This past September I taught a course to help authors self-publish their work. One of the tag-lines I used in the promotional material was “We’re putting the SELF back into SELF-PUBLISHING”. My goal was to show authors that you really can produce an e-book that stands spine-to-virtual-spine with traditionally published books. My partner and I showed the attendees that it is indeed possible to produce a professional product in a cost-effective manner.
As I was compiling the material for the course my very astute business partner, Kathrin Lake, suggested I turn the content into a book. So, I did. I published that book with the very long title, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook in September. And, we were able to use the book as a tool during our weekend workshop. The book has sold very well. In fact, I now sell more copies of it than any of my novels. Additionally, it’s been well-reviewed, which was actually one of my concerns. I’ve had a moderate amount of success with my books – but many others have been far more successful. So, there was a point before I published when I was beginning to feel wary that the information I was offering might not be what authors were looking for. I tried to do everything I could to ensure that wouldn’t happen. I even tailored the workshop content, and the book to specifically help the authors, and potential authors, who attended. We circulated a questionnaire a few weeks beforehand, trying to gauge where everyone was with their individual projects and what information we should include that would specifically help them. With their input, I was able to provide all that and more, covering everything from basic information that helps new authors to marketing strategies for seasoned writers. When the reviews were positive and the book continued to sell well, I knew I’d achieved my goals.
There’s one problem when you release a book like this however. The world changes quickly and the information you give may not always be up to date. Part of my book is dedicated to marketing strategies and some of those strategies deal with running free promotions, as well as discounted promotions. At the risk of wading into yet another discussion on whether or not free promotions are currently effective, here’s my opinion. Free promotions, right now, unless you have a completed series of books, and are giving away one book in the series, are largely ineffective in terms of earning a large amount of sales. Yes, there are other benefits such as potentially building a reader base or gaining more reviews, but if you want a sales spike on the free book when it goes back to paid, or if you’re looking for a sales jump on your other (non-series) books it probably isn’t going to happen. There are a few exceptions but only a few. The typical results right now are that authors can indeed reach the top ten rankings on Amazon’s free charts, and give away tens of thousands of books, but there is no noticeable sales increase after the fact.
So, I published a book that not only detailed the best way to run your free promotions but also provided a list of sites that would showcase your book. While the information was still relevant to some, the world had since changed. A number of new websites appeared on the scene and were doing really well in terms of getting the word out to readers about new books. And, discounted promotions, namely running your book at $0.99, were becoming more effective than freebies. So, I had a brilliant idea. I decided to continually revise my master copy, adding new sites, eliminating sites that were no longer live and generally just keeping it current. This was great for new purchasers, but it didn’t help readers who had already purchased my book. They still had the dated list, and although it was only a few months old, I wanted them to have absolute current information.
This is what I did. I uploaded a new version of my book with the updated information into Amazon’s KDP system, and at the same time I changed the title. I added, to the already very long title, “2014 Edition”. This was for my e-Book only and it was very easy to do. The new version included some revised information in the main body but more importantly it gave readers the new “Helpful Links” list that included promo sites that currently work. This was great for those who were about to purchase my book but didn’t help authors who had previously bought it. So, I did what we all do in a situation like this: I started the sometimes confusing, often frustrating, email correspondence with Amazon. And actually, for once, it was quite straightforward. They had no problem with me changing the title and content and they told me that if the information was “critical to the editorial content of the book” they would alert purchasers who had already bought the book. After a couple of exchanges where I pointed out the relevance of the new material, they agreed to alert those who had already purchased my book. The estimated turnaround time they gave me was up to three months, but it was actually done within three weeks.
This got me thinking even further. I already have the basic content that authors need within the book, that part won’t change. The only things that will change from time to time will be marketing strategies and updates on the most effective ways to produce your book and connect with readers. Why couldn’t I change that information annually, or even bi-annually? Well, I can and will. So, my goal now is to try and keep this book current. I’ll update it again in six months, call it the “2014 ½ Edition” and re-submit. And, once again, I’ll petition Amazon to alert readers who have previously purchased the book. Unfortunately I can’t guarantee that they’ll always do this but if I continue to stress to them that the content is critical and that it relates to publishing practices and strategies specifically with Amazon I think they’ll probably help me.
If all goes well my self-publishing guidebook will be an ongoing and up-to-date guide for authors. And, as new material surfaces, I’ll continue to present it at my workshops (next one is in New Westminster, Canada in March 2014), and write about it in my book. And, to help out those who purchase the print book I’m including a complimentary copy of the eBook as part of the Kindle Matchbook program. So, when you purchase the print book you will automatically receive the updated eBook too. And yes, my next project is to attempt updating the print book content through CreateSpace. I’ll let you know how I do with that.
Oh, and as part of the gift that keeps giving I’m once again including the updated list of promotional sites right here on the pages of Indies Unlimited. I hope it helps!