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Kindle Publishing for Beginners: How to Make Your First $1,000 on…

What if I said you could have your book up on Amazon and making money within 72 hours?

(Assuming you’ve already written the book, of course.)

Sounds a whole lot better than waiting months or even years to find an agent, get a book deal, and go to all the rigmarole of working with a publisher, right?

Amazon also lets you keep more of the money. A lot more.

The only problem?

It’s hard to figure out how to get started. That’s why I created this comprehensive, step-by-step guide to Kindle publishing, jam-packed with little nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way.

Let’s jump in…

You Don’t Need a Platform to Publish Your Book on Kindle

I only had 250 subscribers when I launched my first book. And even though I took a relatively passive role in promoting the book — I did a few promotions during launch to give me an early bump and then mostly counted on Amazon’s algorithm to drive sales — it earned its first $1,000 within five months.

That’s not a result worth bragging about, but it was enough to inspire me to write a second book and do much better. That meant I had to take a more active approach.

So I was much more strategic, grew my audience larger, and promoted the book a lot more. And this time around, I got to $1,000 within the first month.

Even better: The book went on to make over $10K in its first year, which was a big improvement from the first book, which made $2K in that same time span.

The lesson?

You can make money writing even if you have a tiny list, and even if you take a somewhat passive role in promotion. But the more active you are, the more money you’ll make.

So in this post, I’ll share the step-by-step strategy I used to publish and promote my second book. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much of it you’ll follow and how active a role you want to take.

Ready to dig in?

Note: This post won’t cover how to write a book. Instead, it focuses on the marketing strategies that will help you sell you book. If you want to know more about the step-by-step book-writing process, check out these resources.

Before You Write Your Book — Validate Your Profitable Book Idea

Some book ideas are destined to fail before a single word is penned or typed, which is why you should validate your book idea first.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across authors who write books about obscure topics for tiny audiences and are genuinely surprised when their sales are low.

Don’t be like those authors.

With the right research techniques, you can find a book idea that readers love and that you enjoy writing about.

Here’s how you do it.

Step #1: Take an Inventory of Your Interests


Personally, I already knew the book I wanted to write would be about self-reinvention. It was the idea that had been nagging at me for a while. So all I needed to do was validate whether it had selling potential.

But if you don’t have a concrete idea in mind yet, you can use the follow exercise to generate ideas. (If you do have an idea already, you can skip to Step 2.)

Grab a pen and paper and answer the following questions:

  • What do you find easy that others find difficult?
  • If you could only choose one section in a bookstore to read, which section would you choose?
  • What seems obvious to you that isn’t apparent to others?
  • What topic gets you talking to the point you won’t shut up about it?
  • What do friends and family tell you you’re good at?
  • What compliments have you received from strangers?
  • What types of articles do you read online?

Once you complete your inventory, review it to look for patterns. Maybe you’re a great communicator, have excellent financial habits, or have a knack for motivating others. The traits, knowledge, and skills you possess can translate into topics for books.

Review the list and use your answers to come up with a few book ideas. You’ll use these for the next step.

Step #2: Spy on Your Competition


Like I said, I already had an idea for my book in mind, but I still needed to know whether it had selling potential. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time writing a book that nobody (besides my most devoted subscribers) would buy.

So, before I started writing, I validated my idea by researching the competition.

You can do that yourself by going to Amazon and answering these questions:

  • Are there similar books? If you can’t find a book similar to yours in the marketplace it means you don’t have a good idea, because no one is that original.
  • Can you compete? Checking the competitive landscape gives you an idea of how well your book can sell.
  • Are there enough buyers? You want to make sure enough people want the type of book you plan on writing to make it worth your time.

You can find the answers to these questions in three steps:

A: Find Your Category on Amazon

First, you’ll need to find a suitable category for your book on Amazon.

Here’s how:

#1. Go to amazon.com and navigate to Departments > Kindle E-Readers & Books > Kindle Books.

Find a suitable category for your ebook

#2. Click Best Sellers & More in the left-hand menu:

Select from best selling eBooks

#3. Scroll down until you see the menu below and click Kindle Best Sellers.

Kindle Best Selling eBooks

#4. Select Kindle eBooks from the left-hand menu.

Kindle eBooks

#5. Pick a category and subcategory that fit closest to your book idea(s).

For my book on self-reinvention, I chose the category Self-Help and subcategory Personal Transformation.  

Click eBook category or subcategory

Once you’ve picked a subcategory, you can check to see whether you can spot books in the top 20 with similar topics.

B: Check Your Category’s Top 20 Books for Similar Topics

The premise for my book was self-reinvention. I didn’t need to find a book with the exact word “reinvention,” but I looked for books with similar themes like behavior change, personality change, and life change.

I found some books that were similar to mine (#3 and #5 below explicitly state they’re about change, while #4 is a book about improving your life in general).

Find best selling eBooks that match your idea

At the end of this step, you’ve answered the first question. You’ll know whether there are similar books to your idea.

If there are, that’s good news! You can proceed to the next step which will answer the other two questions — can you compete, and are there enough buyers?

C: Check the Best Seller Rank of the Top Books in Your Category

If you want to know whether you can compete in a category and whether there are enough buyers, you need to know how well the books in your category sell.

You won’t find any actual sales numbers on Amazon, but through their Best Seller rank, you can get a decent estimate.

You can find a book’s Best Seller rank by scrolling down its product page. The rank will be listed under Product Details.

Find eBook Amazon best seller rank

The higher the rank (with #1 being the highest), the more copies it sells — but also, the harder it will be to beat. You have to look for categories where the average bestseller rank is neither too low nor too high.

Here’s how it generally breaks down:

  • Rankings above 1,000 will have great sales numbers but are very competitive.
  • Rankings from 1,000 to 30,000 are less competitive, but will still have decent sales numbers.
  • Rankings of 30,000 and lower are the least competitive, but will also have lower sales numbers.

As you can see, the sweet spot is in the middle. You don’t want a category that’s too competitive, nor do you want a category with low sales numbers.

Aim for categories where you think you can crack the top three books. If you follow the strategies laid out in this post, you should be able to reach the top three in categories with medium competition.  

If you can get your book featured in the top three when you launch, you skyrocket the chance of your book being featured highly in the Hot New Releases list.

And if you appear high enough in that list, your book will get a lot of exposure. Amazon will feature your book in a highlighted section above other books that are similar to yours, like this:

Amazon new releases feature spot

Also, people browse for books by categories, but they tend to skim through the category pages. The higher you are in a category, the higher the chance that someone will click through to buy your book.

So picking the right category is crucial. If you don’t think you can crack the top three books in your initial category, you might see if you could feature your book in an alternative category where the competition is less heavy.

Note: You never want to skip this step, even if you do have a book idea in mind that’s been nagging at you to write. If my self-reinvention idea had failed this test, I wouldn’t have written it. Instead, I would’ve gone back to Step 1 to come up with new ideas.

Step# 3: Brainstorm a Whole Bunch of Titles


Now you’ve ensured your book idea has selling potential, so you’re about ready to start writing. But before you do, you should give your book a title.

What you have to know about book titles before you write yours is that they have two components: The main title and the subtitle.

When you’re brainstorming your main title, here’s what you want to keep in mind:

  1. It should be punchy and memorable.
  2. It should hint at the book’s topic.
  3. It should resonate with your audience.

When brainstorming your subtitle, you want it to clarify how your book helps your readers. Ask yourself:

  1. Which of my reader’s pain points will my book solve?
  2. What positive outcomes will the book provide?
  3. What kind of person will the reader be after reading your book? How will their life change?

For my book, I brainstormed 50 different main titles and 25 subtitles. They weren’t all fantastic, but that’s the point. When brainstorming titles, you just write down whatever comes to mind. Then you cross out the options that you don’t like, or that you like less, until you only have your favorites left.

To give you a glimpse of some ideas I had, here were some contenders for my main title:

  • You 2.0
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Starting Over
  • The Power of Reinvention

And these were some favorites for my subtitle:

  • Unlock the Secrets that Keep You Stuck and Reprogram Your Mind for Success
  • Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You
  • Redesign Your Life, Find Your Mental Blind Spots, and Master the Art of Personal Transformation

The final title became: You 2.0: Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You — Master the Art of Personal Transformation.

What’s your title going to be?

Once you decide, you know exactly what book you’re going to write. And having taken all the right steps, you can feel confident it will sell when you’re done.

Note: If you already have an email list, I suggest you poll your readers on which are their favorite titles and subtitles. If you don’t have an email list, you can still use a polling site like Pickfu.

While Writing Your Book — Gather a Mob of Potential Book Buyers

If you’re self-publishing books, you need an audience of potential book buyers. This will give you two critical advantages:

  1. You get an early boost in sales, and having a positive sales record encourages Amazon’s algorithm to promote your book for you.
  2. You can leverage your audience for reviews, which Amazon also uses as a ranking factor, and they’ll also help other people make the decision to buy.

If you don’t have anybody buying your book or leaving reviews as soon as you publish, the chances of it taking off are slim to none.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean you need 10,000 subscribers. But the more you have, the better.

My second book made more money than my first in large part because I took the time to gather new subscribers as I was writing it.

Here’s what I did to grow my audience larger for my second book:

Note: If you already have an established audience of at least 1,000 subscribers, or if you feel you already know enough about how to build your email list, you might consider skipping to the next section. If you’re interested in my exact strategies, though, keep reading.

Step #1: Create an Alluring Incentive For People to Join Your List


People rarely part with their email addresses for nothing in return, so you need to offer them an incentive to join your email list.

To be honest, I cheated a bit here, because I offered something that I already had available. I offered my first book The Destiny Formula.

Ideally, you want to offer an incentive that’s a perfect complement to the book you’re writing.

For example, if you were writing a book about the Paleo diet, you might offer one of these incentives:

  • 5 Delicious Paleo Recipes You Can Make in 15 Minutes or Less
  • 7-Day Paleo Quick-Start Email Course
  • The Ultimate Paleo Snack List (Includes 250 Different Snacks)

Doing this ensures you build an audience that’s interested in your book’s topic.

My first book did have some audience overlap with my second, though, so it worked out in the end. And I did change my incentive when we got closer to my book launch. (We’ll get to that later.)

But if I had to start the launch over today, I’d have created something more relevant to self-reinvention from the start. It might’ve boosted sales even more.

Step #2: Set Up a Landing Page for Collecting Email Addresses


If you want to build your email list, you need two things: an email marketing platform to store your list and a landing page where people can sign up to your list.

Now, you have a number of choices when it comes to email marketing platforms, but these are three popular ones:

Personally, I opted for ConvertKit because they built it specifically for professional bloggers. It comes with easy segmentation features that let you promote your book in a more targeted way. I highly recommend it, but any of these platforms will work.

Once you’ve set up your email marketing platform, you can create a landing page to capture people’s email addresses.

I used Leadpages to do so, which makes it simple to create landing pages. It comes with ready-made templates that you can modify with its drag-and-drop builder.

Leadpages ready-made templates

You can choose one of their templates and customize it to your wishes.

Here’s a screenshot of the landing page I created:

Leadpages landing page example

Once you have everything in place, all you need to do is send traffic to your landing page.

Step #3: Drive Traffic to Your Landing Page


My personal goal was to hit 3,000 subscribers before I published my book. My main strategy for reaching that number was publishing articles on Medium, each with a link back to my landing page.

Pro tip: You can repurpose some of your book chapters as posts. Just be careful not to give your entire book away, or future buyers will feel cheated. You’ll want at least 50% of your book to be exclusive.)

Every article I published on Medium would include this offer at the end:

Use Medium to drive traffic to your landing page

But I didn’t stop there. I also guest posted on Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Thought Catalog, The Pursuit and more.

While I got most of my traffic from Medium, publishing on these sites still grew my subscriber base by a significant chunk.

Between publishing on Medium and guest posting on these sites, I reached my goal of 3,000 subscribers within six months.

You don’t need to hit that same number of subscribers, but I do recommend you build your list to at least 1,000 before launching your book.

Publish new articles on a steady schedule and keep your new subscribers engaged while you finish writing your book. Once you do, you’re ready to jump into the next stage.

After Writing Your Book — Package Your Book Like a Best Seller

You can write the most amazing book on earth, but if you don’t package it in an appealing way, few people will read it.

After all, the prestigious title is best-selling author, not best-writing author.

In this section, we’ll cover three important steps to packaging your book:

  • The cover design
  • The formatting
  • The book description

Ready to go?

Step #1: Get a Cover That Grabs Attention


I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. You need a good cover for your book, or it won’t sell.

The cover gives potential buyers their first impression of your book. If it looks cheap and sloppy, they’ll assume it’s not worth their money.

A good book cover has, at the very least, the following characteristics:

  1. A clear, legible title. Most of your potential buyers will see your cover as a thumbnail first, so your title should be easy to read when shrunken to that size. Avoid small, hard-to-read letters and scribbly fonts.
  2. A design that stands out. Whether it stands out through a bold color or an interesting graphic, you want your cover to catch the eye.

Now, if you’re tempted to design your own cover, I have one word of advice: Don’t.

Unless you’re a professional cover designer, you’re better off handing this responsibility over to someone else. This is not something you want to pinch pennies on.

Personally, I hired Happy Self Publishing to create my cover. They kept coming up in communities of writers over time, so I gave them a try. I was not disappointed. They struck a good balance of professionalism, quality, and price.

Note: If you’re on a super-tight budget, you might also try Fiverr. In that case, you have to know what you’re looking for. You have to check the designers’ samples and make sure their covers look professional. You’ll likely get better quality covers elsewhere, though.

When I hired Happy Self-Publishing, they asked if I had ideas for my cover and sent me a questionnaire to gather my book information (title, subtitle, description, etc.) and my preferences for the cover design (preferred colors, fonts, etc.).

They gave me questions like this:

Hire a professional eBook cover designer

I filled out the questionnaire, gave the designer my directions, and also sent samples of covers I liked to give him an even better picture of my tastes.

Within days, he came back with several mock-ups.

We went through several rounds where I told him what I liked and disliked, and he’d send me new mock-ups based on my (and my audience’s) feedback, until we finally settled on my final cover.

Here’s how my cover evolved over time:

Professional eBook cover designer mockup examples

Step #2: Make Your Book Look Pretty Inside


In addition to your cover, you also need to make the inside of your book look good. If all the text is mushed together, it’s full of syntax errors, or it’s written in a terrible font, people won’t want to read your book.

To prevent this, you need to format your book — specifically, you need to format and save your book in a Kindle-friendly file-type like .mobi or .epub.

Now, you can do this yourself, or you can hire a professional to do it for you.

I formatted my book myself using an easy-to-use piece of software called Vellum, which uses a simple WYSIWYG editor (“What You See Is What You Get” — the same editor in Microsoft Word and WordPress). You can just copy and paste your chapters into it, change the formatting however you like, and export.

The only problem? Vellum is only available on Mac.

If you’re on a PC, you have alternative options like Reedsy and Book Design Templates.

A do-it-yourself approach will save you some money, but if you feel you’re not very tech-savvy and want to make sure the book is formatted properly, hire someone. Happy Self-Publishing, the company I used for my cover, also provides an affordable formatting service, or you can find hundreds of freelancers on Upwork who can do it for you.

When the formatting is done, though, don’t forget to proofread the book with a Kindle or the Kindle app. Make sure there are no formatting bugs that need to be fixed.

After that, you’re done with this step.

Step #3: Write a Description That Sells Your Book for You


When your cover lures people to your Amazon sales page, the next thing they’ll do is read your book description. They’ll want to know exactly what your book is about and how it’ll benefit them.

If your description has weak writing, it won’t be compelling enough for them to click the buy button, so they’ll click the back button instead.

Now, the key thing to understand when writing your book description is that you should not treat it as a summary of your book. Rather, you should treat it as a sales letter. It shouldn’t just inform potential buyers of the contents of your book, it should persuade them to buy.

Here’s mine, for example:

How to write an eBook description

See how I focus the description on benefits to the reader? See how I use the bullet points to foster curiosity rather than give away the main points of the book? These are basic sales letter techniques you should use in your description.

Imagine if the second bullet had read, “Goal setting doesn’t work because [reason].”

Giving the reason away would defeat the need for the reader to purchase the book. Instead, I trigger curiosity by leaving it open.

If you want to learn more about writing persuasive descriptions, the following resources helped me a lot while writing mine:

Before Launching Your Book — Create a Rock-Solid Launch Plan

Your launch makes or breaks the success of your book.

You shouldn’t wait until the week of your launch before you start planning it. Instead, you want to have a plan in place and have your marketing materials prepared well before you hit publish.

Here are a few things you should do to prepare for the launch of my book.

Step #1: Create Your “Street Team”


Before your launch, you should assemble a so-called “street team” to help write reviews for your book and help promote it during launch week.

I reached out to people in my network — fellow authors and bloggers I’d met over the years — and asked them to join.

If you don’t have a well-established network, you can leverage your email list, like Kevin Kruse (a New York Times bestselling author) explains in this video:

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