Authority Site Overhaul Case Study #9: Kindle Book Knowledge Bomb

Hi all,

This is just a short note from George and Hayden. Firstly, apologies for the delay in the updates to the Authority Site Case Study. We delayed things due to the holidays, then both of us got busy with other projects and let the Authority Site Case Study fall by the wayside a bit. We’re still pretty busy, but we’re going to try and publish updates at least once a month and potentially more frequently depending on whether or not there’s anything interesting to update you guys on.

Anyways – on to the update. As most of you know, Kindle Ebooks are a big part of the monetization strategy for LearnU – and while over time we hope to change the earnings profile of the site. we thought we’d give you some information on how to approach Kindle. We invited Perrin (who knows more about Kindle than we do) to give us some information on how you should approach monetizing with Kindle, and how to be successful at it if you do choose to do so.

If you haven’t been following along with the case study, here are all posts in order:

The First Post of the Case Study (Due Diligence and Validation)

The Second Post of the Case Study (Monetization Strategies)

The Third Post of the Case Study (Creating a Content Creation Framework)

The Fourth Post of the Case Study (How to Validate a Product)

The Fifth Post of the Case Study (Site Structure, Internal Linking and Ad Positioning)

The Sixth Post of the Case Study (Contributor Accounts)

The Seventh Post of the Case Study (Social Media Optimization)

The Eighth Post of the Case Study (Why Content Marketing is Tough)

The Ninth Post of the Case Study (Kindle Ebooks Knowledge Bomb)

(Password for all posts is NoHatDigital)

Here’s Perrin…

Perrin from here.

I had a hand in building one of the websites George & Hayden bought from us.

Originally, that site started out as an “authority site project” over at NichePursuits. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that a major chunk of the revenue comes from Kindle book sales.

If you’re not a NichePursuits reader, this might even strike you as a bit strange—especially if you’re in the website-buying game yourself—since, while trolling the auction houses, it’s fairly rare to come across a website monetized this way. We’ve all seen hundreds of affiliate sites (and probably even more AdSense sites), but Kindle eBooks? Who does that.

Well, we did. And it worked. Kind of.

And that’s the scary part: monetizing with Kindle is outside of lots of people’s wheelhouses. It was certainly new to us when we started the site, and many parts of it remain a mystery.

However, because we retained some of the ownership of the site—and because the Kindle books were more or less my babies—I’m going to be helping George and Hayden relaunch a few of the books.

Since I’m gearing up to jumpstart our eBook library (and hopefully inject a bit of life into this revenue stream), I wanted to take the opportunity to (1) reflect on what I’ve learned about using Kindle to monetize sites and (2) the plan for relaunching these books.

Quick Disclaimer

I am by no means the authority on Kindle publishing. We’ve had some decent success, but there are plenty of people (paging Steve Scott) who are much, much better at it than I am and who are making a whole lot more money.

Kindle Lesson Learned #1: Production Quality is (Almost) Everything

After writing or editing half a dozen eBooks and publishing them on the Amazon marketplace, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no group of people in the world more vicious—more ruthlessly fickle—than those who review Kindle books.

They’re not bad people. I love my reviewers. I’ve gotten great lots of great reviews from some amazing people who really enjoyed my books.

But they are a brutal bunch.

Rehashing old information they can find elsewhere? One-star reviews incoming. That missed typo in chapter 13? Grab the pitchforks! And may the Amazon gods have mercy on your miserable soul if you’ve given even remotely bad advice.

In other words, this ain’t your mama’s blog.

People in the Amazon Kindle marketplace are buying books. People expect a lot from books. And that’s good! It gives you an opportunity to over-deliver on a big promise, which is how you win fans for life.

However, it also means that you either have to knock it out of the park or eat dirt. There seems to be little ground in between.

We saw this with our portfolio of books. In total, we launched about five books. The ones I wrote myself and put a lot of love into did wonderfully. The ones I outsourced and edited—the ones published without a real “X” factor—well… didn’t.

So, lesson #1 is that quality is matters a great deal on this platform. If you want to monetize with Kindle eBooks, you should either (1) write them yourself, or (2) hire a professional writer who is better than you to write the books (bonus points if you can find an industry expert).

This costs money. Maybe it costs more than you want to spend. But that’s the hard truth: mediocre books just don’t perform on the Kindle marketplace.

Kindle Lesson Learned #2: Market Matters (Especially If You Don’t Have Your Own Marketing Channels)

Take a quick look at the advertising price list for BookBub, the biggest (as far as I know) book-deal site on the Internet. They have massive email lists, and they tell you exactly how many subscribers they have for each genre, which can give you a rough idea about exactly which types of books are really making money on this platform.

So take a peek. Notice anything?

Seven of the top 10 eBook markets are fiction. For the most part, it’s probably pretty tough to sell fiction books on most websites. Really, the only category here that represents real opportunities for home-runs across the board is “Advice and How-To.” And, honestly, that could mean anything.

Does that mean your book can’t sell?

Of course not. I’ve seen many, many counterexamples (like the guy who completely dominates the nursing niche on Amazon).

But here’s what it does mean: books in less popular niches will be more difficult to market. So, if you’ve got a parenting site (one of the smallest markets on BookBub’s list), it’s going to be more difficult to really push for downloads than it might be for a book in a bigger market.

So, if you’re not in a big Amazon market, it’ll be more important to have marketing channels of your own, whatever they are.

Here’s another way to look at: books with bigger markets on Amazon (more mass appeal) have a better chance of gaining traction on Amazon (duh, right?).

For my money, this is why Steve Scott does so well. He publishes books in the productivity niche. That may seem rather narrow, but if you browse his portfolio, you can see that most of his books would be interesting to just about everyone.

We’ve seen this in our books as well: the book with the most mass appeal outperforms the others by a landslide (even though it serves a pretty focused niche).

Kindle Lesson Learned #3: Visibility in Amazon Search = Downloads + Reviews… And Post-Sale Momentum Matters

If this is painfully obvious to you… well, you’re smarter than me!

The important thing here is that you need both reviews and downloads. Your book is unlikely to do well with just reviews, and it’s unlikely to do well with just downloads.

When you start gearing up to release a book, your launch plan should have both (1) a review acquisition strategy and (2) a download acquisition strategy.  

The other, related lesson here is that post-sale momentum matters.

If you’ve never launched a book on Amazon, the way you usually do it is to have a “free week.” Amazon allows you to have a free week about every three months. During that week, you’re doing all you can to get as many downloads and reviews as you can.

Here’s the mistake people make: when the free week ends, they stop their promotion.

I’ve found that downloads people actually have to pay for carry more weight in the Amazon SERPs than free downloads.

Because of this, after a free promotion, I like to follow it up with a $0.99 promotion.

So, I suppose the real lesson here is: Amazon SERP Visibility = Free Downloads + Paid Downloads + Reviews.

What’s that mean for our books?

We have a solid portfolio of books that’s been consistently bringing in revenue for nearly a year now, but they haven’t been promoted in a very long while.

Since this is the biggest source of revenue for this site, the plan is to do some aggressive relaunches for the books that have proven to be winners (or maybe even all of them).

There are lots of ways to launch books, but here’s what I like to do.

First, I leverage as many free channels as I can. There are hundreds of social groups literally dedicated to curating eBook deals. People go nuts over them. For instance, check out this subreddit or this Facebook group. They’re just chocked full of rabid eBook readers waiting for their next kill, and anyone can post there. There are also GoodReads groups and Google+ groups. In total, I’ve got about a hundred of these groups to drop a link in during a promotion.

Then, I like to submit my book to book deal sites that don’t require payment. There are hundreds of these out there, too.  Nick Loper uses Fancy Hands to get this done, but I usually do it manually

Lastly, I pay to get on premium lists. These are dedicated email lists (usually much bigger ones) that you can pay to be included. These are the real money makers (and now, you can’t have my list). These places can be selective, and it sometimes helps to have a relationship.

As a last, optional step, you can pass your book around to influencers. I’ve found this to be remarkably inefficient. Even with huge audiences, shares and tweets just don’t do much—at least not on the scale we want to be working.  

Overall, it’s a simple—but tedious process—that can make you some great money if you’ve got a book worth reading.

Should YOU be selling Kindle books?

Of course, we’re all investors here. So you’re probably wondering if you should write a Kindle book.

There’s no right or wrong answer, and there are plenty of variables. In general, it’s best for sites and/or entrepreneurs that meet the following criteria:

  • Have the resources to create a truly stellar book
  • Have the resources to execute a proper launch
  • Can write a book that makes sense for their audience while also having mass appeal
  • Have the resources to develop a portfolio of books for more revenue and higher odds of finding a home run

At the end of the day, writing and launching a Kindle book carries roughly the same risk as creating an online course, and most of the risk is in the production, which requires both time and money.  

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