writing tips

Some essential tips for self-publishing on Amazon

This week’s been an exciting week for me. I recently received back the rights to two of my novels – The Antique Love and The Silk Romance – and just yesterday I released both books on Amazon.

But getting to the stage of self-publishing on Amazon wasn’t just as easy as pressing a button. (I wish!) Before I pressed that button, here are all the essential lessons I learned, and the many steps I went through:

helena fairfax, feel-good romance
Image courtesy of Pixabay
  • A thorough and professional edit is a MUST. Even though my books had already been through an edit with my original publishers, I re-read and re-edited both books. I came across a few things that could be improved. Also, my books were originally released in Canada. Although I’d kept the British spelling in the Canadian versions, a few north Americanisms had been introduced that I decided to change back – for example I changed to using single apostrophes in dialogue ‘  ‘, instead of the US ” “, and I also changed “toward” to “towards”, “backward” to “backwards,” etc. Since I’m British, and my stories are set in the UK, it makes sense to use the British conventions.
  • A professional cover is also a MUST. Luckily I’ve worked with the designer of my original covers before. Charlotte Volnek was happy to take my previous designs and rework them slightly into new covers. I was very happy with the result!

So, now my edits were tip-top and my covers were lovely. My next step was to add the front and back matter to the manuscript. (I had no idea before I published my first book how important these two elements are.) So, at both the front and back of the books I mention my other books – with links – and also my website, twitter, etc. At the back of the book I also ask the reader if they would like to leave a review, and I say how much I’d love it if they did!

I thought long and hard about where to distribute the two books and decided – since they’re re-releases – that going with Kindle Direct Publishing was the best option. KDP has a lot of benefits: I only need to upload to one place, they have a huge global reach, and they’ll make my book available in their library. The cons are they are exclusive. I can’t distribute anywhere else, and I’m not allowed even to give my book away for free on my own website. I thought it was worth accepting the drawbacks for the ease of publishing. I can always change my mind after 90 days.

After I’d decided to publish with Amazon, that opened up a whole new kettle of fish. Again, it’s not just as easy as launching, and away we go. Since having my first book published, I’ve come to realise that Amazon isn’t a bookshop. Amazon is in effect a search engine, and in order to get readers to find your books, you have to approach things in a different way to a bookseller.

Here are the two areas I spent a long time on, in order to optimise my SEO (search engine ranking):

  • Book description. It’s not just enough to write a good blurb, apparently. You need to incorporate some key words in your
    helena fairfax, heartwarming romance
    Image courtesy of Pixabay

    description that readers might use whilst searching for their next book. With The Silk Romance, I was lucky. The word “romance” is already in the title. In my book description, I used words that my readers might use themselves whilst searching, for example “heartwarming.” I also picked out all the very best quotes from reviews, under the heading Praise for The Silk Romance: “Deliciously different… A good story, a believable and charming romance, and utterly delightful.”

(I’ve been fortunate to have really lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for both these books, and so it was fun to read through them choosing the best quotes.)

  • Categories and key words. Amazon allows you to choose two categories for each book, and then seven key words to tag your books with. Again, I had no idea how important this aspect was when I first set out. My books are both in the romance/contemporary category, and this is how I would have labelled them. Now, though, I’ve come to understand that this isn’t necessarily the best way to go. There are hundreds of thousands of contemporary romances on Amazon, and I’d be competing with all of them. Far better to choose a category that’s not as popular, but is still relevant and a useful description for the reader. So for both books, I’ve chosen the category Fiction/ Family Life. Although the books are romances, they are sweet romances where the family plays a major role.

The same strategy applies with the key words. Choosing key words to describe your book is an art form in itself. I’ve learned a lot from Nick Stephenson’s free coaching videos. If you’re interested in knowing more about the art of key word selection, please do watch Nick’s videos. They were an eye-opener to me!

Here are my books’ descriptions. If you haven’t read either of them, I do hope the descriptions would entice you enough to try!

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helena fairfax, heartwarming romance, feel-good romanceThe Antique Love

A heartwarming, feel-good romance, whose ending was voted “Most Romantic Love Scene Ever” by readers of Love, Romances, and More
One rainy day in London, Wyoming man Kurt Bold walks into an antique shop off the King’s Road and straight into the dreams of its owner, Penny Rosas. Kurt certainly looks every inch the cowboy hero…but he soon brings Penny’s dreams to earth with a thump. His job is in the logical world of finance – and as far as Kurt is concerned, romance is just for dreamers.
But when Kurt hires Penny to help refurbish his Victorian house near Richmond Park, it’s not long before the logical heart he has guarded so carefully is opening up to new emotions, in a most disturbing way…
Praise for The Antique Love
“A lovely, romantic, evocative and sweet romance” Goodreads reviewer
“A beautiful tale of sweet unexpected love” Kaylas Place Reviews
“A wonderful and heart-warming contemporary romance that you won’t be able to put down until the very last page.” Amazon reviewer
“Left me smiling like an idiot in the most delightful way.” Clean Romance Reviews
“What a lovely book!” Netgalley reviewer
“This is a great sweet romance. I’m glad it was sent my way.” Hot off the Shelves reviews
“A deeply romantic read which affirms the power of love” Tina Williams, A Reader’s Review

Available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Ca, Amazon Au, Amazon In, and Amazon stores around the world.

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helena fairfax, the silk romanceThe Silk Romance

A heartwarming story of family loyalties and passionate romance
Sophie Challoner is sensible and hard-working, and a devoted carer of her father. When her grandmother throws a romantic ball for her in Paris, for one wonderful night Sophie forgets her promise to her family and does something reckless she will never forget.
Years later, Sophie is reunited with the man she left behind her that evening, and she finds Jean-Luc Olivier is not the glamorous socialite she thought. Jean-Luc is a force to be reckoned with…
Praise for The Silk Romance:
“Deliciously different… A good story, a believable and charming romance, and utterly delightful.” Alyssa Lynn Palmer reviews
“Unforgettable, powerfully intense and beautifully written” Caroline Barker, A Reader’s Review
“A beautiful love story that deepens with each turn of the page.” Goodreads reviewer
“One of the most well-crafted books I have read.” Ladybug Lin Reviews
Available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Ca, Amazon Au, Amazon In, and Amazon stores around the world.
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I’m excited about starting my first ever self-publishing venture. Although the books have only been up for a day, I’ve already seen sales, without doing any promotion at all yet, which is very encouraging!
If you’re an author, have you self-published your books? If so, what do you think to my strategy? And if you’re a reader, do you ever search for a certain type of book on Amazon? If so, what key words did you use for your search?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

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26 thoughts on “Some essential tips for self-publishing on Amazon

  1. That’s excellent, Helena – well done on getting them out there yourself! Although I already knew some of this (and have done it), I’ve learned a couple of other lessons, so thank you. I agree about KDP initially – that also allows you to try a countdown for a few days if you think they need it any time.

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    1. Hi Rosemary, I’m looking forward to trying the countdown. It took me quite a while to get all the facts together for this post, and I’m sure there’s still a lot to be learned. I’m glad some of it was useful to you. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Thanks for the post, Helena – it’s really helpful for writers who haven’t been down a particular route yet to see how someone else fared! Good to know that you already have some sales – wishing you many more!

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  3. Just finished editing my latest book – for now anyway – and thankfully with the help of my publisher. Actually a lost item referenced in DEAR MISS LANDAU which has suddenly been resurrected, being rather relevant to the current political situation.

    But editing, and lots of it, is inescapably vital, even if it does leave you feeling like Conan the Barbarian lashed to the wheel of pain (1982 movie); and while my new book will be electronic, I already blog on the HUFFINGTON POST and have been used to adding keywords to my submissions for years. Really the only/best way to be apprehended by a search engine.

    Embarrassingly, I got a lot more hits with keywords like NICOLA STURGEON than I did with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY…

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  4. Sounds like you’ve done your homework, Helena, and now putting all you’ve learned into practice. I do love these two books Wishing great success in your new role as indie publisher!

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  5. Congrats for jumping into this new venture, Helena, and thanks for sharing tips. Charlie put the backs on the front of two of mine she’d already done. Great job, couldn’t be more pleased. I’m waiting for the third cover now.
    I’ve not done Kindle Select, with either of my books. I can’t seem to wrap my head around their rules. I like being able to give away my books when I want to. They are mine. I’ve paid for them. LOL
    The key words are so important. I really don’t do a good job with them. Love your idea of using comments from reviews. Will look into that for TRUTH BE TOLD. I’m doing a soft release later this summer. Saving more of a big splash for the fall to capitalize on the Christmas setting of the book.
    I was relieved to read your comments about editing. I too, found things that I wanted to change and a few places where ending quotes of the ” variety had been dropped off. :) You just cannot read a book too many times, and yet at some point, you have to let it go.
    Best to you in this new endeavor, which I’m sure will be a success.

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    1. Hi Marsha, thanks for your kind comment. In fact you’ve been a bit of an inspiration to me to try and go it alone. You go about your self-publishing in a professional way, but always make it seem like fun. (It is fun in a way, but we both know it’s very hard work.) Congratulations to you on your releases. You have such great story lines for your books, and you market them really well.
      thanks for dropping in!

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  6. You make a great point about the editing process. The thorough and complete process of editing cannot be overstated. Stating the obvious here, but a book is not a blog post. You can’t just go in and edit it once it’s published, so make sure you take the time to edit your work. And when you edit it, have somebody else edit it. And when they edit it, edit it again!

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    1. Hi Kristen, you’re right, a lot of good stories are ruined by poor editing. It’s a shame. It’s impossible to edit your own work – you can’t see the wood for the trees. Even the very best authors have an independent editor. And if you don’t get your book edited, you can bet reviewers will be quick to point out any flaws or typos. Thanks very much for dropping in, and for your comment.

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