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I want to make money with kindle! Show me how?
Woah! Hold on their buddy, we’ll come to that part. Don’t jump the horses, let’s first get to understand what really is amazon kindle ecosystem.
Well first of all it’s not kindle, it’s KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing – the amazing Amazon system that you are gonna leverage to build a passive income for yourself.
What is Kindle you ask?
Really? You must be on a digital Nirvana for past ten years, if you do not know what Kindle is.
Kindle is the physical device and the software app (both desktop and mobile) that you can use to read Amazon ebooks. While with the KDP program amazon enables an author to publish his work and distribute digitally on Amazon. One of the biggest advantage of Kindle is the massive global user base of Amazon. You can litterally sit in some obscure corner of world (let’s say Maldives) and make money off the sales anywhere in the world. Imagine yourself earning in a local currency of the country your book was bought in, you’d see checks door delivered from Japanese Yen to British Pounds, from Indian Rupee to Brazilian Real.
Well, I am not sure how much I can make selling ebooks?
Hmm… valid question. Well, let me say this, the Kindle opportunity is huge, like ultra, mega, huge! Amazon is throwing its full weight around it, Kindle is one of the most highly profitable business for the company. And reasonably so, they are making a 30%-70% cut just by maintaining the software platform. According to one of the BI reports, kindle ecosystem accounts for over 11% of Amazon’s revenue! Imagine having tiny, small pie of that to yourself? That’s well… think about it. Did it answer your questions? Are you excited yet?
What makes this opportunity really unique is that the process of publishing is fairly simple and straightforward, and you’d begin publishing in no time.
So what’s the catch? The real challenge lies in doing it in a correct way. There’s no set formula to win the game, simply follow the best practices for each of the required steps.
How the royalty is paid? Check and Bank transfer – depends on your geographical location and that of ebook sale. If you are in india you will get paid by Bank transfer for any sale done in US and India but if it is done is other countries such as UK, you get paid in pounds by a check.
Here is the secret to succeed in your Kindle business
It doesn’t get simpler than this, I present you with the two step formula to make real money off Amazon Kindle. The caveat? You need to give your 100% and it only works when you fulfil both the aspects together. I can’t stress enough how equally important both of these are:
Top Quality Ebook – I mean the content, the cover, the title, the blurb, the keywords – all metadata that is associated with the book. Don’t rip-off a old blog post and put it in a ebook, it probably would earn you few dollars but nothing beyond that. Keep your customers happy with good content with an impressive presentation.
Top Quality Marketing – Even if you create a high quality ebook you need a well thought out marketing plan to push the sales. If you just keep it on the kindle shelves, it’s not going to sell by itself. I discuss this point of ebook marketing in greater depth toward the end of this post.
Amazon Kindle Subscription Programs
Amazon offers two main subscrition programs, KOLL and Kindle Unlimited, to its users that allow them to read kindle ebooks for a fixed price every month.
Kindle unlimited is a program that allows the readers to read unlimited books with a minimal subscribtion fees ($10!). KOLL on the other hand is a program for Amazon Prime users who can borrow an ebook in a month.
The publisher gets paid not on the price of the ebook but based on the number of pages read by the reader. The matrix used to define the number of pages is called KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages). Amazon hasn’t disclosed how KENP actually translates to the money you make. Having said that you several of the publishers have posted about the estimated rates based on the KDP global fund announcement every month.
Just as KOLL and KU are the programs for readers, KDP Select is a program for the publishers with which they can make their ebooks available under KU and KOLL. A publisher can enroll in KDP Select anytime, but remember it’s a three months binding contract which you need to strictly adhere to.
Earlier amazon used to pay for every borrow which roughly averaged $1.5, Now according the estimates, it is only 6-8 cents per page read. Evidently, the new rules favor the longer books more.
Escape Desk suggests you enroll your ebook at-least for first three months after the release. The strategy will you garner more reviews for the ebook.
Sounds too good to be true, so what’s the catch? KDP Select bars you from publishing online on any other platform including your website. Note that, you can still sell print copies of your book on any other website.
Sounds too good to be true, so what’s the catch? KDP Select bars you from publishing online on any other platform including your website. Note that, you can still sell print copies of your book on any other website.
Building a Kindle book – Step by Step
Enough of chit chat, let’s get down to the real business, shall we?
Step 1: Finding a niche
So you want to write an ebook, so does your 14 year old neighbor who has read twilight twice. I recommend writing non-fic, if you want to make money that is. After you have made up your mind that you are not going to write a novel which is nothing but a cleverly disguised yet-another-twilight-fan-fiction, start looking for a niche. You need to find a category, a niche that you want to write in.
Don’t just randomly decide your niche and your subject, do something what Philip Kotler says marketing research. Go to Amazon and browse through different kindle categories looking at the best selling books in each one of them. Pick something that sells!
Also, note that on one hand you don’t want to write in a niche which has too much competititon while on the other hand don’t write something which has no market. Maintain a balance between intense competition and obscurity.
Browse through the top 100 selling books in categories and drill down to subcategory. Check the top 5 ranked book in a category and see what their overall Amazon rank is. Now, check the rank of the 10-15th and note whether they have got many reviews? Can your book make it to top 10 in the list? Also note if there are there any top shot publishers, writers in the category? You can’t possibly compete with John Grishams of the literary world, can you?
Note that it’s easier to rank in a subcategory than in a category, so maybe you should find a niche within a niche. Search for a term (sub-niche) in amazon and see how many books are published, if they aren’t many probably its a good area to write in.
With smart marketing, good content and little bit of patience you should be able to rank your book in top 10 or top 5 or even at top spot. Easier to outshine them if the other books have less no. of reviews, low cover quality and with significant negative reviews.
There are several software available in the market to help you with kindle keyword research. Check AKElite, Kindle samurai and KD suite.
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Step 2: Crafting a Killer Kindle Title
So, now you know what you are going to write about, the next logical step from there is to create a title and a cover for your ebook. Your goal shouldn’t be just to create a lousy title and cover but a title and cover which would sell the book. Remember do not breeze through this step …
Good title is important not only to evoke reader’s curiousity but to rank in the amazon search engine as well. There are millions of book in amazon and your book is buried deep somewhere, a keyword rich title is your best ally in such sticky ground.
Always make use of a combination of title and subtitle. In case of non fiction books longer titles works far better than shorter ones as you can clearly communicate to the reader why should he buy the book.
Take the example of a title of a best selling self-help book.
How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in relationship
The title should communicate clearly what problem the book solves (talking to anyone), how it solves (92 little tricks) and what would be the key benefit or how it would help the reader (success in relationship)
Step 3: Design an Eye Popping Cover
A cover helps your book stand out in the crowd. A good can sells copies and could be the deciding factor to push your ranking through the Amazon bestselling charts.
When it comes to creating a cover many of the authors/publishers struggle, after-all we are only good with words not with designing. If only you have a certain proficiency on photoshop, you won’t find the job difficult.
Fear not my friend!
Canva to the rescue. Canva is the online designing app which lets you create all those beautiful graphics with a relative ease. The pricing is minimal ($1 for using a graphic element) but free options are good too!
The other option is well… good old Photoshop ( if one that pricey piece of software anyway) to design you covers. Download free (there are many paid ones as well) photoshop ebook templates and edit them. Note, if you download these template you need to download and install the corresponding fonts as well.
The final option is to oursource the job to someone who knows what he is doing. Head to a freelance website such as fiverr and hire a graphic designer. Though, be warned that it’s difficult to have a quality control over what is delivered to you. Secondly, it becomes quickly expensive as you look for addons – e.g. psd file of your cover image – something that sellers sell for extra price. With psd file you can edit and customize the cover yourself whenever you want.
Want to give fiverr a go?
Search for ‘kindle cover’ (isn’t it obvious?) and you will see a lot of gigs offering you their cover making services. Check the samples for quality before you buy a gig. Also, quickly go through the review to see if somebody had a recent bad experience.
Guidelines for your cover and uploading it to the book page:
Step 4: Wring the kindle book
Now, it’s time to sit down and actually write down the ebook. It’s the moment you have been dreaded all along (?). Don’t worry, you are not gonna work for next five years trying to dish out the next 1200 pages novel in the series of Song of Ice and Fire.
Here’s a brief on what you need to do and how you are going to do it.
Length – 45-50 pages is idle for short books. 100-120 for a medium length book.
Structure the book – break the book topic into subtopics which will then become chapters. Use a simple paper and pen to create a mind map to organize your thoughts. Against each chapter put the average no. of words. Use a tracker if you have management inclinations. Write down your daily progress in a tracker i.e no. of words written and how much words are still needed to finish the project.
Writing editors – Scrienver is the #1 tool for the job. MS. Word just fine as well. Online tool such as Google Docs allows you to work from anywhere, anytime. Personally, my go-to editor is Libre Office, it’s free and it’s light weight. I use dropbox to keep my files backed up on the cloud.
Step 5: Putting the kindle ebook together
Well, this is the trickiest part. In order to display the ebook correctly across different (sized) devices Amazon has issued a standard guidline that publishers should follow to format their ebooks. The instructions are pretty straight forward, you just need to learn it once and from second time it would just be another routine.
Here’s a free ebook on formatting ebook by none other than Amazon itself.
To give you an overview of the formatting a kindle ebook comprises of the following elements: Title page, table of content and chapters. Optionally you can add Copyright page, and author’s page at the end. Also, if you have published other books, promote them inside your ebook by adding a preview chapter. If you have multiple titles under your belt (power to you) make a lists of books along with couple of lines of description.
Note that if you are using MS Word software make use of .doc and not .docx extension. Save the .doc as html stripped and your kindle ebook is ready.
Yay! We should celebrate.
Download kindle previewer by amazon to see how your book looks like in different screen sizes and types of devices e.g. on various kindle devices which are black and white, and kindle fire which is colored.
Another thing to keep in mind is, Kindle has a 50mb limit of the file size, though don’t worry about it as you won’t cross it unless you are using very high quality images in your book. And in that case you should consider using a software to compress the images. The delivery costs come around $0.15/MB (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A29FL26OKE7R7B)
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Step 6: Publishing
Final step: Save and Publish
Your book is reviewed by amazon for quality check and if passed (professional, not plagiarised etc.) it would be published within 24 hours. Hurrah!
Reviews helps a potential buyer in making a decision. They also help you in ascending (or descending) amazon ranking. One and two star negative reviews can affect the book sales severly.
There are two type of reviews Amazon allow users to leave, either verified or unverified review.
Verified reviews: When someone leaves a review without purchasing a book it is called Unverified review.
Unverified reviews: While if someone who has purchased the book, amazon tags their review with Amazon Verified Purchase label. Note that free download also count toward Verified Purchase and you will get a verified review.
How do I get the reviews I need?
The answer is straightforward – Make use of your social circle. Create an excel sheet and put down all the names and their contact information – mobile numbers/ email of all the people you think can write you a review. You will be surprised how many potential reviewers you have listed. Assume a 40% hit ratio, which means 4 out of 10 people would write you a review. Be prepared to do a bit of selling and convincing.
Promoting your books
KDP Select – free book day
KDP Select is a huge topic in itself to cover. KDP Select allows you to promote your books in two ways: Free book days, Kindle Countdown Deals. The enrollment period stretches for 90 days at a time, and once enrolled in the KDP program you have to abide by the rules and there is no way of getting out of it.
The best thing about KDP Select is the promotional feature that comes with it. There are two promotional tools exclusively avilable with KDP Select:
KDP Select free days: It allows you to set your book completely free for five days in a period of 90 days. These 5 days can either be continuous or one at a time, it entirely depends on your choice.
Kindle Countdown Deals: Well nobody really uses it (except big publications), in brief countdown deals allow you to reduce the price of the book from its original listed price. e.g. if you have set the price at $5.99, you can make the book available on a discounted price of say $2.99. Amazon will actually display on your book page that the price has been slashed.
The money is in the list, as they say. Add a little twist to it and it becomes: the book sales are in the list. You can either build your own list that you can promote your book to, or you can ride on someone else’s (e.g. Bookbub – very expensive I know.)
Using list of other you’d get mix results as it is difficult to gauge the quality of the email list. Several cheaper gigs are available on fiverr for you to explore.
Building your own list is undoubtedly the best option but it takes time and energy to build one. To build a list you will need a email marketing provider (such as Aweber or Mailchimp) and an optin to collect the email addresses. You can share your optin on your website, include it in your ebook(!) or promote on social media.
Use Social media to your advantage
Until now the social media conglomerates have made money off you, now it’s your chance to turn the table on them. Here are some of the best ways to promote your Kindle eBook:
- Facebook Groups: One of the most popular way to promote your book. During your KDP Select free day promotion post in these groups to get more exposure to your book. Check a list of the fb groups (in kindle resources section) that might be helpful for you.
- Twitter: Some twitter accounts tweet for free. Large accounts can help. Check a list of the twitter handles (in kindle resources section) that might be helpful for you.
- Reddit: Reddit is perhaps the biggest social network where people actually socialize. It is divided into several forums called subreddits where users discuss all kind of things from conspiracy theories to theoretical physics. I suggest you pick a subreddit or two which resemble your book niche and start engaging in conversations. As a rule of thumb don’t start posting your blog/ book link (or any other kind of self promotion) build your profile first, make connections, write genuine comments and then subtly promote your ebooks. Remember the reddit community is full of smart people who would smell a marketer from a mile, so act smart and blend yourself in the new environment.
- Quora: is yet another high quality social network which you can utilize to build your reader base. Start by answering questions which are low to moderately popular to get a chance to become a ‘top answerer’.
- GoodReads: is a huge monster (owned by Amazon) which demands great in-depth strategy. Also note that it is only useful if you are a fiction writer or if you are writing long form non-fiction (200-250 pages kind). There are whole lot of tools you can utilize to promote your book within Goodreads ecosystem including Groups, Listopia list, commenting on popular books etc.
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Build your author blog
You want to build and grow your personal brand? Then get started with a blog that you have always been thinking of.
Fear that you’d require technical expertise to create a blog? Use wordpress which is essentially a website/ blogging template that you can make pretty with the help of themes, and extend with the help of plugins. The technical side is taken care of (upto a larger extent) so all you need to do is set it up following a step by step wordpress installation guide, customize it a bit to reflect your brand and start writing!
In fact this very blog is built on wordpress, with minimum technical work. You can check out my recommended list of templates and plugins (all free!) that you too can make use of while setting up your own blog. Happy to help you.
Other online places
- Forums: Similar strategy to subreddit that you can apply to forums. If you are a travel writer, head to tripadvisor, thorntree forums and start answering.
- Niche website: particularly useful for non-fiction work.
- Book promotion websites: Some websites offer to list and promoe your book if it is set to free or $0.99. To get listed you usually are presented with a choice for free listing (not guaranteed) or a paid listing. Since there are as many as 50 websites (and counting) it can quickly get tiring and monoutours to fill lengthy forms and upload cover image on each of these websites. As always hire someone on fiverr to outsource the job.
The next level
Author central is Amazon’s author page. Create an author profile at author central, it helps in connecting with readers and cross promoting your other books.
From content creation aka writing, editing, book cover, promotion, you can outsource almost every aspect of Kindle business and turn it into a machine.
The key is to stick to a single niche and create good no. of quality books under the same pen name. Same Pen name = autheniticity, credibility.
Build your email list
Here we go again, I can’t stress it enough. Build yourself a landing page or squeeze page, entice the user with freebies or kindle deals for signup. Once you have a decent list you can start promoting your books to the subscribers. Leadpages and Aweber are the two top choices to get yourself started.
Sell hard copies of your book
Do you know using Amazon’s createspace you can make your book available in print form as well? And all that at an absolute cost of… zero! Yes, you heard it right, it costs absolutely nothing to make your book’s printed copy available on online amazon store. Damn!
Learn, learn and learn
Read as much as possible on the subject, free blog articles, forum posts and paid ebooks from ‘experts’, whatever you can get your hands on.
Keep Learning and Keep Growing.
All the best. – Vidyut Rautela.