I have always wanted to write a guide to publishing, to share all of the practical knowledge that I’ve meticulously gathered from experience, other authors, the depths of abandoned writers forums, and from observing others. I want to save you years of mediocre sales, and constantly failing from a lack of time available to research, perhaps because of kids or your day job, or day jobs. Self-publishing is a way out for a lot of enterprising individuals who were dealt a tough hand in life, because the only start up cost is some method of writing, and the only connections you need are free accounts online. To send this article to your kindle, click the last icon on the share bar.
If you are writing for money, then your writing process should start with market research. This can be as simple as trolling through Amazon’s eBook bestseller lists, seeing what is selling and what isn’t. What price point are they? What length? Are you overseas, because if so, switch over to the US Amazon website to research, because that’s where most of your sales will be. Really spend a lot of time, a few hours at least, studying what’s selling on Amazon in the category you want to write in before you write the first word. Once you commit to writing a novel, you’re locked in for months, and you will have to promote and sell your book for essentially the rest of your life. Don’t rush this process. Obviously, it’s not simply a matter of picking the most popular niche, you need to attempt to get a feel for which categories books are selling the most, and how many books are published in that niche – don’t get too caught up in which niches are larger, as this is an enormous mistake unless you have the budget to compete with the most well funded authors and publishers. No industry including publishing can escape simple supply and demand, and if a niche has the most readers but also the most authors, you’re much worse off than you would have been publishing in a niche with half the readers, but 1/4th the authors. Picking a niche or sub-niche within a larger niche is the goal of your niche research.
It’s important not to create a niche – that is, write exactly what you personally would like. You can certainly do that if this is not a money generating activity for you, and if you have that luxury then enjoy, and occasionally that will work out financially, but in general you should open your eyes and see what people want that they’re not necessarily getting, and try to cater to those buyers.
Tactics for getting hard information out of a website’s rankings is specific to each website, and I suggest you only focus on Amazon, even if focusing wide. Amazon is the largest, and it can be very hard and time consuming to do niche research, so why spread yourself thin? I will try to break my process down into steps, but your way might be totally different, whatever you need. I’m a publisher at this point not an author, which means I do niche research as a primary function of my work, so if there’s a better way to do this I would love to know, but Amazon is pretty tight with their book sales data – they don’t even sell it.
Check the top 100 lists of all potential niches that I can see myself publishing in. Check the 1st book’s sales rank, the 5th books sales rank, the 50th and the 100th. Make a rough list of all sub-genres within that niche, for example if I am skimming the top 100 “Romance” I might write down shifter, billionaire, paranormal, BWWM, etc – and also put a new checkmark next to the sub-genre. At the end, tally them all up and see what popular sub-genres the top 100 list is made up of, along with using the sales ranks as a measure for how popular that niche is in terms of readers. Some people use an excel sheet for this, and others go even further and buy some software specifically designed for this, which personally I consider a scam as it is simply basic comparisons, however if you hate money then by all means buy a program. I keep an eye out for keywords – for example, at one point there was a trend of books in the Romance niche that had “Bastard” in the title, as some sort of designation for a bad boy who is overtly sexual and not respectful of women. So, the next Romance Novel I released that fit the bill, I put “Bastard” in the title. A note for the men here – it can be uncomfortable, for example, writing to a niche that appears to want men to be disrespectful to women, but Romance is entirely bought by women (well, 90%+) and a smart man knows that you never argue with a woman about what she wants, you just give it to her. As a fantasy, many fiction books can be weird or absurd, but money isn’t funny.
While you’re browsing these lists, take note of the price points. If the niche supports on average 3x higher prices than another, you need to sell only 1/3rd as much or above. Try to pay attention to how old the books are – is the niche entirely hot new releases, or are there some books published by indie authors that are over a year or two old? This can indicate staying power when your book is out. How many reviews do they have? That’s the amount of reviews you will need to reasonably compete with them. Reviews aren’t proof of sales, they are what get you sales. We’ll cover this more in marketing, but a niche with less reviews on average for books in the top 100 are generally easier to break into. You pick your niche, and then your keyword. I think it’s important to craft a book that will be very relevant to a specific search term, if you try to hit all the boxes you will end up hitting none of them. The very first result for a search on Amazon gets 27% of the clicks for that search term, with the second getting 13% and rapidly declining from there. The top spot is not incrementally better in terms of clicks, it’s over twice as good. So write your book to rank high in a specific search term’s results, and not to be showing up at rank #17 in dozens. The lower the sales rank, the higher the sales. Rank 1 would be the top selling book in the store, etc. It’s also important to consider whether your potential niche has a top 100 sub category, as reaching #1 in those will give your book a shiny #1 ribbon. Yes, there are subcategories that don’t have top 100 lists. You can see subcategories without the top 100’s by manually clicking through categories, or from viewing the category keywords on our keyword page. By the way, our Amazon keyword scrapper on that page is amazing for finding new niches.
When you discover a niche and category you want to write for, you should write a detailed plot line, and commit to actually writing a minimum amount per day. If you write “when you have the time” you can expect to be that lazy author talking to your friends about that book you’ve been working on for a few years now, how it’s nearly done, but we all know it’s not. Treat this like a job if you ever want it to be a job. Don’t be obsessed with making your first book perfect, it’s only practice that makes perfect, and perfect is the enemy of good. If you’re worried about your lack of skill being embarrassing, simply write your first few novels under a pen name. You can improve or toss them later, and you’ll only get better through practice. When I say a detailed plot line, I mean it. Part of committing yourself to writing a certain amount of time per day, is forcing yourself to work through creative blocks, mental funks and days where you have no motivation. This is possible with a detailed plot line, where you can “stick to the script” so to speak, and not have to rely on your creativity as much. It also provides a starting point, and starting is usually half the battle.
The important process here is to write at all costs. Do you have writers block? Good, write anyway, even if you believe it’s bad, then if it really does end up being bad delete it. Sitting on your hands will never do any good in any way. WRITE! Start with writing a plot line, and don’t overthink it. Your plot can always be edited later, although of course you don’t want to start writing until your book has a storyline that will make it engrossing and alleviate the stress of having to be constantly creative as you write. After that set aside a certain amount of time every day or on certain days to write, and during that time turn off the internet and put your phone in another room. Despite all the little lies you might tell yourself, you absolutely do not need the internet to reference anything while you write, and if you really do you can switch it back on and switch it back off straight after. When your book is completed, a heavy edit is essential, hopefully by a professional but if you can’t afford it then a proof read with Grammarly or another program combined with your own keen eye.
Keywords are essential. Keywords are hard to find, as they are the closest approximation to a “secret recipe” that authors have, as they are the only secret part of the equation and they massively influence the success of your book. We have an entire keyword research center, with guides and their own articles, with tools and pages for each category, to get you started and save you years of time. On our completely free keyword page, you can sort your keywords into 7 strings of 50 characters, as allowed on Amazon as well as get complete Amazon drop-down data about search terms. Amazon does not penalize for “keyword stuffing” so use the entire 50 characters or as close as reasonably possible. Do not repeat words, even in separate strings, or use irrelevant words you think will get more views. On our keyword page, you can also search real Amazon drop down data, and that’s the only data Amazon gives us directly. Other websites charge $90, or $30 per month, or even more for a crap version of this tool. Our version only searches the Kindle Store for total relevancy to authors, and we bold all keywords that show up more than once. Our keyword tool reveals every suggestion for every keyword you type in, see the page for more keyword info as we couldn’t possibly tell you how to do keywords in a few paragraphs. You’re in the right place.
Formatting is relatively straightforward, but I still suggest hiring a professional. I like to use Fiverr for very simple tasks like this, which are easily verifiable. It shouldn’t cost you more than $5 to get an E-Book print ready for a single distributor such as Amazon, and you can verify the work by simply uploading and previewing the manuscript. I suggest you download Amazon’s Official Kindle Previewer which will let you see your E-Book exactly as it’s displayed on various Kindles. Same goes for any other smaller distributor with their own devices, if they have any equivalent. Virtually any little job can be done via Fiverr.
As for the cover, there are dozens if not hundreds of very good pre-made E-Book cover websites. I strongly suggest you buy pre-made – you will get an extremely high quality cover, completely unique to yourself, and for quite cheap. Whereas getting one custom made is always a headache, with differences between the design in your head and the design you get from the designer, at an extreme cost as well. If you have an extremely niche book where no suitable pre-mades exist, then by all means. A simple search for “pre-made e-book covers” with your niche at the end will show many. For example, “pre-made e-book covers romance.”
Your description needs to be incredible. Please, spend at least an hour working on your description. Ask friends, family and people online if they like the description. Read other descriptions of successful top 10 books in your niche, and see how they vary from your description, and what aspects of their description you could utilize to your own advantage.
When finished, re-read the first 5 pages of your book, and re-write it.
Yes, I said re-write it.
With E-Books, the game is not the same. When a customer views a book on Amazon, they’re not clicking BUY mindlessly. They usually click on the book to read the preview, and as such, your first 5 pages becomes a referendum on your entire book’s suitability, creativity, style of writing, and if the preview is not enjoyed you will be more likely to win $9.99 on a scratch off than that customer buying your book. It simply won’t happen, and why would it? The #1 most easily corrected mistake most new self publishers make is having a mediocre start to their book – the preview can vary and be much more than 5 pages, however I use the 5 pages as a simple effective tool. Remove the long introduction, and instead create a short and snappy introduction if you need one at all, and make sure the start of your book draws the reader in, and leaves him or her wanting more. As a customer, I exclusively buy books who’s previews I have read and enjoyed, there is too much competition to take a chance with a boring book. As a publisher, I have enjoyed many increases in sales from the tweaking of the first 5 pages. Often in the past, I would agonize over a book that seemed to check all the boxes that wasn’t really moving units. Good cover, good description, solid keywords – what’s the problem, customers? As always, the customers are not the ones to blame. It was me, foolishly ignoring one of the most essential parts of the purchasing experience.
When your book is close to being publishable, it’s time to start setting up some ARC, or Advance Reader Copy, reviews. Amazon does not allow you to incentivize reviews for any other products, but there is an explicit exemption for Advance Reader Copy reviews, which is when an author or publisher provides a free copy of their book to readers in exchange for an honest review. The key word here is honest – the second you tell people to “leave a good review,” even quite casually, you are instantly in violation of Amazon’s terms of service, and Amazon can, will, and does ban author’s who have made the stupid mistake of ignoring the fundamental agreement between the author and Amazon. You can send your book out, and get honest reviews, sometimes even 100’s of honest reviews, before the book even launches. This is the most effective marketing tactic on planet earth. Reviews are the most important advertisement you will ever have, and if your book is launched out of the gate with 100 reviews with an average of 4.8 stars, I would bet virtually any amount of money that you will reach the top 10 in your (small) subcategory even with only $50 in traditional advertising. Although you can’t ask for good reviews, the reviews tend to be naturally quite a bit better, as there is no incentive to review or not review, so people who stop reading halfway through, or who read it and were unimpressed, tend to leave way less reviews than people who read it and loved it.
After all, if you got a book for free and thoroughly enjoyed it, wouldn’t you love to leave a glowing review? This natural improvement on the quality of reviews can give your book an eternal boost, and I have seen ARC’s for mediocre books with hundreds of 4-5 star reviews retain that rating for many months, even as the ratings from paying customers, who are much more critical, average 3-4. ARC reviews are so unbelievably essential, I cannot stress it enough. So the question is, how do you find ARC readers or get ARC reviews? Building your own team is time intensive but doable, for sparse releases (A book every 6 months or less) it might be good to use a service, as your time could be spent better elsewhere. With no money, you’re limited to creating your own ARC team, as doing that is free to maintain, although if you are friends with an author who has one, they might do you a favor and send your book out to their ARC team.
To get ARC readers, you need to make a simple offer to readers through various channels. You basically have to ask, would you be willing to read a copy of my book in exchange for an honest review? If they say yes, add them to your ARC reader list. It really is that simply. One unknown method to get ARC readers is to click through the reviews of popular books on Amazon, to see Amazon customers who have listed emails in their Amazon profiles. There is even a ranking of top reviewers, although this is a general tactic and thus less effective, you want to ask people who reviewed similar books to yours, so you know they want to read yours or at least will give it a chance. If you want to try top reviewers anyway, here’s the link. When looking for reviewers with emails in their profile you’ll see they are few and far between, so expect to spend about an hour per 10 potential ARC readers. Once you have their emails, you can send them a polite email asking if they would be interested in joining your ARC team, in exchange for free books in a category you enjoy. A sample request might look like this:
I hope I’m not bothering you, but I noticed you left a review on a book that is pretty similar to one that I am about to release. Amazon allows me to offer free copies of my book in exchange for an honest review, and so I was wondering if you would want a copy of my book in exchange for a honest review on Amazon? This is a real review, and of course if you read and do not want to review, that is totally fine as well. If you say yes, I’ll send you a copy straight away, and will send you the link to leave a review when my book is available on Amazon in two weeks. I will not use your email for any newsletter, spam or any other purpose except to tell you about free copies of my new releases, and of course if you let me know at any time I will remove you from my contacts, and never contact you again. If you’re not interested, simply don’t reply and I will get the hint. If you are interested, just let me know! 🙂
Super Cool Author Pen Name
Other methods to get ARC readers is to post the same offer on social media, or through any other medium. Some people have decent success asking people locally, in real life. If this seems like too much of a hassle, you can pay to be included in an ARC program, where a person or company with an already massive ARC list for your given niche will do it for you. Even we at Publishing With Love have our own ARC program we offer, although ours is unique in that we don’t just get your book in the hands of ARC readers for ARC reviews, but we also on top of that offer them a link to sign up to your ARC list if they enjoy your book. So every ARC you do with us you’ll be getting ARC reviews, and also growing your own ARC reader list if you have one.
The largest book seller, by far, is Amazon. Amazon has a program called the KDP Select program which pays you additional money based on the amount of subscribers who read pages from your books. There are also smaller book sellers such as Google Play, IBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.
As an author you have two good options, going exclusive through Amazon and getting additional money from the KDP Select program which pays you out based on pages read by subscribers, or “going wide” and selling your book on every platform.
If you are writing the occasional full length novel, sign up for Amazon and go exclusive with them.
If you are writing smaller works, which won’t make money in Amazon’s “pay per page” KDP Select program, then sign up for PublishDrive which will submit your books to every major book seller and most small ones at once. To find out why you should use PublishDrive as your distributor and not the other options, check out this distributor comparison article.
If you are enrolled in KDP Select, you get paid based on how many pages the borrower reads, and not based on any price or per sale, so longer books will be rewarded. Keep in mind that only pages read are counted, so expanding your book’s word count with filler or unrelated text is pointless, and Amazon will penalize anyone who, for example, simply links to the back of the book in the TOC in an attempt to get more pages read. Kindle Unlimited (KU) is about 70% of an author’s income if they choose to go exclusive on Amazon. If your book is over 250 pages, this is a no brainer. The KU payout you will receive will be based on the amount of pages read when your book is purchased, so the same amount of borrows will make you twice as much if your book is twice as long, assuming the borrower actually reads through your novel. By putting your book exclusively with Amazon (KU is exclusive only) you can also ensure that your marketing and maintenance efforts are concentrated on one single easy platform. There’s also a ton of advice for every issue you come into while publishing on Amazon, due to it being the most popular book distributor.
Generally, you will always select to go on Amazon if you are writing the occasional long novel, however for shorter works do not discount going wide. If you publish through PublishDrive, you can upload once for each book and have it listed on a hundred different sellers, and I know from personal experience of over 500 books on PublishDrive that you will make way more for short works than you would have on Amazon, and in fact my sales on my books that are “wide” are around 90% other distributors, 10% Amazon, but that is also taking into account the lack of KU money from Amazon and the lack of rank you get on Amazon for not being in KU. Oh yeah, did I not mention that? Your book also goes up in rank based on KU borrows and pages read, which is Amazon’s way of punishing books not in the program. As such, if you want a bestseller, you must go through Amazon, but if you’re targeting small niches with short works you would be stupid to publish through Amazon exclusively.
There is not much difference between PublishDrive and Amazon in terms of uploading and managing difficulty – “going wide” is not even a bit harder unless you foolishly try to maintain your catalog on each website separately instead of going through a distributor like PublishDrive. The main determination will be the length of your books, as KDP Select is great for long books and quite bad for shorter novellas, and terrible for short stories.
Both Amazon and PublishDrive will pay your royalties out 60 days after the last day of the month you earned. If you make $1,000 in January, you will receive $1,000 at the end of March or very early April.
Having your book in KU will enable you to run sales, which is supremely important. A sale is a big incentive for someone to purchase your book, and can be a rally point and reason for your promotion. “Buy X Book” is less compelling then “X Book On Sale 75% Off For The Next 3 Days!” It immediately provides a reason for buying the book as well as introducing a sense of urgency, because now it’s only on sale for a day or two, so there’s not the option to simply add to wishlist and forget about it. Most paid promotions also are geared towards sales, as that is the only reason readers will sign up to be alerted to receive notifications about a book, they want to shop cheap and discover good deals, as we all do. You will only ever have the full arsenal of advertising at your disposal if you can run promotions. You can also run free promotions, which opens up the possibility of promoting the first book in a series. You can also make a book permanently free on Amazon, with the goal of making money from people buying the first two books in the series. To do that, you can list your books on another bookseller besides Amazon such as IBooks or Google Play, then you can price match your own novel.
Eventually, you will have it published, and then it’s time to really market. This is the most exciting part, because it’s where you can see your hard work actually translate into dollars earned. If you put in the hard work before this step, it should be smooth sailing – a well written book with a good cover, keywords and starting reviews will sell itself for the most part. On Amazon, for books in KDP Select, your first major promotion push should not be the very first day that the book is available, it should be the very first day of your KDP promotion, which you should book immediately after release. Books enrolled in KDP Select get the option to set their book at a lower cost temporarily, while still receiving the same % of profits that they would otherwise get. Books under 0.99c on Amazon usually get 35% of the book purchase price, however any book $2.99 or over gets 70%. If your book is $2.99 or over, and you have a KDP Select promotion, you still get 70% even if you set your book to 0.99c. This doubles the money in your pocket at lower price points. Keep in mind books can take anywhere from 1hr to 5 days to be published, adding yet another reason to not plan a promotion on launch day.
Marketing and promotion is much more essential to an author’s success than the book itself, and that’s obvious by a top 100 list full of mediocre novels with superb branding and marketing. The best book in the world is worthless in every way if nobody reads it, so even the most pure author who writes to create art and not for profit should still be well versed in marketing, since a dead book that nobody reads is as useless as a book that does not exist. If you have books out and no idea how to market, you’ve wasted your time as well as everyone else’s. This page is your introduction to book marketing, with a heavy emphasis on books sold by Amazon, although many methods and paid promotions are applicable to every book distributor. Feel free to drop by our marketing directory when you’re looking for promotions, as well. If we all chip in and share knowledge, then we can have a really good up to date database of actually effective promotions.
I tend to focus my book launch on achieving the highest book rank possible, not achieving the best return on my investment in strictly $ terms. This is advice most would disagree with, so feel free to focus strictly on the most profitable promotions in the short term instead, but due to the way ranking algorithms work on Amazon and most major book sellers, I think achieving a high rank pays off for the entire lifetime of your novel.
Your goal, unless you are just starting out and publishing in a massive subcategory, should be to get to the top or as close to the top of your subcategory as possible. If you grace the #1 spot in a subcategory – even a niche subcategory, requiring only 5k sales rank – your book is rewarded with a sexy “#1 Bestseller” tag for the lifetime of it’s existence, that shows up in all search results and categories. That is to say, this tag will be shown everywhere your cover is shown, even if your bestseller tag was earned in the 1992 Men’s Scottish Category of books published on Tuesdays. You get the idea, if you get the top of any category, you get the tag that can double sales. There is little to no hard data on Amazon’s algorithms, however, from personal experience I can absolutely swear up and down that the highest rank your book have achieved is considered in search term relevancy. I have published hundreds of books, thousands if you include short stories, and I can notice a real tangible difference in passive sales months after the promo is over when I stack the promotions. That is to say, if your book gets 10 sales a day from the day it’s published, and an identical book gets 10 sales a day from the day it’s published with a single outlier day of 100 sales, it will rank much higher than the former, even if the book has been listed for years and that only represents an extra 0.1% of sales.
To spike your sales rank, you need to stack promotions. What does it mean to stack promotions? Say that you book 5 promotions for your book, as well as some Facebook ads. Your average first time author will generally book those promotions with the efficiency of each promotion specifically in mind, for the best rate of return. If you believe the most effective day to launch a promotion is Sunday, you might book them all for Sunday when they are available, for example 2 next Sunday, 1 the Sunday after next and the other 3 next month. This is not true, but an example. Promotions are always booked out at separate times – some are booked months in advance, others are available for same or next day. Even if you book very early, which you absolutely should, sometimes another author will simply want the same day and book it as soon as they can. Some promotions have cheaper days than others, or only send it out twice a week on specific days, and there is a variety of reasons that an authors promotions are usually staggered. You get the idea, there are dozens of reasons why it would make sense on the surface for an author to spread out their book’s promotions, so this gravity of convenience must be fought with the inertia of conscious effort. What I would suggest, is to the very best of your ability, keep the promotions as close to each other as humanely possible. Often this involves shoehorning in promotions any way you can, but the reward for the headache is instead of 200 sales spread over a month, you might be looking at 140 sales in a couple days.
This could be the difference between hovering around 20k sales rank, and shooting up to 2-3k sales rank, albeit only for a couple days unless you have other promotions ready to sustain the rank.
If you decide to dip your toes in Facebook or Goodreads or Amazon ads, I suggest you change your mind for your first launch. If you have a big budget then go ahead, but it’s a waste of money until you are familiar with how to do it, and I think until you do a couple of launches it’s kind of pointless and you will generally get a high CPC (cost per click). If you do decide to run ads, make sure you start with a few different ads on a low budget such as $5-10 per day, then when you have figured out which one has the best CPC put your budget into that. There will always be diminishing returns at a certain point, so don’t escalate straight from $10 to $100 per day, unless the demographics you’re targeting are extremely broad and thus numerous, which they should never be because you took the time to specify the demographics that would be most likely to buy your book thus giving you a better CPC, right? Don’t serve your ad to random people, you might as well just buy banner ads for 0.01c per display if you want to be useless and low converting. If you do use social media or other advertisements, I suggest you sign up for Amazon Affiliates, and use your affiliate link to link to your book. Not because you get 2-3% of your book sale back, but because you can then see what people actually bought after clicking on your book. If they click on your link and buy a separate book within 24hrs, you get a percentage which means you can identify any issues between your ads and customers buying your book. If they click your ad, that is advertising your book, but instead go and buy a different book once on Amazon, you should see what type they are buying. This might mean you need to change your book to better match your ad or niche in general, or it can mean that you need to change your advertisement to better describe or convey your book and what it is – there’s no point paying for ads that only get clicked on by customers who aren’t specifically interested in your type of book, because you misrepresented your novel.
Combined with a solid product and good reviews, this initial launch will make your book a real, ranking, well-read, noticed, and actually selling novel. If your book is sufficiently niche for your novel to avoid being drowned out in a sea of similar books, you can essentially guarantee a steady income on that novel even without further advertising. Many do just that, although I think you would be foolish to not at the very least do a new promotion push every 3 months during your KDP Select period.
Generally, after your promotion stack, it becomes a game of maintaining your rank, which is best done through Amazon advertising or social media advertising. This is because it’s scalable, meaning you can have a set budget every day, and it’s also available for tweaking and improving throughout the life of your novel. A popular strategy is: promotions, then on the same day as promotions a month long advertising campaign via social media or amazon advertising, with the most money per day for the first week, then dropping off to perhaps half of the first weeks cost per day.
If you are reading this as a new author, I know it can sound like a lot of work. Trust me, there is no better feeling as an author and as a reader to see your book high in the charts, to read the reviews from real people who really enjoyed your book, to know that hundreds or thousands of people are becoming immersed in a world you created.
I think when a book is launched, personal promotion is a must. Personal promotion is a term meaning going to task on your books behalf, perhaps to get sales but also to solicit opinions. This is important not just for the reasons of increasing your sales, but also by being able to personally see what people actually respond to, which you can then incorporate into your passive promotions like ad campaigns. By this I mean messaging people about your book on social media, posting in groups on Goodreads and Facebook, talking to people in real life and at local events, whatever method available to you to get your book and your author name out there. Essentially, stand by your book and go to bat for it. If you don’t love your book, and you wrote it, why would anyone trust it? Most writers are introverts and so will write off this step completely, and that’s fine, many do very well without personally associating themselves with their book. However, unless you are writing under a pen name and don’t want to be associated with your book, I suggest really getting out there in every way.
As for what to price your book at, on Amazon the standard starting price is 2.99, as that is the lowest price point where you can still receive 70% of the sales price. Any book <50k words should be priced at this price point, unless you know what you are doing. Make sure you price other currencies at a visually attractive price point, and not simply the equivalent to USD. Right now $2.99 USD = 331.52 YEN, so you can see why you don’t just click “convert price” and call it a day. Make sure to go and set it to 299 YEN, and do that for all currencies.
Quick note – there is no law or policy against multiple book covers, descriptions and keywords. If you’re starting with a small budget or no budget, why not get a couple covers done in two separate styles, and see which one sells better? Amazingly high quality pre-made covers can be purchased online at GoOnWrite or literally hundreds of other websites, and your cover money will be the most effective dollar for dollar marketing you will do. Just like all major companies will try multiple advertisements on the same platform with small funds then run the most successful with big money, it might be smart to see which cover and descriptions get the most sales naturally before putting all your money into an advertising campaign, this is an advantage indie authors have that more established authors do not, so use it.
Many people consider a pre-release when marketing their book. This is attractive to authors because it lets them gather sales before the real release date, but I must advise against this. A pre-order will always result in way less sales for the same budget, due to people’s desire for instant gratification and a certain amount of people who simply do not buy pre-orders. You will also be locked out of many advertising methods that don’t allow pre-orders, so instead of running all your ads concurrently for maximum sales rank and thus higher placement on top 100 lists and in search algorithms, you’re forced to spread them out. The pre-sales are for experience authors, who are so good at marketing their books that even a 50% reduction in their sales at a certain spending level would still result in a profit. The exception to this rule are those who have a specific desire to be ranked on a NYT bestseller list or another famous list, as many of these ranking systems count pre-order sales as first day sales, so this method of a very long pre-order can make it so the aspiring author has months to rack up enough sales to be listed on the NYT “weekly bestseller” list. Most authors with a USA Today Bestseller or similar tag on Amazon use this method, but it’s not my job to sit here and expose people, simply keep in mind pre-orders are ineffective.
To be a successful author people need to know your pen name/brand, about your pen name or you as an author. Otherwise you are starting from scratch with every single book release, which would be sad. In addition to constant advertising for your pen name, you mix in intermediate advertising for your individual books during a sale or new release. As an author, or as a publisher managing pen names, there should be a constant stream of marketing for the author such as building mailing lists, social media followers, and all kinds of reach. We will call this brand marketing. With millions of books out there, it’s advisable to not bother marketing your individual book outside of new releases and sales. If your book is full price and has been out for a long time, you will generally be better off marketing your pen name and not your book. With that said, there is an enormous difference in attitude you should have between marketing a book and marketing any other media – which is that a book is a marathon, not a race. When a movie is released, it will generally make most of it’s money upon release and in the first year, then be reduced to essentially residual income. The same is true of video games which can be outdated straight away, or singular pieces of art which are sold and then the responsibility of someone else. Books are extremely generous to a beginner due to the fact you can make all the mistakes in the world, and then when you do learn the way to do it right, you can simply turn right around and do it right and it will be 100% as effective as if you did it right the first time, perhaps even more effective depending on the market. Keep in mind the marathon mentality, and treat each mistake as a lesson that will not make or break you.
You should be building your brand for a lifetime, since it will serve you for a lifetime, and you plan on having your books earning you money for your lifetime. Curate your social media presence to be be attractive to your average reader. Don’t think “average reader” generically, it helps to actually create an average reader. You can only ever market to one type of person at a time, so summon an imaginary person. If you’re writing historical western romance, your average customer is a middle aged female from the midwest. Imagine this women. Name her – let’s say Sarah. When you’re thinking of making a post, statement or writing a blurb or description, imagine what Sarah thinks about it. She’s an acquaintance, not your friend, and you’re trying to make her your friend.
An Author Central account is essential. You can make an author central account by going to authorcentral.amazon.com, and signing up. An Author Central account will enable you to select all your books, fill out your information and upload a photo, so that you have a webpage on Amazon where all your books are displayed, where customers can click to be alerted about your new releases, where they can learn a bit about you and find all your social media accounts and on top of that it displays a live feed of your latest blog or social posts, and you can slip in editorials. Great place to ask for ARC signup requests with a nice link to sign up or an email to message!
Once you have multiple books, you’re going to want to bundle them. I call this free money, because it essentially is. Bundling is the act of taking books you already wrote, combining them into one manuscript, and selling them for some sort of discount. If you have three fiction books at $5 each, why not offer all 3 of them for $10? It will give you an extra book listing, an extra way to show up in search results and rank in categories, and will generally cast a wider net. There are also people who search for bundles, or box-sets, who you will never reach without one. If you have 10 books, you could easily do 10 bundles through various combinations, for example 2 books with a 25% discount, 5 books with a 50% discount, whatever you feel is reasonable. Some don’t even do dramatic discounts, they will only take a dollar off, but they still enjoy the benefit of sales that would not be there otherwise, and more people discovering their work. The only cost associated with creating a bundle is a cover, but if you are really tight on cash you can use a picture editor to display multiple book covers in one image, and use that as your cover. You can also, and this is crucial, create bundles with other authors. This allows your book to be bought by people who are fans of other people’s novels, and spread your book to new customers. It also means you can pool your resources with other authors – can’t afford a $700 bookbub promotion? Perhaps you can 9 other authors can afford $70 each.
When you bundle your books with other authors, the amount of times you can do that is theoretically infinite, because you won’t run out of combinations as you would with your own books. At PublishingWithLove we actually run a bundling program, where we match your books up with others, and then automatically pay you your % of the book’s sales on the same day we are paid, keeping 10% as our fee. This means you can add your catalog to our database, and we will instantly start matching your book up with other relevant books, and at absolutely no cost to yourself at all, we will start selling your book in bundles. After you send us your catalog files and approve the maximum amount of bundles you want us to create using your book, all you need to do is watch the royalties flow in. We have our own cover designers, formatters, advertising, and of course you will always keep the ability to know which bundles contain your work, and you and other authors can certainly promote or share them as you prefer. You will need to prove that you own the rights to the novels, and we are experienced with working with self-published authors who might not necessarily have traditional documentation, so no matter if you are a publisher or an author we can verify your rights, and we can start earning you money without any extra effort on your part whatsoever. This program is currently not open to the public, but if you email PublishingWithLove@protonmail.com and include a link to your catalog or URL list of your books, we will consider you for entry. You can do this with a single book or a large catalog. Around a 50% approval rating at the moment, so if you have quality books you will probably be selected for entry. No anonymous entries, you will need ID & utility if selected.
Another more controversial option to make money from existing works, is to mirror them. This is allowed on some websites, and not allowed on others. Check with the distributors themselves for current policies, in general a mirrored book should only share around 70% of word count or less with the original book. So what on earth is mirroring? Mirroring is taking an existing book, and re-purposing it for a separate audience. An example of this is in romance, where a straight romance novel will be re-written as a gay romance novel. This involves changing all character names, descriptions, editing the storyline to make more sense, however as can be imagined, it is not a hard process, because humans are fundamentally the same and our relationships are similar. A guide to understanding Bitcoin could easily be mirrored to be a book about Bitcoin Cash, since they are based on similar blockchain technology, and you can re-use most of the background information and technical explanations. I call this tactic controversial not because the book distributor would have an issue with it, or that customers would generally buy two separate books on unrelated subjects that were both by you, but because people, usually other authors, tend to be upset at this method. Personally I do not use this method, although I have in the past, to good effect. The reason I would not use this method any more is simply that Amazon changes their mind frequently, and this could be banned at some point, and since mirroring a book takes about 25% of the effort of actually writing a new book, that is an enormous amount of wasted time and effort. Since this is a very unknown tactic that is only shared in certain tightly controlled writers forums, I do feel obligated to share it with you, as I am trying to give you a real introduction to the nitty gritty of publishing.
There is a step you should probably take if you plan on being successful, and even more so if you plan on failing. Incorporating a legal entity is a good idea to limit liability, which in the murky and downright confusing area of IP and copyright as it relates to publishing, is essential. What if your book is a hit, and your ghostwriter is unhappy? What if there was a flaw in your contract? What if the designer of the cover you bought on Fiverr or from a website suddenly feels they need a cut after seeing your books success? It does not matter if you do it all perfect, and stay 100% legal and above board. Sometimes, people sue anyway. It’s a cost to create this incorporation but if you’re planning on writing or publishing as a career, it’s a no-brainer. In my personal non-legal opinion, the best way for any US citizen or overseas citizen to create a company in the US is the exact same process – sign up on Stripe Atlas. With a flat fee of $500, they will create a company in Delaware for you as well as a bank account in the USA! If that is too much dough, then check out Rocketlawyer. You can also lodge and file yourself.
If you’re living outside of the USA and you want a company in your own country, keep in mind most overseas companies and individuals have a tax withholding when being paid by Amazon. Not all though, some countries have tax treaties with the USA for a reduced withholding rate or no withholding. If you’re in Austria, Canada, Czech. Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, or the UK – there is no withholding. If you do have withholding, you need an EIN (Employer Identification Number) or a ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number.) Either way, you call the IRS at (1) 267 951 1000. The reason you need to call instead of me listing the steps here, is the steps have changed every year for the past few years. With Trump as president ripping up every law and process he can, it’s a situation where you should simply call. Their hours are 6am to 11pm EST. They are not as bad as their reputation would imply, and they are there to help you. Tell them your dilemma, but also do not take no for an answer if they lie and say there’s no way to get an EIN or ITIN.
Hello, I am calling from *country* and I need an EIN to comply with IRS regulations. I have been told that I do not need to create an entity in the USA to get this number.
They should give you an EIN on the spot after taking your information, but it takes two weeks for it to show up on their system generally. You can also always try entering your local tax payer information into Amazon, as I have heard a few stories of occasionally people not seeing any withholding, and then Amazon simply does not withhold. That’s a bit dodgy and not a good long term solution, so it’s best to create a company and get an EIN that way or get an EIN from the IRS. Note, when you call the IRS you ask for an EIN not a ITIN, as they consider you a self-employed business as an overseas individual contractor, and the ITIN is actually much harder to get, so don’t go down that path. When you get the EIN, register your Amazon account as a business and not an individual account, otherwise they will not accept the EIN. The opposite is also true, they won’t accept a ITIN for a business. So business Amazon account, then EIN. Even the cheapest legal entity in the USA will make it so you don’t need to withold funds, and you can accept payments into a US bank account using a free Transferwise Borderless Bank Account. Please leave a comment below with any info you have to share about getting started as an author. 🙂