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Book Review: Sell Your Book on Amazon by Brent Sampson

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Despite a way too long subtitle and "salesy" claims, Sell Your Book on Amazon surprises. Its format simplifies finding the sections of interest – couple that with the ratings from five stars indicating "a must do" item to one star meaning "Don't waste your time." Authors who publish their books using a print-on-demand (POD) service will benefit most from this book.

However, authors with books published through traditional publishers will find useful tactics. Nowadays, authors must do their own marketing instead of relying on the publisher. Most authors don't reach the popularity of bestselling authors like the John Grishams, J.K. Rowlings, and Malcome Gladwells. These authors need not worry about marketing.

But that's not the case for most of us. So we have to research and figure our way around sites like Amazon from a different point of view than a shopper's. You may already be doing some or most of the recommended activities discussed in the book. Or maybe you could do more to boost sales.

Naturally, Sampson spends most of the book discussing Amazon's Profile Page (which he often references as Author Profile Page, but that's not what Amazon calls it) and Book Detail Page. Despite my using Amazon since the early '90s when it was just an online bookstore, I've picked up a few things from the book.

For instance, I didn't know that authors can set up a "Search Inside" page. I thought that was under the publisher's control. You may have to deal with your publisher in terms of your contract and Amazon's contract. These little tidbits may justify the cost of buying the book.

Authors certainly can request reviews. Sampson, however, recommends asking for a five-star review, rationalizing the advice by saying a book will get plenty of reviews that aren't five stars. It's just not right for an author to tell me (a reviewer) this.

Yes, a highly rated book will get a boost, but I believe requesting a review is enough. Ironically, in the letters I received for reviewing the book — they make no mention of recommending I provide a five-star review.

In the intro, the author mentions BXGY. What's that? I look for BXGY in the index and find other pages covering the abbreviation that explain it. Most, if not all, writing style guides say to expand an acronym or abbreviation on first occurrence. Or else you waste the reader's time in trying to figure out little things like this.

The tactic ratings are imperfect. For example, I disagree with the five-star rating on Amazon's blog feature. Blogs do have a place — just not in Amazon. I would rather read the author's blog on the author's own site. It clutters Amazon with more marketing material. Furthermore, Amazon offers other ways to get your URL listed. Nonetheless, many probably find value in authors' blogs. The important thing for authors remember is to use their best judgment in prioritizing what features to address. They know their target market and their needs.

Sell Your Book on Amazon works well as a resource. Authors can browse the tactics for what interests them. Then study those tactics and put them to work. The ratings offer a general guideline of a tactic's importance — but ultimately the author can decide what's best.

Not all tactics in the book are about things authors can do. A couple — like Amazon sales rank and Latest Activity features — explain what they are and how the processes work.

While the book's description makes promises of increasing sales by 20 percent at a minimum and thousands of dollars in royalties — don't expect a quick fix. It takes time to put the tactics to work and build on them. These tactics can increase book sales, if authors follow up and follow through.

Successful authors tend to read a lot. As such, they are also Amazon's target market for the book section. Writers keeping this in mind will examine at other author's profiles and book pages. In doing this research, they will discover what they like and don't like about these pages. Authors who apply what they've learned to their own profiles and book pages will improve their Amazon presence.

Amazon lists the number of pages in the book as 184. The book only has 164 pages. Regardless, the book contains less content since the narrow margins stretch out the content. Notes appear on the sides for highlighting points, but there aren't many to justify putting the contents in a narrower than normal margin.

Content nitpicks aside, the formatting speeds finding tactics you want to work on. Although this review points out issues, Sampson does a nice job of organizing Sell Your Book on Amazon and showing step-by-step how to do each tactic. Overall, the author offers common sense tips and advice for taking advantage of Amazon's features. Since the book is an easy and light read, it won't be difficult for overwhelmed authors to "get around" to using the book.

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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.