Congratulations! Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has approved your new ebook, and it is live on Amazon! What next? What can you do now to promote your book and spread the word? Here are five easy, low-cost actions to get you started.
Disclaimer: I am not an employee of Amazon or KDP, and no one is paying me to write this. I am a freelance editor, designer, and self-publishing consultant who has explained this stuff so many times that I thought I might as well put it all in one handy reference for my customers, friends, and every other writer on the Internet. Let’s rock.
1. Get the correct link to your book. You can get the URL for your book from inside your KDP account—not just the URL for the listing in the States but in other countries, too. But many authors end up searching for their book on Amazon like a customer and copying the entire URL they get. The result is uglier than sin and full of garbage you don’t need. The actual URL is much simpler.
Here is what I mean, using one of my books as an example. If I go to Amazon and search in the “Books” category for “meteor mags permanent crescent”, then click the top search result, the URL I get is this beast: https://www.amazon.com/Meteor-Mags-Permanent-Crescent-Other/dp/B0B6XSNMV6/ref=sr_1_1?crid=O50DN9C02VR0&keywords=meteor+mag+permanent+crescent&qid=1664326036&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIwLjg3IiwicXNhIjoiMC4wMCIsInFzcCI6IjAuMDAifQ%3D%3D&s=books&sprefix=meteor+mags+permanent+cresc%2Cstripbooks%2C453&sr=1-1
Help! It’s making my eyes bleed!!! But everything from “ref=” to the very end is just garbage. If you look closely, you can see it shows the search terms I used, and other data that is useful to Amazon but is pointless to share with other people when promoting your book. The only meaningful part is this first part: https://www.amazon.com/Meteor-Mags-Permanent-Crescent-Other/dp/B0B6XSNMV6/
2. Set up an Amazon Affiliate Account. This one isn’t exactly simple, but since it involves linking to your book, we’ll cover it now. I’m not giving a full tutorial on how to set up this account, but it’s pretty easy to get started here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
When you are an Amazon Affiliate, you can get short links to any product page—including the one for your book—and those links identify your affiliate account to Amazon. That means if people buy your book after clicking through the affiliate link, then you don’t just make your royalty on the book sale; you also make a small commission as an affiliate. And if you share that link with people, and they share it with other people, and those people share it again… Do you see where this is going? Every time anyone in that chain clicks through that link and makes a purchase, you get a little commission.
Once you’re an Affiliate, you get a special toolbar when you are logged into Amazon, and you can use that toolbar to make short links to your book (or anything else Amazon sells). At the time of this writing, it is called the “Amazon Associates Site Stripe”, and it looks like this in an Internet browser:
Using “Get Link” and “Text”, it only takes a second to create a short and simple affiliate link to the same book I shared in Step One above: https://amzn.to/3ShU30g
Isn’t that much nicer and simpler than the others? Isn’t it nice that it earns me a little extra commission that goes on an Amazon gift certificate to fund my graphic novel addiction?
If you want something more visual for your website, you can also generate a clickable image of your book (or any other product) using the same affiliate toolbar. I would show you here, but WordPress.com doesn’t allow “iframe” code in these posts, which is what Amazon will give you to embed in your website. (If you are no stranger to website design, then you are probably already thinking, “I could just put the book cover image on my website and hyperlink that image using the affiliate URL.” And you are right.)
3. Set up an Amazon Author Page. Using your KDP/Amazon login credentials, go to Author Central and create your own Amazon Author Page: https://author.amazon.com/
You can upload a profile photo, add your bio, and add your book to that page. If you have multiple books, you can add them all so that readers can find all your work in one place. You can also add editorial reviews to your book listing, and more. [2023 UPDATE: In December 2022, Amazon discontinued photos, videos, and blog feeds from Author Pages in the U.S.A. Yes, I agree with you that this decision totally sucks.)
Plus, you can get a nicely customized URL. Here’s mine: amazon.com/author/matthewhoward which when clicked on, redirects to the actual page URL of https://www.amazon.com/Matthew-Howard/e/B00S3DYDEK
4. Promote Your Book by Buying It as a Gift for Other People. Just about every successful author you meet has done many book giveaways and sent out tons of free copies. That can be a major expense of both money and time with printed books. With ebooks, it’s much easier and less expensive.
Just go to your ebook’s listing like any other customer and click “Buy for Others”. All you need is a valid email address for the recipient, and you will be able to add a short, personalized message to the email that gets sent to them with a link to claim the gift.
If your book is 99 cents and you are on a 30% royalty plan, then you will get back 30 cents of the 99 you spend. Sure, it will take two months for that 30 cents to hit your bank account via direct deposit, but your net cost is reduced to 69 cents. (For simplicity’s sake, I have not included sales tax in these calculations.) If you are on the 70% royalty plan and your book is, for example, $9.95, then you will earn back $6.48 of your cost, reducing your net expense to $3.47.
And guess what? Your ebook gift expenses are now tax-deductible marketing expenses for your publishing business. Keep track of them and claim them at tax time on your Schedule C.
If you really want to be thrifty and ultra-low budget, you can first reduce the price from inside your KDP account to the lowest allowable price, buy a bunch of gifts at reduced cost, then change the price back to your normal retail price when you are done. Just keep in mind that each of those changes require about a day to update through KDP.
5. Consider Enrolling the Book in KDP Select for More Marketing Options. You can do this by checking a box during the initial set-up, but you can also add your book to this program later through your Marketing Manager page: https://kdp.amazon.com/marketing/manager. Enrolling in KDP Select opens up several marketing possibilities for you.
KDP Select is related to the Kindle Unlimited subscription that allows customers to read KDP Select books at no additional cost beyond their monthly subscription fee. Select pays authors for these readings out of a general fund, and how much you get paid depends on both the size of the fund and how much of the book gets read. (It’s complicated.) It probably won’t make you a ton of money, but it is a zero-cost way to gain potential readers who might tell their friends, write a nice review, or buy your other books.
Plus, once you are enrolled in KDP Select for 30 days, you can run Price Promotions as part of your marketing efforts. You can, for a limited time, make the book available for free, or make a Countdown Deal. With a Countdown, the discount starts at the maximum discount and decreases over time until the last day of the Countdown. This is an incentive for people to buy sooner rather than later to get the best deal. Currently, you can run these promotions multiple times per year.
The Marketing Manager page also allows you to nominate up to two of your books at a time as being free to read for Amazon Prime subscribers — another nice way to potentially expand your readership without spending any money. Since I have an ongoing fiction series, I like to have a couple books that make good “jumping-on points” for new readers available for free on Prime. If someone tries out one of those books for free and likes it, then they can buy more books to get the complete series or find out what happens next.
Finally, being part of KDP Select allows you to enter your book in various Amazon Literary Contests. Winning an award would certainly be a good thing for your book, wouldn’t it?
Bonus Action: If the five things I’ve discussed were easy, basic stuff for you, then maybe you are ready to take it to the next level by running an Ad Campaign for your book on Amazon. The main site for setting up an Amazon Ads account is https://advertising.amazon.com/ but if you already have a KDP account, you can skip that. Instead, just log in to KDP and find your ebook on your “Bookshelf”. There will be a button for “Promote and Advertise” that takes you to a page where you can begin setting up an Ad Campaign. (Alternately, go directly to Marketing Manager.) A basic Sponsored Product campaign for one book takes about five minutes to set up. You determine your daily budget and how much you bid for clicks, plus the duration of the campaign, so you completely control your cost.
Controlling your ad budget is especially important if you don’t have any prior experience or training with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and using Keywords for online marketing and advertising. Start with a small, limited budget so you can get some preliminary data on what works and what doesn’t. You can run multiple small campaigns at the same time, and use different keyword strategies to see what leads to sales and what doesn’t. The reporting feature of Amazon Ads is fairly robust and detailed to help you develop and refine a strategy. I’ve seen some surprising results, such as the campaign I spent more money on would generate the most clicks but the fewest sales, while a more modest campaign with different keyword targeting generated fewer clicks but the most sales. So, don’t just haphazardly throw money at your ad campaigns. Start small, get some data, and refine what works best.
Conclusion: If you’re serious about promoting your self-published book, you have so many options available through Amazon and KDP—and most of them are free or cost next to nothing. Some authors can do all this on their own, while others need to hire someone like me to handle the technical details. Either way, they are useful tools available to all KDP authors, so take advantage of them!