In Part 1, I described the challenges of one-off publishing, and my strategy for rebooting my publishing efforts and creating a series.
Part 2 focused on My Publishing Imprint, since that was going to be the first book in the series. The two most important early decisions, metadata planning and book cover design, began with this book.
Part 3 shares the results of all this work: the opportunities and benefits that accrued to me and the books, sales and revenue numbers, and lessons learned.
Series release timeline
If you think publishing one book is challenging, it’s even more challenging when publishing a series of three books over the course of about four months. That’s why it was so important to spend time up front on metadata and design.
I didn’t feel each individual book was worthy of a major launch campaign, nor did I have the time to invest in one. I compensated for this by putting most of my energy and time into creating quality content and packaging it professionally, and then using price to encourage sales.
- July 2019: Published a second edition of Register Your Book with updated content and a new series cover. This is book 2 in the Countdown to Book Launch series, but I did not add this metadata until after books 1 and 3 were released.
- August 2019: Published My Publishing Imprint, book 1 of the series.
- October 2019: Published The Book Review Companion, book 3 of the series.
- November 2019: Added series metadata in the distribution channels.
- January 2020: Published the audiobook edition of My Publishing Imprint.
Perhaps one of my best decisions during this period was not rushing to publish The Book Review Companion. After refining several drafts, I shared it with current clients. After incorporating their comments, I then solicited a beta reader team of about 12 people.
This gave me even more insights about things that were missing or needed to be explained better. It also delayed the release by about 30 days, but there was really no pressing need to rush it to market.
Metadata really does matter
Research search terms (for nonfiction books)
In early summer 2019, a potential marketing partner told me he liked My Publishing Imprint: How to Create a Self-Publishing Book Imprint & ISBN Essentials but couldn’t promote it because I use the term “self-publishing” in the subtitle, as opposed to “indie publishing.”
But I wouldn’t change it, because the SEO research I had done over the past five years showed that “self-publishing” was far and away the term most people used when seeking information about, well, self-publishing.
Every word in the title of that book was carefully considered. For example, I used “self-publishing” rather than “self-publisher” because the former is searched for more frequently than the latter.
Ask anyone working with keywords and online search terms what they think about a proposed word or term, and they’ll tell you it’s not what they think that matters, it’s what the public thinks (and searches for).
The lesson here: Use the words your target audience uses. I did, and the first-full-month sales were a personal-best 193 books sold.
Choose less-obvious categories
I also added the book to categories outside of writing and publishing.
Writers generally start thinking about publishing during or after writing their book. If they look for books on the subject, they’ll most often browse in the writing and publishing categories of the online bookstores.
But entrepreneurially minded people—those not necessarily in the process of writing a book—may be investigating potential businesses to start. To reach them, I added the book to the Home-Based Small Businesses and Home-Based Business Sales & Selling categories on Amazon.
You can help Amazon’s systems help your books
Perhaps one of my most pleasant surprises was when Amazon, without asking or telling me, grouped all three books in the series and gave it a price of their choosing. Sort of like shrink-wrapping the series and giving it its own ISBN. This makes it easier for them to market, which in turn generates more sales for me.
This happened because I gave each book the same exact series name and numbered them sequentially.
Opportunities and benefits
I’d be lying if I said royalties didn’t matter, but as I noted in Part 1, they were not a priority. I was focused on selling as many books as possible, not on maximizing income.
Having a higher Amazon best-sellers rank (a lower number) creates more visibility for your book. The Amazon algorithm starts adding it to its various cross-marketing lists (Customers who bought… and Customers who viewed…) and authors target your book in their ads for their own book (Sponsored products related to…).
That makes Amazon more like Google, a great place to do research. As a result, I have been approached twice in the past year about participating in group marketing programs: One was as part of a Jonathan Green-led book bundle cross-promo offer in December 2019, and the other was as a participant in Infostack’s Write-Publish-Profit. The purpose of both, as far as I was concerned, was to increase awareness of me and My Publishing Imprint.
I’m also convinced that Amazon noticed. In early August, I received an invitation to include Register Your Book in a beta program called Great on Kindle. Great on Kindle eBooks are eligible for
- Inclusion in the Amazon.com Great on Kindle program.
- A detail-page message to identify it as a high-quality book.
- Promotional credit offers for customers.
- Nominations for potential merchandising opportunities.
Sales and revenue numbers
These numbers are for September 2019 through August 2020, except as noted. Dollar figures are royalties, not gross sales. When I say books, I am referring to the combined total of paperback and eBook. Otherwise it is the format specified.
Countdown to Book Launch Series (combined totals for all three books)
- Books sold on Amazon: 3,293
- Books sold via all other stores combined: 39
- Book royalties from Amazon: $4,877
- Book royalties from all other stores combined: less than $200
- Unit sales by format: 13% paperback, 87% eBook
- Book royalties by format: 35% paperback, 65% eBook
My Publishing Imprint
- 1,349 units sold, 92% eBook and 8% print
- 42% of all sales of books in the series
Register Your Book
- 592 units sold, 70% eBook and 30% print
- 18% of all sales of books in the series
- For comparison, unit sales in 2018: 251
The Book Review Companion
- 1,102 units sold*, 96% eBook and 4% print
- 34% of all sales of books in the series
*This is for 10.25 months. Annualized, I expect it to be closer to 1,300 units sold.
How I currently distribute books outside Amazon
- IngramSpark for Register Your Book and The Book Review Companion
- Direct to Apple and Google for all three books
- Draft2Digital, excluding Amazon and Apple
- I am not currently selling the books direct from my website but probably will in the future
Lessons and reflections
- My big surprise was that people were buying the series, not just one book.
- It is important, but time consuming, to update the books’ front and back matter as I discover or think of new ways to cross-promote the books, promote AuthorImprints, or promote myself. I think doing this task one book at a time makes the most sense, due to the time involved.
- I’ve started running periodic promotions where I drop the price for a few days and use promo sites to notify their mailing list about the sale. By the time I subtract out the cost of the promos and the BookBub ads, it isn’t a money maker. But it juices the Amazon algorithm and that bumps up or helps maintain visibility of the books.
- There are sales spikes that come out of nowhere; I can’t trace them to any action on my part. For example, I sold 74 copies of My Publishing Imprint on September 15, 2019. I searched Google in vain to figure out why but couldn’t find anything. My guess is that the book was mentioned by someone who has a large following. This confirms my belief that focusing on unit sales is the right thing to do, because more units sold equals more awareness about my books and my business. Plus, each book cross-markets the others.
- Unlike Register Your Book and The Book Review Companion, I made no effort to solicit testimonials or editorial reviews for My Publishing Imprint, and yet it didn’t seem to make a difference.
- Don’t stop seeking opportunities. After learning about Readers’ Favorite in April , I submitted My Publishing Imprint for a review. After getting a favorable review, I decided to invest $99 to enter it in their annual book-award contest. On September 1, 2020, My Publishing Imprint was awarded the 2020 Gold Medal for the Writing and Publishing category.
- A book with a unique message will generally perform better than a me-too book. For example, My Publishing Imprint sales have been greater than the annualized sales of The Book Review Companion, a book in a category that already has several other books on this topic. Not bad for a book I thought about giving away.
What are you working on?
Are you thinking about a book series? Or how to republish a current book as a series? I offer planning and strategy consulting on a single- or multiple-session basis.
Fiction authors have two options:
- A branded series based on subject matter.
- An author-branded series.
I also consult with fiction authors; planning and execution is just a little different.
References and resources
- More about my consults can be found here: https://www.davidwogahn.com/consult
- The Countdown to Book Launch series on Amazon
- Infostack Write-Publish-Profit
- Readers’ Favorite Book Award
- Great on Kindle
- Book pricing and royalties