Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Writing eBooks that Sell

I will freely admit that I don't really have a clue how to do this — nor does anyone else, if they are completely honest. There's more than a bit of magic and social dynamics involved. Obviously you have to write and then edit your book to the highest quality. If writing a novel the plotline and the characters have to be engaging. If writing non-fiction you have to be authoritative, but you also have to engage with your readership. Don't be aloof or preachy.

But as to the subject matter that really engages with customers... that is a whole other matter. My first eBook, the Guide to Spices and Their Uses was written more out of love than anything else. It ended up being a big book, covering 88 spices, with over 800 recipes that weighed-in at over 1000 pages. A big book by anyone's definition. And though it's making sales, it's not a blockbuster by anyone's definition.

I wrote a book of Christmas recipes just before Christmas and this sold well over the Christmas period, but then languished in the doldrums. Then I actually had to earn a living and  put the writing and publishing aside for a while. Early this year I got back into the writing and put together a book of Welsh legends. Partly tales I had heard growing up, but also tales that I had translated or put together from literary sources. This led to Welsh legends and folk-tales book being published on Amazon as a Kindle book.

For this eBook, I put into practice what I wrote about in my post: Amazon's KDP Select — Is it for You? I set up two batches of free offers, where the book was free, tweeted about it, wrote about it on my Amazon author page and put banners on the Celtnet Celtic section of my website. This really drove downloads up and there was an amazing weekend of downloading. Page rank jumped and it's remained fairly steady since. All the while I was putting the URLs for the Welsh Legends and Folk-tales on Amazon and the Welsh Legends and Folk-tales on on the web wherever I could.... advertising, advertising, advertising!

Buoyed by this campaign I saw just how important certain subjects could be. So I wondered... could I repeat this success with a cookery book (which is my main passion). I had just managed to get hold of a book of Anglo-Indian recipes and I'd been working on a series of restaurant-derived curry recipes. Now, curries have always been a passion of mine and I had curry and curry-like recipes collected from around the world. So I came up with the idea for The Big Book of Curry Recipes.

The book presents curry recipes from the Indian sub-Continent, showcasing traditional curries from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, along with the drinks, side-dishes, snacks, breads and accompaniments, pickles and relishes typically served with curries.

Then I wrote chapters covering the curries of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Britain showing how curries had come to those various regions and giving example recipes. In all, the book had over 900 recipes, with a chapter on curry restaurant style curries.

It turned out to be a BIG book, and as usual I did my marketing on it and asked a friend to write a Review of the Big Book of Curry Recipes. I published the URLs to the book page on and (The Big Book of Curry Recipes on Amazon and The Big Book of Curry Recipes on wherever I could. Then I put the links and the Amazon ad on all the curry-based recipes on my website.  
After that I set-up a two weekends on Amazon where the book would be available for free. Then I advertised via twitter and via banners on my site that the free weekends were coming. This time the response was a little more muted than I thought it might at first be... But the purchases and even borrows via KDP started to climb.

This book is now by far my best seller and I'm even getting really good reviews. This book has struck gold in terms of a book that not only delivers in terms of quality but also gives people something that they are looking for. And that magic is what every author is looking for.

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