Hey look, a new post! I know they’ve been relatively sparse these past few weeks – I’ll explain why in a future post. In the meantime, this guest post is from Location Rebel member Lise Cartwright. If you’ve ever thought of publishing a Kindle book, stop what you’re doing and read this!
Take it away Lise!
What I learned from launching 3 self published books in 60 days on Amazon…
Before we jump into this massive blog post (sorry Sean!), you’re probably wondering who the heck I am… My name is Lise Cartwright and I’m a direct success story from Location Rebel. Thanks to Sean and the LR community, I quit my job in June 2012 and haven’t looked back.
I’ve spent the last 2.5 years freelancing as a writer and social media consultant. I’ve enjoyed every minute of working for myself, but around December of 2013, I started looking at some other avenues to make money. I don’t like to have my eggs all in the one basket and was beginning to feel a little bit like my basket was getting a tad on the empty side…
So, I jumped straight into the self publishing industry in December 2013, when I self published my first book (which is now on Kindle). I clearly didn’t know enough about self publishing because I didn’t even put the book on Amazon.
Things didn’t click for me until I came across a blog post written by Steve Scott. This man is a machine and is making well over $45,000 USD PER MONTH.
After reading about what Steve was doing, I wanted to know more! I wanted to learn as much as I could about this space, because if you’re going to do something well, you need to learn as much as you can, in my opinion. So I looked at what Pat Flynn, Chris Ducker, Natalie Sisson and Tim Grahl were doing. I learned a lot!
Fast forward to July 2014 when I started my Kindle self publishing journey. I published my first Kindle book in September 2014 and since then, have published a further 5 books on Kindle and 5 on CreateSpace (paperbacks).
But, that’s enough about me! What I want to share with you is the success I’ve been having with launching books on Kindle at $0.99 rather than free and then raising the price, which is a common strategy.
The free strategy is simple:
- Get 5-10 reviews on your live book in Kindle, prior to your launch date
- When you upload your book in KDP, set the price around $6.99 – $9.99
- Set your KDP Select free days (up to 5 days), with the view of launching on a Sunday
- Submit your free book to free submission sites 2-3 days before launch
- Day 1-3 of launch, list your book daily on free Facebook groups, tell your friends and family and everyone else you know to download it!
- Day 4-5 of launch, monitor book rank in the free store, once it hits Top 100 (or as close to that as possible) and holds for a few hours, switch to paid, at $0.99
That’s pretty much the gist of it.
It’s important to have a comparison, so you know in your own mind which strategy you might choose to go for when you launch your Kindle book. Below is the first launch I did following the free strategy above.
Free Launch – No Gym Needed Book
My first ever Kindle book was written during the course I took in July by James Roper and Chandler Bolt, Self Publishing School. The book is called , No Gym Needed: Quick and Simple Workouts for Gals on the Go, and did amazingly well (by my standards), getting over 7,000 downloads during the 3 days it was free.
I just want to point something out here. Downloads refers to the number of books that were given away for free. They do not equate to sales. You don’t get paid for free downloads. Something to remember as you read on…
It reached #35 in the Top 100 Free Kindle Store and was a Best Seller in the two categories I had it listed in – Health & Fitness > Women’s Health and Self Help > Stress Management.
Why does this even matter? If you’re book can reach the Top 100 in the Free Kindle Store, it bodes well for your book once it switches to paid. The key is to stop your promo (manually) once you’re ‘holding’ in the Top 100. During your free promo, your book will move up and down the ranks almost by the hour. Take screenshots as often as you can and monitor your book until you notice it start to move down – this is when you want to switch to paid.
No Gym Needed Metrics
Right now, this book is ranked #11,075 in the overall Paid Kindle Store, which means that on average, I’m making 1-10 sales per day using www.kdpcalculator.com.
By looking at the past 30 days, you can see that I’m actually making more than that.
You’ll notice a couple of spikes (red line), this is from putting the book on sale at $0.99 and also being featured in the Brazilian store by Amazon.
The blue line shows Prime and Kindle Unlimited access – which I get paid for as long as 10% of the first part of the book is read. This can equate for another $500 in income per month, or more.
So this probably seems like a great strategy – and it is.
But, the reason that I’m moving away from this strategy is for a few reasons that I’ll outline for you below.
Why I’m Ditching Free:
- Perceived Value – I noticed that people that bought my book were more engaged with the emails I sent following sign up for the freebie compared with those who accessed the book for free. I want to build a following, so want good engagement, not just people looking for free stuff.
- This is a Business – I want to recoup costs associated with self publishing a book as quickly as possible.
- Building an Author Platform – I want to provide value where possible – by launching at free, while my books can get into many more hands, it doesn’t mean that these same people will take action on what the books are delivering. I want to make a difference through my books. It comes back to perceived value…
Ok, that’s the free strategy covered. The only time this might be worthwhile is if you have absolutely no list at all and you are looking to build a following – then this would be a good option. But it wouldn’t be the option I’d use for any of your next books.
Now, let’s look at a strategy that has been super successful for me. It propelled me from earning $800 per month to $1,000+ per month from my Kindle books.
I’m going to share with you what I did and how you can follow these same steps to achieve the same results.
The only cavet is that I’m publishing books every month, which helps in the overall strategy. If you just launch one book, you may not experience the same results. Remember, this is a business for me, and it’s about consistency – Amazon has it’s own algorithms and part of that is giving more ‘weight’ to author’s who are consistenly publishing on a regular basis.
Ok, let’s jump straight into the juicy details!
Paid Launch – Side Hustle Blueprint Book
With Side Hustle Blueprint: How to Make an Extra $1000 in 30 Days Without Leaving Your Day Job, I wanted to try a paid launch. I wanted to test a few theories I’d read for myself.
These included launching a book at $0.99 for 3 weeks and then switching it to permafree (where your book is listed as permanently free on Amazon) for 2 months then switching it back to the full price.
And while on the surface this appeared to have a lot of merit, once I started down this path, someone sagely advised me that why would I switch to permafree and hurt my rankings when I could just play around with the pricing instead?
So following the advice given above, I switched tactics and this is the strategy I followed (amended from a few different sources):
- Soft launch book to my author list, asking for reviews in exchange for a free PDF copy
- Contacted my main newsletter list from Outsourced Freelancing Success with the same offer
- Ask reviewers to leave a live review on my book’s Amazon page on a specific date (allowed 7 days to read and review)
- Dropped book price to $0.99 and submitted the book to 99 cent promo sites (all free)
- Submitted book to a www.buckbooks.net promotion (free submission)
- Left book at $0.99 for 3 weeks
- Increased price to $2.99 and then $3.99 (within a week of each other)
Let’s delve into each of these steps more so you can try this for yourself.
Step 1 – Soft Launch to Author List
As part of my author platform, I’ve been collecting emails for my author list. I do this by placing a link to my author website (www.lisecartwright.com) at the front and back of each of my books.
People who visit that page are presented with the option to join my VIP list to get notifications of new books, discounts and promotions.
So part of step 1 is creating an opt-in for your author list. This could be a free book, audio book etc. Choose something that is relevant to your audience.
Once you have an author list, you can utilise them for your launches.
Here’s what I did (and what you can do too):
- 2 weeks prior to my ‘hard’ launch date, I sent an email to my author list. You can see a copy of this email here
- You’ll see from the email that I asked them if they’d like a free copy of my new book in exchange for a review (or they could pay for the book instead!)
- The caveat was that the review would have to be left on the day of the books ‘hard’ launch date, and that if they couldn’t commit to that, then they couldn’t get a free copy
I had 10 people respond to that email saying that they would be happy to read and review the book.
Step 2 – Get More Reviews
In addition to my author list, I also contacted my main newsletter list on www.outsourcedfreelancingsuccess.com with the same offer – an advanced copy of my new book (for free) in exchange for a review.
This only worked because the Side Hustle Blueprint book was of value to this list. If your book fits in well with any lists you have, then it makes sense to approach them. If it doesn’t, then don’t spam those lists – it’s a quick way to see your email autoresponder service provider close your account.
I also reached out to some Mastermind groups I belonged to and a couple of Facebook groups I belonged to, all with the same ask.
As with the author list, the requirement was to leave a review on a specific date.
There are a couple of variations you can do with this. You could have people leave reviews over a few days, so they weren’t all on the one day. I got people to do this with my second paid launch.
The point is that you need at least 10 reviews to let Amazon know that you’re book is worthwhile and that people are liking it.
Step 3 – Upload Book to KDP
Five days prior to your launch date, upload your book to KDP and set the price at your desired price point. Aim for between $2.99 – $9.99 so you’re earning 70% commission.
DO NOT upload the book any earlier. The reason? You only get featured on the “Hot New Releases” list for the first 30 days of your book going live – you want to make the most of those 30 days. Your 30 days starts from the day you hit publish in the KDP dashboard.
I typically price my books around the $3.99 price point. This is based on word count and number of pages. My books sit around the 25,000 word count which equates to about 100 pages on a Kindle.
If you’re book is bigger than that, you might consider listing at a higher price point.
Step 4 – Drop Price to $0.99
The 3-4 days before your ‘hard’ launch date, drop your books price to $0.99. Submit it to promotion sites that will notify their lists that you’re book is on sale.
The majority of these sites offer a free submission service, but there are paid options as well. Google “kindle promotion sites” and you’ll be presented with a number of options.
I submitted my book to over 15 99 cent promo sites. Keep in mind that a number of these sites require at least 3-7 days notification of a promotion. This is why you want to leave your book at $0.99 for a 3 week duration.
Step 5 – Use a Buck Books Promo
If you haven’t heard of Buck Books, you’re missing out, both as an author and a reader. I came across Buck Books as part of being a member of Pat Flynn’s Facebook group.
Buck Books has an email list that they email daily with 99 cent book (hence ‘Buck Books’) deals across every genre, from non-fiction to fiction.
As an author, you can get your book featured on one of these days for free. All you have to do is ensure that your book is listed at $0.99 when the promotion runs.
Buck Books is free to submit your book to (for now) and you can do that by visiting this page:
If you’re a reader, you can sign up to the email list here.
You’ll need to plan this promo for at least 7 days in advance of the actual date you want the promo to happen. It is getting more and more popular. The guys at Buck Books are great and will let you know if your proposed date is not doable and offer you other options.
Planning ahead is key.
Step 6 – 3 Weeks at $0.99
As I mentioned above, you want to leave your book at $0.99 for 3 weeks. The main reason for this is that you don’t want all the free promos happening all on the same day. You want to spread the dates around.
I had one week of being featured across the free submission sites and then the Buck Books promo the following week and then I also emailed my own lists the third week letting them know that the sale was coming to an end.
You can also pay for promotions too. I did a couple of these, costing $30 all up across the 3 sites I used.
Another promotional tool I like to use is called ‘Tweet Your Books’ and I used it during my free launch strategy. You can find these service at www.tweetyourbooks.com – I used the 1 day option.
Step 7 – Increase Price
Once your book has been sitting at $0.99 for 3 weeks and it’s climbed the Kindle store paid ranks, it’s time to increase the price.
I increased the price to $2.99 for one week and then increased it to $3.99.
Depending on your niche, this might be what you do. Or your book might be priced higher. Regardless, you should always increase from $0.99 to $2.99 and then increase the price further following that.
By doing this, you’ll ensure that your book stays in the Top 20 Best Sellers within the categories its listed in.
Ok, now that I’ve explained the steps, let’s look at the results of this paid launch and then compare it with the free launch.
Side Hustle Blueprint Results
During the 3 week period it was listed at $0.99 (including the Buck Books promo) I received 1,510 sales, with a gross profit of approx. $550 USD.
It reached #594 in the Top 100 Paid Kindle Store and was a Best Seller in the two categories I had it listed in – Business & Money > Finance and Education & Teaching > Adult & Continuing Education.
I ended up changing the categories during my monthly maintenance checklist and it has been in the Top 5 Best Sellers in Education & Training > Adult & Continuing Education since it was published!
Lets look at the metrics in comparison to the first and second launches:
I think the results speak for themselves. Not only did I sell more books, but the following 30 days I made over $1,000 with my Side Hustle Blueprint book. And the following 30 (December) are on track for the same, just from one book!
Right now the Side Hustle Blueprint book is ranked at #10,756 in the Paid Kindle Store and #1 in Adult & Continuing Education category. So based on the KDP Calculator, I should be getting 1-10 sales per day.
In fact, I’m doing far better than that, as you can see below:
The spikes all coincide with a promotion. The one around the 17/18 November was my birthday promotion and the one around 27/28 November was Black Friday/Thanksgiving.
I want to thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post! I know it’s a lot of information to take in, but I hope the takeaway is that you can make some serious money from Kindle and you can do it quicker if you launch at paid rather than free.
Bio: Lise Cartwright is a self confessed (or is that obsessed?!) shoe fanatic that has found her passion in writing and indie publishing. In 2015 she will be taking on a limited number of coaching students who are looking to have similar successes. If you’d like to know more, visit her site for more details (and get your special gifts!).
Also if you’re serious about self publishing, improving your Kindle sales, and becoming a successful author, the single best resource I know of is Self-Publishing School. It’s where I recommend anyone who is serious about that as a career or side hustle get started, as it’s the most comprehensive training out there.
Check out their free class on writing and launching your own book to see if it’s a good fit for your goals.