What Every Book Designer should Know about Amazon Rankings

What happens when all the sudden your CreateSpace self-published book becomes an Amazon bestseller? It’s not like you have to get it right the very first time that you do it.
You can go back and the first promotion doesn’t work out to well, no big deal, run another promotion a few weeks down the road. Or run another five day promotion in three months. You can always keep revising, keep tweaking it until you find what works. Then of course take that to multiple books if you publish one book and maybe it doesn’t work out as well. Besides tweaking that book you can always take the lessons from that and say okay, for my next book, I’m going to do things a little bit differently.

You never really get the best quality questions and know how to do it until you have actually gone through the process. As much as going through these blogs help, they only help to the extent that the information is being applied and you see it for yourself first hand and you go through the experience of writing and publishing the book yourself.

Amen absolutely.

That’s probably the single most important lesson I’ve learned about self-publishing a book. It’s all about taking action nothing changes until then. You’ve written the books already. Say you’ve written three books so you’ve done the hard part. Now you need to get the book layout looking professional. You need to get a template or a designer to create a book cover. You can also easily find premade book covers that look really good. The book cover templates out there are getting better every year, in my opinion.

book cover template

Just pick the book cover design you like best and run with that one.

Does the 53 book downloads equal to one sale still hold for moving up the rankings? The answer is no. There have been at least a couple of algorithm changes which I’m aware of in the last 12 months relating to the waiting of free versus paid.

For those that are not aware, go back about 12 months or just over 12 months from now. You used to get credit for your free downloads, which of course was fantastic. It meant that you could give your book away for free and get tremendous momentum and be ranking really high as soon as you switched to paid because you actually got credit for a portion of those free downloads. After a little while, Amazon cut that down so it was only influencing the ranking about 10%. You get would credit for one in 10. What’s happened now is they’ve basically cut it down completely. That means you won’t get boosts in the Amazon rankings by giving your book away for free because too many people realized they could game the system this way. Now, the only way to move your book up in the Amazon ranking is to sell actual copies of your books through the website. Sales through CreateSpace don’t count. So, even though you make more money selling through CreateSapce, it’s better in the long run, or even the medium run to have all your books sold through Amazon’s bookstore instead of CreateSpace.

You now get no credit as far as I can tell and I’ve monitored this very closely with the books that I promoted and tracked very carefully. Not just the free downloads but all the paid downloads and what rankings you get. The benefit now from doing a free campaign is not that you get any ranking because you don’t. The benefit now is those two things I told you about earlier which is one, if you get lots of free downloads it proves to Amazon that your book has merit. Which makes it more likely that they will promote it within the Amazon ecosystem. The second one is that Amazon gets to cross-reference all the purchases that everybody that’s … 10,000 people download your book it cross references all their other purchases with your book. This is good news for future promotion on Amazon. I’ll explain why in the next post.

Why Design is Good for Book Sales

Before you even consider what the book cover design will look like, create a picture in your mind of where to advertize your book on Amazon. What will the book cover thumbnail look like in those areas of the website? Where will you get lots of organic traffic and organic sales from? This is important because even though you can swap out for a different book cover anytime you want to with CreateSpace, chances are, you’ll want to stick it out as long as possible.

Changing the cover can be costly and can remove any branding you’ve spent time and energy creating with the original cover. Spend the time to get the design right, because once you switch your book price from free to paid, your book is showing up all over Amazon on the pages of very similar books with super high targeted advertizing. You want that cover to shine as brightly as all the others it’s standing up next to.

That’s where the benefit of professional cover design comes in. You can do it over if it doesn’t work out, but then it feels like you’re starting from square one with your book promotion. Everything starts to feel tiring and a waste of time. You start to feel like it’s not really worth the effort. You can avoid this hurdle by nailing the cover right when you publish the book.

If your cover isn’t working out, however, I do recommend changing the book cover design and playing around with it. Marketers do this all the time with Google Ads and Facebook ads. They run the same ad with different images and look to see which one performs best. Then they put all the ad money into the top performing image. It’s why my Kindle book sales jumped by 15 times to 1500%. Between a free book giveaway and a post free giveaway. Even though I got no actual boost in terms of Amazon book ranking from the free giveaway.

This is a really important point. Because with the Amazon algorithm update back in 2012 they changed that. Some people say the free giveaway isn’t as effective as book promotion as it used to be. In certain context that’s true I think maybe for like really niche books that don’t have as much potential to get as a lot of downloads. You might have a more challenging time of really leveraging the free promotion. When you do have the ability to leverage the free promotion, like you and I have done going into a popular category. It’s hard to be number one or number two in weight loss.

The way it works is a little different now. What happens is it just shows up all over Amazon and what a lot of people don’t realize is that people finding your book from keyword searches or things like that, that’s actually probably a smaller minority of people. In terms of how they’ll find your book compared to people that find your book from the customers who bought this also bought that. Seeing it as a hot new release, seeing Amazon recommend it to people based on their other purchases. There is all these different ways that Amazon shows books to people. If you have a free promotion that does really well, then you start to tap into those other resources that Amazon provides.

Tricks to Designing Books in a Series

Every now and again a self published book from CreateSpace comes along at the exact moment in my business and changes every single thing I have to do next.

Here’s a question I get often: I’ve written three books but haven’t published yet, how do I choose which one to start with? Well obviously I don’t know which books you’ve written you can maybe tell us a little bit about the books you’ve written. Obviously you need to know how you plan to work out market sizes, book design and the book cover creation as well.

Really, unless that part of a series in which case you obviously want to get in the right sequence, it probably doesn’t matter. Pick one book, get a book cover designed and publish it. Take action because you’ll learn so much by just going through that process of getting onto KDP and publishing it and promoting it. That whichever one you choose first you’ll do a much better job second time around and third time around and so on. Of course once you’ve done one, it’s like the whole process becomes so much easier and so much less daunting. It’s like I remember before I did put my first book on Kindle.

Everything was a big deal. Now it’s like I take it in my stride it’s not as big deal at all because I know exactly what to do. Yes I’m still learning and I’m still always looking out for new information that will help me design my books in a way that streamlines the process and increases book sales. The basic system that CreateSpace or  Amazon gives you on Kindle and the basic system that I’ve created for myself on publishing my books and promoting them works. I know this because I’ve done that multiple times, it’s never going to be easy because the nature of book design and publishing is always changing with new technology and new trends in book marketing. When it comes to self-publishing multiple books through CreateSpace, it doesn’t matter which one you pick, just pick one and run with it. Just learn from that experience and you’ll get better and better and better.

I’d say whichever book design you feel you can get published first and just take that action, the better. The great thing about CreateSpace is that very little risk involved in publishing your book. They make it so easy to upload your book file and your book cover design. It’s all done through the CreateSpace interface.

In a sense I guess you can say the only you might risk is your time and maybe a little bit of money when you’re publishing a book with CreateSpace. That’s not a risk, that’s an investment as long as you keep doing it, everything that you do from your first book, where it works out what maybe doesn’t work out, you learn from that. It just makes it that much better for your next book. The other thing is, the other reason why there is basically no risk is because, you can publish a book. There are stories of people that published their book and it doesn’t sell well for months or years. Then all the sudden it takes off. You start seeing the thumnail image of their book cover everywhere on Amazon.

The point is, don’t give up on your book too soon.

The Best Way to Deal with Amazon Book Reviews

Exciting events have happened to me.

I’m going to share them with you in the post, but before I do, I want to pick up where we left off last month on the issue of negative Amazon reviews for your book. I have something which you can do to manage those reviews a little bit. Amazon will … if people click in and go to see all the reviews, one of the pages they can select is to see the most helpful reviews. They’ll show you the most helpful positive review and the most helpful negative review of your book. Positive accounts is four or five star, negative is three star or less. What you can do is have people go in and if it’s a really crappy troll like review of your book, vote that review down. Chances are that will happen anyway to some extent, because most people are not like that. There are some people who are like that regardless.

Chances are that review of your book will get voted down, you can always encourage some friends to do that. That means it gives that particular book review less credibility. Secondly it means it’s likely not to show up as one of the more useful reviews of your book. What you can also do is you can vote up, you’ll find that if you get a bunch of book reviews, you’ll get some three star reviews. Which actually are pretty good book reviews on the whole but they’ll just give you three stars. You can pick one of those reviews and vote that review up and get some … encourage some friends to vote that review up. That review will start showing as the most helpful, negative book review.

Then actually, what you’ll is two pretty good reviews showing up for the positive and the negative books. There is a way of managing your reviews but there is nothing you can do about trolls. You can contact Amazon the Kindle team and ask them to take it down but chances are they probably won’t. You can always try I think tend not to interfere too much with the reviews but there is a process for managing and I hope that made sense.

I’ll say besides everything you said about voting up the better book reviews, voting down the bad one. It is unfortunate that it’s part of the game. I’ve had a one star review from someone that literary said they didn’t read my book. That’s how it was and Amazon didn’t take it down but I’ll say this. I actually had a one star review pretty early on I don’t know if it was from a competitor, they just didn’t like the book. I still even though I only had a few book reviews and one of them was a one star, my book still went up to number one. I had the one star before my book was number one and then I hit number one. I don’t want to say that one star reviews won’t affect a book sale.

It’s not as much something to lose sleep over as people might think. The way to counteract is not worrying so much about the bad reviews as much as it is overpowering it with good reviews. Because people are going to expect if you go to any of the bestselling books of all time, there is going to be a good chunk of one star, two star reviews. It’s almost unnatural.

That’s more popular. People do give it the benefit of the doubt when they see that it’s got good book reviews okay there is the occasional person in there that didn’t like the book. That’s not going to make a difference it’s all part of the game. You basically just you in a sense you fight it with positivity. You can get more of the good book reviews and more high quality reviews in there. Even some of those more objective maybe it’s a three star review that says here is the pros, here is the cons. Then people can look at that and go okay that’s probably more of an accurate assessment of the book. This one person that gave it a one star review that says this book is stupid and I hate it.

It’s inevitable you are going to get them but you can manage them it’s not the end of the world even if you do. Most people … well if you get a review from somebody who is like a troll, people will recognize that for what it is most of the time.

I was planning once on creating captivating content. This is about an hour long MP3. Then there is another bonus that I’m giving that’s some tips for optimizing your on Amazon book descriptions and things like that. Things that you can do on Amazon to really increase your sales effectiveness. That will be a video I think it’s video. There might be audio with that too.

I would just stay on for as long as is necessary. If you’ve got questions we can cover those two after we’ve covered the specific ones. Which I think is the fairest way to do it for the people who are not so advanced.

Why you should publish your book on Amazon.com

Today I’m going to give advice for non US residents who want to publish on Amazon.com, rather than on their local Amazon site, such as Amazon.uk for example. But, before I address this issue, before we even begin the post. When my book is written, edited, fully designed and truly ready to go, I publish my books through the amazon.com site–not the Amazon.uk site.

I go into KDP and it’s not like you have a separate KDP but Amazon has separate websites, for those that don’t know. You have amazon.co.uk which is the UK site it’s effectively a separate website from amazon.com. Same for Germany, same for France, same for Italy and so on same for India.

When you actually come to KDP and put one of your books out, you manage it all through one central account through your KDP account. All of your books will always be in that account and KDP is where you’ll do things like change the book cover or make edits to the book when necessary. What you do once you set it up there, you can change the prices depending on for different locations. It will give you price options for every different Amazon site. I’m a non US publisher, I publish all my books effectively through amazon.com. That is where I get majority of my book sales from. Don’t worry about that we are all in the same boat whether we are US based or whether we are anywhere else in the world, we all follow the same procedure, cool.

Negative Reviews

I have a question here about negative reviews. I’ve been hit by trolls in the past who give the book a one start rating. I know they’re trolls because they are not Amazon verified purchased books. I think anybody that publishes their own books has that same problem. At some point, we need talk a little bit about review management.

There are a couple of things you can do, one is to you can even have some of your fans some of your friends come in and put in constructive comments as to why maybe the negative reviewer missed the point a little bit. Because you will get people who will give you a one star ranking just because they misunderstood what the book was about. You can make it crystal clear in the description but they don’t want to read it. They think the book is about something else and then they give you a one star review. Not because you’ve written a bad book because they bought the wrong book. The upside of a nice book cover is that you’ll sell more books. The downside of that same cover design is that some people will buy it just because of the cover–without reading the description.

Ultimately, they don’t usually end up liking the book and can sometimes leave a negative review because of it. Sometimes that’s the price you have to pay for success. The video below gives a really good explanation for managing book reviews on Amazon.

The Lost Art of the Book Launch Process

Beside self-publishing a poetry book or other title, there are lots of other cool things you can do through Author Central. It’s a good resource to use and that is a place where you can have photos and other information about you. Like I say it’s like an author bio page so you want to use Author Central for that. For the description itself you want to separate that out and put that on through your books page via Amazon.

Cool Cover Design

The first four weeks of launching your new book are more about getting yourself setup. Then the marketing really is going to be in week five, six and seven. If you are an author and sounds like you are already advanced, my philosophy is that your book has a lot of meaning to you. You love what you wrote. You love the cover that you designed–or paid someone to design. I want to know much as I can about the best parts of my book so my blog for those periods, if I’m already an advanced author, would be the time that I spent listening. If I just pick up one thing that I can apply to all my existing books and any future books, it’s worth doing.

It’s worth doing it for that. Although alternatively if you really don’t want to worry about so much about the initial set up of self-publishing a book, just jump in when we get to the more advanced elements of book cover design and then promotion. Which is really the more marketing focus. I would hope that even if you are an advanced author and have already published many books, that there are going to be some things there that will add value to your process. I would say especially unless you’ve got book design and book promotion really nailed and I know that almost everybody I talk to does not.

Just because you can get so much more done you get so many more books. I think there is a lot to learn and improve upon, even if you are already an established author and  you already have books out there.

I bought another Kindle course probably about a week ago and I spent 250 bucks on it. There is one thing I learn that’s going to help me that will help my students, I’m constantly training. How committed you are to setting up a process for getting your book written,, getting the book cover made and then promoting it will determine your outcome. It depends on how serious you are as an author. Everyone is going to have their different needs and weak spots.

I am always interested in getting that ongoing education because there might just be the extra little tip that you learn that creates a turning point for your book sales. When you are already established at that point, one tip multiplied over multiple books if it gets you 10% increase in sales that could pay for the source itself. In some respect, the more advanced you get, the more powerful even just little bits and pieces become in terms of book promotion

An example of that would be I’ve already give you this one but an example would be the Facebook ad testing. We can go through that if you’ve not done Facebook ads before we can show you how to set that up or I can show you how to set that up. Because I just didn’t think to do it. I wish I had now but here is the beauty. You can always go back and you can change your book cover at any time. I can still go back and do it now it’s just that the book is still selling well and I’ve been focused on other things.

Just that one little piece of information. I give credit for the idea but that is tripled the click through rate on that book. Which is it’s just one tip and again it’s an exponential effect on sales.

Dreaming in Book Design

This one is going to be a short post. I had an interesting dream last night about book design. I can’t get away from it. I know.

I won’t get into the details of the dream, but it got me thinking about something I haven’t touched on yet in this blog series. If you’ve been receiving this by email, it might seem confusing and out of order, so I’ll try to keep it concise and as reasonable as possible. Here goes.

When were talking about book design, we can be talking about a lot of different things. We can be talking about design that simply looks beautiful and brings a sense of feeling to the person looking at it. I think that’s what most design blogs are usually talking about. The art of design. Clever design. Or really talented designers coming up with some amazing work.

What we’re usually talking about at flotsampoetry is design that’s going to help your book in the marketplace, most notably in Amazon sales. Forget bookstores. They’re dying a quick and painful death.

I forgot to mention that another thing that has actually happened to me as a result of a good book cover: Amazon will actually email  out to people recommending your book, so as it comes to inbox from Amazon saying you might like this. Which is again they can only do that targeting if they have enough numbers to crunch, which is where the free giveaway is super powerful.

You sold me paid and in so great look forward to seeing you on the inside. Also I think I will yell at me for not investing in this training, I don’t know if that’s true.

I think you’ll get a lot out of it with some of the more advanced strategies. Because I’m actually going to be taking some notes on the different things. This is great because they are really covering the whole spectrum here. Someone that’s first getting into Kindle publishing you are going to be going, really into detail about that stuff. Then you also go into the more advanced stuff which it’s going to be useful for people even at a higher level.
There is really nothing else out there like I said before that you probably going to be able to come across a deal like this that I can imagine.

I think for you and for me in the sense that, if you are reading the blog you get to consider questions in real time and get answers that you are not clear on. First you get those two bonus sessions like at mid point and the end point of the blog. We do the roundup and catch up on anything at all. It’s also good for me because it means I can create a better blog. I can tailor even more to because I know what I want to teach you. I can make sure that I’m giving you exactly what it is you want to be able to make rapid progress. Make sure there is no questions that are hanging in the air which are not getting answered because you’ll be able to just come to me directly with those questions.

Present Publishing Pieces

What are the basic pieces of the publishing pie? Too many to fit into a single blog post, but here’s a start.


ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

The International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is the identifying number given to every book ever published. Each book has a unique number and is used for tracking by stores and libraries, much like a soc sec number for people.

For those who don’t have their own ISBN numbers, the publisher will assign an ISBN for, sometimes for free, sometimes for as much as $25. Every version of your book (Kindle, hard cover, paperback, etc) and every new edition of your book will require its own ISBN.

Back Bar Code

To sell a book in stores, it has to have a bar code on the back as part of the book cover template. It’s the white box with the black lines and numbers that cashiers use to scan for the book’s price. Most publishers will put this on the book cover as part of the service and publishing costs.

Books in Print

This is the largest independent book database in the world. It’s officially called Bowker’s Books in Print, and though registration with them is not required for book sales, it makes it possible for any store or vendor to find your book so they can order or stock it.

What do you think?

Part of the Publishing Puzzle

Before we enter into designing layouts and book covers we first need to look at what the book publishing pieces are. Here are three more items to consider before going any further.

Book Wholesalers

Retail stores will not order books directly from the publishers. Instead, they use a simple system of ordering all their books through two or three wholesalers and then can have them shipped to the store in a couple of shipments. This is much easier than having hundreds or thousands of shipments from every publisher out there. Ingram is the biggest book wholesaler you can find. Baker & Taylor is the next largest. Most self-publishers have relationships with one or both of these wholesalers. They are the only two that matter. You’ll need to have your book lined up with at least one of these wholesales if you want to sell it in actual bookstores. If you don’t work with Ingram or Baker & Taylor, your book will never be seen on those bookstore shelves. This is very important for many writers, so be aware of it.

Registration with Online Bookstores

Don’t use any publisher who can’t list your book for sale at Amazon.com. Additionally, they should be able to list it at other online stores, including Barnes & Noble.. As we mentioned before, online sales from Amazon are going to be the best source of book sales. That means the Amazon distribution channel is an absolute must.

Of course, this is something to understand. A complete book will have to be submitted before any of this can happen. An effective book design and layout will hopefully be accompanied by a designer and some form of book cover maker, either automated or manual.

LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number)

United States based libraries will require an ISBN number for placing orders of your books. Without it, you cannot your your book into libraries, which can be a big one time sale.

You don’t have to pursue library sales to be successful, and not all books are appropriate library material. However, libraries still maintain spending budgets for purchasing newly published books each year. Your book may be something that libraries will be interested in and it’s something to think about. It may just be worthwhile to get an LCCN number just in case you need it later. The good news is, you can get these numbers for free, so it doesn’t cost any extra to add this to your book sales and marketing plan.


Wholesalers charge money for the service they provide bookstores and publishers. They work as a sort of middle man and are necessary for in-store book sales. The trade discount is based on a percentage of the retail price. It’s the amount the retail price is discounted for the wholesale price. It can range from 40% to 55%. If you want your book in stores, you’ll need a 55% trade discount. Unfortunately, this cuts right into your royalties.

The best of both worlds is to find a publisher that sets different trade discounts for your book based on the type of retailer, rather than one sweeping discount for all retailers. By doing this you don’t have to publish two different versions of you book and try to get away using the same book cover design. For example, Amazon.com will allow as low as a 20% discount which leaves a lot possible for royalty earnings. CreateSpace works with a 40% book trade discount which works out to a very generous payment to authors. They have a separate program for book store sales where you can sell your book in stores, but you don’t make as much in royalties because they have to give a 55% discount, leaving little money for you. The upside is you get to do both, with maximum benefit to you.

I’ve had a surprising amount of success with the CreateSpace program for bookstores. I’ll never make nearly as much as I do on Amazon, but I won’t argue with an extra 10% per month.

If you’re trying to decide on an option and find yourself in a tough position, go for the lower trade discount. You’ll make more money on your book sales that happen on amazon, which will be roughly 80% of your sales. You’re book cover designer will be sad to  miss out on the publicity of bookstores, but you make pennies on those sales anyway and they’ll be far and few between. Give up your pride about “seeing your book cover on a shelf” and put a lot more money in your wallet.

If you have goals specific to bookstores, you’ll have to bite the bullet and accept very little in royalty payments. Your book is one of the most important projects you’ve ever worked on, so honor what’s true to your heart. It will make the right decision.

Inexperienced writers often pay little attention to trade discounts because they have no idea how much it affects the bottom line. That, and they’re hard to understand at first glance. Take a slower more deliberative approach to your research. You’ll be glad you did.