Today I’ll be sharing some of the things that I did to get my book to be the Amazon number 1 Best Seller. I’ll be walking you through some of the stuff I did this past December. This is a recent case study, my book launched in December of last year and we hit Amazon best seller on the first day. So I’ll share about that.
Let’s kick it off with what we’ve got going on. My name is Bob McIntosh and I wrote a book called Get Out of Your Own Way. It took me a while to write it and I’ll walk through some of the process that I did to write the book. It launched on December 17th and it hit Amazon Best Seller at about 8pm that same day pacific time. It takes a lot of work and time and effort to make that happen, but if you do the right things the right way and you set everything up from the get-go, you can do the same thing it’s just a matter of making sure that you have everything set the right way. A lot of people ask “Hey Bob can you share with me the secrets of how you wrote a book,” like “what did you do,” and “how did you write the whole thing,” all of the details.
We’ll start with writing the book. For those of you who know me, I’m a terrible writer. If you’ve seen any blog posts or content that I’ve put online, more than likely if I just shared it directly then the quality is not the best. I’m terrible at grammar and spelling but that those things aren’t important to me. The message that I’m trying to communicate is far more important than getting the little details right. When I first started writing the book, I just decided to write this thing. I just outlined the whole book. Honestly, this took me like a whole year, not a year of every single day, but a year of an hour here and there. It was probably somewhere between 30 and 40 hours over the course of the year to just outline everything I want. The outline helps you get everything in the order that makes sense. So as you’re starting to add things and going back and forth, you can go “this would be better in this section instead,” and you can move things around easier when you have that outline to work with. Outline the whole thing. It doesn’t have to be super detailed, it’s just there to give me talking points about what I want to cover in each chapter. It’s not designed to be the book itself, it’s just a structure for when I go through and create the actual content.
Once I had the outline done, I sat down to start writing the book. I started writing the first chapter, most people start by writing the first chapter first. You don’t need to it this way, but it’s the way that I did it. It took me literally like 4 or 5 hours to get through the first chapter. If you’ve read my book, the first chapter is literally the shortest chapter. I was like “this is going to take forever if I’m going to have to keep writing at this speed, I’m never going to get anything done.” So I took a step back and said “wait a second, why am I sitting here writing this?” I’m not a writer, it’s not what I do, I’ve never professed to be a great writer or some literary genius, but at the end of the day I just said “this is taking too long.” Then I said “why don’t I go back to what I do better?” I speak, I talk, I can get in front of a crowd. I just stood in front of thousands of people last weekend and delivered a 5 minute speech. That’s my powerpoint, when I get in front of people, I can talk about what I need to talk about. The outline, if I talked about it, just naturally flowed out. So I said “why am I trying to write something that I would better talking about.” So instead what I did was I sat down, got my outline on my computer, got a microphone, and I recorded basically for 6 straight hours. I recorded the entire book from chapter one to the end. What was awesome about that was that it helped me communicate what I wanted to because that’s the format that I’m comfortable with. That’s how I can communicate information in a much more concise format, in verbal rather than written. So this helped me.
If you’re considering writing a book, I’d suggest that you sit down and ask yourself “what is your method of communication?” Are you better as a writer? As a speaker? As another format? Use whatever format that you excel in and move forward with that. Don’t let the idea “I’m not a writer” hold you back from writing a book. There’s no reason that you can’t do that.
So once the book was “written,” or in my case recorded, I went to one of the virtual assistant hiring sites and I found a guy who could transcribe my 6 hours of audio and he did it for only 75 bucks. The guy was based out of the UK, he did a fantastic job. For 75 dollars I literally had my entire book typed for me from the 6 hours of recording. That, to me, is money well spent. I know a lot of folks will say “I don’t need to hire a writer, I can just do it myself.” If you’re not a writer and that’s not how you communicate best, then don’t do it that way. It literally would have taken me probably 6 times as long to write this book, if not longer, if I had tried to do it myself. Instead of that, I said “I’ll record it and send it out to be transcribed.” So I sent it out to the transcriber and when I got it back, I went through and made a bunch of changes because obviously when you’re recording things, you’re speaking and you can’t really go back easily and change what you’ve said. So I went and spent maybe 10-15 hours going back and making tweaks here and there. Maybe finding a better example of something that I wanted to share, or whatever it might be, there’s a lot of little changes that I made.
Then, I sent it to an editor. If you’re not a someone who is a professional writer. For example, my Mom is a great writer. She is awesome at grammar and spelling, she knows to write well. I am terrible. So, my editing of the book was not fixing commas and spaces and other grammar things because there’s no way that I’m ever going to get all of that of that stuff fixed properly. Instead, I fixed the content because I can hire someone to fix the grammatical mistakes. So I hired an editor and she went through it. She did a great job of taking everything that I wrote down and polished it to a nice shine so that it was really pretty and beautifully written and it made it sense. The most important thing for me though was that when I was getting the book edited was that she didn’t try to change the content. She didn’t try to say, “hey, you should do this instead of this.” She didn’t tell me what to write in my book, she just took what I had already written and making it better. She made my sentences more concise, more grammatically correct, drawing in things. She even gave me a few examples that I hadn’t heard of before that I thought were fantastic. So a good editor makes a world of difference, especially if you’re not a great writer right off the bat, having someone who can polish up your words and make them shine, that’s a huge thing. I worked with her from about July to August-September-ish. So a couple months working with her editing my book. So was doing it kind of part time, she has full time job, she was kind of helping me out, but she is a fantastic editor. If you need her information, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to connect you guys. She took my words and polished them because I wasn’t good with grammar so I let someone else care of that for me.
So then I had finalized product. So then the next question that everyone asks me is, “Should I self-publish my book or go approach a publishing house to publish my book?” There’s two schools of thought about this, and I’ll share with you my opinion on it. Depending on who you talk to, they’re going to have different opinions on this. However, I’ll share with you why I chose to self-publish and why I think that that is ultimately a better option for most people. The big thing here is self-publishing requires literally nothing. You don’t need a background, audience, you can self-publish your book today. There is no long process, no tons of meetings or negotiating. You can literally say I want to publish a book, boom, go onto create space, and boom you can publish a book right now today and it’s that simple and easy. That’s why I like self-publishing.
Now, going to a publishing house with your book will do a couple of things. Number 1, you’re going to get massive exposure, way more than you will probably ever get through self-publishing. They’re putting it out there in the big-box stores like Barnes and Nobles and places like that. They’re going to promote it for you. They have the resources to really put it out there that most folks don’t have. Number 2, they’re going to want a big cut of it. Even though they’re pushing out a lot of books, a lot of times what I’ve heard is as much as 80 or 85 percent or more of each sale of the book. So it leaves with you with a tiny amount for each book. We’ll talk about making money with a book, because it’s a whole different story, in a minute. Publishing houses can be a great thing. If you want exposure, if you want to be a New York Times Best Seller, you’ve got to through a publisher. It’s almost impossible, there’s a few people who have done it, I believe Tim Ferris with his Four Hour Body book and few others have accomplished that without a publisher but it’s much more difficult. The thing is though is that if you go to talk a to publisher, most publishers are going to want you to have a big audience to put your book out there already. I’ve heard that you need to be able to sell as much as 25 thousand copies of your book or more or they won’t even really discuss talking to you unless there’s something that you bring to the table that no one else does. If you’ve got a Nobel Prize, or you’re renown or a celebrity, even though you can’t sell 25 thousand copies, you might be able to get a publishing deal just because you’re well known and have that audience to begin with. They want to sell a lot of copies and if you don’t have the audience to buy that many for you, then it’s going to be very difficult to get a publishing deal in most cases.
This is another case where I think that self-publishing works better. When I first wrote the book, my audience was small. Here on I’ve got maybe 6 or 7 thousand people following me, maybe 30 thousand people on twitter, and maybe 1000 or so on linkedin. I knew there was no way I was going to sell 25 thousand copies of my book in the first few weeks. It just isn’t going to happen. But the cool part is that you don’t have to. Once you put it out there through CreateSpace, then people can start buying it immediately and you can make a good run at it even if you don’t necessarily make the best overall book on Amazon. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about getting that short initial boost. I had a lot of people buy the book up front when it first launched. That makes the book go on Amazon onto the New and Noteworthy section which expands the audience to a bunch of people that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to connect with. They were finding me not because they knew me. That’s why I like self-publishing for a beginning author. If you’ve got a massive audience already, go for it and approach a publishing house to see what they say. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
The good thing about self-publishing is that you get out there. Even if you don’t hit the top Amazon Best Seller list, you still get out there. Even if it’s top 10, top 50, top whatever. Think about how on Amazon Kindle there are literally millions of books. Even if you do moderately well with your book launch you still get out and you still get that credibility that it gets you. That’s a huge piece of all of that.
I want to talk quickly about that money that comes from writing a book. A lot of people think “If I hit number 1 best seller, I’m going to make a lot of money!” Not true. If you had a publishing deal with someone, maybe you’ll make some decent money. If you’re self-publishing, you’re not going to make that much money. Full disclosure, I don’t try to hide anything or hold anything back, when I launched my book from the first month of sales I made somewhere between about 800 and 900 dollars. That’s all I made. It wasn’t a ton of money by any means. Way less than I spent between the time, effort, editing cost, transcription cost, and what I paid to hire to a marketer to help me push it out there. You’re not going to make a lot of money from launching a book, it just doesn’t happen these days. The perceived value of a book, especially something on like a Kindle is just so low now-a-days in the business and non-fiction books that people just don’t want to spend a ton of money. Even if they want to spend the money on it, in order to make a lot of money, you’ve got to have lots of sales. I sell my hardcopy book for 15 dollars, I think it costs like 2 or 3 dollars to print, I’m not making that much money per sale. By the time you factor in all of the cost, I maybe get 10 dollars per sale. You have to have a lot of sales for that to make you a lot of money. It’s not a big money maker if you’re just getting started.
However, and this is the big thing that a lot of people underestimate when it come to a good book, is the back end services that you can sell. Whether it be a coaching program, social media help, running ads, your services, whatever services that you offer, those back end services are now backed by the credibility of you saying that you’re an author and you’ve been published and you were number 1 or 10 or 5 or whatever top best sellers. That is where it’s worth more. The opportunities that having the book provided me is far superior to the cost of writing the book and launching it. In all honesty, I probably spent close to 10 thousand dollars to launch that book. It was a lot of money. But it was absolutely worth it because it’s opened up a lot of doors and opportunities. I was invited to do a commencement speech at my local High School. That would never have happened if I didn’t have a book. Now that’s one more thing to add to my credibility. I can say “Not only did get to inspire 3000 people in a short minute speech, but now I’m also a commencement speaker.” It’s the opportunities that open up over time from writing book that are far more beneficial than any money you get directly from the sales of the book. That’s a huge piece of what’s going on with that.
A few more secrets to share with you guys.
Number one is when I first wrote the book, I was dead set on a title. I had a title in my mind, and that was it. Then I brought on a great marketer and he helped me change my view. It’s funny, I actually already knew the whole process that he walked me through, but his guidance and just having that experience was worth every penny to me. So the title. I had a title set and nothing is going to change that. So what’s funny is that I tell him the title and he basically says, “No, that Title Sucks.” I was like “No it doesn’t. It’s a great title.” So he challenged me to set aside my preconceived and say “maybe this is not the title for me, but maybe it is.” So we workshopped three titles and three subtitles for the book. Then I took them and put them out on Facebook and said “Vote. You tell me.” I let the audience choose what title they like the most. The title that I was so dead set on got the least amount of votes. Out of the 300 or 400 votes, my title got maybe 3 votes. So lesson learned. Just because you have a title that you like, don’t marry yourself to the title because more than likely, it’s going to change. Let your audience help choose the title. Then they feel like they’re part of it because they’ve become part of the process, they are here with you saying “this is awesome I got to be a part of this book writing process!” It’s a great thing. It keeps them involves and lets them know that you’re going to be putting the book out there very soon. When we talk about book design, I did the same process. There’s a lot that goes into designing a book. It’s not just “well this looks kinda cool.” There’s color scheme to pick, a message to communicate with the picture. Think about if someone were to see your book on a bookshelf, is that picture going to make them want to stop and read it? There’s millions of books out there. I read that in 2015 there was something like 15 or 20 million different books written. That’s just the ones that they issued ISBNs for, that doesn’t include all e-books and things like that that don’t get ISBNs. So you’ve got to stand out or they’re not going to buy your book. At the end of the day, if no one buys your book, then why did you write it. I wrote my book to help entrepreneurs get out of their own way. I didn’t write the book just to say, “I wrote a book and nobody read it.” That doesn’t make any sense. So a great tip is to do that.
Last thing that I’ll leave you with is that if you look at writing the book, editing it, transcribing, everything that went into getting the book ready to launch, that time spent and effort spent was miniscule compared to the time marketing the book after it was written to get it actually launched. That was something that I hadn’t account for. I had it written and I thought I was ready to go. That was like August or so, and then it took from August until December and I had to rush it a bit because I wanted to get it out before the end of the year. The marketing piece was the longest piece in the process, so keep that in mind if you want to market a book.