Results of the Kindle Marketing Experiment

by Ryan M. Healy on November 21, 2011

Remember the “Kindle Marketing Experiment” post? Well, that post is now gone since the offer is over. But the results are in! And John Breese has generously shared what he’s learned in the following post.

If you’re interested in Kindle Publishing, this will help you make smart decisions as you get started. Enjoy!

-Ryan


Before starting into this post, I’d like to take this time to thank Ryan for being such a great help with my recent experiment in marketing a Kindle book.

This experiment, however, was not only for my benefit. A short while ago, Ryan invited you and the other readers of his blog to take part in our little Kindle marketing experiment, and it resulted in some intriguing data.

So to thank you for your help, I offered to report all my findings from this experiment to give you a more informed perspective before jumping into the Kindle publishing arena.

Why Kindle Publishing Is Worth Considering

I can’t stress enough just how important it is to send as much information you have on your business as possible, no matter what your industry, to the Kindle store.

Even if you sell pistons, you should have a whitepaper in the Kindle store. In fact, when I typed the term “pistons” into the Kindle store I found four books devoted to the industry.

However, the focus of this experiment is moreover for those seeking to set-up additional streams of income.

So I’m going to pick up where we left off — in the event that you missed the initial Kindle marketing book experiment post (which Ryan has since deleted now that the special offer has expired), here’s the low-down:

For the past couple of months, I’ve had two ebooks covering the subject of publishing Kindle books taking up space on my desktop, and after hearing Kindle millionaire Amanda Hocking’s name enough times, I finally grew curious enough to find out what I could get from Kindle Publishing.

My goal was not to mimic Hocking and become the next Kindle millionaire (though I do have some lofty plans for that extra million once it arrives).

My mission was to gauge how easy it would be to create an additional revenue stream, no matter how big or how little that extra income would happen to be.

This goal was based on three criteria:

  • Time investment: Though I’ve seen a few high-end Kindle books (up to $99), those examples are quite rare. The vast majority of Kindle books fall into the $1.99 to $3.99 range. This means that whatever you put out there cannot be allowed to chew up too much of your time — especially when aiming for scalability.
  • Efficiency: Aside from creating the actual work (even for a low-ticket price, I prefer to keep the work I use as original as possible), you must also factor in cover design, comment solicitation, Amazon approval time, and Fiverr gig deadlines (some people will take a few days to complete a job).
  • Cost: Once again, since your profit margins are likely to be low (just keeping a realistic perspective), you want to limit the initial cost as much as possible in the beginning.

Setting Things Into Motion

Let’s tackle the events of this venture by criteria…

Criteria #1 and #2: Time/Efficiency

For the time invested in the project, I took one of my existing in-house products and boiled it down to an adolescent’s comprehension and interest level (which was surprisingly more challenging than I thought it would be).

This took me a total of two days work.

While I plugged away on the revisions, I had someone on Fiverr designing a book cover, which was ready for me by the time the book was done.
Once the book was complete, I hired another worker on Fiverr to convert the book from MS Word to the standard Kindle format. It took him a day and a half to get that done (which is very good work rate for such a gig).

Once I received the files, I logged into the Kindle Publishing site and uploaded all the materials.

Amazon approved it quickly and the book was live for sale twelve hours after I had submitted it for review.

Total time investment and production efficiency: 4 days before going live for sale

fiverr kindle book cover Results of the Kindle Marketing Experiment

Criteria #3: Cost

Now, for a look at the overall costs. My costs were quite minimal, but I could have done better. So let’s tackle them piece by piece:

     $10 – Converting a 70-page document into Kindle standard format. (This
     price will vary according to who you find on Fiverr.)
     $5 – Producing a book cover.
     $5 – Populating a Twitter page
     $5 – Populating a Facebook page
     $15 – Soliciting reviews of the Kindle book
     $10 – Domain name registry
     $7.50 – Giveaway to Twitter users

     Total costs incurred: $57.50

     Total profits to date: $12.75 (over two and a half weeks)

Things I Would Have Done Differently

Looking back on it I believe I had put too much stock in the customer value of Bieber’s fan base. The use of the Twitter and Facebook pages has proven largely arbitrary. So far as I’ve observed they’ve generated no more than two or three sales.

The website I set up for the book isn’t pulling in much organic traffic, so I see it as a waste of time.

Given that this Bieber book is a one-off project and not one I’d seek to continue promoting over the long-haul, creating Twitter and Facebook accounts proved a waste of time and money.

However, if you’re promoting a book that centers around your main business or your brand as an author, I strongly recommend you use these promotional vehicles to perpetuate your brand. But for one-off auto-pilot projects, they’re not worth the time.

By skipping the domain name, plus the creation of Facebook and Twitter accounts, you’d subtract $20 from costs.

A second look at production costs would show that if you skip the solicitation of initial reviews for your book, and you already have a website related to the book (or don’t want one), you could get started for as little as $15 to $20 per book.

Other Recommendations

My initial plan out of the gate was to sell the book at 99 cents to pick up some velocity. If you were to look in on the book now, you’d find it priced at $3.99.

Turns out that I’m not alone — a few authors do this. But from all the seasoned Kindle publishers I’ve spoken with, sticking with the 99 cent price tag is not a great idea, as it fosters a low-perceived value.

On the durability front, it’s still a little early to determine just how things will play out in the long run for the Justin Bieber book. However, if the New Kids On The Block and The Backstreet Boys serve as any sort of a measuring stick, it isn’t the most evergreen product out there.

From what I’ve studied, the books that really make for great automated income streams include anything belonging to the evergreen topics such as health, wealth, education, relationships as well as popular hobbies (gardening, sewing).

So if you’re looking for long-term automated profits, stick to the popular subjects and try to keep away from PLR — though if you want to use one or three PLR articles as additional chapters, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Results So Far

So now let’s take a look at the profits of the Bieber book to date for a quick (but not necessarily accurate) view of what could be possible.

Looking at Kindle Publishing from a long-term perspective, if you can assemble a product within to two to four days each month, and keep the costs at or around $25 a month, your total investment would come out to about $300 a year.

If we take a look at the low-end of the revenue stream (like my $12.75 to date for the Bieber book over a two and a half week period) per book, your overall closing revenue for 12 books per month, would amount to somewhere in the vicinity of $1836.

I’ve seen all kinds of different revenues for Kindle publishers, so how about we go with a figure of $53 per month, per book (which quite a few authors achieve), your closing figures for a 12-month cycle would result in profits of $7632 on auto-pilot.

Of course, these are low-ball conservative numbers, but I think they help give you a realistic idea of where you’ll start and what you can set as a goal.

Wishing you luck,

John Breese

About Ryan M. Healy

is a direct response copywriter. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.


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{ 11 comments }

Ian Brodie November 23, 2011 at 3:59 am

Thanks John (and Ryan too) – really interesting.

My only Kindle experience was putting up a $5 book with the profits donated to charity, so I didn’t make anything in that case. Sales weren’t huge, but the Tsunami victims benefited by a few hundred bucks.

$7K per year on “autopilot” doesn’t sound bad. But from 12 books a month= 24 days per month it’s actually pretty awful. I suppose it depends on the life of the books. If they continue to earn the same revenue for a few years, it looks better – but still not great. And that’s a lot of books to write.

I must admit, I don’t know much about Amanda Hocking. Might be good to see an analysis of how those who make decent money on Kindle do it.

Cheers,

Ian

James Palmer November 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

Great experiment, guys. I’m glad more people are actively trying to figure out what can be done with Kindle ebooks.

Here’s a few more things to keep in mind.

Amanda Hocking made her money writing fiction, specifically urban fantasy, which is smoking hot right now. Trying to look at what she’s doing and applying it to nonfiction is like apples and oranges. You won’t come up with anything replicable.

I’m dubious as to what kind of cover you got for $5, but with nonfiction it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You’re wise to spend some money on it to get the best ebook possible, but you’re not going to recoup your money right away. That’s OK. Ebooks have unlimited shelf space and unliimited shelf life. Provided you have an evergreen topic, forever is a long time to find readers and make sales.

Have you considered Kindle articles, aka Kindle Singles? These are shorter pieces you can sell for 99 cents to $2.99 or more, and aren’t as long as ebooks. (Look up Kate Harper in the Kindle store for a great ebook on how to do this). I created two, did the covers myself in Photoshop using free photos, and put them up in a few minutes. I’ve sold two copies of one of them, and didn’t make a whole lot, but they’re up there forever and I’m going to add more, as well as some fiction.

Again, great stuff. Keep putting ebooks out there and let us know how it goes!

Ryan M. Healy November 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I just read my first “Kindle Single”: Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer. It was a brilliant read. Very well done.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Cups-Deceit-Humanitarian-ebook/dp/B004XHVOW4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322084897&sr=1-1

I’ve got 400 articles on this blog alone. I’ve heard it’s better to put out shorter Kindle books — each one focused on a specific subject — than a more comprehensive work.

This seems to make good sense — at least for a business blogger like me.

Gogo November 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm

@James,

Actually the book cover wasn’t bad at all in my opinion. You can take a look at it here – http://www.amazon.com/Bend-Like-Bieber-Discovered-ebook/dp/B0063HO9EM

And since I actually bought the kindle book, the content was also quite good.

Gogo

John Breese November 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Cheers Gogo!

John Breese November 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I do agree with Ian that the work/profit ratio not exactly being desirable, but it’s just an example of trying for something better and coming up with some form of compensation for the time invested.

I guess it would also have to depend on how systematic you are with writing.

What’s great about this look into Kindle is that I’ve discovered many systems and I will be tinkering with some of them and you can be sure I’ll be very happy to share the results.

As for our niche, given that we largely deal in marketing/business info products, the Kindle exercise would really be more about generating buzz and traffic than striving for profit.

A lot of us have large back-catalogs of content that we can re-package and use to breathe new promotional life (on auto-pilot) into our enterprises…while also giving us some burger money on the side. Stop me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that a better deal than PPC?

I also believe that some non-fiction subjects can be very potent. For instance, a recent title on the subject treating ADHD by natural means has been doing very well since launching two weeks ago it’s been holding steady at the 9K mark in the rankings.

Though I do agree with what James wrote that comparing the potential of popular urban fiction to non-fiction is a case of apples and oranges.

Oh, just thought I’d throw this in since not everyone’s familiar with the exploits of Amanda Hocking and other Kindle success stories:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2011/03/amanda-hocking-and-99-cent-kindle.html

Definitely will look into Kindle Singles in the near future.

Ryan M. Healy November 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm

John – That’s a great article you shared. James Patterson made $70 million in a year? Are you kidding me???

Anyway, definitely puts some perspective on the whole Kindle publishing phenomenon. From my vantage point, anybody who gets into the Kindle market in the next year is still an early mover.

Stephen J Barrett November 24, 2011 at 1:23 am

Hi Ryan and John

A great little experiment – well done. I have a 60-odd page book about to launch in the next few days, and it’s the perfectionist in me keeps tweaking it. My graphics cost approx $90NZ, but they did a great job and will make any adjustments I like. I write, they design.

It’s worth mentioning that one can edit or replace both the graphics and text once you have feedback, find typos, add chapters, etc. Just call it V1, V2, V3, etc, and new customers get the ned edition.

Although I’m a reasonably good writer, it still took some time to create a conversational style appropriate to my topic. I think it’s worth adopting or creating a different voice for each topic/niche, because people think and read differently.

If you can tap into the way they think, eg new Mums or mechanics or mystery readers or whomever, then you can write in that same or similar style, and it’ll match their thinking when they’re reading your book. It’s like you match your writing style to their thinking style – what it actually sounds like in their head as they’re reading.

You can test this out by saying it out loud, and getting live feedback from friends as to whether the ‘voice’ is authentic. If it’s not, then the voice people hear in their head won’t ring true. (Try it with an economics text LOL) If it is, then it’ll resonate with them, and they’ll engage with your content because the voice barrier isn’t there. A bit psychological, but it works :)

I know this is a different view from those who say we should be authentic, be ourselves, etc, but if we only project an authentic ‘us’, then readers will only get us and not the content.

Here’s an example: I don’t watch many movies, but when I happen to see Tom Cruise in a movie, I always seem to see him and not his character. To me, he overacts so he intrudes on every scene. He doesn’t seem to relate to his character, nor to the people who relate to his character. The proof of this is that some folk rave about him as an actor, but never about the characters he plays.

For me, writing is pretty much the same.

All the best

Stephen

Ian Brodie November 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Thanks for that link guys.

You just reminded me of another way of looking at it.

Earlier this year I interviewed Greg Alexander who’s the CEO of Sales Benchmark Index (I’ve been interviewing well known experts on how they established themselves as leaders in their field – did a great one with Drayton Bird too).

We were talkign about using publishing to position yourself in the marketplace and Greg metioned that he actually did a survey amongst his CEO clients and asked them how they found the experts in any given field. Their answer was interesting.

They didn’t search on Google – they searched on Amazon. However, they didn’t make any differentiation between people who’d published via a well known publishing house and those that had just popped a Kindle ebook up there.

So after 2 hardback business books, he said he was going to focus on Kindle books just to keep his name in front of target CEOs for the right keywords.

Interesting.

(If you want to hear the interview with Greg it’s at http://www.ianbrodie.com/authority-marketing-podcast/greg-alexander-interview/)

Cheers,

Ian

John Breese November 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Ian,

Thank you so much for that link, and I’ll also be giving the interview with Mr. Bird a listen tomorrow.

Regarding getting searched out on Amazon, I do admit that I search out new sources of information there first as well.

John Breese November 30, 2011 at 5:34 am

Given that Tim Ferris of 4 Hour Work Week fame has a far larger profile than I do, I thought it valid to post a link to his own Kindle marketing experiment: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2011/11/29/the-4-hour-chef-the-first-kindle-fire-book-teaser/

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