Welcome to part four of the Kindle publishing series!
A few months back, I asked readers to submit any questions they had about writing and selling books on Amazon. In this series, I’ll go through each one and provide specific action items that you can take.
Missed a previous post?
Today’s post will cover questions related to creating and selling your book.
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 a lot of confusion about what’s allowed on Amazon. If your book is not in their KDP Select program, you can freely publish it on other platforms like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and Smashwords. This is a great strategy if you want to diversify your audience and not put all your eggs into “Amazon’s basket.”
However, if you’d like to get the benefits of KDP Select—5 free promo days, Countdown Deals and borrows—then the book has to be exclusive with Amazon. That means it can’t be published anywhere else.
I feel it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each decision. While you’ll diversify income by publishing on multiple platforms, you’ll lose out on Amazon’s marketing tools that can help you sell more books. On the other hand, when you give over too much power to Amazon, you could set yourself up for a disaster if they change the rules. (This is something I covered in question #4 of the last post.)
Again, the answer depends on whether you’d like to take advantage of KDP Select. If you’re using the multi-platform approach, you can freely use existing content (as long as you’re the original author) and publish it “as-is.”
On the other hand, if you want the book to be published through KDP Select, the content can’t be found anywhere else. (Though Amazon does give you a 10% cap for previously published content.) So if you want to include content from a blog or information product, then you must remove it before putting it up for sale through KDP Select.
Also, another thing you can do is rewrite the content, which we’ll cover in the next question.
If you’re a prolific blogger, then you probably have a website full of useful content that can be added to a Kindle book. So how do you include this information while complying with Amazon’s rules? The answer is to rewrite the article.
I follow a simple strategy for including pre-existing content:
- While outlining, I add a note to include information from related posts.
- During the rough draft, I’ll cut-and-paste the relevant part of the articles.
- Then, I’ll use a red font on this text to act as a reminder that it needs to be re-written.
- And in the 2nd draft, I’ll do a quick rewrite, swapping out sentences, deleting unrelated sections and changing a lot of the language.
With a little bit of effort, you can quickly change quality content and turn it into information that can be helpful for your reader. While I don’t do this strategy all the time, I do like to include previously published content that’s most helpful to readers.
Yes, there are lots of sites that can be used to promote a Kindle Countdown Deal. Some of the popular ones include:
Some sites are extremely picky (like BookBub.com) about what they promote and others are too cost-prohibitive. I haven’t tried any of these services myself, so I can’t say if they’re effective or not.
Most of the time, paid advertising isn’t an option for a Kindle book. The money you make on each sale doesn’t cover what you’ve spent.
That said, it’s been my experience that a successful Kindle Countdown Deal can lead to a surge in long-term book sales at the normal price point ($2.99 and above.) In theory, if you can find the “right” promotional sites, you can come close to getting an ROI (return on your investment) during a Countdown Deal and make up the rest when the book returns to its normal price.
For the 1st quarter of 2014, I’m testing every site (that I can find) which offers a paid promotion opportunity—I’ll start with the Fiverr gigs that offer book promotions.
If you’d like to do the same, here is the six-part strategy I’d recommend:
#1:: Use the Amazon Associates program to create a unique affiliate ID for each promotional campaign. That means if you’re using 10 Fiverr gigs for one Countdown Deal, you’ll need to create 10 different tracking links. (You can recycle old tracking links every month or so for new campaigns.)
Now, I know some people don’t have access to the Associates program. If you’re in that situation, my best advice is to either open an LLC in a state that does have access or find someone who is part of the Associate program and ask them to create affiliate links. (Some will agree to this because they basically get free affiliate commissions for doing nothing.)
#2:: Create simple link re-directs. Install the Pretty Link plugin on a blog and use this to create a separate link for each affiliate link. Use a number system to sync your Associates link with a Pretty Link. So if I create an Associate ID of “youtubemsg12” it should look like: www.stevescottsite.com/youtube-msg12
#3:: Put all this data into an Excel spreadsheet. In column #1 add the link to the Fiverr gig or paid service you’re tracking. In column #2, put the Pretty Link. In column #3, put the clicks generated on the campaign. In column #4, track the sales generated on each book. And in column #5 (optional), include the profit you’ve generated for that Associates ID.
#4:: Tell promotional providers exactly what you need. Some paid advertising platforms try to get cute with their promotions. They’ll send a message on the wrong date, not include links or basically do the bare minimum—this is especially true on Fiverr. That means you need to upfront on exactly what you need. Here is a short script you can use:
“Thanks for your gig offer. I have a $0.99 Countdown Deal on Amazon that runs between Jan. 6th to 12th. Please make sure this promotion goes out only on these days and that you use the link that I’ve included (for tracking purposes). Thanks!”
#5:: Identify your break-even point. Paid advertising needs to ROI, otherwise you’ll quickly lose all the money you’ve earned on book royalties. The simplest way to determine your ROI is to establish (beforehand) a dollar number that you’ll use to separate “successful” from “unsuccessful” campaigns.
Here’s how do to the math:
- Most Countdown Deals start at the $0.99 price point.
- You get 70% on a $0.99 sale, which is a $0.70 royalty.
- That means you’d need at least 7 sales to break even on a standard Fiverr gig. (7 * $0.70 = $4.90)
- Also, be sure to calculate other earnings like the commission you earn on an Amazon Associates sale and any borrows the book generates.
Now, it’s up to you to determine your break-even point.
For me, I’m happy losing a bit of money on each campaign, because I know that every single sale gives me that extra “push” on Amazon’s discoverability charts which leads to long-term sales. Plus, it’s been my experience that many readers will go from buying one book to purchasing multiple titles. So I’ve determined that 4 sales is my break-even point (for a Fiverr gig.) Even if only a quarter of these customers goes on to buy another book, I’ll still have made my money back (4 sales at $0.70 each + $2.10 royalty for one sale = @$5.)
#6:: Test and Track. You’ll find that many paid promotions and gigs are busts, but eventually you’ll come across a couple of winners. I’ll admit this strategy requires a lot of busy work, but once you’ve created this system and can identify profitable promotions, you can easily manufacture lots of instant sales whenever you run a Countdown Deal.
In the last post (question #5), I talked about how I don’t worry about the keyword rankings for a particular title. This is an area I feel is unimportant because it’s not an effective use of my time (Golden Rule #1 – Focus on 80/20 Activities.) That said, there is some value to having your book rank well for a high-traffic keyword. A higher rating means more eyeballs and ultimately more sales.
So, a quick trick to boost your rankings is to use the specific keyword in the links that you use whenever you promote a book. Simply identify the top keyword you’d like to rank for and append it to the link that Amazon gives you for this book.
As an example, let’s say I’m trying to rank for a keyword on my book Make Money with YouTube. Normally you’d see a link like this:
What you can do with this link is append it with your target keyword. So let’s say I’d like to have it show up high for the phrase “make money online,” the link would look like:
Basically all you’re doing is here is adding a modifier at the end: keywords=make+money+online
Use this link whenever you promote a book:
- Inside your Kindle book (use Pretty Link as a redirect)
- On your blog
- During promotions for free days or Countdown Deals
- Anywhere else
Again, I wouldn’t worry too much about ranking high for a certain keyword. If you do a great job with writing a book and marketing it, your book will show up naturally for your target keyword phrases.
I’m a firm believer in using copywriting to help sell books (with the help of basic HTML to create bolding and “Amazon Orange” headlines). Honestly, I don’t think a three-sentence description works that well. Even if you’re making sales, you’ll vastly improve this number if you take the time to write a proper sales description.
Here is an excerpt from my book 61 Ways to Sell More Nonfiction Books that shows how to write a compelling product description:
The process starts with your customer avatar. Write down a short description of the type of people who would buy your book. Include information about what they like, hate, fear, want, etc. Spend at least 20 minutes creating this profile. This will help you understand why someone would want your information.
From there, write a compelling description that sells your eBook. It should include these elements:
*1. Headline. The goal of a headline is to hook the reader into your copy. This sentence should identify a core obstacle or a target audience. Then, it should promise a simple benefit that the reader will receive by applying what you teach. The headline has one goal: attract the interest of readers and make them want to read more.
*2. Sub-headlines. These are additional headlines that break apart the text in a book listing. You should include a sub-headline at the beginning of each section, so there will be a total of two or three. Like the headline, the goal of a sub-headline is to attract a person’s attention and make them read your copy.
*3. Supporting copy. Elaborate on each headline by explaining how your book solves a specific problem. Use lots of detail here and talk about the problems that readers often face. From there, talk about how your book can help.
*4. Bullet points. Take the most compelling features of your book and describe them in a list of bullet points. Tell readers why this information is useful.
*5. Include keywords. People use specific keywords to find the books they want to read. That’s why it’s important to incorporate these phrases throughout your copy. Not only does this increase your “findability,” it also tells a browser that your book covers the topic they specifically seek.
*6. Call-to-action: End your description by telling readers what to do next. Specifically, you should tell them to “scroll to the top of the page and select the buy button.” This is important because some people will spend too much time on your Amazon listing. Providing a call-to-action (CTA) is a great way to turn a browser into a buyer.
I consider the description to be almost as important as the eCover image. When browsers see a book with an eye-catching image and a benefit-driven sales letter, they’ll be more inclined to purchase it. So while it takes time to write a decent description, this task can have an amazing impact on your long-term sales.
While we only covered seven questions in this post, I feel each is extremely important for your book business.
Right now, I’m seeing more sales on my Kindle books than ever before (I’ll talk about this in the Authority Traffic & Income Report coming out in about a week), so I know that it’s still possible to build a successful business on this platform. If you haven’t published a book or if you’re procrastinating on that next title, then now is the time to buckle down and make things happen.
And if you’re struggling with a particular problem?
Then I’m here to help!
Just let me know what’s going on in your book business. Are you facing a certain obstacle? Having trouble staying motivated with the day-to-day grind of writing? Don’t know what to do next?
Simply leave a comment in the below section and I’ll my best to help out…Take Action. Get Results.