Writing books that you can sell on the Amazon store takes time and dedication, but we all know this fact. So, there must be a reason why you searched for ‘Indie Author’ or ‘Self-Publishing’ help! And landed on this page. If you’re new to the world of self-publishing/indie author, got through the KDP offering and launched your book; you might find yourself waiting for something to happen. Let me be honest with you! Nothing is going to happen. You won’t make sales overnight; you won’t have a best seller on your hands, and your first attempt at a book is probably going to be a big pile of shit. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but trust me, you’ve just opened a little door into the world of indie.
Please don’t get upset, panic or feel disheartened, you made it this far, and not many people have the apatite, dedication, creative flair, skill or ability to write a book. With all these factors, I’ve decided to share with you all my mistakes. The first thing you need to be prepared for is time, yes! Time is significant. To become an established author through your words on paper can take years, not months, weeks or days – years! Remember this fact as part of your indie author journey.
What’s The Difference Between An Indie & Self Published Author?
Before we start, it might help us understand the difference between a self-published author and an indie author.
Self Publisher: A person who writes the content and produces the book. However, they seek (pay for) help with the book cover design, editing, formatting and advertising.
Indie Author: An indie author does everything on their own. From start to finish, they will manage all aspects of the final book offering.
Be that as it may, there is still a substantial overlap of expectations, mistakes, and journeys for both individuals. Once you press the publish button, your book is going to sit there and do nothing. Does this sound familiar? Let’s lock and load!
What’s The Biggest Mistake Indie Authors Make?
My first mistake as an indie author was to get too exciting about having published a book. I told everyone! And as good friends and family do, they purchased a copy of the book and congratulated me on my efforts. This was the worst mistake because the book was littered with errors. The formatting was terrible, the front cover wasn’t inspiring, and the content needed work. My advice is to order a draft copy of the book and read everything over again. Your copy will read differently as a book, and you will want to change the layout, the composition and the formatting. Sit down with a pencil and start editing. After your first attempt at editing, I would make the changes to the master file and leave the book for at least a week. After a week has passed, reread the book, and I can guarantee you will make more edits. I would suggest leaving it another week (or a month) and perform the same exercise. This process is critical because It helps you become a reader of your work and not the writer. Your mind works very differently when creating as opposed to reading the narrative of your creation. There is no rush to launch your book; take your time and enjoy this part of the process.
Once this stage is complete, find a few different people prepared to read the book for you. Please give them a free copy and ask for their feedback. Again, you might find they found a mistake or something that didn’t sit right with them. Read over their suggestions and make the changes again. As an indie author, it is typical for mistakes and errors to be found, your brain will correct most things for you, and it becomes easy to miss something you have already read thirty times.
You need to try and get good at this process. At one point, you will sit down and read your book in the future (a few years later); You will smile at yourself because you will feel the need to make even more changes. My advice here is to leave it alone and carry on with a new project.
How Can I Make A Few Sales?
The first thing you need to do, once published, is to send everyone you know the Amazon web page link to your book. Family, friends, people you know at work, anyone you know who loves to read. Set the book price low to start. You shouldn’t be in a position to think about profit. The idea is to get people reading the book you have produced. Listen to their feedback and be prepared to make changes to your master file.
You might get lucky and make a few sales from people looking to purchase new books on Amazon. Why? Amazon has thousands of people looking at its product offering every day. No other website selling books – will get this type of traffic. Some people love indie authors and will buy books while purchasing other titles. Remember, Amazon has a free delivery system for orders over £10.00. Many books fall below that price point, so people always look for a second title to bump up the price to get free delivery. Make sure you set the price low to start; you can’t command a high price as an unknown author. The idea of being an indie author is to do something you love. Your journey starts with learning everything on your own. Building a catalogue of book titles could end up with a publishing deal, but you’re actually building a brand through your name and working without trying to get a publishing deal. Indie publishing gives you experience in the industry and will force you to become a better writer and book producer.
Making a few more sales can come from a wide variety of offline marketing strategies. You don’t need to be sitting in front of a computer screen, looking and praying for something to happen. Amazon will let you order your books in bulk at a discount price. Get out into the world and sell your offering. For more ideas on this please click here.
Does Amazon Offer Free Marketing?
After hitting the publish button on the Amazon KDP interface, your book will be live. It’s a great feeling of achievement. Well done! You have achieved something significant in your life. It’s now a good time to take advantage of the Marketing tab. This can be found through the navigation section: Bookshelf – Reports – Community – Marketing.
On this page, you have five free marketing services and one paid for (Amazon Advertising). Let’s concentrate on the free stuff first.
KDP Select lets you enrol your eBook version into a program that allows you to reach more readers and earn more money. You can earn a share of the ‘KDP Select Global Fund’ based on pages read by Kindle Unlimited customers. Enrolling in KDP Select also grants you access to a set of promotional tools: Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotions. As an indie book producer, you might want to consider looking at all these options. The idea is to strengthen your reach and gain a wider audience.
Amazon will let you create both a paperback version and eBook from the KDP files you upload to their platform. Both options target people who love to read a paperback book in their hands or consumers who take advantage of a digital download to read on their tablets and phones.
With Author Central, you can create and update your personal author page. I highly recommend you set this up as it has a few advantages you can take ownership of.
- All your books will be displayed on one page
- Include a biography
- Add your blog if you own a website
- Creates a link for all your social media outlets
- Add a picture of yourself
- Lookup reports and marketing data.
This fantastic feature also links to your Amazon book listing. Potential buyers can read about you and make a better decision before investing in your offering.
Kindle offer two featured deals where you can offer Amazon Prime Customers – countdown deals or free book promotions. The countdown deal lets you reduce the price of the book over a week or few days. Alternatively, you can offer a free book giveaway. I find both options work well as it puts your book in front of new customers. You might be a little worried about offering a free book giveaway. The idea is to allow customers to leave you some feedback through the reviews section. Customer reviews are a powerful tool that can help people decide in the future about buying your paperback or ebook. The free book offering can work well with these marketing strategies.
Nominate your eBooks
Amazon has recently launched a new feature to nominate your eBooks for Prime Reading and Kindle Deals. Although nomination doesn’t guarantee enrollment, you could potentially target a new audience if your book is selected by Amazon.
Kindle Deals are limited-time discounts offered on eBooks. You can nominate up to two eligible eBooks at a time.
Prime Reading is a rotating selection of eBooks available to Prime Members to read for free.
You can nominate one eligible eBook at a time.
The idea is to use the free Amazon marketing tools to grow your offering, target new readers and hopefully pick up some new fans. Remember, Amazon targets the world, and you might pick up new readers in different countries.
With A+ Content, you can add images, text, and comparison tables to your product detail page to engage readers and give more information as they consider buying your book.
Additional Marketing Resources
Amazon also offers additional marketing ideas you can take advantage of.
Kindle Pre-Order – Make your eBook available for pre-order as early as one year before its release date.
Gifting for Kindle – Gift your eBooks to readers at an event or send copies to newsletter subscribers.
Kindle Instant Book Previews – Kindle instant previews can be embedded on the web or shared as a link via email, text and other favourite apps.
Paid Advertising Through Amazon
If you’re at a point where selling your book has come to a complete stop, it might be wise to think about budgeting for paid advertising. I have found the Amazon Advertising option successful for selling books. However, it would help if you had a clear strategy for each campaign; otherwise, you could end up losing a lot of money and sell absolutely nothing.
You can find the paid advertising section on the Marketing tab of the KDP dashboard section or under the Bookshelf tab. Click the ‘three dots button’ near paperback actions and select Promote and Advertise.
To run an Ad Campaign, you will need to select the country you wish to target first. I would recommend targeting your own country if you have a small budget. Otherwise, your bank will charge you extra fees for cross-border payments. This can get expensive and completely kill any profit you might make through advertising. You have to consider the fact you are selling a book and the profit margin is already narrow.
Settings & Budget
Select the Sponsored Products and create your campaign. Give your campaign a name (title of book or date), set the start date and leave the end date to – No End Date. You can end your campaign anytime with a click on the options page once complete. I recommend Manual Targeting, which allows you to concentrate on keywords that define your book offering. Otherwise, you might be wasting valuable clicks with your online book offering that will not convert into a sale.
Your budget is essential! How much can you afford in the month to invest in your book? It doesn’t have to be a large sum of money. I personally like to have a daily budget of £1.50 to £3.00. Let’s look at the £1.50 option – this should give you about five or six clicks to your book a day.
Monthly budget – £45 – £90
Clicks to your book per month – 150 – 180 clicks
Conversion rate – 1% = 2 books per month – (Worst case scenario).
Using the 1% sales margin (industry average for click-through marketing) is scary to look at. As you can see, there is no return on your investment. However, this fact is the truth for most authors, but you can do a few things to increase this variable. If I’m honest, you might be lucky and break-even in the month. This is good for an indie author. If you’re even luckier, you might actually make a small profit that can be used to put back into your marketing goals.
I wouldn’t recommend setting your budget to large amounts. There are only so many views you can achieve in a day. Other authors who use sponsorship slots need advertising space on the webpage. This is why finding a good daily budget that matches your search audience and keyword strategy are significant. Advertising and marketing take time, energy and investment, but if your work is good, people who purchased your book will talk about you to their friends and give you organic recommendations.
Campaign Bidding Strategy
After a few years of setting up campaigns for my books, I always select the dynamic bids ‘up’ and ‘down’. This option offers a bidding strategy that has historically delivered more sales for the same ad spend. Amazon will also raise your bids (by a maximum of 100%):
in real-time, your ad may be more likely to convert into a sale and lower bids when less likely to convert into a sale.
The other two options: dynamic bids – down only and fixed bids, give you more control over a set budget, but you will have less of a reach with other book authors bidding for a larger market reach (more views) on the Amazon platform. You can always try this at a later date and compare sales over an annual review.
Create An Ad Group
Amazon states – An ad group is a group of ads sharing the same set of keywords and products. Consider grouping products that fall within the same category and price point range. You can edit your campaign after launch to create additional ad groups in the campaign manager.
You can call this anything you desire.
Select the book you wish to advertise by clicking Add button next to your book. This will be added to the right-hand panel. I tend to select one book per campaign. It helps me keep track of sales, and I can also adjust my keywords by adding or deleting them in the future.
If you don’t want to target your keywords with a little research, you can select Automatic targeting in the settings. If you decide on this, just set your default bid to the desired price. Amazon will offer a suggestive bid below the ‘set default bid’ box. I always choose the lowest amount for each keyword.
Example: Suggested bid: £0.40 (£0.32-£0.65)
*Choosing the lowest bid amount will help with the amount of traffic to your book. More traffic can have a higher conversion with sales. You’re not selling a product worth hundreds of pounds. The profit margin is low, so keep that click amount low.
For ‘manual targeting’, select the keyword targeting option. This will give you a keyword targeting panel. Your keywords (word combinations and phrases) are used to match your ads with search terms shoppers are using to find products. You can read keyword targeting best practices.
The bid option should say – selective bid – and you can filter your keywords by Broad – Phrase or Exact. This will help you define your keyword selection.
You may find that Amazon has already offered a few keywords you can use. Sometimes they are useless, don’t be afraid not to use these.
Now click on the ‘Enter List’ wording next to ‘suggested’ and ‘upload file’.
You can now add your keywords into the box available. I will give you an example of the keywords I use for my love poem book.
- Love poems – exact
- Poems – broad – exact – Phrase
- Poetry books – broad – exact – Phrase
As you can see, I only target three words for my book and the search term ‘Love Poems’ is exact. Love poems for the broad and phrase options didn’t get any clicks over six months. You can release these targeting variables anytime you like. Try and keep your keywords very close to the niche of your book. This is important because you may start driving shoppers to your product, and it just wasn’t what they were after. The tighter you can keep your keyword word search options, the more likely you will get a book sale.
Trying different keywords could help with your book offering, but I advise you to keep track of these. If your daily budget is being used and you have no sales, it might be wise to reduce your keywords to be exact!
Negative Keyword Targeting
You can play about adding negative keywords to your target market. I’ve never used this option and can’t see why indie authors need to add negative keywords to broad, exact or phrase segments. Negative keywords would be suitable for brands or products that have distinctive specifications.
After launching the campaign with Amazon, you will be re-directed to the main campaign screen. This is a great dashboard enabling you to keep track of your sponsored book offering. You can click the button on the left, pause your campaign, change the daily budget, check out your keywords, change any information, or add a new one. I recommend clicking on all the links and learn what each section does.
Building A Website
A great way to drive traffic to your book would be to build a blog or a website. You can start out by using free platforms and build your own online presence over a few years. Some great platforms to get started include:
- WordPress – Perfect for blogging
- Squarespace – For the designer
- Weebly – Very intuitive
- Medium – Just write and publish.
All have simple and intuitive CMS (content management systems) e-commerce capabilities, pages and posts. You can add product SKU’s, photography, price points, create top-level pages and allow for online – search engine optimisation through writing relative titles and descriptions in the metadata boxes.
Top 6 Website tips:
- All are easy to use and will help you get online. They have payment gateway systems, domain name purchase options, plugins to help with conversions and website templates you can purchase
- Find a design agency or freelancer to help if you’re struggling and work on an organic content marketing framework. Shout out about your books and target your audience
- Design, illustrate or take beautiful pictures of your books
- Think about your SEO and how to apply target keywords into your metadata
- Use targeted social ad campaigns to drive traffic to your website.
- Set up a shop for your books and sell signed copies or send a direct link out to your Amazon book page.
Building an online presence also takes time. In today’s web world, you will need to consider digital content marketing. You can also consider social media targeting to get book exposure. Some books can hit it off quickly, while others can take years to build.
Tools That Can Help
Becoming a writer can take years for most mere mortals; however, some people can write a best seller the first time around. Trying to be a designer, illustrator, editor, formating copy and content creator comes with a high learning curve. But if you think smart, there are a number of tools that can help you.
- Adobe Photoshop and Indesign can help with formatting and design
- Youtube is packed with free tutorials
- Grammarly for editing and spelling
- Google docs for writing
- Amazon KDP Software you can download and format your paperback and ebook
- Unsplash to help with free images for your website or blog.
Using these tools will help you become a professional indie author and can make you look like a publisher.
Why Is My Book Not Selling?
Sometimes, no matter how great your book is, it just might not sell on Amazon. I’ve found it can be just the fact that people do! Judge a book by its cover. You can try and change a few things to help improve the sale rate. Try and tweak these:
- The book cover design might just be a little bit shit! Don’t use the Amazon default covers.
- The book title might just sound keek – this means you will have to delete the current title and start again
- Tweak or change the book description
- Play around with Amazon book categories, you might have assigned the wrong one
- You might be writing for a really small niche of readers
- Start with the free book promotion or the Amazon count down deal
- Try local book fairs
- The comments may be poor and your rating for the book is low
- The price is too high – or in some cases too low
- Readers also look at the weight of the book (page count) it may be too long or short for the price points.
The Great Benefits Of An Being An Indie Author
Personally, I’ve not tried to get my books professionally published yet. Maybe in the future? As a poet and philosopher, my target market can be huge or small. I also understand that if a publisher wanted to publish my book, I would still have to market it and find ways to sell it. Your publisher is not going to pump thousands of pounds into marketing unless it’s selling really well.
I find being an indie author very therapeutic while learning all the aspects of the publishing world; it has been very enjoyable. Being an indie author has been a great experience, but what makes my day is the random emails from readers saying “thanks” and “you made my day” or “you changed my life”. The beautiful comments on Amazon that people leave and knowing that my books are in peoples houses all over the world is also a great feeling.
Here are my top indie author benefits:
- You keep all the creative rights
- All the profit is yours
- Indie authors have full creative control over everything
- Publish when and how you want – time is all you need
- Creating books is a wonderful journey that not many people can do.
In the world of book creation and publishing, you are going to receive criticism. Expect to be called out and be called rubbish, anticipate the negative, the foal and the ugly. That’s just how it is; you can’t resonate with everyone and all the different levels of readers out there. However, you can learn from the negative feedback, it makes you become a stronger writer. Some of the best authors in the world receive negative feedback and 1-star reviews. These are just opinions and it’s good to read over them.
Furthermore, don’t keep looking at your book rank and become disheartened. I completely ignore this statistic because it changes daily. Finally, try and spread the word on some of your favourite social networks. Play around with a few £20 marketing budgets and target your Amazon keywords, it can help drive traffic to your book.