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?
Then check out these links: Part 1, part 2 and part 3.
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]RECAP: 3 Golden Rules of Kindle Publishing[/title]
#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…
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#1: “If you publish on Kindle, can you also publish the same ebook through other platforms?”[/title]
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.)
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#2: “I have a blog, can I turn my content into a book?”[/title]
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#3: “Is there a simple way to rewrite content for a Kindle book?”[/title]
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#4: “Have you heard/read of a list of sites that promote reduced books to their list (instead of free) – which we (you, I & Co) can use for Kindle Countdown Deal promos??”[/title]
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#5: “Can you use paid advertising for a Kindle book?”[/title]
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#6: “Is there a trick for increasing your ranking for a specific keyword?”[/title]
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#7: “I’m making sales with a basic 3 sentence product description. Do you think there are important for improving sales and could someone tweak theirs to get a decent return?” [/title]
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.
[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Your Questions?[/title]
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.
43 thoughts on “Kindle Publishing Questions Answered (Part 4)”
Thanks a lot for replying to my copy question, but also for everything else too. I know people will find it very useful and I hope these posts bring you a huge amount of traffic in years to come.
I’m going to spend a few hours tomorrow coming up with a much better description.
My pleasure Jamie! Forgot who originally wrote that question. 🙂 The description does take time, but it’s well worth it.
Steve, plz forgive the gobbly gook link (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=duck+dynasty&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Aduck+dynasty) but I have a question.
There are two books in that link (both are “101 Fun Facts…”) that say they were published in the last few days and yet in reality they were 1st published last year!
So what’s up with that?
And.. AND.. here’s the interesting part:
Those two books have bumped waaaay up in the search for their keywords. They are now towards the top of the 1st page.
Do you know anything about this technique?
This isn’t your link, right? To be honest, I’m not sure how that would work with all those keywords. I actually don’t really worry about the keyword stuff, but others swear by it, so I felt that it was important to mention here.
For the publishing date…Amazon has done something weird lately. Whenever you edit or update a book, they give a new publication date. Not sure if this is temporary glitch or a long-term switch. But, that’s probably why you’re seeing this date.
That’s simply a link illustrating what shows up with “duck dynasty” keywords.. and the books that now have new publishing dates.
Unfortunately my book is on the 2nd page of that search.
Thanks for explaining about the dates.
Yeah, the techy keyword thing is a bit over my head. Like I said, I prefer to build an audience instead of ranking high for a phrase.
When I add the &keywords=keyword1+keyword2 to the end of my book link and save draft within a WordPress post, it converts it to &keywords=keyword1+keyword2 and when I click on that link it gves a not found.
Do you know what I am doing wrong?
Thanks for all of your tips…
The conversion strong was supposed to look like this:
There is an amp; after the & but it’s not showing up in the previous 2 entries I made.
Bob, I would put the link inside Pretty Link instead of directly into a WordPress post. Maybe there’s some sort of funky conversion things that’s going on. To be honest, I’m not a huge technical person.
I’m not sure if you answered this question somewhere or not. Sorry if you have but I was wondering if you can add an affiliate link to your own book so that you not only get a commission but you also get the 70%?
Just published my first e-book, had a free promotion with over 1000 downloads, and now I’m not sure what to do from here. Will use your site as a resource. I think the best thing I can do is to finish my 2nd book.
You can promote your book…just not through an Amazon book. I use affiliate links all the time – like on my blog. But the Associates program has strictly forbidden this practice when it comes to the Kindle book platform.
Thanks for the info Steve. I like the fact that you actually answer questions in the comments and not all bloggers do. It means a lot to us who ask the questions… 🙂
My pleasure…happy to help! It’s also useful for my business because I get a chance to see what areas/topics people want to learn. Feel free to ask more questions anytime in the future.
OK, now that you mentioned it 🙂 Do you think there is any value in joining the Author Marketing Club? I like the fact that they have a tool that will allow you to contact reviewers to get more reviews for an e-book but I’m not sure how much more value there is in joining?
I have a fairly new e-book that was published on December 27th and have 9 5-star reviews. Do you think there is a minimum amount of reviews that I should have for my book? I have heard at least 10. What do you think?
I am really interested in your responses to the questions above. I’m loving your site and your honest responses BTW…
I like the idea of AMC. I feel the owner is there to really cares about helping authors, but I’m not sure the tool is all that helpful. That said, I’ve never tried it, so it might be the world’s greatest promotional tool. From my experience, the best way to get reviews is to engage readers and encourage people to download/review when a book is launched. Neither strategy is short-term solution, but it’s what I typically focus on. I don’t think there’s a “minimum” for reviews…I’ve had books with 8 reviews sell a few thousand copies and books with 60+ reviews that don’t sell well. 9 is good for now. My advice would be to get that next book into the marketplace. 🙂
Thanks for the reply. I think I’m going to keep my money for now and not invest in AMC and spend my time finishing up my next book. Thanks for your candid replies!
My pleasure Bob!
So, to clarify, I can add an affiliate link to the sidebar of my own blog for my own book, correct? That way, if someone clicks on that link and buys my book, I not only get the 70% but I also get the commission. This is not against Amazon’s policies, correct?
It sounds like only if I add an affiliate link within an Amazon book to another Amazon book or to any other Amazon product, that is a problem.
Yes, that’s what I do. Just click on one of my books to the bottom right…you know you want to 🙂 … and you’d see that it uses an Associates link. This is definitely by the book by Amazon because they want websites to link to their products. It’s only in the Kindle books that it becomes a problem.
Understood. I misunderstood what you had stated earlier. I actually didn’t think I could use my Amazon Associates link on one of my books from my website or other sites. It’s nice to know that I can…
Unrelated question, I notice that your sidebar is on the right side and that’s where your books are located with a fixed widget. As I mentioned to you before, I was able to acquire a fixed widget plugin that works great and it was for free.
Do you think that using a right sidebar is more prone to resulting in conversions on your ebooks or signups for your mailing list? I have a left sidebar now and was wondering if you had any information about sidebars left/right which is why you chose a right sidebar?
It does a decent job of converting…but it’s been awhile since I’ve test conversion. The one thing I’d recommend (for any web page) that you control is to go to Google Analytics and set up a “Goals” for your content. For instance, on my DGH blog, I now know what spots/traffic sources are actually converting. Getting this kind of data is important for knowing where to go with your business.
OK Steve, I’ll look into what Goals is all about.
A question after reading the post: is there any risk involved in reusing the Kindle book content? Creating a blog posts, courses and so on?
I assume it is in KDP Select of course.
My honest answer is maybe. As far as I understand the rule is you can’t have the exact content elsewhere…but if it’s completely re-written, then that should be enough. I’ve looked over the Terms of Service and didn’t see anything that said you can’t do a complete work-over of your own content.
Book promotion site survive by using their own affiliate links. Why would they accept the authors shortlink? Asking them forcefully to use your affiliate link is just going to get you denied for promotion. Things have to be win-win for both parties, you want to make money with your own affiliate ID of amazon and want to showcase the book for free too? Why should book promotion sites do that for free for you? That’s just outright selfish thinking.
Kunal — I’m sorry, I strongly disagree. Yes, if you’re using a free site for a promotion, then I have no problem with them using their own link. Everyone needs to make money and run their business. But if I’m PAYING for an ad, then I expect to get some sort of tracking and conversion numbers. That’s how things work with a real business. If someone refuses to offer me the ability to track my paid ad, then I have no problem walking away from the deal.
Hi Scott! I started blogging with a focus on building my audience first and later think about the product. Now that I have realized that I think I will do best on ebooks (as I love writing), I am distracted and itchy to test the waters by coming up with an ebook. But I keep postponing this and keep changing my mind.
Should I focus on achieving my targeted subscriber number or is it okay to distract myself a little by working on this mini ebook to test?
Rob— Honestly, I’d say go with the book. It’s been my experience that when you build up a catalog of books, people come to your blog. And if you use the book to build your email list, you can send those subscribers to your post. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but with Kindle it often makes more sense to create the product and then worry about traffic generation.
I concur what Steve has said. My blogging skills are hopeless. My SEO sucks. But half of my traffic is from my books.
I started the other way around – first books then blog and it’s ineffective, too. Blog+Kindle=synergy.
I also agree with Steve. I’ve had a blog site for over 2 years now and have built up a mailing list but I just finished my first e-book which I am hoping will drive more membership in my mailing list. I also think multiple books is even better which is where I am focusing my efforts now.
To be honest, once you write your first one, the mystery is gone on how to format it and publish it. I have also made it a point to keep good notes so that the 2nd book will be better than the first one as far as how it looks, etc. I know one thing, my traffic to my blog has increased substantially since the free promotion. I’m waiting the 30 days to do a Countdown Deal which should also help. Good luck and finish that first e-book! It took me a year because I let it go for months at a time.
Thanks for the assist Bob & Michal. I do find that with enough books and building an email list, you’ll start to build traffic to a blog. That said, you do want to provide content that’s worth reading (why I’ve started these posts).
Great blog post, thank you. Love your books. Decided I needed to find your blog today to stay up on the latest. Just reading your Is 99 Cents the New Free book right now. I have to agree with you 100% about KDP Select free days. I just did a free promo the week between Christmas and New Years for a memoir title. It made it to #5 on the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers Free list and had over 38,000 downloads (thanks in big part to BookBub.) It stayed in the top 100 during the free days and garnered about 45 reviews (some low reviews but most 5 star). Anyway, the point I want to make is that after the promo I did not see an ROI. I’m averaging about 5 sales per day since the promo. So will definitely try the Kindle Countdown sale next time instead of the free days. Although I did get contacted by a literary agent in Korea who said a publisher there was interested in the foreign translation rights which also led to another literary agent in Japan taking on the book. So it was great for getting lots of reviews and exposure. But not great sales. Anyway, just wanted to share. And I’ll keep following your blog. Thanks! Katie
Hey Katie — Thanks for stopping by. Free promos are definitely hit or miss these days. I had one recently (11,000 downloads) that lead to a permanent increase in sales (by 5 or so a day). But I haven’t replicated this success as of yet. Countdown Deals are awesome though… Sometimes they don’t always work, but I’ve never lost money by dropping the price down to $.99 for a few days. I’m testing a bunch of things with this tool and will updated anything here on the blog.
Question for you…I’ve been looking into a few niches on Amazon and I’ve found some where the books have a ranking of say #737,129 Paid in Kindle Store but are not ranked in any individual categories. Would this be because they are not listed in any specific categories or are they just ranking so bad they’re not showing up?
I just read all 4 question and answer pages, and I’m on information overload! I’m happy I found your site. I just grabbed copy of your 44 answers book.
In the past I’ve taken pride in learning the hard way, but I want to have a good experience publishing my books!
Devin — Glad you got use from the four posts. I’m in the middle of putting together videos instead of the straight answers…so stay tuned for more information on them.
Glad to know your view about all these questions and I strongly believed you are on point
Great stuff. Every post here is worth grabbing. I really like the tip about creating separate links for each fiverr contract and tracking their success. Nothing worse than repeating the same mistakes.
Thanks Hugh — glad you got use from the post. Received your FB message the other day, if you want to chat just let me know.
I don’t know if you’ll get this massage.
I heard you on the James Altucher Podcast, you were talking about
your books with kindle publishing.
You mentioned that if we wanted a good E-Cover guy, to e-mail you and
you would provide that info.
Can you send that info to me?
Because of you & James, I’m close publishing a book.
I’m so grateful to you guys.
Thanks for listening Joe and checking out this blog. Would you mind emailing me directly: stevescottsite[at]gmail[dot]com
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