How to hack your way to the top of any Amazon bestseller category with free and cheap books

I keep telling people to make their books free, followed by 99cents, and they keep ignoring me.
So here’s a short case study to show how freaking effective pricing hacks can be for dominating Amazon.

amazon bestseller hacks


Take a look at #2 up there, the “Feel Good Myth.” Prime real estate you couldn’t even buy – top of the bestseller lists, next to Paulo Coelho in the mega popular “spirituality” category. You might say, “Yeah but it’s only 99cents! So he’s not really making any money!”

Here’s the secret – making money is not your goal. Fighting your way out of obscurity is. Take a look at “Small Victories” by Anne Lamott – Anne did everything right! Got an agent and a publisher, got a ton of high quality reviews and blurbs, and the book is probably making a lot of money.

KindleSpy estimates that the Feel Good Myth is earning about $3000 a month, while Small Victories is earning $30,000 a month. But remember Anne is probably only seeing about 10% if she’s traditionally published. And that’s not the point – earnings aside, the Feel Good Myth is beating out a traditionally published book that has a much bigger marketing reach and platform, and showing up higher in the sales ranks – due only to competitive pricing. If the Feel Good Myth gets tons of reviews, the author can bump the price up to 3.99 and start making much more money. But he had to get it noticed first. You can’t start at 3.99, because nobody will discover it.

Here’s the other secret – you don’t need to do this with your main books that took you years to write. The “Feel Good Myth” is only 21 pages! You could write it in a day or two! You don’t need to price aggressively with your main book. Instead, write a bunch of mini-books like this, or “long form essays’ with a nice cover and keep them at free or 99cents (they are different lists, so you really want content in both). Dominate the top of every category related to your niche.

Get them to sign up to your optin by promising free stuff on your website. Use the strategy to grow your list and keep visibility high – use these little books to drive traffic and sales of your main book. Here’s a book I put out yesterday, without much fanfare, at #1 in the “Time Management” category (also pretty competitive). I’ll stay at #1 for the next few days, and then I’ll be #1 in the paid list after I switch to 99cents.

This is really not difficult to do – you just have to drive a lot of sales in a short period of time.

bestseller hack Amazon


Later this month I’m going to steal The Feel Good Myth’s spot in spirituality, and also grab top real estate in self-help.

Then I’ll start working on fiction. I could give these books away for free and drive thousands of signups to my email list.

Why do it? Because when I have a longer, meatier book project, I’ll be able to sell 10,000 copies in a few days and get picked up by a publisher. That’s the power in numbers. That’s the power in cheap or free, short ebooks that took you less than a week to write.

 How to Stop Time is free this weekend – get it here.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • Roadmap2Retire

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I like the goal you have pointed out to the writers – that its not to make money but rather to fight ones way out of obscurity.


  • JulieAnn

    You are a genuis. Thanks for the tip!

  • This is awesome! Do you think it would work for mid-grade fiction? After reading this post my wife and I brainstormed a series of five or ten short stories that we could offer for cheap and free. They would be about the adventures of the heroic protagonist in the book we are about to release.

    You’re blog is great! So much good stuff. My favorite writer’s blog so far. You’re filling up my Evernote inbox; I’ve saved so many of your articles.

  • Pingback: TSE 018: Self-Publishing and DIY Book Marketing with Derek Murphy()

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