A few weeks ago on a Sunday I was scrambling for topic ideas for that night’s #Blogchat when @SarahMaeWrites suggested we cover How to Create and Sell an EBook that night. That sounded interesting, and then she DMed me to add that she had just created and sold one, so I thought ‘Perfect!’ and asked her to co-host.
Now what I didn’t realize is that this pretty young lady had unleashed a social media marketing dynamo to promote and create interest in her ebook. She had a clear strategy, and was leveraging social media and her existing online network to promote the book. And her strategy was working incredibly well, so well that she has now sold over 8,000 copies of the ebook in less than two months. At $4.99 a pop. Do the math kids, she’s making $20K a month JUST off this ebook.
And the reason why is because she created a valuable product and did a fantasmic job of promoting it and building interest in it by not only leveraging her community, but involving them in the entire process. When I heard Sarah’s story I just knew this would be such a wonderful case study to help show others what really smart social media marketing looks like, so I asked Sarah if I could interview her, and she was gracious enough to accept:
Mack: What made you decide to write an ebook?
Sarah: A few things…
First of all, I read this: Indie Author is Making Millions by Selling the App Store Way (I have no idea how I came across this article, I wasn’t searching for ebook info or anything like it.) I found the article fascinating and tucked it away in my mind.
The second thing that influenced my decision to write an ebook has to do with my serious procrastination skills (and lack of the ability to write on cue). I had an article due for a site I write for monthly and I had nothin’. I finally decided to go through my archives and I landed on a post from a series I did two years ago on cleaning (which was more about the heart than on the actual mechanics of cleaning). I posted it.
The response was significant; women were relating with what I wrote. I knew the content was something that could help and encourage women, and I wanted to get it out there.
The best part was that I knew I had enough posts to go ahead with the ebook on my time table (I have very limited time being a SAHM to little ones). My cleaning series was 31 days long – I had 30 articles to work with. Timing was also perfect – it was March and spring cleaning was just about in full swing. I knew I needed to put my series into a book and release it in April (time is crucial!).
Mack: What goes into the actual creation of an ebook? And once you create it, how do you distribute it? Do you put it on your servers and let people download it?
Sarah: For me, it’s mainly the writing I focus on. I hire a designer to do everything else, from turning my document into a PDF (anyone can do this, but I always seem to mess it up!) to having her format it on Kindle and Nook. I use (and highly recommend) Erin from insightblogdesign.com. She is professional, efficient, affordable, has an eye for design, and is an easy personality.
As for distributing it as a PDF download, I heard good things about E-Junkie, so I went with them (this I do myself-they take you step-by-step through the process). So far, so good. They also have an affiliate set-up, the ability to create discounts, video branding, and more.
Mack: When did you start promoting, before or after the ebook was released?
Sarah: I started promoting pretty much the minute I decided to put my series into an ebook. I deleted the posts from my site, began to re-work and update them, and let my readers in on the ride. I used social media because it is my platform – I have an audience on it. I had built up my personal blog, started another blog, and was hosting a conference. I am in the social media sphere because that is where my community is (one I am so thankful for, especially as a SAHM).
Mack: How did you use social media to promote the book?
Sarah: Here’s what I did: I held two launch day giveaways on my own two blogs to get things started with a bang (I contacted companies and asked them if they wanted to participate). I then asked many bloggers to review and/or have a giveaway of the book (reviews on blogs are key-the more the better). I did pay a few blogs for advertising. I used Twitter and Facebook to create a community around the book – a hashtag for Twitter and a fan page on FB (both of which I regularly interact with). I created a youtube video where I talk about the book (over 10,000 views) and I started a website for everything related to the book (including freebies). I also used the power of free to get the word spread. For one day only I offered the book for free to anyone who spread the word via social media channels. It was a wonderful success. I gave away over 2000 books, but the reach was just what I was looking for – I wanted to break through my own sphere of influence and reach beyond, and the free day did just that. It even got my book mentioned on two different radio stations in different states. The goal? Be everywhere.
I also put the book on Amazon Kindle. You’ve got to have your book on Kindle (and Nook).
(Mack’s note – Pay attention to where Sarah said she gave away 2,000 copies of the book in one day. That might seem like she was losing sales, but note how she said that by doing that it greatly EXPANDED the reach of the ebook and pushed it past her network. Allowing her to get MORE sales!)
Mack: What has been the biggest surprise from doing this ebook?
Sarah: The biggest surprise was the amount of ebooks I sold. I honestly was hoping to sell about 50…maybe 100 if I was “lucky.” I had no idea I would sell over 8000 copies in less than two months. Shocking, actually, comes to mind.
Mack: Are you thinking about doing additional ebooks now that your first has been so successful?
Sarah: Yes. Although now I’m in this interesting place of deciding if I want to continue with ebooks or go traditional publishing. If your ebook takes off, a publisher may want it. However, just last week Amazon announced that Kindle E-Book sales surpassed printed books for the first times. A sign of the times.
Isn’t that just the coolest story ever? BTW here is another great post recapping Sarah’s process. And of course, the ebook! You can go here to learn more about it (and isn’t that site just amazing? ). And please do check out her blog, Like a Warm Cup of Coffee.
UPDATE: Here’s some more information on some of the fees associated with selling the ebook, according to Sarah:
Addendum to the interview: I have been extremely blessed with the sales of my ebook, but please remember that I do factor in taxes and tithe, which takes 40% off my gross. On Amazon, I receive 70% royalties (for U.S. sales, 30% for abroad), and then take 40% off of that. Paypal charges about .44/book, and E-Junkie (where I distribute the PDF) charges $5/month.
BTW some people seem to be a bit upset about the $20,000 figure being mentioned. That was actually *my* idea, Sarah didn’t really even want to mention it, but I did because it would help get attention to the post because I wanted people to hear the strategy Sarah used as I think that’s the key. Also, I changed the title as it technically wasn’t correct to say she was ‘making’ $20,000 a month, but again, that was my idea, not Sarah’s.