In the beginning of 2013, I went through the exciting process of writing, publishing, and selling my first ebook on Amazon Kindle. Looking back on my experience, I definitely made some mistakes. But from those mistakes came some valuable lessons I can pass on to those of you who are about to publish your book on Amazon.
Here are 7 of the biggest lessons I learned from publishing my first book on Amazon Kindle:
This might be an obvious point for some people, but it is an important point nonetheless. Books generally don’t sell themselves. If you think all you have to do is write a book with great content, publish it, and sit back and collect the royalties from thousands and thousands of sales you are mistaken. Sure, there might be some examples of authors whose books somehow became bestsellers almost entirely through word-of-mouth, but for the rest of us, we need to put in the work required to market our book to the people who are likely to buy it.
A well-written book that nobody knows about won’t sell very many copies. A decent book armed with a great marketing strategy will. Fortunately for me, when I published that first book I already had a few thousand followers on social media, and a few hundred email subscribers to my blog. Because of that I was able to promote my book to my audience, and while this did help me get a few sales initially, I eventually had to learn how to market my book on Amazon to make sure that it would keep selling.[Tweet “Books don’t sell themselves. They need a #marketing strategy. #booklaunch #author”]
I only have the experience of publishing non-fiction books, but I am pretty sure this point applies to fiction authors as well. The title of your book is SUPER important – it can make or break your book’s success. Your book’s title needs to grab someone’s attention and give them a very clear idea of what your book is about. Especially in the non-fiction category, where readers are generally searching for solutions to very specific problems, your book’s title must communicate that it is precisely the solution they are looking for.
The first book I published was a book about selling. In this book I outlined the various steps involved in the sales process and provided many techniques and advice to help salespeople succeed, regardless of what type of product or service they are selling. This book is mainly intended for beginner salespeople, but it serves as a good refresher for those with many years of experience in this field. I decided to call the book Sell Anything – which basically implies “if you read this book, you will learn how to sell anything“.
I experimented with many different subtitles for the book until I finally settled on one that seemed to work well. I tried everything from “A System For Success In ANY Situation” to “7 Steps To Delivering The Perfect Sales Pitch” to “A Pragmatic Guide To Becoming A Top Salesperson In ANY Industry” just to name a few. This is one of the wonderful benefits of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle – you can make changes to your book as often as you’d like and see how the change impacts your sales. I finally settled on “A Turn-Key System For Succeeding In Sales”, and this subtitle has proven to be very effective. So the complete title of the book is “Sell Anything: A Turn-Key System For Succeeding In Sales”.
As I share this point, I can’t help but laugh. I have literally lost count of the number of hours I spent experimenting with different cover designs before and after I published my book Sell Anything on Amazon. Looking back, I realize just how absolutely ridiculous it was for me to spend dozens of hours in Photoshop experimenting with different designs, or making little revisions to existing designs. I honestly could have written another book in the amount of time I spent trying to make a “perfect cover”.
Here is the biggest lesson I would like to share from this experience: DO NOT design your own cover. Seriously. Designing your own cover is probably one of the biggest wastes of time, especially if you’re not a graphic designer. In fact even if you are a graphic designer, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to create a cover that appeals to your target market and sells your book. Do yourself a favor – have someone else design it for you.
Here’s what I suggest you do: go to fiverr.com, find 3 different designers, and pay them $5 each to design a professional ebook cover for you. Pick which one you like best (or maybe even test all 3 on Amazon), and ask the designer to make revisions if necessary. This process will take you all of 5 minutes and cost you only $15. This is time and money well spent.[Tweet “Your #book title and cover design can make or break your book sales. #booklaunch #author”]
You may be wondering why on earth I would tell you to give away your book for free when the whole point of publishing a book is to sell it. Allow me to explain…
People are more inclined to buy a product when they know that other people have already bought that product and enjoyed it. This is basic human nature. We don’t like to be the first to try something, and we are more inclined to try something new when there is evidence that others have tried it and had a good experience. This is precisely why a product’s reviews have such a big impact on its sales. Product reviews are testimonials from real people who share their honest opinion of a product they purchased. That opinion helps other potential buyers decide whether or not to buy the product.
If your book doesn’t have any reviews, people are less likely to buy it. And of course if no one is buying it, then it isn’t going to get reviewed. This is why you need to give away your book for free. Amazon has program to help authors give away their books for free – it’s called KDP Select. When you enroll your book in KDP Select, Amazon allows you to give away your book for free for up to 5 days every 90 day period. These are called your free promotion days.
You want as many people as possible to download your book during those free promotion days. Tell everyone you know about your free promotion. Promote your book on social media. Contact various book promotion websites and tell them which days your book is free. Your goal with each promotion is to get hundreds, even thousands of downloads. This exposure will help your book climb the ranking system on Amazon, and most importantly, collect reviews from people who download and read your book.
The last time I did a free promotion for my book Sell Anything, it was downloaded hundreds of times, climbed to #2 in the Marketing & Sales category on Amazon, and received several positive reviews that helped my book sell more copies after the free promotion was over.
When you publish an ebook on Amazon Kindle, you are allowed to choose 7 keywords for that book. Remember, Amazon is a search engine. People go to Amazon to search for products that they are interested in buying.
When someone is searching for a product on Amazon, they are going to use certain keywords to try to find that product. For example, if someone is looking for a book that will teach them how to start a blog, they will probably type the keywords “how to start a blog” into Amazon’s search bar.
You want the people who are looking for your book to find it, so you need to identify which keywords they are most likely going to use to do so. Including the keywords that your target market is most likely going to use in the title of your book will help position your book as the solution to their problem.
Once someone finds your book on Amazon, there are pretty much only 4 factors that are going to influence their decision to buy your book: its title, its cover, its reviews, and its description. Incidentally the description is one of the most overlooked aspects of the publishing process. I have seen hundreds of books on Amazon (probably good books too!) with short, vague, and even terrible descriptions. These types of descriptions certainly don’t help to sell a book.
Amazon allows you to include up to 4,000 characters in your book’s description. My advice is to use up as many of them as you can. If a potential customer has come as far as reading the description of your book, they are probably just seconds away from deciding whether or not to buy it. Make those seconds count. Here are a few tips to help you write a good description:
My last piece of advice for you is don’t try to make your book perfect before you publish it. Fortunately for me I am a pretty decent writer and I very much enjoy the process. It only took me about a week to write my first book, and another week or so to revise and edit it (yes, I edited it myself – which I actually don’t recommend). That being said, I’ve heard stories of people who spent months, even years writing their book – trying to make it “perfect”. Please don’t be one of them.
As I mentioned earlier, the wonderful thing about publishing an ebook on Amazon Kindle is that you can make changes to it pretty much instantly and as often as you want. So as soon as your book is formatted and edited (by an editor other than yourself, of course), get it online! As people read your book and write reviews, you can use that feedback to make changes to it if necessary. Over time you can take some content out, add some content in, fix a few grammar mistakes, etc. Unlike a paperback book that cannot be changed once it is printed, an ebook can be updated as often as needed.
The other reason why I highly recommend getting your book online as soon as possible is that it may not even sell. I’m not saying that you are going to write a lousy book. You might write an excellent book. But the reality is that sometimes there just isn’t a market for certain books. You don’t want to spend months, or even years writing a book only to discover that no one buys it. Write a decent book as quickly as possible, and if it turns out that there is a market for it, then consider investing more time into making it even better.[Tweet “A finished book is better than a perfect book. Stop procrastinating. #booklaunch #author”]
I know I have given you a lot of information to think about in this article. If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations. I wanted to make sure that I provided you with as much value as possible, and save you from making some of the big mistakes that I made when I first got started with Amazon Kindle publishing.
Becoming an author is a very exciting and rewarding process, and its even more exciting when your book sells! If you follow the advice that I have shared with you above, I am confident that your book will be a big success. Best of luck!
Tyler Basu is a Content Marketing Consultant and Client Acquisition Strategist that specializes in helping fast-growth startups, coaches, consultants, and service providers grow their business. He's also the Founder & Publisher of Lifestyle Business Magazine, an online magazine and podcast dedicated to helping you build a life and business on your own terms.
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