Once again, I’m answering another collection of Kindle publishing question that I’ve received from readers.
What started out as a long blog post has evolved into hundreds of excellent questions that I’ll answer now and throughout the New Year. (I’m even thinking about starting a YouTube channel around this concept.)
Today’s post includes a mash-up of the different questions I’ve recently received. Some relate to topics I’ve partially covered and others go into strategies that I haven’t previously discussed.
As always, we’ll start with the “3 Golden Rules of Kindle Publishing.” If you’ve read this section already, then feel free to skip ahead to the good stuff. But, if this is your first time here, I recommend you check out the following because it provides a background on why I make certain business decisions.
#1. Focus on 80/20 Activities: Spend your time doing the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your business (like writing, research, book design and building an audience) and give minimal (or no) attention to the activities that don’t produce large result.
#2. Build a Catalog Business: Write great books, market the heck out of them during a launch phase and then get started on the next one. In other words, don’t focus too much on the success (or lack thereof) for one particular title.
#3. Help Amazon Sell Your Books: Focus on promoting a book through Amazon and you’ll get a lot of extra exposure on pages like New Releases, Top 100, Customers Also Bought and in targeted email campaigns.
These three rules guide almost every decision in my business. So I recommend that you carefully review each one and see how it relates to your self-publishing efforts.
Okay, let’s get to those questions…
There is no 100% accurate answer to this question. Some people say it’s okay to include affiliate links and others say that Amazon strictly forbids it. So, the answer comes from my interpretation of Amazon’s rules.
Basically there are two types of affiliate links, so I feel there are two different rules for how you handle affiliate marketing.
The first deals with their “Associates Program.” According to the rules of the Associates program, you can’t include links in any eBook—including Kindle books. Yes, this makes no sense because affiliate links help Amazon sell more of their products. But, in my opinion, you should never include an Associate links to any product on Amazon.com within your books. You can still link to your books (and other products), but you can’t use an Associates affiliate link while doing so.
The second rules deals with other affiliate offers. From my experience, Amazon does let you link to affiliate products—with the caveat that you’re not turning a book into a long sales pitch. If you balance the occasional affiliate offer with a dozen links to free offers, then you should be within Amazon’s guidelines.
My answer comes from “Golden Rule #1 – Focus on 80/20 Activities.”
Honestly, I don’t really care too much about keyword competition. While I think it’s important to find the best phrases, you shouldn’t agonize too much about where your book ranks. Frankly, it’s more important to focus on writing good books that solve people’s problems.
I only use two tools to find quality keyword phrases:
- Keyword Planner (which is part of Google Adwords)
- Amazon’s Search Suggestions (the predictive tool in Amazon’s search bar)
My strategy is to target high traffic keywords—in fact, I only pick the phrases with a good amount of competition. Basically, when you see a lot of “competition” for a phrase, then it’s a strong indicator that the keyword might be profitable.
So how do you “compete” with these books?
It’s been my experience that a book ranks well for a phrase according to a number of factors: Reviews, sales, downloads and numbers of purchases using that specific keyword phrase. You have control over most of these factors. That means if you do a good job providing a valuable reading experience, then you don’t really have to worry about keyword positioning—it’ll take care of itself.
As an example, I haven’t done a thing to rank my book Outsourcing Mastery for the keyword “outsourcing,” yet it shows up at the #1 ranking on all of Amazon.
At the risk of using this answer to sermonize…As an author you shouldn’t care too much about keywords. Yes, spend those 15- to 30-minutes to locate the best phrases. But after that, focus on the actions that make the quality of your book stand out from the competition.
Yes and no.
I feel there are two types of bloggers who self-publish on the Kindle platform.
The first (which includes me) start with an established platform. They have an email list and an audience that already likes their content. It’s not hard for these people to write a few quality Kindle books and get a high number of reviews/purchases.
If you’re in this first group, I believe (with 99.99% certainty) that having a blog will help you sell Kindle books. You already have an audience. So you can leverage this platform to launch a book, get downloads/purchases and receive positive reviews.
The second group will publish on Kindle without the benefit of a blog. This can be a disadvantage because you’re competing against authors with an established brand. (This is the problem that I’m seeing as I build up the DevelopGoodHabits.com website.)
I have three suggestions for anyone who doesn’t have a blog:
- Spend most (over 80%) of your time on creating good Kindle books.
- Use a few different strategies to build up your email list (read this post for more details.)
- With your other time (20%), get on one platform and build an audience. This should include one of the big three: Blogging, podcasting or YouTube.
To get back to the question, I agree that Amazon has an amazing, self-contained ecosystem. But it works best when it’s supported by YOUR promotional efforts (Golden Rule #3).
With a blog, you can generate lots of short-term traffic to your books and get those downloads/purchases that are important for gaining visibility on Amazon’s platform. In other words, the more sales you generate (from your platform), the harder Amazon will work to help you get those long-term book sales. (Really the whole point behind the “Authority Case Study” is to show how to build a brand outside of Amazon to help you connect with an audience that will support your Kindle books.)
I know that “Golden Rule #3” emphasizes the importance of helping Amazon sell your books. So this means you have to put all of your eggs into Amazon’s basket. When you think about it—this is a pretty scary long-term plan.
For those of anyone who has dealt with Google and their animal-themed updates, you know that it’s pretty stupid to build your entire business on somebody else’s platform.
So what I’m saying here is to think carefully about the ramifications of what it means to stay in Amazon’s KDP Select program. Why am I sticking with this program? Because their sales tools give me a competitive advantage that is far superior to anything I’d get from publishing on other platforms. I know it’s a risk to rely just on Amazon, but it’s also a very calculated risk.
That said, if I wake up tomorrow and discover that all of my books have been removed, then I’ll still have the following:
- 6+ months of living expenses saved in a bank.
- 3 email lists that continue to grow—outside of Amazon.
- 2 blogs that continue to grow—outside of Amazon.
- Other revenue streams—including apps, affiliate marketing and information products.
I have two points here:
First, for me it makes sense to rely just on Amazon. I know the risks and I’m willing to accept the consequences. Plus, I make sure that I’m always 100% compliant with every rule and regulation.
Second, you should ALWAYS take my advice (and the advice of others) with a grain of salt. Think first about your specific situation before making any sort of business decision. If you have other income coming in (like from a job) and want to maximize sales, then you should stick with the exclusivity of Amazon’s KDP Select program.
On the other hand, if you want to play it safe because you depend on your book income (like to put food on the table), then the smart move is to diversify on other platforms like Kobo, B&N, Apple and everywhere else that books are sold.
Honestly, I think that using PLR is a complete waste of you and your reader’s time.
First off, Amazon has a fancy algorithm that can detect duplicate content. Plus, PLR is usually “thin” content that doesn’t provide value to the end reader. So this means you’d have to re-write the whole thing in order to turn it into something worthwhile.
Second, it’s been my experience that you get the best long-term results by focusing on a niche and providing in-depth content for that market. It works exponentially where one book buyer turns into a multiple book buyer. So, even if you convince somebody to buy one of your PLR books, it’s not likely that he or she will buy anything else because you didn’t provide a great introductory reading experience.
I know it’s not an easy process, but you’d be better off targeting a specific topic and sharing books that come from your personal experiences.
I’ve only published nonfiction books, so I can really only speak from my experiences and what I’ve seen work for fiction authors.
Let me start with the strategies that benefit both nonfiction and fiction authors:
- Free promotions through KDP Select—great for getting new readers.
- Countdown Deals—great for bumping up lagging sales.
- Building an email list—everyone should do this.
- Cross-promotion—the back of your books should promote other titles.
Now, there are strategies that work best if you’re a nonfiction author:
- Providing valuable content through a blog, podcast or YouTube channel.
- Lightly recommending one or two books within the content of your Kindle books.
- Building case studies and examples from specific tactics that you explain in your books.
On the other hand, there’s a great tactic that can benefit fiction authors…
If you have a series of books, then providing a perma-free “entry point” into your funnel can generate long-term sales. The idea here is to provide a fun (self-contained) reading experience that whets the reader’s appetite for the rest of the series (for more on this strategy, I highly recommend the book Write. Publish. Repeat.).
Like I said before, I only have experience with the nonfiction market so (as always) take my advice with a grain of salt.
Here’s what I did for the book that I have permanently free:
- Publish the book on Amazon, but don’t sign up for KDP Select. Set the price to $0.99.
- Publish the same book on SmashWords. (Use this free guide to learn how.)
- Set the price to free on SmashWords.
- Once the book is published on both Amazon and SmashWords, tell Amazon that it’s free on SmashWords, Barnes & Noble or other websites. Do this through the link that Amazon provides in your book’s description. (Here’s how this looks.)
- Ask a few friends to use this link and inform Amazon about the price change.
- Wait a few weeks or sometimes a few months before this price change takes hold.
Unfortunately, right now you have to “trick” Amazon in order to list a book for free. So, it’s not 100% reliable all the time. All you can do is follow these steps and try to be patient as you wait for Amazon to drop the price to $0.00.
There are a lot of ways you could expand income beyond Kindle publishing—unfortunately I haven’t done a heck of a lot beyond promoting my books (Golden Rule #1 –Focus on 80/20 Activities). But as I set goals for 2014, I’m going to try a few different things with both of my book brands (habits & Internet marketing):
- Create small courses through Udemy (Rob Cubbon has a great book on this.)
- Create a massive course and mastermind group on a single topic (I’ll talk more about this in 2014.)
- Use CreateSpace and Audible to maximize the profits from existing Amazon customers. (Nancy Hendrickson and Michelle Campbell-Scott talk about this in their book Make Your Book Work Harder.)
- Promote information products as an affiliate that solves specific problems.
- Promote Amazon products through a blog and email list. (Read this post for how I’m doing this.)
Now, that’s just what I plan on doing. Some other ways you could maximize revenue is to offer coaching, consulting and speaking services. I know a number of authors who use their books to launch their professional services, so you might want to consider these sources of income as well.
The secret to maximizing your book revenue is to observe other Kindle authors. Download their books. Join their email list. Read their blog posts. Do everything you can to see how they build an audience and engage with them.
So far, I love the Countdown Deals program (you can read more it on Amazon.) While I don’t think it’s a magic pill for all books—this tool can provide a short burst of sales, which often leads to more long-term visibility.
The biggest argument against Countdown Deals is many authors feel that they’ll “lose” income because they discount a book for a week. At the time I’m writing this article (Dec 23, 2013), I’ve run a total of 14 Countdown Deals. Sure a few promos didn’t do that well. But, I haven’t “lost money” on any of them. In fact, a few Countdown Deals have generated a sizable bump in income and led to an increase in my overall average daily sales.
For instance, let me break down the Countdown Deal for my book Wake Up Successful:
- 6.2 daily sales leading up to Countdown Deal (Nov 1st to Nov 27th)
- November 28th—start of the Countdown Deal
- December 4th —end of the Countdown Deal
- 235 total sales during Countdown Deal at $0.99
- 162 total sales during Countdown Deal at $1.99
- 15.8 daily sales since Countdown Deal (Dec 5th to December 22nd)
Not bad for a single promotion. And I think the long-term numbers could have been better if I kept the book at the $0.99 price point for the entire week (which is something I’m currently testing with my book 10,000 Steps Blueprint).
What I like best about Countdown Deals is it’s a sales tool that’s designed to help the authors who produce a lot of content. If you have 12 or more books in KDP Select, you could literally have a Countdown Deal running at all times. This will give you an amazing advantage over the authors who don’t use KDP Select.
Like a lot of things, Countdown Deals can be a valuable part of your marketing toolkit. If you combine it with the other strategies that I recommend in this post series, you’ll get extra sales that can have a positive spillover effect on your other books.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered. Some will be discussed in future posts and others will be covered in the YouTube channel that I plan on launching in early 2014.
So here’s your chance if you haven’t asked a question or want to submit a new one.
In the comment section below, feel free to respond to this post and ask any question you might have about Kindle publishing.Take Action. Get Results.
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