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How 6 of My Books Became Amazon Best-Sellers in One Month (Project ABC)

old booksI had been blogging for 2 years and publishing eBooks for one. I was making tens of dollars a month. Then my husband and I were in a bit of a financial bind; Christmas was coming up and there were a few unexpected financial emergencies and a client who hadn’t paid me in 2 months.

Because I’m a bit of a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps person” and I’ve grown quite attached to staying at home with my children, I wrote another eBook at record speed so I wouldn’t have to find seasonal work. Within a week the book was written. Within a month it was edited and formatted. I lined up a blog tour with my blogging friends, got a cover design that was in the budget, and set a launch date.

My book, The ABC’s of Freezer Cooking, connected with the women in my audience and the audiences of the bloggers who helped me with the launch. The book was intended for women who were looking for more time and ways to make life simpler. Unlike the previous books I had launched,(that had made a whole $50) this one was just what people in my audience were looking for.

Almost immediately after it was published on Amazon, it became a best-seller in its category. To say I was ecstatic was an understatement. I immediately called up my mother to tell her I had beat out a Martha Stewart cookbook in my category. Never mind she’s a billionaire, my book was selling more copies than hers.

Needless to say we had some extra money for Christmas (not a ton, but extra money). Then at the end of December I decided to do something crazy. I decided to pull my book from all other sources, and sell exclusively with Amazon, so I could take advantage of 5 free days of promotion.

Because I had been publishing on Amazon for a year and my book was already a category best seller; because everyone had just received shiny new Kindles for Christmas; because I had some connections with Book Snaggers; because I was a regular participant in Kindle forums; because my book had just come off of a very strong launch; because some mega blogs took notice of my book (and you better believe I told them thank you after the fact); something crazy happened.

The ABC’s of Freezer Cooking became the number one Non-Fiction Free download. (Try as I might I could not beat out Les Miserables for the number one download spot. I think that may have had something to do with a certain Hugh Jackman movie). Not only that but all 6 of my and my husband’s books became category bestsellers too.

After the free promotion, I went from being an Amazon nobody to being in the top tenth of a percent of digital authors in sales. Um… that’s crazy! Since then my books are almost always category bestsellers (don’t think I’ve stopped marketing though).

Despite my success, I did make some big mistakes.

What I messed up:

  • I didn’t invite people to subscribe to my blog. I had the link but no call to action. Yeah, I’m still kicking myself about this one.
  • I should have taken more screen shots. Don’t even get me started on this one. I was so busy marketing my book in other ways that I forgot to take screenshots after my free promotion ended. Ugh! All I can say is UGH!
  • I didn’t make it clear in the title that the book wasn’t a cookbook. My book started receiving a bunch of one star reviews because it didn’t have enough recipes. Recipes? This was a book about a cooking technique. Others were giving me one star reviews because it was too basic. People were snagging my book because it was free but not reading the description. Okay, lesson learned. I changed the name of the book to reflect the fact it was a basic introduction to freezer cooking, and not a cookbook. It stopped most of the one star reviews but, I’m still paying the price as I’m a hair shy of a solid 4 star rating.

What I did right:

  • I invited people to follow my Pinterest board on Freezer Cooking. Pinterest isn’t nearly as valuable as an e-mail list, but my followers did help a guest post of mine get more than 20 thousand shares.
  • I had 2 years of blog relationships built up. There were plenty of people willing to help me with my launch. I made sure to thank everyone.
  • I chose the right timing. After Christmas everyone had a new Kindle they wanted to fill with books. There was no better time to have a book doing well on the bestseller lists.
  • In January, a lot of people have free trials of Amazon Prime memberships. So my book got a lot of “free downloads” after my promotion had ended. For everyone who checked out my book for “free,” I got 2 dollars. This was different than my free promotion days, when your book is enrolled in Kindle Select Prime members can get free downloads of it, where you as the author make a royalty.

What I’m changing:

I’m going to e-mail every person who bought my book. Wait a minute; didn’t I say I didn’t get any of their e-mails? You’re right I don’t have their e-mails, but Amazon does.

So I figure I have two options. Option one: hack into Amazon’s databases and discover who bought copies of my book (sounds risky). Option two: make a significant change to my book so Amazon will e-mail every single person for me, and let them know my book has been revamped.

I think I’ll be going with option two. Now I just need to make significant changes to my book, like adding 50 new recipes, and an invitation to subscribe to my mailing list, and an ad for a similar book I’m gearing to publish.

But this is where I need help. I don’t have time to write 50 new Freezer Cooking recipes. I’ve sent out an APB to every blogger I know asking for their best casserole, soup, or other recipe that would freeze well.

In exchange, their recipe and a link to their website have the potential to be seen by 80,000 people who have already downloaded the book, and many more moving forward. Not only that but I’ll have a readymade group of bloggers with a vested interest to help this book do well. It really is a win-win situation.

So biggest lesson learned from this whole experience, and oh I wish I would have had the Audience Business Master Class Back in November, get the e-mail addresses the first time around, so you don’t have to make Amazon send your e-mails for you.

The Audience Business Master Class help me put my finger on the things I did right and the things I did wrong. My husband and I have been dreaming for years about writing full time, this course has laid out a clear vision to make that happen. The following are the three biggest take-aways from the course and what every author should do any time they’re publishing an eBook.

The Big Three For Authors:

Build relationships. Build relationships with your audience, build relationships with other bloggers. Friends (even cyber friends) recommend other friends books.
Create an opt-in offer on your website, or a reader only offer for those who purchase your book to get addresses on your e-mail list. I was amazed at the jump in my subscribers after my Amazon free-run, and that was without an opt-in, I feel like I missed out on a huge opportunity to expand my audience even more.
Create content your audience desperately needs and wants. It’s more than just creating something you’d like to read, create something your audience wants to read.

Now It’s your turn: What ups and downs have you faced during launches? What have you learned and what’s on your “must do” list?

About KM Logan

KM Logan is just a quirky, down to earth, author and blogger. She'd love to tell you in more detail about how her book "The ABC's of Freezer" cooking and 8 others that went on to become Amazon best-sellers. And if you're a faith blogger or author be sure to snag the book Called to Write which is currently free on Amazon.

56 thoughts on “How 6 of My Books Became Amazon Best-Sellers in One Month (Project ABC)

  1. hi KM

    Good article… however, did I miss the other titles? You’ve promised 6 in the title, and I was looking for them.

    I’ve heard that with the Internet, it’s wise to avoid JULY and AUGUST for launching products… did you experience slow sales during summer days too?

    • I just didn’t mention them by name, after my free run every book I had published on Amazon became a best-seller in it’s category. The Amazon search engines took notice of me as an author and started recommending my books. Since you asked they are: “Honoring a Child Born to Heaven,” “Choosing Thanks and Contentment,” “The Kitty Who Didn’t Get Breakfast,” “Counting it Joy”, and “The Matthew 6:33 Piano Teacher.” My husband also had a few books become best-sellers as a result too. You can see a full list of titles here: http://www.amazon.com/K.M.-Logan/e/B0086GLFU4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 Most of them are faith based which is why I didn’t mention them by name in the post.

  2. I think a good take-away from this is that you can’t just write a book and stick it on Amazon. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work here. You had a lot of ground work already done before you published the book and had such great success. Like you said, you had built relationships; with your readers, other bloggers, Kindle forums, etc. You built a solid foundation and leveraged that to experience what looked like instant success.
    Thanks for sharing, I enjoy learning from you!

  3. I could write about 16 posts about the things I did wrong during my launch. You can be sure I’ll take your experiences in mind next time around. This post is firmly ensconced in my Evernote for perpetuity. Thanks!!!

  4. Congrats on getting your books out there and getting on the bestseller list.
    Aaaaah, no-one can surpass the great Hugh Jackman or the power of Le Mis. lol

    The lessons about what you did wrong are just as strong as those about what you did right. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Good luck to all kindle book publishers 🙂

  5. Thanks for this detailed and honest account on eBook publishing. I’m in the editing stage of my first ever eBook about travel blogging, and am a bit overwhelmed with all the things that might go wrong or that I could miss! Of course, I’m not going to let that put me off though…

    I’m probably being a bit naive but could you explain what you mean about taking screen shots? Do you mean of the book’s stats?

    • If your book becomes a best seller, pull up the Amazon page where it shows you in the top sellers and click cntrl print screen on your keyboard. Then go to a paint document and hit cntrl copy. This will take whatever shows up on your screen and creates an image file you can use in press releases or on your website.

  6. Hi KM – got the Called to Write download. Thank you. Loved your writing style and great, useful content for someone like me, just launching first book, a faith memoir : She Does Not Fear the Snow. I have blog, TestimonyTrain.com, that helps people grow in confidence to share their Christian testimony. It’s a good match for promoting my own testimony. The thing I’m finding most difficult is identifying the right faith blog sites to approach re guest posting. Any pointers?

    • I had the same problem for awhile too, finding the right places to guest post. I joined a few faith based facebook groups, and approach the friends I’ve made there for guest posting. I already know based on our relationship that it a guest post would be a good fit.

  7. It’s great to see such success and for you to provide some salient lessons.

    Like you I’ve had an Amazon Best Seller. In my case only the one book, the second is being written, but mine went to number on in five countries the same weekend. Fortunately I grabbed loads of screengrabs and was able to put them on my website for others to see… it is a good tactic.

    My aftersales are fewer than yours and I’ve been pondering what to do to do to improve them. Cos I’ve also made loads of mistakes in my marketing. It isn’t that I don’t understand marketing (that is my business) but every market is different and I need to learn more about amazon and Kindle.

    For me getting to number one was the easy part as I understood the formula for doing it .. now I need to understand the next part of the mix.

    Thanks for sharing.

      • Hi Nate

        I’ve written two pieces specifically about marketing books, the first is about hard copy books.

        This has the screen grabs (for those that have asked they are copies of Amazons stats on your books page .. evidence you were a best seller at that time).

        Essentially I gave it to a few influential people I mastermind with and asked them to do two things. One, read it and give me some feedback. Two give it to their followers as a joint gift from us both. This was under the free scheme KM mentioned. It works.

        Interestingly, Danny and I are both in the same mastermind group .. perhaps that’s why it made number one in Canada! Other members are spread around the world so I guess that helped a lot, although it did well in countries where we don’t haver members (but the members do have followers).

        I think I might do a free offer again in a year or so but not while I can still see sales potential.

        However I will do a few free days with the next book as it is a good launch tactic.

        I’d be interested in KM’s views on this.

        • Now that my subscriber base is a little larger, I’ll probably hold off of a 5 day free run for awhile, BUT it sure does help boost your books visibility on Amazon’s search engines.

  8. KM, thanks for sharing!

    The biggest mistake I made with the launch of my eBooks (via a start up publisher) was not marketing them before they hit Amazon. Duh! I know better. But I had other writing projects, paid writing projects, to complete.

    After working with a business coach, I decided to choose one of the books and turn it into a presentation. I may create a separate website for it or use my author website to showcase the eBook. Either way, I have work ahead of me. It’s all good. 🙂

  9. That was refreshing. Took it in like a cool glass of water. The Do’s & Don’ts format is my favorite and I’ve always wondered how some of the bloggers/authors/coaches get their books to sell like hot cakes in such a short time frame. You really help put it into perspective. I’m no where near publishing a book or anything like that, but do enjoy the leaning. Thanks for a such an enjoyable read on my morning walk, up here in Guelph Ontario… 🙂

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  11. KM,
    I’m probably six months out from publishing my first novel, which, by the way, will zoom to number one and likely crash the Amazon servers with all the traffic…. : ). Anyway, I’m a little confused about when your book was free, when it was paid, when it was sort-of free via Amazon Prime. Can you elaborate on the timing of free vs paid? Did you set a period of free at first to get a lot of reviews to be posted? Then started charging a price? Thanks.
    Nate

    • When your book is part of Amazon’s Kindle Select program it can be downloaded for free in 2 ways. 1) You have 5 free days to utilize within the 90 day period it’s enrolled to schedule a free promotion for your book. Anyone can get your book for free during this time. 2) Amazon Prime members have one free loan a month, when you’re book is enrolled in select Prime members can download your book for free. It’s free for them but you make around $2 when someone downloads it this way.

      I actually lined up a solid number of reviews before I enrolled my book in Amazon’s Kindle Select program. I solicited reviews from other bloggers I had already built relationships with in exchange for a free PDF copy of the book. After my initial launch I then enrolled the book in select.

  12. KM, sharing your mistakes and successes was a great addition, but the explanations that followed were invaluable. The amount of detail you shared about your experience will really help me as I go through my eBook publishing journey.

    • Although a lot of people are on holiday and fewer books are bought ,you do get more time to get people to review and if you want to be a best seller there is less competition .. it really is swings and roundabouts.

      Also it is better to start selling now and get sales started. Wait for next month and you will have lost sales.

  13. KM – great information, thanks!

    When you say you got reviews before the book was launched though, where were those reviews posted, or where did you post them? They were not Amazon reviews, correct?

    It’s not possible for someone to leave you a review on Amazon unless they’ve purchased the book from Amazon, right?

    • I meant on and off Amazon. People can leave a review on Amazon without purchasing the book it just doesn’t show up as a verified purchase. Also if someone is given a book for free they are required by law to disclose this somewhere in the review.

  14. More action to your email list?

    Put a link to the landing page for your email list somewhere very obvious in the very front of the book where people can see it when they go for the “look inside” free tidbit to read.

  15. You ,mentioned that you messed up about screen shots. I don’t understand what screen shots has to do with your launch and promotion. Can’t you just take screen shots of your book and post on your website?

    • The power of a screen shot proves your a best-selling author. In this blog post you mostly have to take my word for it that my book sold as many copies as it did. If I’d had remembered to take a screen shot that would have been proof.

  16. Hello Km logan,

    I’m glad you got success in amazon with your ebooks. I never tried selling anything at amazon.. Seems like i should jump into that stuff.

    I’m gonna check your ebooks soon.

    thanks

  17. Hi KM,
    This is an excellent article and, more importantly, really useful too! I’ve been reading a lot of theory lately because I am about to launch various writing projects myself and it is so refreshing to have a blow-by-blow account of things that worked and things that didn’t. So many authors & business advisors feel that they should only tell us what worked for them without some of the possibly embarrassing details. Your candid and straight talking piece makes it genuinely useful to anyone who is about to get started on marketing their books on Amazon.

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  19. Such an encouraging article! Thanks for sharing your lows as well as your highs…there’s something there for every writer. I’m a Christian author and I’ve grabbed a copy of Called to Write…can’t wait to check it out— looks awesome 🙂

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