Starting From Zero • Resources Page

Hello! These are all the course resources I mentioned in Starting From Zero.

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And if you stumbled onto this page without enrolling in my free course, Starting from Zero, you can do that right here.

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Free Course Books

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You have download links in the course materials, and you should also get an email a couple of days after enrolling, with those download links as well. But just in case you miss those, here they are again.

Download Let’s Get Digital here.

Download Following here.

Let’s Get Digital is freely available from all retailers and you’ll get the links you need above, but Following is a mailing list/course exclusive, and you can only get it from BookFunnel. Click the NEED HELP? link in the top-right of the BookFunnel download page if you are having trouble getting it onto your device.

I strongly recommend downloading the two books. I will refer to both throughout, and you will need to refer to them to complete the course tasks. It will be very difficult for you to get the full benefit of this course without them.

Resources

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Here is every single resource mentioned in Starting From Zero, roughly following the order they are mentioned in the course (affiliate links throughout).

Browsers to Buyers

After showing you how to survey of your niche on Amazon, and then how to assess your presentation to make sure it fits, I mentioned that it is possible to add up to ten categories to your books now.

Just remember that covers Book (i.e. paperback) categories as well as Kindle ones, and keeping things relevant is more important than maxing our your total. Better to have less, than add places you don’t fit.

You can estimate how many sales it needs to hit a certain Sales Rank on Amazon – and thus estimate how competitive a potential category is – by consulting this free Sales Rank calculator on Kindlepreneur.

The process of adding categories is super boring, but extremely important and you only have to do it once. You can only pick two categories on upload, so pick the two most important, and then use this process below to get a total of ten categories on your book. You can do this via Author Central or KDP, and I’ve outlined the steps for each.

via Author Central

  • Identify the full category path for each of your preferred sub-categories. By this I mean actually write out Kindle eBooks > Mysteries, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political for each of your target categories, rather than just Political Thrillers – you will need this in a moment.
  • If you have an Amazon Author Central account, and you should, then go to Amazon Author Central Help here (or look for it in the top right of the nav bar in Author Central). If you don’t have an Amazon Author Central account, then scroll down below to see the process for adding categories via KDP Support.
  • Click the Contact Us Button on the left-hand side of that help page.
  • Select “My Books” from the dropdown, then “Update Information About A Book,” then “Browse Categories,” and, finally, “I want to update my book’s browse categories.”
  • Note: ignore the help pages which Author Central links to at this point, they are out of date, and incorrectly say that Amazon only allows 2 categories. They now allow up to 10.
  • Underneath that, select Email or Phone – whichever is your preference. I personally prefer email as I can update categories on all my books at once, and it’s easier than reading out the category path on the phone, but I’ve also done it by phone and that works well – it’s faster, in fact.
  • If you select Phone, have your list of chosen categories ready – with the full category path or they won’t add them for you. If you select Email, paste those full category paths into the box, along with the ASIN number of the respective book you are talking about.

Note: this process will only update categories for you in the US market. For other important markets for you (like the UK), you can add those via this process also, but you will need to specifically indicate in the email to Author Central (or in the phone call) that you also want to add categories for other markets. And you will need the specific full category path for those markets too as the Kindle Store is broken down a little differently in each country.

via KDP Support

I personally find the customer service at Author Central far superior, but I’ll detail the process for doing this via KDP also, just in case. It’s pretty similar.

  • Identify the full category path for each of your preferred sub-categories. By this I mean actually write out Kindle eBooks > Mysteries, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political for each of your target categories, rather than just Political Thrillers – you will need this in a moment.
  • Log in to your KDP account. Click the Help link in the top right, then the Contact Us button in the bottom left of that page (they don’t make it so easy to find). This is the direct link, if you can’t find it.
  • Underneath “How Can We Help?” select the first option “Amazon product page” and then “Update Amazon Categories” right underneath.
  • An email template will appear. Add in the ASIN for your book, and then the full category path for each category you want added.
  • Ignore the section on removing categories.
  • Repeat this for each desired international market (do the UK at minimum, but check the full category paths for those stores also – they are different).
  • Click Send message, and Amazon should sort this out for you in a couple of days. Note: depending on where you are in the world and what time of day it is, you may have the option of doing this by phone – it doesn’t matter which way you do it. Phone tends to be faster, but don’t expect the changes to be instant. They might still take a day or two to process fully.
  • Those categories tend to take effect reasonably quickly, but as with anything Amazon, glitches can delay things, as can any customer service response time etc. It’s a bit of a pain, but you only have to do it once, and the benefits just keep accruing.

Just remember the most important thing: always keep it relevant. And if you need a recap on why categories are so important, how choosing the right ones can trigger Amazon recommendations, and how bad choices can really hurt you, then I strongly recommend this uber-detailed guide to categories on my blog.

amazon book category hacks with all your tips for amazon category, amazon categories, amazon book category, amazon book categories, kindle categories, metadata, optimizing metadata, choosing categories, ebook categories, kdp

Build Your Platform

Remember, capturing readers is easy to do with the right architecture in place. It’s nearly impossible without it.

I’ll repeat your To Do list so you have it handy:

  1. Buy your domain from Namecheap.
  2. Get a hosting package from Siteground.
  3. Go with WordPress for your CMS.
  4. Install a flexible, responsive, professional WordPress theme like Divi.
  5. Join MailerLite and start installing your forms on your site and building your welcome sequences.
  6. Use BookFunnel to deliver your Reader Magnet
  7. Deploy your new Content Marketing skills to plan out content for your list.
  8. Start a Facebook Page and make it pretty.
  9. Post content to Facebook regularly to grow your Page.
  10. Hook everything up together and start cross-pollinating.

Content Marketing

I recommend boning up on basic content marketing best practices, so that you can engage readers cleverly via your mailing list and Facebook Page. This blog post serves as a handy introduction to the topic.

Content Marketing 101 For Authors

Joanna Penn is an expert content marketer, as well as an author, and covers the topic regularly on her blog, such as here.

How To Sell Books

To make sure you have enough reviews on your book before you plan your first proper promo, follow this quick tutorial from my YouTube channel.

And then when you are ready to start booking deal sites for your first promo, I have the perfect resource to help you find the best options: my 2021 Guide to the Best Book Promo Sites.

These are my personal recommendations and this list is 100% up to date, containing the very best sites for freebies, discounts, series promos, genre specialists, and listbuilders.

these are the very best book promo sites in 2021 - a curated selection of deal sites and reader sites for those wondering how to promote a book

Grow Your Author Business

Remember what I said in the course: don’t be intimidated by this list of resources. I don’t recommend trying to get good at all of this stuff at once. Take it step by step, and nail down the course basics first before even considering these more advanced tools.

General Advertising

Before we get into specific platforms, some general help. This post will teach you about Comp Authors and why determining yours is critical to succeeding on any ad platform.

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And then here is my guide to the concept of reader targeting.

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For platforms like Facebook and BookBub Ads you will need to create your own ad assets (or hire someone to do it for you – but that’s not as easy as it sounds). I think spending some time to learn a (free) tool like Canva is a great investment.

12 Free Design Tools for Authors

In fact, my list of recommended design tools for authors are all free, and I even have some free tutorials on my YouTube channel to get you started too. Like this one:

Amazon Ads

My favorite resource – by a mile – is Robert J. Ryan’s excellent guide book Amazon Ads Unleashed. Next on my list to try is another guide book, one highly rated by lots of people who know their onions, and that’s Deb Potter’s Amazon Ads for Authors.

Along with myself, both of those authors are members of this Facebook Group, which was founded to cover Amazon Ads, but has since expanded to cover Facebook Ads also. Lots and lots of great info in there.

And then this free course from Reedsy is good for the basics.

Facebook Ads

The Email Archive is your first port-of-call here, particularly the ongoing, free series on Facebook I’m doing with my list – we’re up to something like 12 parts now and just getting going.

For more advanced users, Jon Loomer is the best resource I’ve found, although keep in mind he’s a general marketer, not book-specific.

BookBub Ads

I wrote the book on BookBub Ads – literally. I also made a free ten-part course for Reedsy.

And then outside The Wonderful World of Me, BookBub has a pretty stellar set of resources.

How Amazon Works

My blog covers the topic of Amazon a lot. Start here. But even better than that is a brand new book I have just released! It’s called Amazon Decoded and I think you will like it. It’s available now from all retailers.

Amazon Decoded promo graphic

Email Marketing

Newsletter Ninja is the bomb. Read it and do everything she says, and you will be an email whizz in no time. Seriously. I’m living proof that the leakiest of ships can be turned around.

Note: I was happy to share my welcome emails on-screen in the course (Lesson 3.4 if you missed it), but please don’t sign up to my historical fiction mailing list to see how I run it. I’ve already shown you the content I share, signing up to my fiction list hurts me in several different ways so I’d really appreciate it if you don’t do that.

If you need more help with email, I’ve also written some posts on my blog which will serve as a good introduction to the possibilities with emaill marketing. Like this one.

email marketing blog post header

Questions

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Pop your questions on Starting From Zero in the box below. I’ll get a ping right away, and answer you once I’m finished juggling these chainsaws. If you genuinely do need to ask me something privately, you can do that here, but asking below is a lot quicker.

And if you need something to chew on while you wait, have a nose around my blog – which is filled with useful stuff!

Please also feel free to suggest anything that you think is missing from this page, or indeed the course itself. Feedback is always valued!

227 Replies to “Starting From Zero • Resources Page”

  1. Hi David,

    Working on my first novel (novella is already done and on bookfunnel). In listening to your tactics, I was thinking that perhaps I offer to my list holders (however many there are at that point) the chance to get that first novel at say 99c, for 2-3 days before I relist the book at full price. It’s an LGBTQIIA+ New Age/College Romance book, so I’m not sure if the tactic works for the genre, but I want to build good will amongst my followers.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  2. Hi David. Thanks for a great course.
    I published Book 1 a couple of years ago, then pulled back because I decided I needed to write a couple more before I spent any more money on marketing.

    Glad to see you recommend that!

    Question – now I have Books 2 and 3 in a series nearly ready to release, should I published them at the same time and follow your 3-Book Plan, or publish Book 2 first, try and build up more of an audience with the 2-Book Plan, then publish Book 3 a couple of months later?

    Many thanks,
    Piers

    1. I’m just rushing out the door for the day but feel free to come back to me on this. If I was in your shoes I’d be tempted to publish book two and book three a month apart, do a softer launch for book two and get my head around marketing again, and then do a more aggressive push for book three. I’m torn on whether putting up a pre-order for book three when book two launches is a good idea or not – you could argue both sides convincingly IMHO.

  3. Hi David

    I notice on your excellent Starting From Zero course there’s apparently less avenues for YA or Middle Grade authors.

    I see BookBub have a tick box for it but even so it seems the support is considerably less with deal sites. Do you come to the same conclusion?

    MG particularly is focussed more on parents I would imagine rather than the children marketed to – so an extra layer to get through to a child aged 7-12! YA 13-18 I would imagine holds more promise.

    I’m particularly interested in horror stories for children – rather like R.L. Stine (though of course he’s traditionally published).

    Are you aware of any resources or books/courses that focus on these two areas?

    Many thanks for all your excellent help with us beginners!
    JJ

  4. I have 3 books with large traditional publishing houses. 1 of them I no longer participate in the profits. All are fairly popular. I have another two books that are available for self-publishing. How would you suggest I configure my marketing plan to accommodate this diverse group? The books are all biographies, except one, an auto-biography. Thanks. See jimproser.com to see the books.

  5. Hi David

    Have you heart of author.mail from authors Nick Thacker and Kevin Tumlinson? It’s currently in beta and basically they’ve set up a mailing list website you can use to build your mailing list for only $10 a month period, regardless how big your mailing list is or becomes. Their USP is NOT offering a tiered system to ‘penalise’ you for becoming more successful and growing your mailing list.

    It seems amazingly good value and they are genuine authors themselves. Perhaps something to use alongside your no.1 recommended mailing list management site?

    Thanks
    JJ

    1. Hi JJ, I have taken a look at author.email and it is interesting. I do mention it in “Following” as a possible alternative for those with large lists looking for a very cheap provider and who are willing to forego some of the features available at the other companies I recommend. But I don’t use it personally and mostly stick to recommending tools I personally use – and that also allows me to give people more hands-on advice with them!

  6. Hi David,

    Absolutely loved your course. So much useful and relevant information. Thank you!

    Do you happen to know any deal sites for paperbacks, in particular Children’s Picture Books? The eBook version doesn’t really resonate with most readers and 95% of sales for me are paperbacks. However, because of this, struggle with launches and reviews.

    Any recommendations?

  7. Hi David, I am working with an author friend of mine. Is it acceptable to Amazon to use his access code to his KDP site to create a sponsored ad on his behalf? Thank you!

    1. Hi Sam, I don’t recommend giving your KDP log-in details to a third party, but there is a handy way to add someone to your Amazon Ads account now so they can log in and just run ads for you, but won’t have access to your private payment info etc. Should work nicely for what you intend, if you want to look into that.

  8. Hi David

    Really good course.
    Actually no, excellent.
    Actually no, BRILLIANT!

    I’m currently about 70% into your amazing course just doing a little every day. I read you basically don’t recommend marketing with just a single book as ‘there’s nothing to go to’ after. It makes total sense.

    HOWEVER…

    As I’m going to be publishing my very first novel later this year, I’m going to start as I mean to go on, at least in one area.

    As well as creating an ebook I could either :

    – Also produce an audio book of my novel.
    – Or a German translation (Apparently it’s possible now to create a pretty decent AI translation of a book which can then be given to a human translator to fix and the costs won’t be the $1000s of a from-scratch translation.)

    Do you think either option is viable considering it’s my first book?

    It seems to me at some point I intend to do that anyway and it’s a kind of marketing as it grows the possibility of discoverability as I could, say, use KU as well as wide with the other options. (Not sure if I can be wide with a translation if I’m on KU with English version though).

    What’re your thoughts?

    Many thanks
    JJ

    1. Save the money. Wait and see if the book is successful enough to justify producing audio or translations. Production costs/hassle/time aside, both of those things are very difficult to market and you really need to be able to attack those markets with multiple titles to make it work.

      So, wait. The money will probably be far better spent on marketing the ebook, and that will have a far higher chance of generating a more immediate return for you.

      My extremely strong recommendation is to totally stay away from translations or audio until you have several books published and you have learned the marketing ropes. And, even then, you should only consider it for titles which have proven themselves to be commercially viable enough to justify it.

      Money and difficulty aside, producing those things will take far more of your time than you realise right now and your time is absolutely better spent working on the next book.

  9. When I went to set up my Author page on Amazon it required me to have a book uploaded there already. Is this right? I haven’t uploaded yet as I want to be a bit more informed of the process. Also what is ASIN

  10. I have prepared a short video trailer I wish to be shown on my Amazon sponsored ad. How do I do this? Thank you so much!

  11. Wow, David—this course is blowing my mind! You are so generous to share all of your hard earned expertise. And thanks for the laughs, as well!

    I just released my second stand alone (psych thriller) and realized after this course that I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But, I’m determined to right them!

    I’m preparing for a BookBub Featured Deal for the new stand alone (KU) which will be free for 5 days. (My other stand alone is wide.) I don’t know where to stack promos around this BookBub. Before it, after it, or have the BB in the middle on day 3? Do I also do BB ads? If so, when? (I’ve done some testing but have not succeeded in finding the “golden” ad yet—I’ve devoured BookBub Ads Expert and but shifting gears to prepare for the BB.)

    And last question: Do I keep the first stand alone (a NYT and USAT bestseller) at the full price of $4.99? This book is wide.

    Thank you so much for your help!

  12. Hi David, thank you for the amazing free information you provide! Your way of presenting is great, clear, at point, and also pleasant to listen to.
    I finished the course and I am trying to build a launch plan following your advice. I am writing non-fiction and it’s my first book. I’ll probably sign up for Kindle Unlimited. The average price in my category is over $4.99 and since it’s my first book I rather not offering it for free or 0.99. But since it’s tough to launch a first and stand-alone book, I have the idea of using a well made summary of the book (5500 words, own cover, images) as a permafree and offering it to the promotional sites in order to upsell the main book. I could also discount the main book but maybe not below $2.99.

    I would love to know your opinion on this. Can it work? Do you have any recommendations?

    Thanks again,
    Adriana

    1. I actually have another question I couldn’t find an answer too : )

      My book needs images to explain the content. But it’s not clear for me how to have small-sized images for the eBook (to not pay high Amazon delivery fees) and high-resolution images for the paperback without having to format the book twice. Do you know how to handle this? Or what dimensions (file size & pixels) would be appropriate to have good quality images for both ebook and paperback?
      Do you recommend PNG – transparent background (I avoided them because the file sizes are bigger)?

      Thank you!

  13. Hi David,

    The course has been tremendously helpful! One place where I am still somewhat stuck is in getting reviews. I released the first book in a historical mystery series (wide) the last week of March. At that point, my Facebook page and newsletter mailing list consisted of friends and acquaintances so, I didn’t do ARCs since I didn’t want to have problems with Amazon. Now, I’m releasing the second book in the series the last week of this month (the third around August 1st and the fourth in late October).

    My mailing list is currently at 300–well beyond friends only. Do you recommend sending an email out and asking for 20 reviewers? I know I need to include some verbiage about honest reviews, etc. I’m afraid friends and acquaintance will be among the first to respond. I’m thinking I could only send ARCs to subscribers who I don’t know or even limit the review email to them. I’d appreciate any additional input on this topic since I have very few reviews on the first book.

    Thanks!
    Debbie

  14. Like so many others here, I’ve found your course to be absolutely invaluable! Seriously, I’m embarrassed to think about what I had planned for my book launch before I found this course.

    Anywho, quick question regarding paperbook/eBook launch timings.

    I’ve heard from a couple of other indie authors that it’s a good tactic to release your paperback a few weeks or so earlier than the eBook. The idea being that all of those reviews you’ve scooped up via ARCs can get added to your Amazon page and are therefore in place, day one when the eBook launches.

    Is this a good tactic? Does having the paperback sitting there and likely not selling all that well anger the Amazon Algorithm Gods in some way?

    1. It’s not something I bother with personally – it’s pretty easy to get your ARC team to post your reviews on launch day, you just email them. And it’s a nice excuse to email them on launch day, which can have other benefits too, like them sharing news about the launch etc.

      I just send them the book in advance, and then prompt them to write the review in advance so they are ready to post it when they hear from me on launch day. Works pretty well without all that extra faffing about with the paperback.

      But you can do it if you wish, I wouldn’t be so concerned about algorithms or anything like that with the paperback editions.

  15. Thank you for the free course!

    Question about the categories:

    Is “Books>SciFi/Fantasy>Fantasy>Epic Fantasy” different from “Kindle ebooks>SciFi/Fantasy>Fantasy>Epic Fantasy” ??

    OR perhaps a paperback and ebook are considered two separate products by Amazon, and thus categories will be completely different? Just a bit fuzzy on that. I have been doing category pathways by writing down what I click on in the Amazon store to find my niche, but perhaps that is wrong?

    Your content is VERY valuable by the way, I aim to some day have valuable content to offer my platform. I have been focusing on giving them free short stories and the like, so as I get more time to write I think that will improve. 🙂

  16. QUESTION REGARDING SUB CATEGORIES
    Hi David, I am currently doing your course and am just at the section about updating categories and sub categories. I don’t yet have a book out so don’t have an Author Central account (but I’m planning on getting one). My question: How do I identify the complete pathway for each of my sub categories? My book is a young adult environmental dystopian fantasy, so it might be something like Kindle Ebooks > Fantasy, Science Fiction and Dystopia > Dystopia > Environmental (or something) but I don’t know how to find out what the exact Amazon categories are. Is there a specific way I can do this? Thanks in advance.

  17. David-To thank you in a tangible way I’m using your affiliate links to buy stuff as I move along this path.
    Question about asking for reviews at the end of the book: Do you suggest adding links to all the possible review sites or just stick with one?

    1. Direct links definitely help but there’s a big trade-off here. I think it starts to look messy if you put too many in – and there’s also the danger of people just glazing over and not doing it at all. It’s the same consideration with your end matter generally: if you ask for one thing, the chances are quite good readers will do it. If you ask for ten things, that doesn’t increase the odds and can actually decrease the chances of readers doing anything. It’s about focusing their attention, not overwhelming them, and preventing them from disengaging.

      So the way I square that circle is this: I put in links for the US Kindle Store, and the UK Kindle Store, and leave it at that. Those are the two biggest markets by far, and I think the hardier readers in AU/CA etc. are quite used to not being served up direct links for things and having to go scavenging for themselves.

  18. Hi Dave,
    So based on your feedback, I am in the middle of my first three-book campaign (while also frantically trying to get Book 4 ready for a mid-year release). Aside from Facebook Ads messing me around like every other author on the planet and no chance at getting a BookBub ad yet, my promotional tools have mostly worked well, with nearly 2000 downloads and counting three days in. I have spotted a couple of problems though:
    – Firstly, I imagine that the huge number of downloads I have achieved this time are likely to be significantly less when I release the new novel in a few months, given that the Promo websites you recommend will still have mostly the same mailing lists in 3-4 months?
    – I have sold very few paid copies (only 27 of my 99c novel so far and 7 spillover into my third novel at $2.99), despite using the sites you recommended. That seems a very low conversion rate, given there have been 1800 downloads of my freebie. Perhaps my limited reviews have contributed, perhaps I got my timing wrong (I advertised the 99c book one day after the free book on each website) or perhaps there’s another reason. Would you recommend trying them on the same day next time, a few days apart or could I just be missing an obvious strategy? Any advice would be appreciated.
    – Bonus question: Should we all be moving away from Facebook ads? if so, what do you recommend, especially given BookBub Ads are so rarely approved for new authors?
    I’ve picked up on a few things I can do differently next time and am still hoping I have a shot at the halo effect, but in the end I’m expecting this campaign to operate at a loss. Hopefully it’s laying the groundwork for more success in the future.
    Thanks for your time.
    Tom

    1. Update from end of campaign:
      Over 3,000 free book downloads. (Great!)
      76 paid purchases across my other two books. (Disappointing)
      3 paid purchases since campaign… Halo effect looking unlikely. (Very sad)
      Unfortunately, free downloads trended down on the first four days, with the strongest day on Day 5. A little tweaking needed for the next campaign. (Learning experience)
      Hopefully I can at least get some reviews and new mailing list sign-ups over the next month or so. (Need to get something out of that financial pain, right?)

  19. Sláinte David!

    I have a second book coming out soon. I’m following your Book Two Launch Plan.
    Should I publish the second book as soon as I can on Amazon (and other sites–I’m going wide) and then request reviews? Or should I request reviews and then wait a week or a month and then publish on Amazon and wide.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Tabhair aire.

    Marjan

  20. Hey, David,
    Attempting an aggressive launch as you’ve laid out for my release at the end of the month. I do usually sell some paperbacks with each release – would you recommend discounting them alongside the ebooks for the week?

    Thanks! I keep talking up this course to everyone who will listen 😉

  21. Hi Dave,

    Watching section 4.5 where you’re discussing the promo with several other authors that didn’t quite work out as you hoped. Not sure if this is a weird question, but was this multi-author promotion done through Amazon? (i.e. did you folks promote it as a group on Amazon)? If so, would that have any influence on Amazon’s willingness to take over each author’s book promotion? Would you all have to sell well as a group for them to step in?

    Thanks,
    Alan

    1. Sorry for missing this question, Alan. The promotion was done on my site, which had links to all the various retailers (including Amazon). Amazon’s algorithms would make any determination with regard to recommending a book individually and wouldn’t factor in anything we are doing as a group – except when it comes to Also Boughts.

  22. I have recently published a murder mystery and it is my first book in this genre. My other book was more of a semi-autobiographical novel which, sadly, didn’t fit into any popular genre. So, my question is does it make sense for me to do book promo (or will they even accept me?) If I just have the one book? Also, charging $0 on Amazon is tricky so I would prefer a site that allows for a .$99 deal.

  23. Hi Dave

    Thanks so much for your time. At the moment I have a reader magnet and 2 books written all in a series. I’ve just started my third. Nothing published yet.

    Obviously you’re very pro launching at least 2 books, ideally 3. Generally I had understood it needed to be in Amazon kdp for 1 month before you can do a countdown deal.

    Would you therefore release book 1 week 1 at 3.99 or whatever. Book 2 week 4 (now you can do a countdown deal on book 1) and then release book 3 week 8? Now you can do free for book 1, 99 for book 2 and discount for book 3 (hike price up manually later)?

    Or are you advocating publishing all 3 on the same day? And manually setting those prices from the start? And hiking them all back up after your launch week?

    In the latter model aren’t you losing the advantage of Amazon pushing you as a new release across a longer time frame?

    Thanks

  24. Just finished the course, Dave. Many thanks. I am trying to adapt some of these strategies to my circumstances with the next launch. One question: If I launch Book 2 at 2.99 while subsequently running a .99 Countdown on Book 1, stacked with deal site ads, how do readers find the the newly launched Book 2 off the Countdown deal? When I search amazon for an author/book, I don’t necessarily see their other books (if they don’t happen to pop in also boughts), unless I go to their landing page. Thanks,

    1. P.S. Talking about standalones here, which I know are at a serious disadvantage– but do the same strategies work for them? At least to a degree? Thanks,

  25. Hi David,

    Appreciate the content as always. Quick question in regards to Also Boughts.

    Can people who advertise on your product page who aren’t related to your genre pollute your relevancy?

    Thanks!

    1. Probably best to answer this with an example. Let’s assume that Debbie Macomber is in the Also Boughts of Nora Roberts because they have an audience overlap – plenty of Debbie Macomber readers will read Nora Roberts, and vice versa. So Amazon will routinely recommend Debbie Macomber to Nora Roberts readers, and vice versa. And readers will generally respond positively to those recommendations, which will further strengthen that connection like a feedback loop.

      Now, let’s invent an author called Rhonda Romance, who is already selling well and wants to step up to the next level and is explicitly targeting Nora Roberts’ huge readership, and is bidding aggressively and advertising on various related keywords and all over her Amazon page.

      It is entirely conceivable that Rhonda Romance could start popping up in Nora Roberts’ Also Boughts, especially if Rhonda is correct in her belief that her books will appeal to Nora Roberts’ readers.

      But let’s invent another author Harry Horror. Harry is also selling well and believes he can break out of his genre and become the next Stephen King, so he starts targeting the biggest household names, and has many to burn. He is advertising on Nora Roberts’ pages and related terms.

      Is it possible that he could pop into her Also Boughts or otherwise tilt the recommendation engine in his favor so that Nora Roberts’ readers will start getting recommended his books?

      Well… it’s possible, but it would require very deep pockets and very aggressive advertising. And it’s highly unlikely to be sustainable, because what happens next in this scenario?

      Nora Roberts’ readers don’t respond to those recommendations for Harry Horror – most of them don’t even read horror. So Amazon will stop making those recommendations.

      So, in short, I wouldn’t worry about it. The actions of others don’t really affect you in this manner, and certainly not over the long term.

      What does matter is who you point your ads at, who you are marketing at, who is one your list, who likes your Facebook page.

      If you keep the traffic to your Amazon page nice and relevant, everything should be sweet and dandy.

      Problems only arise when YOU start targeting the wrong people, not when [whoever] targets you.

  26. Hi David, just finished ‘Let’s Get Digital’ for the second time – essential reading.

    On my website and at the end of my reader magnet, I have a button/link ready to take the reader to Amazon when the book is launched. Do I need TWO of these buttons/links everywhere – one for Amazon US, one for Amazon UK – or can I stick with Amazon US? It seems so messy to stick two buttons everywhere… but I don’t want my UK customers to get lost!

    I notice that you have two link reviews at the end of your books, so when it comes to the reviews I will make sure I include both links.

    Thanks,

    Ben

    1. There’s a neat solution for your website, at least. You will notice I use just one Amazon link everywhere on my site, but if you click on them you are magically redirected to your local Amazon store. Check out Amazon OneLink for that wizardry, which even inserts your affiliate link.

      It’s less neat in ebooks themselves, partly because Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in ebooks and can really freak out about them. So any geo-redirect like that is probably off the table because I think they all insert affiliate links (and will insert their own if you don’t put one in).

      So you have two choices, both imperfect.

      1. Put in links to the UK separately. Not a bad solution perhaps, but when your readership starts to grow in CA, AU etc., you have a new problem.

      2. Put in a link to your website instead, especially if it will have the Amazon OneLinks as above.

      You will likely lose a few readers whatever you do. Even if you put in a link to all 13 Kindle Stores, you’ll likely lose some because it’s messy looking.

      So… yeah. No perfect answer, and no one has come close to solving this in the ten years I’ve been self-publishing.

      Edit: just to add on the OneLink stuff – implementing it on your site is pretty technical and I had to get a WordPress expert to help. So not an “easy” solution, but definitely a neat one if you can get it implemented.

  27. Hi David
    I’m about to add additional categories to a book I launched in December, and I read in your Amazon Decoded book, there’s a link to check what categories the book is in right now- my question is where can I find that link?
    Thanks in advance – I’m loving your course
    Susan

  28. Hi. Great course! I’ve already begun to take much of your advice, including switching from Squarespace to WordPress (about to start the process) and Siteground seems amazing as a web host! However, as I work my way through, I get the feeling that many of the steps just don’t apply to Middle Grade (or eventually YA, I write both). Do you agree that mailing list building, readers magnets and the like just aren’t as effective for this hard-to-reach group? Just trying to figure out how much effort to put into those… Thanks!

    1. Hi Clay, YA is a little different in that the readers are older – and indeed a significant portion of the YA readership are adults aged 30-60+ – but when it comes to younger stuff, yes, marketing has to be handled a little differently. I strongly recommend that you read this guest post from a successful children’s author and, especially, check out the resources at the bottom of the post. She has a guidebook and a website with lots and lots of stuff worth looking at (and pay attention to the advice in the post as well – she knows her onions!)

  29. Thank you so much for this wonderful course. I have a lot of experience as a wide author even selling over a million books in the last 2 years, but I never knew any of these promo tactics! I’ve been relying so much on Facebook ads to push sales over my 5 year publishing career.

    I am starting a new female detective suspense/ thriller series pen name this summer. I have 5 books and a novella reader magnet and I’m trying to figure out the best way to launch into KU, something I’ve done very poorly a few years ago.

    I have went through your whole course and learned so much and I’m planning on doing the following.

    Book 1 – launch at 99 cents
    Book 2 – 2.99
    Book 3 – 3.99
    Book 4 – 4.99
    Book 5 – 4.99

    MY QUESTION:

    What is the best launch plan in terms of spacing out the books? Some authors in fantasy have told me that they always release book 1-3 in 1 month.

    Book 1 -> 1 week later Book 2 -> 2 weeks later Book 3
    21-28 days later Book 4 and 21-28 days later book 5

    The idea is to not fall off the 30 day cliff with each release and to have each book show up in New Releases category. Also, the first 3 books can show up in the New Release category at the same time.

    What do you think is the best release approach if you have 5 books ready to go? I am thinking of doing this over the summer since summers have always been the most lucrative for me.

    If I do release all 5 books within 3 months, what is the best way to do the deal sites promos?

  30. Hi David,

    Not a question – just have to send a massive THANK YOU for all that you do!

    I heard you on The Creative Penn podcast, signed up for the course, and am racing through your books. I’d been feeling aimless and overwhelmed, but now I’ve got focus and feel excited instead of confused.

    Thanks for your amazing generosity in sharing so much information on your website. It’s hard to know who to trust, but you make it easy. =)

    Can’t wait to learn more from you as I move forward on the next leg of my writing journey.
    -CCK

  31. Hi David, I just finished Starting from Zero – fantastic. Much to get working on, thanks so much.

    I’m launching my book on Kindle in April, and have booked in a couple of deal sites that first week to test them out ahead of releasing book 2 in November. I have a couple of questions, if you have the time:

    First, I’m pricing the book at $2.99, but will need to lower it to 99c for the deal sites. Can I run a Kindle Countdown Deal shortly/immediately after launch, thereby making the 99c a discount from the standard $2.99, or does it have to be $2.99 for a period of time before I can discount?

    Second, if my ‘launch’ (ie telling readers in my genre to go get it) is on Mon 5th, would you suggest uploading to Kindle a week earlier, so as to get the ASIN, sort out the links on the website, etc? (A secret earlier launch…)

    A tip: I read in one of your books to be wary that Kindle Countdown Deals do not run across the end of one Kindle Select term and the start of another. Thank you for this! I found the website https://www.timeanddate.com/date/dateadd.html really helpful: you can key in the date of your launch (ie the date you start your first Kindle Select term), and then repeatedly add 90 days to this. This helped me to plan future promos and launches, ensuring that they do not land on these crossover dates!

    Many thanks for all your support.

    1. Hi Ben, let’s see…

      You can’t run a Kindle Countdown Deal in the first 30 days of your KDP Select term, so you won’t be able to do that for a launch.

      You can run a manual discount, but then you are only getting 35% royalties instead of 70% – which might make the idea less attractive to you, I don’t know. The plus side is the deal will be available to readers globally, rather than restricted to the US/UK like a Countdown Deal.

      The easiest way to handle that logistically is just to launch at 99c and then bump the price up when your promo is done. REALLY IMPORTANT: just make absolutely sure you tick the 70% royalty box when you do raise that price.

      People make that mistake ALL THE TIME and Amazon doesn’t warn you and you will end up losing half your royalties for no good reason, and you might not even notice it for quite some time.

      Avoid that.

      If your launch is on the 5th, I’d personally upload everything on the 1st or 2nd. Murphy’s Law is always in effect with these things, meaning if you diligently upload a few days in advance, it will invariably go live on Amazon within a few hours. But when you are cutting it fine, that’s when there are always delays. And delays of 2-3 days are not that unusual, really. So build that slack into your process.

      1. Thank you David – that’s exactly what I’ll do. I have a number of readers who will be downloading from Singapore, so the manual 99c works well for me in that respect. Really appreciate it.

  32. Hey David,

    No questions right now, although I may have some later. I just wanted to thank you for your generosity in providing all of the incredible info for free. I love historical fiction so I’m going to go buy some of your books so I don’t feel guilty about all this free stuff! Which I guess is kind of the point fo providing free stuff. Anyway, thanks again for your time and the effort you put into this course. My genre is Christian non-fiction, so a little hard to write a series. My first book was self published in December and my next book will be out in April and hopefully the third book in June or July. then I can get serious about marketing!

  33. Hi David – well, I’ve now self-published my first book, and have found your Starting from Zero course and book Let’s Get Digital invaluable.

    It’s been out for about 5 days so far and generated 7 sales, mainly through me promoting it to a couple of Facebook groups I belong to. I even have a grand total of ONE review… it’s 5 stars, which is nice, but it’s only one!

    Maybe I’m just impatient, but I’m wondering if there’s anything I could do to keep some sort of momentum going while I write my second book. I’ve got the website, Facebook author page and mailing list ready to capture new fans.

    I understand the point you make about deals and promos being more cost effective when I have more than one book out, but I keep eyeing the options available under KDP Select (which I enrolled in to see if that’s helpful while I build my brand before going wider).

    I’m considering running a free promo or countdown deal on the ebook to coincide with the paperback release in a month or so, but do you have any thoughts about useful things I could be doing right now to improve the book’s visibility/discoverability?

    Thanks again
    Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew, I guarantee you that if you asked a dozen experienced self-publishers this question that they would all say: “focus on writing the next book.” And getting writers to agree on anything is a near-miracle…

      I understand the urge to do… something. But it’s an urge you should almost always fight. If you run a sale right after launching, that’s screwing over the few people who did support you during launch week – and it’s something readers can be understandably annoyed by.

      That said, if the second book isn’t going to be out for a while and you desperately want to generate some momentum and motivation, then your idea isn’t so bad of running some kind of promotion to line-up with the paperback launch.

      However, if you want my advice, I think the time and effort might be better spent doing something like crafting a welcome sequence for new subscribers, and then perhaps trying a list-builder promo from somewhere like BookSweeps.

      I know it can be a little disheartening when you launch a book and little happens, and the temptation can be to just start firing bullets in all directions. But I think it pays to be a little strategic here.

      Perhaps it might be a better idea to make some noise around the paperback launch, and then plan a promotion for one month further down the line, have your welcome sequence crafted and in place, maybe do a list-builer promotion in the interim, and then you’ll have some people on your list to share the sale with.

      Things can seem to move reaaaaaaaaally slowly at the start. I think I made $25 or something my first month, and less in the second! And then things started to move up a bit in the third month.

      I spent a lot of time spinning wheels and fretting – time which should have been spent writing.

  34. Hi David. You missed mine. Here is my post:

    Hi David,
    Thanks for putting this course together. I am getting that most intangible of benefits from it: hope that I can make a career out of my writing. I have just taken the risk of leaving my full-time paid employment to focus on writing full-time and have 1-2 years to make it happen!

    I have three questions. Firstly, I am based in Australia. Are there any variations to your advice that I should be aware of, given my location? One trend that is apparent in Australia is that eBooks have not taken off here and many prefer paperback – but I imagine my aim is to get a foothold in UK and US markets anyway.

    Secondly, I have just released my third novel (having done very little with regard to promotion thus far) and have only about 90 on my mailing list and 300 Facebook followers (along with 200 Instagram followers, though I recognise that is a less influential platform for readers.) Upon releasing the third novel a couple of weeks ago, I had only one sale of my book – admittedly, a genuine fan, but somehow that one sale isn’t paying the bills! Would you recommend I use the structured marketing plan you have outlined now (while trying to build loyalty and connection in my list etc.) or wait until Book 4? I feel I have a lot of untapped potential in those first three books.

    My final question is that I have friend who is a key influencer on Instagram through the Bookstagram group. Is it worthwhile enlisting her help in my promotions? She shares some books from my niche but does not do so exclusively.

    Thanks for the wisdom you have shared.
    Tom

    1. Hi Tom, I’m very sorry! I did actually reply to your message in great detail… and then broke something on my site when I was fiddling with something I shouldn’t, and then had to roll back to an older edition, which cast my reply into the ether.

      Let’s give it another go.

      1. Location is no barrier to successful self-publishing. I was in Sweden when I started in 2011, and I’m living in Portugal now, and inbetween I lived in London, Prague, and Dublin (and living in the epicenter of European publishing didn’t help very much either). There are a few quirks and annoyances when you aren’t based in the USA, as with many things surrounding internet companies, but you should be well used to that.

      I wouldn’t be so concerned about the relative percentage of ebooks in Australia. It’s growing everywhere at different speeds for different reasons, but it’s only going one direction – and I can’t see any reason why Australians would be less inclined towards ebooks (and plenty of reasons why they would be attracted to them – not least because of the high price of books in Australia).

      Besides, as you said, you will be aiming at a global market, and particularly the US/UK. The UK ebook market is several times bigger than the Australian one – even accounting for population difference – and then the US market is five or six times the size of the UK.

      There are plenty of readers out there who only read ebooks now – a huge chunk of the market now in the USA – and that number grows all the time, everywhere.

      Only Australia-specific things I can think of is to (a) look into things like Payoneer and Transferwise and so on so you don’t lose too much book income on exchange rates and (b) getting author copies of your paperbacks can be a pain. But nothing so bad.

      2. This really depends on when that Book 4 is coming out. If it’s in the next 2-ish months, I’d be tempted to wait. Longer than that, I’d probably put together a smaller promo now and a bigger one when Book 4 comes out. If it’s a very long time away, I’d just go for it now and aim to go bigger the next time. Certainly a good idea to expand that audience – especially the mailing list – before you next launch.

      3. Absolutely! But for maximum benefit for you, and for her, I’d recommend coordinating that with your own promotion – she gets to offer discounts to her audience, and you should see much improved results from whatever push she gives you. It’s a good idea to start booking promo sites 30 days out, so that gives you plenty of leeway to find a mutually suitable time with your friend.

  35. Hey, David!
    I’m using your launch plan as a guide for my new release in March – if I plan to release my book on a Tuesday and run a 5-day launch, It would run Tuesday through Saturday, correct? And if I do a kindle countdown deal as part of that, would you recommend starting that early, or letting it run longer than the launch plan?

    Also, I’ve emailed Amazon awhile ago to change my categories, and they just keep emailing me saying they are still working on it. Is there any way to kickstart them?

    1. If they are really dragging their feet you can try calling, but if it has only been a few days, I suggest waiting – they usually get to it in the end.

      As for Countdowns, I usually run them the full week, and don’t mess around with that price-stepping. It’s no big deal if a discount runs a little longer than you had planned and it might even help that book bed in at a slighter better rank, but you also have the option of extending your overall promo push to the week of the Countdown. It’s up to you.

  36. Hey, David. Thanks for this course. How would you launch for example the fifth or sixth book of a series? Would it be the same strategy like you’ve mentioned for the trilogy or would it be a different one?

    Thanks & regards

    Erich

  37. I just listened to the lesson on category selection (2.2) and am curious of the category definitions, as is what exactly is and is not DARK FANTASY, for example. I’ve Googled but failed to find any decent definitions. Do you know of any?

    I want to make sure my book really fits the categories I choose but what I think of as DARK FANTASY (or in my case OCCULT HORROR) may not be accurate enough.

    Thanks,
    Rich

    1. Maybe this is overly simplistic but I just think of it as fantasy with dark themes. However, the best guide here is probably to look at the category on Amazon and see what is usually shelved there – the charts are often the best reflection of what readers are responding to under that sub-genre label.

  38. Hi Dave, I hope you’ve had a good Christmas?
    I found you late November and have been reading and rereading/absorbing your brilliant work and advice. Thanks for being so generous!
    I have a question- on your Starting From Zero course, as well as elsewhere on your site when you discuss Amazon Author central, it’s the version in the USA. I’m in the UK, so I’m assuming I use the UK version? Or is there some advantage in using the one based in The States? Or should I use both?
    Appreciate your view,
    Many thanks,
    Susan

    1. Amazon has recently revamped and relaunched Author Central. I can’t remember if I showed my interface in one of the videos or not, but it has changed since I put the course together. One welcome change is that USA and UK (and other countries) used to be completely separate and now Amazon has essentially merged them together. Previously, you had to set up separate profiles and bios etc. on each country-specific site, but now you can have one global profile which feeds out everywhere.

      As with many Amazon changes, as it was recent, it’s possible you are still seeing the old version – in which case I do recommend going to the USA and filling out your author bio and all that stuff over there, at least until you get the new version where it’s all merged.

  39. Question on a Series Promo:

    Hi David
    If I do a free promo on book1,
    0.99c discount on book 2, and
    $4.99 on my new release,
    and these prices are displayed on Amazon, then how can I email my List fans and tell
    them they can buy my new release at 0.99c discount? How do they buy it at that price?
    Liam

    1. Hi Liam, this depends on whether you are in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited or not. If you are in the program, you are probably going to use one of Amazon’s promotions, either the free promotion or the Countdown deal (or both). In those cases, Amazon handles the price changes, and you just email your readers once it has kicked in. If you are not in KDP Select/KU then you have to do this manually. For the discount, you simply republish the book with the new, lower price. For the free promo, it’s a little more involved – you have to make the book free on another retailer like Apple or Kobo and then email Amazon and ask them to price-match. It takes a little longer.

  40. Hi David,
    Thanks for putting this course together. I am getting that most intangible of benefits from it: hope that I can make a career out of my writing. I have just taken the risk of leaving my full-time paid employment to focus on writing full-time and have 1-2 years to make it happen!
    I have three questions. Firstly, I am based in Australia. Are there any variations to your advice that I should be aware of, given my location? One trend that is apparent in Australia is that eBooks have not taken off here and many prefer paperback – but I imagine my aim is to get a foothold in UK and US markets anyway.
    Secondly, I have just released my third novel (having done very little with regard to promotion thus far) and have only about 50 on my mailing list and 300 Facebook followers (along with 200 Instagram followers, though I recognise that is a less influential platform for readers.) Upon releasing the third novel a couple of weeks ago, I had only one sale of my book – admittedly, a genuine fan, but somehow that one sale isn’t paying the bills! Would you recommend I use the structured marketing plan you have outlined (while trying to build loyalty and connection in my list etc.) or wait until Book 4? I feel I have a lot of untapped potential in those first three books.
    My final question is that I have friend who is a key influencer on Instagram through the Bookstagram group. Is it worthwhile enlisting her help in my promotions? She shares some books from my niche but does not do so exclusively.
    Thanks for the wisdom you have shared.
    Tom

  41. Thanks for your response to my question from a couple of months back.

    I have more questions!

    1. I’ve identified a couple of comparable titles, but can’t see easily how they have been categorised (both are trad published, not sure if that makes a difference). Is there any way of finding out how a particular book has been categorised on Amazon?

    2. It seems that the categories (and from what I can tell, the way the whole search interface works) is different in Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Do I need to worry about both of them, or would publishing it in one mean it’s also available in the other? And if the latter is the case, which one would be best considering I’m based in the UK?

    1. Let’s see…

      1. This is a very handy site for checking the categories of any book. It has gremlins sometimes, but check back a few days later and it should be fine. (E.g. right now it’s not working for UK categories, just US, but they hope to fix that.): https://www.bklnk.com/categories5.php

      2. There are a whole bunch of difference between how the stores operate and how the categories are broken down etc. I would suggest that, unless your book is naturally of more interest to UK readers, that you should optimize for the USA, if you like, as that’s the largest market. But pay attention to local UK issues too. This means spending some time to look at how the Kindle Store is broken down in the UK versus the USA, and possibly drawing up a separate list of target categories, and then following the process above to get UK-specific categories added to your book. That’s the biggest thing.

  42. Hi David. Can you tell me if there is a way to get reviews on Amazon AU to show on the US site? As I said in an earlier message, my ARCs were mostly sent to Aussie readers, who can’t post reviews to the US site.

    1. Hi Thomas. I may be able to help here. I’m also an Australian author and my reviews so far have only come from Australia and Canada. It takes some time for them to come through, but all of my reviews eventually show up on the US site. It’s probably not overly helpful for ARCs, given the delay, but they do get there. However, if David knows of any way to expedite that process, I’d love to hear it too!

      1. Thanks for chiming in, Tom. My debut novel was released on Dec10 so it’s still early days. Only a couple of my ARC readers bothered anyway, so I’m still virtually review-less.

      2. Sorry for the delay guys. So this works a little funny, and has changed very recently so might be a work in progress.

        The old system was that a review on Australia would stay in Australia, and each store had their own review section/count/average.

        The new system is much better: there’s a global kind of average of your reviews, and while Australian reviews will still be more visible on the Australian store, the review will count towards that global total average, and Amazon is giving more visibility now to reviews from other stores (you’ll see them just under the reviews for your local store).

        So it’s definitely an improvement. If your book is very new, you mightn’t see all that immediately, but it will kick in over time.

  43. I just finished section 2.4 and ran into something odd when looking at the sub-genres.

    My book would probably be best described as Magical Realism. When looking under “Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy >” that genre doesn’t exist, but if looking under just “Books” it is listed here: “Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Magical Realism”. Can I just add it under the Books? What is the difference between adding in either category (Kindle eBooks and Books)?

    There are also other sub-categories that it could fit in as one of my allotted 10. Would it be beneficial to add these sub-categories with both pathways (Kindle eBooks and Books)?

    1. Amazon has recently clarified that you can have (up to) 10 categories for each of Books and Kindle categories so (a) definitely add the Magical Realism category but (b) make sure to find some specific Kindle categories as well.

      It’s crucial to have visibility on the Kindle side of things. Many readers will only browse the Kindle Store. Huge portion of the recommendations are tied to Kindle categories. It’s essential to find shelves for your work in the Kindle Store.

  44. Hi David! I have a question about the “halo” effect. Do you know, if you need to hit the best seller list on kindle store to get the love from Amazon after the sale ends and have them recommend your book? Or does it not matter that much as long as there is consistent rise in sales/downloads in a 5 day period? My book has been consistently in top 20 in my niche categories for the duration of the promotion, and had hit #8 once, but overall it’s in the 11-20 area.

    1. I’ll give the simple version as it gets a bit involved if you get into all the technicalities:

      Generally speaking, Amazon’s recommendations seem to trigger when a book has several days of consistently strong sales – the specific position on a specific sub-category list doesn’t matter as much as posting several days of consistently strong sales. Although at the higher end of any chart, there are some recommendations that will be triggered by being in the top positions.

      Sorry if that is unhelpfully vague but there are tons of variables here and we can only guess at how some of this stuff works. We can see effect, we can deduce cause, but a lot of it is (somewhat educated) guesses about what’s happening inside Amazon’s black box.

  45. Hi David,

    I have several ebook box sets of material from an existing series. I was wondering with KDP’s new Series Manager tool, am I better off listing these box sets as ‘related content’ under the main series, or as a separate series, just for the box sets? (The sets have a chronological order, with each containing one core novel from the series, plus two series shorts.) Hope this makes sense!

    Thanks for all your amazing work,
    Jacquelyn

    1. It’s unclear at the moment what this Related Content feature does, as the books don’t appear in any form on the series pages. Perhaps it feeds into the recommendation engine somehow – that would make sense – but I haven’t seen any hard evidence of that quite yet. Arguably, you are better off for the moment in making a series page for the box sets/related content, if you can swing it! Doesn’t always work.

      1. Woot! I got both my shorts and collections set up into separate series from the novels and Amazon accepted it. Now it at least feels like they’re more visible with their own ‘Buy complete series’ button and everything. It will be interesting to see what happens with the whole Related Content thing if/when it becomes visible to customers… Thanks for the feedback!

  46. This course is amazing (as are your books and youtube channel, I’ve been binging your content like a madwoman) – thank you SO much. I’m only through 4.5 so far but I’m really enjoying everything – my one question is about preorders and your marketing plan (I know you hate preorders, but I have my readers SO trained to expect them at this point because I’m not starting from zero, I’m about 8 years into this and doing well but I want to do better… and I also like preorders since they help motivate me to write on schedule lol) – you talk a lot about telling your newsletter everything first, etc.

    The newsletter is SUCH a powerful tool and I get so many downloads on Day 1 thanks to my preorders that I’ve been considering sending my release notifications a day late or spreading them out the way you recommended over 3 days. However, since they already know the release is coming thanks to the pre-order and the teasers I give them (with a preorder link of course, since I don’t want to be inundated with emails asking for it after the newsletter goes out) I can’t decide if it sending it post the release day would be considered best practice or not. I was wondering if you had any experience with / advice for an author NOT sending out an email on the day of release for books that have been up for preorder already.

    Thank you!

    1. I’m not wild about pre-orders and haven’t done one in ages – so might not be the best person to answer this. However, I have ran lots of launches for authors in the past who were using pre-orders and did them myself a fair bit in the past so not coming at this totally cold. I would just defer to someone else here if they want to contribute on this point.

      BUT IN THEIR ABSENCE, lol, I’d say it’s find to go out a day late with the newsletter. I like to give mailing list peeps first dibs on everything, and that’s my general rule of thumb, but I don’t sweat the small details. If something pops out somewhere else first, I’m okay with that as long as I’m generally keeping to the approach of giving my newsletter the best of everything, and the first crack at anything.

      (Besides, you probably already told them about the pre-order, right? So you’re still good even on that front.)

  47. Hello David,

    Two questions for you:

    1) Do you have a resource that discusses Amazon ads and how to succeed with them?

    2) Does your Bookbub ads book discuss how to increase the chance they will choose your book? My wife’s books have been rejected by Bookbub a few times … and once a book was selected for an International promotion, which went quite well, btw.

    Thx!
    Kevin

    1. 1. You might have missed it but there are a couple of recommendations above on Amazon Ads.

      2. I believe I do touch on that in the BookBub Ads book, but I can tell you my method quickly here: work the comment box. I think that’s the difference maker. You have to use that box to sell your book. Don’t be shy (but don’t be pushy either). Make the case for picking your book. Give sales figures, if you have them. Briefly run down the overall promo plan. If you have nice quotes from a fellow author or known reviewer, drop them in there. If you have any awards, drop them in there. Anything you can give them to help them say yes. The other difference maker, I think, is applying regularly. Don’t get downhearted if they reject you – they reject everyone. I know huge sellers who are rejected all the time (and new authors who get accepted all the time). It’s often more about timing than anything. So apply again in 30 days (or apply again now with something else). Finally, the more flexible you can be, the better your chances – in terms of category, price, book, etc.

  48. Hi again, David. I feel like I’m always asking something and really appreciate your taking the time to reply.
    This one is about the Amazon Author Page. I’ve been advised to create a ‘vanity’ Az profile page link, but all the instructions I find online don’t work. They give simple instructions but my profile page doesn’t look the same as the one shown. Has it all changed recently?
    On another note: I want to add a direct link within the front and back matter of my book to send readers to leave a review. The ebook is on pre-order but the POD is live. If I use the paperback review link, will any reviews gained apply to the ebook as well?

    1. Good question! And sorry for the sluggish response. I’ll have to look into this as it might have changed – there used to be something we could do with the Amazon link shortening service. For example you can see this neat link – http://amzn.to/gaughran – goes right to my Amazon profile page. And, even better, it has my affiliate link baked in as well. It’s 9 or 10 years since I made that so I’m not sure (a) how I did it and (b) if anyone else can still do it. I’ll have to reach into some dusty part of my brain to get the answers to that one.

      BUT. I’m not sure how nifty it really is. You don’t want to use links like that in blog posts or emails anyway, as they might get marked as spam, so the use is a bit more limited than you might think (indeed, I had completely forgotten about it). Plus I don’t have that much cause to link to my author page – I’m usually pushing a specific book in a specific context, if you know what I mean, and it’s usually better to lead them right to that book.

      Or the series page. It’s probably my fondness for pushing readers towards series pages in particular which has me not using these links/sending people to my author page. Here’s a video on that tactic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOyU0NxuMT8

      Reviews on your paperback will carry across to the ebook, but once your ebook is out, you might want to include a special review link in the back which makes it super easy for people on Kindles to review you – I think there’s more in the video on reviews above (check the description if you want to get to the info quickly).

  49. Awesome course David, Thank you. I found it just at the perfect time in my author journey.
    but I’m feeling a bit daft because I feel like the answer should be staring me right in the face. I’m trying to set up a launch plan, for book 1 in the series. Yet to schedule many of the promotion websites/ platforms you need an ASIN #.
    However, the person I spoke to at Amazon said you can’t get one until after the book is published.
    How do you set up a promo/ launch plan in advance without this number?
    I don’t want to do a pre-order?
    Is there a way around it?
    you suggest waiting for book 2 to be in the can, but is publishing book 1, just put it out there, tell who you can, and hope for the best?

    1. I went through the course again, and you’ve already answered my quest.
      Your advice was to use the deal sites on book one to promote the launch of book two.
      I was defiantly hung up, on using the deal sites to push the launch of my first book.
      Thanks a million.

  50. Hi David!

    First of all thanks a lot for your books and courses, I am learning a LOT here. Second, I have an amazon ranking question.

    My first ever novella is on pre-order on amazon. I am not advertising it yet, not doing anything with it. Only sending some links to deal sites (I want to start it on FREE promotion just to have some visibility). So here’s my question. 3 days ago, I was #918,785 in kindle store and #7,000-ish and #10,000-ish in my categories. Today I checked, and the book dropped it rank almost in half, as in, right now it’s #459,591 and in categories #4,000-ish and #5,000-ish respectively. Only things that changed between now and then, is I uploaded my final manuscript and my paperback went live. No sales, no pre-orders yet. Do you know why the rank might have changed? E-book releases on December 5th, if that helps any.

    I am slightly nerdy and love to track numbers and progress and I am stumped as to why this would happen. Unless suddenly there are 400,000 books less on amazon.

    Thanks in advance!
    Sadie

    1. My guess would be that rank change comes from a pre-order but your reports are delayed. You will probably see a couple trickle in this week – they report slower than regular sales at the best of times (and only update once a day IIRC).

    1. Hi Rasana – sorry for missing your question. BookBub certainly. Not only do they have a Literary Fiction category AND a Women’s Fiction category, they also have a Historical Fiction category which regularly features Women’s Fiction with a historical setting – if that applies. Make sure to note in your submission that you are also happy to be considered for other categories – assuming they are actually suitable for your book. Don’t take any category going, that can hurt you more than help you.

      Aside from that, Freebooksy has a literary category and, I’m just guessing here as it’s not quite my niche, but I suspect Fussy Librarian might be quite good for you and possibly Ereader News Today as well.

      The full list of promo sites is here and is kept up to date: https://davidgaughran.com/best-promo-sites-books/

  51. Hi David,
    You must have done a mountain of work to get this beautiful course, your books and your website all excellently and clearly integrated. Hats off! Now I’m wishing my ereader could hold open three ebooks at once . . .

    Just curious: after the five months of welcome sequence for your fiction readers, what happens? (Do you add those new readers into your monthly newsletter where you discuss whatever you are currently working on? Do you keep on adding to your welcome sequence every time you have a new novel out?)

    If you answer this later in the course, please forgive the question. I’m not done with my homework yet. Thanks so much for thinking this all through and sharing it so elegantly!

    1. As soon as the welcome sequence is finished – whether it’s the 2 week one for non-fiction or the 4/5 month one for fiction – everyone goes into the main mailing list for that genre and gets regular emails (weekly for non-fiction, monthly for fiction).

    1. Readers cannot review ebook pre-orders. Certain authors have the ability to do KDP Print pre-orders, which then does permit the reviewing of books prior to on-sale date, but otherwise you have to wait until release day.

      But it’s not so bad in practice. You just email your ARC peeps on launch day and tell them to post their reviews (and tell them to be ready in advance and that you really need the reviews to go up on launch day, or as close to it as they can manage).

      1. Thanks David. I asked another question about reviews that I assume got lost in the mire. I’ll repost it now.
        Hi David. A quickie, if I may:
        Do reviews on one Amazon site show up on all Amazon sites? All my ARCs have been sent to Aussie readers, and I’m wondering if they will show up on the US site. No Aus customers can buy on the US site these days, so they won’t be able to satisfy the $50 threshold.
        What’s your take on this?

  52. Hi David. Great work with the course. Very useful and insightful.

    In your Building A Monster Promo video, you mentioned that the Freebooksy series promo will happen every day of that week. Did you mean that you only need to order one of these for the entire week or one for each day of the promo?

    Also, I notice they have become very popular! About a three month wait in the romance genre!

    1. Hi Tammy. Sorry for the confusion – the Freebooksy promo is a one day affair, what that slide was showing was how the promotion was playing out across multiple books in the series simultaneously. It was broken down by book, I mean, not by day. And this is something affecting all the books so hence the multiple entries for it.

  53. Hi David. A quickie, if I may:
    Do reviews on one Amazon site show up on all Amazon sites? All my ARCs have been sent to Aussie readers, and I’m wondering if they will show up on the US site. No Aus customers can buy on the US site these days, so they won’t be able to satisfy the $50 threshold.

  54. In the lesson ‘how to add categories to your book’ you mention only using the category ‘Kindle eBooks’ (but not ‘Books’). There are far better sub-categories in ‘Books’ but does that hurt my ranking if my ebooks are listed in a book sub-category (my latest novel has 2 of 3 sub-cats belonging to books and both list my novel higher than the 3rd category which belongs to kindle ebooks category).

    1. Should I change my meta data keywords for my ebook so it doesn’t get classified under ‘Books’ sub-cats?
    2. When I contact KDP support via my Author Central page, should I simply submit links to the Kindle eBooks sub-cats?

    1. You can add up to ten categories in each of Books and Kindle now. The situation was a little fluid when I made the course, and customer service were giving contradictory info, but they have clarified it now.

      1. I would first ask if the keyword is relevant, but assuming it is and it’s just dropping you in an unhelpful category, you can simply ask Amazon to remove the category (which means you keep the keyword), via the process above.

      2. No, actually type out the full path of the category – e.g. Kindle eBooks > Fantasy > Dragons > Very Small Dragons

  55. Howdy,

    A little bird told me you have somewhere a sequence where you suggest releasing five books in a row, one a month for five months.

    I’m working my way through everything, but would you be a darling and give me a clue where that is?

    Ta.

    Jon

    1. Hi Jon, I think something got lost in translation somewhere along the way as rapid release isn’t something I talk about in this course specifically, but you might be referencing Lesson 5.4 which talks about how to build a monster promo for 5 books, so maybe check that out.

  56. Hi David,

    Thank you for sharing the course, I most enjoyed how the course highlighted the core areas to focus on to get started in a way that will save many frustrations and regrets in the future. I’ve read different sources about self-publishing, but there’s never really been anyone who put it succintly.

    My question for you has a short and a long form, I’ll give you the short form first: Can you point to an expert erotica self-publisher?

    Feel free to skip the longer version of the question if you think there’s someone better suited to provide me with the info I’m looking for.

    The longer version is this: Erotica tends to be shorter, and I have written novel length stories already, but about 30 to 40k feels right so far, and usually they’re standalone (although again, I have written a sequel already). THe point is: while I don’t have a series per se, I do have 3 general themes/feels/types of story I write within erotica that still fall underneath the same subgenre. My idea was to give each type a label (black label for darker erotica, red label for more passionate and loving, and blue or green label for erotica involving fantastical/scifi/weird elements). I could then focus on the label that’s doing the best at the time.

    Would it work to market that as a series? Would it ruin the label concept to have little series of 2 or 3 books within a label?

    Your feedback would be much appreciated since I do recognize your expertise in a big way.

    I wish you many writerblock-free days in 2021.

    Kevin

  57. HI David. . . please forgive me if this was asked earlier and I missed it on my quick scan.

    I’m about to release book 5 in my series (with six coming in January). Any tips on promotion strategies past book 3? THANKS.

  58. I’ve just finished section 4 of this excellent course. A million thanks.
    I have my novel, a stand-alone, scheduled for publication in December and I’m toying with the option of creating a series. A couple of ARC reviewers asked if I was going to do that.
    My genre is Family Saga/Drama and the story so far covers a 30-year timeframe. To make a series I’d probably need to write a prequel (I’ve actually started working on that) and then maybe a “next generation” tale.
    My problem is that Amazon make it clear they don’t allow prequels in a series. (I really don’t understand this stipulation, can anyone explain why they would make this rule?)
    Is it possible for me to include a prequel without actually calling it one? Maybe just “Angus’ Story” — Angus is a character in my book who is already dead before the start of the novel. (He didn’t get much dialogue, LOL) but whose backstory is central to much of the early narrative.
    I thought about not publishing the novel until I had the others ready, (The current work would then become Book 2) but if I wait too long I’ll lose all the reviews I have lined up. I’ve had glowing praise almost universally, but I don’t expect they will still be keen on leaving a review this time next year or whenever.
    Any advice, David?

    1. First of all, there is no question in my mind that you should turn this into a series.

      Second, I also think you should avoid calling it a prequel at all costs – because the chances are high that you won’t be able to add it to your series page and Amazon’s system won’t recommend it to people who read your series/Book 1.

      Just call it Book 2 – there’s no rule saying a series must always move forward in time. Many jump around.

  59. Hi David,

    Thanks so much for this course, it’s honestly the best one I’ve come across in the four years I’ve been indie publishing – an absolute breath of fresh air.

    I’ve trawled through the other questions and haven’t seen this yet, so my question is:

    In almost all cases, you need an ASIN to book slots with the deal sites, which means having a pre-order up (for a minimum of 6 weeks if you want to book somewhere like Robin Reads). Is there any way around this? Do deal sites accept a booking without an ASIN? If I want to do a discounted launch week at $0.99, I don’t want the book available so cheap for so long before it’s actually out and I also (as per your advice) don’t want start out full price and punish my loyal readers by discounting so soon after.

    I feel like I’m missing some extra info here? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Cheers,

    Helen

    1. Hi Helen – thank you!

      As to your question, it varies a lot from site-to-site. Most don’t take new releases at all, or have certain review requirements which would make it tricky for new release to qualify.

      Some do take new releases, but you will need an ASIN – which means applying the second you publish, or doing a pre-order. (And I’m not that fond of pre-orders.)

      And then I *think* there are one or two sites who will either feature books with no reviews (and no discount in some cases), and might even provide a way of booking before the book is actually published – although that might only be something they do for authors who have booked promos with them before.

      I can’t remember off the top of my head as it’s not something I usually advise doing – I usually recommend holding deal sites back until your book is out a few months and has a few reviews and you have tweaked the blurb and so on – but not everyone’s circumstances/needs are identical and sometimes there is cause for it.

      So that might be something I add to the promo site page – https://davidgaughran.com/best-promo-sites-books/ – but for now you will have to click through to each and check the policies.

      Off the top of my head I can tell you that RobinReads/ENT won’t be possible for new releases, and Fussy Librarian definitely will be (and possibly BargainBooksy). Free Kindle Books and Tips also do a new release special – but as with many such promotions they are often poor value.

  60. Hi David – like others here, I’d like to thank you for making all this expertise and experience available to others on their self-publishing journey.
    My question is about Amazon categories. Is there anywhere that defines what some of the more granular sub-categories mean? I write fantasy, and would identify it as High Fantasy based on conversations on author forums and checking websites like Wikipedia. But High Fantasy doesn’t exist on Amazon!
    Looking at the comparable titles for my book, they seem to be in a few categories that surprised me e.g. one which is set in a fully made up world (I’ve read it) is listed under Historical Fantasy as well as Low Fantasy – not my understanding of those subgenres at all.
    So far I’ve come up with only Epic Fantasy (which I’m not sure about) and Sword and Sorcery (even less sure about this one, because there are no major battles in my book).
    I take your point that we want to avoid miscategorisation to stop Amazon recommending our books to the wrong readers, but I’m rather stuck on identifying where I should list my book!

    1. Hi Andrew, there is no official definition of what Amazon means by these various sub-categories. You can Google anything unfamiliar, but, of course, you are in danger of opening a hilarious can of worms filled with nerd rage about how sub-genres should be classified.

      I think you can simplify things a lot by surveying the top 100 for any sub-categories you are curious about, and reading the blurbs/samples/reviews – but also parsing those which clearly don’t belong.

      In your specific case, Epic Fantasy would seem to be the most likely candidate here, but I suggest trying to find more than one suitable sub-category. If you think of something like Lord of the Rings, it would certainly fit in Epic Fantasy, but other sub-categories would seem appropriate also, such as Dragons & Mythical Creatures (among others). And if you think of something like Game of Thrones, again Epic Fantasy would be a good fit, but then Dark Fantasy would also seem appropriate (among others).

  61. Hi, David.
    Many thanks for your prompt reply to my email, earlier. I do have a couple of other questions and thought I’d post them here.
    1. I’ve decided to rename my novel. (Actually, I’ll be reverting to what was the original title) Can I change the title in relation to the ISBN, or do I have to assign a new one?
    2. If I publish with KDP or KU, as I’m planning, will I be able to later include this work as part of a trilogy? (It would be Book 2) Might I be better waiting and publishing later on, when I have all 3 completed? What are your thoughts?
    3. Is there a minimum length requirement for Amazon to accept a book as part of a series? I’m thinking that if I write the first installment as a promo freebie, I wouldn’t want to spend too much time labouring over an 80,000-100,000 word novel.
    Thank you for making this course available. I’ve learned much more from this than from any other source. I’ll definitely use your aff links whenever appropriate and will grab your other books is the series.

    1. G’day again, David.
      After a bit of research, I’ve answered my own questions.
      1. Yes, a new ISBN is needed if the title of a book is changed.
      2. Yes, we can add books to a series as we publish them. I’ve decided to go back to my original plan though, and publish my novel as a stand-alone. I’ll add the prequel when I finish it but not as a part of an official series.
      3. I have an email from Amazon stating that there are no actual rules about the length of works that are included in a series. There is a section on their website, however, stating that a prequel or a novella cannot be added to a series. I find this confusing, to say the least.

  62. Hi David,

    I met you at one of Sean and Johnny’s conferences in Austin and we talked a bit over breakfast. I’m Michael Brown from Mexico and I am really enjoying your course.

    I have one supernatural suspense published and am in the midst of writing a supernatural suspense trilogy, which takes place in Mexico. The published book is book one of another series, and has character, location, and theme connections to my Mexican trilogy. So I think I might be able to send people to the second series although there is only one book in my first series.

    It takes me a while to write a novel: six to nine months at minimum, and I would like to practice some of these marketing skills you reveal in course.

    My thought is that while I am finishing the first book of my new trilogy, I could do a KU countdown of the novel I’ve already published, linking it to a chapter from new trilogy as reader magnet.

    Finally, after all this prologue (I apologize), my question: how many KU countdowns (with deal site promotions) can I do with a book, before I get diminishing returns? And at which point would it make sense to stop KU countdowns and do promotions wide every quarter?

    Thanks for your time.
    I think you’ve done a great job with the course.

    Michael

  63. Hi David,

    First, thank you so much for all the time you spend on resources helping out newbies like me, so that we at least feel we have a vague idea what we’re doing!

    Second – do you have any thoughts on how to position genre or sub-genre mashups? The series starter I’ve just put out is 100% fantasy, but within that it’s a bit of a mix. Similar to maybe Harry Potter (minus the YA aspect) – real world urban fantasy setting and characters, and some of the UF tropes, but a lot of epic and adventure fantasy beasts and tropes as well. I’m not sure it fits neatly or even predominantly in any one fantasy sub-genre so a bit wary of ending up marketing it as something it isn’t. Would it be better to try and position it in one sub-genre, or lean into the niche-bending and reflect that in blurb etc?

  64. David – I’ve been enjoying the course, thanks so much for making it available. Here’s my question: I’ve got 4 books out now, one standalone, and a trilogy. I’d like to get more sales of my trilogy, and I was wondering how you recommend doing that when you aren’t launching a new book, but promoting them as backlist material? I’ve got a boxset and have tried marketing that via FB ads to “warm” readers, but I haven’t been able to break even that way and decided recently I should probably be focused on pushing book 1. The books are all in KU. Thanks in advance! If it’s any help, you can see the series page here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084RK7RDB

  65. Hi David,
    In the section 2.4 ‘Be Relevant’ you talk about adding the category path to books. My question is, if the books are a series can you put the ASIN for more than one book in the email to Amazon with the sub-category parts applying to all the books or do you have to do it individually for each book.
    Thanks, Chris

  66. Hi David,
    On the “How to Sell Books” portion of your Starting from Zero course you mention that some of the deal sites won’t take you unless you have a certain number of reviews. My question is how do you get reviews if you’re unable to advertise your book to these types of sites?

    I have a small newsletter but word-of-mouth and social media have really done nothing for me up to this point. I just launched book 2 in a series and I’m holding book 3 until I can fashion a better launch plan. What would you recommend?
    Thank you!

  67. I noticed in a recent email you said you expect you’ll always publish a paperback along with the ebook for future launches. I am only used to publishing paperbacks, but my next one I will want an ebook as well. Should I upload the paperback into KDP, and keep it unpublished temporarily until I begin creating the ebook? Should I create the ebook by selecting the “Create Kindle ebook” button next to the paperback on my bookshelf, and follow the steps that way? Do you know if that uses the uploaded paperback file and then reformats it to a kindle ebook automatically? Conversely, should I get the ebook created and published first, then work on uploading and publishing the paperback separately, but in close timing to the ebook launch? Just wondering if there is an “ideal” scenario to be shooting for.

  68. I think your suggestion about adding all those categories for Amazon would be very beneficial to sci-fi or thrillers but I want to be sure I’m not missing something. I write romance so I’m able to be specific by selecting historical romance which drops down to the time period…is there some other category that I’m missing? I feel like an idiot but I don’t see where you’ve gone into any more detail than what I’ve been doing.

    Thanks

    1. You certainly don’t need to use all ten categories, but I recommend taking a handful of bestselling self-published historical romances and dropping their ASIN into the category checker – https://www.bklnk.com/categories5.php – and seeing where they shelve their books, in case that generates any ideas for you (just ignore those who are being over-aggressive about the categories the choose).

  69. Hello again, David.
    I’ve written up a 6,000 word article I’m planning on using for my reader magnet. Right now it’s in MS Word. Is it acceptable to send it to out to sign-ups in that format, or should it be .PDF or something or something else? Or is this something I should leave to the whizzes at BookFunnel?

    1. Hi Bob, you need to create a MOBI version for those with Kindles and an EPUB version for everyone else. PDF is optional but I don’t bother with it (and certainly don’t do Word). The other two are definitely needed. If you check the formatting section of Let’s Get Digital you will find specific advice on that.

  70. Hi David!
    Your free course is excellent! You’re excellent (though I don’t know about the beard)! Can’t wait to dive into Following (started it) and Decoded.

    I’ve got one book that went live about a month before lockdown. Yay for timing! (Hint: pandemics are not conducive to marketing or writing or anything.) Ended up doing no marketing. Now I’m finishing off a reader magnet, have started plotting Book 2.

    I knew I would have no sales on Book 1. I’m trying to follow the advice to focus on writing Book 2, forget about marketing. That’s harder than I expected! I’ll do some newsletter promos with Book Funnel, Story Origin, and perhaps Book Sweeps.

    My question is, should I really leave my book in the basement of Amazon until Book 2 is ready? A push for reviews would involve, I believe, putting on an ad campaign, which I’m trying to avoid at this point. Am I really okay JUST writing?

    1. You really are okay just writing – you have Official Permission! But if you think it’s going to be quite some time before Book 2 is out, you can explore some of the one-book promo options I laid out in the course (think it was Lesson 4.5).

  71. David: Man, I’m just full of questions! But you’re always so wonderfully helpful. So here’s another: You say there’s nothing else on your website’s dedicated email signup page other than the email signup box. But I’ve been trying to ‘think like a reader’ and I can envision some readers who’ve ended up on this page maybe saying to themselves “Man, that book was a terrific read, but eh, I dunno if I really wanna be on this guy’s mailing list.”
    Shouldn’t there be an alternative box, maybe a little less prominent, for “Review My Book!”? Just so we don’t completely “waste” this generally well-disposed reader, who might not yet have written a much-needed review? (Maybe he missed that link at the end of the book.)

    1. Hi Bob, you shouldn’t have anything else on your email sign-up page – definitely not. But you should have a polite review request in the end matter of your book just after the link to that sign-up page.

  72. David: Finished your course and gave it the outstanding review it merited. Great stuff! I have a question about the future, when I hope to be doing “list swaps” with other authors: If I’m emailing my newsletter recipients to the effect that that “Mary Smith’s new book is terrific and you should all run out and buy it” and I include a link to Mary’s book on Amazon, and Mary does the same for me with her newsletter folks . . . are we not both in violation of the Amazon’s odd-seeming “no affiliate links in emails” rule? I mean, both our books are Amazon offerings and our cross-endorsements are in emails, right?

    1. Hi Bob. You’re allowed link to other people’s books in your emails. Amazon doesn’t care about the content of your emails. What it does care about is how you use affiliate links – which are special links you get if you are a member of their affiliate program. You can’t use those affiliate links in emails. Regular links are always fine. Recommend away!

  73. Hi David,
    It’s very kind of you to share so much info. Thank you.
    I’ve just launched a book at .99 and used ads to sell 250-300 copies per day on Amazon.com for over a week. I have two questions, please.
    1. Would you recommend going straight from .99 to the full price of 4.99 or first to 2.99 for a couple of days, then 3.99, and finally 4.99 after, say, a week, please?
    2. My sales were consistent each day – no spikes – but I haven’t noticed Amazon taking up the slack to sell for me. Is it ever worth doing a second .99 run during the first 30 days to give Amazon an extra kick in the pants to do something, please? (The Also Boughts are okay, but could be better.)
    Thanks,
    Steve

  74. Thank you for this course. It’s really helpful.

    I have a question. You talk about ‘series pages’ on Amazon, but I’ve never heard of them, and I’ve searched for them but can’t find any. Can anyone have a series page? How can I set one up?

    Thanks.

    1. As far as I know, the ability to create a series page is a KDP-specific feature, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a series page – just that your publisher has to input the series metadata correctly and the page will automatically form.

  75. Hi David, first a thank you. A basic course has been so needed. You’ve been good enough to provide it. My plan to learn the max from the course is to read through once…which I have done, and then go back and parse it out thoroughly.

    I’m a slow writer who has set herself the goal of becoming a fast writer. By that I mean I want to be able to write minimum two books a year rather than the ones it has taken me to write every two years! My second goal is to build my mailing list. So, in addition to paying attention to what you’re saying I’ve just bought Tammi LaBrecque’s Newsletter Ninja at your suggestion.

    My question is in regard the number of books needed to do a proper promotion. Come December, I will have two books in a series that I am not sure I will write a third one in. I want to start running ads and promotions once the second book is ready to go. What model do I use to set things up? The stand-alone or the three-book series, even if I only have two?

    Thank you for all your help.

  76. Thank you, David for the great course. I do have a question regarding using FB for content creation, which is a different approach to what I’ve been doing for the last number of years. I am not a big user of FB or a fan, and I was curious as to how much time you spend interacting and answering to comments. I find any social media platform a time suck, and not productive. I have been considering using Instagram instead, though I do have a FB page.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. The time cost involved in interacting with readers and answering comments on Facebook is pretty minimal – and quite enjoyable anyway. Facebook has a few advantages over Instagram: you have much more flexibility in the kind of content you can post and the ads you can run, it’s much easier to sell something on Facebook and drive traffic off the site to somewhere else (Amazon, your site, etc.), and then the audiences are much bigger too.

  77. Amazing course, David. Thank you for putting it together. I loved the mixed learning model with videos, text and sound bites. Very cool and engaging. Question: I am based in NZ. I have an amazon.com account and am in KDP select. I recently used the free promotion on the first in series and had great success in the USA. Does the KDP free deal (or countdown deal, for that matter) automatically discount/free the book in the Amazon.com.uk store, too? I had barely any downloads from the UK and I’m wondering how I can reach UK readers there.

  78. Hi David,

    Thank you so much for doing this course and including so much info for people on a tight budget (though I feel my budget might be even tighter than that). It’s great to have a clearer guide of what to do and I am finding it very useful. Often I find myself thinking ‘gosh, how long would it have taken me to figure that one out????’

    Here is my question. I am currently finishing to write book three of a contemporary romance series (under a pen name). I am hoping to publish by end of October or mid November, so your 3 book promotion plan comes in quite handy. Problematically, my mailing list is barely existent. I have a conflict with the info you have given. If you don’t promote your first book so much (though I did promote it) and don’t get a lot of sales, how to you then get people on your mailing list? I have read Following but I am yet to start Newsletter Ninja. Will I find the answers there? Did I miss a key part about how to grow your mailing list? Thanks!

  79. Hi David – I’ve left you a review and I’ll say again that this course is one of the best I’ve done and definitely the best for the price! I really appreciate that you’ve published such a load of really useful advice and tips for free.
    My background is this: I’m a trad published author whose income tanked a couple of years ago so I’m pivoting to indie. I’m struggling because I’m not much good at things digital. However your course is lovely and clear. I have a 9 book long historical novel series – the Sir Robert Carey series (pen name P F Chisholm) – which is currently still with a trad publisher, a few trilogies and standalones which I own. I’m currently writing a contemporary thriller for fun. I intend to use the poor thing for experiments.
    Maybe I could start with putting it on Kindle Unlimited for three months. After that I thought I would put it wide, follow your One Book Promo Plan to the letter and see what happens. I was thinking I might do a diary while I do all this – would you like to see it if I do?
    Finally, may I suggest a glossary for numbskulls like me who can never remember if it’s KDP Select, Kindle or Kindle Unlimited that has the page-reads?

  80. I’ve written a “relationship book” that still requires much to be done—cover art and a bunch of stuff. It’s called, oh, let’s say, Taming the Stallion (not its actual name, but close) and sometime back I set up a website by that name: TamingtheStallion.com. I know the website needs a whole bunch of work—it’s probably got an unsuitable theme and I don’t even have a mailing-list program yet—but in reading your books I see that you recommend naming the website after your own name, since it’s going to serve as your author HQ.
    My question: Can or should I leave my website name as is?—that is, named after my book? I should probably mention that I’m not 100% sure whether I’m ever going to do a follow-up “relationship” book, while I’ve started a space opera and I have a political book very nearly done. (I know, I know, genre switching is a recipe for poverty. Ugh.)
    If I eventually settle into a genre that I like enough to keep on writing in (almost certainly sci-fi), I realize I’ll eventually have to have a new website for that genre (maybe by that time, with the help of your books, I’ll even know what I’m doing!). But for now, just to get this relationship book out the door and onto cyber-shelves (and in case I ever do write a sequel), it’s okay to keep the website named after the book, rather than after me, right? Right?

    1. Hi Bob. I think I can set your mind at ease. There’s no real issue, in your case, in using BookName.com as your website address. The only downside here is that it’s a touch limiting – in that if your book is a success and you decide to write another relationship book, you are probably going to have to set up AuthorName.com anyway. But if it’s the only relationship book you write, then it’s no big deal. (And you can do a redirect if you do happen to write more, so this approach will only really end up costing you a few dollars a year for the extra domain, and a moderate amount of once-off hassle to move the content to a new address.)

      As for future adventures in fiction, you will probably want to keep that stuff separate anyway, so it’s no big deal.

  81. Hi David,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put this course together for us, it’s so interesting and helpful! I just wanted to ask your opinion on how often you should run backlist promos? I have a couple of series that are already complete and published and I’m stuck on how often it’s best to promo them using deal sites etc. I want to make sure I’m doing it enough but equally don’t want to push them too much. One series is wide, the other is KU; they’re both paranormal/fantasy series. For my new series I’ll be using the marketing plans outlined in your course, thank you for those! 🙂

  82. Hi David.

    First of all, like everyone else here, a massive thank you for putting this together. It’s really taken the mystery out of self-publishing success and I can see now a clear way forward. (I first heard you on Bestseller Experience podcast, btw. That day changed my Matrix, let me tell you! Anyway…)

    My question is around advanced reader copies/reviews. Is there any language that should be used in the reviews to avoid authors getting into trouble with Amazon?

    Thanks again.

    1. I do see people putting language in the reviews sometimes, but I think that’s various people and services trying to make their reviews look more authentic (either to human or or robot fraud-checkers) and I often wonder if it has the opposite effect. Amazon has no such requirement as far as I can see, only saying this:

      “You may provide free or discounted copies of your books to readers. However, you may not demand a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review. Offering anything other than a free or discounted copy of the book—including gift cards—will invalidate a review, and we’ll have to remove it. “

  83. Hi David, I’d like to echo everyone’s praise for the Following Course, and thank you again for offering this course for free.
    I have two questions:
    1- I am prepping a stand alone book for sale on Amazon in October, and I have a second stand alone I hope to launch at the end of this year, early next year. Since I won’t have a series ready until the first quarter of next year, can I treat the second stand alone book like a book two from a series? In other words, in the back matter of my first stand alone, can I market my second book as follows? “If you like this book, look out for (title),” and then offer a sample chapter from book two? It may not be a series, but at least I’ll give my readers a preview of whats to come. What do you think?

    2- What do you do after week one of a .99c promo launch? Do you raise the price to $4.99 and try other promo sites to continue to sell/advertise? Or do you wait and do another promo special later? (okay, that’s three questions, sorry.)
    Thanks again. I wish you Godspeed on your fiction writing future.

    1. Hi David, I know you’re busy, but did I miss your answer to my questions? Did you post it elsewhere? I’m not rushing you, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it. Thanks again for your time.

    2. Hi Liz – I did miss it so thanks for flagging it for me. Let’s see…

      1. Yes, you can certainly push your standalones in this way. It’s a good idea, but just be aware that you won’t see the same level of readers going from one standalone to another as you will from a Book 1 to a Book 2. But I would certainly recommend doing this – it definitely helps. I personally prefer a well-honed blurb/description as a taster. Perhaps you could give them a meaty preview as a sign-up bonus until you have something else to offer.

      2. I only recommend launching at 99c in specific circumstances. I think you are better off launching at a higher price and discounting later on, when you have some reviews, and your blurb is tighter and you have a better handle on the basics generally.

      You might consider launching the first book at full price and then discounting that around the time you launch the second standalone.

      1. Hi David. I finished the Zero course today, and I want to thank you for all the valuable knowledge you provided during this training. I look forward to working on my series and following your Monster Marketing plan.

        Until then, I am prepping a standalone novel for sale within a few weeks. Can you provide the best ad sites for stand alone marketing?
        Thanks again.
        Liz

      2. I forgot to add that I want to promote my book at a starting price of $4.99. However, most of the sites noted on your resource page are for discounted promos of .99c or above. That’s why I am wondering if there are promo sites for average price new releases. I’m kind of confused how to advertise my book with these channels.
        Thanks again.

  84. Do you know of book promotion sites that allow for print books to be promoted? I’m in the small group of authors who only have print books, no ebooks. This is due to their nature – mine are journals to be written in. Print journals are actually quite popular and there is definitely a lot of competition. It just feels more like a product than a book.

    I am able to write them as a series, and I am about to publish Book 2 of the series. I’ve dabbled in small scale Amazon ads to get used to the platform and gain visibility. I’ve aimed for breakeven as a new author, and it’s worked so far.

    Now I’m interested in additional outside promotions, but the only ones I hear about are for ebooks. Did any of the ones you recommend in your course allow for print books? Is there a best way for me to research this? Or is my best bet to stick with the Amazon ads and try to scale up?

    Thank you.

    1. Sorry, I don’t know of any site promoting print books. Using digital marketing to sell physical products is a tricky business (the opposite applies also). The only print promotion at all that I know if are Goodreads giveaways, and the value of those is questionable IMO.

      I think Amazon Ads are your best bet here – by far. I know several authors doing very well with print books and Amazon Ads – and I especially recommend that you join this Facebook group where many of them are active. They regularly share specific advice on getting print books to move: https://www.facebook.com/groups/393917614473395/

  85. Thanks for the course and all the other ways you help the indie author community.

    I’ve written three books in a new series and I’m soon to release them together, in KDP. The books can be read in any order. I hate to squander the visibility boost that a book gets during its first 30 days; I want to promote them somewhat to capitalize on the altitude before I tumble over the 30-day cliff. Do you have any recommendations for this scenario? I’m thinking I’ll pick a 5-day window, make one book free, make one $0.99, maybe make the third $2.99, and promote the two cheapest books on deal sites, with maybe a helpful trickle of advertising on Bookbub and Amazon Ads. Do you have any thoughts or insights?

    1. Are you planning to release all of them simultaneously? Are these your first releases as a self-publisher? It might be better to space out those releases. One a month can work very well. That will give you a bit more flexibility with the marketing, and take your lessons from each launch and apply them to the next, and also allow you to build up a little audience with the first two releases so that you have people to launch to with Book 3.

  86. Hi, David,

    I have a rather specific question. I’m writing a series of full-length mysteries, supported by shorter novellas, so that I can have more frequent releases. Originally I had planned to publish these as two series: “Kitty Callahan Mysteries” and “Kitty Callahan Between-the-Books Adventures,” because I didn’t want readers to think they were getting a full length novel when they weren’t.

    Having listened to the part of your course where you talk about how Amazon will offer Book 2 to the readers of Book 1… I’m wondering if this is an error. Do you have an opinion on which is more important: clarity for the consumer, or that series and metadata link?

    1. Hi Jane. How short are the novellas? If they are too short to be considered short novels, then you should be aware of the limitations that surround them. Some people are hugely successful with novellas, but you should also be aware that some promo sites (like BookBub) won’t consider them for Featured Deals – their cut off point is 150 pages for fiction). Amazon also won’t allow you to add them to the series page.

      It’s an interesting question as to whether adding the series metadata anyway would be enough for Amazon to consider it part of the series and recommend it in the normal manner – that would need to be tested, I guess. But I think you are going to be in the same situation, somewhat, as people releasing a prequel or other type of series spin-off book.

      It’s a bit of a half-way house between a proper series installment and a standalone, in that you will get at least some reader interest spilling over from the series, but also not strictly part of the series so you will suffer from a little diffusion in recommendations.

      Here’s what I mean by that: when a reader finishes your Book 1, there’s a super obvious place to go next: Book 2. And when a reader finishes Book 2, there’s a super obvious place to go next: Book 3. That builds a really strong connection between those books, and make it a super obvious recommendation for Amazon’s system to make – it loves making recommendations where it as a high confidence the reader will make the purchase.

      But let’s say the series wraps up after Book 3 – there’s possibly a few places for a reader to go. If you have multiple series, they could jump on any of those, along with any novellas. You are still capturing the sale and the reader and getting their money, but the connections being forged from that Book 3 won’t be as strong.

      Same goes with the novellas.

      Now, that doesn’t mean novellas won’t work for you – maybe they’ll work great – just something to keep in mind. And perhaps something to ameliorate a little when writing your end matter.

      Instead of listing all the novellas and Book 1s they could jump on next, perhaps consider picking the one most likely to interest them and really focus on that in your end matter.

      It’s not that different to how I have my series of writer books set up, actually. It’s technically a series, but doesn’t truly operate like one, because some authors discover me when they are too advanced to be interested in Let’s Get Digital, so they might jump in at Book 2 or Book 3 of the series.

      Others might finish Book 2 (Strangers to Superfans) and decide they want to learn about Amazon algorithms more than BookBub Ads, and could skip that Book 3.

      This diffusion weakens the connections, but I can ameliorate it but trying to create a clearer pathway for readers with my end matter. So when you finish Book 1, I mention I have all this other books, but strongly recommend they read Book 2. And at the back of Book 2, I try and push them towards Book 3.

      It seems to help.

  87. Thank you so much!!!

    Finished the course. Whew.

    I’m sure I’ll have more questions, but this one popped at me toward the end: my series don’t have series pages. (I looked.) How do I make that connection?

    Thanks again.

    1. You need to make sure that your series metadata is inputted correctly. Go to the KDP publishing interface for Book 1 and the Series metadata field is near the top of the first page. Put in your series name there and a number 1 in the box beside, then republish the book. Repeat that for each book in the series, and then make absolutely sure that the spelling and capitalization are completely consistent or the page might fail to form – it’s so sensitive that calling your series Embrace the Wild for Book 1 and Embrace The Wild for Book 2 can be enough to throw it off.

  88. Hi, David! (reposting from the wide FB group) First of all, I want to say I F*CKING LOVE YOU RIGHT NOW. This Starting From Zero course has been the most helpful course I have ever taken in my entire author career. SERIOUSLY!! All of the hundreds/thousands of dollars I’ve spent on other courses did not go into the finest details like you have done, and doesn’t require me spending thousands of dollars a day to do ads/promos/etc. And most of all, your course applies to both Amazon AND wide!! I appreciate you giving such an amazing, invaluable resource to the community! I have learned so much. I am crying from all this knowledge @.@

    I have a question in regards to something you went over in your course about the Book Launch Plan (Section 4.5). I’m in the process of finishing a prequel novel of my series, which is slated to be almost 100k words (possibly over). I’ve been working on this for a couple of years, but I feel this is one of my best books to date. How would you suggest I market something like this? My ‘backlist’ is actually book 1 of the series. I already have a mailing list with a couple of free short stories (one of the stories is related to the series).

    Should I treat the prequel book like another book 1 and release it normally? (kind of like how Stephanie Meyer has done with her new Midnight Sun ‘prequel’ book, even though the previous Twilight books are her backlist)?
    I’m just curious if you’ve ever done anything like this before or have any suggestions on how to make an effective launch out of prequel full-length novels.

    Thanks so much again. I’m still binge-listening to your course, and I intend to keep this on repeat <3 <3 <3 <3

    1. (I answered Marie on Facebook – but in case the answer helps anyone else, the short version was that prequels are kinda part of a series and kinda not. You can’t get them on your series page on Amazon, but it is a connected book which will interest many readers of the series, and could be an additional entry point also. It’s a good idea to have a strong push in the end matter of the last book towards the prequel, and in the back of the prequel towards Book 1 of the series – and once readers start following that suggestion, Amazon will start building connections between those books also.)

  89. Hey, David! (reposting from the wide fb group) First of all, I want to say I F*CKING LOVE YOU RIGHT NOW. This Starting from Zero course has been the most helpful course I have ever taken in my entire author career. SERIOUSLY!! All of the hundreds/thousands of dollars I’ve spent on other courses did not go into the finest details like you have done, and doesn’t require me spending thousands of dollars a day to do ads/promos/etc. And most of all, your course applies to both Amazon AND wide!! I appreciate you giving such an amazing, invaluable resource to the community! I have learned so much. I am crying from all this knowledge @.@

    I have a question in regards to something you went over in your course about the Book Launch Plan (Section 4.5). I’m in the process of finishing a prequel novel of my series, which is slated to be almost 100k words (possibly over). I’ve been working on this for a couple of years, but I feel this is one of my best books to date. How would you suggest I market something like this? My ‘backlist’ is actually book 1 of the series. I already have a mailing list with a couple of free short stories (one of the stories is related to the series).

    Should I treat the prequel book like another book 1 and release it normally? (kind of like how Stephanie Meyer has done with her new Midnight Sun ‘prequel’ book, even though the previous Twilight books are her backlist)?
    I’m just curious if you’ve ever done anything like this before or have any suggestions on how to make an effective launch out of prequel full-length novels.

    Thanks so much again. I’m still binge-listening to your course, and I intend to keep this on repeat <3 <3 <3 <3

  90. Hi David. Thank you again and again for all the great resources you make available to the indie community. We’re lucky to have you. While I’m not exactly starting from zero, I’m still finding a lot of value here.

    In the launch plan video, you talk about knowing when to promote and when to save for the next one. You mentioned “unless it’s going to be a long time before the next book…” – what would you consider a long time?
    I know it’s hard to generalize, but is there a certain overall store rank or anything where you would suggest doing a push if your books are starting to drop below that?

    (My specifics) I have 3 out in a series, but am taking a lot longer than expected to get the 4th written (5 months and counting). I’ve released a short standalone in the interim (set in the same world but not directly related to the series), but it hasn’t helped boost sales at all and I’m using it more as a new reader magnet instead.
    I’m not sure whether to bother promoting the first 3 in the series again while I don’t even have a pre-order up for book 4, or just let them fall in the ranks and deal with it when I have a better idea of a timeline for the next one.

    Thanks for your invaluable advice!

  91. Hi David – Thank you so much for this course! I’m diligently working through it and finding that it does a great job of synthesizing things I’ve learned from your books in a big picture way.

    I’m in a somewhat unique position as my first series is still tied up with a medium sized traditional publisher but I’m starting almost from zero with self publishing to take more control over my marketing and platform building going forward.

    Working with what I have, my current plan is to write a prequel novella as a reader magnet pointing subscribers to my forthcoming self published stand alone techno thriller. I’ve also regained the rights to another stand alone thriller that I’m reissuing with a new cover, blurb, optimized metadata, and back matter pointing to the new reader magnet.

    So lacking the advantages of a series, I’m still trying to use some of your strategies. My question is: If I run a Freebooksy or (if I get lucky) a free Bookbub promo on the reissued standalone thriller leading up to the release of the new book, am I likely to at least make back my promo investment on the halo now that the free charts are separate from the paid charts? If I understand your points about the Popularity list and the fact that free books can still pay you in KU page reads (yes, I’m going exclusive) I think the answer is yes?

    Thanks for any advice on this odd scenario!

    1. Amazon’s recommendation engine doesn’t need very much to get it going at a lower level. Once you have posted 50 sales in the US Kindle Store, the wheels will start turning – e.g. you will start appearing in Also Boughts, and start getting recommended in a couple of places here and there around the site, and possibly by email.

      However, when it comes to the more powerful recommendations going out to a wider set of readers, or the kind of KU push that will generate significant page reads for you, there seems to be a critical mass needed in terms of sales or downloads.

      It’s really hard to generalize, but I have noticed that it seems to take around 5000 free downloads (in the US) during your KDP Select free promo to trigger that kind of post-free bounce. That’s not an iron-cast rule or anything, but something to shoot for perhaps, if page reads are the goal.

      A BookBub Featured Deal would easily get you over the line, and will probably pay for itself in terms of page read income and new sign-ups and so on. A Freebooksy would almost certainly fall short – on its own. But if combined with a number of other sites, you might squeak past.

      Promoting a single title like this is a bit of a crapshoot, which is one of many reasons why I urge people to try and keep their powder dry until they have more books out, but you can sometimes make it work reasonably well.

      Or you could end up generating a total of 2,000 or 3,000 downloads during your promo, even after using a few sites, and not seeing any significant bump in page reads or income afterwards. There are never any guarantees with this stuff, and the risk level gets higher with just one book, of course.

      But I like your plan generally! Standalones can be tricky to move in sales terms, but can be superb promo tools – either as magnets to build your list, or as things you promote at free occasionally (or permanently) to drive people towards that magnet. That 1-2 punch can be quite effective and I do it myself a lot.

  92. Just watched the YouTube video on reviews. It mentions a future video on ARCs. Is that available yet?
    I’m finding this an amazing resource! Still doing a chicken and the egg dance on mailing list, landing pages, etc. I do a thing, realize it’s going to require another thing….
    Moved my web site from WordPress to commercial host. Just to echo your advice to do it sooner than later? I’ve had it for… over a decade? sigh. Served well enough for blogging, but I could see the commercial host version is essential to moving forward. What a b— to do! Glad I didn’t wait.
    Thanks again!

    1. Not yet! I got sidetracked by recording all that video for my course. I will return to it (and there was some discussion in the comments IIRC).

  93. Hi David, How wonderful to be able to ask questions to an expert! Here’s mine: I’m running a Kindle Select free promo for five days on Amazon.com for the U.S., starting August 15. Can I also run the same free promo for the same book on Amazon in the UK at the same time? If so, where do I go to start it? Also I’m stacking with ENT, FussyLibrarian, etc. Will those carry into the UK?
    Thanks for all the advice you are offering!

    1. Yes, your free promotion will actually run in all territories (unlike a Countdown which is US and UK-only, and must be set up separately for each). Step-by-step instructions are here on KDP Help: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201298240

      As for your question re promo sites, unfortunately, very few of them have a UK audience (BookBub aside). You will get a modest amount of downloads for the UK from running these promos, but the audiences are almost exclusively US-based.

  94. Hi David, great course, really well done explaining quite complex issues in a really intelligent and accessible way. Very few possess that skill.

    My question is how often is too often to run these kinds of promotions? I assume there’s the possibility of “too much of a good thing” and “diminishing returns” if these campaigns are run too close together.

    1. This is another one of these “it depends” situations. When I was running marketing for a big science fiction author, we had a large promo going every month. Not just deal sites, but the more complex kind of push you saw at the end of the course including deal sites, swaps, mailing list, Facebook Ads, etc. etc. – but we were able to do that because (a) he had the budget (b) he had the sales to justify the budget and (c) most importantly he had lots of books and a few different series we could push in turn, and let the others “rest” for a few months inbetween pushes.

      I think you do need to give the sites maybe 3 months to refresh a little, and even then I like to switch up the offfer the next time I go back to the same well. For example, if I was putting together promo this week on a trilogy – where the primary offer, the one being advertised on deal sites, was a 99c deal – I might wait until November to push that series again, and I’d probably switch up my tactics as well so I’m pushing a free book instead.

      Some of the sites say that leaving it 2 months or so is fine, but I think you’ll see diminishing returns with that kind of frequency.

  95. Hi, David! Just started “Starting from Zero” and am finding it very entertaining and enlightening!

    I’ve added relevant category strings to my ebooks, but I noticed when doing the research that print books have different categories available. I write contemporary romance, and in print Contemporary has various subheadings, but in ebooks under the same there are no subcategories. Would it be wise to include print category strings if I haven’t maxed out the 10 available? Or is that “not relevant?” I do have all my books available in print.

    I would assume I would have to send the request using the ISBN, of course, but not sure if it would just confuse the algorithms. 🙂

    Thanks so much!

    1. Officially, Amazon permits you up to 10 categories for each book (in each country). Note that this includes BOTH print and ebook categories, so plan accordingly. Unofficially, Amazon seems to allow people to add more than 10, but I don’t particularly recommend it as they could easily strip some away, and you don’t want them removing your most important ones of course.

  96. Hi David, thanks for creating this resource – I’ve been reading all your books, and as a first-time author am finding them really helpful! Is it possible to ask Amazon to create new categories? I’ve written a narrative non-fiction travel book (think ‘Round Ireland with a Fridge’ meets ‘Into the Wild’!), and have been able to request 10 extra categories for my book / ebook in Amazon US. My main market, however, will be Amazon UK, and there are only 3 available relevant (to my book) Kindle categories for travel. It’s quite frustrating, as there are lots of travel Kindle categories available for the Amazon US store, and lots of travel categories for the Amazon UK books store. Many thanks, Paul

    1. On the plus side, I can tell you that Amazon is always adding to the category list. It’s growing constantly – both in the USA and internationally. A few years ago there were 10,000 categories. Now there are between 13,000 and 14,000. Also, several years ago, myself and several other authors of historical fiction and literary fiction successfully campaigned to get sub-categories – which was especially needed as historical fiction had none whatsoever, and you needed a rank of 2000 or better in the US to hit the Top 100 at all. Amazon not only gave us everything we asked for, but went even further too.

      Now the negatives: interfacing with Amazon on anything is next to impossible. It was hard back then, and I can’t even be sure if we were the impetus for the change, or if Amazon decided separately, but at least back then there were some open channels to Amazon. There isn’t much of that today. You can email them and suggest it, but these days it often feels like feedback goes into a black hole.

      But trying costs nothing, so give it a go. Email them. And if you want one piece of advice, frame it in such a way that benefits readers and the customer experience on Amazon and you might have a better shot of being listened to. And when events do start up again, and if there is one near you with Amazon people attending, pitching something like this in person has a much better chance of getting traction. And be prepared to be patient! I think it took as about 6 months or a year of pestering Amazon to make headway.

  97. Hi, first of all, thanks for your generous tips and advice. Ever since I began contemplating the self-publishing path, you have been my go-to for resources. Ever so grateful, and bravo for this really useful teaching initiative!
    Unfortunately, however, I currently find myself stuck at section 2.4 of this online course: I have been trying to figure out categories and sub-categories, and am flummoxed. I’m actually amazed (and majorly frustrated) that everyone seems to understand how to find these sometimes granular categories and put them into a useful string. I have yet to find a complete list of Amazon categories, sub-genres and level 4 and 5 categories, although everywhere I’ve looked one is told to carefully choose one’s subcategories…. But how??!! Do we make them up??
    Could you please explain how a category string is created?
    And … could you please explain the difference between using keywords and categories in terms of the visibility one’s book will get? I’m in the nonfiction genre, so perhaps I have less room for maneuver, but still…
    If any of this information is included farther along in your video series please say so and I’ll keep at it..
    Many thanks in advance!!
    Virginia

    1. This is all broken down in more detail in Let’s Get Digital, but, in short, keywords mostly are important these days to improve your visibility in search, and categories for visibility in best seller lists.

      The list of categories isn’t anywhere except on the Amazon Store itself. Go to the home page and start drilling down under Kindle Books and you’ll see 13,000+ categories you can lose yourself in. Or go to the Kindle Store Top 100 eBooks and start drilling down on the left to the categories of most interest: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/154606011/ref=zg_bs_nav_kstore_1_kstore

  98. I didn’t see this question…do you recommend doing box sets of series for a discounted price?

    Thank you so much for the course (it’s excellent) and all you do to support indie authors. I’ve been on your mailing list a number of years, and have learned a lot, but this course really put it all together so that I can now make even better use of your knowledge and wisdom.

    1. Box sets – either of your own work exclusively, or together with other authors – can be a great promo strategy and very lucrative sometimes also. It’s a nice option for when you are further along with a series and/or have exhausted conventional promotional tactics.

  99. Hi David, I heard about your course in the 20Booksto50K facebook group. I have signed up for the course and would like to do it, but have hit a snag. I’m not allowed to download the book Let’s Get Digital. Neither Amazon nor Apple will allow me to get it because I reside in Malaysia. Apple says it’s not available in Malaysia. Amazon simply says “the title is not currently available for purchase.”

    Do you have any suggestions? Is there any point in attempting the course without the book?

    Thanks,

    1. What retailer do you usually use in Malaysia to purchase ebooks? Let’s Get Digital is available on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, and a few smaller stores too. But if you can’t get a copy by regular means through one of those, let me know and I’ll just email you a copy.

      You can take the course without reading Let’s Get Digital – indeed more experienced authors will likely skip all or most of that part – but it certainly goes into detail on a couple of topics that are important for the course.

      1. Hey David, thanks for getting back to me.

        Normally I’d buy from Amazon, failing that, I’d go to Apple. They’re both saying no. Amazon’s website says “the title is not currently available for purchase” and there’s no download link. Searching through the kindle app, I can’t find it at all. Apple says the title is “not available in Malaysia.”

        If you could email the book to me, I’d greatly appreciate it (either format, epub or mobi, I can work with).

        Thanks in advance,
        Stephen

  100. Hi David,

    I released the first novel in a series a few years ago to no avail. This was my fault as I did no marketing, my blurb was weak, and my title was one that got me lost in the weeds in a completely different subject (also had no usable reviews). After doing some research, I decided to just write more books and not publish until I had some catalog. I’ve now done this, with four books in my series along with a 1-off. I’ve retitled book 1 of the series and am having a new cover done, so I’ll be ready to publish it soon. I mostly write in the crime mystery genre, but the 1-off is a thriller and is essentially ready to go. My question is this: Should I publish the 1-off now or wait to do the first series book? Also, is there a way to do a multi-book marketing promo if the books are in different genres?

  101. I’m sorry if I am missing something, but in the course it says, in 2.2, “I strongly recommend the section on Categories in Chapter 7 in your free course book Let’s Get Digital which will explain how to add up to 10 granular sub-categories….” I really wanted to read this section but my chapter 7 is Sales Channels, and I did just download it. Help?

    1. Sorry about that – the instructions are actually here on this page, and in the course itself (Lesson 2.4). I’ll correct that.

  102. David.
    A question about reader magnets.

    Firstly, thanks for all you do and the time you must spend on making this process seem vaguely do able.

    About to launch book 1 in a series.
    I wrote a prequel novella as a reader magnet, but now I’m wondering how to use it!
    a) as a magnet at the back of book 1?
    b) on the mailing list sign up on my website? (Ie the first thing readers read of mine to tempt them to read book 1)
    c) both?
    d) should it also be available to buy?

    I do have 2 other mini books that aren’t linked to book 1 of the series (illustrated poems and a collection of flash fiction – both of interest to my readership). Not sure whether to / how to use those?

    Sure all this becomes easier the more books I have.

    Anyway. Bless you and all who sail in you.

    1. Hi Robin, when you say those two other mini-books are “of interest” to your readership, do you mean they are something which might be of passing interest to existing fans, or something genuinely attractive and desirable to your target audience generally, to the extent that they would want to sign up to your list just to get it? You really want your reader magnet to fall into the latter category to be truly effective, and just from the sound of it here, I suspect the prequel novella might be a better candidate for that job.

      It sounds like it would be good as your primary reader magnet, working to entice readers both on your website and at the back of Book 1. Some authors can use two different magnets for those jobs – one appealing more to fresh readers and another appealing more to existing readers – but only usually when they have a lot more things out and a lot more things to play with. You could theoretically do that here with those mini-books, but it sounds to me like that prequel would do a better job in both instances. You can always dole out one of the others later on as a gift to your readers, or as part of the onboarding process as kind of a second welcome bonus, or save it in case you need to do any re-engagement on your list, and so on. There are options here (and IIRC, Newsletter Ninja goes through them).

      Don’t make it available to buy though. It should be exclusive to your list, and signing up should be the only place readers can get it.

  103. Hi David,
    I’m being wonderfully studious and following your directions in section 2.2 to get my head around categories. I looked for the section on categories in Chapter 7 of LGD and eventually found the section in Chapter 8. Which is fine, but thought I’d let you know. Maybe I’m looking at an old edition?

    Here’s my actual question: where can I find the information about how to add 10 additional sub-categories and so forth?

    I kept reading in my search for the categories section and didn’t find it before the end of the book. I’m happy for you to point me in the direction of one of your other publications if it’s outside the scope of this course. If I missed it in my frantic devouring of your text, happy for you to point at me about that too.

    Cheers,
    Sondra

    1. Hi Sondra, the information on how to add those extra categories is:

      (a) in the course materials (section 2.4 – so just a little ahead of where you are now);
      (b) on the Resources page for Let’s Get Digital; and,
      (c) on this actual page here where we are chatting! (Scroll up – it’s the first thing under the Resources section above.)

      The only place I didn’t actually put it was in the text of Let’s Get Digital itself, because this is quite new and Amazon keeps changing up the process, and I need that kind of info in a place where it can be easily and quickly edited – like a webpage.

  104. Hi Dave,

    Firstly, can I just echo the comments of others regarding your generosity. I’ve been pestering you for a few years, now, as I gradually move into self-publishing, and you probably deserve some sort of medal on those grounds alone.

    As I said privately, I’m finding the course very useful in bringing together all your advice in one place, and filling in any gaps. However, I’ve two questions:

    1. As you may know, I write non-fiction (popular philosophy). As such, most of my books are stand-alone, I guess, being on different subjects within philosophy. What’s your advice to non-fiction authors who jump around in terms of topic? Can you still treat your books as a “series” in a loose sense? I am writing a series (a 3 part guide to ethics), but it won’t be ready for a while, and besides I will still continue to write stand-alone books.

    2. Do you have any specific advice to hybrid authors on how they might capitalise on their existing back catalogue to aid the sales of their self-published books? Would there be any tweaks to your marketing strategies that you would suggest?

    Thanks again!

    Gareth.

    1. Sorry for missing your questions, Gareth.

      1. Depends how much crossover there is. I think that if there is enough potential crossover in terms of audience, then you natural style or approach to a topic can be enough to brand something as a series (think Idiot’s Guide or Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of stuff). Although it will be different from a regular series in other ways. On the negative side, you won’t have the same level of natural readthrough as a fiction series (and you won’t have that natural readthrough encouraging Amazon to recommend Book 2 to everyone who reads Book 1 as strongly). On the plus side, you will have multiple possible entry points in your series, as not everyone needs to start with Book 1 – increasing your options and discoverability.

      2. It’s very difficult to use traditionally published books to drive sales of self-published ones as you have little or no control over those books and can’t organize price promotions or anything like that. All I would suggest is to see if it is possible to include anything in the end matter that could lead readers to somewhere you do have control, like your website or, even better, your list. Some publishers are amenable to such suggestions, some are aghast you would even make them…

  105. Not a question but an observation re: deal sites and book 1s.

    Without breaking the bank I recommend exploring the free deal sites for validation.

    The only thing worse than giving a book away is giving a book away for free and NOBODY wants it.

    FussyLibrarian and Bookdoogy and the like are excellent testing platforms for the author while also giving something of value to the reader … and the author won’t be out more than $50 or so total.

    Thoughts?

    1. I’m not totally sure what you are asking here, so apologies if I have you wrong. The first time you set a book free aside – when you often get featured for free in a few places that look for such “virgin” freebies to feature – you really have to do something to generate sales and downloads in any meaningful numbers. Books don’t market themselves. And the costs are minimal for many of the sites I recommend; some are even free! There are options for all budgets here, and you aren’t scraping the barrel either. Some of these sites deliver sales and downloads for cheaper prices than the most skilled Facebook/BookBub advertiser would be able to generate.

    2. You don’t necessarily have to give your book away for reviews and hope people like it. People paying for a bad book will generate enough negative reviews you’ll know in no time! Ideally you want to know your book is spectacular before you publish, but lots of indies are excited and publish before they’re ready. If you have doubts about the quality of you work, and you don’t have anyone who won’t tell you what you want to hear, then you’ll need to hire a reputable editor who will tell you the truth.

  106. Hi Dave,
    Thank you so much for the free course, I’m learning a lot. I just watched the launch plan video and can’t wait to test it out.
    I have a few questions, hope you don’t mind
    1. In the launch plan video you mentioned that amazon requires certain amount of sales before it starts promoting a new book. Is there a ballpark number for this?
    2. How will we know if amazon is promoting our book or not?
    3. I’ve seen a lot of books on amazon that stay in a good rank for a longer time but my books drop their ranks once I stop running ads on the first book in a series(5$ a day fb ads). I think there is a term for this may be “sticky?”(I’m fairly new to this publishing world)
    4. Last question(I promise). Most of the indie authors suggest changing keywords/blurbs after a book is published. What is a decent amount of time to compare the results after changing keywords/ blurb?

    Thank you so much.
    Julie

    1. Hi Julie, these are all quite complicated questions, so I’ll just answer them briefly, but please come back to me if you need any follow-ups and I can go into more detail.

      1. There is no ballpark, unfortunately. And even if there was one, it would be kind of inaccurate to give you it! The recommendation kicks into gear when you sell one book – as shown in this blog post from there other day: https://davidgaughran.com/2020/07/16/also-boughts-amazon-recommendations-engine-algorithm/ – but only really amps up when you sell a lot more. It’s not a simple input/output scenario, so I can’t even give you a rule of thumb here. All I can say is that the more you feed the system, the more Amazon will recommend your book to readers. When it comes to freebies though, we can be a little more accurate. It’s not a hard rule or anything, but I’ve tend to notice Amazon’s recommendations kicking up a notch once you go over around 5,000 free downloads during your promo. So I always try and shoot for at least that many.

      2. There is no way of knowing, other than if you see a spike in sales/downloads which is otherwise unexplained. Most of your day-to-day sales and downloads, which you aren’t directly driving yourself, will come from either being visible on Amazon or from Amazon recommending your book in a more active way, either on-site or by email. Just note that if you get an email from Amazon recommending your book, this is probably down to you browsing your own book’s page, rather than a sign that Amazon is kicking in and emailing lots of readers.

      3. How many sales a day are those ads generating? What’s the daily sales level overall for those individual titles? You might not be reaching “critical mass” here – i.e. not selling enough with that level of spend for Amazon to really take notice. This issue of critical mass is why I often prefer concentrating my promotional push into a specific period – like 5 days or 7 days – and really pushing the book higher up the charts to get Amazon to take notice and start recommend me.

      4. Tricky to answer this. If your book isn’t getting much traffic, then changes to your blurb will go unnoticed either way. I just keep honing that blurb until I’m really happy with it. Keywords, I handle separately, and just periodically revisit them. But they aren’t as important for fiction authors. For my non-fiction books, I want to aim for decent search visibility on my key terms. But, again, placement in search is a function of sales too, so if my book isn’t selling right now, no amount of keyword fiddling is going to really help there, and I won’t be able to measure the effects of changes. I guess what I’m saying is good keywords can help a book that’s already selling, but won’t rescue one that’s not. Does that make sense?

  107. Hi Dave,

    the course looks fantastic, I’ve just watched the launch plan video and wanted to thank you.

    I downloaded one of your books several years ago when I was after a traditional publishing deal and wished I’d listened to you back then. I only self-published last year but advice from people like you is invaluable.

    Cheers,
    Benedict

    1. I’m so glad you found it useful – it’s really hard to know if something is working for people until you throw it out there and get feedback, so I appreciate you letting me know.

      And welcome to the Dark Side!

  108. Hi Dave,
    When you talk on the course about the top 100 lists on Amazon, you mention the typical number of books to sell to make that list as you drill down. Is that information on KDP as Ive followed along on Amazon as you talk but don’t see any numbers you mention?
    Thanks
    Great course btw!

  109. You are extremely generous with your time and the info you share.

    It took me a while to figure out who I could trust in the book marketing world. Your name kept popping up.

    I looked around a bit more and your name kept popping up.

    Now if/when I have a question I ask myself, “What does Gaughran have to say?” and I come back to you.

    Now, you are the first person I recommend for newbies and pros (you know, those who think they know everything).

    I added your name to my FB group. I hope they ALL come. If so, I’ll have smarter people to work with.

    Thanks, David!

  110. I got stuck trying to add categories. I went to my Author Central page. Clicked on Help.

    Next step says to click “My Books” on the dropdown, but there is no dropdown. Here’s the Help page I’m looking at
    https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help

    There is a dropdown with my name, where I can sign out. There is a dropdown for Sales Info. That’s it.

    After taking the time to find nine categories, I’d really like to be able to add them!

    1. Ellis: on that page you have linked to, click the Contact Us button on the left and then follow the steps in the course/above. Sorry, I’ll make that clearer!

    1. Hi Clare. There’s a whole, detailed section on that in Following – which I recommend you check out for a more comprehensive answer. But just to reply quickly now:

      WordPress.com is free – a simplified version of WordPress where they handle all the hosting, and you have a much more limited set of options in terms of customization and integrations and widgets and plug-ins. It’s okay for a starter site, and definitely easier and cheaper. But it is quite limiting. And if you don’t switch over to self-hosted WordPress (i.e. WordPress.org) at the right point, you will actually start to limit your growth and it could end up being quite costly for you in the long term in that sense. (This is exactly what happened to me – which is why I’m warning against it.)

      WordPress.org is basically like the paid version. Although you are not paying WordPress as such, but a company for your hosting. And some other expenses come with that, like purchasing your theme, for example. This is definitely the optimal way to set up your website, and what I do now, and how I actually recommend you start off, if the budget is there. And that goes double for authors of non-fiction who will be relying on their website a lot more, and will need it to do more things.

      Hope that helps – check Chapter 2 of Following for more comprehensive information (but do come back to me with any more questions).

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