Copywriter Q&A: Suzanne Kearns Talks the Ins and Outs of E-Book Publishing
COPYWRITER Q&A: SUZANNE KEARNS TALKS THE INS AND OUTS OF E-BOOK PUBLISHING
The Writers For Hire (TWFH) team member Suzanne Kearns is our very own e-publishing guru. She’s written and ghostwritten more than a dozen e-books and her extensive list of published works includes a variety of genres, from how-to and business books to Christian fiction.
In this installment of Copywriter Q&A, Suzanne answers all of our burning e-book questions and clears up some common misconceptions about self-publishing (spoiler alert: writing and publishing your own e-book is way less complicated than you may think).
TWFH: How long have you been writing and publishing e-books?
SK: I’ve been writing e-books since 2016. I’ve published about 13 since 2016. I released two traditionally published books before that, but you don’t make any money that way.
TWFH: Why did you make the switch to e-books? Was it about the money?
SK: It was the whole experience. I published a non-fiction and a fiction book using a traditional publisher, and I had no creative control. Everything was very regimented, and I was operating on their schedule. Finally, I said, “Okay, there’s got to be a better way.” That’s about when the e-book thing started coming about. I said, “I can do this on my own.” I’m glad I did.
TWFH: What do you like best about self-publishing e-books vs. traditional publishing?
SK: Control. When I published my first fiction book, the publisher changed the cover and title without my input. But probably the biggest eye-opener for me happened when I wrote my second fiction book and sent it to the publisher. That book didn’t have a happy ending. But I loved it! The ending was the best part of the book! My publisher said, “We have to change the ending. Readers want a happy ending.” I felt like I was a commodity and they were going to wrap me up and package me how they wanted, rather than just letting me be creative.
TWFH: One of your non-fiction e-books was a guide to publishing e-books. How did that come about?
SK: When I decided I wanted to publish my own e-books, I started researching and I went to every webinar and read everything I could get my hands on. Everything that was published was a half-book that ended with a sales pitch: “Buy my $1,000 course to learn more about publishing an e-book!” It’s really predatory.
TWFH: What about marketing? There are a lot of companies that say they’ll do all of the marketing for your e-book.
SK: All they do is write press releases — and they usually charge you thousands of dollars to do it. There are two problems with that. A: Press releases don’t work for books, and B: You can market a book yourself if you learn how Amazon’s algorithm works.
TWFH: So, a press release isn’t the best way to market an e-book?
SK: People don’t buy books that way. I tried doing press releases in the beginning. They don’t work. They just don’t. Really, the thing that works with selling e-book is getting your book seen on Amazon. That’s the only thing you want to do. Amazon has algorithms, and there are very specific ways to get your book up in their algorithm.
TWFH: What’s the key to getting a place on Amazon’s algorithm? Can you explain the basics?
SK: It’s changed over the years. In the past, what authors would do is start out with a promo so the book would shoot up in rankings. So, let’s say you released an e-book and you sold it for 99 cents for one day. You might get 100 sales on that one day. And that used to be a way to move up quickly in Amazon’s rankings. But they’ve changed their algorithm now. The one-day promo doesn’t work anymore. They want to see a long, steady dribble of sales. Best way is to pre-release your book, and get the word out if you have audience or email list. Have sales dribble in. Run a promo and leave your book at 99 cents for a week. Then you’ll have sales every day. Amazon’s algorithm likes that. Then after two or three weeks, you can move it to regular price.
TWFH: What are some other things you can do to make your e-book stand out?
SK: It has to be visible and have a good description on the product page. You have to have a really good cover. If people see it and review it and like it, it will sell.
TWFH: What makes a cover “good”? Are there any rules?
SK: Yes! Your cover should be in line with genre that you’re selling. So, for example, if you’re writing fiction, you want a cover with bold colors and block print. That’s what readers expect to see. Whatever genre you’re writing, go to the best seller list and look at the covers. You’ll see that they’re all kind of similar. They all have the same kind of font; the same theme.
Readers know what their genre’s covers should look like. When they’re scrolling through Amazon, they’re not reading words, they’re looking at covers. And they just see a thumbnail. You have to catch their attention. They’re not going to stop and read what your book is about unless you can grab them with your cover.
TWFH: So, in addition to choosing an appropriate cover, what else can you do to market your e-book and make sure readers see it?
SK: Email lists are extremely important. There are several good mailing lists out there that showcase what’s on sale on Amazon. You buy a spot on a mailing list. There are three I use that work – and they always make their money back. You can buy a spot on Buck Books for and $29 and on Robin Reads for around $60. They always make their money back. There’s another one called BookBub They’ve got an incredible mailing list, but they’re also more expensive. It costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 to get on their list. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I’ve heard it’s very good.
TWFH: Do you have any advice for a first-time e-book author?
SK: First, don’t buy into the idea that it’s complicated. It’s not. If you break it down really simply, it breaks down like this: You write your book, format it, get a cover, upload it, do a promo. It’s five steps. It’s just not that complicated.
I’d also recommend that if it’s your first e-book, consider hiring an editor. For my first book, I hired an editor and it was well worth it.
And finally, a lot of new authors think they can put out one book and make a bunch of money. That’s not the case. You’ll need at least three books before you really start seeing some sales. Most first-time book most authors only make $100. Sure, some people publish one book and are runaway bestsellers. But for most authors, you need to be constantly publishing. Once you publish a book, you need to get another one published within 90 days or your books start falling in the Amazon rankings. There’s a lot of back end stuff involved. Amanda Hocking was the first person to make a million dollars self-publishing on Amazon. She wrote a vampire story. Everyone thinks that’s going to be them. It’s not. Well, it could be — but it’s a long shot!
You’ve got to put work in it if you want to get anything out of it.
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