[Kindle Launch] Behind the Scenes of a 20,000 Download Book Launch

work-smarterMany Kindle authorities claim that launching a book for free no longer works (I’ve definitely said this recently.)  Fortunately people like Nick Loper (the Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com) are proving me wrong. 

With the right amount of effort and smart work, you can parlay a free book launch into a profitable stream of income.  In today’s guest post, Nick details that exact strategies he used to get over 20,000 free downloads and create a lifelong asset. 

Update: Nick has recently launched a course that digs deeper into each of the concepts he covers in this post. If you buy the product through my affiliate link, you will get a 75% discount off the regular price.

Last month, I released my latest book project, Work Smarter, into the world.

The book actually started out as a blog post idea, but as the text grew past 10,000 words (eventually totaling 20,000), I figured it would be better suited for book format.

The project is all about the online tools and resources today’s entrepreneurs are using to get their work done. I’m always excited to learn about new tools, and I know other people feel the same way.

There’s a joy in discovering something that can make your life easier or make your work more efficient — and that’s what Work Smarter intended to do.

(And based on the feedback, it did. If you missed it, I guarantee you’ll find something new, novel, and useful among the 350+ resources — or your money back.)

Here are some of the hard numbers from the launch:

  • 20,215 free downloads
  • 559 contributors
  • 1247 paid downloads (so far)
  • $427.83 in royalties the first week, and over $1400 in the first month
  • 413 individual emails sent to contributors (183 responses, 44% response rate)
  • 378 resources shared
  • 334 new email subscribers (out of 580 visitors – 57% conversion)
  • 246 emails to featured companies sent (64 responses, 26% response rate)
  • $208.23 in “production costs”
  • 200+ retweets and a social reach in the hundreds of thousands
  • 156 borrowed copies (Borrows on Kindle earn about $2 each)
  • $108.43 in affiliate commission (explanation below)
  • 79 Fancy Hands requests (more on this below)
  • 70 5-star reviews
  • 3 guest post opportunities, including one on EntrepreneurOnFire.com
  • 2 podcast guest appearances on shows much bigger than mine
  • 2 free t-shirts, including this one from Buffer.

In this post I’ll share the step-by-step process and methodology I went through to create and market the book, including which tools I used most from it to get it done, what worked best, and what mistakes I made along the way.

(Including why I changed the title mid-launch, what I could have done better on social media, and how the first 17,000 readers got a hard-to-navigate version of the book.)

Ready? Let’s do this.


The Idea

Every project starts with an idea. In this case, my idea was to compile a list of entrepreneurs’ favorite online resources.

And I knew from listening to John Lee Dumas that the Entrepreneur on Fire show notes archive would be an excellent place to start, because at the end of every show, he asks his guests that very question.

Internet Resource

I thought the resulting list would make a pretty epic and hopefully viral blog post, but it quickly became something bigger than that.

I added in a few dozen contributors from my own network, and in total, 559 entrepreneurs named 378 unique resources for the book.

Now would be a good time to note that I didn’t have any particular expertise to write this book; anyone reading could have done it as well or better than me.

And I’m certain there are other similar opportunities out there as well.

Writing the Book

Dashboard   Fancy HandsTo begin gathering the data, I had the virtual assistant service Fancy Hands comb through the EoFire show notes to collect all the online resources that had been named in the 500+ episodes that were live at the time (now over 600).

They added the tools along with the contributors’ names into a Google Docs spreadsheet.

Note: Even though this is public information, I still made sure to ask for John and Kate’s blessing before launching.

I relied heavily on Fancy Hands to build the foundation of Work Smarter, and this was just the start of everything they did. The service costs $45 for 15 fifteen-minute tasks per month.

I upgraded to the Premium plan that included 25 tasks for $65, and then to a “secret” Super-Premium option (50 tasks for $130) when I maxed that out.

Because tasks are limited to 15 minutes, it often took several requests to complete one job, but it was certainly faster than having to do all the tedious data entry myself.

Next, Fancy Hands helped categorize all the tools, find descriptions, links, and pricing information.

After that, they translated (15-minutes at a time) the massive spreadsheet into sentence and paragraph format.

Of course it would be cool to say that a VA service wrote the whole book for me, but that would be a stretch. It still took a solid couple weeks of adding my own content, formatting, and editing before I was comfortable calling it complete.

For this portion of the project, I used 46 tasks.

Cost: $119.60

(Full disclosure: I have several months worth of Fancy Hands credit in the bank for referring other users to their service, and it can’t be cashed out — so this was essentially free to me.)

Pre-Launch Consult

I had a Skype conversation with product launch expert Pat Romain during my research and writing phase.

The first thing she asked me to do was to clarify my goals of the launch.

I replied the project had two major goals:

  1. To capture email addresses during the free launch phase.
  2. To generate enough momentum that paid sales carried on after the free promo ended. With any luck, this could be a passive income asset for months or years down the road.

Collecting Emails

Amazon doesn’t share customer information with the authors, so even if the book generated thousands of downloads, I’d have no way to follow up or communicate with the readers.

To combat this, I offered a free bonus in the book (a trick I learned from Steve), and linked directly to a dedicated landing page (this one).

The bonus ebook, 53 Takeaways from the World’s Best Business Books, was something I’d already created, and that I thought would have a broad enough appeal to perform well.

I included this offer 3 times in the book; once at the beginning, once in-context in the middle, and once at the end.

Before the launch, I also spent some time building out an autoresponder sequence in AWeber, so new subscribers would be exposed to my best material over a 2-month drip campaign.

Building Buzz

Pat also suggested I begin to tease out the project on social media and in my email newsletters, which I did, though I probably should have started earlier to build more anticipation.

teaser promo in ps

She recommended setting up a dedicated squeeze page to capture “hand raisers” and others expressing an interest in being the “first to know” about the launch. I did not make this a priority, but definitely think it’s a great strategy.

I could have used this opted-in list to help build some initial buzz, give pre-release copies to, ask for cover feedback, etc, and really make them part of the process.

If you want more book marketing ideas, definitely check out Steve’s rankings and ratings for 16 different strategies.

Cost: Free!

Picking a Title

Many book marketers will tell you that Amazon is just a big search engine, and that the title of your book is the single most important factor in “Amazon SEO.”

I used a tool called MerchantWords to estimate search volume for certain keywords on Amazon, but unfortunately I didn’t do this until AFTER I launched the book.

Originally I wanted to lead with the “meat” of the book — the 350+ online resources, but thankfully the members of my mastermind group advised against it. Instead, they wisely argued, I should lead with the benefit.

That led to my original title: Work Smarter: 350+ Online Resources Today’s Top Entrepreneurs Use to Increase Productivity and Grow Their Business.

Why “work smarter”? Because that’s how I feel every time I discover an awesome new resource!

And it turns out, there’s already a decent Amazon search volume for that phrase according to MerchantWords:

MerchantWords work smarter

The phrase “online resources” returned 0 results, so I was happy with that selection.

“Increase productivity” also did well, with roughly 6500 monthly searches:

MerchantWords increase productivity

But then I started running into trouble. I knew I wanted the word “entrepreneur” in the title, but I wasn’t in love with the wording at the end.

In a conversation with Chandler Bolt in the middle of my launch week, he pressed me on the search volume for the keywords in my title. I didn’t have the data at that time, and that’s when I started playing around with MerchantWords.

It turns out I got lucky with the first two keywords, but made a mistake with the third one, “grow their business.”

That phrase (and variations of it) get almost no search volume:

MerchantWords grow business

After some searching, I found some good numbers related to goals, so I changed the last part of the title midweek to Increase Productivity and Achieve Their Goals.

“Reach goals” had a search volume of 8000, but  “achieve goals” had an estimated monthly search volume of 12,500, so I went with that.

MerchantWords achieve goals

And that’s one beautiful thing about digital publishing — you can make changes like that in a matter of hours.

Cost: Free!

Designing a Cover

I get really excited when it’s time to design a cover for any book project, because it’s generally one of the last steps before a launch.

I created a single mock-up concept of a cover, and was about to send it off to a handful of cover artists on Fiverr to see what came back when my wife intervened.

She’s a PowerPoint rockstar and turned this:

Work Smarter Cover Concept

Into this:

Work Smarter cover

So I ran with it.

Cost: Free!

Formatting for Kindle

Each Kindle device is essentially an html reader, meaning you have to convert your Word document into the “web page, filtered” file mode. It’s as easy as hitting “Save As” and selecting that option from the drop-down menu.

(Alternatively, you can outsource your Kindle formatting to Fiverr, Elance, or another professional.)

I ran that html file through the Kindle Previewer desktop software to make sure everything looked OK. This usually takes several iterations because you’ll always catch something that doesn’t look quite right on one of the Kindle hardware emulators.

The software creates a .mobi file, and that’s the version you upload to your account at kdp.amazon.com.

And that’s where I screwed up. Turns out I skipped a crucial step, one that makes it so Kindle can’t access the Table of Contents — making it difficult for readers to navigate to different sections inside the book.

Thankfully, a reader named Naima notified me of this, along with the fix. Instead of using Amazon’s own software to generate the .mobi book file, you should use the free Calibre software.

calibre table of contents

In Calibre, you can set up the Table of Contents to show properly in Kindle devices.

Unfortunately for me, the first 17,000 downloaders got a less-than-optimal version of the book.

Cost: Free!

Submitting to Amazon

If you don’t have one already, you can set up a free author’s account at kdp.amazon.com. That’s where you’ll input your book details, including the title, author, and description, and upload your .mobi file from Calibre.

The KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) site is also where you’ll input your pricing and royalty information, and decide if you want to sign up for KDP Select.

KDP Select gives Amazon exclusive rights to your content for 90 days, and in return, you have the ability to promote your book for free for 5 days and Prime members can also borrow it for free.

KDP add new title

Why Do a Free Promo?

Why would someone spend all this time and effort writing a book, only to give it away for free? That doesn’t make any sense!

The free promo at launch simply an attention-getting tactic. The idea is to drive as much traffic and interest and attention to your book in the form of downloads and reviews that it “sticks” in the charts and continues to make sales after your free promo ends.

It’s also an opportunity to expose your work to a massive audience who otherwise wouldn’t be bothered, and maybe even recruit a few new members to your tribe.

One contributor asked why I was sending people to Amazon and not giving the book away on my own site, but requiring an email opt-in. 

I reasoned that people would be far less likely to share a link to an email squeeze page, and that sharing campaign was a main component of my marketing plan. I also thought I could reach many times more readers (and hopefully buyers later) on Amazon — even if I don’t capture all their emails.

I set up the free promo to run for the maximum of 5 days, Monday through Friday of launch week, following the lead from Scott Britton on his successful Kindle launch.

(According to various Kindle publishing sites, Sunday is a strong day for a free promo, but I thought my business-to-business oriented launch would be better suited to start on Monday instead.)

A Small Pricing Psychology Trick

My recommendation is to price the book slightly higher than you normally would, to give it a higher perceived value.

For example, even though it was my intention to eventually sell the book at $2.99, I priced it at $4.99 during launch week.

You could even go higher if you like. It’s all a psychology hack; getting a free $5 thing is a better deal than getting a free $3 thing.

Submit Early

Make sure to give yourself a few days worth of lead time after you submit your book to Amazon and before the “official” start of your launch.

There are a couple reasons for this. The first is to give yourself time to make any last minute changes and edits. It can take 12-48 hours for Amazon to review and publish your changes (though they’re generally faster than that).

The second reason is you want to generate a few user reviews before launching to the general public. The sad thing is even when a book is free, if it has no ratings on Amazon, people will hesitate to download it!

We’re Live on Amazon! Now What?

Generating Pre-Launch Interviews

I was able to finalize the book and get it published to Amazon a few days in advance of my planned Monday launch. My #1 goal during this time period was to generate some initial reviews.

I’ll share what I did, and what I could have done to potentially have a bigger impact.

I sent some personal connections a free pdf copy of the book. Since many of them had contributed a resource to the guide, I positioned the gift as an advance copy to thank them for their help with the project.

In my email, I also linked directly to the review page on Amazon for the book, explaining how I was planning to launch on Monday and if they had a minute to drop in a quick review, it would be very much appreciated.

I sent out around 30 of these emails, and was very grateful to collect 12 reviews by Monday morning. (Thanks guys!)

Pre-Launch reviews

“Real” authors do this all the time — sending out dozens of advance copies to influential reviewers and members of the press hoping to gain a favorable review.

Now here’s the thing, because all of these reviewers were given a copy OFF Amazon, they show up as “unverified” reviews.

It’s not actually as bad as it sounds, but Amazon differentiates between those reviewers they actually have a record of downloading or buying the book, and everyone else.

verified vs non-verified amazon reviews

Naturally, it makes more sense for verified reviews to carry more weight in Amazon’s ranking algorithms.

This is a topic of hot debate among authors. Amazon wants to remain open, since they know that for most of their products, they’re not an exclusive supplier but would still welcome the honest user feedback. But on the flipside, some hateful or spiteful reviewers could trash a new book without even reading it.

One way to get “verified” reviews is to buy Amazon e-gift cards for reliable people in your network for the amount of your book, and explaining the reason for the gift in your message to the recipient.

This method may be more reliable than simply “gifting” the book through Amazon, as some authors report having directly-gifted book reviews removed.

Of course, the risk is you have some upfront cost involved and the recipient could turn around and use the gift card for anything on Amazon — not just your book.

The challenging thing with soliciting reviews during your launch is you need them NOW to fuel better exposure and more downloads — but in most cases you have to give people a chance to actually have time to sit down and READ the book first.

That means to plan ahead and give yourself at least a few days leadtime to collect reviews.

Cost: Free! (Or $30-50 to go the gift card route)

Marketing the Launch

As a Kindle author during a free promo, your primary goal is to generate enough initial traction and downloads that your book starts to rank highly on Amazon’s internal charts.

Their reach and scale will go far beyond anything you can muster on your own.

Reaching the top 5 in your category will virtually guarantee a strong download performance, so you should focus your efforts on getting enough volume to pump up your rank.

Once you’re there, Amazon will do the work for you. People will naturally discover it through the site; indeed, that’s the beauty of tapping into the marketplace power of the world’s largest store.

Here are the tactics I used to build that initial momentum.

(Of course I emailed my own modest list as well — less than 1000 subscribers at the time — but not until Wednesday and Thursday. I also mentioned the book launch on my podcast for the week, which was released Thursday morning. Throughout the week I kept asking for reviews as well from pretty much anyone who emailed me.)

My 659 Email Outreach Campaign

The nature of this book, with 500+ contributors and 350+ companies named, lent itself well to a massive email outreach campaign.

My efforts were broken up into 2 segments:

  1. Contributors
  2. Resources

The first step was gathering contact information, and I relied on a combination of Fancy Hands and my dedicated virtual assistant to help with this.

I spent an additional 25 Fancy Hands tasks building out the contact info (email addresses and “contact us” pages) in a Google Docs spreadsheet.

In many cases, I used Rapportive to guess/verify common email formats for these messages. In total, we were able to find reasonably reliable contact info for 659 different contributors and resources.

Rapportive restrictedHowever, this was not without its own challenges. Rapportive temporarily blocked queries from my account 3 different times — probably for making too many database or API calls within a certain timeframe.

I spent 2 and a half days writing individual messages to everyone I could, and queued them up to send out Monday morning starting around 5am.

The tool I used to schedule the messages was Streak, a free Gmail extension.

To write all the messages, I used my beloved TextExpander for Chrome browser plugin, but tried to add in at least a line or two of personalization.

For example, if Rapportive showed me someone was in San Francisco, I’d mention I was based nearby. If they’d named a tool that was one of my favorites, I’d say so.

The reason to do it this way instead of in some sort of mail merge or mass-mailing was to hopefully avoid the spam filters and get a better response rate. But honestly I had no idea if it would work or not.

Subject line for contributors: “I cited you as a contributor in my latest book project!”

Subject line for resources: “[Resource] is featured in my new book!”

I didn’t get fancy and test different subject lines, but I just needed something compelling enough to get opened, coming from a complete stranger.

The interior of the message had 2 goals:

  1. To generate downloads
  2. To generate social shares

My hope was people would be curious enough about the project to go to Amazon and download a free copy. Each download helps push a book up the ranks.

Click to Tweet

The next goal was social sharing, and I focused on Twitter because of the “click to tweet” tool. In each message, I included text that simply said:

And if you think it’s a cool project and want to share, here’s a click-to-tweet link:

With Click to Tweet, you can set a pre-written tweet for people to share. Here was mine:

click to tweet work smarter

The idea was to make it as easy as possible for people to help spread the word, which in turn would generate more downloads.

One missed opportunity was not including a hashtag in the tweet. #Business #Entrepreneurship or even #Kindle could have led to wider discoverability, sharing, and possibly even becoming a trending topic.

By Sunday evening, I had nearly 400 messages ready to go out in the morning. I’d never attempted anything like this before and didn’t how reliable Streak would be or if my Gmail would get shut down.

(As a small hedge, I scheduled the messages to go out roughly a minute apart from each other, rather than blasting all of them out at 5am!)

Screenshot showing Drafts

I could barely sleep on Sunday night because I was nervous and excited to see what would happen on Monday morning!

To be fair, I have nothing to compare it to, but in my mind the email campaign was a huge hit. It generated an excellent response rate (37% overall, and 44% among contributors).

More than 200 people shared the book on Twitter and Facebook, with a combined “reach” in the hundreds of thousands.

Cost: $65 worth of Fancy Hands tasks

My Vanity Domain

You’ll notice my Click to Tweet pre-populated text included the vanity domain worksmarter.co, rather than a direct link to Amazon.

I wanted to do this for a couple reasons. First, I thought it would look cooler, and second, it would give me a way to track the clicks.

Plus, it gave me an easy to say and remember domain to mention on my podcast, and if I ever wanted to build out a companion website to the book, I’d be set.

In my hosting cPanel, I set up the domain to redirect to the book’s page on Amazon. And you know what? I used my affiliate link. 

domain redirect

A surprise benefit

Normally it would be unheard of for hundreds of people to share your affiliate link on twitter, but that’s exactly what happened.

Since I was giving the book away for free, I didn’t really expect to make any sales from it; it was just the only way I knew how to track the click volume. (Amazon doesn’t share their analytics with you.)

But to my surprise, because that vanity URL was spread so far and wide, it actually generated over $100 in Amazon affiliate commissions during the launch week. ($108.43 from 5071 clicks!)

Amazon.com Associates Central   Tracking ID Summary Report

Cost: -$18.34 domain registration + $108.43 commission = net gain of $90.09

Free Book Promo Lists

In addition to your own marketing efforts, there are dozens of sites that share free and cheap Kindle books.

I don’t know how effective these are because there’s no way to track how many downloads come from each. Still, it doesn’t hurt to submit your book.

I had Fancy Hands submit Work Smarter to these sites:

Not all free promo sites will make a great fit for your genre (for instance, some specialize in fiction), and not all will promote your book. Your best bet is to cast a wide net and try and generate some downloads by sharing on these sites.

I used 2 Fancy Hands requests on this. (There are also Fiverr sellers who promise to do this for you.)

Cost: $5.20


Aside from your regular social media updates, there are several Facebook groups dedicated to sharing free Kindle books.

To me, it looks like these groups are primarily filled with authors eager to “check the box” and cross this marketing channel of their list, but when the membership numbers are in the thousands it can’t hurt to post.

Here are the top 5 free Kindle promo groups on Facebook in terms of members:

  1. Free E-Books Download
  2. Free Kindle and Nook eBooks for Readers
  3. Free Kindle Books
  4. Awesome Free Kindle Books Here!
  5. Free Books

I wouldn’t depend on these types of groups to deliver you many downloads, but it only takes a second to join the group and drop in your book’s info.

Naturally, if you’re active in any Facebook groups already and the content of your book is relevant, be sure to post there as well. I’m confident those posts will perform much better than the random Kindle freebie group posts.

For example, I’ve been a member of Pat Flynn’s Kindle Author Facebook Group for a couple years, so I made sure to share my launch along with a little insight on how I used Fancy Hands to support the book’s creation and marketing plan.

One thing I screwed up on Facebook during the week was on my own personal sharing. I posted a screenshot picture of the book at #1 on the Business charts, with a link to the Amazon page, but didn’t think to adjust my privacy settings.

My settings are that only friends can view my photos, even when they get shared by others — so when the post got shared a dozen times, it didn’t have nearly the reach it could have if I’d opened up the privacy settings for that one photo.

Live and learn.

Cost: Free!


I searched LinkedIn for groups I thought might be interested in the book’s material.

This included keywords like “small business,” “entrepreneur,” “entrepreneurship,” “productivity,” and a handful of others. I was surprised to find some groups with over 10,000 members.

All were “open” groups that anyone could join, however some put my book promo posts into moderation while others allowed me to post immediately.

I just wrote a short post explaining what the book was about and how it might benefit the members of the group, and dropped the link to Amazon, mentioning that it was free today.

Again, I don’t have any way to measure the effectiveness of this effort, but it didn’t take much time and had a “nominal” reach of tens of thousands of people. (I say “nominal” because I’m sure only a fraction of those group members actually saw it.)

Cost: Free!


With Quora, I had Fancy Hands create a list of Quora questions related to online resources, Internet tools, productivity apps, and other relevant keywords.

Then I went in and offered an answer to the question, throwing in a link at the bottom with a note like, “And if you’re interested, I just finished a book project on this very topic. It’s free this week on Amazon.”

Cost: $2.60

The Free Promo Results

In total, I gave away 20,215 copies of Work Smarter over the 5-day launch.

By the end of my email and Twitter blitz on Monday, I’d cracked the Top 100 free books on all of Amazon — fiction, non-fiction, everything — and added another 9 reviews.

Ranked 99 overall, 21 reviews after day 1

Yet while the bulk of my external efforts were focused on Monday, the biggest download days were Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

That’s because the early efforts helped bump up the book’s rank in Amazon.

Amazon launch report

The book continued to pick up more reviews and climb the ranks throughout the week, eventually hitting #1 in Business, #2 in all non-fiction, and #13 overall.

Number 1 in free Business kindle

But while giving away 20,000 copies (and generating a few hundred email sign-ups) is great, it doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

The Transition from Free to Paid

Like I said, I originally set the free promo period to run all 5 days, Monday through Friday, but it was that conversation with Chandler Bolt that changed my mind.

He explained that every book that comes off a free promo has roughly a 3-hour window during which it will still rank on Amazon’s free charts.

If you let your free promo expire naturally in the middle of the night, your odds of capitalizing on that exposure are not great. But cut it off manually in the middle of the day, different story.

So on his recommendation, I pulled the plug around mid-day on Friday, and changed the price to $0.99.

Why $0.99?

I put the book at $0.99 on Friday (and actually through the weekend) with the hopes of continuing the launch momentum. If people were browsing the free charts and thought the book looked interesting, a $0.99 hurdle should be relatively small one to overcome.

Between Friday and Sunday, I sold 460 copies at that price point, earning roughly $160 in royalties. (Amazon only pays 35% for books less than $2.99 or over $9.99.

Marketing tip: I also updated the first line of my book description to read “Just $0.99 for a limited time!”

You can make this text bold in you KDP description by adding <b>tags around your text</b>.

The book was still ranking well, just on the paid charts now. Transition success!

Adding a Paperback Version

During week 2, I added a paperback version of the book using CreateSpace.

CreateSpace is a print-on-demand service that’s owned by Amazon. There are a couple reasons why every book should have a paperback version:

  1. Not everyone has a Kindle.
  2. It makes your Kindle book like a comparatively better deal.

If you price your paperback version at $8.99 or $9.99, your Kindle version will look like a relative steal next to it:

Kindle price vs createspace price

Love that prominent “You Save: $7.00 (70%)!”

And on top of that, a certain percentage of buyers will opt for the paperback edition, so it’s nice to give them the option as well.

A Passive Income Asset?

Going forward, my hope is that Work Smarter can continue to help people looking to be more efficient and productive online. If it does, it stands a great chance to become a passive income asset for months or years into the future.

(Already looking forward to a revised and expanded 2015 edition!)

So far, it appears to be working. In the 8 hours it took to write this post, it sold another 14 copies.

Nick Loper is an author, online entrepreneur, and life-long student in the game of business. His latest role is as Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, a growing resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs. Looking to add more financial freedom to your life? Grab Nick’s free resource guide to the 5 Fastest Ways to Earn More Money here.

And finally as a reminder if you’d like to check out Nick’s course (and receive a 75% discount), here is the link again: http://www.stevescottsite.com/kindle-launch-plan

Take Action. Get Results.

91 thoughts on “[Kindle Launch] Behind the Scenes of a 20,000 Download Book Launch”

  1. Steve, thanks for letting me share this!

    The whole project was a ton of fun and putting together this recap post was a blast as well. I didn’t really realize all the work that went into the launch until I started outlining everything I did.

    Goes to show the free-to-paid model can still work.

  2. Nick,

    Well done! Seriously appreciate the detail and strategies you shared. What fool still thinks Blog readers only want 300 word superfluous time wasters with bullets?

    First, I’m going to print & study this guest post. Second, I’m going to invest in your book.

    Thank You,
    Royal Paine

  3. Awesome post, Nick! I appreciate how much detail you put into it. Great information here for indie authors like me.

    I grabbed a copy of it while it was free and am really looking forward to going through it, as I’m a “resource junkie.” 🙂

  4. Nick you’ve put a MASSIVE effort into this launch and it paid off. Congrats!

    You have no idea how good now I feel about my launch in January 😉 I gave away only 3.5k copies, hit #74 on the free list and I made $1280 in the first month.
    You can check it out here:

    My plan was less elaborate and based mainly on several guest post, freebie FB groups and freebie sites.
    I also didn’t cut the promo off. Still, I sold 66 copies in the first paid day.

      • Shorter but to the point.
        As Steve pointed out in one of his Kindle books a specialized guide sells better as something with a lot of fluff.
        OTOH, it could also be used as bonus material / casestudy.

        Nick, I also checked out your site with the 38k products. Fantastic idea.
        How much maintenance do you do for that per day/week?
        You could also reply by email: tom@ mysitename.

        Thanks again for the useful information and have a nice day!

  5. In the last 30 days I made roughly $230 on it, selling 4 copies per day on average (big chunk was $0.99 promo). The previous 30 days – about $385, and 30 days before that – about $425.

  6. Great stuff Nick – I have actually commented to Steve several times that I think he is too harsh with some of his “free no longer works” ideas. I think people like Steve want “metrics” and “proof” that a free promo works – but the benefits are often much more intangible and impossible to track. How much is a review worth? How much is a back link with a “people who bought X also bought your book” worth? How much is a future repeat customer worth? How much is an opt in worth? It is impossible to track all of these in the short term or with links. But I think you have planted a lot of great seeds in the amazon garden! Nice work!

    • Thanks Tim — excellent points. I didn’t even consider the possible “people who bought X also bought…” benefits.

      Another free platform some friends have been experimenting with lately is NoiseTrade.com. It doesn’t have the scale Amazon does, but it has the benefit of giving authors the email addresses of those who download their titles.

  7. Steve

    Thanks for an in-depth, warts-and-all look at your launch. As someone who is putting together an ebook, your insights are so valuable.

    I especially appreciate your honesty about where you could have done a better job. Your (tiny) stumbles will help me avoid some of the pitfalls you discuss.

    BTW – the book is really a terrific compilation. You’ve really gathered some great resources. (and the cover your wife designed really sells the contents well).

    Thanks again.

    Patricia Browne

  8. Nick,
    Thanks for the detailed explanation of the book creation process and how you got it to market. This information is very insightful and valuable to me.
    I got your book when it was free-thank you, but hadn’t read it until I saw this post with Steve Scott who I follow. So thanks Steve!
    I read your book today and will take more time to explore the links in the next few days-it will take some time with this massive list for sure. Many, many helpful and dynamic tools to increase productivity and reach goals.
    I left you a positive review and if you need beta readers in the future-count me in. Thanks for the lesson today!
    Teri Hanna

  9. Thanks so much, Nick, for the 8-hours of time-intensive writing you gave to this post. I am very, very grateful for the massive amount of guidance I received. I’m also grateful to Steve for his generous willingness to provide his readers with ongoing, valuable information. I am about to launch my first eBook, and a major difficulty I’ve had (until now) is deciding whether to allow free downloads or to begin at $.99. You’ve convinced me that there are more benefits to the free download than having to deal with a bad review from someone who would never buy the book anyway. This is a great post.

    PS The comments from others are all on-point and also contain good advice. Wow, talk about win-win!

  10. Wow Nick, congratulations on your success!

    I just wanted to say that another great place to submit free promo books is http://www.worldliterarycafe.com

    I have done this myself and the results are significant.

    Question: what time zone should we consider when ending the free promo mid-day?

    • Cool, thanks for the tip Kayvee! I cut mine around noon Pacific, but naturally didn’t have the opportunity to “split-test” results for different time zones.

  11. Wow! Nick on Steve’s site! Two cool guys that I really admire. Just like everyone else here has said, thank you Nick for such a detailed post! I had to read it twice and took notes to create a actual checklist.

    I just did a quick peak and it looks like the book is still doing well. I picked it up myself and will get you a review as soon as I finish the book. Thanks again Nick and thank you Steve!

  12. Hi Nick,

    Thanks you very much for sharing this superb work. A comprehensive step by step how to launch a book – one of my greatest dream. With this, it’s it’s time for me to put into action.

  13. Hi Nick and Steve:

    Hey, congratulations on the successful launch, Nick. I’m amazed at all you were able to achieve. I’ve just about given up, everything’s blowing up in my face in recent weeks. I have 4 ebooks live at Amazon and 3 or more coming later this year. I did just what you did, went FREE on Select for one of my titles last Monday to Friday. It’s had 65 downloads so far, which is amazing. It’s encouraging to see what’s possible with your launch. But I really tend to think it’s just hugely out of reach. Everything’s just collapsing in my efforts to keep the ebooks coming. And my website exploded tonight when I tried to load a badge in a sidebar. Now I’m shut out completely. Sorry, I’m venting.

    Congratulations! Awesome what you’ve able to achieve.

    Stephen Carter

    • Thanks Stephen. A couple months ago I probably would have told you these results WERE out of reach, because I’d certainly never seen anything close to it on my other books.

      Keep at it.

  14. Awesome stuff Nick!

    Are you using this same plan with the coming Kindle books or is this just a blueprint you used this one time?

    And hey … Why not actually turning this post into Kindle book itself (How to Launch a Kindle Book)? 😉


    • Haha thanks — it definitely could be some seed material for a new book project. I think I’d have to add some other authors’ input as well to get some different tactics and perspectives, especially on the fiction side.

  15. Congrats Nick, and thank you for the shoutout.

    Fantastic write up and excellent reference – both this blogpost, the podcast episode you dedicated to this, and the book itself.

    You’ve taken anthology to a whole new level 🙂 and are showing us the way. Thank you.


  16. Hi Nick,

    Awesome post. I just launched my second ebook in July. I am still learning a ton of things. I can related to a lot of things which I did the dumb way. No use of any tools you had mentioned. I kept asking permission to my facebok friends and regular friends if they agree to review my ebook. It was very painful to get them put a review before you did the free promo. Your post just blew me away. I did not know that there are so many tools (merchant words.com.. I was looking for something like this.. ).you are just amazing.. such a transparent post.. I have one question though.. why do you want to post 5 days free promo? Does it help in sustaining the ranking.. I did a free promo for 2 days.. I got 427 downloads in first 15 hours. ranking went to 738 in free kindle store.. I thought reach is good.. stopped the free promo. but you when paid ranking came. it was 179,080.. Oh No :(.. I still could not understand the reason.. if you have any idea.. it might benefit all kindle publishers..

    • Thanks Rama, and congrats on getting your book out there!

      The reason for the 5-day promo was to get it in the hands of as many people as possible, because a certain percentage of those would join my email list and a certain percentage would leave reviews.

      I could have cut off the promo on Thursday when momentum was it the peak, and switched to $0.99 at that time, but I’d already made some promises that it would be free all week. Live and learn. The ability to kill off the promo manually and switch the price to $0.99 I think is key — you’ll have a lot of eyeballs on the title if it’s still ranking highly.

      • Hi Nick,

        Thank you for that detailed reply..now I get it why you wanted a 5 day promo..

        By the way – I am really happy for you. Congratulations. I just checked the book ranking.. it is doing really really well. I will also reach that ranking one day.. :).

        Just on a side note – maybe your or Steve can help me help with this. I am breaking my head to find out what opt-in box has Steve used at the end of this blog post ..which is linked to the text (P.S: Struggling with Kindle business…)..if you can let us know.. it would be kind.

  17. Thank you Nick for this great info!
    You did a pretty nice job thanks to the experts you hired. I wonder will your tactics work for a fiction as well? Do you have any recommendations for hiring a marketing agency for a fictional writer?

    • Thanks Antara!

      For fiction help I generally send people over to Joanna at TheCreativePenn.com or Ani Alexander at AniAlexander.com. Admittedly it’s not my area of expertise so if anyone else has suggestions, please feel free to chime in.

  18. Holy S**t a real no nonsense post about what it is really like to do this.
    Love it. Learned some things.
    P.S. Pick you up from linkedin

  19. Nice job, Steve. I am with Eric. This is the real deal. I am waiting… when are you going to blow us away with a Kindle publishing course. We need it. At least for those of us stuck in the 7-10 day sales. I noticed what you mentioned about the catalog, as soon as I added my third book, I was getting remnant traffic and sales to the other books.

      • So yesterday I was a little baffled at this… I used a service that cost $100 one-time fee and it sent out to a list of 129,000 people (all permission-based) and it generated 34 sales and 234 opt-ins and 12 add-on sales as well 45 affiliate sales.

        I talked with the owner of the list. They sent it to the wrong list. It was supposed to be sent to INACTIVE folks who haven’t purchased anything in a while from them. Hence, only $100 and no harm no fowl if it doesn’t produce squat.

        They sent it to their in-house active buyer list of internet marketing products. ONLY 567 people on that list. But very, very good buyers. All of a result of building a long-term relationship. The owner said 3-9 months before any of them bought a thing.

        Goes to show, Steve and Nick hammer this home:

        The money is in the relationship you have with your list, not the size of your list. I bet maybe 5 or so sales from the big list. Got lucky.

        And as a act of good faith, I didn’t keep the names of the buyers since it went through their InfusionSoft.

        But I used my page template from SAM Cart… Brian Moran and his team nailed it. I think that’s why it was high conversions.

  20. Hi Nick,

    Thanks! Really Thank you sooo much for writing this post! This is a real GOLD!

    A simple one page content is much much much better than many $100 kindle courses out there.

    I am looking forward to work with you in the future because I am writing on entrepreneurship too =)


    p/s: I still can’t believe you release such a high value information openly. *clap clap* kudos!!

  21. Another inspiring story! I love following authors and entrepreneurs who are still into the starting point because I see what they are going through and see how real effort pays. Your post is awesome and I definitely learned from it. I will surely follow this to start my first ebook and move forward!

    • Thanks for the comment Rob! Yeah, Nick did an incredible job with this free launch…I just checked his book and it’s still selling strong. This is a great example of what can be done if you’re willing to hustle.

  22. Hi Nick,
    I tried to use your Vanity URL trick but when I put the URL in Click to Tweet, it got shortened and the vanity was so over! Click to Tweet says they have to do that for analytics. How did you avoid it?

  23. Hi Nick,

    I’m also very interested in Teri OBrien’s question. How do you put an affiliate link to a vanity URL?

    Very nice article. I’ll definitely take some learnings from it to launch my next book!



      • Well Steve what I mean is, Nick managed to earn an additional $100 through affiliate commissions from his tweeting effort. I did not really understand how he did it. Could you make it clearer for me?

        Thanks, Steve!

  24. This is such an amazing, evergreen post! I read this one back in August and nearly 2 months later I am coming back to this one.
    I wonder, is opting an entirely free KDP Select, i.e. all 90 days your book to be free, a good idea? I write fiction and have seen writers who offer their first book from a serie for free and then the second one charts very well.
    You said Steve that still making a book for free on kDP Select is good for people with no big platform and it can generate hustle and buzz. What about all 90 days instead of only 5? I tend to think it will generate even more downloads and emails when done correctly.

    • Hey Antara — Glad you find the post to still be useful. I know Nick did a good job with putting it together.

      The only way you can do a perma-free book (for all 90+ days) is it has to be published elsewhere (like on Smashwords) for free. Then let Amazon know that it’s at a lower price. Eventually (after a few weeks) Amazon will price match it for free. Obviously, this means the book can’t be in KDP Select.

  25. Your answer just brought me to the question that is lurking in my mind: isn’t just simpler to publish an entirely free ebook? Then everyone can download it. Of course, as you say, it will exclude it from KDP Select, but so what?
    I have seen a lot of sci-fi and fictional writers, writing in series, promoting the first title from a series and then the next one, going on really well.
    I would love to hear your thoughts, is KDp Select really better than just publishing a book for free on various platforms. You can change the price at any time.

  26. Hi Steve, the link you provided was not working, it wrote: “Page not found”. However, I found the page and recorded the question.
    I am from Europe and you’ll hear my accent. Hope you’ll understand my words.

    • Got the message Antara! I understood it pretty well… I’m currently organizing the responses and trying to figure out a good order for the episodes based on importance of lesson. Will release them momentarily.

  27. Wow, what a resource Steve and Nick!

    That blast is huge. Putting on a blitz before the release really gets things moving. It’s a simple act, and more than anything, it primes the pump for a successful launch.

    Thanks for the share guys!


    • Thanks for the comment Ryan. Yeah, Nick did a great job of preparing and launching his book. I think anyone who is trying to get into Kindle Publishing can learn LOTS from his action plan.

  28. Hi Steve,

    I could not get enough of this article. I have read it twice, definitely a keeper. I appreciate the level of detail. You and Nick are a lethal combo., 🙂 I am big fan. Keep living the dream.

  29. You mentioned that your solution to creating a Kindle-savvy table of contents was to use Calibre. There’s an even simpler solution, especially if you want to bypass the ebook conversion process and upload your Word file directly to KDP. Here’s what you do: click at the beginning of your Table of Contents heading and insert a bookmark called “toc.” Yup, that’s all you need to do. This automatically makes your TOC appear in the menu of your Kindle or Kindle app.

    I wrote a short ebook called “Create Your Own Kindle Ebook” (http://www.amazon.com/Create-Your-Own-Kindle-Ebook-ebook/dp/B00RBVQYLA) that explains exactly how to do this and more.

  30. Hi Nick and Steve,
    As always, you both have been sharing wonderful assets for your followers and am one among them. You know what? I published my very first mini Kindle e-book (Emotional Intelligence for Marketing: Positive + Negative = Positive) on Amazon last week. It is about leveraging the power of “Emotional Triggers” to deliver what a customer/prospect wants.
    Honestly speaking, this blog post was one of the primary resource I referred to very often and now my book is live.
    I would be glad if you (and other readers 🙂 could take a look at it. Here is the link to my e-book http://amzn.to/1wW5tpJ
    Thanks a ton for your stet-by-step guidance. Kudos to you 🙂

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