Step 1. Write Book
Step 2. ???
Step 3. Profit
Let's focus on Step 2. There are a number of ways you can disseminate your book, and since I've tried the most popular of them, I'm going to share my experiences and advice for each.
Self Distributed eBook
This is when you whip up a fancy PDF and sell it through your site, probably using Paypal. I currently sell Make Her Chase You like this for $47 (bundled with a 30 day mission-by-email course, 70 minute audio, etc) and Life Nomadic for whatever-you-want to pay.
Since internet marketers seem to be the people driving Lamborghinis and posting up possibly-photoshopped pictures of huge checks, this is the obvious first choice. It's how I figured I'd make the most money, so it's what I did first.
The pay-what-you-want method works poorly financially. I've gotten everything from $.01 to $135, with an average of around $125 a month. I'm happy to have $125 a month I wouldn't otherwise have, but the real benefit of this strategy is that LOTS of people can read my book. Most people don't pay anything, The book is downloaded about 500 times a month. At this point, spreading my message is more important to me than being paid for it, so I'm happy to continue with this plan.
The high-ticket with extras works better. I make a steady $500 a month on that after returns (maybe one every few months).
I don't do Adwords or anything like that, because I really hate Adwords. I used to make $1500 a month from the $47 Make Her Chase You, but it took a lot of work to stay on top of the Adwords, and eventually Google didn't like my landing page for some reason.
Bottom line on self distributing is that it's a cool thing to do because you get 100% of the money, but unless you're a real Adwords jockey, you probably won't actually make enough to sustain yourself.
Self Published, Amazon Distributed, Paperback
Confession time: the only reason Make Her Chase You became a paperback is because I thought it would be cool to have my book on Amazon and because I really enjoy laying books out with InDesign. I expected that it might sell a few copies a month, make a hundred or two, and that would be it.
But I was wrong. It took off, reaching a peak ranking of somewhere around #2000 (of all books sold on Amazon), and was consistently above serious books by authors like Hunter S. Thompson and Mystery (haha... had to throw that in there. He's beating me now!). Then a couple people left 3 and 4 star reviews and sales went way down, from 12+ a day to about 5 a day. Still great, but a real lesson to make sure your book is as good as humanly possible.
The best way to publish on Amazon is through CreateSpace. They make it insanely easy: upload PDFs of the cover and interior and they print the books on demand and ship them. Other than the one copy you order to make sure the book looks right, you never see one. I've sold over 1500 books through Amazon and never had to ship a single one. Pretty awesome! For the service they take roughly 55%, and you get the rest. Compare that to approximately 5-10% that an author might get through a publishing house. You can sell 10% as much as a published author and still make the same amount of money.
It seems to take a while for books to get traction, as most sales seem to come through Amazon recommendations. Once enough sales go through, your book gets associated with other books and starts showing up on their pages as well. Life Nomadic hasn't gotten that traction yet, so it only sells a dozen copies or so a month.
CreateSpace also has a backend which allows bookstores to buy books. I signed up for it, not really expecting that any book store would find my book, but sure enough there's some store somewhere that's buying 25-30 copies every month.
Last, occasionally Amazon marks down books and they eat the discount. Make Her Chase You is currently 15% off, but I still get paid the same amount.
Self Published, Amazon Distributed, Kindle
For a while Amazon would actually pay the author less for a Kindle distributed book than CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary, paid on a book they had to print and ship. Recently the upped the percentage to 70% from 35%, with certain conditions. I agreed to the conditions, so now both of my books are available on Kindle for $9.99.
Formatting for Kindle wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but after a couple days of wrangling with the conversions, I got the process down. My books have only been available on Kindle for a week or so, so I can't really report numbers on them yet.
I was also going to distribute the books on iPad but I was infuriated that they wanted me to download iTunes to do so, so I gave up. Take that, Apple.
Bottom Line on Self Publishing
I think the key to self publishing is to not expect to become a millionaire by it, and to distribute on as many channels as possible. Once you do that you're rewarded with a relatively stable amount of income that has no expiration date and requires no extra work. Every month doesn't increase, but overall my sales continue to go up on average.
If you've successfully published a book, I'd love to hear about your experience and tips as well.
Heading out to Boston tomorrow and then Burning Man on the 3rd. I bought Jet Blue's "All You Can Jet" ticket for September, so I should be all over the place until Oct 6. They go to Colombia, so I guarantee you I'll be there at some point.
No ETA on the RV book. I'm working on a different book which will come out first and then maybe I'll finish the RV one. Then again, there was more interest in it than expected in the last post, so maybe I'll bump it up the list.
Just put my 6th book on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes&Nobel, Kindle and CreateSpace. Getting to the point (I say jokingly) most published and least read author of 2014. v Takes time to get known for sure. Have my own author platform too. It is a slow process. Do not expect overnight success and hang in there! Ronald Hudkins
Thanks for the great article! Personally I found Create Space pretty pricey. I used a company called Print House International .com from Seattle & Shanghai. GREAT prices, service and quality. I recommend it : )
Lulu .com also looks cool...
Hey, Tynan. Thanks for the inspiration; I'm in the final stage of formatting my written book after about 75 hours of work, feeling totally psyched. In any case, I've got a question about your copyright of Life Nomadic ... the copyright is for "Tynan" with no last name. How do I go about registering with this handle ("webster w." without using my whole name? I am paranoid, and value my privacy, and I'd like to maintain a low profile ... Thanks for your input -- Web
great post. very helpful. its been a dream to write a book forever.
Congrats on the AYCJ Pass as well. I had one last year and had a ball. I recommend the last place you go be Burlington VT. Rent a hybrid and check out the fall colors, they'll be peaking.
Also, in Bogota, go to the Salt Cathedral!
Nice! Did you try Lulu.com also? I was pretty happy with them for self publishing and getting my book on Amazon. Hadn't heard of CreateSpace tho. Thanks!
You're a smart guy, Tynan--I'd've thought you were too smart to let your dislike of Apple stand in the way of selling books on an increasingly popular platform. As elai pointed out, downloading a free copy of iTunes is not exactly a high barrier. A wise man once wrote "The key to self publishing is to distribute on as many channels as possible." ;-)
Really neat, Tynan. Mine's an ebook only, and I'd never even heard of CreateSpace until now.
Do you think the 30-50 pages that are standard for lots of ebooks (like mine, a cookbook) would work in the physical world? It seems to me that people would perceive it as just a pamphlet or something, and not be willing to pay for it.
Then again, it sounds like there's no risk to CreateSpace. Off to check it out. Thanks.
Thanks for being so open and honest about your numbers and how you've gone about it. I currently only offer electronic versions of accent training materials for actors (developed with two other coaches). It's a bit more complicated because it involves an ebook and a series of records of a coach teaching the accent and a number of recordings of native speakers. Basically, the ebook is worthless without the recordings - but I've been considering going to some hard-copies via Amazon. Very helpful to have your insight.
I have used Adwords somewhat successfully, and I'd still categorize myself as clueless. I've played with the amounts a bit, and I do seem to see a relationship between what I spend on Adwords and my monthly sales, but only up to a point. It definitely also just takes time for the site to build up to a good search position, in addition to "Search Engine Optimization/Magic."
I'm developing a couple more products with some other partners, so your insight here will be very useful there as well. Thanks!
I had a discussion about book pricing recently with one of my favorite bloggers, Sebastian Marshall. His new book, Ikigai, is being sold for $7.77. He doesn't really care how much money he makes off it (his portion goes to charity, anyway), but he didn't want to lower the price because he thinks that it would signal that the book isn't high quality. I said that I'd accept that possibility for a chance of reaching a larger audience.
And due to lowering the price of Life Nomadic to 2.99, I've been able to reach an incredibly wide audience. In the past month I've sold far more copies of Life Nomadic than all other months combined. Reviews have been coming in, and lives have been changed. Despite much thinner margins, I'm even making more money from it. I couldn't be more happy about all this.
Make Her Chase You and Life Nomadic
It's been almost six months since I published The Motivation Hacker, my book on how to get yourself to want to do what you always wanted to want to do. Here's what surprised me.
Sales (update: First Year Book sales)
I use a site called PredictionBook to compare my private guesses to reality for things like this. It helps me be less overconfident. I took a brutal calibration beating on my predictions for how many copies I'd sell in the first six months:
Here's how many I actually sold: