Since I’ve launched 40 Days To A Finished Book, I’ve had a bundle of questions and conversations about the why + hows of book writing and publishing.
So I thought I’d take some time and write some posts for you to answer them.
I’ve already written about Why Successful Women Entrepreneurs Choose To Write Books and 7 Ways To Find Your Authentic Voice As A Writer.
Today, I thought I’d let you in behind the scenes on how I’ve sold well over $1 million in books.
I’ll share with you both the history and the how-to’s.
I’ve ALWAYS wanted to write a book. If you had asked me when I was four what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said the same thing I was already doing: writing books and making art.
The first book I remember creating was a book called Cyclone Charlie. It was the true story of our cattle farm being hit by a cyclone. I dictated it to my Mum, and illustrated each page. I still remember the page where I described how the rain made small waterfalls down the mountains.
That’s me at about that age, baby sister on hip.
Writing and illustrating books was my destiny, the thing that was sure in my bones. It was just a matter of time before that would be my job.
I started blogging when I was 21, and wrote my first book when I was 22.
That book was like a graphic memoir – I just didn’t realise that was the name for it! I just did it intuitively, combining art and words as I have always done in my journals.
To get that book written, I set myself a really short, sharp deadline: write it and have it available for sale within one month. I was working full time in the public service, so the book was written in lunch hours, on the bus, at night and on weekends.
I think that’s the thing: everybody assumes that to write a book, you need vast swathes of time. You don’t. You just need to apply your energy to the thing and get it donesville.
I know that if I set a more “realistic” deadline of say, six months, I would NEVER get the book done. Too much would come up in the meantime, and the months would go by, and it still wouldn’t be done.
By using the Wild Donkey method, I devote my focus to being immersed in getting one project done and finished as soon as possible.
A month or so later, it was written, and here’s where I announced its release back in 2005.
Here’s a little bit of what it looked like on the inside:
Doing the short, sharp deadline mode of creating doesn’t just work for graphic memoirs either.
I’ve also done a 40,000 word business book in that time as well. (That book was then turned into my Double Your Biz e-course. I’ve retired that now, but will release a new updated business course this year.)
Again – I wrote that 40,000+ word business book when I had a LOT of other things on my plate as well. I was in the final stages of my second pregnancy, and horrifically ill with hyperemesis gravidarum. At that point, I spent most of my day bedridden, and got a small reprieve from the debilitating nausea by late afternoon. It was enough to be able to sit upright and be able to think somewhat.
I would set myself a deadline of writing 3,000 words before the sun set over the rainforest. I’d take frequent vomit breaks to run out to my office balcony and vomit over the lawn for the forest animals to eat. I’d keep writing as much as I could before the illness swallowed me whole again and sent me back to bed.
I would like to clarify here:
I am really big on sane, healthy working practices, good self care and great work/life balance. I don’t want to share this story to be a martyr of “Too bad if you’re sick! I was sick too!”
There’s all different kinds of life circumstances. In the earlier stages of my pregnancy illness, I was chronically debilitated and in hospital often, so this kind of project wasn’t going to work for me.
By the time I did take the project on, I was six months into the pregnancy and still fucked up but not AS fucked up. I also desperately needed SOMETHING to think about apart from the misery of my illness. So even though it was still challenging to pull off, it was what I needed.
I’m definitely taking the same Wild Donkey approach with my 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course… but it definitely still can be done whether you are working full-time, parenting or having “life stuff” going on.
Okay, that’s slightly off track.
Now where were we?
Ahh yes! My first book! I released it, and I sold a few hundred copies. At the time I was totally delighted. For me, it was less about profit and more about OMG! I actually DID THE THING! I WROTE THE BOOK!
Sometimes the reward of completing a creative thing is not the revenue or recognition, it’s about the pride and joy of accomplishment. As I always say:
Momentum breeds Momentum.
Completing a project like a book can help you become even more productive and feel even more fulfilled.
Honestly though, I was pretty shithouse when it comes to marketing the book. That was in the early days of my business. Now when I release books, I know the marketing of it is going to be the driving factor for its success.
I kept blogging, and started running retreats, doing coaching and running e-courses.
Come December 2009, I was working part-time at my government job and pregnant with my first child. I knew the coming year would be intense, and that the initiation into motherhood. By that point, I’d also started setting goals and discovering just how powerful that was. So I decided to give myself the gift of setting goals for 2010 to keep me sane and inspired during my first year of motherhood.
I looked around to see if there was any books out there that I could fill out to help me set goals. But everything I found had two major issues:
- they weren’t comprehensive – I wanted to go deeper than just “set three goals!”
- they were black and white and corporate and felt really masculine.
I wanted something that was inspiring to fill out and rainbowy AND also helped guide me through setting goals for every area of my life and business.
So I decided to create something FOR ME to use. I spent three days around Christmas time creating my goals workbook, and I loved it so much I thought it would be fun to pop online and sell as a PDF and see if anyone else wanted to use it. I thought it would be super cool if like 10 people bought it.
I went on to sell over 1000 workbook PDFs that year which was SO groovy.
Since 2010, the workbooks have gone on to:
- be used by over 350,000 people worldwide (!!!!!!)
- become international bestsellers
- hit #1 and #3 bestseller SIMULTANEOUSLY on Amazon AU for ALL FREAKING BOOKS (!!!!)
- generated well over $1m in revenue (probably over $2m – I need to go back to count all the years!)
In that time, I’ve also gone through different types of publishing:
- I started out selling as a PDF only
- A couple of years later, I started selling it as print on demand through Amazon’s self-publishing service
- A few years after that, I decided to try printing in China instead and using distribution houses in three countries. I hired a lot of staff to try and cope with the increased workload, and realised just how much I hated managing staff and logistics. I wrote about my decision to stop doing that here.
- I went back to using Amazon’s print-on-demand service while I scouted for a publishing deal for the workbooks.
- I signed a multi-book publishing deal with BenBella publishing. They now do all the printing and publishing logistics, and I focus on what I’m great at: writing books and marketing them.
Me, stoked at no longer having to manage shipping logistics anymore.
There are pros and cons for all publishing routes, and what’s right for you will change over your business career. I’ll go through the behind-the-scenes details of the pros and cons of all of them in 40 Days To A Finished Book. I’ll talk about what’s more profitable, what’s easiest and what gives you the most credibility, and how to maximise all of these.
Now, let’s talk about what made the difference between selling fuck all books and selling a fuck tonne of books!
When I look back at where I started with book writing and the results I got then to the results I got now, there are some really big things I did differently.
Let me tell you the key pieces of creating book success.
#1: Writing the book is 10% of the job. Marketing is 90%.
That may make you groan, but it’s true. You need to spend WAY LONGER marketing the book than you think you need to.
If you think “if it’s a great book, it will speak for itself! I won’t have to market it at all!”… you’re wrong. Sorry mate, it just doesn’t work like that.
“Just putting it out there” isn’t enough. It’s lazy. And it is not of service to the world.
If you’ve spent all that time in creating something, you need to invest time in making sure that the people who would care about it and find it useful actually HEAR about it in the first place.
I’ll talk more about the how-to’s of book marketing in the course.
#2: The three most important parts of selling: Testimonials. Testimonials. Testimonials.
I once asked a very well-known copywriter what the three most important parts of a sales page were. Her answer? Testimonials, testimonials, testimonials.
The same is true for books.
- Have testimonials for the book in the first few pages of the book – the more the better!
- Give advance copies away in exchange for a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
- Consider giving away books to peeps with a profile who have similar interests as your target market. You can even get a bit polished with it and do it up as a cute package. I’ve sent my books to bloggers with chocolate, tea and pens in wrapping paper – all the supplies they needed to have a gorgeous time with my book!
- Ask people at the end of your book to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if they love it.
- Collate all your testimonials and reviews on your sales page.
Speaking of which…
#3: It’s not enough just to give fucking links to Amazon. You need a sales page!
A sales page is a long, comprehensive page giving people EVERYTHING they need to know about in order to BUY!
There’s some REALLY important parts to a sales page including:
- a sales video
- who the book is for
- how the book helps
- why you are the best person to learn from
- benefits and results
- and a big call to action.
I’ll go into all these in detail in the course, but I really want to reiterate: STOP JUST SENDING PEOPLE TO AMAZON TO BUY. YOU NEED TO SELL THE FUCK OUT OF THE BOOK FIRST SO THEY WILL ACTUALLY BUY IT!
#4: Stay connected with your readers. They’ve got bonza ideas!
It’s part of the reason why I have a 17,000-person-strong Facebook group for goals workbook users!
That way, I get to hear when people are confused by something, LOVE something and want more of it, ask about a certain feature or want another companion product in the future.
Your readers have great ideas. They love your thing, and they can help come up with ways to make it better and write even more books!
#5: Offer it both digital and printed
It’s SO much easier than it was 10 years ago to self-publish books both digitally and in print. I’ve tried a few services, but keep coming back to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. They formerly were called Createspace, but it’s all merged into one platform now.
#6: This one tip will make you WAY more money!
This one is SUCH a simple tip, but can hugely increase your $$$ income.
Get your pen and paper out, and write it down!
When you do point to Amazon for people to buy your book, MAKE SURE you are using your own Amazon affiliate link.
You can sign up as an Amazon affiliate here.
This way you get paid TWICE.
Firstly, you get the royalties from when your book is bought.
Secondly, you get the affiliate fees (up to 10%!) for referring people to buy from Amazon. You’ll also get affiliate fees for anything else they buy in that order as well!
Twice the # of checks… JUST for using one link!
#7: Get your bundling smarts on!
You want to motivate peeps to BUY NOW and BUY MORE!
- pre-order sale/offer
- early bird discount/offer
- package discount.
You might offer your book at a discounted rate for either pre-orders or those who order in the first week of launch.
You could also offer BONUSES instead. Here’s some great ideas for bonuses:
- book club Facebook group
- companion workbook
- companion e-course
- tickets to an event you are running
- large free bundle offer with other authors and teachers in your space.
You could also offer your book and one of your other paid offerings together at a special rate to drive sales and interest.
So many possibilities!
There are SO many ways you can drive sales for your book… bringing you more income, clients and expert status.
I’ll be going into more details on all of these things + much more in my e-course starting 1 April, so if you’re ready to get your book out in the world making miracles, make sure you jump in.
I’m so happy to help with everything I know and have learned… and want to help make your path easier, more joyful and abundant because of it!
I so hope this has been useful.
And I can’t wait to see your book babies out in the world, making their magic as they are supposed to do!