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Amazon Bestseller Campaigns

by Sandra Beckwith

Several recent postings in writers’ forums asking about Amazon bestseller campaigns got me thinking. In one case, an author had heard about a program that would teach him how to do it, was intrigued by the concept, and wondered if anybody on the forum had purchased the package (at a cost of about $3,000!). In another case, the author asked if forum users thought she could create her own campaign without purchasing a pricey program that showed her how to do it.

These bestseller campaigns rely on a simple concept: The “consumer” buys the book on a certain day and the author rewards that purchase by sending the buyer lots of “bonus” free electronic downloads – books, booklets, audio files, and so on. Information products marketer Fred Gleeck did one recently for his book, Sell Your Brain Power: Information Marketing in 7 Easy Steps. Gleeck offered bonuses from his files and those of eight others (see the list here). His campaign took his book close to the top of the entrepreneurship category on Amazon.

You can create one of these campaigns without purchasing a pricey system if you know the formula, have saved sample messages you have received from others who have employed this technique with success so you know what language generates action, and if you’re already a skilled marketer and copywriter.

Here’s the basic formula:

  • Set a sale date for your campaign several weeks into the future.
  • Compile a list of e-zine publishers or marketers with large mailing lists that already reach your target market; convince list owners that folks on their list would welcome a marketing message about your book. See if you can get them to donate relevant bonus products, too.
  • Scour the Internet for reports and other free products that should be interesting to your target audience and secure permission to offer them to people who buy your book on the designated day.
  • Write a series of marketing/sales messages that need to go out to all of the lists.
  • Create and implement a marketing plan to support your campaign.
  • Create one Web page to announce the campaign and another to house links to all of the free downloads.
  • Have a system in place to get the URL for the download Web page to everyone who buys your book on Amazon.com on the designated bestseller day.

I understand the appeal of these campaigns to authors. Really, I do. But they’re not as effective now as they were when the concept was new a few years ago. Let me explain a little bit why, and then I’ll explain why these campaigns make me uncomfortable.

They’re less effective because they rely on electronic mailing lists comprised of people who are savvy enough about Internet marketing by now to know how these things work. Unlike your Great Aunt Tilly, who might think that getting all of these free e-books when she buys a book on Amazon is a super duper deal, the people on these lists are a little jaded. Been there, done that. They have already received these freebies or others like them elsewhere in their travels and discovered that they didn’t have time to read or use them. The novelty has worn off. So . . . the return on investment for bestseller campaigns might not be as great today as it once was.

Why do these campaigns make me uncomfortable? Because they aren’t authentic. Campaign book buyers are often buying a book they have no interest in simply to get the freebies. They’re either interested in the free content or they are people who can’t resist a bargain – shucks, for $12.43 on Amazon, they get lots of stuff they didn’t have to pay for – “a $563 retail value!” If it works as hoped, authors end up selling their book to people who would never have bought it otherwise – which seems a bit like a scam to me.

Yes, I’d love to claim bestseller status for any of my books, but honestly, I’d want the buyers to make the purchase because they want to read the book. It’s a bit of a purist attitude, I know, and maybe it’s one that will cost me a few royalty checks at some point. And I’m all for adding incentives to make the purchase more appealing, but making those incentives available only on one day? That’s like admitting that your book won’t sell without them and I’m not willing to do that.

Back to the $3,000 price tag for a “system” that teaches you how to do it yourself: Seriously? If you have $3,000 for book marketing, spend it with someone who will do important promotional work for you because after you spend it to learn how to create an Amazon bestseller campaign, you still have to implement it.

What do you think about these campaigns? If you’ve done one, what were the results?

Sandra Beckwith is a former national award-winning publicist who now teaches authors how to be their own book publicists. Get free tips and subscribe to her free “Build Book Buzz” e-zine at http://buildbookbuzz.com

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About the Author, Judy Cullins

Book and Blog Coach Judy Cullins helps you gain confidence and transform your ideas into life-long money-making content. Author of 14 books for business people and authors include "Write your eBook or Other Short Book--Fast!"Judy offers free, up-to-the minute weekly publications on book and blog writing and online marketing at http://www.bookcoaching.com/help-writing-a-book.php

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  • patgarcia

    Hi,
    Thanks for this article. I am sitting before my computer, working through my emails and this article struck me as something that I should read. I am also a purist. I want people to buy my books because they want to read them and not because I have pulled the wool over their eyes. That is the kind of reader that you don't keep because they feel they have been swindled and they're right. Not that I am against promotional book campaigns. There is a way to do it with integrity and that is the kind of book promotions that I want to have for my books. I value what I write seriously and want to see it marketed in a professional manner.
    Once again, thanks. This is a great article.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

  • http://twitter.com/CreativeBoomer @CreativeBoomer

    I'm trying to sell my ebooks on Amazon by appealing to the terms that people are searching on. That way I know that they really want the information in my book. The launch way that you describe has advantages of volume but I'd rather spend the time that would have taken on writing my next book.

  • Jim Kukral

    With every industry that is growing you see that type of thing. Believe me, I've been doing Internet marketing for 16-years now. I've seen it all. Now it's happening in the self-pub space and nobody is going to be able to stop it, unfortunately. Sad, I know.

  • lesschmidt

    Hello,
    This article is very accurate. I purchased one of these very expensive programs several years ago, went through the training modules and did all the work to run the campaign. It cost me more money to hire a virtual assistant to help with the campaign. I too did not feel good about using free downloads that would likely never be used by the purchaser of my book. So, I became discouraged and never did use the program. Sort of leaves a bad taste for these Amazon campaigns. Wish I had spent the money on a good publicist.
    Les Schmidt

  • http://www.erniezelinski.com Ernie Zelinski

    I think that these type of campaigns are dubious at best.

    No doubt the majority of authors who have paid $3,000 or so for the "system" have never got a positive return on their money.

    What's more, my opinion is that there is a lack of integrity by people when they say that their book is "a best-seller" just because it has reached number 1 or number 10 on some obscure category on Amazon through some marketing campaign.

    To me a true best-seller is a book that has sold over 100,000 copies. Self-publishing guru Dan Poynter figures that 40,000 copies sold makes a book a true best-seller. I can accept Dan's figure.

    Either 100,000 copies or 40,000 copies will likely eliminate 90 percent of the books that are labeled bestsellers by the authors of these books.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    Author of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 150,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages) __

  • http://www.raiseyourvibration.ca Dawn

    Sandra

    This article hits the nail on the head — authors should be seeking out authentic book readers that are interested in their topic & content, not gimmicks.
    After $3000 is spent, you still need to execute the plan, and pay hefty commissions on book sales to Amazon.

    Great article and I hope an eye opener for new authors.
    Dawn
    author, Raise Your Vibration, Transform Your Life
    &
    Eleva Tu Vibracion, Transforma Tu Vida

  • http://karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com Karen Cioffi

    Hi, Judy,

    Unfortunately, I invested in a best-seller program for not far from the $3000 you mentioned and was very disappointed. But, the saying goes, "buyer beware."

  • http://www.act-comms.com Frances

    I agree with you completely! I am wary of these types of pitches. I like that you provided the "recipe" and then the softly worded warning. Building one's online tribe takes time and every step of the way we need to be authentic and realistic.

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    Thanks, Frances. I think authenticity is essential, too!

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    Aw, Karen, I wish I had written this before you spent the money. Was there any value in the program you bought?

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    Thanks, Dawn. I always feel bad when I see authors spending money on "gimmicks," don't you?

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    I'm with you Ernie, to the point where if someone says their book is an "Amazon bestseller," I don't pay much attention. I've become cynical!

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    I"m sorry to hear that, Les. Live and learn, right?

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    That's one reason for this guest column, Jim — to help authors, whether they're self-published or not, make a more informed decision about this type of "opportunity."

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    Are using Amazon tags to help with that?

  • http://twitter.com/sandrabeckwith @sandrabeckwith

    Thanks, Patricia. I agree with you completely. I don't feel good about a book sale if I've "tricked" you into the purchase or feel like I've misled you just to make a sale. I realize that others might see it differently, and that's fine. It's just not for me.

  • http://billgraybill.com Bill

    I did buy a book on one of these campaigns. Got the free stuff and never had time to use it. The bright spot was that the book was good!!!! However, I did learn my lesson and have never sprung for another one.

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