How To Hit Top Spot On The Amazon Bestseller List

I woke up this morning with a nice surprise. Actually it was more hope than actual surprise.

For the past 36 hours I’ve been tracking the sales and ranking of my second book SIGIL, in its respective genre. After flirting with the top spot, it claimed the position outright on both US and UK instances of Amazon.

UK – #1 for Kindle in the category ‘Christian Suspense Fiction’.
US – #1 for Kindle in the category ‘Traditional Detective Mystery’.

Now before anyone gets too carried away, I want to point out that this is for the FREE bestseller list. So why the excitement?

I’ve been a published author for five months. This after a decade of soul-searching, binned drafts, snatching moments along my travels to add to a manuscript which finally saw the light of day after many aborted versions this year.

Christian Suspense Aidan J Reid Sigil
Amazon UK Kindle book listing – Christian Suspense Fiction. Father Regan would be proud!

My professional career has been within the Sales arena, and the parallels with the publishing industry is obvious. Plenty of Rejection. Building relationships, networking and how you present your ‘brand’ (such a hateful word!) are incredibly important. Thin-skinned people will certainly find themselves on uncertain ground in this battlefield.

Although authors, especially self-published ones can experience more lows than highs (anyone ever had a bad review?), small successes should be celebrated – this being one such instance.

So…get on with it Aidan. What did you actually do?

This was the first big marketing push for this particular novel, which was released at the end of June. My first novel Pathfinders, only reached #38 in it’s respective category (I ran a discounted promotion). This after a concerted marketing effort across a range of mediums (some of those tactics you can read about here and here).

Those lessons were rolled into this particular campaign.

Step by step this is what I did.

  1. Ensure my Amazon book metadata was on point and accurate. Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. Unknown authors need to be discovered – smaller lists help. Choose your keywords carefully. Niche is good. Research categories on Amazon and see what subgenres exist. See what predictive text appears when you write a keyword into Amazon. Examples I used in my case include: amateur sleuth, cozy mystery.
  2. Neat description. Three paragraphs in my case. Don’t dilute the message. People’s attention spans are finite.
  3. Exclusivity with Amazon for 90 days. To avail of the Kindle Countdown deals or KDP Free Days, ensure your ebook is not listed elsewhere or you will violate the terms of your agreement.
  4. I wanted to build up a head of steam and allotted my five free days to run in succession. I was determined to get that top spot!
  5. Email newsletter subscribers. I only created my newsletter last month. It is comprised of those who have directly requested the latest info about discounts/competitions and freebies OR those who have downloaded my free short story ‘Spectrum‘. This is currently a small list, but growing. I can’t stress the importance of creating this list ASAP.
  6. Enlist third party assistance for promotional campaign. I missed this trick in my first campaign for ‘Pathfinders’. An author friend suggested Bknights from Fiverr. I had used them in the past for books that were heavily discounted and hadn’t been blown away by the results. At the small cost of $5 I figured it was worth another crack. I also used Books Butterfly (Golden Eagle deal) which came highly recommended on the Kindle Board Forums. BB would run on Day 1 and 2. Bknights would kick in on Day 2.
  7. I wrote a blog post/tweet/facebook update to alert my 1,800 followers that my book was free to download for a limited time only.
  8. Ran a Goodreads giveaway competition for two free editions of the paperback book. This was in the hope of getting more eyeballs on the book. The competition is still ongoing and I don’t consider it to have had much bearing on the Kindle success. Every little helps though.

How many books does it take to hit the top spot?

An author friend Liz Durano, hit the top spot with her book after 1,061 downloads. It took me a little more – 1,152 (in 36 hours).

How much did I spend?

  • $5 on Bknights.
  • I spent nothing with Books Butterfly (I received $64 store credit from my first unsuccessful promotion after the book failed to hit the guaranteed sales number. I rolled this into the promotion of Sigil).

Observations/Notes

  • Day 1 Downloads – 348
  • Day 2 Downloads – 472
  • Day 3 Downloads – 332
  • I have hired another third party site to push the book on Day 4 for their free ‘Book of the Day‘ deal. This was for the princely sum of $125. I’ll report back later to see what impact that has on downloads.
  • A good cover design is critical. Some Amazon reviews against the book would, in my opinion, also help sway readers. I only had one five star (the book is a new release – one is better than none though).
  • Given the large number of downloads so far, I made sure to include easy newsletter signup details within the Kindle book and also the free download of Spectrum – all ways to gather email addresses and add to my newsletter for future products.

A couple of friends have expressed surprise that I would be willing to give away something for free – something I worked hard at, incurring large cost with hired help (editors/illustrators). They ask if I regret not making it discounted instead of free.

Sigil - Apparently an Amazon Bestseller. Who would have thunk it?
Sigil – An Amazon Bestseller. Who would have thunk it?

I firmly believe that in the opening stages of an author’s career, you need to be quite charitable with your work.

It’s all about getting your head above the parapet and building a little tribe of followers – future readers. I strongly believe that with the intense competition and sheer number of titles out there, you need to give something away for free (or heavily discounted) to let people know you exist.

Naturally as authors, we don’t want to be giving our books away for free indefinitely, but this isn’t a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme.

I never really expected to recoup my losses from Book 1 and 2 – certainly not in the first year. Hopefully, they will pay for themselves in the future.

Free promotions like the one above, means that over 1,000 people now know that I exist. If they like my work, they may consider buying one of my other titles or even tell their friends (online and offline). The beauty of cross-selling. You can’t buy that kind of exposure.

Actually you can. About 5 bucks should do it!


You can download Sigil for free from Amazon US, UK and other territories. To read the opening pages, click here.

To see other books I’ve written, you can check out the book section of my site.

spectrum sci fi short story

56 thoughts on “How To Hit Top Spot On The Amazon Bestseller List

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