I found out an interesting fact this past weekend: Amazon is ringing up close to $6 million in e-book sales every DAY.
It’s no wonder nearly every freelance writer I meet is either thinking about writing and launching an e-book, or has already published one.
My question to all of you e-book writers is: Why? What’s your goal?
Getting clarity on that is key to making your e-book journey a success.
Writers publish e-books for many reasons. For many of us, e-books are what marketers call a ‘tripwire’ product. It exists not to earn money so much as to start readers opening their wallets.
Then, you sell them the more lucrative and profitable thing later on. This is the kingdom of the 99-cent e-book.
Other authors are giving away their e-book free, in hopes of gaining ‘bestseller list’ credentials, and using that authority to get more speaking engagements or coaching students. Still others publish simply to say they’ve done it.
Then, there’s the big dream of many writers:
Launching an e-book to make Serious Money
It’s not easy to make an e-book a source of serious income, I can tell you from my past experience launching eight self-published e-books. Usually, my goal with an e-book launch is to break even on my $2,000 or so of design/editing/publishing costs–and then sell a few copies a month to continue giving new buyers a peek at the quality of my offerings. E-books also make useful course bonuses and allow me to create ‘bundle’ deals of multiple e-books that sell well.
I usually think of e-books as tripwire products that introduce readers to my courses and my writer community. But with the upcoming release of my new e-book, Small Blog, Big Income, I’ve got a new attitude toward e-book sales.
Because I believe this e-book has the potential to be the basis for a whole new business, I’m looking to make a bigger splash with it, and plan to spend more time marketing it. I’m aiming to earn $10,000 from its launch, with much more to follow.
The way I’m launching this e-book is radically different from what most writers seem to be doing, based on the chatter I hear from other self-publishers in some groups I’ve joined. Let me give you a tour of a typical e-book launch:
The e-book launch plan that fails
Here’s how most launches seem to be running —
- There is no platform or audience-building activities, and little preselling during the writing/design process. Writer sits in a room, writes, and then publishes.
- Then, the author launches the e-book on KDP Select on Amazon and does a 5-day free promo.
- The author shells out $100 or more to several different book-promo sites like BookBaby or BuckBooks, to try to get more exposure for their title during the launch (see the graphic below for typical results on that).
- Hundreds or even thousands of free downloads happen. Exciting!
- At the end of this, the author switches the price to something in the neighborhood of $1.99-$3.99. And…makes about $300. (Seriously, I’ve heard from multiple authors now who got this sort of result, which doesn’t even cover costs for many e-books.)
- Author gets depressed, and wonders what went wrong. E-book quickly disappears off the Amazon rankings and makes few additional sales, beyond launch week.
What DID go wrong?
I’m going to depart from the conventional wisdom here and tell you an uncomfortable truth: Amazon isn’t the best place for most authors to focus their sales, despite their volume.
One big problem is it’s hard to make a splash on Amazon unless you do a giveaway event. What’s wrong with that? Freebie e-book downloaders are not buyers–and on Amazon, you don’t even know who they are. So there’s no way to email and ask them to leave the reviews that are so critical to an Amazon e-book’s success.
What do I think works better than freebie giveaways on Amazon for launching an e-book that earns? Let me lay out my plan and show you:
15 Prep steps for a big e-book launch
As I was developing my new e-book — in which I tell the story of exactly how I built this-here blog into a multi-six-figure-earner — I realized something.
Teaching people how to earn from their blog is big business. Suddenly, I wasn’t thinking of just releasing an e-book, making a few bucks to cover my costs, and then moving on.
I started thinking of this e-book as the foundation for a new business.
Which is what all the big guys tell you to understand about your book launch. The more you treat it like a business launch, the better this will go. So…I’m going for it!
Here is a step-by-step action plan of what I’m doing, over the course of about six weeks, to launch Small Blog, Big Income, with a goal of earning at least $10,000 by the end of launch week:
- Build an audience. My core audience is freelance writers, but I had long suspected many were also trying to build blogs that earn. When I offered my subscribers the chance to ‘opt out’ on emails about Small Blog, Big Income and earn-from-blogging topics, nobody opted out! That meant I had a ready-made audience (currently nearing 17,000 subscribers) I could sell to directly, without giving Amazon a cut of the take. Don’t have an audience yet? Build one first — then publish.
- Develop the e-book with my readers. This book arose from the many, many requests I get to either review someone’s blog and tell them what I think, or to tell the story of how I built my blog, or both. My story–of earning very well from a blog without a huge, 100,000-subscriber audience or massive traffic–was different from most of the blog how-to advice out there. And looking at readers’ blogs, I could see there was a clear need for the information!
- Treat it as a business. I bought a stand-alone book site URL and began writing a sales page for the e-book–the start of a platform for this new (for me) topic of earning from your blog.
- Get feedback. A few key beta-testers starting reading through the e-book and making suggestions. Much content was added, and other sections were boiled down. (I cut about 35 pages out–and began planning to use it as fodder for the most powerful item you can have to sell an e-book: the sequel! The future release of Small Blog, Big Income: Advanced Ninja Earning Tricks will provide a future inflection point for making more sales.)
- Test related services. Most businesses don’t rely on a single product. I figured some readers would want individual or small-group help. I began testing a couple of blog-review packages, to confirm that interest, see how to structure the program, and learn more about what bloggers need in terms of feedback.
- Create the title and cover. I spent more time on this phase than I did for any past e-book, because of the potential I saw for this topic. After getting some feedback, I actually killed the original title–How I Earn a Six-Figure Income From My Tiny Niche Blog–and cover design in favor of the more succinct and snappy final title.
- Begin pre-selling the e-book. My first mention of this e-book happened back in early February, before it even had a title, and launch day isn’t until (tentatively) March 31st. Presales officially launched at the end of February, with special offers buyers can only get if they reserve a copy before launch day.
- Pre-sell only on my own site. This is critical: The first step to earning well is to sell to your own audience first (as I’m doing right now). Give them the inside line and the best deal…and keep all the money. Why should Amazon get a fat share of income from readers you already have?
- Price it higher. When you’re not selling on Amazon, where $3.99 is expensive for an e-book, it’s easier to ask higher prices–and you’ve got the space to create a long sales page that explains why the e-book is worth more. I am preselling this e-book at $9.99, which is the regular price for most of my e-books.
- Offer incentives and bonuses. On your own site, it’s also possible to offer different bonuses and levels, to give your loyal readers more value and stimulate interest in the launch. My presale, which began February 23, has three different offer bundles to drive early purchasing, including a 2-for-1 e-book offer that includes a ticket to a live Q&A call April 6, where I’ll do blog reviews in the $9.99 bundle. There’s no way to create these sorts of complex bundle offers on Amazon!
- Finish writing the e-book. This has been a real nail-biter. The last time I wrote an e-book from scratch was 5 years ago! My others are blog-post compilations, or derived from course or presentation content. It was hard to say ‘done’–I kept thinking of new things to add, or ways to make it better, clearer, or more concise.
- Begin planning guest posts. I’ve rarely done real marketing with my e-books beyond emailing my own list. This time, I’ve created a list of potential topics and am reaching out to blogs in this topic niche to ask whether I can guest post in the next few weeks, to drive more interest.
- Create affiliate materials. I let Freelance Writers Den affiliates sell my e-books after launch week to keep the momentum going, so ad banners and links need to be created for their use–and I need to alert them there’s a sales opportunity coming up.
- Do earlybird coaching. I’ve been doing blog reviews for several weeks now, learning about how to format my reviews so they’re maximally useful and easy to digest. At launch, the blog review/coaching offerings will be substantially different–and seriously more expensive, as I saw how much time was truly involved in the coaching. Super-glad I trialed these! And, of course, the early buyers got a deal on coaching, in exchange for being guinea pigs.
- Collect testimonials. As I do blog reviews, I’m collecting feedback and raves to share on the sales page.
Presale results so far
There’s still another week of presales before launch day (we’re shooting for March 31!)–and here’s the math as I write this:
- 125 sales of the $9.99 bundle of 2-ebooks + live call = $1,246.25
- 14 sales of the $47 coaching bundle (20-minute review video+ebooks+live call) = $658
- 1 sale of the $97 coaching bundle (30-minute live review+email support+ebooks+live call) = $97
That’s over $2,000 in sales — and the e-book does not actually exist yet. (Which blows my mind! I’m honored by the trust readers give you when they buy in a presale.) Strong presales are key to making my earning goal.
By bundling this with coaching services, I’ve already earned nearly as much in presales as I usually make during my whole launch.
Big takeaway: If you want to earn more from your e-books, figure out what else you could package with them that has more value.
Launching with a bang
What do I have planned for the launch week? Besides guest posts galore, more goodies and discounts for buyers:
- A limited-time discount on the e-book price
- Blog reviews bundled with the e-book, at 30% off
- A 20-seat, ongoing blogging mastermind at an introductory price
I’m still cooking up ideas and activities for launch week, to make it fun and provide lots of value to my readers, but the basic math hopefully looks like this:
- 100 copies of the e-book at $6.99 = $699
- 20 e-book + blog review videos @ $79 = $1,580
- 20 mastermind seats @ $99/mo. with minimum 3-month commitment = $5,940
Total including presales: $10,219
Interested to hear the final results and whether I make (or beat) that goal? I’ll be emailing my blog subscribers with a secret sales report after launch week, so subscribe to get the deets.
Once launch week is over, then I’ll put Small Blog, Big Income onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites at $9.99 as I usually do, and ask the presale and launch-week buyers to leave reviews and help it rank and sell more copies there. I’ll also tell affiliates to sell the new e-book on my site, to keep driving sales on my own site.
In the future, I might do a brief promo on Amazon at a lower price, or include it in a multi-book 99-cent sale, to stimulate more interest.
I’m always learning more about how to sell on Amazon–but the site keeps changing its rules, leaving authors scrambling. Then there’s the rise of Kindle Unlimited memberships with its all-you-can-eat e-book offers (which many authors report is tanking their earnings).
I’ll continue to sell first to my own readers on my own site. I think of Amazon as a place to get extra sales from people I don’t know. I’ll also be exploring creating physical-book and audiobook versions of my e-books as a way to grow income and lessen dependence on Amazon.
Much like you don’t blog on Facebook, it’s unwise to focus the bulk of your e-book sales on a third-party platform you can’t control.
Have you published an e-book, or are you planning one? Share your e-book promo tips in the comments and let’s brainstorm.