How to Write and (Un)Successfully Market an eBook

Although I don’t generally write about writing (other than why I suck as a travel blogger), many of you have asked how I plan to make money while keeping up this glamorous lifestyle.  In the Digital Nomad world eBooks are all the rage.  I have always wanted to write a book, so I followed the trail of bread crumbs to the eBook world. What I didn’t understand was how to market an eBook.

The result: I recently published an eBook on Amazon, Exploring Myanmar.  I had been thinking about writing a book, or multiple books, for quite some time.  I had a mess of ideas, but never got around to actually putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  But, with our 28 days spent in the burgeoning tourist destination that is Myanmar, and with how little is written about what it is like to travel there, I thought this would be a great opportunity to test out publishing an eBook.

The actual writing was not a problem.  I started with my blogs on Myanmar, and added in a lot of other stories that I sort of saved for the book.  The second overnight bus ride and the craziness that ensued really solidified the story though – I knew I had to share that experience, and thought it would make a great introduction to the book. 

After leaving Myanmar, I tried putting it all together in my spare time.  It was not until an uber productive week in Thailand, though, that it came together, with final edits from me and my friend, Ann.  I also met a German graphic designer, Florian, that week who offered to make the simple book cover using one of my photos.  I added in some other photos throughout the book.  It was done. 

Kindle Direct Publishing

I decided to offer the book through Kindle.  Uploading to Amazon using Apple’s Pages program was a breeze.  It took about an hour to upload, check the formatting, and presto – I was published on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing.  I thought this would be a good platform because you do not need a Kindle to download the book – it can be downloaded to any “i” products, smartphones, and even computers.

I also signed up for KDP Select, where an author agrees to only sell the book through Amazon (as oppose to the Nook, iBooks, etc.), in exchange for help promoting the book.  In particular, every 90 days the KDP Select program offers an author 5 promotional days, where they can set their book for free downloads.  I did some research and read that it was worth while because after each of the promo days, sales would uptick a decent amount.  The free downloads count towards your sales and rankings.  

My Marketing Plan?

My Marketing Plan makes it seem like I had that, a plan.  I really didn’t.  I figured I would upload the book to Amazon, enroll in KDP Select, advertise the book on Twitter and Facebook, and ask for support from friends and family.  I posted links on the blog. I would exercise the KDP Select option for free downloads and let things ride.  I expected some boost in sales after the promo days, but nothing happened.  I did not realize that I was actually supposed to market an eBook.

I was not expecting a million downloads, or to make six figures from this little travel book, but I had hoped to sell at least a few copies and make at least a little money from it.  I wanted it to be successful enough to encourage me to write more.

I thought I could keep the price a little higher because there are so few travel books about recent travel to Myanmar, but I continued to lower the price.  It has now hovered around $4.99 for the last month or so.  I have two more free promo days left.  I have made a total of $95.85 in a little less than 3 months.  The book is certainly not paying the rent, not even at Southeast Asia prices. 

Then, a few weeks ago, I heard that I should be marketing this thing?  What?  Marketing?  How do I do that?

Apparently, there are websites that explain how to do this.  I guess I should not be surprised.  There are places to advertise free promotion days.  Some of them are free, but some are paid.  Herein lies the wrinkle.  The free sites won’t guarantee that you will be highlighted or advertised.  As for the paid sites, some of them are pretty cheap, like $5 or $10.  Some of them are more expensive, but I am not sure which ones are worth the money.  And, I don’t really have a way of tracking where the downloads come from to know which site is sending readers my way.  It is all very confusing.

I am aware of people who have made money on eBooks, and I am not giving up yet, but it is not as easy as type up a book and upload.  There is a lot more work that needs to be done, if you want the book to sell.

This all depends on what you are looking for from an eBook.  Am I okay merely having a book on Amazon that some people may download, and even fewer might actually read?   And, if I make about $30 a month from it, then that is a bonus.  Or, would I like to make a few hundred dollars a month on this?  How much financial investment am I willing to make to try to sell more books?   Perhaps I need a better title, a more professional cover, or a better description of the book.  Maybe I need all three. 

For those who have done this, and have some advice, I am all ears!

7 Comments

  1. Marketing is the hardest part! Harder than writing, harder than editing. Next time I launch I book I am going to have a very serious marketing plan in place.

    Reply
  2. Great post! Have you heard of Chris Wright? If not, you might want to check him out; he makes all his money from his books – and sells them super cheap.

    Also, in late October (can't remember when you guys will be visiting us in London) I'm interviewing (at my house) an inspiring young woman who's written an entire series of fiction books and has self-published. So will be interesting to see how she's done that and how it's working. Not sure if it's an option – the option of the physical book?

    Maybe making a variation of your book – in the form of a coffee table book – is also something to consider, using your beautiful photos and story together. I've recently learned that blurb.com lets you create and then people can order – and they print it on demand. Haven't looked into it in any detail though.

    These are also some cool articles I stumbled upon recently that you might like:

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/03/28/the-new-rules-for-self-publishing/
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/07/09/how-i-got-a-big-advance-from-a-big-publisher-and-self-published-anyway/

    I think making as much money as you have so quickly is a HUGE accomplishment!!!!

    Cheers,
    Krista

    Reply
  3. I agree. Marketing is the hardest part! I try so hard to market for our blog. I swear it wears me down. But, whether marketing sucks or not, this is a pretty cool accomplishment! Congratulations! =)

    Reply
  4. Ahhh, thanks so much ladies! Nicole, I do have to remember that even my 76 page book is an accomplishment regardless of how well I market. Kim, I want to keep writing, but will be more organized next time. Let's make each other a promise. And, Wodara, thanks for the links. I will check them out. I have also been thinking about doing some print publishing of this book, to try to get it into Myanmar. I know people who would be interested in having them at their businesses in country, which would be interesting…

    Reply
  5. Marketing sure is tough. The e-book industry is filled with people who make more money selling how-I-make-money-selling-e-books e-books than they make selling their other supposedly successful books. As for me, I still haven’t figured out how to make money selling e-books, either. Good luck.

    Reply
  6. I’ll echo that – marketing is indeed the hardest part! I’d much rather be writing and illustrating my books than marketing, but the truth is you really need to. I’ve found it important to have both print and Kindle versions of the book though. Great points on the KDP Select benefits. It can be a terrific marketing tool. If you want to stay within the Amazon universe, their Create Space division does print very well. Congrats and Best of luck!!

    Reply
    • Thanks Dale. I think I am better prepared for my next book!

      Reply

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