How to sell a book on Amazon

While I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember, I haven’t ever been able to figure out what the topic and content should be. Assuming my first book would have to be a bestseller, I waited until that great idea came to me.

Instead of waiting any longer, I decided to use a trip to create my first book.

In December 2019, I headed down to Phoenix, Arizona to watch the Cleveland Browns play the Arizona Cardinals. Since I was getting in a little early and I tend to be good at finding fun and interesting spots in new places, and I was bringing my camera gear with me, I thought I’d use the time to build that first book – a travel/photo guide for folks visiting Phoenix without a lot of free time.

Read on for a structured guide to creating and selling your book on Amazon (and other sites). And please think about purchasing my book to help support additional content.

PLANNING

Before I travel, I tend to spend a few hours looking through the Foursquare/Swarm apps in the locations I’m traveling to. I’ll locate my hotel or wherever I’m staying and then start looking around to see what’s in the area. I’ll do my best to keep everything within walking distance although if there’s something super-interesting, I’ll hop in an Uber or use local transportation to get there.

Once I find all the spots I’m interested in, usually grouped around breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’ll then add those locations to my calendar with addresses and assumed walking times. Once those are all in the calendar, I’ll use a map tool (I’m partial to Apple Maps, however any in-app map will do) to find spots around those areas:

  • Coffee shops near breakfast

  • Art installations and breweries near lunch

  • Stores near dinner

  • A bar (more likely a speakeasy or a local dive bar) after dinner

Before heading out, I’ll stuff my backpack full of batteries, memory cards, lenses, waters and snacks.

GO TIME

The great thing about being in a new place is seeing everything for the first time. Walking from place to place gives me the opportunity to see more new things than if I was to Uber to each new spot. With my phone (and watch), I set out for my first stop (coffee/breakfast) taking pictures along the way.

When I get to my first location, I’ll take a few pictures of my surrounding area then begin jotting down my notes from the walk. I’ll repeat this throughout the day, except if I’m heading out after dinner. (I normally don’t visit fancy dinner places when I’m traveling on my own, so bringing my camera doesn’t create too much of an issue. If it does, I’ll just tuck it into my backpack.)

When I get back to the hotel, I’ll transfer the day’s photos onto my device (usually my iPad) then let it upload to the cloud overnight. With my notes saved to the cloud, I have less to worry about when it comes to losing my day’s activities.

With that, I have the foundation of what I thought would be a fun book project and maybe even something I could offer to others looking to visit Phoenix.



PRODUCTION

In my experience, the production phase needs to happen as soon as I start making my way back home. I don’t want to lose any of the experience or emotion that came with the past few days. Once I get home, I’ll be in a good spot to quickly put the final touches on the project.

I used the Pages app on the Mac and iPad to build the electronic and paperback versions of the book. I also tried using Blurb, which is great, however I felt the price was too expensive and visibility wasn’t as great as with Amazon.

Once the electronic version of the book was ready, I created accounts for the iBook and Kindle bookstores, then uploaded the files to both stores. I say this as if it was an easy process – it’s not. It took me awhile to build and submit the Kindle version then a little while longer for it to be approved. The iBook store was a cinch.

Next came the paperback version. This took even longer and I’m not sure I’m 100% thrilled with the outcome. It took me awhile to decide to even create a paperback book. My thinking is if it’s a quick trip, the less stuff on your person the better. With an electronic version, folks can just download it (see below) and have it with them. What’s nice with the paperback version is that you can take notes as you visit the locations. Still, I assume most folks will use the electronic version.

SELLING

I’m still at the beginning stages of the selling process so I’ll plan an update after a few weeks. Here’s how I’m currently selling my first book:

  • My website: This is where I’d want the majority of folks to learn and acquire my book. Why? It’s a good experience for you and you have more flexibility with the book since it’s a PDF file. For me, I own this site (for the most part), I don’t have additional cuts taken from different parties, I have access to data and behavior and ultimately, I have the opportunity to build a direct relationship with my customers.

  • Square: I’ve helped other folks get set up and running on Square, however I haven’t had the opportunity to use it myself. I’m not sure how or where I’ll use Square, however I’m glad I have an opportunity to test it before I need to use it.

  • Apple: I’m a big fan of iBooks since it syncs across all my devices. The setup here was pretty easy since I already had an iTunes account.

  • Amazon: This will likely get the most sales since, you know, it’s Amazon. I have both the Kindle version and a paperback version selling through Amazon. So far, my website is leading the pack in sales, however I can’t think that will last long.

  • Advertising: I’m advertising for the first time on Amazon. I’m super-curious to see its impact on awareness and sales. I’m also advertising on Facebook and Instagram through Mailchimp. I’m excited to see how these ads perform.

  • Publishing: Articles like this along with ongoing social media posts and potentially working with other like-minded sites with larger audiences. Oh, I have a growing email list, too – that might be helpful.

NEXT STEPS

While it’s been six months since I visited Phoenix, the book was only published as a PDF to this site last week. This weekend, I’ll continue working on publishing the paperback version to Amazon along with building and placing new advertising assets.

I’ll continue revieiwing the ads that are currently in-market and make adjustments as I learn their effectiveness. Right now, I have my social ads focused on specific geos, and the Amazon ads are really targeted (my first time – I’m being cautious with the initial spend).

Over the next few days, I’ll record an audio version of this book and post to my website, Amazon and Apple, then film a how-to. Keep an eye out for those here (or, subscribe to my email newsletter and I’ll send you an update when they are available).

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Jamie Larson
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