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How To Become An Amazon Bestseller

by Simone Elise, Amazon best-selling author

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Introduction by Chris Fielden

Simone Elise is an Amazon best-selling author. Her book, Reaper's Claim, was published by Inkitt after she won their novel writing contest.

Inkitt

There are many different ways writers can become Amazon best sellers. I thought it would be nice to ask an author who has had the support of a publisher to talk about their experiences, so those of us that might be trying this on our own can learn from them.

Inkitt is a publishing platform that's free to use. They run regular novel competitions. Winners are selected based on how Inkitt's readers engage with the stories on their website. The winners are offered a publishing deal.

Inkitt are very open about the publishing contract they offer – you can read it on their website prior to submitting. They offer the winner:

  1. a marketing campaign that aims to get them into the top 100 on Amazon
  2. minimum $6000 marketing investment into the book
  3. professional cover design and editing
  4. 25% royalties

You can learn more about their success stories on the Inkitt blog.

I've liaised with the Inkitt team regularly due to listing their competitions on this website. I asked them if one of their authors would write about their experiences for my blog. They very kindly agreed.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Simone for writing this post and sharing her experiences with my readers. And a big thank you to Marvin Wey and Lauren Burns at Inkitt for their help in putting this post together.

As always, comments are welcome – see the form at the bottom of the page.

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How to Become An Amazon Bestseller

Who is Simone Elise?

My name is Simone. Most know me as Explode, a pen name I've used in the past.

I was brought up in a town called Ballarat which is in Victoria, Australia. It's located about an hour or so from Melbourne. My passions are writing, tattoos and my family. To me, writing is an outlet. I write every day, regardless of my mood or commitments.

Simone Elise

Simone Elise

On February 15th 2017, my novel Reaper’s Claim was published by Inkitt. Within two hours of its launch, my book was #12 out of 4 million titles on Amazon. It was an Amazon Best Seller.

It didn’t just happen overnight. There's a lot of work that goes on to get there. I'm going to share how I became an Amazon bestseller with you.

The Manuscript

First off, I needed a manuscript.

It took me three years to complete Reaper's Claim. Why? Well, to answer that I'll have to tell you a little more about me.

At the time I started Reaper’s Claim I was working three jobs. I was a Dispensary Technician at Priceline Pharmacy and Nova Pharmacy, as well as working as a Disability Support Worker.

Work took up most of my time. But the reason I wrote was because of my mental health. I have schizoaffective disorder. It's basically schizophrenia and bipolar. It's actually more common than you would think. People just don’t talk about it.

Reaper's Claim by Simone Elise

Reaper's Claim book cover

Writing is my way of coping with my mental health – it always has been, even before I was diagnosed. Writing is just as important to me as taking my medication. They go hand in hand. And for a long time, I didn't have the medication and relied solely on writing to keep me sane.

So the reason it took me so long to write Reaper's Claim was because when I started I was working three jobs. And studying a degree. I gave up working about two years ago. Around the same time, my diagnosis for having schizoaffective disorder was confirmed. That's when I took up writing full time.

Because I had so many ideas, my list of stories got longer. I couldn't just focus on Reaper's Claim. It's not in me to just work on one story. I like having a few on the go.

Wattpad

If you're a writer, you've probably heard of Wattpad. Nine years ago, I joined the online writing community. For about four of them, I was just a reader. Then I got up the guts and thought, Hell, I might share my work.

Wattpad Logo

Sharing your work publicly is a big move. I was so nervous posting my work. I didn't think I'd get any readers.

The first novel I posted was Tattooed Love, followed shortly by Royal Blood and One Commitment. I slowly built a group of readers behind me, who wanted to read my work and were begging for uploads.

Tattoed Love

Tattooed Love book cover

So I just kept posting and writing. Before I knew it, Tattooed Love hit a million reads and it stands at 13.7 million reads on Wattpad.

I have 71,359 followers on Wattpad, which isn't a lot compared to other writers. But my readers are super supportive and are really passionate about my work. It's thanks to their support that my books got any attention.

You can find me on Wattpad here.

To get followers on Wattpad, you can let your work stand on its own, which is what I did. Or you can offer to read other writers' work, if they read yours in exchange. That's one way to get people to read your stories and gain good feedback.

After I finished Tattooed Love, and its squeal, Timeless, I started Reaper’s Claim.

Inkitt

I was still writing Reaper's Claim when I got an email from Lauren Burns who was contacting me on behalf of Inkitt. They're a publisher on the lookout for 'yet to be discovered' online indie authors. I'd never heard on Inkitt. My interest spiked after I did some research on them.

Inkitt Rectangle Logo

I entered their competition, not even thinking about winning, but with the goal of getting my books in front of more readers.

I'd already posted my work for free on Wattpad, so sharing my books online didn't scare me.
Unlike Wattpad, with Inkitt there is a chance you will get published. But I didn't think that would happen to me. Like I said, I entered the competition wanting to gain more readers.

Inkitt's Competition

Inkitt's 'The Novelist' competition works by you submitting your work and putting up 100 free copies of your novel. Considering I had just finished Reaper's Claim, and hadn't posted the end chapters on Wattpad (yet), I encouraged my readers to visit Inkitt where it was now live and available. However, I told them that in the coming weeks I would be posting the ending on Wattpad. The last thing I wanted was to leave them hanging.

The 100 copies went live at just after 11am Australian time and were gone by 6pm that evening. So I contacted Lauren, told her what happened and she suggested we put another 100 up, to see how they went. Again, they were gone within a day.

Inkitt are very 'on it' when it comes to their writers. I don't know how many questions I sent to Lauren, but she always answered them quickly.

I guess if someone asked me why I want to work with Inkitt, the answer is: because they're the future of publishing.

With traditional publishers, you have to hope and pray that your manuscript gets looked at. If it does, it's still unlikely that you'll be published.

Inkitt puts your work in front of their readers straight away, to decide if they like it or not. It's ground breaking. I believe their approach will redefine how authors get published.

You also get to watch how your story does with Inkitt's analytics. Their analysis looks like this:

Inkitt's Reader Analytics

A screenshot of Inkitt's reader analytics

What's interesting about this process is that Inkitt analyse HOW readers interact with your work, rather than just looking at how many readers you get. They do this by looking at over 1,200 different reading behaviours. This means you don't have to have a huge amount of readers for your book to stand out.

After the competition ended, I received an email entitled 'Congratulations'. I'd won and Inkitt thought my work, MY WORK, was good enough to be published. I was very excited.

After receiving that email, the rollercoaster of getting published started. It was all new to me. I thought I'd done the hard work writing my book. I discovered that when you start working on publishing, the real work begins.

Social Media

It's all about getting your name out there – gaining followers, fans and readers. Emma Tonner, who works for Inkitt, helped me with my social media presence. I didn't have a Facebook page or Twitter account. So the first thing we did was start both. You can see them here:

Social media is all about making friends and trying to reach new people. Inkitt had me signing up to groups that related to my book. Slowly, I was branching out.

Because I already had a connection with readers and followers on Wattpad, I reached out to them, to like my Facebook page. I didn't buy my likes or followers. I was lucky enough to have people wanting to reach out to me.

A month before the book launched, we did a giveaway on Goodreads to create awareness in the reader community and help start some buzz around the book. My publisher also sent our ARC's (advanced reader copies) for the book and encouraged reviewers to post their reviews on Goodreads.

I also set up an author profile on Inkitt.

Social media becomes your best friend. You have to put time into it. I'd advise that you reply to comments and messages personally. Show your readers you aren't a robot.

The Editing

When I first received my novel back from the editors, I'd never seen so much red lining in my life! But it's all part of the process. And trust me, it is exciting.

Because Reaper's Claim was such a long novel, Inkitt recommended that I spilt the book into two. So the first novel, which is Reaper's Claim, is 104,000 words. The sequel, Reaper's Rival, is 115,000 words.

Taking in all the editor's notes, rewriting scenes and realising that someone else is just as passionate about your work as you are is amazing. As overwhelming as the editing process is, it's essential. Once a book is published, you can't rewrite a scene or change a line. So I read and breathed my novel, took the editor's opinion on board and acted on it.

The types of things that were suggested were often simple, like spelling. And my grammar is shocking, so that had to be fixed too.

I'm so thankful for all my editor's notes and the help I received during the process. Receiving professional assistance helped my novel to realise its full potential.

Reaper's Claim launched at 4am Australian time, so I was asleep. I didn't get to sleep that night till after two because I was so nervous. I woke up just after 7am with the most wonderful news from Emma – Reaper's Claim was number 12 on Amazon and was officially a best seller.

In order to get to #12 on Amazon, Reaper's Claim sold close to 2,000 copies on launch day and sold over 3,000 copies in the first two weeks.

On launch day, I went live on my Facebook page and answered questions regarding the book. I think being interactive with your readers is the key to success.

What I Suggest You Do Now

Once you have your manuscript, I suggest you get it out there. Reach out to readers, get people's opinions and start growing a following.

Obviously, I highly recommend Inkitt. By using their platform, you will receive great support and be able to get your work in front of readers.

The one thing I wish I'd done at the very start, when I posted my work on Wattpad, was set up social media accounts. I'd strongly recommend getting a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Anything you can use to reach more readers is essential.

Even if you haven't finished your first novel yet, you could still consider getting your work out there. If you post it on platforms like Wattpad and Inkitt, you'll find readers' input might reshape how you write the story. I know it did in my case.

If I could impart only one piece of advice, it would be to start sharing your work as soon as you can. Don't be afraid. Don't just settle for rejection letters from publishers. Try this new approach to publishing. If it can work for me, it can work for you too.

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Big Thanks to Simone

I'd like to say a final thank you to Simone for being so honest and openly sharing her experiences on my blog.

If you have a publishing success story you'd like to share with my readers, please read my submissions guidelines and then get in touch.

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Comments:

Your comments:

Lynn L
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Simone - it's fascinating. I'd never heard of Inkitt before but I'll definitely look for them with interest now. Best of luck with all of your future writing and thanks again for passing on all the things you've learned to the rest of us aspiring writers. And thanks Chris. All the best, Lynn

Chris Fielden
No problem, thanks very much Lynn :-)

Simone E
Thanks so much, Lynn! Wishing you all the best with your writing as well :)

John N
Very many thanks for sharing, Simone (and Chris for enabling). A really interesting story and perfect timing as far as I'm concerned because a writer friend has just got me to sign up with Wattpad. I was actually on line yesterday searching for people who've experienced Wattpad and have used it to help them become better writers and for self-promotion. So this article fits beautifully into my search terms.

It's particularly useful to know that Wattpad isn't the be all and end all – that Simone sees it as one card in her successful hand along with Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Inkitt. It was also good to read what you wrote, Simone, about editing, and the help Inkitt gave you with that. I absolutely believe what you wrote about how good it feels, 'realising that someone else is just as passionate about your work as you are'.

However, I'm not sure whether editing, marketing advice and a professional cover design is really enough to justify Inkitt's share of the royalties and, what looks from the contract like a perpetual control 'during the full Work's term of copyright' (Claus II). A work's term of copyright is tricky, but in the US it seems like it can be up to 105 years from the death of the author! (I'm going by Wikipedia here so may be way out on a limb.)

Yes, I see Clause XV in Inkitt's contract later imposes a 15 year limit. I'd like to know whether Clause XV overrides Clause II, because it doesn't seem to be stated explicitly and the two seem to be in conflict.

Lauren B
Hi John, Lauren from Inkitt here. I can confirm for you that our authors' contract lasts for 15 years. When this time is up, the contract goes under review. At this point, the author is free to terminate the contract and take back all of their rights if they so desire.

In regards to the marketing advice: each of our published author receive a $6000 marketing campaign and book launch. We like to invest in our authors in this way to ensure their success on the market place. And it works! In just over 6 months we have published 13 novels, 12 of which became bestsellers on launch and made it to the top 100 on Amazon.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for this, John. I've passed your questions on to Simone, so hope to have a response for you soon :-)

Maris M
While I really appreciate all the info you send, I have to say that what I could learn on the internet re Inkitt wasn’t reassuring! The question that occurs to me is: Did Simone actually get any royalties from them?

Chris Fielden
Hi Maris. Simone seems to have a great relationship with Inkitt, so I'd be amazed if they haven’t paid her. Still, I'll see if she can confirm.

Simone E
Hi Maris, thanks for your question. Inkitt pays quarterly, and we haven't finished the quarter yet, but yes, I have early royalties and will be paid next quarter.

Maris M
Thanks Chris, I appreciate your response – and Simone's. I shall give the Inkitt possibility some serious thought, as I have two unpublished novels plus two more that are now out of print, alas, in spite of one of them winning an important competition, out of 535 entries!

Chris Fielden
Hi Maris. OK, great.

Good luck with finding a home for your books :-)

Maris M
Hi Chris, I followed up on your info on Inkitt and have placed my novel The Bachelor‘s Lover with them – and people are reading it! I'm quietly hopeful that it will do as well as it needs to, to get published with them.

So thanks for that, Chris! And by the way, if you, or anyone you know who enjoys crime fiction with a romantic slant might like to read the story, you can find The Bachelor’s Lover here.

Best wishes

Chris Fielden
Hi Maris. That’s great news – congratulations! It's always good to hear how people get on with the platforms I feature, so thanks for letting me know.

I hope the Inkitt readers enjoy your novel. Please let me know if you’re successful in their competition – I wish you the best of luck with it :-)

Melanie M
Will there be a sequel to Timeless? Please!

Chris Fielden
Not something I can answer I'm afraid, Melanie.

I'll see email Simone and Inkitt and see if they can tell me :-)

Chris Fielden
Hi Melanie. Further to previous, I received this reply from Marvin at Inkitt: She hasn't started yet, but we're considering it.

So maybe!