Each month, Orna Ross, ALLi Director, invites a special guest into the indie author hot seat to answer ALLi Members’ questions.
This month’s special guest is non-fiction indie authors Joseph Alexander who built his Fundamental Changes guitar series into a instantly recognizable author brand. Find out some of the secrets of his success, and listen in as he and Orna answer self-publishing questions posed by our ALLi Members.
Indie Author Inspiration
Before diving into member questions, Orna and Joseph chatted about his journey from guitar teacher with one book that had an incredibly bad cover, into a million dollar brand. He's currently writing a book about this journey, which has a working title of “Self-Published Millionaire”.
I'm throwing around this “million” word but don't let it put you off listening to Joseph's advice. During this Member Q&A session, he offered sound, actionable advice that any beginning indie author could benefit from.
He was quick to point out that what some people see as his “overnight” success story, was actually five years in the making. He didn't set up to hit a specific monetary target, instead he wanted to create a sustainable business model around something that he was passionate about.
Your goal should be to entertain and educate and be passionate about what you write. The money is a byproduct, not a goal. Joseph
Joseph loves sharing his knowledge and when he kept receiving the same questions from his guitar students again and again, he decided to streamline the knowledge sharing process by creating handouts. These morphed into guitar ebooks available on Amazon, and free audio downloads on his website. An indie author was born. He published about eight books in the first 18 months, and by creating his series he was able to grown his sales from it's early consistent trickle to a sales explosion.
He has shared the techniques that worked for him during the Member Q&A segment of the broadcast. You can watch the video, listen to the podcast, or read my summary of the broadcast below.
Ask ALLi Member Q&A Video on YouTube
Ask ALLi Member Q&A Podcast on SoundCloud
Summary of our Ask ALLi Member Q&A
Here's my summary of this month's Ask ALLi Member Q&A. As a non-fiction author myself, this was a riveting session for me, but the majority of tips and advice dished out by Orna and Joseph apply equally well to fiction authors.
Q: I hear other authors say that promoting non-fiction is easier than promoting fiction, but my efforts aren't working for me – what am I doing wrong?
There's no standard one-size-fits-all approach for marketing non-fiction, because each content niche differs, but Joseph offered the following foundational advice that all non-fiction authors should take not of.
The number one tip is to write description books titles and use your book's subtitle and product description to back up that title. Create your non-fiction titles with discoverability in mind. Think about, and research, how readers are searching for books in your niche and then incorporate those keywords into your title and subtitle. We're not talking about keyword stuffing here, we're talking about making sure your book on a specific topic and be found.
Still need more help about Keywords?:
- How to Use Amazon Categories, Themes and Keywords to Sell More Self-published Books
- How to Choose the Best Keywords When Publishing Fiction on Amazon
Beginners Tips: one of the easiest and cheapest (free) ways of researching keywords is by typing your primary topic/niche into the search bar on Amazon, and they will show you the most popular related keyword searches.
I typed in “guitar” into a Kindle Store Search bar .. and Amazon showed the top 6 related search terms.
When I clicked on the top search term “guitar scales” guess who's book showed up as the first result in the list?
And the start of his book's description starts off with those same two most popular keywords:
As you can see, Joseph uses headings in his books description to help lead his readers through his books content. This helps the reader, but it also helps the book to get discovered.
Orna recommended that authors use the above-the-fold area to describe the books primary content, but to make sure that we use all the full character limit available to us in that section to add a full detailed description. Use this valuable real estate – it's free!
Other recommendations for the basics of book promotion were:
- Use descriptive keywords in KDP and CreateSpace
- Set your categories mindfully. Amazon allow you to pick two, but if you can't find the category that best describes your ebook's content you can email Amazon and request that it be added to additional categories – up to a maximum of 10.
- Create and maintain a website with organic content on it (Content Marketing is the authors friend – no matter what niche you write in).
- And finally, use Amazon Marketing Services as your first foray into online advertising.
Q: I'm publishing a comic self-help book, can you help me with a basic low cost marketing plan, or one that is free to implement?
Many indie authors start out wanting (or needing) to be mindful of a budget, especially if it's their first book, and they're not sure if their author dreams are sustainable.
You have to be willing to invest in your product and have faith in it. Joseph
But, if you're not in a position to invest in your baby, then here's some free (or low cost advice)
- Set up a WordPress site (there are free and paid options) and buy your own domain (minimal cost), and start publishing content that is related to your book.
- Add a link to your book at the end of the article (when it's relevant)
- Start advertising on Amazon using the Amazon Marketing Service. It's free to advertise, you only pay when readers click on your add (pay per click) rather then having to pay for impressions. If you only have one book – stay away from Facebook advertising.
- Start building your mailing list (services like MailChimp are free to use until your reach a subscriber threshold).
Check out Joseph's website www.fundamental-changes.com to see how he's set up the foundation for his brand.
Beginners Tips: One of the most overlooked free marketing tools is your very own Amazon Author page. It's free to set up, and the US version lets you add your blog's RSS feed.
Q: Are Amazon Ads a good option for indie authors?
The advantages of advertising on Amazon is that you ad appears in front of people who are already on Amazon and in a buying state of mind, and interested in the topic you're writing about. On Facebook you’re paying for impressions, but on Amazon you only pay when a reader clicks on your ad.
- 931,000 impressions
- 1,400 clicks
- .21c click
- Total Ad spend $304
- Total Sales $1,900
In terms of spending your advertising budget. the secret is to have a lot of adverts with a low budget, e.g. run each ad at a maximum spend of $1 a day, and then check with keyword is converting to sales, and then build another Amazon ad with those keywords and add in some new keywords. It's a trial and error approach which takes effort, but will pay off in the long term.
Amazon Ads are a no brainer. Joseph
Q: What is the best approach for Facebook Advertising. Should I be promoting my Facebook page, my book, or a Facebook post?
The recommended approach is to ask yourself what your goal is. Don't use Facebook ads unless you have a few books available to sell, and then use the ads to drive traffic to your landing page to promote a free download in return for a email sign up so that you can build your mailing list.
It took Joseph a year to wise up and start building his mailing list – and he missed out on thousands of potential subscribers on his list. So don't go down that path. If you're not already building an email list – START ONE NOW!
Watch/listen to the broadcast for more information about list segmentation, so that you can create a targeted email marketing approach.
Still need more help about Facebook Ads and Amazon Ads?:
- The Fundamentals of Facebook & Amazon Ads: David Penny
- Facebook Ads: One Author’s Experience
- Book Marketing: How to Optimise Facebook Adverts – A Case Study
Q: I'm still confused about the benefits of using Amazon CreateSpace and IngramSpark to produce and distribute my POD book? Also do I need to buy my own ISBNs or can I use the free CreateSpace ISBN on IngramSpark?
The ALLi recommendation is to use both Amazon CreateSpace and IngramSpark in tandem. Use CreateSpace for the Amazon eco-system, and decline the expanded distribution option. Then use IngramSpark to cover the rest of the distribution networks.
Still need more Articles on this topic?:
- Book Production: More Tips on Using CreateSpace and Ingram Spark Together
- How to Use Createspace and Ingram Spark Together
- Watchdog: Ingram Spark vs CreateSpace for Self-publishing Print Books
If you use a free ISBN from Amazon, it can only be used for your Amazon set up. The best option is to buy your own ISBNs so that the same ISBN can be used on your print book no matter where you choose to sell or distribute it.
Still need more help with the ISBN dilemma?:
- Publishing: Everything the Indie Author Needs to Know about ISBNs for Self-published Books
- Why Indie Authors & Publishers Should Buy Their Own ISBNs
Q: I've heard rumors about Amazon Imprints (Amazon Publishing) and that Amazon will eventually only sell books that have been published under their imprint. Do you think this will happen?
A resounding No! Joseph and Orna don't believe Amazon will do anything that will stop them making money. Trade and Indie authors make Amazon money, so why would they cut off part of their revenue stream?
And some final words from Joe:
When you publish, find your own way. There is best practices, and ALLi are the ones to help steer you in the right direction on this. There is no definitive method for all authors, it's all so subjective based on your niche. Joseph
Get expert advice from @ornaross and @guitar_joseph about building your #nonfiction #author brand Click To Tweet
Want to hear more from Joseph Alexander?
Meet the Member Q&A Hosts
Joseph Alexander has been a guitarist and expert music tutor for over 20 years. His tuition books are published in four languages and have sold over 200,000 copies to widespread critical acclaim. Recently his books passed $1,000,000 in revenue and he is currently writing a guide book to self-publishing for authors. He is currently writing and publishing cutting edge-material that breaks down the barriers between learning and playing the guitar.
Connect with Joseph on Twitter @guitar_joseph
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”.
She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing.
Connect with Orna on Twitter @
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