, this should help.

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Seek an editorial review to upload at this AUTHOR CENTRAL site, too. READERS’ FAVORITE read and reviewed my book, giving me the opportunity to share it in the EDITORIAL REVIEW section. Contact them HERE. And while you’re there, enter their 2014 Indie Contest. (You can’t win if you don’t enter.)

3. Choose your categories and genres selectively. This is really important. At your Kindle Direct Publishing page click on your BOOKSHELF and go to categories. It looks like this:

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This is what mine looks like. Obviously yours will look different based on your key words and your categories.

If you click on ADD CATEGORIES it looks like this below:

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See all the options?

Pay attention to these areas. Find the niche for your novel. If you don’t see one that pertains to your book send KDP an email or call them and see if they can add a category for you. Why not? What do you have to lose? The tighter you define your niche genre, the greater your best selling status, and the greater the possibility that readers will notice your novel.

4. Have a sale. Why not sell your book for $0.99? No, you won’t earn a ton of profits, but you will improve your ranking and readers will take a chance on you, especially if they can afford the price. This will hopefully result in more reviews, more fans, and eventually more sales once your book is back to it’s original price. Word of mouth sells, so if you’ve written a great book and had it edited, readers who like your book will tell others.

In one week I had over 600 $0.99 downloads, and my paperback sales increased too.

5. How do you create a buzz about your sale?

Advertise and boost FB posts.

Here’s what yesterday’s FB BOOST looks like. I paid $5.00 to boost this post. It went to over 4400 people. Four people shared it. It probably brought me 25 more book sales downloads. It’s tough to say because this post is still lingering out there in the FB world so it could still be generating sales. Pay attention to the TARGET section. You can target your FB friends, or you can target specific groups like Gender, Location, Language and ? If you change these fields FB will tell you your potential reach. Check which way will reach the most people. My reach went beyond where FB thought it would.

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Just like in any business, you have to spend a little money to make money. But some of these places are FREE. Here are a few of the places I advertised:

a. Book Blast – This was one of the best places that promoted my book. I even received an email from Jason, the host, thanking me for my ad that cost $20.00. He monitored my sales and said he had over 80 links to my book from his site. However, in the 24 hours surrounding this post I had over 100 downloads.

b. More For Less – I sold about 50 from this ad.

c. People Reads – I sold about 50 from this ad.

d. Book Bub – This is supposed to be the King of places to advertise but they have to “accept” you even though to advertise in my genre would have cost me near $400. They rejected me twice. I think it’s because I only publish ebooks through Amazon’s KDP Select.

e. Kindle Books and Tips This ad cost me $25.00. Sold about 130 from this one.

f. Bargain eBook – Sold about 30 from this ad.

g. eReader News Today – I didn’t advertise at this one, but I heard it’s amazing. I’m waiting for them to send me a date that works in their schedule and I’ll place another ad just for this link. The cost for this one is based on a percentage of your sales. It’s a great deal!

h. Pixel Scroll – I think this one cost $10. I sold approximately 35 downloads.

i. Pixel of Ink – I filled out their form but they never featured my sale. They choose who they feature and who they don’t, and it’s free to submit so I took a chance that they’d pick me, but they didn’t.

j. Bargain Booksy – – This was another hot place to advertise. I think I sold approx. 100 books with this ad. It was the most expensive. $50.

What Did I Learn – What You Can Expect

Is my ranking currently at #11? No, but I can say it was there once. And it gives me a goal for the next sale, the next big push. Chances are your ranking will improve, but it won’t stay indefinitely. Yet.

One thing is certain: You can definitely expect different results. Your genre, book cover, and number of reviews matters in this sales game. But if you follow some of these tips the chances of your success rate will be greater.

Set goals before your book blast begins. Mine was 500 downloaded books, so I exceeded that one.

I didn’t have a ranking goal, but I will next time. Before the blast began my ranking was between 41 and 62–still in the top 100, but as time goes on I want to be at #1. Why not? Aim high. Dream big!

Keep track of which ads are running which days so you can track the progress. I didn’t do a great job of this. My stats above are sketchy at best.

The next time I have a sale some of these advertising places could have changed their fees, and I’m sure they’re growing too. This book marketing business is always changing, so it pays to keep reading and networking with other writers and authors.

Which website has helped you most with your sales?




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  1. Nice post. I’ve been trying to grow a collection of sites to keep in mind for promotion when the time comes. I’m a strong believer in being prepared WAY in advance. 😉 Sometimes, it seems like it’s too far in advance.

    • Hi Danielle –
      It’s never too early to plan, but keep in mind that some of these sites and ideas may change. But you can always ask me for updates. Ask me questions any time. I work my best to answer all my email and posts here.
      You WILL be published–as long as you keep writing.
      Hugs and thanks for stopping by!

      • Haha, now if only I could keep EDITING. lol. I’m just in a lull period at the moment, which is frustrating. It’s my first book and I’m learning a lot of my deficits, but more importantly learning how to overcome them, which isn’t always easy. For example, I’ve never been good at accepting criticism. My coping mechanisms tend to involve avoidance, which is great for ignoring negative reviews, but not so great when trying to take beta reader comments to heart, which is what I’m trying to do right now.

        The first book is just so close, the second is about half-way written the first draft, and I have ideas for another dancing around in my head. Fortunately, that third is only world building (it’s scifi, and I’ve been playing at designing spaceships, overcoming things like osteopenia and long distance communication, rather than any plotting). It’s a hard balance between being unproductive, and playing with too many projects all at once.

        • Hi Danielle –
          You aren’t alone with knowing how to take criticism. I got better once I found an editor that I respected. Then I knew she was all about making the story stronger and not criticizing me personally. It gave me confidence too. I think my writing really took off after I hired her. I did the online critique groups and I meet once a week with other writers who are awesome creative people, but I like how immediate my editor is at getting back to me.

          Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s tough to stay focused and finish edits. Bribe yourself with rewards. Does that help? Tell yourself you can’t do A, B, or C until you get your writing quota/edits done for the day.

          Stay with it and thanks for stopping by.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Michelle. It is soooo helpful and exactly what I need right now.

  3. Great suggestions, Michelle. Congratulations on your success, and thanks for sharing the hot scoop! 🙂

  4. Robin says:

    I love this post. I especially think it’s fascinating that there are so many ways to target books to customers.

  5. Michelle,

    eReaderNewsToday has helped me to sell the most consistent number of copies every time I work with them. They’re great because the author and eRT are always in a win-win situation. I’ve worked with BookBub, they’re great for free downloads but I didn’t appreciate that they wouldn’t allow me to advertise at 99cents, only because I already had them for free through KDP select at one point in time. I’ve stopped doing FREE promos through KDP because I’ve discovered that it’s not the best thing for an author.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


    • Hi Russell –
      Thanks for taking the time to write me this note. Interesting! Book Bub finally “accepted” me the third time I asked. Randy Ingermanson told me to be flexible with my dates so I submitted a request with a flexible date and they accepted it. My “sale” won’t be until Oct 12 so we’ll see if I like the results. I sent eReaderNewsToday a request and never heard back from them. But I’m with you on the FREE book. I’m not going to do that. At least not for a while–if at all. I’ve worked too hard to give it away.

      Thanks for your note. How many downloads did you get with eReaderNewsToday? Just curious.


      • Hello, Michelle,

        In August I got 55 purchases from ERT directly and finished the month with 65 copies sold for the same book, 6 sold of my debut novel and 5 of my second.

        In September, I put my debut novel on sale and sold 64 copies through ERT and finished the month with 75 of that book. My second book sold 1 copy and my third sold 3.

        And that was all done without having invested in a Facebook boost, which I’ll experiment with next week with BookBlast, which I’m trying based on your recommendation.

        My first outing (free) with Bookbub was great, my second (three months later) was mediocre, and my last investment with BookBub was disastrous. Although I got 31K, 11K, and 26K respectively, the residual sales decreased dramatically. I blame that in part to too many people downloading free eBooks at a high rate that they end up loading their Kindles with over 2000 eBooks, novels that they’ll most likely never get to. That’s why I’ve stopped the free thing, and only reserving those copies for book reviewers and bloggers who’ll at least spread the word about them. I may go with them with my upcoming novel, but I’m still hesitant because they’re getting to be increasingly expensive. Let me know how your sale goes with them.

        Kind regards,


        • Hi Russell –

          Thanks for sharing your stats with me. I never know what to expect and/or if my sales are good. Please let me know how BookBlast goes for you. My sale with Book Bub is for $0.99 so we’ll see if it “pays” for the ad.

          I visited your website and your blog. Well done on both of those. I like how you list where people can read reviews and interviews. That’s really smart. Do you think your website gets much traffic? Or does your blog get the most? (Love that you play the violin too!)

          Have a great day!

          • Hello, Michelle,

            I rely on my Facebook page mostly since that draws the most traffic. My website’s important because it establishes credibility. I’m still a novice when it comes to marketing, so a lot of things are still trial and error.

            Thanks for the complement and im happy that you enjoy my playing. My violin helps me take my mind off of writing whenever I’m suffering from writer’s block, but a lot of my readers love my playing too, so it keeps them entertained while I’m in between books.

  6. Michelle,

    I just discovered this site. You may want to try it out now that it’s free.



    • kayvee says:

      Thats a great site. Thanks for sharing

      I also have a site that I have been using

      • Hi Kayvee – I LOVE that site. I go there too. I bought Melissa Foster’s Marketing Course and it really helped. She’s a class act, isn’t she? I’ve learned so much from her. Thanks for stopping by!

        • kayvee says:

          Hi Michelle

          I’m afraid I dont know who Melissa Foster is 🙁

          Is that the person who runs world literary cafe?

          Can you give us a link to the marketing course so we can check it out

          Thanks….you are the best



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