Publishing on Kindle – progress report 1

If any of you have been following this series of articles about publishing on Kindle, you’ll know that I was having some problems trying to figure out how to assess the demand for any niche on Kindle. I asked for help on the Experienced People Forum and received plenty of good advice. This included:

Check out best seller lists, not just on Kindle or Amazon, to ascertain what’s popular and what sells

This is good advice as far as it goes, but there must be plenty of books which never reach any best seller list and yet make a respectable amount of sales. It’s useful to find out what’s popular. Erotic fiction seems to be the dog’s wotsits these days. By the way, there’s an author with the same name as me who writes bodice rippers. It wasn’t me. Honestly! I can’t see me attempting to write in this niche. Still, it’s worth having a look to see what’s popular.

Here are some links to best seller lists/pages which might help you:

That’s only a small suggestion of the best ones and you can find many more if you feel the need. This leads me to several conclusions. One, I seem to be the only person in the world who hasn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. It totally dominates the charts and has led to many spinoffs. Two, despite the (sort of) common language, the American market of book buyers is totally different from their British cousins across the pond. Three, fiction is far more popular than non-fiction. Of course, you can drill down these lists and look at popular non-fiction books too, and drill down again to look at different categories, such as travel or business.

Try to establish a correlation between Amazon best sellers rank and number of books sold

There’s a good article about that here on Foner Books. It turns out that much of this is based on the work by Michael Alvear’s Make A Killing On KindleLis Sowerbutts recommended this to me, mostly because it has some good statistical analysis in it which was done by a professional statistician. I was sceptical because the book cover and title completely put me off. However, Lis usually talks a lot of sense so I bought the book on her recommendation. I’m glad I did! And now I recommend it to you (with my affiliate link). Go on, put a little food on my plate. (Or buy me a beer.)

If you do read this book, please be aware that Chapter 6 is generally thought of as being bad advice because it suggests you do things which are against Amazon’s T&Cs, about using your reviews of other people’s books to link to your own books. Naughty, naughty!

Anyway, if you do read Alvear’s book then you should be able to figure out correlations between Amazon rankings and the expected number of books sold. Then you can establish whether or not a niche is worth tackling in the first place. That’s the theory. Next I’ll attempt to try it in practice, and let you see how I get on.

So, that’s got us up to date on the theory of ascertaining the demand on Kindle for any given niche. I still have to sort out my keyword research and book promotion. This is how I’ve been getting on so far.

Keyword Research

As I wrote in my earlier article, Driving traffic to your Kindle book using keyword research, I was not at all happy about simply using Google tools to research my keywords. Well, there’s some progress there. Most people do seem to recommend using Google’s and I was a little bit disappointed to see that Alvear also recommended it in Chapter 4 of his book. However, he adds a twist to it. He suggests doing the usual Google keyword research, and then the Amazon keyword research, which he outlines how to do in his book. Then you can look for the overlap between the two and those are the “golden” keywords you want to target. Hmm, I have to say that I’m still very sceptical about using Google to ascertain demand on Amazon, but I guess I’ll have to give it a try.

Book Promotion

I’ve not done very much on this front yet. I’ve put links to my book in some forum signatures, mentioned the book in a monthly email newsletter I send to my subscribers… and posted a few free adverts for it in places where I’m allowed to do that. It’s not spam! It’s allowed and even welcomed where I’ve done it.

The problem is that I have no idea about how to calculate the ROI on any of these activities. OK, so I haven’t spent any money but I have spent time doing these things and I’ve no real clue as to what works and what doesn’t. When people buy the book on Amazon, I don’t know whether they came from a link in a forum sig, an advert on one of my sites, or just happened upon it while they were browsing for books about Bangkok on Amazon. Not being able to track which site sent the customer is a big drawback.

Amazon aren’t really helping. Not only do they not make it easy to figure out the expected demand for whatever it is you want to write, they also don’t let you know where your customers are coming from. Well, I’m fairly used to working on gut instinct – and I guess that with Kindle publishing, to a large extent I’m just going to have to keep doing that. Please feel free to comment if you have any better ideas.

I also need to decide whether to set up a dedicated companion website for each e-book I write or one site for all my books. And finally, I need to remember that Kindle isn’t the only place where I can sell this book, although by opting for the Kindle Select programme, I have agreed to give them exclusivity for the first 90 days. (I had to do that so I could have my first five days of offering the book for free to encourage downloads and reviews so my book would rank better in the Amazon search results.)

That’s all for now, folks! I’ll try to get out of the theory and into the nitty-gritty of actually doing something next.


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