I published my first ebook via Amazon KDP just after Christmas. It is a non-fiction business book, and I thought a release around New Years would do well with lots of people looking to improve themselves. I wrote it under a pen name, which is something I debated about pretty heavily. Although there is nothing wrong with the content I wrote, I was concerned about it somehow backfiring and affecting my day job. Looking back, it’s sort of a silly worry, but I decided I’d make that release completely independent of my own name. I’m now only two days in on the launch, and I’ve already learned a lot.
You can see below that I launched on the 28th, and only had 17 free downloads that day. I began with the book enrolled in KDP select, and launched it for free. I did slightly hurt my downloads as I alternated from paid to free the first day, so I imagine that cost me at least 10-20 downloads. That’s not an excuse though, no matter how you cut it, my day 1 downloads were pitiful.
The energy wasn’t wasted, I’d like to think. Because only a couple days in, and I’ve learned a lot that I will use moving forward on my future books which I am in the midst of writing right now. Without further ado, I present my 5 things I learned while launching my ebook on Amazon list!
5. Free vs. Paid launch
I debated heavily over whether to offer my book for free or for a price initially. I’m an unknown author, with no previous work, so I decided to launch free. My mistake was that I technically launched free then immediately switched to $2.99, then back to free. I can’t help but think this fickle approach really hurt my launch. My advice is this: if you’re a new author, launch free and commit to it. If you’ve done your marketing properly, you will have plenty of downloads. If you’re a veteran, I would definitely launch as paid, or begin with a heavy discount. I believe all writing has value, so I hate the idea of free, but the reality is that it will help spread the word for you.
4. Have a website
Since I was treating this ebook as an experiment, I never made a website for it. That killed me. I could have funneled potential customers into mailing lists for updates on the book, or gotten valuable feedback, or used it to recruit a launch team. Instead, I did none of that. A very basic website can be had for almost nothing. By day, I spend my time helping customers with technology, so this is in my wheelhouse. If you want to read my tips for setting up your own website that doesn’t suck, check out my post series specifically geared toward this topic, titled “Websites for Authors.” In a nutshell, my advice is this:
- Sign up for an account with Hostgator or Bluehost
- Install WordPress
- Select a nice one-page theme at a place like ThemeForest (it’s where I bought this theme for only a couple of bucks)
- If you want to sell on your site, I recommend:
- Paypal Standard account to start, let the credit card processing occur somewhere else – not on your server. There’s a lot of risk involved with processing your own credit transactions, and by day, I work with customers who are facing these challenges even with a full team of IT people. Paypal does it well.
- Use a shopping cart plugin like WooCommerce that integrates very easy with WordPress.
The beauty of this approach is that you can have a nice looking website up within hours with little to no web design/development knowledge.
3. Solicit a few honest reviews
I alluded to this in another point, but if I could do things differently, I would line up a couple of people to read my book when I launched, and leave a couple of honest reviews. Even a three star review is better than no reviews, in my opinion. There are services where you can pay for these reviews, but I don’t personally feel like paying for a review is something I’m interested in.
2. NOT launched near the holidays
I got impatient. I originally thought launching right after the New Year would make the most sense, but I got impatient when the book was finished, so I decided to launch away. My logic went something like this: people have free time, and might be wanting to get some reading done. What I didn’t think about is: they typically are spending times with their families this time of year. Although I can’t quite quantify the results, I do feel that launching near a holiday hurt my downloads.
1. Market like a mofo
I read blog after blog, ebook after ebook, and they all said the same thing: MARKET YOUR BOOK EARLY! Naturally, I ignored their advice, because I’m an idiot. You should be spreading the word everywhere, if possible. Here’s some things I wish I would have done prior to my launch:
- Contact blogs and podcasts to spread the word. Write a guest post, get early reviews, etc.
- Begin sharing the book details on social media 7 days before launch
- Have a better advertising plan. Advertise on Amazon, Facebook, your website, etc. It would be extra helpful to draw a rough guide around your plans here, and to even sign up at the respective sites, or create campaigns (but don’t launch until you’re ready) beforehand since there is a slight learning curve setting up things like Facebook ads.
BONUS: Have an ask
In my day job, I’m an engineer, but I’m involved somewhat in the sales process. We always talk about “having an ask” during a meeting. The idea is simple, when you have access to your potential customer, you want to have one ask of them. It can be to sign up for a mailing list, to download something, to share something, or to buy something. The point is, you don’t want to waste an interaction with your customer. In my case, since I didn’t build a site or ANYTHING, I had no asks. I’ve got people reading my book, but I have no way to turn that into meaningful interaction – it just dies after they read the book.