I've been in the self-published ebook business for 16 days now, and just crossed $40K in sales. I can't pretend I'm an expert in this profession, but here's everything I did so far.
1. You want people to buy your book because it's YOU writing it.
There are thousands of books on every topic, but there's only ONE you. Make YOU part of the product. Think about what people might be interested to learn from you specifically. That should be your starting point.
2. If nobody knows who you are, you're going to have to solve that problem first.
I could have written this book 11 months ago when I had no followers here. But I wouldn't have sold any! My Twitter followers helped me in 3 ways:
- Some bought the book.
- Some spread the word to their friends & followers.
- Some bought the book, and also spread the word.
Just these 5 tweets on launch week reached >350K impressions (a lot more than my usual organic reach):
Once I had some sales from my own organic reach, I shared some behind the scenes info on Hacker News, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Indie Hackers: This is (almost) free promotion. Share stuff. But if I had no sales from my own organic reach, I wouldn't have had anything to share on those forums.
The order matters! Sales from external forums:
HN: 164 - $4,592
Reddit: 68 - $1,904
Indie Hackers: 24 - $672
LinkedIn: 5 - $190
Total: 261 - $7,358 (18%)
3. If you don't already have an audience, give people a reason to follow you, and they will follow.
Share something interesting or useful, and put a call to action to follow you for more. Then put that thing on HN, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc, and let it get some attention. You don't necessarily need to create anything. You can just document. Describe what you’re doing, what’s happening to you, how you’re choosing between options, lessons learned, etc.
This article is one such example. People like to follow a story as it happens. I’ve formed a habit where everyday, I look at the events of the day and see if any lessons/insights/code/thoughts/etc are worth sharing. If I think it would interest someone like me, I default to share.
4. Price it so that almost everyone finds it worth it.
Most pricing advice is about maximizing revenue. Instead, I simply asked myself what price I would feel worth paying for, for the content that I had. I picked the price on the last day, after looking at the final result.
I wanted the price to feel worth it even if the reader took away just one lesson out of it. Two lessons would have been a bonus!I only had 12 refunds out of 1.4K sales (0.8%) despite a generous refund policy & no sample content (at first). I attribute some of this to the above.
5. You're going to be the writer, publisher, distributor, and promoter.
6. Paid ads don't seem to work, but I might have been lucky.
I tried Google, Quora, LinkedIn, and Reddit. Nothing worked (either cost-per-click too high, or clicks don't convert), except on one Reddit sub: r/aws. So far I sold $812 & spent $525 from r/aws ads. $100/day budget.
7. This is a randomness-laden venture.
Despite this great outcome, I can't be sure if this is repeatable. Lots of random things went right. I got retweeted by some high-follower accounts, I was on the 2nd page of HN for 14 hours, a reddit post got 825 votes, etc.
My advice: Time box your effort. We only spent about 20 full-time days between 2 people on this book. We met once a week in a coffee shop for 2.5 months, then we did one big push over the last 10 days.
If it sold nothing, it wouldn't have been a huge investment.