Author Topic: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?  (Read 4267 times)

CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
I have an idea for an e-book and am preparing to flesh the text out here in the next couple of months.  Although I have read numerous websites that talk about e-book sales strategies, I am interested in hearing specific anecdotes - successes and failures - from the MMM community. 

Several resources suggest that prior to launch, authors should have a blog or website with a decent (1,000+ user mailing list) following to be successful.  Has the MMM community found that to be true? Are there other ways of getting word out about your book besides developing such an online community? If so, what are those strategies?  Certainly send me a PM if you'd prefer to not post details on the forum here.

Without getting into details, the topic of the book relates to getting into graduate school, and will have a price point of about $19, with premium content (e.g., online videos/visuals, interactive worksheets) at $39-49.  I have all of the check marks in place (author who can speak with authority on the topic, market validation through a survey of dozens of grad students at my institution and others, the ability to write well and write quickly, I've built multiple websites before, I've selected the shopping cart system that I'll use).  Where I fall short is the experience in launching an online product like this.

Kris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4361
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2016, 07:27:36 AM »
For a non-fiction book like yours at that very expensive (for an e-book) price point, yes, at minimum, you should have at least 1000 email list subscribers.

GrowingTheGreen

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 356
    • Growing The Green
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2016, 07:29:28 AM »
I'm working towards doing the same thing, so this is coming from someone who hasn't done it yet, but is working on a strategy.  What I've determined is that it all comes down to marketing. It sounds as though you've got the book part down, but that's the easy part. I think having a big subscriber list helps, but not required.

You can market it by doing guest posts on others' blogs. There are a ton of bloggers out there that will allow you to write a post that their readers would find useful and then throw a link to your book in. That's one less post that they themselves have to write. Podcasts are another great tool. You should be able to do all of this without paying a dime. I wouldn't be surprised if you got a few bucks for writing the post.

I think your price point is fine.



CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2016, 07:36:26 AM »
For a non-fiction book like yours at that very expensive (for an e-book) price point, yes, at minimum, you should have at least 1000 email list subscribers.

Honest question, and I'm not trying to be combative, just seeking informed feedback from those who have done it before: have you written and successfully marketed an e-book before?  Why is having 1000 subscribers the minimum, based on your experience? 

FWIW, I tested a range of price points for both the book and the bonus content through surveys of dozens of graduate students at R1 research institutions, and my price reflects the 25th percentile of prices that people said they'd be willing to pay based on the details I provided them about what the content of the book and bonus content would be.  I found that students attending these schools typically spend at least $1,500 on the application process (test prep/guidance, standardized testing, and applications to schools (avg. applications sent out ~8) themselves). 
« Last Edit: January 27, 2016, 10:15:47 AM by CollegeStache »

SKL-HOU

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
  • Location: Houston, TX
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2016, 09:22:42 AM »
If the typical expense is $1500 and you are selling it for $19, I would think yours was a scam. I have not written a book and I am done with grad school so I am not exactly your customer base anymore either but I could have been in the past. I did not spend any extra money for the application process personally but considering your research shows $1500, I would be afraid that your product would be perceived as scam. I may be completely off base but this was my first thought reading your post.

ooeei

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1143
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2016, 09:35:25 AM »
If the typical expense is $1500 and you are selling it for $19, I would think yours was a scam. I have not written a book and I am done with grad school so I am not exactly your customer base anymore either but I could have been in the past. I did not spend any extra money for the application process personally but considering your research shows $1500, I would be afraid that your product would be perceived as scam. I may be completely off base but this was my first thought reading your post.

I think he's just saying that they usually spend $1500 on the overall process, so adding $19 to make it go more smoothly would be a good deal.  That being said, I wouldn't have bought it either.  I haven't heard of anyone who has used an ebook in the real world (although maybe they did and didn't tell me).  I usually hear about how great ebooks are by people trying to sell them, not people who've bought/used them. 

OP, I know plenty of friends who've done small businesses (wedding crafts, personal training, photography) and have noticed they often ask people what they think their services are worth.  If they ask "what do you think an hour of photography is worth" people will tell them something like "$100-200" even if they would never hire a photographer.  There's a big difference between asking someone what they think something is worth, and in actually getting them to buy it for that price.  I'm curious how many of your respondants said "I'd never buy it for any price."  That being said, it sounds like you've already got your product ready, and ebooks are pretty low maintenance after making them. 

My guess is that an ebook for such a small subset of people (people applying to grad school) will require a lot more advertising than the typical "fix your life" ebooks that are out there most of the time.  GrowingtheGreen has a good idea as far as blogs, but you really need something targeted at your potential audience.  I guess I don't know what that is so I'm not much help. 

GrowingTheGreen

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 356
    • Growing The Green
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2016, 10:00:59 AM »
I look at the small audience as a big advantage. Big audiences have a lot of competition. A lot of successful people find a niche and cater to it. There are 320 million in the U.S.  Even if your book applies to .05% of them, that's 160,000 potential customers!

CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2016, 10:20:52 AM »
If the typical expense is $1500 and you are selling it for $19, I would think yours was a scam. I have not written a book and I am done with grad school so I am not exactly your customer base anymore either but I could have been in the past. I did not spend any extra money for the application process personally but considering your research shows $1500, I would be afraid that your product would be perceived as scam. I may be completely off base but this was my first thought reading your post.

Your point is well taken, and I could see that if someone normally *has* to spend $1500 and someone offers a service for $19, the viability of the $19 thing would be questioned.  So let me clarify where the $1,500 comes from.

-Cost to send applications to schools (let's assume 8 schools @ $100 per school): $800
-Standardized testing: $200
-Miscellaneous costs (including, but not limited to: standardized test prep, books about grad school, consulting or help with application essays, travel to potential schools before applying): $500.  This is the category my ebook would fall into.  This is a big wild card - some people pay nothing for test prep and make no visits to school ahead of time - others pay for Kaplan, buy books about pros/cons of grad school, and travel to many of their potential schools before even applying.  So this could be nearly $0 for some, and could be a few thousand for others.  Differences depend on what type of school you're trying to get into, your familiarity with a given geography, your confidence/preparedness for the applications process, etc.

CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2016, 10:26:58 AM »
If the typical expense is $1500 and you are selling it for $19, I would think yours was a scam. I have not written a book and I am done with grad school so I am not exactly your customer base anymore either but I could have been in the past. I did not spend any extra money for the application process personally but considering your research shows $1500, I would be afraid that your product would be perceived as scam. I may be completely off base but this was my first thought reading your post.

I think he's just saying that they usually spend $1500 on the overall process, so adding $19 to make it go more smoothly would be a good deal.  That being said, I wouldn't have bought it either.  I haven't heard of anyone who has used an ebook in the real world (although maybe they did and didn't tell me).  I usually hear about how great ebooks are by people trying to sell them, not people who've bought/used them. 

OP, I know plenty of friends who've done small businesses (wedding crafts, personal training, photography) and have noticed they often ask people what they think their services are worth.  If they ask "what do you think an hour of photography is worth" people will tell them something like "$100-200" even if they would never hire a photographer.  There's a big difference between asking someone what they think something is worth, and in actually getting them to buy it for that price.  I'm curious how many of your respondants said "I'd never buy it for any price."  That being said, it sounds like you've already got your product ready, and ebooks are pretty low maintenance after making them. 

My guess is that an ebook for such a small subset of people (people applying to grad school) will require a lot more advertising than the typical "fix your life" ebooks that are out there most of the time.  GrowingtheGreen has a good idea as far as blogs, but you really need something targeted at your potential audience.  I guess I don't know what that is so I'm not much help.

Yes, that's a good point about the disconnect between someone telling you what they might pay and what they would actually pay.  My survey data included responses on both what DID you actually pay when you were applying, and what VALUE would an e-book that provides ____, ____, and ____ be worth to you, so I've potentially been able to puncture the idea that people are giving their opinion randomly.

Have your friends with those small side gigs given you an idea of whether or not their pricing strategies worked, and what they did to evaluate whether a given pricing structure met the market needs and provided appropriate value?

My total addressable market analysis of grad school applicants suggests that there are about 1 million graduate (Master's and PhD) degrees awarded in the US in 2015, which suggests that the number of people applying to graduate school is somewhere north of 1 million annually. 

CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2016, 10:29:48 AM »
I look at the small audience as a big advantage. Big audiences have a lot of competition. A lot of successful people find a niche and cater to it. There are 320 million in the U.S.  Even if your book applies to .05% of them, that's 160,000 potential customers!

Even better, my analysis suggests that the TAM is about 1 million people annually, but I'll of course need to segment that customer and find a beach head market within that TAM to effectively target those who are most likely to buy initially. 

Another poster suggested a blog as an idea that you've used - do you care to share any thoughts on what has and has not worked?  I will definitely build a landing page for my book, but my initial concern over already having the baked-in audience prompted me to see if others have been able to put an e-book out there that found success without already logging a couple of years building a mailing list and a blog following.

ooeei

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1143
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2016, 10:59:14 AM »
Yes, that's a good point about the disconnect between someone telling you what they might pay and what they would actually pay.  My survey data included responses on both what DID you actually pay when you were applying, and what VALUE would an e-book that provides ____, ____, and ____ be worth to you, so I've potentially been able to puncture the idea that people are giving their opinion randomly.

Have your friends with those small side gigs given you an idea of whether or not their pricing strategies worked, and what they did to evaluate whether a given pricing structure met the market needs and provided appropriate value?

My total addressable market analysis of grad school applicants suggests that there are about 1 million graduate (Master's and PhD) degrees awarded in the US in 2015, which suggests that the number of people applying to graduate school is somewhere north of 1 million annually.

I'm pretty sure my friends didn't think nearly as in depth as you are.  They basically went out and asked friends of friends what they thought ___ was worth.  I haven't directly asked them but I suspect based on context clues their businesses aren't going very well for that exact reason.  If they would have asked me I'd probably say "I'd expect to be charged ____, but I wouldn't ever buy it."  Most people they asked probably weren't so blunt.

One thing I know college students love is free stuff.  Have you considered trying a "freemium" model with it?  Getting some of the basic (and still usable) content for free, but the more detailed and in depth stuff being behind a paywall?  I've seen that model succeed in everything from knife sharpening tutorials to Hulu. 

Kris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4361
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2016, 11:32:07 AM »
For a non-fiction book like yours at that very expensive (for an e-book) price point, yes, at minimum, you should have at least 1000 email list subscribers.

Honest question, and I'm not trying to be combative, just seeking informed feedback from those who have done it before: have you written and successfully marketed an e-book before?  Why is having 1000 subscribers the minimum, based on your experience? 

FWIW, I tested a range of price points for both the book and the bonus content through surveys of dozens of graduate students at R1 research institutions, and my price reflects the 25th percentile of prices that people said they'd be willing to pay based on the details I provided them about what the content of the book and bonus content would be.  I found that students attending these schools typically spend at least $1,500 on the application process (test prep/guidance, standardized testing, and applications to schools (avg. applications sent out ~8) themselves).

CollegeStache:

Yes, I have published 3 romance novels and a number of short erotic stories, and have been doing this for three plus years. I do this part-time, but I have a number of friends that I communicate with who do this full time, started at the same time I did, and are making in the mid six-figures per year writing e-books.  I also have a number of friends that I have met through this process who publish non-fiction, and I am basing my remarks on those experiences.

You may well be right about the price given your research, but I'm not sure.  My understanding was that your book was to be marketed to a general audience, not students.  Is this correct?  If so, your research might have been skewed by the fact that you were asking graduate students in an academic context -- in other words, you are asking people who regularly spend lots of money on books.  If that is your audience, then that's great, but I'm not sure it is.

As I said, non-fiction is not my field, but I might suggest, if you haven't done so already, that you read some books by successful non-fiction authors that talk about price points, etc.  Again, I'm not sure who your market is, nor through which venues you are planning to sell this book, but I have never run across an e-book on Amazon that is this expensive.  Granted, given that you are planning to also sell premium online content with this book, my guess is that you are planning to sell it on your own website.  In which case, I think it's even more important that you have a large email list, because you will not have people who randomly come across your book in an Amazon search.


GrowingTheGreen

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 356
    • Growing The Green
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2016, 12:45:07 PM »
I look at the small audience as a big advantage. Big audiences have a lot of competition. A lot of successful people find a niche and cater to it. There are 320 million in the U.S.  Even if your book applies to .05% of them, that's 160,000 potential customers!

Even better, my analysis suggests that the TAM is about 1 million people annually, but I'll of course need to segment that customer and find a beach head market within that TAM to effectively target those who are most likely to buy initially. 

Another poster suggested a blog as an idea that you've used - do you care to share any thoughts on what has and has not worked?  I will definitely build a landing page for my book, but my initial concern over already having the baked-in audience prompted me to see if others have been able to put an e-book out there that found success without already logging a couple of years building a mailing list and a blog following.

I had no idea blogging was as much work as it is. I thought if you just publish good content, the rest will take care of itself. Not true! On top of good content, you've got to market yourself. I've gotten my page views to double every week since I've started, but that's because I'm reaching out to others who blog about similar topics, writing guest posts, and trying to provide value to people in other ways. But I'm constantly working on my blog. I can't imagine trying to market a blog and and write an ebook at the same time--at least in the beginning. Like I said, an ebook is my goal, but I feel like I've run out of time to work on it while trying to get my blog going. Maybe it'll pick up a little bit, be more self sufficient, and then I can focus on the ebook.
 
Side note: really good book for you to check out on marketing would be Youtility by Baer.

CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2016, 03:34:55 PM »


CollegeStache:

Yes, I have published 3 romance novels and a number of short erotic stories, and have been doing this for three plus years. I do this part-time, but I have a number of friends that I communicate with who do this full time, started at the same time I did, and are making in the mid six-figures per year writing e-books.  I also have a number of friends that I have met through this process who publish non-fiction, and I am basing my remarks on those experiences.

You may well be right about the price given your research, but I'm not sure.  My understanding was that your book was to be marketed to a general audience, not students.  Is this correct?  If so, your research might have been skewed by the fact that you were asking graduate students in an academic context -- in other words, you are asking people who regularly spend lots of money on books.  If that is your audience, then that's great, but I'm not sure it is.

As I said, non-fiction is not my field, but I might suggest, if you haven't done so already, that you read some books by successful non-fiction authors that talk about price points, etc.  Again, I'm not sure who your market is, nor through which venues you are planning to sell this book, but I have never run across an e-book on Amazon that is this expensive.  Granted, given that you are planning to also sell premium online content with this book, my guess is that you are planning to sell it on your own website.  In which case, I think it's even more important that you have a large email list, because you will not have people who randomly come across your book in an Amazon search.

This is great feedback, and you've given me several things to think about.  Yes, I'm looking at graduate students first, but I still need to subdivide that very large group so that I have a manageable personal to target for my initial launch. 

Since you do this part time, do you have any other thoughts to suggest? Even though fiction and nonfiction may be totally different, did you launch your books on Amazon, or something else?  What marketing strategies have worked for you?

Kris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4361
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2016, 04:32:15 PM »
I write full time for a living and have been making six figures with ebooks for a few years now. $19 is about the worst possible price you could pick for an ebook.

Why?

Amazon is the number one retailer by far, and the best way you have of gaining sales and visibility. Amazon pays out 70% of prices between $2.99 and 9.99. Anything below or above they pay out 35%. So if you sold your book for $19, you'd end up getting $6.65 per sale. If you sold your book instead for $9.99, you'd end up getting $6.99 per sale, and you'd probably sell a whole lot more.

If you're planning on just funneling people to your website to buy your ebook there, you're going to have a hell of a time if you haven't already built a platform. Nobody wants to enter their credit card information on some random site instead of going to an etailer they trust (like Amazon). Most people don't know how to sideload files onto their kindles, and don't want to learn. You're dooming yourself unless you already have a userbase that trusts you if you decide to sell on your own.

If I were you, I'd write a short book to sell at $0.99 that outlined your strategies and gave away one good tip, with links to your other book - the full one - at $9.99.  Both books should link to your website where the premium content is located.

I'd give you tips on advertising but I write fiction and that marketing style is completely different from nonfiction. With nonfiction, you need reputation and expertise more than you need to spend money on marketing.

CollegeStache,

This is the very first thing I would have written as a response, so let me + 1 Mrs. Whipple. 

I am rushing off now for the evening, but I'll try to get back here tomorrow and look to see if there is anything more to add.  Mrs. Whipple likely has all of the experience and learned knowledge I do, and then some, so basically, I imagine I will probably + 1 her on many other things. 

CollegeStache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2016, 07:51:07 PM »
I write full time for a living and have been making six figures with ebooks for a few years now. $19 is about the worst possible price you could pick for an ebook.

Why?

Amazon is the number one retailer by far, and the best way you have of gaining sales and visibility. Amazon pays out 70% of prices between $2.99 and 9.99. Anything below or above they pay out 35%. So if you sold your book for $19, you'd end up getting $6.65 per sale. If you sold your book instead for $9.99, you'd end up getting $6.99 per sale, and you'd probably sell a whole lot more.

If you're planning on just funneling people to your website to buy your ebook there, you're going to have a hell of a time if you haven't already built a platform. Nobody wants to enter their credit card information on some random site instead of going to an etailer they trust (like Amazon). Most people don't know how to sideload files onto their kindles, and don't want to learn. You're dooming yourself unless you already have a userbase that trusts you if you decide to sell on your own.

If I were you, I'd write a short book to sell at $0.99 that outlined your strategies and gave away one good tip, with links to your other book - the full one - at $9.99.  Both books should link to your website where the premium content is located.

I'd give you tips on advertising but I write fiction and that marketing style is completely different from nonfiction. With nonfiction, you need reputation and expertise more than you need to spend money on marketing.

These are fantastic tips - you've given me plenty to consider.  I liked the basic idea that links to a full book, too. 

CanuckExpat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2996
  • Age: 36
  • Location: North Carolina
    • Freedom35
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2016, 12:16:30 AM »
Have you seen this thread: Making Money from Ebooks ?

daymare

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 463
  • Age: 30
Re: Who has written a successful e-Book? Thoughts on good launch strategies?
« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2016, 12:38:03 PM »
Interesting idea - I too have occasionally thought about writing an ebook about getting into grad school, or what to prepare for/why it could be a terrible idea (my credibility being that I got into a top 10 school for a PhD in my field ... that wasn't a great fit for me and I later left).  What's tricky is that you probably won't be able to build a base and use that to sell more books ... people apply to grad school usually only once (and if they go for more degrees, they've got a decent amount of knowledge from the first time), so unless you can think of more valuable content, they probably won't bite for other material.  So I would think that the marketing/customer acquisition effort should focus on targeting this segment of the population.  Ie, grad cafe, subject-specific forums (like Urch.com for econ/finance/business PhDs), blogs about getting into grad school, etc.  Possibly you could try to connect with your institution's academic advisors, to suggest the resource to their students considering grad school.  Maybe put up paper fliers on campus. 

I think the above comments about selling on amazon are spot-on: lower price point and ease of use make it a great access point for customers.  I did once buy an ebook off an author's website, but only because the version on Amazon was older, and because I couldn't find any free copies online or copies at the library, and I did so with some trepidation.  You could offer the book for free for the first month, which will let it get some readership and possibly reviews.  You can share it on your facebook, maybe ask friends if they'd be willing to share about the book (if they thinks it's a useful resource for anyone they know).

Good luck!