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The NEW Business of Self Publishing


How to Publish Your Books with Print on Demand and Book Marketing on Amazon

Book cover

By Aaron Shepard

There has never been a self publishing manual like this.

Aiming at Amazon is not about getting your book into bookstores. Instead, it lays out an innovative approach that targets sales on Amazon.com. It reveals how to make a book sell well online, with tips never before offered. And it doesn’t stop there—it gives you a way to publish your book that can double your profit per copy.

Avoid publishing plans that handicap you almost before you begin. Let Aiming at Amazon introduce you to the new business of self publishing.

Aaron Shepard is a foremost proponent of the new business of profitable self publishing, which he has practiced and helped develop since 1998. Unlike most authorities on self publishing, he makes the bulk of his living from his self-published books—not from consulting, speaking, freelance writing, or selling publishing services. In a parallel life, Aaron is an award-winning children’s author with numerous books from publishers large and small.

Shepard Publications

Paperback ~ 2007

Note: This book was last updated in 2009.
Partial updates are on this Web site.

The following links may earn commissions for this site.

Reviews and Comments

“Aaron Shepard has been more successful selling through Amazon than any other self publisher I know. If you want to self publish and get the most from it, this book is for you.”—Morris Rosenthal, author, Print-on-Demand Book Publishing

“Solid gold advice. . . . Aiming At Amazon will dramatically increase your odds of success. A few hours with this book will give you the benefit of years worth of hard‑earned experience.”—Steve Weber, author, The Home‑Based Bookstore

“If you want to learn how to sell more books on Amazon, this is the best book I’ve read on the subject. . . . Thanks to books like this, self-published authors have a chance to succeed against traditionally published competitors.”—Stacie Vander Pol, author, Top Self Publishing Firms

“Shepard is considered one of the pioneers of marketing print-on-demand (POD) books through Amazon. . . . I highly recommend Aiming At Amazon to self-publishers and authors who want to publish a book at little cost. The model pioneered by Shepard, Rosenthal, and others is probably the best way for a newcomer to enter the world of self-publishing.”—Peter Hupalo, Midwest Book Review

“An essential read for anyone having to market a self-published or POD-published book—and has a wealth of information for small press publishers, novice freelance book publicists, and mid‑list authors of the larger publishing houses.”—Jim Cox, Jim Cox Reports, Mar. 2007

“A must read for any progressive self-publishing author.”—Dehanna Bailee, author, The ABC’s of POD

“A truly great book that all of us should own (and actually read!). . . . If your efforts are focused on Amazon, this is the book.”—Thomas Nixon, Degree Press and SmallPress Blog

“Packed with practical techniques for today’s savvy small publisher.”—Susan Daffron, Logical Expressions, Inc.

“A must-have book: pertinent, unduplicated, current, authoritative, and well-written. Has a maximum of useful information and a minimum of fluff, all written in an easy, understandable style. [Shepard] spells out in detail strategies he has used successfully to manipulate the sometimes unfriendly and always greedy Amazon 800‑pound gorilla. . . . The best advice available.”—John Culleton, WexfordPress, and list co‑moderator, Self-Publishing

“Experience-laden recommendations.”—Kyra Hicks, author, Black Threads

“The perfect guide for the first time publisher, [with] just enough information to inform but not overwhelm. . . . You won't find ‘fad tricks’ in this book, just solid advice.”—Cheryl Kirk, Expanding Books

“The information about subtitles and affiliate links was worth the price of the book!”—Lisa Ripperton, Yesterday’s Classics

“Worthy of the confident air with which it’s written. Whether you’re small press or self-published, if you utilize POD and want to amp up your Amazon sales, you need this book! . . . Even if you want to work within more traditional methods of bookselling, there’s still plenty of valuable material here.”—Lupa, Immanion Press

“A well-thought-out and well-researched system that provides a viable alternative . . . . With low upfront costs, and simple procedures that don’t require specialized software, it’s a method that almost anyone can use.”—Sheila Ruth, Imaginator Press

“Revolutionary . . . . A must read for anybody who is considering self publishing without [wanting] too much hassle or expense.”—Mayra Calvani, TCM Reviews

“I sometimes wake up cold in the middle of the night, wondering where on earth I would be, career‑wise, had Aiming at Amazon not been written. . . . By an author, for authors, in a style that even head-in-the-cloud dreamers with ink in their veins can understand and act upon.”—Barry Tighe, Can Write Will Write

“An amazing book and one of the most practical I’ve read. . . . If you’ve self-published a book or are thinking about self-publishing, Aiming at Amazon is a must‑read.”—Tim Bete, director, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, University of Dayton

“If you fall within [its] target readership, then there is no doubt that this book is worth its money. In fact, it’s probably worth ten times its money. . . . Absolutely brimful of technical, hands‑on advice.”—Michael Allen, Grumpy Old Bookman (blog) • Read the whole review

“Without Aiming at Amazon, I simply would not be where I am now. This month, I made what I would have made in six to eight months with the company I used previously for self publishing.”—William Linney, Armfield Academic Press

“Absorbing. . . . Aaron Shepard is a savvy marketer. . . . Shepard writes simply but skips the chirpiness that mars many self‑help books.”—Marie Shear, The Freelancer (Editorial Freelancers Association newsletter), Sept.–Nov. 2007

“I’ve published ten other books through regular publishers, and this route is much more fun and rewarding!”—Ellen Hodgson Brown, Third Millennium Press

“[Aiming at Amazon] dramatically changed my direction in terms of publishing, and has turned a money‑losing hobby into a growing, profitable business doing what I love the most.”—Charles Sheehan-Miles, Cincinnatus Press

“Here’s what [it] did for me: It gave me a business plan that was feasible, simple, low‑cost and potentially VERY lucrative.”—Darcy Pattison, Mims House

“What Aaron has done is to identify, analyze, and tweak the key factors that contribute to profitable sales at Amazon.com. . . . It’s a great value for all authors.”—Roger C. Parker, author, Looking Good in Print, and Webmaster, Published and Profitable

“The New Testament for the novice publisher. . . . Aaron Shepard shows how to exploit the new paradigm to the full.”—Hedley Finger, Hand Holding Press

“The most valuable book I’ve ever read. It will save you money during the production of your book, and make sure that you make more money after it is produced.”—David Griffiths, author, The Misadventures of Russell Quigley

“Life changing! . . . I purchased this book in early December. By late December I had founded my own company. I yanked one of my books away from a vanity press, re‑edited, revised and republished the title. . . . In its first eight weeks, I made many times more money off this one book than I had in three years of working with POD publishers.”—Nola Kelsey, Dog’s Eye View Press

“Using the number-of-dog-eared-pages scale, this book should rank much higher than five stars.”—James R. Holland, A Bit of Boston Books

“More than just a book. It’s an entire system for setting up and running a profitable small book publishing company with no inventory, worldwide distribution, and as little as $100 up front.”—David R. Yale, A Healthy Relationship Press

“Far and away the best book on modern low-inventory, low‑cost publishing.”—W. F. Zimmerman, Nimble Books

“Buy it! Study it! Learn from it! Apply its lessons! It will be the least expensive yet most valuable book marketing training you will ever get.”—Walt Shiel, Slipdown Mountain Publications

“I am a big fan of Aiming at Amazon—it is rare to have such specific advice on a topic.”—Andrew Darlow, author, 301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques

“The best book out there for any self-published author who wants to promote their books on Amazon.”—Christy Pinheiro, The Self-Publishing Review, July 19, 2009

“Shepard boils it down to the essentials so you can get done what you need to get done and get out.”—Zoe Winter, Indie Books Journal (blog of IndieReader.com), Apr. 12, 2010

“Shepard comes across as honest, likeable and brimming with common sense. . . . Would be helpful to all writers with books on Amazon, not just those who self-published.”—Catherine Ryan Howard, Catherine, Caffeinated, July 21, 2010


About This Book

1 ~ Aiming at Amazon

Forget Bookstores

Print on Demand

Plan Your Route

Go to the Source

Ignore Amazon

2 ~ Optimizing for Amazon

Embrace the Possible

Research the Market

Optimize Your Title

Write a Great Book

Produce Your Pages

Craft Your Cover

Stick to a Format

Collect Comments

3 ~ Accessing Amazon

Set Up Accounts

Find Resources

Make Contact

Look Up Your Profile

Keep Up with Change

Take the Express

4 ~ Marketing on Amazon

Check Your Listing

Claim Your Book

Make Corrections

Add Your Content

Submit a Cover Image

Share Other Images

Consider Search Inside

Suggest Tags

Categorize Your Book

Get Customer Reviews

Set Up Your Page

Explore More Options

5 ~ Monitoring Amazon

Watch Availability

Watch Sales Ranks

Watch Search Results

Watch Pairings

Watch Rivalries

Watch Customer Reviews

Watch Tags

Watch Other Content

6 ~ Pointing to Amazon

Channel Your Sales

Earn Commissions

Tame Your Links

7 ~ Updating for Amazon

Refine Your Book

Refresh Your Content

8 ~ Globalizing with Amazon

Aim at Amazons

Optimize for Amazons

Access Amazons

Market on Amazons

Monitor Amazons

Point to Amazons


Where to Get Help

Amazon Etiquette

Kindle Books

Publishing Reprints

Removing a Listing

Rogue Sellers

Amazon Vendors

Amazon Ref Codes

The Book Depository

Replica Books

Self Publishing Terms

Sample Text

Forget Bookstores

Yes, I said it: Forget bookstores.

The first principle of the new business of self publishing is probably the hardest for aspiring publishers to accept. If you’re like me, you love to visit your local bookstore—whether chain or independent—and wander the aisles, delighting in the sheer presence of so many enticing volumes. That love probably sprang up in your childhood, and will likely last you the rest of your life.

The trouble is, the feeling is not mutual.

In general, bookstores do not love self publishers. It’s nothing personal. If the staff at that store all sat down and read your book, they might like it very much. They might even make an effort to promote it. Perhaps you can convince two or three local stores to do just that.

But for most bookstores, your book simply isn’t worth the effort. The book business is a well‑oiled machine that runs in broad and well‑worn channels. Bookstores deal with sales reps and suppliers that can deliver dozens of titles at a time to their doorstep. Unless you already have a runaway bestseller, it’s simply not efficient for them to deal with someone hawking one or two books. And to tell the truth, it’s usually not worth your time to try to get them to.

Luckily, you no longer need to. With only minor effort and cost, you can get your book carried by the single bookseller that sells more books than the largest bookstore chain, handling nearly 20% of trade retail bookselling in the U.S.—about half of what’s handled by all “real world” U.S. bookstores put together. You can get your book on Amazon.com.

Even better, on Amazon you’ll compete on a much more level playing field with publishers of any size. By aiming at Amazon and exploiting its capabilities to the full, you can outmaneuver large publishers that may know less about its workings than you do and that have their main attention elsewhere.

Take the example of one of my own lead sellers, The Business of Writing for Children. For much of its publishing life, this book has been the biggest selling children’s writing guide on Amazon.com. When Aiming at Amazon, the book you’re reading, was first published, my children’s writing book was competing on Amazon primarily against one guide from the For Dummies series and another from the Complete Idiot’s series—and it was outselling each of them by 2 to 1.

Was it a better book than those others? I wouldn’t make that claim. But by a combination of persistence, dedication, savvy, ingenuity, and skill, I was able to outmaneuver all comers and stay on top in Amazon sales.

In fact, by aiming at Amazon, I was able to sell close to 30% the number of copies sold by one of those nationally distributed competitors including its bookstore sales. And because the profit from my publishing system is so high—generally half or more of the cover price—I was earning about twice as much in total as that author would make with a normal royalty.

Once you accept the premise “Forget bookstores,” it’s amazing how much murkiness is instantly cleared out of the business of self publishing. Consider these:

• You don’t have to design or commission a slick cover that will look at home on a bookstore shelf.

• You don’t have to persuade anyone to stock your book.

• You don’t have to allow “returns”—copies sent back for refund when the bookseller won’t wait longer to sell them.

• And best of all, you don’t have to sit alone behind a stack of books at a tiny table in a busy bookstore and try to look like you want to be there.

Now, this doesn’t mean that your book will never be sold in a bookstore. In most cases, it will. When you aim at Amazon, some customers will request your book from local bookstores—and most new channels for self publishing will make it easy for bookstores to get it. The difference is, if you follow the approach I most favor, those bookstores will obtain the book on your terms, not theirs.

Sound good? Keep reading, and I’ll show you how to do it.

| About Aaron’s Publishing Books | | Aaron’s Publishing Page |
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