You don’t need a huge audience or years of experience to launch a best selling book on Amazon.
My self-publishing story started off in what is probably the worst possible way. In April of last year, I hired a company to help me write, publish, and market an Amazon bestseller to help cement my reputation in brand and sales development.
Unfortunately, I had fallen victim to an independent publishing scam. I have since learned book publishing scams are common, and many other authors have been been victimized and taken advantage of.
My name is Gregory Diehl, and today I am the author of two Amazon bestsellers in the Selling for Small Business and Solo Travel categories despite my bumpy start in the publishing industry.
I want to share the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned so you can have a lot more success with your next book launch, even if you have absolutely no fans, no email list and no previous experience.
How I Got Scammed by a Publisher
After spending $5,000 of my money and nine months of my time, I was no closer to having my book done and the provider who filled my head with grandiose promises was nowhere to be seen.
I was feeling more disheartened than ever that I would ever be able to realize my ambition of getting my book out published, let alone getting people to read it. It would have been very easy for me to give up at this point and call the $5,000 I had “invested” up to that point a loss.
From Scam Victim to Two-Time Amazon Best Seller
I chose to stand my ground and learn what I would need to do to turn the outline I had for the book into something worthy of publication, and ultimately Amazon bestseller status. The book, Brand Identity Breakthrough, was published in May of this year, hitting bestseller status while it was still on preorder status on Amazon.
Five months later, I published my second book, Travel As Transformation, in the travel and personal development categories. It hit #1 just two days after publication.
I’d like to share what I’ve learned from this whole experience, and how even someone with no experience, no audience, and limited funds can easily become a bestselling author so long as they have something valuable to say and the willingness to put in the work.
In my opinion, writing the actual content is the easy part. Writing a 30,000 to 60,000 word book, which is typical for non-fiction books like mine, was not as challenging for me as it was to get it published and selling copies.
What proved to be the most difficult part of the writing process for me was being able to organize it all. It had to tell the specific story my readers were there to learn. You want your readers to begin in one place and end up in another after overcoming a series of strategically placed obstacles.
It is often the case for me that I just have too much I want to get across within the framework of what I am writing. I have struggled to get it all together into a comprehensible format that will stay true to my message, but remain easy for my target audience to digest.
That’s why I have learned that it is crucial to work with a trusted team of beta readers even from early drafts of my book. Their keen eyes help me figure out when there is too much of something, not enough, or information is just showing up out of order. This is invaluable feedback, as no one is totally unbiased about their own work or immune to errors.
How to Launch Your Book Without an Audience
Having no existing fans or audience of my own to market to, I knew I needed to start reaching out to the right audience for Brand Identity Breakthrough even as I was still writing it. I spent a lot of time on small business and marketing forums getting feedback from people about my ideas for the book, sending out free advance review copies, and recruiting beta readers.
With the new book, Travel As Transformation, this process was significantly easier because I already had credibility as a bestselling author. The book was also taken more directly from my unique personal experiences of having traveled to 45 countries over the last 10 years, so I think even complete strangers interested in travel and personal development were eager to read my story. Credentials were very different this time around.
This time, there was a lot less pressure to “prove” myself to potential readers as there was with the branding book. The concept was intrinsically more unique. There were no other books out there offering the same thing. The closest competitor I could think of was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, though the tone and intended audience were completely different.
Using that as my standard to compare to, I was quite pleased to see that immediately after I ended my KDP free promotion of the book, I was ranking at #1 in the paid Solo Travel category, knocking Eat Pray Love off the top spot.
Book Launch Strategies That Work for New Authors
KDP free promotions have been essential to getting a large readership right away for both my books.
People are reluctant to invest even a little bit into a new book with no reviews from a completely unknown author, so a strategically promoted free download event is the easiest way to get your book onto the Kindle devices of a large group of targeted readers.
In both launches, I had about 3,000 free downloads on the first day of free promotion. Brand Identity Breakthrough got all the way to #1 for free books in both the Entrepreneurship & Small Business and Marketing & Sales parent categories, while Travel As Transformation was #1 for all of Spirituality (but was edged out to #2 for Travel by Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi).
It got all the way up to #60 in all free books on Kindle in a single day!
I think it helped a lot that I cross-promoted it with a free promotion for my first book, which already had over 100 positive reviews by then. Aside from the common strategies like utilizing Bookbub and FreeBooksy for promotion to their lists, a former colleague who runs Nomad Capitalist included it in their daily newsletter because their service is also geared toward perpetual travelers.
How to Create Evergreen Book Sales After the Launch
To ensure I would have ongoing sales for both books, I’ve made it a habit to reach out to as many blogs, podcasts, and other publications which would find the subjects I write about interesting.
I needed to provide a steady flow of new traffic to the Amazon pages, even after I had gone through the trouble of getting a significant amount of early buyers and reviewers to act as social proof. I had to work to keep the bestseller status in the categories I had chosen once I had claimed it for myself. I began experimenting with Amazon’s Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad options as well to keep some consistent traffic and sales coming in.
One thing that surprised me, possibly more than anything else, is how successful the audio versions of the books have been. I personally prefer audiobooks almost always, but I didn’t think the same was true for other readers. I took the time to narrate the audio myself for both books because I have some experience and wanted the readers to connect with my voice personally.
I have made almost as much money on audio sales so far as I have from the Kindle edition, even with less sales (because the audiobook has a higher price point). I recommend that other authors take the trouble to publish audio versions of their books from as early on in the development process as possible.
Anyone with enough influence can get a new book noticed, at least temporarily. There eventually needs to be an influx of new, organic readership from those who will genuinely find what you write uniquely valuable. In other words, you have to write a really good book, and it needs to be significantly different from what is already available.
I think my books have stayed up in the rankings, moving past even giants like Gary Vaynerchuck and Eckhart Tolle, because enough people are finding my voice appealing in a special way.
Publishing Plans for the Future
It is highly encouraging for me to continue to produce and publish books, now that I have figured out how the Amazon game works. I have even taken it upon myself to help others in different industries do the same to get their name and voice out there with their own books and online courses.
It has even inspired me in other indirect ways like starting my own podcast. I now plan to published at least 10 books on related subjects over the next few years. I figure I can get one out every three months if I line things up right and work hard. I don’t know for sure that all of them will be as successful as these first two, but all other things being equal, I would expect each new one to build upon the success of the previous ones.
Overall, I’m very relieved to know this highly viable outlet exists to put my message into the world and have it all taken seriously. Even ignoring the money from the books sales, which has been quite nice, the reputation boost alone has been invaluable.
To anyone else with a message of substance, I highly recommend that you consider self-publishing a book. The rewards are well worth mastering the learning curve involved.