I published my first ebook in 2011.
I was inspired by Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield to pick myself, skip the gatekeepers, and do the work. Since then, I’ve published two more books and a couple of short stories. All available in Kindle format at Amazon. (My first book is also available at Barnes & Noble. The others will soon be available there as well.)
Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons worth passing on to others who are also interested in jumping into the ebook business.
Here you go:
1. The best software I’ve found for publishing an ebook is Scrivener. This cheap little piece of software will take you all the way from sketching your first ideas to compiling the manuscript in the proper format before you upload it to Amazon. I do all of my writing in Scrivener. Like my brain, I’m likely accessing less than 10% of its capability. Nevertheless, I’m completely satisfied with the result.
2. A blog is a great place to test and refine ideas for an ebook. If you’ve maintained a blog for a few years, you probably already have a couple of ebooks scattered throughout your archives. They’re sitting there waiting for you to edit, compile, and upload them. Just make sure you tweak them enough that your book doesn’t read like a collection of repurposed blog posts. In other words, take out the part at the end of each post where you ask for responses in the comment section.
3. This is so obvious that it will make you think I was accessing only 3% of my brain when I wrote this post, but I’ll say it anyway. Ebooks don’t exist in the real world. You can’t stack them on a shelf or sell them at the back of the room when you’re giving a talk. You can’t hand out free copies to potential clients. I’ve told a lot of people about my books, but they have to make the effort to go to Amazon and look at them.
4. Since ebooks don’t exist in the real world, if people aren’t talking about your ebook on twitter or facebook, you’re not going to sell many copies. If social media likes your book, you’re going to have lots of fun checking your sales stats every hour.
5. One tweet from a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) is worth a hundred tweets from people with less than a hundred followers. When devising your marketing strategy, identify a few KOLs who might like your book and send them a free copy. Then pray.
6. The secret to selling more ebooks is to give the first few hundred away. This is counter-intuitive, I know. You’ve just spent countless hours getting it ready to release into the wild. You want to be rewarded for your work. The last thing you want to do is give away the first hundred copies, but that’s the best way to get people talking about it. If you take points 3, 4, and 5 seriously, this one will make more sense.
7. Invest the majority of your time and energy getting your ebook ready for Kindle format. I get a few requests for books in iBook or ePub format, but they are few and far between. Most of the copies you sell will be in Kindle format.
8. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know that you don’t have to have a Kindle reader to read a Kindle ebook. Amazon has a variety of apps available for smartphones, iPads, and computers. Be prepared to explain this to people over and over again.
9. Many people still haven’t jumped on the digital bandwagon. They want to read hard copy books. I’ve missed out on sales because my books are only available as ebooks.
10. The price point matters. I’ve sold a lot of books for 2.99. Much less for 4.99. Almost none for 7.99. You want to price your ebook low enough that it is an easy impulse buy for potential readers. If I see an ebook that looks good to me for less than five bucks, I’ll buy it. If it costs more than that, it goes on the wish list. You don’t get paid for the number of times your book shows up on a wish list.
11. Readers of ebooks seem to be pretty forgiving about typos. I’ve had a handful of readers send me emails when they find a typo or grammar goof. This is not an excuse for publishing sloppy copy. Just a reminder that it doesn’t have to be perfect before it ships.
12. The key to releasing a well-edited self-published ebook is to build a small team of friends and family who have different editorial specialties. I have one person on my team who is great about finding small typos. Another catches subject-verb agreement issues. Another sees the big picture and tells me when my conclusion would work better as an introduction. By the time they’re done with the manuscript, they’ve caught the big stuff that annoys even the most forgiving of readers.
13. It is a lot easier to achieve Bestseller status on Amazon than you might think. It’s not so much about how many copies you sell over the course of a week or a month, but how fast you sell a handful of books in a day. If sales pop and your books hits #1 in its category, take a screenshot for future promotional use, because it probably won’t stay there long.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written above or about something I didn’t cover, leave a comment. I love talking about this stuff.