February 11, 2015 by Nathaniel Tower
Even if you hate Amazon, chances are that’s where many of your book sales happen. We can vilify Amazon all we want, but it does provide great opportunities for authors who otherwise might go completely unnoticed.
But this isn’t a discussion of the evil tyranny of Amazon. Nor is it meant as a blind rave of praise. No, that was just a generic hook. Now let’s move on to business.
Go to your book page on Amazon and look around. It’s a place that can quickly become an obsession when a new book launches (and for many weeks after). What’s my sales rank? Oh my goodness. I just moved into the top 100,000! Oh, and I’m in the top 100 for some obscure category that probably only has 105 books! Refresh, refresh, refresh. Show me the stats!
Oh, and let’s not forget the reviews. Did anyone leave a review today? I must check. I must post the new review on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, MySpace, and my blog. 13 reviews and still 5-stars! The literary gods are shining bright on me. What’s next? NYT Bestseller? National Book Award? A damn Pulitzer?
Yes, seeing those rankings soar (it doesn’t matter that they’re recalculated hourly and that one sale can shift your position up by several hundred thousand spots) and finding those new reviews (who cares if they’re all from my friends?) is really exciting. But there’s something else on your Amazon book page that can provide an even better glimpse of the state of your book.
Just below the Book Description, you’ll often find the magical carousel of books that customers also viewed or bought. That’s right. You can actually see what other books people are looking at. Or, if you’re lucky, you can see what books people actually bought.
The “Also Bought” list doesn’t show up for every book. You must achieve and sustain a certain number of sales in order for the “Also Bought” list to appear. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for the lowly “Also Viewed” list.
But never fear. Even the “Also Viewed” list can provide some fun. Just look at this:
Yeah, that’s right. People who viewed my latest novella Use, Remove, Repeat also viewed brilliant works of literature like Fisted By Her Doctor and Sedation Dentistry, Medical Fetish. I have to say I’m pretty damn proud. Instant classics, and I’m right alongside of them.
Here’s the thing: you can actually learn something about marketing your book from these lists. But first you have to try to figure out why these particular books are appearing on your list.
I have to admit something here: I want to be offended that Fisted By Her Doctor is on this list. I want to say I’d rather have Fifty Shades of Grey. (Let’s face it: the quality of literature is probably about the same.) However, Fisted By Her Doctor makes more sense in this case—and will probably lead to more sales. Use, Remove, Repeat is a medical satire infused with sex and science fiction. I haven’t read it (yet, that is), but I assume Fisted By Her Doctor contains doctors and sex. So does my book. The same is probably true of that dentist fetish book. Doctors and sex. What could be better?
Honestly, it’s not upsetting that these books are on the list. Actually, it’s kind of cool. Here’s why: I know that no one I know is reading those books. That means there are people I don’t know who are looking at my book. It may not be the audience I was shooting for when I wrote the book, but what’s wrong with reaching a few more people? Sure, we want our friends to read our books, but that’s not a sustainable audience. We need to reach people, even if they are people who get off reading Fisted By Her Doctor (yup, I went there).
Let’s take a look at another book of mine, one with a bigger selection of “Also Viewed” (and on the print side, I even have some “Also Bought”). My short story collection Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands features 24 surreal and humorous tales about the married life. Think of it as commentary on the state of marriage in whatever century it currently is.
Let’s look at some of the fun things that customers are also viewing:
My two personal favorites: How to Stop Nagging: Why Do Women Nag… and The Power of a Positive Wife. Both of these are “non-fiction” books that are basically about putting the wife in her place. It’s sexist and misogynistic literature at its finest (or maybe its worst). Okay, I haven’t read either. I’m just making assumptions. Honestly, I don’t particularly care for these books showing up because they might be sending the wrong message about mine. Then again, it means people are finding my book. That means something, right? How much do I care if some guy who wants to get his wife to stop nagging him ends up reading my book. Maybe it will have some impact on his life (by showing him what a fool he is). He’ll tell all his friends, they’ll all leave reviews, and I’ll get that damn award I was talking about earlier.
Of course, none of this should be taken too terribly seriously. I’m not going to say, “Holy shit! Someone who looked at my book also looked at a Philip K. Dick book!” Yeah, obviously. Tons of people look at Philip K. Dick books. As of writing this post, that particular book is the #1 Science Fiction Classic in the Kindle Store. I should hope that at least one person who’s thought about buying my book has also thought about buying that.
So is there anything to learn from this? Of course there is. By browsing through these “Also Viewed” or “Also Bought” lists, you can gain insight into new audiences (I never thought to target people who like reading about doctors who fist their patients). You can tell who you are reaching and who you aren’t. You can get a better understanding of who is actually looking at your book on Amazon.
And maybe you can sell more copies of that book of yours.
What are the best things showing up on your Amazon book page? Share in the comments.