As I have mentioned previously, Simplify (our first book) immediately began climbing the charts on Amazon. At its peak (yesterday), this self-published book had secured the following accomplishments:
- #7 among all NonFiction Kindle sales (ahead of Bill Clinton, Chris Mathews, and Glenn Beck).
- #56 among all Kindle book sales (12 days in the Top 100).
- #1 Book in Self-Help for 10 days. (ahead of all other formats and authors: Weil, Osteen, Covey, etc.).
- #1 Book in Spirituality for 10 days. (ahead of all other formats and authors: Billy Graham etc.).
- #1 Book in Craft, Hobby, and Home (ahead of all other formats and authors).
- #18 Kindle Book on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list.
- Ranked in the Top #10 Amazon Movers and Shakers list.
Through the process, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. But looking back, here are the Top 12 Self-Publishing Lessons I’ve Learned in the Past 12 Days:
1. A $0.99 price tag is not too low. I launched Simplify at $0.99 (for only the first 10 days) because I wanted to get the book into as many hands as possible. I also wanted quick sales, reviews, and listings on Amazon at the very beginning. But I was still hesitant. I’ve put a lot of energy and effort into this book and selling it for only $0.99 seemed too cheap – not to mention the commission on each sale was only 35% (compared to 100% through my site). But once it went live, I didn’t regret the decision at all. The price tag rewarded my readers with a great book at a great price… and allowed many other readers unfamiliar with my work to make the purchase on Amazon with little expense. In fact, I had become so accustomed to the $0.99 price tag, it was more difficult than I thought to raise the price to $2.99 yesterday.
2. Pay for cover art. One of the best decisions that I made during the Amazon launch was to pay Red Willow Design Studio for brand-new, professional cover art (the previous cover for Simplify had been designed by me). And while the old adage is true that “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” you just can’t sell a book to passing customers without a sharp cover design. The bookshelves at Amazon are full of hundreds of thousands of books… yours will need to stick out.
3. Self-Publishing is possible and completely changing the way books are written. I’ve always dreamt of writing a book – of leaving something of myself for future generations. Only a few years ago, this would have required a formal book proposal, a literary agent, and a traditional publishing house. But the Internet has completely changed the rules. Today, anybody with passion, the gift of writing, and an idea can publish a book. And can make it available in the world’s biggest bookstores. To learn more, listen to this interview with Leo Babauta and Seth Godin.
4. Build your platform first. I call it a “platform,” Seth Godin calls them “tribes.” But the thought is always the same. Self-publishing requires a platform for launching. Without a platform, launches fail. Writers can try… but the chances of successfully selling a book without readers are just too slim to put in the effort. Readers want to see your writing for free before they offer the investment of their money and time into your book. So start a blog. Build a platform. You can start today without a book. Know that offering a book without a platform will almost always fail. And practice patience instead.
5. But utilize existing marketplaces too. For the past 20 months, Simplify has been offered solely on this website. And it’s done well, selling 3,000+ copies during that time. The readers of this blog have been generous in supporting my work – and with over 11,000+ subscribers, there have been a large number available to offer support. But Amazon.com has 615 million visitors each year! People are hanging out on Amazon for the sole purpose of buying books. It’s foolish not to utilize their existing market. Start with your platform, but don’t forget other platforms in the process. Plus, as Karol Gajda told me, “Amazon is a great seller.”
6. Solve problems. People want to be inspired, helped, educated, and entertained. Make sure your book accomplishes one of those things. Surely one of the reasons Simplify became so popular is that it solves the problem of clutter in an easy-to-read, manageable, and inspiring way. Most people living in the first-world are drowning in their stuff, and their debt, and their passion to possess. Simplify brings relief. It offers a new way to live life centered on heart passions and values. It inspires the reader and offers specific advice for the journey. In short, it solves a problem. So should you.
7. Get comfortable with self-promotion. I sent out far more self-promotional Tweets, Facebook messages, and e-mails over the past two weeks than ever before. And to be honest, at times, it was really uncomfortable. I even deleted a number of them before hitting send. Self-promotion has never been easy for me. I prefer to just sit back and *hope* that people will find me rather than marketing myself to others. But by its very definition, self-publishing requires self-promotion. So you’ll need to get used to it. Here’s a helpful hint: create something of value worth sharing. Then your self-promotion isn’t just about you… it’s also about helping other people.
8. Pay for help. For 20 months ago, Simplify was only offered through this website for two reasons: 1) I didn’t understand the value of utilizing existing markets; and 2) I didn’t know how to utilize other markets. I had done enough research into selling on Amazon that I knew it required a certain file format formatted in a specific way… and that was enough for me to not pursue it… until good help was recommended to me. Paying for help is always about the proper allocation of resources. If your time can be better spent writing the book or building the platform than it would be figuring out Kindle file formats, pay for the help. I recommend Chris.
9. The Internet sorts itself out. Whenever I am approached by bloggers asking for help about blogging and/or self-publishing, I typically offer the same advice, “Work hard. Don’t take shortcuts. Write a quality book. The Internet is really good about sorting itself out. Good products rise to the top while sub-par products fall to the wayside.” The Internet has become very efficient at policing itself – it had to. It simply wouldn’t survive without developing that mechanism. In a world where anyone with a computer and Internet connection can create a product, the Internet has become an expert at finding the best and discarding the rest. Everyone gets a chance, but you’ve got to put in the effort to truly thrive.
10. Digital publishing is still free and always will be. Printing books costs money. Shipping books costs money. Storing books costs money. Digital books are still entirely free (minus a few small design, formatting, and editing fees). But I could offer my books for $0.99 only because there was no expense in printing, housing, and delivering them. It eliminates tons of effort/outlay on my end, keeps the book amazingly affordable for buyers, and saves a few trees along the way. I have been asked numerous times since the launch if the book would be made available in physical form and my answer is always the same, “There are no plans to that end. Things may change. But at this point, it’s only available in digital formats.” And I make no apologies when giving that answer.
11. Getting to be #1 doesn’t take as many sales as you might think. Since launching on Amazon, Simplify has sold 6,000+ copies (doubling its number of sales for its previous 20 months). Add in the book sales for Inside-Out Simplicity and total sales reach over 8,000. Authors tell me that 6,000 book sales in 12 days is quite impressive. I believe them. I’m personally overwhelmed at the fact that the book has sold 500 copies/day for the past two weeks. But I was still incredibly surprised to see it trending so high on Amazon charts. Without any research going into the project, I would have guessed the required numbers to rank this high would be in the thousands/day. But I stand joyfully corrected.
12. Amazon chart positions don’t change all that much at home. Home is still home – trending on Amazon hasn’t changed my life all that much. I still go to work everyday. My kids still get sick. The garbage still needs to go out. And “check engine” lights still pop on. My kids don’t care that their dad is trending on Amazon… they still just want someone to play UNO with them. And as pleased as my wife is with the book’s success… her needs have not changed either: she still needs someone to talk to, be committed to her, and live life with her. And to be honest, I’m kinda glad… cause I still need all those things too.