There’s a book in you that’s waiting to be written; I can pretty much guarantee that!
Yours could be a book that compliments the physical items or services you already sell, or it could be completely unrelated to anything else you’ve done professionally.
It could be a manual for piecing great outfits together, a technical step-by-step guide, a cookbook, relationship self-help, fiction novel, memoir, 40 pages long, or 200 pages long… point is, there’s definitely something in your head that others could benefit from knowing if you only got it out.
Publishing a book can reap great perks: A new stream of income. Credibility. Reputation. Influence. And it can be done completely online. (Am I beginning to sound like the guy from the infomercials– “And you can have it all for just 10 low payments of $19.95”!?)
Understandably, it’s not uncommon for a smart, driven individual to have a “book dream”– maybe you’ve already had one for a while? Or the success of authors like Amanda Hocking and E.L. James (who both self-published their now-famous novels through Amazon) have planted some intrigue?
If so, today’s post is for you… I’ve gathered some awesome information specifically about self-publishing online through Amazon, or what Amazon itself refers to as “Kindle Direct Publishing” or “KDP.”
Not just any readily Google-able information, though. Rather, through e-mail and Facebook messaging, I was able to interview several authors who have done this themselves. Here they are, our resident experts:
Andrea Travillian of takeasmartstep.com
Darcy Pattison.com of darcypattison.com
Jaimi Sorrell of plotfishpress.com
L. Raquel Peterson of sexyfocusedambitious.com
Lisa Angelettie of LisaAngelettieBlog.com
Tony Tovar of nichemonger.com
Cool as these people are, none of them are mega-celebrities. They’re a lot like you. And I think that’s why you’ll find their insights around each of their experiences so helpful. Now on to the questions!
1. What inspired your decision to self-publish?
Andrea: “[I] did not want to go through the process of finding a publisher, and since I decided to just use Amazon it was an easy process to manage on my own.”
Cara: “I heard about the successes other people have had on Amazon, and I love the idea of getting my work out there without having to wait around for the gatekeepers.”
Darcy: “Because I had a built an audience at my speaking engagements, it made sense to self-publish…”
Jaimi: “I worked for several years in television network publicity, and also corresponded at one point with a member of a writing group I belonged to who also turned out to be an editor at one of the big six publishing houses. We figured out pretty quickly that our two industries were very similar in a lot of ways. She was always tearing her hair out over where the acquisition money was going in her company…she’d spend a ton of time trying to find good manuscripts, only to be told that the budget for the quarter had already been spent on some celebrity cook book. When I finally got ready to revive the old writing and publishing dream, there was no way I wanted to spend the next ten years of my life fighting those odds.”
Lauryn: “My decision to self-publish was largely impulsive. I had been in Internet Marketing for a while, and had been hitting a few road bumps. I was out of work and didn’t have money, but had marketable skills and a go-getter attitude. I read a WSO (Warrior Special Offer from the Warrior Forum) regarding making “hundreds” of dollars per week with Amazon Kindle and I was like, “Hmm, I’ll check this out.” When I finally did, I skimmed and realized there was a relatively easy publishing process that was literally FREE to use as long as you didn’t mind formatting and doing the hefty part of the work yourself. Once I created my first book – a very small manual that was experimentally published in a matter of hours – I’ll say 24 hours – and saw sales within a week, I was good to go!”
Lisa: “I am a control freak! I wanted total control of my projects from start to finish. When I write. When I publish. What to charge. Etc.”
Tony: “As a Nichepreneur, I’m always looking for ways to market products or services. Amazon is an awesome venue for both and so I naturally began learning everything I could about how to sell a book on amazon. Creating a book was part of that learning curve :)”
2. How many times now have you self-published on Amazon?
Andrea: “1… and 1 getting ready to go live in the next week.”
Cara: “I’ve got seven titles available on Amazon, and one more in the works, but five of them are shorts taken from a larger work. The idea of the shorts is to give people a taste and encourage them to go on and buy the bigger book.”
Darcy: “My first children’s picture book was 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph… I have followed that with a children’s nature book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years… I will also be publishing teacher resource books…”
Jaimi: “I’ve started the ball rolling with other people’s projects while I work on getting my own first book ready. Right now my fledgling company, Plotfish Press (which is basically me and my best friend and often writing partner, Ramona Simmons), has three books on Amazon by two different authors, and we have two more projects that will debut in the immediate future. And that’s not even counting what I’m working on of my own! Our specialty is science fiction and fantasy – two of the existing books are in a series called “Takers” by Chris Davis, and their genre is what we’re calling “vampire noir.” Very hot and gritty. The third is a beautiful Japanese-style fairy tale for grownups called “The Tale of Rinji,” by Janet Coleman Sides. Takers III is scheduled to come out in November of this year (oh, do I wish I could write as fast as Chris can, she’s a powerhouse!), and we are currently working on our only non-fiction project at this point, a travel-themed book called “Travels with a Penguin,” by Pen Quiller. We never saw ourselves doing a travel book, but this one is so much fun, partly because it’s the story of a fifty-something woman from England who came to a crossroads in her life and decided to shake things up by taking a trip around the world, solo, on a budget. We think a lot of people will identify with that one, and perhaps it might even inspire them to take a similar trip themselves, even if they thought they couldn’t afford it!”
Lauryn: “About 5 times. Of the 5, I find that I’m doing particularly good with one niche, it’s actually a niche I’m very passionate about. (Pun might be intended.)”
Lisa: “5 books in 3 different niches.”
Tony: “I’ve published one book and we are working on several more for the same audience. Our goal is to keep our pen names very niche oriented.”
3. Is your work for sale in digital form only or do you have physical versions as well?
Andrea: “Digital only.”
Cara: “I just set up one book in CreateSpace (waiting to get my proof copy in the mail now!), but otherwise it’s all digital.”
Darcy: “Some are ebooks, some are ebooks and [“print on demand”]. I do what seems reasonable for each title.”
Jaimi: “Digital only for now. One of the great things about the ebook format is that it gives you the opportunity to test not only the popularity of the books themselves but also different methods of publicity and promotion. Everything can be subject to revision, including the cover art. And the beauty of ebooks is that not only is their only real cost in labor, they also require no warehouse storage space, they aren’t subject to the bookstores’ returns policy and they never, ever go out of print. Win-win!”
Lauryn: “Currently, my work is only in digital form. I plan to expand across various media channels with time and courage.”
Lisa: “Digital only.”
Tony: “Digital Form only for now.”
4. Is your work available for sale on any other websites aside from Amazon?
Andrea: “My Amazon books are exclusive to Amazon only. I do have a workbook that I sell through my own site only.”
Cara: “One of my books is available on my site and through Smashwords to Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc. The others are exclusive to Amazon.”
Darcy: “My own website, B&N and most online retailers.”
Jaimi: “Yes, on Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). Smashwords provides the opportunity to make books available in other formats besides just for the Kindle, so that people who own other ereaders can purchase the books. Smashwords also puts your books into the iBookstore and the Sony bookstore, to name just two of their outlets.
There are recent sales promotions by Amazon that require making books exclusive to their platform, though, for a period of time – so we might be trying that in the future with one of our books, just to see what the results would be. It’s important to always test, test and then test some more to see what produces the best results.”
Lauryn: “Formerly, my work was for sale on PubIt via Barnes and Noble. However, Amazon’s currently running KDP publishing incentives that provide royalties for borrowed books in their lending library. You’re required to maintain an exclusive relationship with Amazon for 90 days in order to take advantage of this for each book you publish.”
Lisa: “My plan was to publish on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple but I really liked Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program. So for now I’m only Amazon.”
Tony: “Amazon is our testing grounds, it really makes testing easier because you have the audience numbers without having to go out and look for them.”
5. How does self-publishing fit into your overall income strategy– “play money,” part-time gig, full-time job? What other work do you do?
Andrea: “This is my monetization strategy for my business. I teach personal finance, and my income comes from products such as the ebooks and private coaching. Self publishing has just made this all easier.”
Cara: “My goal is for the self-publishing income to pay some of my living expenses, but so far it’s closer to play money. I also sell other products through my blog and offer a Kindle/ePub formatting service for others who want to self-publish.”
Darcy: “As a freelance author, my income stream must be varied and I value every new income stream available.”
Jaimi: “The plan is to make it a full time gig. I really believe it’s possible, I’ve seen others do it. It will just take a lot of study and trial and error with the marketing aspect of things. And it can take a while until that first project catches fire. I did try to do this alongside a full time job for a while, but something had to give, since there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for both. Perhaps if I’d been a lot younger when I started this venture! My partners got together and decided that they wanted us to succeed badly enough to provide support, since I’m the one with the experience so I must ride point. So I am truly finding out what it means to raise a company by some very slender bootstraps. Wouldn’t trade the experience, though, despite the high levels of anxiety it often brings!”
Lauryn: “Self-publishing is about 20 – 30% of my overall monthly income (by rough estimation), and nearly 95% of my consistent Internet business earnings. I currently freelance about 20 or 30 hours per week, and am going to school full time another 20 or 30 hours per week. I plan on leveraging my success in a manner that eliminates the need for freelancing within the next 90 days.”
Lisa: “I have built a content marketing and copywriting business on a solid multiple streams of income model. Self publishing is one of my income streams and I use it as much as for income generation as I do for platform building for myself and my clients.”
Tony: “I’m a web marketing strategist by trade. In my spare
time I like to learn more about marketing through actually researching, creating and marketing each product or service I create.”
6. Did you find the process of self-publishing through Amazon easy or difficult to do? What may have been the most confusing or time-intensive part?
Andrea: “Very easy, the most confusing part is how to effectively manage the sales process for non-fiction. Most everything written is about fiction books. The most time intensive part is actually the writing.”
Cara: “I found the publishing process itself very easy, but I found the formatting frustrating and time-consuming until I got familiar with how it works. There are a lot of tiny things you can do wrong and waste hours trying to track down–not fun! That’s why I started offering this as a service to others once I got good at it. With that under control, the marketing is the hardest part for me.”
Darcy: “The most time-intensive part of the process is the graphic design of the book, including the cover.”
Jaimi: “The process is easy except for one thing – formatting for the Kindle is an absolute bear. Think learning to fly an old tail-dragging biplane where everything has to be done by hand (and foot!). I am pretty good with a computer, and I have a working knowledge of html, and it still took forever to do the first book. Tips and tricks are slowly surfacing, and I can see now that people are beginning to develop software that will help greatly. One day it will be a simple, automated process…but not yet. And of course the format is completely different over on Smashwords. It would be much too easy otherwise, right?”
Lauryn: “Editing and formatting your book is the most difficult thing to do. There are so many forms of editing that it makes no sense sometimes. (I mean, it all makes sense but it’s overwhelming.) You definitely need to take time away from yourself and your project so you can look at it with objective eyes. Sometimes you have family members and/or friends who are available to help you, but being completely honest, they’re biased, busy and not professionals. You need a professional you can rely on, even if you pay them. You also need to look into the money it takes to properly format a book as well. Amazon book formatting can be really difficult and time-consuming, especially if you’re not familiar with HTML.”
Lisa: “Self publishing through Amazon is much easier after you’ve done it once. The most time intensive part is getting the formatting right. What I thought was going to take a few hours after following several different instructions on how to do it properly, took me about 2 days. Now I know how to set up my word processing template so that I don’t have to “play around” with any of that formatting stuff anymore.”
Tony: “There are a ton of books on Amazon that helped pave the
road toward publishing our first book but it was quite simple. In fact, the only real hard part is taking in the results and acting upon those results to make sure you continue making more sales over the long run. Essentially, building it is not the hard part but getting “them” to come is. :)”
7. Have you actively promoted your book(s), just let it do its thing in the Amazon store, or something inbetween?
Andrea: “Inbetween. Started promoting it, but then let Amazon take over.”
Cara: “For one of my books, I did some free days, promoted it on websites that cover free Kindle books, and then did a launch to coincide with the end of the free period. I’ve been meaning to do that for the others, too, but haven’t gotten around to it. Did I mention I hate marketing?”
Darcy: “I have done giveaways, press releases, blog tours, guest blogging, spoken at conferences, Facebook ads, Google ads and more. I am constantly experimenting with the best ways to reach an audience. However, I also keep in mind that each book needs an individualized approach, so I try to do whatever is appropriate for each title.”
Jaimi: “For a former publicist, I’ve been a little slow off the mark with the actual promotion side of things. Partly because it’s such a new arena, so there is an awful lot to learn, and it’s very time consuming getting up to speed. While a book is in the editing process that takes up most of my time, too, and since I’m also the marketing department, promotion often has to wait for a minute. What’s exciting, at least for me, is the active study of all the new methods to publicize something on the internet… I think it’s also important to talk to other authors and publishers, share ideas for getting your books in front of the public. Otherwise everyone’s out there having to constantly rediscover fire, when if we all helped each other along, we could all be cooking gourmet meals by now. And as a science fiction fan (and author), do I ever wish we could just plug in our brains and instantly learn things like making websites look good!”
Lauryn: “I have never actively promoted my books until recently. Now I’m putting together a sales strategy to increase my sales significantly over the next 90 days.”
Lisa: “I have not actively promoted all of my books, because Amazon is its own wonderful ecosystem. Spending my energies on initial keyword research for my topic and getting my tags and categories right in Amazon is where I think most authors should spend their time.”
Tony: “I’ve promoted my book for 3 days and that was it. We are currently enjoying some great rankings but most importantly we are enjoying roughly 4 sales a day. Given our efforts, we’ve discovered a few things and know that promoting our book once again will NOT be difficult.”
8. What words of advice might you give someone who’s considering selling a book through Amazon?
Cara: “I would say be prepared to promote your book when it comes out. A lot of people think they can just put their stuff on Amazon and magically get sales, and I guess that works for a few lucky people, but for everyone else, it’s your platform, relationships, promotion, SEO, etc. that generate the sales.”
Darcy: “Read Aaron Shepard’s books, Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit.”
Jaimi: “Take your time. Make sure the book is as good as it can possibly be before you put it out there, because you only have one chance to make a first impression. Hire an outside editor if need be. Get a good cover, and choose your title carefully. Study everything you can find about promoting and publicizing on Amazon – there’s a lot of relevant material out there on the net for free. And once you’ve uploaded your book, realize that finding its audience can take time. Don’t give up.” (Editor’s Note: Since my interview with Jaimi, Plotfish Press’s first book, Takers, won its category in Dan Poynter’s 2012 Global Ebook Awards!)
Lauryn: “Find your niche, research social and content marketing and networking strategies and just get ‘er done. It can be intimidating to write a novel, or produce a product of any sort, for that matter, but if it’s in your heart and on your mind, it really has to be done. Give yourself 30 minutes a day… and that 30 minutes is more than enough to get you started on the path. Do not give up. And give yourself a small budget for extra costs, like making a book cover or getting some parts of the book edited.”
Lisa: “I sell non-fiction on Amazon and my biggest piece of advice would be to publish your best work, not anything slapped together, because Amazon reviews will make or break your book sales. The key is all in the reviews and readers know junk!”
Tony: “Make sure you learn about how to market your book or product versus simply learning how to get something into the Kindle economy. In fact, most kindle marketing books go into the preliminary stuff anyway so why not learn about both from a few sources. Here’s a secret cookie: Make sure and connect with other authors, they are a good source for getting reviewed!“
This concludes my e-mail interviews, but I want to thank my authors again for being so generous with their experience and advice!
If you found this article inspiring, would you do me a favor and pass it on?
P.S. For those of you who are ready to press “go” on self-publishing through Amazon, one place you might want to start is with this course: Publish Your Book on Kindle (for non-fiction authors). I checked it out, and it’s very thorough.
Or if you’d rather, skip right on to the source, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing page!
P.P.S. My own book, Love Potion: Creating Wild Customer Attraction, debuts September 1st! So excited! If you’d like to preview the first chapter right now, just sign up for blog updates through the form below. :)