This post will be a deep dive into the strategies I utilized in 2018 to go from under $100 a month to making solid four figures every month self publishing on Amazon. My goal is to be as transparent as possible and give you the strategies and tips you’ll need to find success!
Caveat: There is no ONE way. These are things that worked for me. If you don’t have a well-written book, chances are you will not succeed self publishing on Amazon or anywhere else.
If you are interested in self publishing on Amazon, it’s a great time to be writing! There are so many more resources and tools out there to help you. But that can also mean a lot of time wasted researching, testing, and trying things.
I spent the last year testing, trying, and self publishing. I’m happy to say that within that year, I’ve made huge strides and learned a lot that I wanted to share. This post will be an overview of the strategies I employed and I’ll do a deeper dive on each piece in a separate post.
BEFORE YOU SELF PUBLISH ON AMAZON
Before we get into the strategies, I want to make this clear: You are unlikely to find success with a poorly written book, a bad cover, and an unclear genre. These are necessities! Sometimes you might get away with one of those, but all three are massively important.
While we can all point to books that are poorly written and still find success, your goal should be to write a book that resonates with readers. Sometimes books with poor writing style or grammar do well because the story resonates with readers. But books that sell well are books that connect with an audience. Start here: write the very best book you can.
Without a solid book cover that looks professional and like the other books in your genre, your book will not sell. No matter how good the inside of the book is, people are turned off by bad covers. This is simply reality. The faster you understand that and stop fighting against it, the better off you’ll be.
Good resources for affordable covers:
If you try to tell someone about your book and say something like, “It’s kind of like a sci-fi thriller, with a little romantic comedy and fantasy mixed in,” then YOU ARE IN TROUBLE. Books in a genre may have elements of another genre (like a sci fi book that has a romantic storyline in it), but to do well with your marketing efforts, you really need to be very clear on your genre.
- If you haven’t checked out my post on Niching Down, this would be a great place to start!
Once you’ve got a well-written book, a solid cover, and a clear genre, it’s time to think about self publishing and marketing your book.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 152 – SUCCESSFULLY SELF PUBLISHING ON AMAZON
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY SELF PUBLISH ON AMAZON
I tried a lot of things in 2018, but these are the main things that led to success with self-publishing. I’ll go into more detail on each in future episodes and posts, but for now, here are the top things I did. (Again, AFTER writing good books, having solid covers, and being clear on my genre.) The first three are related to writing and craft and the second three are related to marketing.
- Published quickly (about a book every six weeks starting in May)
- Writing in a series
- Writing in a hot trope
- Consistently grew my newsletter
- Set up newsletter swaps with other authors in my genre
- Paid for promotions through other email newsletters
Other than the two on the list, those three main things ALL deal with email! Email is and always will be my foundation for what I do.
I did not know that I could write so fast. This will NOT be for everyone! But I will say that if you don’t think it’s you, don’t put a mindset block on writing quickly. My very first book ever took two years to write. The first clean romance book I wrote took three months. My second clean romance book took two months and my third took two weeks.
I’ll address this more in a future episode, but as a note, writing quickly does NOT mean poor writing. The structure of sweet romance is fairly simple and the books are short, around 50k words. This makes it fairly easy to write them more quickly. I also find a cohesiveness in my books that I write faster. Whether a book is written quickly or slowly, you should consider hiring a proofreader! There will be mistakes either way.
Again, writing quickly isn’t for everyone. But whenever I release a new book, I see spikes in the sales of my other books. Writing quickly and publishing quickly on Amazon can be a great marketing tactic in and of itself. You may not realize that you have a quick writer inside of you–I for sure didn’t! Don’t feel that you have to do this, but don’t think that you can’t just because you haven’t yet.
WRITING IN A SERIES
To get the most out of your books, consider writing in a series. This gives readers a clear path on what to read next. If they find and love you, they may just go out and read ALL your other books. (I’ve done this for authors!)
If you’re writing in romance, the series have to be tied in some way that’s NOT leaving readers with cliffhangers. My series are tied by theme or location or have secondary characters becoming primary characters in other books.
For MOST genres, series should be read in order. Know your genre and plan a series within those genre expectations. It will impact your continued sales as you publish.
WRITING IN A HOT TROPE
Trends come and go! If you can latch onto a trend that is hot and write quickly enough to get books out there, you may find more success. Billionaires have been hot in clean romance for the past year or two and I’ve found that my billionaire books outsell my other books something like five to one. Or more.
Traditional publishing doesn’t always have this luxury, as books are finished years in advance. So if you see that vampire books are going wild again, you won’t have time to get a traditionally published vampire book out in time. But you might be able to get in there if you are self publishing on Amazon.
- Tip: I use K-lytics and am an affiliate for their deep dives into what’s selling on Amazon! Find out more HERE. I also use Rocket to identify keywords that people are searching for on Amazon. I’m an affiliate for that as well and you can check it out HERE.
GROWING A NEWSLETTER
Because I know that email sells books, I put money and time into growing an engaged list of subscribers. I used free promotions where I gave away short stories or whole books through Bookfunnel, Book Cave, and Story Origin, and I also paid for promotions with Booksweeps and AuthorsXP that connected me with readers in my genre.
I spent time crafting my emails and promoting engagement with my readers. Some weeks I get something like thirty replies to my emails! The goal is not just numbers, but to connect with readers who buy books and love YOUR books.
As far as social media, I barely did much. I started Twitter, then never went there. I also have a Facebook page, mostly for running ads (and the occasional post) and have started a Facebook readers’ group.
With having a solid list comes swapping spots in newsletters with other authors. Essentially, they share for you when you have a book coming out (or on sale) and you return the favor when they have a launch or book on sale.
The best way I’ve found this to work is by networking in newsletter swaps Facebook groups by genre. Make sure you are clear on your genre! Sometimes I’ll see books in the clean romance swap group that aren’t clean or aren’t romance. This works best when you are super clear on what you’re writing and what you’re sharing with your readers.
PAYING FOR PROMOTIONS
There are a ton of sites out there who will happily take your money and send your book to their thousands of email subscribers who buy books. These are NOT all created equal and can run anywhere from $50-200. I’m excited to break down more about how to choose the right ones in a later post, but for now, you can check out these resources on finding sites like this:
Also, I’ve got a podcast episode about different kinds of paid promotions for your book launch. Check it out!
Successful self-publishing on Amazon requires a plan. It also requires being willing to pay attention to what’s working, doubling down on the things that do work and backing off on the things that don’t.
- See my post on how I changed the title of my book mid-launch!
I kept spreadsheets of book promotions sites that worked so I could track my expenses and stop using sites that didn’t work. I pivoted and shifted when things weren’t going well. I networked with other authors, asked for feedback, and studied what other authors did.
Was it hard? Yes and no. Often the things I did were simple, but took a lot of time.
While you’re going to struggle to find success with a poorly-written book, writing a good book does not equal good sales. Just self publishing a book on Amazon likely will not result in sales!
You may not be able to do ALL these things. You may not WANT to. But if you’re looking to find success self publishing on Amazon, consider how you can hit some of these six markers.
- For more, check out my series on book launching!
Joe Morgan says
I’ve been a professional, albeit underground, marijuana grower for 25 years after a long and relatively successful career in the aerospace industry. Married for well over 15 years, three outstanding adult children and five even more outstanding grandchildren.
I was involved in a garage sized grow operation against the wishes of my family and most friends. Only free tickets to a rock concert on the evening of the bust spared me from arrest and jail in July 2017. That’s the good news.
Since I was foolish enough to have my name on the electric bill there was no doubt that the police would be back to get me sooner or later so the only realistic option was to flee. Leave every one and everything that was my life for well over 50 years and head into the unknown.
I’ve been supported by family, friends and part of my Social Security check ever cents and the only way for me to get back to family is to hire a lawyer. No one I know has the money to do that and I certainly don’t but I do have a true life story on what it’s like to be in your mid 70s and on the lamb. I’ve been lots of places and done a lot of things since departing and the story needs to be told.
I don’t know what genre my story would fall in other than non-fiction nor do I know the best way to tell it. But it’s all I have to sell at the moment, everything else is gone.
I have five granddaughters who, from the looks of your picture, are in your age range and they want their grandpa back. But I can’t go back broke and put under arrest with no money for representation.
What would you advise?
Your genre is Creative Non fiction. Good luck with your story. It sounds like a potential “page turner.”
Maureen Asper says
Start typing now and don’t stop for anything. Keep learning about the indie business while you educate yourself about the legal issues you face in your state. Stay focused and you will be ahead of the game.
Nancy Gladwin says
My granddaughter is 8 years old and we are writing a book series together. She is contributing much of the story line and the books are geared to 10+ age group. Can you advise whether or not I can self-publish the books under her name? I am a writer (not yet published) and am working on a non-fiction book. I don’t have plans to write children’s books other than what my granddaughter and I are working on together.
Kirsten Oliphant says
That’s a tough one with lots of things to consider. First, I don’t think at her age she can have an amazon account, so if you are self-publishing, you’ll want to use another account. At that age, you aren’t going to know whether she’ll want to use her name later or want her name attached to that project as she’s older. Pen names are super easy to create as you can put them all under the same umbrella and account, so you could consider that. It’s also pretty hard to market middle grade, so it’s a bit of a tough sell in terms of self-publishing. BUT a lot of times younger authors really just want to see their work published to give to family and friends and have it out there, so money may not be the goal! I probably wouldn’t put YOUR name on it if you’re planning to write other, non-related works. She could have her parents create her KDP account so you wouldn’t have to worry about splitting the money, but as far as what name to put on it, at her age, a pen name might be nice unless she wants to start building up some kind of platform NOW and plans to do this a lot more. Definitely a good question and good conversation to have with her parents to see their preference! I get nervous putting kids out on the internet.
Nancy Gladwin says
Kristin: Thank you for your helpful response!
Corde Smith says
Hi, my name is Corde Smith. I want to have a company format my manuscript for Amazon print on demand and also an e-book. Do you format your books yourself or do you hire someone to do so? I already have the physical print copy of my book but I need it formatted for Amazon for print on demand. Can you recommend someone that can format this for me and send me the file so I can upload it to Amazon.
I usually do it myself with Vellum, but I also have people I hired before I did that. The issue for me is that if I want to change anything, I have to hire them AGAIN, which is why I like control. It’s also possible to format just with Word for a simple text book. Check out The Writing Gals on Youtube for their tutorial on simple Word formatting. This is a rec of someone in my writing community who does this: https://www.facebook.com/KeyminorPublishing/?hc_location=ufi
Cassie S. says
Very insightful. Thanks for the advice.
Good quality book covers that are reasonably priced are my only issue in getting my books self published. I have several waiting in the wings that need covers. Can you give me an idea of where to go to get great covers? The artist that did my covers has been very sick with Covid
Kirsten Oliphant says
Yes! I can. I have a recent post with a bunch of links with affordable options. Here you go! https://createifwriting.com/how-to-choose-the-right-book-cover/
Living Writer says
Thanks for share your blog here .
Geer Bread says
Great tips! I will try follow them!
Dr. George Guthridge says
My situation: I had a traditionally published book of creative nonfiction out. It sold below the 2K ranking (general ranking, not one of the specialties) on Amazon for a couple of months and was in the 40-50K ranking for about eighteen months.
I now have the rights back and want to indie publish it along with other books, which are my novels.
For that book, I want to shift the “seller” from the book company to myself on Amazon. I don’t want to “start over,” because I would lose the reviews, many if not most of which are glowing. I will be changing the cover and so on, but would like to keep the same title, to avoid confusing people who already purchased the book.
Is it possible to shift the “seller” to myself on Amazon? If so, how?