I had the honor recently of being asked to contribute an article to the Make Market Launch It newsletter. MML is a great product creating program and a outstanding community to be part of. I have been a member pretty much since the beginning. They asked me to write an article recently about some of the publishing milestones I have obtained in 2014, and to share some of my book publishing secrets with the rest of our community. I thought I would also include them here for everyone else. To learn more about MML and see the original article please click here.
2014 was a great year for my publishing efforts. I had my best year yet for book sales, selling just over 3,600 books split over 32 titles, totaling over $11,000 in sales. My goal was to get to $1,000 in book sales per month, and I have now hit that for the last three months.
My best selling book, Blank Sheet Music for Guitar, sold over 1,000 copies. I also have some books that sold just one copy. Most of my sales come from my paperback books sold through CreateSpace/Amazon, using their print-on-demand service. I am completely in the non-fiction area of the market with books in music, geography, children’s, business and coloring, so I do much better with paperbacks then I do with Kindle.
Over the past few years I have learned a lot about publishing books, and I’d like to share a few of the major lessons I learned.
Lesson #1: Don’t Rely on Amazon
My number one bookselling tip is that you need to market your books outside of Amazon. Amazon will help, but it’s up to you to carry the bulk of the effort.
I sell books in five different markets but two of them make up most of my sales: 1) music instruction/writing and 2) geography. For both of these markets I have built websites that heavily highlight the content of the books and then drop ads in around the edges with direct links to Amazon.
For my music books, I created AcousticMusicTV.com and featured one of my main books, Essential Chords for Guitar, Mandolin, Ukulele and Banjo. I created a web graphic for each page of the book, dropped in good descriptions (including alt tags, which search engines focus on) and ads along the sides, linked to Amazon.
The graphics attracted Google traffic and the ads on the sides generate book sales via Amazon. I also set up a mailing list and a 12-step auto responder series that gives away additional PDF samples of the book alongside a sales section linked to Amazon to drive even more traffic to my Amazon sales pages.
Notice that, although I don’t rely on Amazon to generate sales for me, all my marketing efforts do point there. My websites drive traffic to Amazon. All book videos have calls to action to buy the books on Amazon. All my Pinterest graphics are linked to their matching book on Amazon. I also cross-sell inside of my books. Each book highlights other books in the series. Everything points to Amazon, allowing me to concentrate all of the traffic I get on my sales pages on Amazon.
Lesson #2: Pay Attention to Research and Stats
When I have an idea for a book, I look at similar books and their reviews on Amazon. For my blank sheet music books, I discovered a couple of key things missing in many blank sheet music books—and I made sure these things were included in my books and highlighted in the sales copy.
Doing research can also help you discover a large market—for me, it was coloring books—so you can create books that people are already interested in buying.
Lesson #3: Focus on Volume
On the book publishing side of my business, I am well aware that I work in a world of 1% conversions—just like direct mail. You need traffic and lots of it. That is why I work so hard to make my content so easy to find and why I give so much away. I expect most people to look and not buy. But that doesn’t stop me from always rewarding the website visitor with what they are looking for, along with the option to buy a book.
For me, traffic numbers are super important. That’s where I focus my attention in terms of marketing and statistics and I constantly work on my website content to attract visitors.
Lesson #4: Keep Publishing
You just don’t know what is going to work—even with all the research and stats. You need to keep creating new books and continually publishing because, even when you’ve been doing this a while, you’ll still get surprised. I tend to find that the books you work on the most and the longest tend to sell the least. The books you get out quicker tend to sell more. Maybe when you work on a book for a long time, by the time you get it out you missed the trend? I don’t know.
My advice? Keep creating and publishing.
Bruce just released his first online video course on “How to Make a Children’s Picture Book for Kindle.” Click here to learn more about the course.
About the Author
Bruce Jones is a Boston-based graphic designer and has been selling products online since 1996. He is the author of over 32 books and many other products. To find out more about Bruce visit his website: http://www.BruceJonesDesign.com.