In Part 1, I talked about my early-2018 publishing goals and my rationale for rebooting my nonfiction publishing strategy. By August 2019, everything had come together with the publication of My Publishing Imprint.
In Part 2, I’m going to share the five key decisions and publishing tasks I undertook to make this happen:
- Metadata planning
- Cover design
- Review strategy
A note about the above image: I was originally set to call the series Up-to-Speed, and the first book, Author Imprints. During the planning process I changed the series name to Countdown to Book Launch and the book name to My Publishing Imprint.
The very first thing I did was to record my ideas for a series: titles, subtitles, series name. This information is critical for several reasons:
- Text length matters in cover design. How much space is required for each of those three elements? I wanted it to be readable at the size Amazon uses when displaying browsing history, about 100 pixels on the longest side.
- Keywords matter, especially for nonfiction. I wanted a catchy title and descriptive subtitle. The former would have fewer characters and the latter, many more. More importantly, these words should ideally be search terms that would likely be popular for years to come.
- By planning for several books, I was able to settle on parameters that could support a wide range of text requirements.
This was by far the hardest, most time consuming, and most expensive step in the process. Even with text requirements identified, there were lots of other questions to resolve.
What should the print edition dimensions be? I knew I wanted a dimension supported by POD and it had to be one supported by both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark.
As I shared in Part 1, my word-count objective was 15,000 to 35,000 words, but that was just an estimate. Since spine width depends on page count, I wanted a dimension small enough that a low word count would result in a spine thickness sufficient for printing but not so big, like 6”x9”, that a thin book would look cheap. I decided on 5.25” x 8” as my standard.
How should the series be tied together?
- Text only?
- Icons or logos?
The cover I was using for inspiration was Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be. I shared this with my designers, along with examples of other nonfiction series books I had researched on Amazon.
It took about ten months to settle on a series-design template, with probably seven of those months chewed up by indecisiveness and by strikeouts with five Fiverr designers, a 99designs contest, and a book designer. I finally turned to a Bulgarian graphic artist who had never designed a book cover before but who had done other design work for me in the past.
The decision about pricing was far easier. As noted in Part 1, I was focusing on numbers of copies sold, not revenue. That meant offering the book at the lowest possible price on Amazon: 99 cents. As the introduction to me and the series, I wanted to make this an easy decision.
I also felt that the short length and very narrow topic did not warrant a higher price. And related to this, I needed to position My Publishing Imprint as book one in the series and differentiate it from my previously written Register Your Book, which also covers ISBNs and would be the second book in the series.
As we’ll learn in Part 3, I kept this very low—painfully low—price until June of 2020, when I raised it to $2.99. That was after it had more than 20 positive reviews.
The big question for all self-publishers is whether to enroll their eBook in KDP Select. I did not. Even though I had a hunch most sales would come from Amazon—and it’s been 98.8% so far—my goal was to use this as a business-marketing tool. That meant being in stores to reach readers that are not Amazon shoppers.
Also, I had no plans to use the promotional benefits of KDP Select—a free giveaway or Countdown Deal (worthless for books selling for 99 cents). If I wanted to offer a sale, which I did later, I could manually reduce the price.
If I were writing fiction, I would have considered KDP Select more seriously. But for now, my books are still “wide.”
For the print edition, I went through KDP Print because I did not plan to offer the book for preorder. Instead of using IngramSpark, I used Expanded Distribution to get the print edition listed in online stores such as BN.com.
The one downside to Expanded Distribution is that my royalties are reduced because Amazon and Ingram (who is the company behind Expanded Distribution) take a 20% cut of sales, leaving the author with 40% (minus printing costs). IngramSpark gives the author 45%, but considering I’ve sold only four books internationally this year, it isn’t worth the effort. (I could switch in the future if sales picked up, but this is doubtful for a book written for US-based self-publishers.)
When I first released the audiobook for Register Your Book in 2018, we went with ACX for distribution. This time, for My Publishing Imprint, Carter (my producer) and I decided to use Findaway Voices. Findaway’s royalty payments are lower for sales through Amazon, Audible, and Apple, but in keeping with my goals to use the book as a marketing tool, I wanted wider distribution.
A fella can dream; the idea of the My Publishing Imprint audiobook being acquired by libraries was a big attraction to me because I felt the book could eventually become a “perennial seller.”
Because I had publishing two books on the topic of book reviews, I knew about the different options and strategies for getting and using book reviews. But for My Publishing Imprint, I had a very simple two-point plan.
First, I would ask my mailing list of about 1,500 people if anyone wanted to be part of my launch team. They would receive a free book for purposes of considering writing an Amazon review.
About 15 people replied and received a PDF. Once the book was released, I emailed everyone a gift card for $15 so they could buy the format of their choice—print or eBook (the audiobook wasn’t released until January 2020).
The second was more of a strategy—a low price to encourage sales. Boiling down the options for getting reviews, they can come only from three sources:
- Contacts: people the author can contact.
- Money: from the author’s marketing budget.
- Sales: as in sales of their book, be it free or paid sales.
By pricing My Publishing Imprint at 99 cents, I was banking on the fact that some percentage of purchasers would leave a review, and I was right.
By the way, one thing I did not do with this book (that I’ve done with all my other books) was to seek testimonials, or blurbs. I’ll probably reconsider this in the next six months; it’s never too late to solicit testimonials, and you should never stop seeking them.
Part 3 is next: Results, stats, and lessons learned.
References and resources, Part 2
- It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
- “Should You Use Amazon KDP Select or Distribute Your Book Wide?”
- “2019 eBook Distribution Round-up | Aggregators Comparison Chart and FAQs.”
- Audiobook distribution options:
- ACX (Amazon, Audible, Apple)
- Findaway Voices
- “Book review, The Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday,”
- “Getting Started with Email Marketing”