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Kindle Publishing Questions Answered (Part 2)

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

kdp-logoWelcome to the follow-up of the series where I answer your Kindle publishing questions.

(If you missed my first 15 responses, you can check out the article here.)

I originally intended this to be a lengthy, single post, but now it’s turned into something much, much bigger.

Since I’ve received over 200 responses, I’m going to answer every single question that you have about Kindle publishing (no matter how long that takes.)

This group of questions covers a few of my favorite topics: Researching book ideas, building relationships with readers and balancing everything with a blog.

Lots to cover, so let’s dive in…

RECAP: 3 Golden Rules of Kindle Publishing

Before we go over the questions, I want to (again) talk about what I call the “3 Golden Rules” of Kindle publishing.

Every decision I make for my book business is related to one of these rules. Often, this means doing something different than what’s recommended by other Kindle experts. I feel it’s important to understand the “why” behind my responses, so you’ll see that my advice is based on a logical, long-term strategy.

So let’s recap the 3 Golden Rules:

#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 fits your current self-publishing efforts.

Okay, let’s get to those questions…

#1: “How do you find a ‘niche’ for your Kindle books?”

I know there are lots of Kindle systems that give advice like this: “Find what’s hot right now and write books about these subjects.”

Frankly, I think this is a short-sighted strategy because it doesn’t build an audience. Instead, your “business” is focused on hopping from trend to trend without building a database of repeat customers.

The better, long-term strategy is to pick a single niche and publish multiple books that are marketed to the same group of people. (Golden Rule #2: Build a Catalog Business.)

So, before you worry about “how to find book ideas,” you’ll need to first pick a market that fills three major requirements:

1. Interest: Do you enjoy writing about the topic? Do you have enough ideas for at least five books? Is it something you think about throughout the day?

2. Expertise: While you don’t need a college degree in this subject, you should know enough to help most readers.

3. Profitability: There should be a market on Amazon for your specific niche. Look up your topics, find related books and then check out their best-seller’s ranking (click here to see an example.) If you see at least three books with a ranking of under #20,000, then you know it’s a market that has profit potential.

It’s important to have a merging of all three elements—when a niche is something you enjoy, can teach others how to do and makes money, you’ll find that it’s not hard to consistently publish great books.

#2: “How do you think of good book ideas?”

Once you’ve found the right niche, identifying great book ideas isn’t that hard. The best piece of advice I can give is to picture your ideal customer and ask: “What type of information would really help this person?”

You can do this with a few simple questions:

  1. What does the reader go through on a day-to-day basis?
  2. What problems does he or she regularly face?
  3. What solution can you provide?

I’d recommend you write down three questions in a prominent place. Refer to it on a daily basis and let your subconscious mind work on possible solutions. You’d be surprised at how many excellent ideas will pop into your head throughout the day. (The trick is to write down each one and follow up on it.)

Honestly, there isn’t a “magical formula” to generating book ideas. I get inspiration at the most random times—often when I’m not working and doing something else instead (like going on a run). That said, you can use a few web tools to spark your creative juices:

1. Amazon: Look at the books in your market to see what topics sell well (using the “#20,000 rule”).

2. Clickbank: Check out the sales letter of information products and look at their bullet points. See what problems and questions people encounter in this niche.

3. AllTop: Enter related keywords and search for blog posts that answer specific questions.

4. Google Keyword Planner (it’s now part of the Adwords program): Enter your keywords and look for phrases that relate specific problems.

Also, don’t underestimate what’s rolling around inside your brain. Most of my recent book ideas started out as a realization or “ah-ha” moment that randomly popped into my head.

Specifically, there are two ways to this:

1. Think of obstacles you’ve overcome: Did you overcome a major obstacle related to your niche? Odds are other people have a similar experience. Simply write down a step-by-step process of how you overcame this problem and you’ll have a book that people love.

2. Use your subconscious mind: Often, inspiration come from the most random places. One idea connects to another and then you’ll suddenly have a profitable book idea. Make sure to write down every thought you have—even if it sounds lame. Perhaps this thought will lead to something great.

At this point, I’ve published 38 books and the above are the only tools I’ve used to generate ideas. This is good news for you…it means you don’t have to invest in any sort of expensive keyword software. Just think of problems in your niche and provide helpful solutions. That’s all you need to form the foundation of a successful book business.

#3: “How important is the ‘#20,000 rule?’”

Like I mentioned before, I often use what I call the “#20,000 rule” for determining the profitability of book.

You can use Amazon’s best seller ranking to guesstimate a book’s average daily sales. And when you break down the numbers, a #20,000 ranking means a book averages five sales a day, which is a $10 daily profit (at the $2.99 price point) or about $300 in monthly profits.

For me, $300 per book, each month, is a decent starting point for an idea. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s good enough to be part of my catalog business (Golden Rule #2).

Now, the problem with the “#20,000 rule” is many people think it’s written in stone. The truth is I often throw this rule out the window and write books that don’t look initially profitable. What truly matters is writing books that best serves your audience. So even if a book doesn’t look like a potential winner, sometimes it makes sense to go ahead and write it anyway.

EXAMPLE:

I made this choice when publishing Email Marketing Blueprint & Outsourcing Mastery. I did the “#20,000 test” for both books and realized that neither was potentially profitable. Yet I went ahead and wrote them anyway because I felt both are topics are important for readers to learn.

The funny thing? Both turned out to be important parts of my book catalog. While they’re not selling thousands of copies of each month, they’re both well-received by readers and generate a decent amount of profit each month.

The point here is to treat the #20,000 rule like a guideline, not like a mandatory requirement. In fact, a better rule is to know your audience and write the kind of books that make them happy.

#4: “How do you write books that people like?”

In the first part of the series (question #6), I said that the “secret” to getting lots of reviews is to write books that people actually like. I’ll admit it’s a frustrating answer because there are many authors who really hard on their books, yet they don’t a high number of reviews in return. So another possible solution to the “review problem” is to think about the type of books that you write. Basically you have two options:

Option 1. Write a Massive Resource Book

This is when the author attempts to write the ultimate book on a broad topic. They try to cover every possible situation, answer every question and include tons of links. For instance, there are many books that claim to be the ultimate resource on Kindle publishing.

Option 2. Write a Specialized Book

A specialized book doesn’t try to answer every question. Instead, it identifies a single problem and provides a very detailed solution. The goal here is to start with one problem that the reader faces, then go into step-by-step detail on what to do.

Which option do I recommend?

Without a doubt, I feel that publishing specialized books generates more sales and reviews than publishing a massive resource book. At the $2.99 price (Golden Rule #3), you provide an insane amount of value by answering every possible question about a single problem.

Remember, when it comes to nonfiction, readers like detailed information. Most would much rather get a 15,000 word book that tackles a specific issue, instead of a 20,000 word book that gives the basics, but leaves them with many unanswered questions.

Keep this advice in mind as you build your catalog business. When you find that a book is getting really long (like over 20,000 words), it’s tempting to “skimp” on certain important points. My recommendation is to split it in two and spend time providing a detailed solution for each problem. Readers will like the detailed content, which ultimately means more reviews and more sales.

#5: “What’s the best long-term strategy for increasing sales?”

I consider myself to be very fortunate because I started listening to the Self Publishing Podcast when I first began my Kindle business.

The one long-term strategy they discuss (over and over) is to simply write more books. (By the way, I highly recommend checking out their latest book: Write. Publish. Repeat..)

I’ll admit that “write more books” is frustrating advice. It requires hard work and a commitment to publishing on a regular basis. But, I’ve discovered that my net income always increases whenever I launch a new book. And that’s why I feel this strategy is far superior to the latest-greatest-super-ninja-Kindle-generating-sales-machine product that’s being pitched on the Warrior Forum.

#6: “So, why is ‘write more books’ the best strategy?”

There is a logic progression on why consistent publishing is your best long-term strategy. It works like this:

1. Each book has its own KDP Select contract. That means it can be given away for free (5 out of every 90 days) or it can be deeply discounted through the Countdown Deal program. Both strategies provide extra visibility to your overall book catalog.

2.Inside each book is an offer (or two) for a related book. When a book gets that extra visibility, it will also generate additional sales on your other titles. (This could even have a snowball effect if you’re promoting different titles throughout your catalog.)

3. You can grow your email list by offering a free piece of content inside each book. When it’s offered for free or as part of a Countdown Deal, you’ll get even more subscribers. This can also have a snowball effect because you’ll use the email list to promote each future book, which builds on the overall results of each one.

4. Even when a book isn’t on sale or for free, it still acts as an entry point into your catalog business. When your books are spread out all over the place (in different categories, “customer also bought” recommendations and keywords) you’ll increase the chance that new readers will discover your brand.

 5. You are not depending on the success or failure of a single title. If one tanks during a launch or gets a few negative reviews, your overall sales numbers won’t plummet.

I’ve focused on Kindle publishing for 16 months now and I can honestly say that the best long-term sales strategy is to continuously produce more content.

For instance, at the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, I now have two separate book catalogs that rank in the top 20 of Amazon’s overall Business & Investing categories. It seems like there’s always a new author that shoots to the top of this list for a few days, but usually he or she will drop off this list because they’re not publishing on a consistent basis. Really, the only reason I’ve stayed on this list for a long time is because I have a lot of titles to offer potential readers.

#7: “How do you balance blogging with writing Kindle books?”

Lately, I’ve talked a lot about blogging and how it can help you build an authority business (check out my case study for more on this.) I feel that blogging can help support your books, but it’s not the easiest thing to do if you have limited time. So to find that “balance” here are a few strategies you could implement:

  1. Publish (only) one or two blog posts each week.
  2. Make sure each article thoroughly covers one specific topic or strategy.
  3. Write the occasional post (like every two weeks) that defines an important concept in your niche.
  4. Link to this article (and others like it) in your Kindle book to increase value to the reader.
  5. Repurpose the best blog content for your Kindle book—even if you have to re-write the whole thing.
  6. Test book ideas by writing a basic post on it and see how readers respond.
  7. Create a series of posts that can act as a catalyst for readers to check out your blog. (I do this with my “30 Day Habit Challenge” series)

Having a blog and catalog of Kindle books requires a lot of writing—I won’t lie to you about that. But, you can save a little bit of time by being strategic with your content. When writing anything, think of how it can be re-used to grow your overall brand.

#8: “How long does it take to make the ‘big bucks’ from Kindle publishing?”

Honestly, it’s impossible to answer this question. Unlike the gurus who promise “instant Kindle gold,” I believe that self-publishing requires dedication and hard work. It isn’t a magic, push-button system where you hire a low-quality writer for $200, purchase a $5 Fiverr cover and then watch the “fat stacks” grow. So, it’s simply not possible to give an accurate timeline of when you’ll make decent money.

Really, your success depends on number of key factors:

  1. How many words per day can you produce? (More is better.)
  2. The profitability of the niche you select (see question #1.)
  3. The size and level of engagement you have with an email list.
  4. How are you building your brand outside of Amazon?
  5. The overall presentation of your Kindle books.

The truth is:

Your Kindle growth is directly related to how much you’re willing to bust your ass and hustle. {Tweet This!}

If you take three months between each book and then “market” it with a $5 Fiverr cover, then you probably can’t compete with the publishers who work hard and invest time/money in the quality of their presentation.

I do apologize for the harshness of the above paragraph, but it seems like many people think that there is some “secret” that successful Kindle authors keep to themselves. All they really do is: Publish consistently, use each book as a learning experience and adjust their marketing strategies along the way. That’s how you make the “big bucks.”

Have Any Kindle Publishing Questions?

I still have a lot of unanswered questions to cover, so don’t worry if I haven’t covered yours yet. I promise to go over each one in full detail in the weeks to come.

If you haven’t asked a question, then here’s your chance.

In the comment section below, feel free to respond to this post and ask any question that you have about Kindle publishing.

Take Action. Get Results.




P.S. Struggling with your Kindle books? Don't know how to get started on Amazon? Looking to generate an additional stream of income?

If so, click here to grab my free report "44 Answers to YOUR Kindle Publishing Questions"


{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Darlene at BlogBoldly

You are one of my all times authors on the subject of publishing on Kindle.

Even tho I knew about Johnny and Sean, I just didn’t pay that much attention until “Write, Publish, Repeat.” Omgosh.. what a book!! I’m glad you referenced it in your blog today, because I think it gives a crystal clear view of what’s necessary to successfully build a self-publishing biz.

darlene
p.s. I could have told you to stay away from Dallas.. :) Living here in Austin, we see them get the brunt of the ice storms!

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Steve Scott

Why thank you Darlene :-) Glad to hear you like WPR (also it was nice to see you defending them in that one neg. review.) I do think they have the best “mindset” when it comes to building a long-term business. Not flashy like other products, just good commonsense advice.

Yeah, by the time I was about to Dallas, it was too late. I know going there that it was a possibility that the ice storm would mess up everything. Was happy that I did make it down to College Station and run a different marathon. Honestly, I should have waited a few months and headed over to Austin. I LOVE the town you live in…great vibe.

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Mk akan

Nice one steve. From your answers you email list and blog really helps your marketing. How would you market your books if you started from scratch and had no blog or list ?

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Steve Scott

You’re right MK, the blog and email list have helped. And that’s a great question you asked…I’ll add it to the next group of questions and provide a detailed response.

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Mk akan

Can’t wait to read that.

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Sam Edge

Hey Steve related to this I have had a heck of a time building my list and tips would be greatly appreciated.

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Steve Scott

Sam — do you mean building a list, like “how do you optimize your conversions for traffic” or how do you get more eyeballs (i.e. traffic) in front of your email opt-in?

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Sam Edge

I mean traffic to my e-mail opt-in

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Steve Scott

That’s hard to answer in a succinct blog comment. The main strategy I implement is to focus on conversion in all aspects of my marketing. This is something that I cover here: http://www.stevescottsite.com/new-email-list Currently, I’m also using SEO, social media and guest posting to also build up my list. Actually a lot of the content of the “Authority Business Case Study” will talk about what I’m doing to increase subscribers in 2014. So stay tuned to the case studies.

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Sam Edge

Thanks Steve,

I purchased your No BS Affiliate Marketing 8 module package. I’ve given the whole thing a quick read to start off and that is providing pretty much all the information I could hope for – am super psyched about getting this going for the new year. The one question I had as follow up was regarding the new Google Keyword Planner. What do recomend for getting up to speed with this new format compared to the Keyword Tool. I had a quick look and it freaked me out a little. Do you have a post that deals with this or can you point me to a good resource? Cheers

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Steve Scott

Thanks for the purchase Sam! To be honest, Keyword Planner isn’t that different. The big thing is they use “Exact” phrases instead of the Broad. So the results might seem smaller. If you spend a few minutes playing around with it, the tool isn’t that hard to figure out.

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Sam Edge

Thanks Steve, I did get into it and it’s not rocket science. Cheers

Nick

Hi Steve, thank-you for all the value you are providing in this series!

My question relates to productivity and “publishing more books.” In your awesome book that covers part of this topic, http://www.amazon.com/Internet-Lifestyle-Productivity-Increase-Profits-ebook/dp/B00AJLPM58, you discuss process checklists and project tasks. I’ve been developing my Kindle publishing process checklist and it looks very similar to the project task list. Just curious if you have any thoughts on what the difference is between a process checklist and project task?

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Steve Scott

Good questions Nick. I’ll try to answer it briefly here (and maybe turn it into a full-blown response.)

A process list would be something you do regularly. For KP, I would have stuff like this:

1. Do braindump of ideas
2. Outline on notecards
3. Write 1st draft.

…etc, etc. The point with the process is to turn your entire system (from idea to the end of your launch) into a step-by-step.

A project list would be stuff that are single action items. For instance, on my Kindle project list, I have these items:

1. Update end-of-book funnels for my list.
2. Talk to my ecover guy about updating one of my covers.
3. Set up a new split-test of my Kindle squeeze page.
4. Create a new pop up for my blog

You see the difference between the two. The first just focuses on repeatable steps, whereas the second goes things that need to be done one time.

Hope this clarifies things.

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Nick

*Aha* Thanks Steve!

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Ian Stables

There are several good points made here. Here is my take on a few.

Point #2
I heard an idea a while ago about how to get someone to hire you for a job. I works very well and is great for customer focused books.

Imagine that you are the reader. I mean, really imagine you are that person. Think about the problems you face and what you would like to be better. Have a look around to see what’s already available. Does anything you find give you what you want? If so, then could they be better?

This tells you exactly the right idea. All you need to do then is create it.

If you don’t already have the ideal solution, then go out and try to find one. Read books, look at websites, ask people, test different things.

Point #5 and #6
I agree wholeheartedly with the approach of writing more books.

When I first got started, I tended to hop from one subject to another. However, when you have several books that compliment each other, you will always have another book for your reader to read next.

Don’t look for one idea. Instead, plan to have separate books dealing with specific parts of the subject. For example, with the subject of book publishing, there are the topics, how to get ideas topic, researching, outlining, writing, editing, formatting, free promotion, Facebook promotion, online advertising, book title creation, description writing, and so on. You have a list of at least twelve different book subjects, all related.

Regards,

Ian Stables

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Steve Scott

Hey Ian,

#2: That is a good one… I like the approach of identifying the critical skills necessary to create a quality book.

Glad to see you’re applying the principles of publishing on a consistent basis and creating specific books. It’s a strategy that has worked out well for lots of authors.

Thanks for stopping by…

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Ron

Steve,

1) Bought your ebook “61 Ways to Sell More Nonfiction Kindle Books”. The content looks very promising for marketing a Kindle book.
2) As I have never published a Kindle book, I am looking for a quality resource (why I first considered you as a possible source), that covers the technical aspects of Kindle publishing (for the newbie) such as: how to set up an account, how to format my book (using Libre Office instead of Microsoft Word), how to upload my book, how to insert pictures and videos (videos–if possible), etc.
3) Checked your other books–unless I missed something, none of your other books appear to offer the information I am seeking. Can you recommend any resource?

Thanks
Ron

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Steve Scott

Hey Ron,

To be honest, Amazon does the best job of explaining how the whole publishing process works. They have an extensive help section here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A37Z49E2DDQPP3

For formatting, I tend to stick to Word and upload that directly. A more elegant solution can be found with the Scrivener tool: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Finally, Tom Corson-Knowles has a pretty helpful book on formatting through Word: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Formatting-Bible-Microsoft-Publishing-ebook/dp/B00AHO9R1M/ref=la_B008QHU66C_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386949576&sr=1-5

Hope these resources help!

Steve

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Michal
Shalu Sharma

Brilliant questions and answers. I was wondering what your thoughts were on Createspace. Do you think its worth publishing some of your ebook titles as paperbacks?

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Ron

Steve,
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

Michal,
Thanks for the head up on the “Building Your Kindle Direct Publishing ebook”. I downloaded it and have read most of it.

Ron

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Pat

we are having a significant problem with our sales funnel and wonder if you might know about it. We are not members of KDP Select and offer both a .PDF version and a kindle version of our “Eating & Living Gluten-Free… The Official Guide.” We capture the email of the individual when they click to go to either paypal or kindle and we use an AWeber api to grab the purchase information after the sale. So far, I haven’t been able to find out how to get feedback from Amazon/Kindle about the purchase in “real time” so we can deliver them to the link to bonus delivery page.

Do you know about how to get purchase information from Kindle other than their summary reports? Or, is there any book that I can buy that will explain this.

Thanks,
Pat

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Steve Scott

Hey Pat — To be honest, this question is a little beyond what I’ve done with Kindle books. The one suggestion I have is to promote a book through Amazon’s Associates program. You can create custom links for a book, and use this to track traffic sources, clicks, sales and ultimately conversion rates. Not sure if this is what you need, but that’s the only way I know of tracking specific sales numbers. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t do a good job with their analytics.

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Pat

Thanks, Steve. This is a continual frustration for my husband and me because if we send prospects to the Kindle sales page we get no stats. But, if we send them to the Amazon product page it’s not “warm and fuzzy.” At least if you can do that, we don’t know how.

Thanks so much for getting back to us. My husband’s been watching you for several years and says that you are one of the teachers that he trusts to provide good, useable information.

Have a great day,
Pat

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Steve Scott

Great to hear Pat. I’ll keep my eyes open for any possible conversion tracking with Amazon. But for now, all I know is to do everything through the Associates program.

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Kate

Hi Steve,

It’s really great to hear how well you are doing with your Kindle books – I remember when you first started the DGH website, the progress you have made during this time has been amazing. It just goes to show where a lot of hard work can take you.

The content you provide about your publishing is really generous and I have enjoyed catching up on it all. Thanks :)

I used to be on the FB forum you had and at the time I was toying with the idea of writing some Kindle books for my travel website. I got talked out of it (not by anyone on the forum) and got distracted with other projects. Now I’m wondering if I was too hasty before and should revisit the idea.

My instinct still tells me it is worth a shot at testing one out. My email list has grown to around 5k, although I am not very active with it.

You speak about the #20,000 rule above and although you say it is not set in stone, I do wonder why there are not many top selling Kindle books in the travel niche, not in the UK at least. Those that are in the top 20k are all Lonely Planet, not the smallest of publishers!

Do you think this is a situation where it’s worth a shot to test the waters; if I stick to more unique places and off the beaten track attractions (as per my website)?

I’ve started writing my first book but keep on procrastinating because of fear of failure, I’m feeling very confused!

Any thoughts would be really appreciated.

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Steve Scott

I remember your site Kate. It was a good idea. You’re right the travel niche isn’t a slam dunk. But I do know that there isn’t someone who is really building a travel brand on Amazon. My hunch is the books might sell well if you have a good hook (like your unique sleeps idea.)

Honestly, I’d give it a shot…you never know what could happen. :-)

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