Are you interested in selling your own ebooks on the Amazon Kindle platform? Do you want to make some passive income being an author?
Today, I have Jonny Andrews on the show to teach us how to make money selling ebooks on the Amazon platform. Jonny runs the popular website and podcast AudienceHacker.com and he’s got a ton of experience with launching successful ebooks. In fact in one of his launches, he was able to make over 30K in under 7 days which is crazy!
He reveals all of his tactics and secrets in this episode so check it out!
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What You’ll Learn
- Why you should consider using a pen name when writing an ebook
- The 3 major things involved in selling a lot of books
- Is there real money to be made selling ebooks?
- What does it take to be a successful seller on Kindle if you only have a small audience
- How to create a reinforcement strategy for your ebooks.
- The key strategy for selling ebooks when you have nothing
- What’s a good launch strategy for your ebook
- How to get visibility on Amazon
- How to get reviews for your book
- How to get on the bestseller list
- Where to get your book cover designed
- If you need a website logo or website design, make sure you check out 99Designs.com and enjoy $99 in savings by clicking on this link!
Other Resources And Books
Now if you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/contest. And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more information.
Now before I begin I just wanted to give a quick shout out to this episode’s sponsor 99designs. Now, originally I wasn’t going to take any sponsors at all but 99designs caught my eye, because I suck at design. And in fact when I first started my online store back in 2007 the design for my website was terrible and I had absolutely no idea who to turn to. Now fast forward to today 99designs is a site where you can provide a description of anything that you want designed whether it be a logo, a webpage, a t-shirt, pretty much anything and have dozens of designers compete to deliver you the best design possible. And by best I mean you get to choose your favorite design among dozens of submissions from a pool of over 315,000 designers.
So, if you are design challenged like I am, I highly recommend that you go over to 99designs.com/mywifequit and if you use that link and tell them that Steve from mywifequitherjob.com referred you, your design listing will be bolded, highlighted given a prominent background and featured before all regular listings so that your request stands out among all the designers. And in fact this special offer is worth 99 dollars. So if you need a logo, website, t-shirt, business card or anything designed go to www.99designs.com/mywifequit. Now onto the show.
Welcome to the my wife quit her job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the my wife quit her job podcast. In this episode I’m going to be talking to Jonny Andrews. Now the reason why I decided to bring Jonny on the show is because many of my readers have been asking me about selling their own e-books. Now over the years Jonny has been known as the go-to guy for people who want to become authors and when it comes to wanting to launch a successful e-book. Now he’s written several books and managed to land his own personal book on the kindle home page and lots of sales and suite after that and he’s also helped clients go to over 15,000 books in sales in their first week.
Now hopefully Jonny will be willing to reveal some of his book promotion strategies with us today. I’m thinking about writing a few e-books on the kindle myself just for the exposure. So without further ado welcome Jonny, what’s up man?
Jonny: Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me
Steve: I’m doing well man, how are you doing?
Jonny: You know it’s very ,very interesting, long evening, lots of fun and yeah it’s morning dude we are talking and it’s in the morning, so this is great.
Steve: Yeah well, it’s good for you you’ve been up for a couple of hours; I just rolled out of bed myself but…
Steve: So hey just give us a quick background story, I’m sure a couple of people in my audience probably don’t know who you are. Tell us about your business, how you got started with this whole e-book thing.
Jonny: All right well I mean I will give you– I’ll kind of give you the birds eye version and that kind of stuff. So I have been just absolutely in love with the publishing business and books and literature and literally since I was basically a zygote. And it was like one of those things where you know as I was coming up sort of in this internet marketing industry and doing all sorts of fun things with that, you know after I got married, had my first kid, I was like you know what I think because my business was based all around travel. It was based around– I had to basically blast all over the world going handshaking, baby kissing kind of stuff to meet all these partners to you know go and grow my business like that. It was a very relationship based business and I suddenly realized if I want to be like a husband and a father and be there for the kid when she is growing up. I need to completely re-think everything that I am absolutely doing and I’d shut down my entire business like I’d been doing multiple seven figures and it’s pretty cool, but I was like this business no longer serves me.
And so I kind of you know– I was taking stock really of what I wanted to do I’m like you know I have always loved publishing. I’m like I should be doing this and I mean this is obviously like sort of a paraphrased version just you know to give you kind of an overview, but I decided to apply what I learned inside of internet marketing, you know. So the past couple of years I put in my time to learn how to do things like you know Facebook, Twitter all sorts of different– learn how to work with platforms, social media properties and you know how to buy traffic and how to do all these different kinds of things. I am like what if that will work with books and sure enough it did. So I put out my first book personally like I’d been testing this under scads of pen names because I didn’t peg you know it’s like one of those things you kind of want to make sure you’ve got it before you know hey here I am and everyone goes boohoo and it like okay—
Steve: Is that why you used a pen name? I was just curious.
Jonny: Actually I use pen names for a whole host of reasons but testing is absolutely one of them. I actually recommend that people do that because there are you know there is a fear and this is something that I think a lot of people can get over. There is a distinct and very pulpable fear that a lot of people have about looking foolish when they do stuff. And I’m not going to lie and say that I’m any different, like I’ve had tons of ups and downs, lots of successes, lots of failures and you know I’ve developed myself into the kind the of person that I don’t really worry about that anymore because I just assume that it’s going to happen and then it’s totally cool we can all laugh about it.
Jonny: But that comes with like– it’s one of those things, it’s like I can’t remember the boxes that was always saying the psychotic you know how [inaudible] [00:06:32] something like that where it’s like why did you wait it it’s like I can take more hits or something like that.
Jonny: Sometimes people have to evolve into that kind of human but if they are not there yet, which there is a journey to get there, it sometimes works to put up a mask, to become a different person out there even though it’s really you. And I actually got the idea of doing this many many many years ago when I read a biography on Bono the lead singer of U2 talking about when they put out their Joshua tree album, the people they loved it, they loved it, they loved it. Then they put out “Zooropa” which was totally different, very electronic very experimental for the time and people just ripped them a new one you know and then they took that very personally. And so they put out “Pop” which was I believe the next album. They created caricatures of themselves and they put forth those caricatures, and so they actually had a buffer between themselves who they were at their core and the real world and they were able to kind of like actually turn that into a huge thing that they now do, so it’s a very viable technique.
Steve: Okay sorry I interviewed– I mean I interrupted your entire story, okay so you started writing your books and then what came after that?
Jonny: Basic- I just did I mean it was all about really creating the books but it’s all about finding the market, creating the book and then growing your audience. And I mean those are really if I had to boil it down they could be the three major things and obviously there are little cool tricks and tips and fun little things you can do to be able to get the book in front of more people. I mean Amazon really gets it when it comes to that so they’ve given authors tons of tools for this and it’s funny, I like to hear– it sounds like my grandfather “back in my day we didn’t have those tools.” But literally the first books I ever put out, I had no tricks or tools, I had to just leverage you know existing platforms, so I have internal platform and external. Basically the internal will be like a mailing list that you build.
Jonny: Your external will people that you meet like J.D. Paks and stuff . That’s all I had at the time so I was like let’s just do this, so I went out and we promoted the book and it really did very, very well. So it was cool, I ended up outselling like Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki– like all these guys.
Jonny: Yeah it was pretty cool, so I definitely had some fun you know some fun after effects of that but that was— that’s kind of the basic idea.
Steve: So one question I had actually is you know a lot of this kindle books sell for really cheap, so is there real money to be made selling kindle e-books?
Jonny: Well the– to give you an idea, the first book that I– I was with a partner at the time. We put out– he would bring in the people and I would make sure that the launch worked. But what happened was we ended up selling like 15,000 books in the first week and it did, I think we did it I’m going to say 2.99 and upped the price to 3.99 after that first week, but it ended up doing like 50,000 dollars in the– it was like 45-50,000 dollars in the first month. So that was with one book.
Steve: Wow. Nice, okay. So a lot of the listeners in my audience who want to start their own e-books probably don’t have a huge audience. I don’t know if that particular example that you just gave was someone who is already pretty big. But let’s take a step back and let’s talk about it from the perspective of someone who might have a small audience, maybe a small list of like 1-5000 or something like that. What does it take to become a successful author on the kindle?
Jonny: Really that’s a perfect place to start if you can– what it really takes is and this is an important fact I think is decide what market you want to go into because here is one of the big problems that used to exist…
Jonny: Actually it still does all the time. In fact I just had a conversation with somebody the other day who was asking about kindle– a friend of mine you know we hadn’t talked for a couple of years and then he pops up and like hey I’m doing these books. If you go like shotgun style and say like you publish a book on like dog training and then you publish another one on something else, then another thing on something else, it takes the same amount of time to create each one of those books, but they are never going to reinforce each other you know.
Jonny: And that’s a huge thing with the kindle platform is people are looking to get behind an author, they are looking to– like George R.R. Martin I mean for example. I mean come on like people buy his stuff because that’s his stuff like if he put out another kind of book they would probably buy that book too you know. So it’s like you want to build your brand, you want to build yourself as an author and so I call it the umbrella concept and what that is is what’s the big idea? What’s the market and what’s the major pain play?
And then – it’s kind of a funny analogy but if you think about it like an udder with some nipples hanging off of it, it’s like here is your big udder book and then let’s say you are going to go with– what I did you went into personal finance and decided I absolutely did not want to be in that space but like you know I had this book called “How to Finally Live Debt Free and Wealthy” and then that was like the big overall udder concept and then the little nipple concepts were like different ways of like making and saving money and so you can write like a whole series of books around that, and you can feed your audience based on what they are looking for, because that’s what it takes to really do it.
I interviewed a lady– USA today best seller self published author named Quinn Loftis you know. She is just an amazing woman– very, very smart when it came to doing what she was doing, and she literally woke up one day, rolled over the bed, turned to her husband and said, “I think I’m going to start writing books” he’s like “okay,” you know and the next thing you know her – by book five she was building that audience and building that following and by book five I believe it was either five or six– I can’t remember exactly, but she ended up hitting USA today best seller list which is huge especially for a bestselling author who that was not her intention. So it’s like you can definitely make money with it, you can absolutely have this be whatever you want to be. My only advice when it comes to that though is pick who you want to be, so it’s like you know I believe Shakespeare or somebody before him said this above all to thy known self be true. Who are you? Who do you want to be? And then just go act like that person.
Steve: So based on what you said it kind of implies you need to kind of write multiple books in order to gradually build up your author strength so to speak.
Jonny: Yeah pretty much that’s one of the big realities and secrets I guess, you can say. You can absolutely succeed with one book, but this is how I look at it– I’ve seen so many other authors do it. If you’re coming out of nowhere with nothing, you have two options. You can either buy your way in, or you can take a really– you can take time to go promote that one book. Both strategies work you know. You can drive a lot of traffic, build a big list, grow a following and then launch your book , or you can launch your book and use that to make your following. It’s kind of like a podcast you know, you can use a podcast to build a following or if you have a following, you can use that to reinforce your fan base and get a bigger one.
Steve: Okay, so let’s go with the latter for example– let’s say I have nothing. How do I use my book to build an audience?
Jonny: Well what you want to do like I said is first of all you have to identify– this is like the biggest thing ever.
Jonny: Identify who the heck the audience is.
Jonny: You know who do you want to write this book for because if and I see this time and time and time and I’ve talked to people like ridiculously successful people in business who absolutely fall over sideways and start like you know [inaudible] [00:13:41] and rocking back and forth and just crying in the darkness kind of thing, when it’s like who is your person– it’s not hard like just figure out who you are talking to you know is it men women what age? You know what are their wants, needs and desires, hopes, their dreams, their fears? And you create I mean you’ve probably heard this a lot of times you create that avatar, and you write that book just for that person.
So it’s literally the art of excluding other people that you end up becoming– you stack the deck in your favor becoming successful with this. So define your avatar that’s– sit down and write it down and give them a name like I believe Aven Peggy [phonetic] talks about that. You give this person a name, maybe even get your stock photography that looks just like this person, and let’s say you are going to do something like adventure series or something like that and fiction and your ideal reader you decide to call him Rick. Rick is going to be 35 office worker making about 45000 a year, doesn’t get out too much but loves to escape into a good book, really big into video games and e-books and stuff like that where the character has this crazy action sort of sequence. And you literally write this out, know who your audience is and where they are and then you create your book just for this person.
Jonny: What ends like– I’ll give you another example is that there is a website out there by Maryellen Tribby called “Working Moms Only.” That pretty much defines who the audience is, right? Well guess who’s on their list, me and I am not a working mother. So it’s like that’s something to keep in mind is when you basically hone in and target on that one person, you end up attracting people on the periphery also. And that’s what’s really cool about this– you could end up growing your list really well. So if you can do sci-fi, absolutely do sci-fi, you want to do paranormal do paranormal.
Steve: So, okay so let’s assume that we can write a really awesome book that’s very targeted– let’s just assume that. So if I launch on the kindle platform or you know just Amazon in general there is probably going to be a whole lot of other books competing against me, and if I don’t have a built in audience how do I get that book seen by other people?
Jonny: There is a couple of factors; the first one is recognizing that everybody will judge your book by its cover that’s just…
Jonny: That’s just going to happen you know and it’s really kind of hilarious that it’s like oh no no the cover yes it does. The cover is like the most important thing and this is a huge tip to keep in mind is you have to remember the majority of kindle devices out there are not kindle fires, because obviously there are all kinds of funky stuff in the economy right now. The grayscale kindle was way cheaper and so what was it 2011 and 2012 they were moving like 5,000,000 kindles around. This time the majority of these since they weren’t kindle fires because those were like 150 bucks they were the 75 dollar ad supported, grayscales kindles and stuff like that. So it’s like you have to remember your cover has to look amazing in color and in grayscale and it’s real easy to do, you just flip a setting in like whatever preview thing that you are looking at. Make sure you can still see– you get the gist of it because I see this all the time, covers that just don’t look good…
Jonny: On grayscale so you are going to lose a lot of sales by doing that. So if you keep that in mind from the beginning, that’s important. So have an awesome cover– next thing is your title. If you are doing non-fiction, your title should just basically state the outcome either avoid pain or go towards pleasure you know like mine was “How to finally live debt free and wealthy” kind of thing, yeah. And then the next piece is you just have a subtitle. I’m a big fan of this long winded rambling subtitles, I don’t know why. It’s really funny, it’s like wow that’s gigantic and then the last piece and it’s kind of unfortunate this is the last piece, but it is the last piece is then you need a good book, because you can sell– a book will sell based off of its visual merit you know–
Steve: Really? Okay.
Jonny: Oh, absolutely but it’s like if you think about the consumption process you know for a reader; first they see it, then they are going to flip to the back, so you need a good blurb obviously, then they are going to look at the social proof– I mean how many reviews do you have? And then they’re going to look you know and what’s the star ranking? And then they’ll buy it and then they’ll read it. So like having a good book actually doesn’t help you until someone’s already bought it. So the marketing in that regards does in fact come first.
Steve: So let’s talk about getting reviews and then kind of like the launch strategy for example. So do you recommend– I see a lot of books that are just given away for free and then later they start charging for it. What is kind of like a strategy that has worked for you?
Jonny: I’ve done a bunch of different strategies, I’m out there kind of testing stuff constantly. So, one thing that you can do is there is something called KDP select, Kindle Digital Publishing select, and that’s a program where if you are exclusive to Amazon. They will let you go free for 5 days and there is also– every, so it’s every 90 days you get a 5 days of freebies.
Jonny: And that works, so I came up with a technique called pulsing and this was actually something we give you an idea of how well this worked. When this first started happening there was a mother daughter team that was doing cookbooks and they had never produced a book before, they had no platform, they actually had no idea what they were doing, they just literally followed the steps. And what ended up happening was they did this pulse and they– it was like maybe 20,000 downloads or something like that the first day, and so then they showed me the screen shot– there was “Hunger games” on the bestseller list on all of kindle it was “Hunger Games 1”, “Hunger Games 2”, “Hunger Games 3” and then the fourth book was “Special Dinners for Two” which was…
Jonny: They literally blew up, it was crazy and that absolutely can work. What’s happened recently in Amazon is they’ve hidden the free stuff, so don’t expect to get like 20 or 30,000 downloads anymore. But you can achieve really healthy results with like 2000 downloads, and what’s awesome is that there’s like a place called book pub, and you can buy an email blast from them, and they can promote your book. It’s one of those things where they make it kind of difficult to do it, but I would definitely– if someone is going to do something and they are not going to be like– I for example owned ilovevampirenovels.com. It’s similar to book pub but it’s for paranormal stuff.
Jonny: And so it’s a fun little site if you are into paranormal, but if you are not then book pub is absolutely where you need to be.
Steve: Well I’ve been forced to watch a twilight movie or two.
Jonny: There you go, there you go. Yeah it’s cool because these book discovery places like– well I’m trying to think of a couple of them. There’s digital book world and different kinds of things like that where you can get the word out about your stuff that way.
Steve: Okay, so these are just third party sites that have large email lists that basically help you promote your book for a fee– is that how it works?
Jonny: Pretty much yeah there is also…
Jonny: [inaudible] [00:20:20] is one of the first ones.
Jonny: And they are fantastic so if you can get mentioned in those things that you are doing a free book, they’ll definitely push you up there you’ll definitely feel the heat from that blast.
Steve: So once you get a couple thousand downloads let’s say– assuming the reviews will start trickling in, will that make your book just naturally rank higher in the Amazon search engine?
Jonny: That’s what funny about this is I’ve railed against so many people about like worrying about the search engine. The reason why is when it comes to books, the kinds of keywords people looking for are not like “how to train your dog” people don’t go to Amazon for that. They go in and they type in Caesar Chavez because by the time you get to Amazon you usually know what you want to buy, you’ve done some research, you go and– the people make selections based off of “also bought” like people who bought this also bought that, you know that strip of similar products underneath every product.
Jonny: And so that’s really how it works more so than keywords. Keywords can help but it’s the same thing with like Google you never know what keywords are going to help you. So it’s like if you are in the supplement business yeah then you know like superfastawesomeweightlosspill.net, yeah if you can rank for that people are searching for you’ll probably lose some super awesome weight loss pills, but if you’re doing e-book and nobody knows who you are, and also unless you are Steven King I mean at this point if Steven King is listing then absolutely please optimize under your name dude because everyone is looking for you.
Jonny: But if nobody knows who you are it won’t really help you, and so you’ll it’s like you know small businesses and what not who like I hear from them sometimes like “Eh! I’m number one on Google” I’m like great what under what? They are like ” our business name” I’m like wow, I didn’t know you were Coke or Pepsi because that’s what people are looking for you know, they are not looking for you know waltz ABC home repair or something, they are looking for home repair, but anyway hopefully that’s making sense is that…
Steve: So let’s say– you know that cook book example. I would presumably search for like most popular cook book in Amazon, right? And so how did they show up in the search results? Or how did people like find their book in the first place?
Jonny: It’s really through the best seller list and showing up on different kinds of like popular list and stuff like that because that’s– Amazon is all about making money, and so if your book is selling they’re absolutely going to do whatever they can really to help you sell more. And what’s cool is and a lot of the folks that I’ve worked with, they’ve sent these emails of like screenshots of Amazon emails that Amazon is literally like they have the biggest email list on the planet and they’ll email your book, so like people get promoted all the time with that kind of stuff.
Steve: Sounds like a chick in an egg problem though, right?
Jonny: Not necessarily because if you do that thing I was recommending that I said called pulsing, you can actually fire your book up there. It’s a way of like circumventing the glitch in getting started. The other thing I mean you could buy Facebook traffic, you could– the big one to do is to go out there and get reviewed on blogs, especially if you’re fiction. There is two places if you are fiction; GoodReads, absolutely master the heck out of GoodReads and then get a ton of reviews through– GoodReads will get you the reviews and it will get the bloggers to review your book.
Steve: Okay, so let’s talk about that process. How do you approach bloggers to get reviews?
Jonny: The first thing to do is obviously you have to go back to the very first thing I said which is know who your audience is, and then you go and find blogs that are already catering to that audience.
Jonny: And what you then do is you show up and simply see if they have a policy for it, like so if it’s an actual book review blog and this is something that happens more so in fiction like you don’t typically see our book review blogs talking about like the latest weight loss product or something like that, or latest like you know how my wife quit her job podcast kind of thing you know. You don’t typically see a review site just for those things, but if you can’t find a review site that’s also just find out what their policy is and then just reach out and say “hey what’s up I have– you review these books, I have this book, this is awesome”.
One thing that I do a lot of and I have my assistant do this constantly is we go through and we find similar really popular books and we find out whose given those books a really good review on Amazon, and then we just contact them directly and say “hey can we give you a free copy you know you reviewed this, this was awesome really good review, would you mind if we gave you a free copy of our book if you would review it,” and there is people called vine reviewers inside of Amazon and a lot of these people because they got that way because their reviews have been voted as being particularly helpful you know by a lot of people.
Steve: I see.
Jonny: And so these get– a lot of these folks have a following and if they give you a favorable review, then that following is going to see it and wow if this person liked this book then maybe I should buy it you know, and so people do follow them that’s a great way of doing it. The next thing to do like let’s say if you’re a non-fiction– get on podcasts you know and get to out there and just start talking like for example like if I’m– obviously I don’t have a book currently that I’m promoting, I just like to get out there and you know say hey, but no really I’m weird like that it’s just like yeah just do a thing man it’s cool yeah, but like get on podcast that cater to your audience and stuff like that, that is a huge way of driving traffic.
Steve: Now I was going to say I actually get sent maybe a book every couple of weeks to review and sometimes people just send them randomly, sometimes people reach out but I almost never do it, and that’s why I was kind of asking what your technique was for doing it. It sounds like you go out and actually look for people who actually do reviews on a regular basis which is a very good tactic because clearly the pitches that come to me don’t quite work that well, because I have no idea who the person is and it takes me a long time to read a book, I mean I’ve got limited time so–
Jonny: Yeah I mean there is just a whole host of issues with people who do that because I am a fan of stacking the deck in my favor. So I figure all right if someone is a vine reviewer that means that’s what they do, they review things. So the likelihood that they would say yes is dramatically increased. Then the second thing is I don’t just send them the book, I ask them– I reference something that I read of theirs meaning another review. So it’s like “yeah I read your review on this book” whatever that book happened to be– I actually do read the review to make sure that they are not you know weird. Because that’s the one thing you don’t want to approach like everybody that gave it a one star you know out of just four star.
Jonny: Just to let everybody know avoid those people who carry that rage and fury in their heart, you don’t need that in the thing. But like go to four and five star vine reviewers and just say “hey you read this I really liked what you had to say you know it’s very honest and you know definitely had a cool opinion. I was wondering you know, I have a similar book if you have time if you wouldn’t mind taking a look at it, can I send you a free copy?” Don’t just send them the book, that won’t get you anywhere that’s sort of like what they call the assumptive clause– would you like that in red or blue today? Like no don’t do that, it makes everyone feel really smarmy and gross. So just be cool about it, be nice and I have a very strong rule. I call it the 95-5 rule and it is – because I think the 80-20 rule is very true in some circles, but I think it’s been sort of like perverted into this universal thing.
The reality of the 80-20 rule is when you apply it to a situation like this, it just falls apart, it completely collapses. It’s either 95-5 or 99-1 and so this is why you want to know who your audience is and know who is already catering to them, because if you can build a list of say 300 reviewers and 1% of them say yes, you can leverage that so that’s like 3 reviewers out of 300 that are going to say yes. And you know so that’s going to be– you have to accept the fact that if you don’t have a name already you are going to have to put in a little bit of that footwork to get that [inaudible] [00:28:15] but once you do, you can leverage that like crazy you know. And literally all it takes sometimes is one review and you can just say hey this person reviewed, this person reviewed.
Like for example my podcast like that’s how I did it you know to start getting more and more and more guests and stuff like that was I just started talking to people then all of a sudden like there was a day one pretty popular dude came on, it’s like great I can put that in the retailer, yeah we interviewed this person, and this person, and this person. And just like just accept the fact that it’s going to you know one foot in front of the other, you probably won’t– I legitimately can tell, you there is no real such thing as an overnight success. I really prefer the whole seven or ten year overnight success thing, but with the online stuff you can do it very very quickly in comparison to what it used to be, you just have to accept the fact that if you publish a book and you wake up tomorrow you probably not going to be rich you know.
Jonny: You just have to be just put forward the effort in a consistent direction and you’ll be all good.
Steve: So in regards to just getting reviews one of the questions I had was you know how many reviews– so first of all you know a couple of things that you said kind of confused me a little bit but you said search doesn’t really matter, right? So how do reviews actually help? If someone actually lands on your listing, sees the review and wants to buy the book, right? But do reviews contribute to the visibility in those other columns that you mentioned on Amazon?
Jonny: Not like how on iTunes or stuff like where the reviews actually will lean- will help elevate your status like with podcast and stuff it’s not just raw downloads, it’s also people who come in and leave you favor or leave you reviews that is not the case in Amazon that I’ve seen at least.
Jonny: Because one book– the first book we did I actually created sort of a system– we got 2300 reviews in a month, it was crazy.
Steve: Wow. That’s crazy. Okay.
Jonny: It was actually really fun, then we lost them all because I’d failed to notice a small change in their terms of service and I was like “Oh!man” oh well let’s say it worked.
Steve: Just curious what was that change just…?
Jonny: Exactly what you want to make sure that you do is you can bribe someone to leave a review as long as you only bribe them with your book and what we did was we bribed them with free cooking videos. We said you could leave a review even if it was a negative one we were still going to give you the videos and so just thank you for helping us get the word out. And unfortunately that– they changed their terms of service after the book had launched and I had nothing to do with it so it was just one of those Oh! Man, but now we have like 400 reviews or something like that. And so it’s definitely coming back, but yeah one point in time we had like 2300 reviews, it was insane but now all you can do is like after people buy your book, you always want to building a list of those buyers and so you always want to give them, offer them something for free to click on your link and go to your list and once they are on your list you can say “hey if you love my book please leave me a review” you know and you can’t really go past that, I don’t recommend you do that.
Steve: Okay, So I was just curious so how do reviews help exactly? Outside of the actual you know click to buy once they’ve actually seen your listing already, does it affect visibility is what am asking?
Jonny: It does in the fact that if you have a bunch of really positive reviews people are going to naturally grab and take more toward that they kind of – once somebody is on your listing, they make all the difference, but in terms of getting people to your listing that’s kind of all up to you.
Steve: Okay, okay that’s what I was getting at. So basically you don’t want to depend on Amazon for that service. You need to do your own leg work, develop your own audience outside or use some of this services that you’ve just recommended to get your book instant exposure.
Jonny: Right, I would definitely say it’s an end, not at all like you want to have a strategic marketing plan that you implement every day, because you want to think about this you don’t have any control over what Amazon is going to do. And so this is why I say don’t rely on that publishing platform to be the thing for your success, like you always want to take the action that you control like you can control if you set your book to free and then go and tell all of these discovery sites about it. You can absolutely do that, but what you cannot control is if they are going to pick up your book or not you know just take the actions that you have power over and do it consistently, and what ends up happening then is that you know you’ll start seeing your book moving up the charts and that’s what you want to do is really get on the bestseller list because that’s where the eyeballs live. And so some of those bestsellers lists– and this might come as a shock to some folks, you only need maybe five sales. So like call up your mom and dad.
Jonny: Oh. Yeah. Like if you I call it leveling down– like if you go like you click on the bestseller list for just the over the kindle store and you are going to see some huge names like thousands of sales a day are happening with that, but then as you look at those lists you can start clicking down. Like, I mean getting to the Amazon top 100 takes about 2500 sales on a single day to get in there.
Jonny: So the top 100 is definitely awesome, but that should not be your first goal if you’re brand new and just starting out. Your first goal should be get onto like a tiny little best seller list like way down at the bottom there where it only takes maybe five sales to kind of like get you know inch you up. And then what starts happening is that you start getting a low level visibility from the natural traffic that exists there, and if you’ve done a good job on your cover, you’ve done a good job you know writing that book for your audience, people who want your book are probably going to start seeing “Oh! That looks nice,” and click and buy.
Next thing you know you get another sale, then another sale, then another sale and the way that it works is basically you are selling a lot of books– you are a bestseller because you are selling a lot of books and you are selling a lot of books because you are a best seller. And it’s just sort of is there is this awesome self fulfilling thing. And that’s what happens with “Special dinners for two” is they– I was teaching this you know even then I was just find a list that you can get on that doesn’t take that many sales to get there, and then you’ll start seeing more stuff. So once you are on there, you can start leveraging and you can legitimately call yourself a bestselling author at that point.
Steve: I see so it’s like a little snowball. You pick a category that’s easy to rank for, you get sales that way and just gradually build up, pick larger categories and just kind of go from there over time.
Jonny: Yeah because Amazon it’s– then I call it leveling up where it’s like you know you are going to eventually in the small category you’ll hit number one and that means you’ve already crusted into the category above it so that it comes from. So I mean I want everybody listening, I would encourage you just to sort of watch this phenomenon happening is if you go into the kindle store– not on the actual device, that’s a total different ball game, but just on Amazon in general and if you look from a bestseller list not just– you actually have to click the link that says bestseller list, and you see that you know all these things that you have kindle stores and fiction, non-fiction they’ve all those sub categories and all those other categories lead to more categories. And so the keyword to that regard in a lot of ways will help you get ranked in those sub categories you can’t just choose on the back end of your dashboard, that’s what the keywords are for.
Steve: So how do you find these categories that are easy to rank for?
Jonny: Look at this- you want to look at the Amazon sales ranking of a book, and so the numbers that I like to tell people to shoot for is if you can rank in the top 20 of a low hanging category and be roughly better than 50– it’s like golf, so the smaller the number the better and if you can rank say between 10,000 and 50,000 you’re good to go that’s a good place to start and what that means is, if you can sell 5 books you are probably going to hit 50,000 especially if you do it in one day.
Steve: Okay, so basically the strategy is I go into these categories, look for the bestsellers that are already on this list in the ball park of 10-50,000 and then choose that category.
Jonny: Yeah, that would be I mean…
Jonny: Provided that category is relevant to your book.
Steve: Yeah, yeah of course the common sense always applies.
Jonny: Absolutely. Exactly like you know you could get something– you could write a personal finance book and find out that you know expecting mothers have a wide opening in their best seller category [Laughter] that’s not going to help you very much unless your personal finance book is for expecting mothers. So that’s another way to do it is you could actually cross categorize like there is one technique that we did with that [inaudible] [00:36:23] book. We had– we took a like a paleo diet book, but we crossed it with a cook book and so it was how to Paleo thing with all the cool research and stuff like that. But then also we had a ton of recipes in there, and so we were able to then get two extremely hot categories like that way and it made perfect sense to then put them in there.
Steve: So how many categories are you allowed to target?
Jonny: You can pick two in Amazon but the cool thing is if you use the right keywords they’ll give you more, and so let me give you an example like I have a couple of pen names I do in the paranormal romance genre and so I would do– oh dude I love it, it’s…
Steve: Paranormal romance okay, sorry go on.
Jonny: Yeah so like there’s like a bunch of different vampire genres you can’t really– you can’t just click that thing and say “put me here” and so what you do instead is you put the keywords in there and so Amazon will see that and go “oh then this person must belong here.” So it’s like I do like vampire romance, paranormal romance, new adult, that kind of thing, that sort of the new young adult kind of genres and you put them in there and all of a sudden you are going to be even find yourself ranking in there. It used to be you had to email support and say hey please give me these categories– now they just need the keywords. So, that’s where the keywords become very helpful.
Steve: Can you comment on just like paper books verses e-books these days?
Jonny: Yeah totally my take on this is be in as many formats as possible because you don’t know how people want to consume you. And it’s– one thing that we saw was you know we went live with the e-book and here where we talk about the crazy uphill battle like “back when I was a kid” you know it’s you back away back to 2012 before people– they were millions and millions of that knew they had a kindle app on their android phone, we actually had to teach people how to consume the product which is a huge pain in the butt, you don’t want to be in there. Where you are like here’s how you download the book, you want people who already know how to do it. Paper gives that– the ability to do that to use a service called create space which Amazon bought and so that’s a print on demand service. So this costs you like 30 bucks.
Jonny: To do this and I always– I have this weird ritual where it’s like when I put out a new book and its awesome because I have my paranormal vampire stuff sitting on a stack on the desk next to me, and I’ll literally order them and I’ll walk around and just hold this because I– I don’t know maybe this means something to everyone listening or not but like it’s kind of cool to see something that you created show up in real life you know it’s like this is the thing that used to be a thought in my mind and now its sitting here in front of me.
Steve: No I can totally relate and if there is still book stores around that’d be even cooler.
Jonny: Absolutely because then you could then do something with that totally, but that’s the thing it’s like if you read the industry news which I do because that’s kind of important to be at least slightly informed to what’s going on– the print still dominates. It really does, it’s rapidly losing ground but at this moment in time and it doesn’t hurt you at all to have that print book, it’s only going to increase your sales, you know and same thing with an audio. I mean I would pay the ten grand to get like Samuel Jackson to read my book or something that would be hilarious. I won’t but I mean you could for like two hundred bucks get someone with an extremely good speaking voice to read your book for you, and get it in audio too because then you have a whole new audience that listens to audio books, and its cool. I would absolutely do print in fact I do, I insist that all of the books I do are going to be in print.
Steve: What about the audio format?
Jonny: That is not as much- it is a nice perk, I have not and this is just my experience and I have not done my fiction in audio yet so I can’t speak to this.
Jonny: But I work with a bunch of authors who have and they say that it is worth it but, the audio books you know let’s say for example I think we are still in the top five on some sub category somewhere, so we sell a lot of books every month for that [Inaudible] [00:40:33] fuel because that has a good buoyancy point liquid floats on the best seller list, and so a lot of people are still seeing it so it sells really well than it does in paperback as well as digital. The audio book really is only like an extra $100, $140 a month may be.
Jonny: It’s not– so it’s not like astronomically huge but the other thing it does lend, it lends kind of a credibility if you will to it “oh wow this person went so far as to do the digital, the physical and the audio” and then also we have lots of reviews, it’s like okay cool this is a legit book. There’s so many people that are self published now, that you want to do whatever you can to just look better than them, you don’t necessarily need to be better just look better.
Steve: That makes sense. So where can you find services that will do one, the book cover for you and then two the audio portion for you?
Jonny: You know what’s funny I don’t recommend going to typical like cover designers like if somebody advertises themselves as a book cover designer just add a zero on to whatever you think you are going to pay like it’s crazy. So what I do is I’ll go to a place like the warrior forum, in fact like…
Jonny: Oh yeah, I met a guy in the warrior forum who has done all of my covers and they are really cool and here is something I like to have that sort of get your expectation in line with reality sort of thing. You are not going to see these people as immediately being like the greatest people to do your covers, but if you can see in their art and in web like typically in the warrior forum they are designing websites and like these really cheesy e-book covers .You want to have a good e-book cover you don’t want a three dimensional e-book cover because that looks ridiculous. But you want that flat two D thing.
Jonny: And so what you want to do is expect to have to train them and you want to give them good examples. Like I want my cover to look like this and give them examples of stuff that you like that you are inspired by, and see who can get closest. So like kind of maybe get a couple of people pin them together, but I don’t spend on a– so I always get the physical cover you know. Because you can chop off the front cover and there’s your digital, it’s no big deal but do the physical cover and I won’t pay more than say like 50 bucks.
Steve: Really, Okay?
Jonny: And I mean my covers look awesome like it’s ridiculous I was at a traffic and conversion summit a couple of years ago when I first started to get into the paranormal romance under my female pet name– is quite hilarious. I know it’s funny I love doing this stuff it’s just like let’s sit and find out what happens, but I was showing everybody the cover they were like blown away by this stuff and I literally had spent 35 dollars.
Steve: Wow. Okay.
Jonny: It looked better than most things you see on the shelf.
Steve: So you have never used a service like 99designs or…
Jonny: Oh no I have. I just spent so much money I just decided it wasn’t worth it for me, but I do the foot work first and this I think it’s a big one because you want to develop a relationship with somebody who can do this stuff consistently. Like if somebody just needs like nine fixes is not that tough, and I spent I want to say like almost 500 dollars when I was thinking about re-doing my how to live debt free and wealthy book, because I was actually having an editor look at it because I did not by the way– oh everybody listening, dude get an editor.
Jonny: I will just tell you right now I wrote this book a couple of days, and I cannot splice together a sentence with a comma to save my life. And so everyone like that read it was like “Wow that’s really great info, holy crap man could you please learn sentence structure.” And I probably should have done that, but I just hurled it into being because I wanted to see what would happen. So yes please get an editor because like all– the majority in negative reviews like this guy needs comma help, like end the sentence not a paragraph like that kind of thing.
So yeah please have an editor because that will ding you significantly out there because people are looking for that, they want to have a good well formatted book which and it’s easy to do now. You can take a word document and do it– it’s real simple, but get an editor. You can expect to pay may be like on the low end a penny a word and you can Google these folks, just find a good– you typically want a line editor that’s the kind of person who is going to go through. He’s probably going to make a lot of the changes for you, but will also leave comments as to why they made those changes. You can kind of go back and fix them if you need to.
Steve: And what is your policy on like ghost writing versus writing your own books– you have any tips there?
Jonny: Yeah totally the biggest tip I can tell you is never– like I use oDesk for almost everything now.
Jonny: oDesk is freaking amazing.
Steve: For writing now?
Jonny: Yeah, sometimes like if I have a genre I want to try out and I don’t have time to do it, I’m going to absolutely go get someone to write that for me. And what I recommend with ghost writers when you are posting your job, do not ask them to write a book because let me tell you why. When you say the word book, it automatically triggers this visualization in people’s heads of like some way fish clove smoking dude sitting outside of a coffee shop like hammering away on his freaking novel you know that kind of thing. So, it’s like this epic amount of work that you just don’t need to do, where as if you call it a report then what happens is most of these people are college educated and they all wrote reports and the way that they did it was they waited until the day before it was due and then they wrote it. You know it, it’s like it conjures up a completely differently thing and I promise you, you’ll pay so much less if you have to get it ghost written.
The other reason to do ghost writing is stuff like there is there is nothing– for most people there is nothing worse than the bushing cursor of death on a blank white page– like that is soul murder for so many people that I just recommend hiring someone to get you over the hump. And what I’ve done before in nonfiction and fiction is that I have had someone ghost write the stuff and I just go through and literally re-write the entire thing completely myself.
And so like I work with them on the outline and so I know exactly what this book is supposed to be, and then may be the first draft comes out and it’s kind of crappy, which is to be expected it’s the first draft. And then I will just go through and overhaul the thing myself then the relationship switches where they become more of like sort of a second set of eyes and an editor on it in a lot of ways rather than the initial writer. But it does absolutely get– it helps me get over the hump and that might be a technique that helps you and your listeners.
Steve: I see, so that is like a psychological tactic so you have them kind of fill in the outline like the meat then you just go and you edit the meat so to speak.
Jonny: Absolutely, yeah.
Jonny: I have done that like I said with fiction and nonfiction.
Steve: Okay. All right, yeah those are good tips, I actually have this book this 400 page book that I wrote a long time ago as part of this course I saw on e-commerce and I’ve just been giving it away. I’ve been considering just putting it on the Amazon platform and see how it goes, what is the typical length of a book you would expect to see on the kindle platform?
Jonny: That is the craziest question ever because the answer is as long as it needs to be. I had the first book that I put out was probably under 50 pages and I sold it for $3 everyone seemed almost no returns. Like people were very happy with it– other books are you know these huge works of literature so it’s like a George R.R Martin book that’s going to be like 85 gazillion pages, but that’s what the audience wants. You write it for what the audience wants, so if you are doing a business book, I would highly recommend keeping it 200 pages maybe.
Jonny: Because if you think about the audience that’s reading that, they don’t have time to sit there and digest.
Steve: That’s what I was kind of getting at.
Jonny: Exactly, so it’s like you write for your audience. So if you are doing fiction you need to be longer because I have done stuff before in fiction as an experiment where I was like okay let’s see what happens if I put these shorts. And they are not well received because they are shorts and so if you are going to use shorts use them– those can be like they call it in a grocery store the low slider. And this is a conversation I have constantly with a lot of fiction writers because that first book because of most fiction writers write their own stuff– that first book can take like 10 years to create for them. It’s like this huge like life achievement and the current advice is to give that book away for free and its sort of crushing. They are like I took like a third of my life to create this thing at least I would like to see enough money to maybe buy a sandwich, you know is that okay you know asking the universe is this okay? So what I recommend is yes sell that book, but maybe do a couple of short stories that like walk you up to that book, you know and give those shorts away for free.
Steve: That is good advice.
Jonny: And I mean like I said that’s just my particular twelve sense on the subject at that, but you know 200 pages is a great length. Some of my fiction is pushing like 360, but that’s because its fiction. But the majority of the nonfiction we do is going to be 225 to 250 may be capping out around 275, if you wanted to look good in like standard paperback size.
Jonny: If it gets too small you can’t put like your title on the spine and that just looks amateur.
Steve: And so in terms of pricing you have any tips there?
Jonny: Yeah don’t get sucked into the race to the bottom. That was a– oh men, it just killed me, it’s like all these poor fiction authors who– actually it wasn’t just the fiction, it’s kind of everybody was sort of in this race to the bottom of the pricing heap, and it just was ridiculous you know. That was the old and it kind of felt like that was the only thing they had going for them against the major publishers which was not true. Just have a good book and sell it for what you want. I honestly do not recommend pricing in a digital copy above 499.
Jonny: That’s an opinion, that’s not like a fact but I do know that there is like a small group of people that if they see a digital book at 10$ they are going to leave like a one star review.
Steve: Is that true in nonfiction as well?
Jonny: Yeah, absolutely.
Jonny: And I– you know it’s not that I am a big fan of trolling, but I do agree with their philosophy. That, that is a digital book, there is absolutely no reason to price it at that, there’s no– it’s not like you are warehousing ones and zeros really. It’s like you don’t have a pallet of air. It’s a digital book like five bucks is fine but I think that is an even value exchange. For whatever your doing because if you are doing nonfiction usually that book is the gate way drug to the rest of your echo system, like hey read my book now get my $50,000 coaching program or something like that. Which is great if I had a $50,000 coaching program, you could buy it but I. So you can use that, you definitely want to sell it for what it’s worth. The other thing remember I was saying publishing a series. I usually recommend low barrier to entry on the first book, and so I usually enough call it the crack dealer model where you give the first one like 99 cents, and then the next one is going to be like 399 or 299 and then the rest in the series are going to be between 399 and 499.
Steve: And then you can leave cliff hangers at the end of each one?
Jonny: Exactly, yes. Psychologically drag their beaten bodies to the next one. Buy it because you know you do it faster– totally it works beautifully and especially if you have really awesome books, then everyone like gleefully consumes it and that’s the other reason you want to like build a brand around you, or your pet name, or your book series or whatever it is you are doing because, people want to– they want to buy more of your stuff .That’s the coolest thing about like selling on Amazon that’s not a place where people are going to not buy things. They are there because that’s store, it’s not like it’s masquerading as something else. So if they are looking at your stuff ,they are like 80% sold on buying it already. So give them more options, give them as many options as you can.
Steve: That’s great advice. Hey Jonny I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. I know you do have a course right, we kind of like talked about it before the interview started. Did you want to talk about that and tell the audience where they can reach you if they have questions?
Jonny: Yeah, totally if you guys are all cool and down with this stuff I have a podcast called audience hacker and its literally for the group I called author entrepreneurs which are basically folks who have businesses and understand the value of using a book to build their authority, their credibility to be able to build their list and get more eyeballs on their products– same thing with the fiction stuff too. But I interview lots of folks on that and we kind of get to like how to grow your platform because that’s what makes– that’s what is ultimately going to make yourself blow up out there is to build a platform, to have that audience that you can go to and say “hey what do you want to hear from me” and they tell you and then you give it to them and they love you for it.
So I have a training course, it’s a free webinar actually probably by the time this thing goes live it might just be a video, but it’s training called “How to sell 10,000 books in seven days even if you don’t have a book written.” And so you can go to audiencehacker.com/free to get that, so that’s some free training and if you like that obviously then feel free to buy my stuff. But I’m a big fan of like let me give you a bunch of cool things first, use them and then make some money and then you can buy more of my stuff, like I think that’s a wonderfully symbiotic relationship, like use my stuff, totally blow yourself up with it and then maybe you will come back and buy more, and that seems to really work out really well.
Steve: That’s the model I use with my stuff too and it works very well.
Jonny: Absolutely, it’s a good time.
Steve: Hey Jonny, well thanks a lot for coming on the show. I know I learnt a lot and that– this interview might have actually pushed me over the edge and I might try the whole e-book publishing myself.
Jonny: You should, its fun.
Steve: Nice man, well hey thanks a lot for coming on.
Jonny: Indeed thanks for having me.
Steve: All right man Take care.
I hope you enjoyed that episode based on the e-mails that I’ve been receiving, I know a lot of you are interested in selling your own e-books and Jonny is clearly the expert in this area and e-books are a great way to build an audience, or reinforce an existing one and talking with Jonny has made me want to give it a shot. For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode35 and once again I want to thank 99designs for sponsoring this episode. I know a lot of you listening are waiting on the sidelines and trying to get the courage to start your own online business, and I also know a lot you out there run your own business already and know your website design could be better. Designing a website is not that intimidating anymore thanks to 99designs where you can get over 300,000 designers to compete for you design.
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