When I think about Amazon, one of my favorite U2 songs comes to mind:

With or without you

With or without you

I can’t live, with or without you

Since its inception in 1994, Amazon has become the dominant retailer in the western world. Every month, 206 million people visit their website. In fact, most American consumers begin their online shopping search with Amazon.

You probably remember that Amazon began as a bookseller. Although they haven’t released their 2020 statistics yet, I do know that they are the western world’s dominant bookseller.

Here’s What Drives Me Crazy About Them

As an author, they can be incredibly frustrating. Book reviews can suddenly disappear. Other authors have complained to me that their friends reviewed their book but the review never showed up on their book’s product page.

They censor books that don’t agree with their politics (which happened to a friend of mine!).

Thousands of brick and mortar bookstores have been shuttered because they couldn’t match Amazon’s low prices.

As a publisher, they have leveled thousands of dollars of fines against my company without any explanation.

Yes, I said thousands of dollars.

They remind me of when I was a kid and my older sister would keep changing the rules–in her favor, of course–in the middle of playing a board game.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, You Might As Well Join ‘Em!

When I started out in publishing, I did everything in my power to battle the evil forces of Amazon. But when I realized I couldn’t beat them, I decided to join them.

I read the other day that 50% of all print books and 83% of all eBooks are sold on Amazon.

Amazon is the gorilla in the room that authors cannot ignore.

When I decided to work with Amazon instead of against them, I realized that there were advantages to making friends with the neighborhood bully.

You Can Use Them to Prime the Pump on Your Book Sales

For example, we publish most of our authors’ eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. This enables us to promote our authors’ books as a free eBook giveaway for up to five days every 90 days through their KDP Select program.

During that time, we employ the services of a book promotion company who promotes the book to millions of readers.

Why Offer eBooks for FREE?

So why do we offer our authors’ books for free?

It’s all about Amazon’s algorithms.

When an author’s book starts selling, Amazon gives them a more favorable ranking on their search engine.

As we all know, Amazon is all about making money. Just look at Jeff Bezos.

A few years ago, one of our authors gave away 6,000 copies of his eBook, which helped his book rank as the number one Kindle download on Amazon.

A year ago, an Illumify author gave away 3,000 eBooks during the Kindle Select period.

What difference did it make?

The day before the giveaway began, I entered his name and book title into Amazon’s search engine.

His book didn’t show up until page two.

After the giveaway concluded, I did the same thing–and now his book ranked at the top of page one.

Six months later, he called me on the phone.

“Mike, I know I haven’t done any marketing with my book since the free giveaway, but according to my Amazon report, I’m making $150 a month in sales. Why is that?”

“Your book got into Amazon’s algorithms,” I replied.

Another reason why this is important…

Your Free Ebook is Viewed as a Purchase

In some ways, Amazon views your free eBook as a purchase. At a minimum, they look at the hundreds or thousands of giveaways during your Kindle Select period, and see the potential for making more money by promoting your eBook.

All those downloads now show up in the purchase history of the hundreds or thousands of people who “purchased” it.

You know that section on the Amazon page that says “Books You May Like”? If you ranked high in Amazon sales during the free giveaway, your book will now appear in that listing. (It used to be called “Customers who bought this item also bought”).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve purchased plenty of books on that listing.

Like I said, it’s all about algorithms.

Does this translate into publishing riches? No. But it’s the first step in promoting your book and getting it in front of eyeballs so you can position it to sell.