Where I Was a Few Months Ago with Self-Publishing…
The Amazon book publishing game can become addictive both in a good way, and also in a terribly bad way. To fill you in if you’re new around here, I’m a non-fiction author, working in self-publishing. I’m also a blogger and course presenter. During the day I work as a professional designer/writer, and self-published author. That’s what I do on a daily basis – day in and day out.
8 months ago, you would have found me tied to my computer screen, waiting to hear “The Book Report” cha-ching sound that someone had read pages of my book or bought it. I was OBSESSED with author rank and how I was performing. I was glued to reports, data, downloads, etc.
If there was a report or an app that was associated with Amazon Kindle, I was all over it, digesting every piece of information I could to make decisions about what to post or even, what to write and publish next. It’s easy to get sucked into this behavior as a self-published author when you’re fairly new to the market and in as many author groups as I am. This is the culture. This is all part of self-publishing.
Something Doesn’t Make Sense Here…
But there were many things that didn’t make any sense about this behavior. Why was I so concerned with sales on a platform where I couldn’t see any website hits, the amount of traffic, real advertising results (I still am wary of Amazon Marketing Services reflecting true figures), and basically, any sort of raw data that let me know if my actions online had any effect.
When you’re posting in 10+ places about your book, it’s really hard to tell, using Amazon exclusively, whether or not it’s working. Which channel was working the best? I couldn’t make any sort of decisions on that.
Self-publishing can be hard when you’re doing everything on your own. It’s going to take more time when you’re doing a solo thing without a crew, a team, a slew of marketing professionals, and a publicity firm. But it can be done. It can be brutal, but it can be done.
Click Farms & Buying Reviews
Then, more news was coming out on a weekly basis about authors scamming the system with click farms, buying reviews, using promotional companies to get them to number one bestseller status and to be honest, I’m just not into that.
I don’t care about rank, status, awards, reviews, or anything of the sort anymore. I think I used to be, but ever since I made this one decision which I’ll disclose in a minute, I’ve been much happier and prosperous as a self-published author.
As an author, it was very easy to get sucked into the whole Amazon game. But that’s what it is – a game. The referee is a biased giant with a little too much customer focus and not enough vendor focus, in my opinion. The playing field is ripe with cheating, fraud and uncouth behavior in buying the bestseller ranking.
Amazon seems to be more focused on removing reviews than it does fixing the cheating problem. As someone who participates in the Kindle Unlimited program (KDP), it’s a slap in the face not to be paid accordingly for pages that have been read, only to have the majority of those funds go to Kindle scammers.
The Reality of Author Life
So there I was, a few months ago, faced with the reality of the author life. But did it really have to be that way? I dug deep. My whole mission as a blogger and strategist has been to develop leaders – entrepreneurs that are successful – so that their voice can be heard, their ideas could be shared, and they’d be paid accordingly. Why should I be any different?
Part of being a self-published author means that you have to be patient. Wait for traction to hit. Wait for Pinterest to start showing your book marketing images.
What I Did to Stop the Insanity… and Ended Up Making More Money
Here’s what I did: I stopped allowing Amazon to rule my author happiness. I took out the middle man who had cheated me out of so much and put my books into my own hands. I stopped obsessing with rank, reviews, status, awards and such. None of that really mattered. What mattered to me was sales and reaching a broader audience.
I wanted to educate and teach people new things and strategies through my books. And Amazon really doesn’t allow that to happen without paying out the nose for limited keywords. I couldn’t collect email addresses, either – Amazon keeps all that info and you’re lucky if you can get someone to sign up to get your emails at the tail end of your book.
So although I still left my books on the platform, I changed my focus to my own selling platform as an author: my website. That was my one decision that changed everything for me this year.
Shifting my focus from Amazon to selling my books via my website through various funnels and links changed things in a big way. I had a couple months where I hit over $200k just in private downloads. That was quite a shift from the typical $1-2k every month (paperback & Kindle combined) that I was accustomed to. How did I get the word out? Pinterest was my main game, but I used Twitter and some other networks, as well.
This Self-Publishing Alternative Worked!
What was great was that I could correlate sales with my social media strategy. I could see the relationship between what was working and what wasn’t. With Amazon, I was in the dark. I had power now to make decisions and do more of the things that led to sales. Those book sales led to course sales. And then stock photo memberships.
The transition from a book sale into something bigger was absolutely phenomenal to see and experience. Had I just let my books strictly be advertised on Amazon I wouldn’t be in this position today. And I would still be obsessing over data that isn’t based on a fair playing field (no matter how much money you throw at it the system isn’t fair).
Self-publishing and making books available on my own website meant I couldn’t list them on KDP’s program, but I could be in more control of how my books are discovered both on social media, my email list, and on Pinterest.
So that leaves me with a word of advice and a big question. Or several, actually. You don’t have to rely on 3rd parties to sell or deliver your book, no matter what genre you write in. I think the system I set up works brilliantly for nonfiction authors, but it could work for fiction, as well.
You can keep ALL the money earned on your book sales (minus the credit card processing fee) and have much more income than before. You can match your marketing efforts with your Google Analytics and overall sales so you can focus more on doing MORE of those behaviors and posts.
So if you aren’t focusing on the quality of your website and selling your book from there, I have to ask, now that I know the positive things that can happen… why not? You can be a self-published author with or without the help of Amazon. You don’t technically need Amazon to be successful.
If you have a voice, and want to be heard, and have published a book, why not shift your focus back to something you have more control of? Believe me, it’s been a really fun ride!
Also published on Medium.