152 – Successfully Self Publishing on Amazon
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This post will be a deep dive into the strategies I utilized in 2018 to go from under $100 a month to making solid four figures every month self publishing on Amazon. My goal is to be as transparent as possible and give you the strategies and tips you’ll need to find success!
Caveat: There is no ONE way. These are things that worked for me. If you don’t have a well-written book, chances are you will not succeed self publishing on Amazon or anywhere else.
If you are interested in self publishing on Amazon, it’s a great time to be writing! There are so many more resources and tools out there to help you. But that can also mean a lot of time wasted researching, testing, and trying things.
I spent the last year testing, trying, and self publishing. I’m happy to say that within that year, I’ve made huge strides and learned a lot that I wanted to share. This post will be an overview of the strategies I employed and I’ll do a deeper dive on each piece in a separate post.
BEFORE YOU SELF PUBLISH ON AMAZON
Before we get into the strategies, I want to make this clear: You are unlikely to find success with a poorly written book, a bad cover, and an unclear genre. These are necessities! Sometimes you might get away with one of those, but all three are massively important.
While we can all point to books that are poorly written and still find success, your goal should be to write a book that resonates with readers. Sometimes books with poor writing style or grammar do well because the story resonates with readers. But books that well well are books that connect with an audience. Start here: write the very best book you can.
Without a solid book cover that looks professional and like the other books in your genre, your book will not sell. No matter how good the inside of the book is, people are turned off by bad covers. This is simply reality. The faster you understand that and stop fighting against it, the better off you’ll be.
Good resources for affordable covers:
If you try to tell someone about your book and say something like, “It’s kind of like a sci-fi thriller, with a little romantic comedy and fantasy mixed in,” then YOU ARE IN TROUBLE. Books in a genre may have elements of another genre (like a sci fi book that has a romantic storyline in it), but to do well with your marketing efforts, you really need to be very clear on your genre.
- If you haven’t checked out my post on Niching Down, this would be a great place to start!
Once you’ve got a well-written book, a solid cover, and a clear genre, it’s time to think about self publishing and marketing your book.
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY SELF PUBLISH ON AMAZON
I tried a lot of things in 2018, but these are the main things that led to success with self-publishing. I’ll go into more detail on each in future episodes and posts, but for now, here are the top things I did. (Again, AFTER writing good books, having solid covers, and being clear on my genre.) The first three are related to writing and craft and the second three are related to marketing.
- Published quickly (about a book every six weeks starting in May)
- Writing in a series
- Writing in a hot trope
- Consistently grew my newsletter
- Set up newsletter swaps with other authors in my genre
- Paid for promotions through other email newsletters
Other than the two on the list, those three main things ALL deal with email! Email is and always will be my foundation for what I do.
I did not know that I could write so fast. This will NOT be for everyone! But I will say that if you don’t think it’s you, don’t put a mindset block on writing quickly. My very first book ever took two years to write. The first clean romance book I wrote took three months. My second clean romance book took two months and my third took two weeks.
I’ll address this more in a future episode, but as a note, writing quickly does NOT mean poor writing. The structure of sweet romance is fairly simple and the books are short, around 50k words. This makes it fairly easy to write them more quickly. I also find a cohesiveness in my books that I write faster. Whether a book is written quickly or slowly, you should consider hiring a proofreader! There will be mistakes either way.
Again, writing quickly isn’t for everyone. But whenever I release a new book, I see spikes in the sales of my other books. Writing quickly and publishing quickly on Amazon can be a great marketing tactic in and of itself. You may not realize that you have a quick writer inside of you–I for sure didn’t! Don’t feel that you have to do this, but don’t think that you can’t just because you haven’t yet.
WRITING IN A SERIES
To get the most out of your books, consider writing in a series. This gives readers a clear path on what to read next. If they find and love you, they may just go out and read ALL your other books. (I’ve done this for authors!)
If you’re writing in romance, the series have to be tied in some way that’s NOT leaving readers with cliffhangers. My series are tied by theme or location or have secondary characters becoming primary characters in other books.
For MOST genres, series should be read in order. Know your genre and plan a series within those genre expectations. It will impact your continued sales as you publish.
WRITING IN A HOT TROPE
Trends come and go! If you can latch onto a trend that is hot and write quickly enough to get books out there, you may find more success. Billionaires have been hot in clean romance for the past year or two and I’ve found that my billionaire books outsell my other books something like five to one. Or more.
Traditional publishing doesn’t always have this luxury, as books are finished years in advance. So if you see that vampire books are going wild again, you won’t have time to get a traditionally published vampire book out in time. But you might be able to get in there if you are self publishing on Amazon.
- Tip: I use K-lytics and am an affiliate for their deep dives into what’s selling on Amazon! Find out more HERE. I also use Rocket to identify keywords that people are searching for on Amazon. I’m an affiliate for that as well and you can check it out HERE.
GROWING A NEWSLETTER
Because I know that email sells books, I put money and time into growing an engaged list of subscribers. I used free promotions where I gave away short stories or whole books through Bookfunnel, Book Cave, and Story Origin, and I also paid for promotions with Booksweeps and AuthorsXP that connected me with readers in my genre.
I spent time crafting my emails and promoting engagement with my readers. Some weeks I get something like thirty replies to my emails! The goal is not just numbers, but to connect with readers who buy books and love YOUR books.
As far as social media, I barely did much. I started Twitter, then never went there. I also have a Facebook page, mostly for running ads (and the occasional post) and have started a Facebook readers’ group.
With having a solid list comes swapping spots in newsletters with other authors. Essentially, they share for you when you have a book coming out (or on sale) and you return the favor when they have a launch or book on sale.
The best way I’ve found this to work is by networking in newsletter swaps Facebook groups by genre. Make sure you are clear on your genre! Sometimes I’ll see books in the clean romance swap group that aren’t clean or aren’t romance. This works best when you are super clear on what you’re writing and what you’re sharing with your readers.
PAYING FOR PROMOTIONS
There are a ton of sites out there who will happily take your money and send your book to their thousands of email subscribers who buy books. These are NOT all created equal and can run anywhere from $50-200. I’m excited to break down more about how to choose the right ones in a later post, but for now, you can check out these resources on finding sites like this:
Successful self-publishing on Amazon requires a plan. It also requires being willing to pay attention to what’s working, doubling down on the things that do work and backing off on the things that don’t.
- See my post on how I changed the title of my book mid-launch!
I kept spreadsheets of book promotions sites that worked so I could track my expenses and stop using sites that didn’t work. I pivoted and shifted when things weren’t going well. I networked with other authors, asked for feedback, and studied what other authors did.
Was it hard? Yes and no. Often the things I did were simple, but took a lot of time.
While you’re going to struggle to find success with a poorly-written book, writing a good book does not equal good sales. Just self publishing a book on Amazon likely will not result in sales!