A few weeks ago – and bear in mind this was on a Saturday – my wife turned to me at 7am and said we should write a Kindle book about the Olympics. And we should write it quickly – in time for the closing ceremony (the following day).
We’d both been spending far too much time reading fun and little-known trivia about the Games, and it seemed like a good idea to collate all the information into a book.
Neither of us knew anything about Kindle publishing. But we were having a lull in client work, and decided to spend the day trying it out. We wrote and researched like crazy, and finally uploaded it at 10pm.
When we woke up the next morning, our book was live on Amazon. Every day since then we’ve made more sales, and it’s fair to say we’re completely in love with the Kindle publishing model.
If you’ve always fancied writing a book – or already have one that you sell through your own site – it’s phenomenally easy to get it seen on the world’s biggest marketplace.
Here’s how we did it – and the mistakes we made along the way.
Pick your topic
We wrote about a topical event, which was a terrible idea because it’ll cease to be relevant very quickly. Instead, make a list of some subjects you’re a relative expert in or are happy to spend some time researching.
This post assumes you’ll be writing non-fiction. Fiction sells better, but it’s also enormously competitive. In non-fiction, the ‘Advice & How-to’ category sells well, and there are plenty of niches with good demand that aren’t too saturated.
Search the Kindle store for your potential subject, noting the autocomplete suggestions to see what people are searching for. Forget about Google keywords – people searching for books are a very different market from those looking for free information.
You generally want some competition to show there’s a demand for the subject: more than 30 competitors is good, but no more than a couple of hundred.
You can check out the sales rank of your competitors to get a relative idea of demand. If the top competitor for one of your potential topics is ranked 10,000 and for another it’s 100,000, the first topic is likely to be a better bet to write about.
Write a great book
Kindle publishing is easy, but that doesn’t give you permission to write a low-quality book. Kindle customers are no less discerning than regular book customers. You don’t want bad reviews, and you definitely don’t want people returning your book (it pushes you lower down the rankings).
Your book doesn’t have to be overly long for the sake of it, but it does need to be well-written, engaging, and packed with valuable information. If you check negative book reviews on Amazon, the most common criticism is that they’re unnecessarily padded out to hundreds of pages. That tells you that there’s a real demand for books that cover useful, actionable information without any waffle.
Find other Kindle books on the subject and check out their tables of contents to see what information they cover (use the ‘Look Inside’ feature). You can also get content inspiration from the books’ reviews, as well as Quora, message boards and blogs.
When you’re done, hire a proofreader at the very least, but preferably get an editor too – Elance is a good place to start. However good a writer you are, there will be typos and sections that could be organized better.
Get a killer cover design
Everyone judges books by their covers. If the cover looks amateurish, people will assume the content is too. In fact, fiction authors often claim that the quality of the cover is the single best predictor of sales. Again, Elance is a good place to look.
This is where we slipped up. We were so obsessed with getting it published that same day, I quickly knocked together something terrible in Photoshop. There’s no way of knowing how many more sales we’d have made with a good cover, but I bet it’d be a lot.
Format your book and write the blurb
Formatting for Kindle is incredibly easy, as long as you’ve written your book in Word (or Open Office). There’s a lot of info scattered across Amazon’s site, but this free Kindle book collects it all together.
The blurb is nearly as important as your cover, and needs to pique the interest of your potential reader. Focus on spelling out the benefits they’ll get from reading, and bullet out the juciest things you cover.
Upload to Amazon
Head over to Kindle Direct Publishing to set up an account and enter all your book’s details – it’s all dead easy.
During the process you’ll have to choose a selling price for your masterpiece. You get a 35% royalty for prices below $2.99, and 70% for anything above.
It’s not necessarily the case that low prices mean more sales – sometimes people see higher prices as an implication of higher quality. You can change your price at any time, so experimenting is the best way to go.
When everything’s done, your book will be checked over by Amazon and it’ll be live on the site within 12 hours. You’re done!
Customer reviews have a lot of weight in the algorithm that powers the ‘Relevance’ search, and as you probably know from your own experience, potential buyers take them very seriously too. So get your friends to buy your book and leave you a review – they should buy through Amazon rather than you just sending them the document, so it shows up as an ‘Amazon Verified Purchase’. They should also ‘Like’ your book on Amazon, and agree with the tags you’ve given it.
If you’re not selling your book digitally anywhere else, it qualifies for the KDP Select program. Among other things, this allows you to sell your book on Amazon for free for 5 days out of every 90. These free sales (and we had over 1000 in a day) help your search rankings, and can help get you those early reviews.
If you’ve already got an audience you should of course promote to them, but the beauty of Kindle publishing is that the audience is already on Amazon searching for something to buy.
This is obviously just the very basics: if you’re serious about Kindle publishing, there’s a lot more you can do to build a proper business and encourage repeat customers. We made a lot of mistakes, but taking action and setting a silly deadline was enough for us to see the potential – now we’re not looking back.