As soon as anyone thinks about writing an ebook, almost immediately they think about selling it on Amazon. I wrote a post about selling ebooks on Amazon a few months ago, and concluded that it wasn’t worth it because Amazon takes too much of a commission and limits the amount that you can sell the book for.
However, there are lots of ways to write ebooks, and I keep hearing about people out there making some good money writing ebooks and selling them exclusively on Amazon. I’m always willing to admit that I don’t know everything, so I got in touch with someone who might know more about this to find out their thoughts.
Eric Lass, who some of you might know as Shuck, made over $1,000 in April from his Amazon ebooks, and just released his own ebook on how to write and market Amazon ebooks. You can check his site out at ShuckaBuck.
Q: Tell me a bit about what lead you to start publishing ebooks on Amazon. You started with “normal” internet marketing, right?
Eric: I did start with “normal” internet marketing where I would create a website and get that site ranked for keywords in Google. I started doing that back in 2008 and I have had some good success with it.
I got started selling ebooks on Amazon when a friend of mine sent me a link to a webinar that a guy was holding where he was showing people how he was making $30,000 per month selling kindle books. This was back in December of 2011. I listened in on the webinar and found it very intriguing. I didn’t buy the product he was selling because it was $997, but I did do my own research and found quite a few other people who were having some success with kindle books.
After some searching and talking with some other people who have published to kindle, I found out that it doesn’t take much to get a book making money. You just need a good title and cover and books will sell.
I also figured out that the most popular books on Amazon were a series. For example, the Hunger Games series. Not only does creating a series build a brand around your books, but each book helps to sell your other books. It works well in fiction or non-fiction too.
In January of this year I started my first series in non-fiction and it did well, and is still selling well today. I then went on to another series of books.
Q: What is your overall business strategy?
Eric: My business strategy is pretty simple: create websites, books, and other products that will help people. When I first started in internet marketing I was just looking to make money. I would go find a product or service to promote and find a way to get traffic to my website. Now, I do my best to create a brand. Whether that be with kindle eBooks, my websites, or web applications and apps.
If you can create something that people get value from and solves a problem, the money will come.
Q: How many ebooks do you have for sale on Amazon right now? Care to
share the niches?
Eric: I currently have 8 live books on Amazon, and have 3 sitting on my computer that I am formatting and getting ready to publish soon. I am in 3 niches right now: Web Design, Business and Investing, and Cooking.
I know nothing about cooking so I had to find some a writer that had experience in that area. Cooking books do really well on Amazon.
Q: How do you choose a topic/niche for your ebooks?
Eric: I use the kindle best sellers list for most of my research. I drill down into a category of interest to make sure of two things:
1. Books are selling.
2. I can get into the best seller list easily.
If books are selling and you get into the best seller list easily, all you have to do is figure out a target market you want to sell to. I usually look at the top selling books for that, it gives you a good indication of what people are already looking for and buying.
Q: Do you write your books yourself? If so, do you only choose niches that you are knowledgeable about? Or do you outsource the writing sometimes?
Eric: So far, I have written 1 book myself. That book I have a some knowledge in and I knew it would only take me a couple days to write. The other 7 (or should I say 10 since I have 3 other on my computer), were all written by my writers who have the expertise and knowledge in the area.
Q: Where do you find the writers that write your books? Have you had any difficulty finding good writers?
I have found all my writers using The Content Authority. It’s best to contact support once you know what you want written. Their customer support is very good at finding the right writer who has the knowledge and expertise for the content of your book.
You can also find some really good writers at iFreelance.com – I use that site over odesk or elance because there is no cost and there are mostly US-based writers there. It’s very important to take the time and find the writer than can create a quality product the way you want it.
Q: How long are your ebooks? What price(s) do you sell them for?
Eric: All my books are between 5,000 and 15,000 words. The length of the books really depends on what you are writing about. If the books is very niche specific, it may only need to be between 5,000 and 7,000 words.
I sell my books between $2.99 and $5.99 each. Amazon has two pricing options for kindle books:
1. $.99 to $200 for the 35% royalty
2. $2.99 to $9.99 for the 70% royalty
Q: How much time do you spend each week working on your ebooks business?
Eric: For the past 2 months I have been creating quite a few books, so I would take a guess at around 30 hours per week. 30 hours may seem like a lot, but I’m doing a lot of research lately and testing out pricing, descriptions, titles, and covers to see what affects sales the most.
The actually planning and publishing of the books don’t take up a lot of time. On average, I would say I spend 3-4 hours per book. That’s from research to publishing.
Q: Do you do the formatting and publishing for your ebooks yourself? Or do you use a service/company for that?
Eric: I do all the formatting and publishing of my books. I use Microsoft Word to format the books and I upload them to Amazon as .doc files. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t take much time. I usually just add headings and images (if needed), then a table of contents. From formatting to publishing to Amazon probably takes me an hour, and that’s after the writing and editing has been done.
Q: What sort of marketing, if any, do you do for your books?
Eric: I have only used Amazon’s free promotion for my books. No PPC, PPV, Banner Ads, SEO, Guest Posting…nothing but Amazon.
Q: Do you think your business plan is sustainable long term? How do you think it compares to chasing Google traffic in terms of longevity?
Eric: That’s a good question. It’s really hard to tell since I have only have about 5 months of experience selling kindle books. I want to say it’s sustainable long term because the kindle device and other devices like it are very popular and have been selling well for a few years now. I don’t see the ebook industry failing any time soon.
Comparing the ebook business plan to chasing Google traffic? Man, I’m split on it, I guess. Google has been very wild lately and I don’t like the search traffic game too much anymore. If you are actively chasing Google traffic, then that may be a failure long term, but if you are building a brand and creating products that people need and want, you shouldn’t have to worry about search traffic from Google.
Short answer: yes, it’s sustainable. Compared to Google traffic: pretty equal.
Q: Any tips for someone who wants to try this out?
Eric: Do your research and create compelling titles and covers. After all the testing I have done so far, the two biggest factors in selling kindle ebooks are your titles and covers. It’s also important to do your own testing because every niche is different.
After getting Eric’s thoughts on selling Kindle ebooks – and given Google’s recent craziness – I’m starting to see how selling ebooks like this could work into a bigger business plan. If you have a flagship ebook that sells for $20 or more, I don’t see how you’re going to increase revenue by putting that ebook on Amazon.
But what about making a smaller ebook to sell for a buck or two (or even give away for free)? That could not only increase your revenue, but serve as an additional source of traffic. Definitely something to think about.