Two months ago 1stwebdesigner launched three ebooks, stepping into this market for the first time. We planned our promotion in a way that we had 8,000 free downloads in three days, which resulted in $ 1,000 profit for the first month through Amazon. The following month we did even better, closing to $ 2,000 for July. The best thing about this promotion is that I know we’ll be making $ 1000 per month passively and if we want to make more it will depend on our own promotion. These numbers may not seem impressive compared to a $ 100,000 launch, but I like that this money is earned passively, it’s a nice side income, regardless of whatever we are doing. Mainly it’s because of the huge Amazon market itself, giving us a regular 500 sales per month.
Would you mind earning $ 2,000 monthly as side income? Please don’t read further if these numbers don’t sound good enough for you! Search for the next quote about Scamworld, where gurus will teach you how to make millions! Hell yeah – that’s what I am talking about! In this post I will reveal details how we came up with the idea for ebooks, promoted them on Amazon to get rankings and leveraged their market. My aim is to show you how you can do the same thing and possibly perform even better.
When it comes to internet marketing, I love this quote “If something sounds better than it is, it’s not true“. Rarely are there exceptions, but so many people offer the promise of untold riches by revealing their big secret which will help you make thousands of dollars just to get you to buy their $ 200 product. The sad truth is that there is no easy way to earn money online, and writing an ebook certainly isn’t an easy way too do that, but with book digitalization – Kindle, smart phones, and tablets – there is a big demand for digital books. If you enjoy writing you should jump on board before it’s too late! Excellent reading from Verge about online marketing, this article is all about scamworld, while I do not agree with the writer’s angle, because I personally met several of these people in Underground Seminar 8, I suggest that you read this article and watch the video. It will explain a lot about how online marketing works.
The cool thing about digital books is that they are super easy and cheap to create. With printed books, you needed a serious budget to print it or you needed to collaborate with a publishing company which takes most of the profit . When I went to Underground Seminar 8, there was a big talk about how there is a big demand now for digital products – coaching, ebooks, video, audio training. And there is this window – two years, then there will be enough supply for that demand. Right now there isn’t. So why haven’t you created your ebook or coaching program already?
With this newly gained experience, last March I went back from USA to Spain, Tenerife where I was staying at the time. I thought a lot about how bloggers are in a good position, they need to create content on a daily basis, it’s a no brainer to put this content in books after a while! Here is a popular example: SmashingMagazine is already doing that with their content!
They create high quality educational articles which are published on their blog and they have a second use for that content in mind. They write articles in a way that they can put them in ebooks and earn extra cash. It has been proven countless times that people are ready to pay for products and services that save their time. You can read everything for free on SmashingMagazine, but if you buy their ebook you do not pay them for fresh information, you pay them for a nicely formatted and categorized book. In this case what are you selling, content or formatting? If you are considering starting a blog or you have a blog already, wouldn’t it make sense to write articles that you can later put in an ebook and earn some extra cash? Just think about it. There are 2 ways of writing ebooks:
- Work on a 300-500 page book covering one topic comprehensively by researching, and sharing, the best information possible on that topic. It will require several months of your time and money to hiring an editor and someone to format the book, but you’ll be able to charge $ 30-40 for that book no problem!
- Write several small 50-paged books each solving one serious problem or question people have. It will require several days of your time to write each book and you’ll be able to charge $ 1-$ 5 for it.
I picked the second way because I just wanted to test out the waters and see how profitable book writing is, taking the smallest risk possible. I would totally recommend this approach! It is very low risk (mainly just your time), it won’t take a lot of time or cost a lot of money even if you choose to outsource everything.
Research topics to write about – find problem to solve, trendy topics
The most important task before you start writing is to find a really good problem to solve and find other people’s pain point – the so called bleeding neck. How do you do it? You need to pick a good niche you are knowledgeable and passionate about. Think about your target audience – can you imagine 1,000 people who would love to have your book? I would suggest using Amazon in order find best-selling topics, there is a lot of space for spying! You can find book rankings and sort of understand how many books authors sell to understand what’s trendy right now. Here is a little cheat list for you..
- With 15,000 Amazon best sellers rank ~300-350 books are sold per month;
- With 20,000 rank ~200 books are sold per month;
- With 40,000 rank ~100-150 books are sold per month.
When you are searching for topics to write about, check book rankings and calculate how many sales authors are getting. If you can see at least three books doing well in your chosen niche, you can probably expand on a topic and write a new book about it. I wanted to point out that Kindle’s book section is fairly new so there is a lot of opportunity right now, a lot of free spots you can fill! After you have your topic in mind, next you should head out to Q&A websites like Quora or StackOverflow, forums and search for the most popular questions asked there about your topic. Those questions can help you make a great outline, what you can write about.
When you find a topic to write about and also have a detailed table of contents, check if you have written something about that topic already on your blog, try to leverage your existing content. That’s what we did, we picked topics and then I advised writers to try reusing existing content so they didn’t have to write everything from scratch.
Find writers if you want to outsource the actual writing
If you want, you can even outsource book writing like I did. I would absolutely love to write a book myself, but I knew it would take a lot of time I didn’t have. If you’re busy with your daily job, but can spare some money to hire a good writer – do it. I found three good writers where each was an expert on his topic. Consider using job boards:
When you are going to launch a book for the first time, there will be so much more to do than just writing – be aware.
You will need to learn:
- how to market, promote books;
- how to prepare them in right format;
- learn specific tricks about platform where you’ll publish book, for example Amazon.
All of those things take time, think again about outsourcing some aspects, maybe you have friends who can help you out?
I wanted to mention another book writing approach, if you will write it strongly based from your own experience.
Here are action steps:
- Find a good topic for a book, write down an outline
- Having an outline in front of you, take a microphone and record everything
- Hire some guy and ask him to transcribe everything!
- Hire a good proofreader to check for spelling errors, read book again and it’s ready!
Sell your ebook on your own site! How? Keep reading!
If you have a good existing site with a great following you definitely should launch an ebook on your own site first. Personally I am not sure if I made a mistake or not, but I started with Amazon, driving all traffic to Amazon and of course they took their cut. I did it because I wanted to increase sales as much as I could in order to get better rankings there.
The higher you are in the rankings, the more people will see your work and consider buying it! Amazon is awesome if you are starting out fresh! After I fully tested ebooks on Amazon, I used Sellfy to check how well we can perform on our own by selling books directly to 1WD readers without 3rd parties (Sellfy takes just 5% from each sale). The Sellfy app comes in handy because you can start selling digital products in 5 minutes, they accept Paypal and encourage social sharing. If you are curious about how it looks like, here is our Responsive ebook’s Sellfy page.
It is super easy to sell books through Sellfy: you register, upload books and immediately receive a button that you can embed on your site. The hardest task is to create a good landing page which converts.
What to include on your landing page:
- book cover
- testimonials from people who bought your books
- table of contents
- free chapters if possible, look inside preview images
- short intro about author
- …and obviously call to action button.
If you can create a video preview, definitely do it! Images are more powerful than words and videos are more powerful than images! Besides, you can use Youtube and work to get a good position with it on Google! Google owns Youtube and they love videos! Use Fiverr to promote your videos! Here is my channel, I spent $ 100 on Fiverr to get comments, views and likes. We aren’t in the first position yet for our keywords, but those videos are definitely helping!
Okay, let’s move back to the landing page. Once we had the landing page we used the following elements to drive traffic to site:
- Hellobar which pops right on top of the site,
- sidebar dynamic element,
- we published an article announcing this news (as you may know already),
- used social sites,
- existing mailing list
This is how well we did on Sellfy first month:
- 1753 product views
- 160 sales
- $ 731.13 in revenue
I think we have quite low conversions, but we also don’t have a very good landing page…yet.
It is much easier to launch when you control everything yourself, like I did with Sellfy. But let me expand more on Amazon and tell why I chose it in the first place.
Selling books on Amazon
Selling books using 3rd parties make more sense if you don’t have an existing channel yourself.
I chose Amazon because I heard a lot of praise about how powerful a channel it is and KDP select Kindle publishing is still very new, so there isn’t much competition right now.
- Latest web design trends sold 146 times
- HTML5 Basics – 185 times
- Responsive web site design – 245 times
- Total earnings for 2 months – $ 2,000
What I like with Amazon is that after the first month’s active promotion, the second month I didn’t promote these books at all, but still was able to earn $ 1,000. This result made me say: it is passive income, where you can leverage from Amazon’s internal network and promotion. Pretty cool, you just need to do the first round of promotion, then you can forget about books and have nice side income!
The only thing I disliked was how hard it was to navigate through their system and how much you need to learn about their promotion. That’s what you get when you use 3rd parties – you need to play by their rules. You need to learn how to:
- get testimonials and ratings – super important, people will look at these numbers and actual reviews in order to decide whether to buy this book or not
- how to format Kindle book, how to create working table of contents.
- how to get into “Customers Who bought this also bought” section, kind of like related reading
- how to create good cover, good book title, and how to test them.
I personally learned everything about Amazon from this awesome 94-paged book Kindle Cash – The Beginner’s Guide to Creating, Marketing, And Publishing On The Amazon Kindle. Originally I wanted to cover all these steps myself, but I understood it’s not possible to put everything in one article. If you enjoyed this article and are serious about creating a book to sell on Amazon, read that book!
Key takeaways from ebook launch
Now I will list what I found to be the most powerful and important techniques which made this launch successful:
- Having a good designer to design unique covers, format PDF book – what many books lack is a really unique book cover that stands out. This is especially important in the Amazon market with countless ebooks competing. The same goes for the PDF book, presentation makes or breaks the reading experience.
- Having a friend knowledgeable in SEO to help in keyword research – I am quite skilled myself, but just asking for some help and advice on book titles helped a lot. Each ebook we published we wrote down like 20-30 title variations to pick from. Remember, book covers and titles are sometimes even more important then whole book. Sounds crazy, but the same way article headlines are read and shared just because of a good title, same applies to books. Google Keywords is your best friend at this stage.
- Planning – if I wouldn’t have planned everything, I could have easily gotten lost and the ebooks would have taken several more months to be released. Focusing on the right things at the right time helps so much, understand your strong points and outsource your weak points. If you aren’t a good writer, but you are an excellent marketer, it will be so much cheaper and faster to hire a writer and not be bothered with the painful process. If you are not good in keyword research, find a friend to give you a hand, reach out to forums! Before you start, plan every big step and stick to a schedule!
Mistakes I made, what I would have done differently
Ok, you read a lot of “smart” advice, now you want to hear what I did to mess up in this launch? It was my first launch so there were still a lot of little mistakes:
- Not using my existing readership first – as you know, I started the ebook promotion on Amazon, and I gave away 5,000 free copies at first just to get good rankings there. While it helped, I think I would have made much better profits if I would have offered the books for free for a day and then sell these books directly on my site. That first big promotion I did all went to free downloads. I didn’t hear too much appreciation for this step unfortunately, which means next time I will give the books away free for just one day and leverage my own network at first.
- Underestimating product price – this is tough point and there is very good discussion ( two case studies) between Sacha Greif and Jarrod Drysdale. Sorry Sacha, but I took Jarrod’s side, where he suggested to focus on making more money from fewer sales. At the start I was very hesitant about putting a specific price on these books. I started with $ 0.99. The problem with low pricing is that people don’t mind too much if they pay one or five dollars. If price is just a buck they think it’s low quality. Don’t undervalue your product! Test how much you can increase your book price versus sales, you will never get it right the first time. I certainly didn’t.
- Bad landing page – previously I listed tips on what makes a good landing page. Unfortunately I didn’t create one myself the first time. We had it planned, but when Amazon books went live I put my whole focus on promoting them, so my landing page didn’t get properly designed and filled. Now I am putting a lot of time in designing the perfect landing page for books, will A/B test it and hopefully it will improve conversions. Oh, and if you’re too lazy, Amazon is a good alternative, they are famous for their crazy A/B testing everything.
- Formatting Kindle book – when I wanted to publish a book on Amazon, I automatically assumed they accept PDF books. I was surprised that they do not and you need to create book in .mobi format. I browsed the internet desperately to find a good guide on how to create those kindle books and unfortunately for me, not many Kindle authors use Macintosh. Also I wasn’t aware of how hard it is to create a working table of contents, by working I mean, that you can click on the navigation and it takes you to the right section. In the end I was grateful to find a paid Mac application Abulafia, which thankfully made the whole formatting process easy.
How did we get 8000 downloads in 3 days?
And finally let’s get to the most exciting part! At first I thought we got 6,000 downloads, but then I remembered I need to also check UK, DE, FR, ES and IT stores! So there it is, 6,000 downloads from USA Amazon and 2,000 more from the other stores! Here’s the exact steps we took:
Once we got all books completely ready to publish for Amazon, we started to build some interest on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and sent an email to our 20,000 subscribers. It was a week before we actually published those books. We started building interest by telling them, that after seven days, we will release the ebooks for free for three days to our loyal subscribers. We prepared the newsletter to let people know a bit about those books explaining what they will be about and what’s inside. Valuable Free Offer From 1WD You Don’t Want To Miss: Watch Your Inbox On Monday! – this is the email subject we used. We received good interest from subscribers and on social networks – who doesn’t like free stuff? After a week, the ebooks went live and we sent a second email, and a day after one more follow-up email to those who did not open the previous emails:
- Obtain Your Copies of Three Free eBooks and Gift Inside! – here we gave links for free download on Amazon, offered even one more gift which was our video course on how to create animated video previews. After that we politely asked for help to spread the word and show their appreciation that they get all of this valuable stuff completely free. This email got 4,747 opens and 2,413 clicks on links.
- Warning: Three Ebooks From 1WD Just For Two More Days! (+Surprise Gift Inside) – after one day I sent one more email to all unopened mails with a different headline letting people know those ebooks and gift will be available for only two more days. I am glad I did that, because the second email got 1,532 opens and 812 clicks on links.
I can gladly say that these two emails gave the most downloads and helped to spread the word! It’s basically 3,200 clicks from doing just that! Ask again, why you don’t have email list yet? It will help kickstart each launch and promotion you want to do!
What else did we do to promote those books?
- Posted an article on 1stWebDesigner showing in detail what’s inside books – Super Hot News: Get 1WD Three Quick EBooks Now For Free Just For Three Days! This post alone got 161 tweets, 70 Facebook likes and 42 comments. I carefully followed the conversation there to find any problems people may run into. This article received 906 visits throughout these three days!
- Shared article several times on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ asking people to retweet. Throughout these days I think we tweeted about these books ten times to make sure everybody who’s interested will see them.
- I asked all my friends to download the ebooks on Amazon, like them and leave testimonials. Downloads, testimonials and likes are important to get higher on Amazon’s best sellers rank as well as individual categories.
- Submitted ebook landing page on Reddit’s /r/web_dev, where it got 47 up votes and developed healthy discussion with 29 comments. We tried submitting it to /r/web_design so that people will receive the eBooks for free, but their mods didn’t like the idea of giving free ebooks to their subscribers.
Here is summary of the biggest traffic sources for our ebook landing page:
- Direct traffic – 1,618 visits (probably from emails)
- Twitter – 796 visits
- Reddit – 681 visits
- Facebook – 281 visits
- Google – 255 visits (no idea how Google got into list)
- 1stwebdesigner article – 102 visits
- Google Plus – 56 visits
- Pinterest – 45 visits (submitted there too, but even with a large following people don’t seem to be eager for books there)
What was challenging is that it was hard to decide which page we should really promote – the article on 1stwebdesigner, the ebook landing page or the Amazon links. In the end we put our focus on the landing page because that’s one link compared to three on Amazon.
I wanted to show these numbers because as you can see there isn’t that much traffic from all social networks and even from 1stwebdesigner or the mailing list itself! How the hell did we get those 8,000 downloads?
I’ll let you know in a moment, because I still have some secret tips to share with you!
The reason why we chose Amazon in the first place was to test their internal network, to understand how powerful their system is.
This is the Amazon Best Seller list. Usually when people are searching for new books to read they often use best sellers lists! Thanks to our promotion all three books got on the prestigious web site design Top 100 free list. All these books shared the first three places!
Amazon has it’s free promotion on KDP Select, where every three months you can offer those books for free to bump up sales numbers! If you get high on this list you can easily get more downloads, testimonials and likes!
While there is the best sellers rank, there is also very useful section Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought:
With more downloads you have a better chance to appear in this list. Similar blogs have related reading, this list is great for conversions to related sales!
Only downside is that Amazon doesn’t offer detailed analytics about conversions, they don’t show you where your sales come from, so it’s really hard to understand what exactly worked. And that’s why I suggest now to try to leverage from existing readership first, where you can check traffic sources, test everything, create funnels.
But if you don’t have a readership, you can see Amazon is an excellent starting point! When you launch just make sure you notify all your friends, family members to gain more downloads and testimonials!
Conclusion – Is book launch profitable vs efforts?
When I was doing research about other people book launch case studies I noticed a lot of discussion how profitable book launch actually is. While it’s cool to have a book published with your name on it, calculate your time carefully and make sure you do your research at first.
Jeff Atwood says:
In short, do not write a book. You’ll put in mountains of effort for precious little reward, tangible or intangible. In the end, all you will have to show for it is an out-of-print dead tree tombstone. The only people who will be impressed by that are the clueless and the irrelevant. And here’s the best part: you can always opt to create a print version of your online content, and instantly get the best of both worlds. But it only makes sense in that order. Writing a book may seem like a worthy goal, but your time will be better spent channeling the massive effort of a book into creating content online. Every weakness I listed above completely melts away if you redirect your effort away from dead trees and spend it on growing a living, breathing website presence online.
Before you start you must understand how expensive book writing will be for you in terms of money and most importantly – TIME. If you can earn $ 3,000 monthly, and you spend one month writing an ebook, it will cost you $ 3,000 to write full-time! What I recommend is to do what Jeff suggested – write blog posts, which you can later convert to a book. Or you can do what I did – start out with smaller books, create 50-page books that answer a few questions in detail!
Sacha Greif, for example, wrote an ebook about UI design, where he designed an open source chat app from start to finish. That’s not that hard right? But now you have a product to sell! Sacha Greif reached $ 10,000 in profits in his first month!
Here is full case study about his launch.
Have you ever thought of writing a book? If you wrote it already, what did you learn from your launch? If you have always dreamed about writing, but never started, what discouraged you? I’ll keep a close eye on the discussion and will try to help you find answers to inspire you to get started! What mistakes did you notice from this launch? What would you do differently? Let me know in comment section!