Optimizing an Ebook for Amazon Previews

Ebeling-RestoringFreedomAndProsperity-Faces3SmallWhat can you do to hook a potential customer who’s browsing through the preview of your ebook?

Our newest ebook, Austrian Economics and Public Policy by Richard Ebeling, has just hit the Amazon shelves.

Ebeling and the Future of Freedom Foundation (the publisher) have a solid following, and their 2015 release, Monetary Central Planning and the State, hit the #2 and #5 Amazon spots in its categories.

This time, in our quest to hit #1, I focused my attention on some details at the very beginning of the new book.

That’s because Amazon lets any potential customer read the first 10% or so of your book in two different ways: by sending them a Kindle “free sample,” and by letting them “look inside” the book right from a web browser.

Anybody who uses one of these options is curious about your book, but not yet a customer. Our job is to make them convert.

Put the Good Stuff First

Both Amazon preview methods show the first 10% of the book, regardless of what’s in it. This is not like leafing through a paper book in a physical bookstore, where the reader can zip through the whole volume to see if anything catches their eye. We need to put the most engaging material right up front.

For instance, it’s customary to put acknowledgments at the beginning of a book. But this time, I tucked them into the back matter. Acknowledgements are important, but they aren’t what a person previewing your book is really looking for.

This book has a neato Austrian School Family Tree showing the connections between the major Austrian scholars all the way from Menger to Horwitz. In a print book, that might conceivably go in an appendix. In this book, we put it right before chapter 1.

Also, Dr. Ebeling and I took a few extra edit passes together on the introduction to get his value proposition up front in the very first paragraph, which is the part of the book the previewers are most likely to see right away (because it’s the specified “start” location in the ebook files).

Scroll vs Swipe

One special quirk of Amazon’s web-browser “look inside” feature is that it shows the book in a single long panel that you scroll through top to bottom, not as a set of discrete “pages” or screens that you swipe through left to right like a Kindle book. That scrolling feature makes the repetition of a book title on the half-title and then the title page — which is completely normal and aesthetically pleasing in actual Kindle or print — look strange.

Check out this screenshot from the preview of Ryan Levesque’s book, Ask. Do you see how his title gets oddly repeated? That’s his half-title and title pages back-to-back in the scroll. Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 8.46.53 PM

So in this book I just got rid of the half-title altogether.

The first sales are already rolling in, and I look forward to seeing if this extra attention to the Amazon preview experience gives a boost to FFF, Dr. Ebeling, and their new book.

Update — We’re Number 1!
It’s the morning of September 1, approximately 48 hours after release. We just hit #1 in our category (Economic Theory).

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Filed under Ebooks, Publishing

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