You know I love talking about failure here on Leaving Work Behind. No constant success stories with all of the reality removed — you get all of the gritty details here. With that in mind, today I want to talk about the failure to date that has been my Kindle publishing efforts.
You may have spotted the blog post I published just over two weeks ago in which I announced the release of Successful Freelance Writing Online on Amazon. It is an abridged version of the information product that I sell here on the blog.
I’ll be honest — I was never totally comfortable with my publishing plans, and that has perhaps contributed in no small part to the failing of my first Amazon book. Read on to learn the full story along with what I plan to do next.
My Original Plan
Ever since I first thought about publishing a guide to freelance writing I was unsure as to which platform to go with — my blog (i.e. an information product) or Amazon (i.e. Kindle). In the end, I decided that I would try to get the best of both worlds.
I started off by launching the guide as an information product here on the blog complete with a bunch of extras (like an exclusive interview with Sophie Lizard, a booklet of 45 blogs that will pay you to write for them, and checklists for building your blog and writing blog posts). It sold (and currently sells) for $47.
Around six weeks later, after the dust had cleared, I published a Kindle version of the guide on Amazon:
The book was largely intact but all of the extras were missing, and it retailed for around $10. I was never fully comfortable with the considerable gap in price — the fact is that I value the guide far more than its Amazon price tag. Unfortunately, to price it any higher was completely impractical due to two factors:
- The average price of Kindle books on Amazon
- Amazon’s commission structure for books priced above $10
At the time I was concerned that the compromise I made in terms of pricing would lead to my failure, but I forged ahead anyway.
There’s one simple way to demonstrate how my guide has fared on Amazon to date:
Just six sales (including one refund) in a couple of weeks and a total of $34.20 in royalties. It doesn’t quite compare with the $2,500+ I made in the first 14 days of my information product’s release.
Not only that but there haven’t been any new purchases in the last few days — nor do I really expect there to be any more. Why? Because of this review:
I don’t even know where to start with how misleading this review is. You can go check out the free sample on Amazon yourself and make your own judgement. The most important thing to note is that there is absolutely no bait-and-switch — I don’t even mention the information product in the Kindle book! It is a standalone product, available at a drastically reduced price when compared to the information product.
What really bugged me about the review is that Alexandra Romanov (who must be a LWB reader based upon what she said) clearly hadn’t even purchased the book. How can you review something you haven’t read? Fair enough if she had purchased it, thought it was crap, got a refund and left a negative review, but that’s clearly not what happened. Alexandra — if you’re reading, I’d love for you to get in touch with me and explain your position.
The reason why this review is so popular is because I made the huge mistake of posting a reply to it, which resulted in a veritable shitstorm of negative responses. Who’s going to buy a book with just three reviews, of which the most popular is scathing?
If you’re a regular LWB reader you’ll know that I often extoll the virtues of learning from your failures and this episode is certainly no exception. I’ve learned a great deal from this eBook’s failure and hope that I can utilize my newfound experience very soon. But before we get onto that, let’s explore the key lessons I learned.
1. Launch Hard
The launch of my Kindle book was rather half-hearted. Sure — I published a blog post and sent a note to my list, but there was no real pre-launch — the book just appeared one day. I didn’t follow up the launch with social media coverage and didn’t ask any of the people in my network to help me out.
With such a laissez-faire attitude, how could I expect for the book to perform well? In reality, I needed to hustle to give this book the best chance of success, but instead I did almost nothing. I relied far too much on the assumption that Amazon would somehow do all the hard work for me.
2. Ignore Negative Reviews
I never should have responded to that negative review. Doing so prompted a bunch of other people to respond and “Like” accordingly, which pushed it to the top of the review pile.
It would seem that a proportion of Amazon’s users are only too happy to voice their opinion in a manner that one might not consider user-friendly. Although I have come across a fair number of “trolls” in my time, I have gone largely without them throughout my blogging career to date. I’ve had plenty of disagreements, but they’ve largely been conducted in a respectful and constructive manner. Being painted as a calculating bait-and-switch marketer in such a public manner came as quite a shock, and as such I felt compelled to respond. I should have just let it go.
3. Amazon Is Extremely Price Sensitive
I have read time and time again (particularly in Cathy Presland’s excellent course on Kindle publishing) that Kindle books tend to sell well in the $2-$5 range (or thereabouts). The huge price sensitivity of Kindle customers (when compared to information product purchasers) is now something that I have now learned first hand with comments such as these:
Before publishing the eBook I acknowledged the price issue but felt that I couldn’t compromise the value of my book by selling it for less than $10. It just didn’t sit well with me when compared to the $47 price point for the full guide here on the blog. And that leads me onto the final (and most important lesson) that I learned…
4. Never Compromise
Ultimately, I recognise that it was folly for me to ever publish the book in this form because I felt it compromised my value proposition.
I have worked very hard to build a really fantastic bunch of supporters here at LWB and I know that many of you have purchased my guide and found it highly useful — the fact that after 135 purchases I have not received a single negative review or had to give a single refund (apart from one person who loved the book but still wanted a refund) should be enough proof to me that I have something of value.
I should have recognised that fact and stuck to my pricing guns. I will now.
So What Next?
I’m not done with Amazon — not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I have come up with a solution that I think will result in eBooks that sell and a better information product for people who want the full package. It’s not a compromise, and mostly important, it feels right to me.
I am going to be taking down Successful Freelance Writing Online from Amazon soon and will be replacing it with a series of nine mini eBooks which will make up the Successful Freelance Writing Online series (please note that these are draft titles):
- How to Write Great Blog Posts
- How to Create a Blog That Will Drive Clients to You
- How to Use Social Media for Freelance Writing Success
- How to Find Clients
- How to Set and Negotiate Rates Confidently
- How to Create an Ironclad Contract
- How to Bill Your Clients and Deal with Non-Payers
- How to Make Sure Your Clients Love You
- How to Build Your Freelance Writing Business
Each book will be approximately 5,000-10,000 words and will sell for around $2-$3. When combined (for a total price of $18-$27) they will be close to the upcoming lowest price point of my information product (soon to be announced — stay tuned!).
I plan to release a book every two weeks, with the first to be published in just two weeks, on 17th January. Each one will be available, completely free of charge (for a limited time), to LWB email subscribers and those who sign up to my Kindle eBook notification list. Just enter your email address below and hit “Subscribe” to ensure that you get your hands on free copies of all the upcoming books!
Please note that I have no plans to publicise the launch of books here on the blog, so if you want your chance to get these books free of charge you need to subscribe above.
If you are an existing LWB subscriber you may also want to subscribe to the above list as I will likely keep those subscribers more up to date with my Kindle goings-on when compared to my main list. Finally, if you can think of anyone who might be interested in getting my books for free, please take a moment to send a tweet out to your followers.
All I will ask from you in return for the free book(s) is to leave an honest review on Amazon. In this way I can offer you valuable content at no cost and you can reciprocate by helping me boost the books’ exposure on Amazon.
Onwards and Upwards
I am really excited about the new direction I am taking with Kindle publishing — I think it works every which way you look at it:
- I get to publish on Amazon without compromising the value proposition of my freelance writing guide.
- The budget-conscious can pick up the Kindle eBooks at no cost (or just $2-$3 if they miss the free offer).
- Those who are only interested in specific aspects of freelance writing can pick and choose the books they purchase.
- In writing the mini books I will also be able to add even more content to the full information product.
- Those who purchase the information product will still receive the greatest amount of value (with the full guide, future updates, the existing extras and the upcoming additional extras to be announced soon).
However, the proof will be in the pudding. It’s time to get my head down and execute on my plan, and as always, you’ll get to read all about the results!
Your thoughts and feedback would be highly appreciated — please let me know what you think in the comments section below!