Ebook Success: Get Educated

Welcome to Joan's Golden Rules for Ebook Success. I say that entirely with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I'm grinning too because I'm no expert. I only know what I have learned and how put that knowledge to work for me. I hope by offering this that you can take the same steps, learn the same things, and achieve the success you want.

As a reminder, here are my so-called golden rules. Maybe they will help you earn heaps of gold from your ebook sales too.

So-called Golden Rules

1. Get educated.
2. Write a business plan.
3. Choose cover art wisely.
4. Write professional ad copy.
5. Choose price wisely.
6. Give a smart sample.
7. Write a good book.
8. Customize Marketing and Promotion.

Golden Rule #1: Get Educated

Let's tackle the first element crucial for ebook sales success: education. Here's the process I went through in 2010 to educate myself about the ebook business.

I went to the major digital publishing platforms: Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble's PubIt for Nook, and Smashwords, which converts and offers many different formats and distribution outlets.

Each of these websites offers format instructions, FAQ, and Community Forums. Smashwords probably has the most comprehensive publishing guides along with other guides that address many issues of book publishing with which you may be unfamiliar, i.e., ISBN.

Study The Platforms

One by one, I studied each platform. I printed each format guide and bound each in book form so I could drag them around with me wherever I went. I read, highlighted, and studied until I felt familiar with the various processes. Each has its own idiosyncrasies. By the way, even when you follow the directions, you may come across some problems due to using slightly different software versions for one thing.

Study The Books

When I was studying each publishing platform, my next step in the education process was to do a study of the top 100 books. I made notes. Which genres appeared in the top 100? How many in each genre were represented? What did the book cover art look like? How did the Product Description read? How did the Author Description read? What keywords were used? How many other books did the authors on that list have published? I made notes in all these areas.

I narrowed down the samples to books like the kind I write. I took free samples from scores of books. Every time any ebook appeared free, (found those mostly from Michael Gallagher's Free Kindle Books and Tips) I grabbed it. Still, I bought more books than I should, but I delighted in the resulting reading orgy.

I read reviews, but I quickly learned that reader reviews are not meaningful. You see, they're not really reviews. They're biased opinions, but I won't get into that now. That's a blog for another day.

Study The Authors

I worked my way through each digital platform. As I read, when I came across a particularly striking book - either because it was so poorly packaged and/or written or because it was simply brilliant - I made notes about the authors. I looked up their other works. I visited their blogs and websites.

I researched their careers. Had they been published before? If so, in what medium? Were they indie authors or were they authors whose print publisher was marketing their ebooks? Did they do all the format, conversion, etc. themselves or were they contracting it out?

I studied pricing and read everything I could find on why an author priced a book at a certain price point. This is a huge issue which I will cover in detail later. Of course, I studied the royalty structure of each platform.

I tried to find the common denominator in their successes and, in the cases of authors I knew who were selling poorly, in their failures.

Dive Into Indie Culture

I'd been reading Joe Konrath for years, since he had been published by Hyperion. Now, I made a point to read the comments. When I found an articulate comment by someone else who was in the trenches, I followed them back to their blogs. My circle of learning enlarged each time. I subscribed to more RSS feeds than you can imagine. Of all of those, I still read Joe faithfully, as well as Dean Wesley Smith, Robin Sullivan, and The Book Designer just to name a few.

Use Google

I set up Google alerts to find news about ebook success stories. I picked the brains of authors who were self-publishing their backlists to see what they were doing and how. In short, I made it my mission in life to learn everything I could about this ebook revolution. In the end, I think I had a pretty good idea about why some books sold well and some didn't.

I then randomly clicked on Amazon book pages and skimmed the page. Within a few seconds, I could form an opinion about where that book was in the pecking order of sales rank. When I scrolled down, I always found that my educated guess was spot on. With so many, I could see what was wrong with their marketing process.

I wrote an entire series on my commercial blog (which I've since closed) about my findings. Part of what you'll read in the coming weeks on this blog are some of those posts. In fact, when I get all this posted on the blog, I plan to compile it and ebook it.

Just Do It

Ah, research! I'm just a research junkie. I'd passed the point where I needed knowledge. When January ended, I realized I was just procrastinating. I knew enough. It was time to adopt Nike's motto: "Just do it."

I grabbed my first category romance to which I had managed to get rights reversion and started. In late March, I was ready to go. Even with everything I knew, I still managed to shoot myself in the foot with a careless error. More on that later. The important thing to remember though is, that even with a dumb mistake, my first ebook Just One Look was packaged so well, in accordance with what I had learned, that it started selling immediately.

This short, pure escapist romance novel is the little book that could. It's chugged its way up a mountain of competition and has spent 27 days in the Top 100 Paid list. In fact, by the time you read this, it may have achieved 20,000 sales all by its simple little self.

Takeaway Truth

A rising tide floats all boats. I wish you magnificent ebook sales.


  1. I'm thrilled for your well-deserved success, Joan. Wish I could borrow your brain.