When I set out to write my very first ebook, I had no idea how to do so. I’d never written a book. I’d never published an ebook on Amazon. I was coming in from square one. So after launching my book successfully with the little knowledge I had, and making the Amazon Best Sellers list in multiple categories, I hardly could believe it. That’s why I want to share exactly how to do it yourself in easy steps. First, let’s look at the categories that I was number one in.

Realize that I launched the book as a free ebook using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. This is a great way to get more eyes on your book, get reviews, and help build momentum so that when you do try to sell your book, you can actually make some decent money doing it. Since the end of my 5-day free period I’ve sold almost $200 in just about two weeks. This is $200 of completely passive income that I didn’t have to work for. What I mean by that is I’m currently not promoting my book at all. I promoted it during the free period, but since then I’ve just left it up to Amazon’s marketplace to do the selling. And it’s worked!

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Let’s look at the proof!

#1 Book in Business & Money

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#1 Book in Entrepreneurship & Small Business

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#1 Book in Home-Based Business

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As you can probably tell from the above 3 screenshots, by having the number one downloaded ebook in the Business & Money section, I automatically made the #1 spot for Entrepreneurship & Small Business as well as the Home-Based categories. This is because the latter two are subcategories of the overall Business & Money section. This is great because if anyone was looking at any of these three categories, they saw my book at the number one spot.

#1 Book in Education & Teaching

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#1 Book in Teacher Resources
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Again, you’ll see that the book made the #1 spot in Education & Training and Teacher Resources. When you publish your book on Amazon, you can choose two categories to put your book. I consciously chose two separate categories – Teacher Resources and Home-Based Business. Obviously these are under two different major categories – Business & Money and Education & Teaching. The reason I chose two drastically different categories was to increase the possible eyeballs seeing my book. I could have picked two similar categories like Home-Based Business and Starting a Business. But if I did this, I only would have had the chance to be seen in the Business & Money category. Does that make sense? So the number one rule for choosing the subcategories for your book is to choose two that are in different overall categories.

#94 Book in Overall Free Books

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Not only did my book make the #1 best seller list in multiple categories, it also made the Top 100 list. This is crucial to having major success as a writer because even more people check out this list. When you go on Amazon and look on the Kindle page, the Best Seller list screams for attention. If you click to see the best sellers, it only shows the top 100 books downloaded at that moment. So even if your book is #1 in your category or subcategory, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will break the top 100 list. The highest my book went was #94. But since this ranking fluctuated every half-hour or so, it might have been even higher!

Now I don’t know how many people downloaded the book because they saw it on the top 100 list. But the opportunity for someone to download it was higher because of it. How did I make all of these top lists? More on that below!

Over 4,000 Downloads

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Within one week, I had over 4,000 downloads. Now I know a lot of people whom I look up to, who have had better book launches. Scott Britton of life-longlearner.com, someone who I followed closely when launching my book, launched with tens of thousands of downloads. But to me, my 4,000 downloads is huge. I’ve had a huge increase in subscribers to my blog. I made a few course sales through this book. And I am starting to earn some decent passive income from book sales as you can see below.

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#5 in Paid Distance & Online Learning Books

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Once my book changed from free to paid, it dropped off of the free best-sellers list. But even after a couple weeks it is still staying strong in the paid best sellers. Above, you can see that it is #5 in the Distance & Online Learning category. It’s sandwiched between a bunch of books by Living Language – a major creator of language-learning software. To be sandwiched in between a major publisher like that is pretty cool!

How did I do it? And how can you replicate this success?

While there isn’t a complete secret recipe to success – it’s very hard to know exactly what you need to make the best seller’s list. But there are two things that are key to making the top list when you launch:

1. Total downloads

2. Positive reviews

These two things combined determine if you make the best sellers list, and where you make it on that list.

Top Action Items for Winning at Amazon Publishing

  • Use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

    • I would’ve never had so much success without using Amazon KDP. I totally suggest publishing through this service, and taking part in the 5-day free program that allows so many people access to your book who would have never been interested. There are so many people who are freebie-hoarders, people who will take anything you have if it is free. So the possibility of ranking high & getting more leads through a book are so much greater by launching a book for free. The benefits completely outweigh the cons of not getting a couple bucks per sale at the start.
  • Day 1 is your most important day

    • Whether you are launching your book paid or free doesn’t matter, to make it to the top list you need downloads – fast! So be prepared when you launch. It helps to have some sort of audience to promote your book to once it is live. This can be an email list, a YouTube channel, friends & family, co-workers, blog followers, or all five. Why is Day 1 so important? Because you want to get on the top of the list as early as possible. This is especially true if you are launching using the free Kindle Direct Publishing service – which I highly recommend. If you make it to the #1 spot on the fifth day, then no one is going to be able to download it the following day. But if you make the #1 spot on the first day, there are possibly 4 more days of being on top of that category. That means hundreds or even thousands of eyeballs seeing your ebook thumbnail and possibly downloading it.
  • Use your family & friends

    • Getting downloads & reviews is important – as I mentioned above. So you need to start getting downloads and reviews as quickly as you can. What better way than to ask those closest to you to download your new book and leave an honest review. I’m not going to tell you to have them lie and write a glowing 5-star review without reading the book. But I will tell you that you should have no problem asking people to download and review your book. I only ended up with 4 reviews after the first few days. But all 4 were five-star reviews, and this undoubtedly led to more sales. It’s common knowledge now that if someone sees a book with bad reviews, they will be less likely to download it. So getting those reviews is important.
  • Hit up the social media

    • I am not a huge fan of social media. And that is a problem nowadays when you are trying to launch an online product. I was never good at gaining a huge following on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. But when it comes down to making the Amazon Best Seller list, you’ve got to pay attention to these sites. Post status updates from your own accounts. Search for groups related to ebooks (there are a ton of Facebook & Google Plus groups that are great for sharing free ebook links), and post links to your book. Search for groups related to your book topic (for example, I found a bunch of groups related to online teaching & online business) and post links to them too. Post a link on Reddit . Use forums like Warrior Forum & Best Black Hat Forum. Find communities around your topic that have a website & forum to post links to your book.  I know this stuff isn’t fun. But it’s important. Here are some places that I posted to
  • Post a YouTube video

    • I posted a quick video on my YouTube channel to announce the free book below. Notice that I messed up and said the book was free for 6 days from October 20-25. That was my bad. I am now dumb at math – even though I finished Calculus BC (yah that’s the second calculus class) as a senior in high school. With over 3,000 subscribers on YouTube, I was able to get some additional downloads from this community.

  • Have a following

    • Right now, you may be thinking that it’s impossible to get to #1 on Amazon because you don’t have a following. And it is true that it will be more difficult to succeed without a pre-built following like I had when I launched this book. This is the hardest action item I have, because it takes time. To be completely honest, I have an email list of over 2,000, over 3,000 subscribers on YouTube, and almost 7,000 students in an online class that teaches the same topic as the book. So that is already 10,000 people who I directly contacted when I launched this book. Having this audience helped, but it wasn’t where most of my downloads came. Most came from posting on Facebook & Google Plus groups. That being said, having this huge list was a leg up. So if you’re thinking about writing an ebook, it may be a good idea to build an audience first. Build it with a blog, a YouTube channel, and other things like teaching online courses. I started with 0 people in October 2012. Now I have over 40,000 students, and all of the email & YouTube subscribers. For me, this was the perfect time to launch my first book. So maybe you should wait a while to launch yours. Just something to think about. 

Conclusion

Wrapping up, one could say that making it to #1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list is a combination of some hard work, a large-enough audience, and a little luck. I’m not going to promise that if you follow all of my tips, you’ll make it to #1. But I can promise that you’re now more prepared to try than before. I wish you luck in your journey. If there is something I didn’t cover, please leave a comment below. And let me know in the comments how this strategy worked for you!

Cheers,
Phil