You wrote a nonfiction ebook. It failed. One of my writing students is in precisely this situation. At the start of 2016, she wrote an ebook, and… Crickets. She can count her sales on the fingers of one hand. She contacted me, to ask whether I had any ideas.
Of course I do. You ask, I deliver. 🙂
Nonfiction ebooks: can you still make money?
Firstly, let’s talk about whether you can still make money writing nonfiction ebooks. The Amazon Kindle store is crowded. That said, some authors report that 2016 is their best year since 2010.
Here are the tips I shared with my student.
1. Keywords! Update your meta data today (be creative, and persistent)
Discoverability is the biggest challenge for all authors on Amazon, as well as on the other ebook retailers. If your readers can’t find your nonfiction ebook, they can’t buy it.
Check your ebook’s product page, and redo your keywords and description. Start by putting yourself in your readers’ shoes. If you were a reader, looking for the information in your book, what words would you use?
You have seven keywords you can use, as well as 4000 characters (approximately 800 words) which you can use for the description.
In addition to discoverability, remember that once a reader reaches your product page, he needs to feel that your book can help him. Give a clear description of your book: the challenges it solves, and the benefits to the reader. If you have great reviews, add a snippet of a review to the description.
Once you’ve revised your ebook’s meta data, you should see an uptick in sales within three or four days. No results? Tweak the meta data again.
2. Create a bright and sparkling new edition
I love ebooks, because you can edit them as often as you please to create a new edition. If you have material you’d like to add, go ahead and add it. Happy with the cover image? Change it if you aren’t.
Put “2nd edition” on the title page of your book, with the year: “2nd edition, 2017.” Update your meta data as well.
Additionally, remember that updating your nonfiction ebook is news. Create an online news release, and promote your new edition on social media.
Consider creating a new edition of your ebook once a year, or once every couple of years.
3. Contact influencers (your blogging and Facebook page finally pay off): reciprocate on promotions
The more people who know about your book, the more people can buy it. One of the best ways to promote your ebook is to use other people’s audiences.
Contact influencers in the subject matter of your ebook, and offer to do a guest post on their blog, with a link to your ebook. If you have a following on any of the social media networks, offer to do reciprocal promotions with an influencer in your niche. You promote them, they promote your ebook.
Consider partnering with three or four other authors in your niche, to create an ebook. Each of you writes a chapter or two. Add a link to the signup page for your mailing list in the book, as well as a link to your nonfiction ebook.
Webinars are a great way to promote ebooks. Join with another author or two, and create a webinar. With each of you promoting the webinar, you’ll be able to expand your audience, and create buzz for your ebook.
4. Give away free copies: hint you’d like a review
While “free” is no longer the excellent promotional strategy it used to be, you can still use it. Give away 200 free copies. You can’t force people to give you a review, but you can ask.
Aim to get copies into the hands of influencers.
5. Write more ebooks on your topic: explore it vertically (find out how well your topic sells, first)
Consider your nonfiction ebook’s subject matter. Could you write another ebook, which promotes your first ebook? Write another ebook, exploring your subject matter more deeply.
A suggestion: do make sure that ebooks in your subject are selling. KindleSpy is a useful tool which can show you how many ebooks are selling in any niche. If you find that the bestselling ebooks in your nonfiction ebook’s area are only selling a hundred copies a month, writing another ebook on the same subject may be a waste of time. Can you find a topic which sells better?
Use the tips to rescue your failed nonfiction ebook
Start by updating your ebook’s meta data. You should see results within a few days. Then revisit your ebook’s product page every three to six months, and update again.
My writing student put the above tips to use, and is thrilled with her sales. She’s now consistently selling copies every week, and is confidently getting ready to release her follow-up ebook.
I wish you similar success when you use the tips. 🙂
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Today, anyone can be an author. Self-publishing is hot, and in knowledgeable circles, that is, among authors who publish for readers, rather than for validation, self-publishing makes a million times more sense than going the traditional, oh-so-slow publishing route.
The big challenge with self-publishing? It’s all your responsibility — everything from sourcing covers, to selling your ebooks.
A small aside: in traditional publishing, marketing and selling your books is your responsibility too, but no one talks about that. 🙂
Perhaps you’re considering self-publishing for the first time, or have been self-publishing for a while. You know you could and should sell more ebooks, but you’re not sure how.
Something’s not right. You know your ebooks are excellent. Your covers are good, your ebooks are edited professionally, and you’re trying to be as professional as you know how to be… so how come you’re not selling more?
You have the uneasy feeling that you should be marketing your ebooks more effectively, but you’re not sure how. So you either don’t do it at all, or you do it in a half-hearted think-about-it-later fashion.
Here’s something to keep in mind. It’s what I suggest to my students when they moan about marketing…
The ONE big secret strategy of all publishing: help readers to find you
Although there are potentially millions of readers for your ebooks, most will never find your ebooks. Your mission: to give readers as many opportunities to find you as you can.
You need to make your ebooks discoverable. Thousands of new ebooks appear each and every month. Without discovery, your ebooks are soon buried under an avalanche of other authors’ ebooks.
So, how do you make your ebooks discoverable?
There’s one essential to keep in mind, otherwise you won’t have enough patience… small wins.
Discovery: aim for small wins, and be patient
As authors, we think of “readers” as a group. However, each reader is an individual. One person. Think about that, and consider that you can and must build your readership one person at a time. That’s the point of “social” media: you need to be active, and engage with readers.
Many authors reject social media. This is foolish. Yes, you’re building your readership one reader at a time, but over time, your readership will grow exponentially. One reader tells another about your ebooks. That reader tells three more people. And those three tell a dozen more.
Let’s look at three strategies you can put into action today.
1. (Easy) Go wide on some of your titles
Kindle Direct Publishing offers KDP Select,which means that you get paid for each and every page readers read, because readers can borrow your titles for free via Kindle Unlimited. The big challenge of enrolling your ebooks in Select however is that you need to give Amazon a three-month exclusive on each title enrolled. You can’t sell an ebook elsewhere, for three months.
To repeat… Once you’ve enrolled an ebook in Select, you can’t publish elsewhere (“go wide”.)
You’re missing out on potential sales on other ebook retailers. Many authors don’t mind this. Sales on other retailers are usually smaller. The operative word is “usually”: sometimes an ebook sells abysmally on Amazon, but takes off and breaks out on another retailer. A breakout ebook becomes more visible on Google: suddenly it sells more on Amazon too. It’s all about discoverability — if an ebook breaks out, it’s more discoverable. A breakout book makes the author’s other ebooks more visible too.
On the other side of the KDP Select divide, many authors feel that they don’t want all their eggs in Amazon’s global basket. Why give Amazon an exclusive? Who knows what Amazon will do next? A small change in Amazon’s algorithm may deep-six your entire publishing catalogue.
While there are many reasons to use Select, there are other reasons not too. The big reason to avoid going all-in with Select on all your titles? You hand over control of your publishing venture to Amazon.
Authors struggle with this, and I do too.
Here’s a solution: go wide on some of your titles. That is, keep some of your titles out of Select, and publish them widely — to other ebook retailers as well. If you do this, you can make the occasional title free, so that readers can discover your ebooks when you advertise your freebie.
Remember… discoverable. The more opportunities you give readers to discover your ebooks, the more you will sell.
Try it. If you have several titles, take one or two wide.
Push these ebooks on social media; you’ll sell more copies.
2. (Takes patience) Create social media campaigns
You will build your readership if you invest some time (and money, if you have money to invest) on social media.
Have you said something like this…?
“Social media is a waste of time, I’d rather write.”
“Social media doesn’t work.”
If you have, you’re not making the most of social media. Start paying attention, and you’ll sell more ebooks.
Just remember: one reader at a time. Small wins. Advertising doesn’t work on social media — engagement does. In fact, social media may well be the opposite of advertising. (If you’re a shy author, this is good news. :-))
Social media is the opposite of advertising…
The big challenge with social media is the temptation to look on it as advertising. It’s not advertising… It’s social. You can’t market on social media directly. However, if you want to sell more copies of every ebook you write — and want to make the most of your writing career — you must build your platform. The easiest way to do that is via social media.
Here’s a secret to help social media work for you: stop selling. Have fun; be social. To repeat once again — one reader at a time. DO make sure that you have a blog, or some online presence, so that your social media friends and followers can buy your ebooks.
3. (Invest in yourself) Pay for advertising
Many authors are currently making great money using Facebook advertising. The big reason is targeting. You can target readers using a fantastic variety of selection criteria because Facebook seems to know everything about everyone. 🙂
Advertising can build your readership, quickly. However, be careful. Test out each form of advertising first. It’s possible to waste money if you don’t keep track of what you’re spending, and of your results. Take it slowly, and use your advertising spend with social media.
Should you pay for advertising?
Yes, if you have the money to invest. However, and I can’t emphasize this enough: keep track of ad spending. Set yourself a yearly/ monthly budget before you start. You don’t need a huge budget.
Let’s say that you’ve made $1,000 from self-publishing in the past 12 months. Small businesses like to make their marketing budget a percentage of net profits — say 25%. (Remember, your advertising is all tax deductible. If you don’t have an accountant, get one; make it a priority.)
So your net was $1000; $250 is your ad budget. You may think that this is too small. And it is. However, it’s enough money for you to experiment a little. I once told a student to look on their ad spend as gambling: only spend what you can afford to lose. You will get results from your ads, however, those results can take months to show up, so if you expect an instant up-tick in sales you’ll be disappointed.
What if you can afford $1000 a month or more for advertising? If you can, that’s great. Unfortunately, if you invest all of it, chances are you’ll be spending too much, in the wrong places. START SLOWLY. Experiment, and track everything.
If you just buy a bunch of ads, and don’t track your spending and results, chances are that your expectations will soon overwhelm your confidence. Your writing will suffer, because you’re devoting too much time to marketing, rather than relaxing, so that your creativity can bloom.
Do I sound negative about advertising? I’m not — if you learn as you go. You must see what works for you. What works for other writers may or may not work for you — and I always bet on WILL NOT…
I’m very much in favor of advertising — I’ve made my living as a copywriter for going on 40 years after all. So I know what advertising can, and can’t do. (Short version on what it cannot do: you can lead a horse to water as the truism goes, but if the market doesn’t buy, it doesn’t buy. The market decides.)
Someone once said that 50% of all the money they spent on advertising was a waste of money: the challenge lies in knowing which 50%.
Start small. Track. When you find an advertising venue which works for you, increase your ad spend slowly — and keep experimenting.
And of course, keep writing… you must have products to sell. And yes, books are products, when it comes to marketing.
Want to sell more ebooks? Write more
If you want to sell more ebooks, you need to have more ebooks to sell. This isn’t a secret. However, it’s easy to forget it, in the hustle and bustle of marketing.
Writing comes first. Not only because you’ll make more sales, but also because writing more will make you a better writer.
What to do next: think, and plan
Let’s look at what you can do next.
Check your ebooks’ product pages on Amazon. Your cover, title, categories, and description sell your ebooks. Revise your blurb. (All blurbs need revision — mine do too, and I’m a copywriter by trade.) Ask your readers. Get some input from them about your blurb. Does your blurb work? Why? Why not?
Develop some creative (ads) for your ebooks. Research, to see what other authors are doing. At a minimum, you need some Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest ads.
Think about ORGANIC reviews, and how you might get them. I’m hesitant to mention reviews at all. (Sigh.) I’ve seen authors who should know better blatantly buying reviews. Please, don’t do this. Your reviews can and should grow organically. Your reviews must be from real readers, who have something to say. One reader in a thousand will review your ebook. You can improve those odds. Give away free copies on launch; ask readers for reviews at the back of your ebooks.
Pay attention to your social media accounts. Be there. Interact. Create alerts for your ebooks. Thank readers. Compliment other authors. Post about books you love. Be nice. Be professional, at all times.
Do something to market your ebooks every day: tweet. Post an image on Facebook, or Pinterest. You don’t need to do much — everything you do is cumulative. And, most importantly…
HAVE FUN… 🙂 Seriously: have fun with it. Nothing is more important. If you’re having fun, it shows — and you’ll sell more ebooks.
Worried about your ebook covers? Cover images seem to be an on-going challenge for authors. Each week, we get questions about Kindle covers, and Kindle formatting.
Let’s look at creating cover images which sell.
An image isn’t just an image: it’s marketing
Do your ebook covers sell? Yes — and no. A wonderful cover won’t sell a mediocre ebook. On the other hand, a bad cover will hurt your sales.
Essentially, your cover is a sales tool.
Here’s a BIG tip: look at ebook covers in your genre. Your cover raises expectations. If you’re writing a spooky horror novel, you don’t want your cover to look sweet, or as if you’re writing a techno-thriller. See what other authors are doing cover-wise, then match your cover to your genre.
You have many, many ways to develop wonderful covers. You can:
Images for other marketing you might do, like creating press releases.
I prefer to source my own images, using stock libraries, like Dollar Photo Club. Then I either create the covers myself, or hire a designer. I source the images, and then I ask the designer to send me the Photoshop files.
Once you have the source files for your ebook cover image, you can create as many social media, and other marketing images, as you like.
Just starting out? Buy pre-made covers
Many websites offer pre-made Kindle covers. (Do a Google search for “pre-made kindle covers”.)
Generally speaking, when you buy a pre-made cover, you’ll just receive the cover, you won’t receive the Photoshop files.
That’s OK, because if you’re just starting out, writing more ebooks is much more important than marketing. You need to have lots of ebooks to sell. Get yourself established, with two or three ebooks, and then you can start marketing.
In summary: consider your ebook covers to be a form of marketing. However, ensure that you have more than one ebook to sell, before you start a marketing campaign.
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