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Ten things we learned at the IPG Amazon meeting
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Our special meeting on working with Amazon provided great advice from vendor manager Ollie Rodney and WW Norton’s Edward Crutchley. Here’s our own take on some of the sales and marketing tips that were shared

1 Harness the power of print on demand

Fast-track messages like ‘Get this book tomorrow’ are a big driver of sales conversion. Amazon’s print on demand service can help publishers to meet this demand for speedy delivery by ensuring stock is always at hand. Two services are available: one for frontlist titles, for which POD can act as a back-up when printed stock has run out; and one for backlist, which allows books to stay available when you no longer need bigger print runs. They are available in many international markets too, though only in paperback for now. Once a publisher has enrolled in the programme and submitted digital files, Amazon handles set-up, QA and fulfillment.

2 Explore advertising…

Amazon Advertising lets publishers bid to display books against the results of keyword and product searches, and can help titles secure visibility over others. It works on a pay-per-click basis, and options include sponsored products, headline search ads and product display ads, which result in varying types and levels of visibility. A free feature, Amazon Stores, lets publishers showcase their brand and relevant titles and generate a unique Amazon URL.

3 … And analyse the returns

Amazon Advertising is flexible, allowing publishers to trial different approaches. Use Amazon’s analytics to monitor your ads, and investigate which are working and which are costing you money without generating sales; invest further in the former, and pause or terminate the latter. Think backwards from the keywords that customers might use, and don’t include the title, as people who are already likely to buy it will find it anyway. Set spend limits to control your budget, and never click on your own ad—it will cost you!

4 Make your marketing A+

Books with pages that incorporate Amazon’s ‘A+ Detail’ material tend to sell much better than those with more basic content. A+ features include unique and in-depth content, high-resolution pictures, custom headers. Content can be submitted via the Merchandising tab of Vendor Central and Advantage Central.

5 Build your authors’ profiles

Amazon Author Pages are portals for browsers to learn more about authors, and can incorporate links to all of their titles. They require author biographies and photos as a minimum, but can also incorporate dynamic content like video and links to social media platforms, and customers can ‘follow’ the pages to receive updates on things like new releases. Authors can claim their own pages via Author Central.

6 Use Amazon Vine

The Amazon Vine network helps publishers gain reviews by getting titles sent to regular buyers who are interested in that type of book. This can be an effective tool for building a buzz around new releases, or for giving older books new impetus. Amazon matches books with reviews and fulfills delivery, and pricing is dependent on factors including category. Products should ideally be enrolled 30 to 45 days before launch.

7 Join deal programmes…

Deals on Amazon can increase a book’s visibility, reinvigorate sales and decrease overstocks. ‘Today’s Deals’ is the second most visited page on Amazon, and can be used to drive traffic to specific titles. Options include ‘Lightning Deals’, which run for six hours on specified dates and are powerful for high-volume titles; they require a minimum of 15% off current site price and a flat fee that is charged if a book sells as a result. ‘Best Deals’ meanwhile run for a maximum of two weeks and can run across multiple titles; a minimum of 10% discount is needed here.

8 … And create your own

Amazon Advantage and Amazon Vendor Control enable publishers to create their own deals from scratch and incorporate exactly what they want. Pre-approved deal templates can save you time drawing up a deal, and are ready to be sent for approval when a publisher clicks. Voucher-based deals are also available. Promotions should be created and approved at least four weeks before they start.

9 Understand forecasting

Amazon produces forecasts based on what it expects to sell to customers on a weekly basis, not on what it expects to buy, and adjusts them continually. Demand forecast reports can be downloaded via Amazon Retail Analytics Basic. Publishers can also alert Amazon if they forecast a possible spike in sales—around promotional events or offers, for example—by using the Suggested Demand Quantity (SDQ) tool, available through the ‘Contact Us’ service on Vendor Central and Advantage Central. This shouldn’t be used based on past demand spikes or to replenish low stock.

10 Train up and stay in touch

If you need to pick up tips for managing sales and marketing, Amazon’s Training and Resource Centre via Amazon Advantage can help. Here you can download guides, manuals and templates, access FAQs and manage queries. Amazon also welcomes communications about improving experiences for consumers and publishers by raising 'Contact Us' cases.

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