Writing Kindle ebooks? If you’re writing your first ebook, there’s a lot to know. However, don’t let that intimidate you. It’s exciting. Self-publishing gives writers immense power.
If you’re an established writer, the world is your publishing oyster, because self-publishing is now mainstream. You have DIRECT access to readers. No one stands in your way.
Let’s look at some self-publishing tips you can use immediately, no matter where you are in your self-publishing career.
1. Fiction out-sells nonfiction: write short stories, they’re faster to write than novels.
Fiction out-sells nonfiction on the Kindle book store 6:1.
Even if you don’t see yourself as a novelist, you can nevertheless write fiction. Write a short story, or a children’s book. One of my writing students is compiling all the stories she tells her grandchildren. Although she got off to a slow start, a year later, she’s selling anywhere from 20 to 50 ebooks each week.
2. Pay attention to Amazon’s Top 100 lists: they’re free market research.
Want to write ebooks which sell? Pay attention to Amazon’s Top 100 lists. Amazon has these lists in just about every category: here’s the Top 100 New Releases.
3. Covers! Look at others’ covers for ideas.
Here’s the most important thing to remember about ebook (or any book) covers: use what other people are using. For example, in some subject areas, illustrations are popular for covers. In fiction genres, some use photo covers, others use illustrations.
The key: the cover should inform the reader, so that just by looking at your cover, he knows what to expect. Study others’ covers in your subject area for nonfiction, and fiction. Do what the bestsellers in your category do – they use a certain style of cover for a reason.
4. Create a mailing list.
Create a mailing list as soon as you publish your first book. Don’t wait – it’s essential. Use whichever list managing service appeals to you, but create your list immediately you publish.
You can even create a list BEFORE you publish. I’ve done this for some of my ghostwriting clients; it’s effective.
You create a list for one simple reason: if people have bought from you, they’ll buy from you again. If you have 200 people on your list, by the time you release book number 5, you’ll make 20 to 50 sales immediately. In some categories and genres, those sales are sufficient for Amazon to start promoting you – and you get more sales from that.
5. Covers again: explore pre-made covers.
Covers are important. They catch your reader’s eye. If you don’t have a cover which grabs attention, you won’t get buyers.
If you’re just starting out, you may not be able to afford $200 for a cover. Many ecover creators create “pre-made” covers for this reason. Search Google for “premade covers”; you’ll find lots of options.
6. Amazon first: focus on the big one for three months.
When you’re just starting out, posting your books on all the online book stores can drive you demented. So, don’t do that. Write. Keep writing, until three months have passed.
Then you can start posting to other venues. Draft2Digital is the easiest way to get your ebooks onto lots of websites.
7. You’ve got ten per cent to grab readers.
Amazon’s “Look Inside” technology means that your readers will read the first ten per cent of your book. Make it the best you can. If you’re writing fiction, don’t dump a lot of info; Charles Dickens could get away with:
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
You can’t write as Dickens did. Start with something happening, or about to happen. Use dialogue – remember, you’ve got the first ten per cent of your book to grab your readers.
8. Add your blurb (book description) to your ebook’s front matter.
You want readers to buy your ebooks, but you also want your ebooks to be read. When your readers get to know you through your books, there’s a chance that they’ll become loyal readers who’ll buy your next book, and the next. With thousands of low-cost and free ebooks available, readers load their devices with material that they never get around to reading.
Help your readers by adding your book’s description (blurb) to your ebooks’ front matter. Yes, Amazon includes the blurb in the “About This Book” section, but include your blurb in the book too.
9. Write in series.
As I said in Self Publishing Secret: Write In Series to Sell More:
Writing in series can make all the difference in the world to your sales. With just a single title, whether fiction or nonfiction, your book will get lost, and readers won’t find it. Therefore, you need to decide that you will write in series, rather than single titles.
Once you’ve complete a series, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, make the first ebook in the series either permanently free (this works best for fiction), or at a low price, such as 99 cents. Your first book in a series is your marketing tool: it’s a loss leader.
10. Use Scrivener: it’s a professional’s tool.
I’ve used Scrivener since it first came out in beta many years ago. I can’t imagine writing without it, and I’m grateful that there’s a devoted team behind the product. Word processors are developed by developers. Scrivener’s developed by writers, for writers.
Use it, even if you hate learning new software. Thank me for shoving you in its direction later. 🙂
11. Words count. Know when to use “its” and “it’s.”
Do you know when to use “its” and “it’s”? How about “lose” and “loose”? Or “affect” and “effect”?
Words are a writer’s tools. Love them. Use them the way they’re meant to be used. Yes, you’ll use words incorrectly in the heat of creation, and your editor and proofreader will catch unintended errors. But you need to be a capable wordsmith; that’s a requirement for self-publishing, as it is for any form of professional writing.
I recently started using an editing app; it’s very useful.
Read more. Read everything, especially the classics of literature. There’s no barrier to entry in self-publishing. This means that the competition will continue to grow. You’ll kick yourself if you get one-star reviews because of something as easy to correct as your word use and grammar.
12. Forget your reviews.
Speaking of reviews… Forget them. Focus on your writing. Remember, write in series. Make your books the best they can be at this stage of your writing career. A one-star review or two won’t kill you. It’s lovely to have great reviews, but many writers dismiss the forest for the trees, and lose their objectivity.
13. Promote AFTER you start selling.
Want to take out an ad for your just-published book? Of course you can do that. However, it makes sense to have a couple of books for readers… It’s HARD to get readers. If a reader enjoys your book, present him with more books he can read.
Aim to advertise extensively after you’ve published at least one series, and your books are selling. Focus on building your catalogue of published books, and growing your mailing list. Everything else is secondary, and it’s a distraction.
Nothing sells books like another book. Speaking of which…
14. Create a publication schedule which works for you.
If you’re writing 120,000 word novels, you may not be able to write more than two or three a year. That’s a wonderful publication schedule to build your name. However, since new releases sell books, consider writing short stories to keep your name in Amazon’s New Releases lists.
On the other hand, if you’re writing short stories, you may be able to write one a week. Create a schedule which works for you.
15. Learn how Amazon works. (And be aware of changes.)
People try to game Amazon, just as they try to game Google. These behemoths focus on not only their profits, but also their users. If you care about your readers, and writing good books, Amazon’s twists and turns won’t affect you too much.
Pay attention to how Amazon works for you. You can only do this if you’re publishing consistently.
16. Make your books discoverable and findable.
You want readers to discover your ebooks, and to find them.
So pay attention to:
- Your titles;
- Book descriptions;
- Book cover images.
Read and digest Amazon’s Help files. They’re invaluable. Here’s Amazon on keywords.
17. Get beta readers.
Beta readers are your first readers. Lucky writers have a partner who’s invested in their career, and loves to read their material before it’s published. This is nice to have, but you can find beta readers everywhere.
Try: writers’ websites, on blogs, on social media… For nonfiction, find readers who are interested in your subject matter. For fiction, find beta readers who read extensively in the genres in which you’re writing.
18. Get an editor (or more than one if you can afford it.)
Editors come in several varieties. One of the benefits of traditional publishing is that you’ll not only work with a developmental editor, you’ll work with line editors too.
If you can only afford one kind of editor, get a line editor (also known as a copy editor.)
Please don’t write carelessly, thinking that your editor will catch your mistakes. Your book is you. Write as well as you can, and edit as well as you can, before you pass your material to ANY editor.
19. “Free” works, but..
Sadly, “free” no longer works as well as it once did. Indeed, many readers look on free ebooks as junk. However, you can still use freebies as promotional tools, if you write in series.
20. Pricing up, and down: experiment once you’re selling.
Pricing is a marketing tool. Pick a price for your first ebook which seems appropriate. Then, leave it. There’s no point in fiddling with pricing when you’ve only published one book, and have no, or few, sales.
Rule of thumb: always have a GOOD reason to change your price. You can test your pricing in various ways once you’ve build your catalogue of books.
So there we have it: 20 tips you can use to make the most of the self-publishing opportunities for your Kindle ebooks. Happy publishing. 🙂
We published this article in 2014. I’ve revised it and updated it for today’s environment, but it’s stood up well. If you’re new to self-publishing, I hope the article gives you useful tips. Have fun. 🙂
When you write in series, you're giving yourself more chances to sell with every novel you write.More info →
Why write serial fiction?
Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.More info →
Resources to build your writing career
Updated: April 18, 2019
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