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Katie Kimball | Kitchen Stewardship

 

eBook Information:

ebook: Better Than a Box

date published: January 22, 2013

copies sold: around 6,000 during initial launch, including Kindle


ebook:
Healthy Snacks to Go

date published: April 26, 2010

copies sold: ~2,500 in the first two years


ebook:
The Everything Beans Book

date published: March 1, 2011


ebook:
Smart Sweets

date published: November 16, 2011

copies sold: ~500


ebook:
The Family Camping Handbook

date published: July 9, 2010

 

Social Media:

 

Case Study:

You're not the author of one ebook but of five so far. What do you see as the benefits of publishing new ebooks regularly? How do you continue to promote older titles even as you're releasing new ones?
I should start by sharing the reason I started with eBooks in the first place. I read a blog post by Darren Rowse at Problogger.com in fall 2009. He compared some street performers he enjoyed – one sold a CD, the other sold nothing. Both were earning money that day, but the one with a product to sell earned exponentially more. He encouraged bloggers to do likewise: capture all the traffic we’re working so hard to get and have something available to sell to them. That advice is both accurate and brilliant.

In that light, publishing new eBooks regularly has many benefits:

  • Something new for my regular readers to purchase.
  • The opportunity to make “discount packages” so that if someone gets interested in one book, they might just grab two or three since there’s a deal on multiple copies.
  • Chances to “get out there” with other bloggers/affiliates while they promote the new book.
  • Now that I’m on Kindle too, the fact that my other books usually show up when people are browsing/buying one book is huge. For example, I know that when one book is doing well (Better Than a Box during launch, for example) the other books feel the snowball effect and their sales rise (January showed double average sales for Snacks and Beans, the only ones on Kindle at the time).
  • The obvious answer: A new book makes a lot of money on launch, and any product that continues to sell, even a little, is passive income. More books = more income.

As far as promoting older books, I have done a few things:

  • released 2nd editions that are 25-50% longer
  • scheduled special promos with affiliates, like putting a code for Better Than a Box into Heavenly Homemaker’s eCourse just before a bundle sale – it did plenty well enough for the 15 minutes it took to set that up.
  • having sales always pushes purchases
  • the Bundle of the Week sale was a good thing, too – and I sold 114 copies of Better Than a Box with the 50% off code we included with the bundle, so that was also decent fallout without much extra work

Ultimately, once you have done all the work for a product, it’s very nice to have something “to sell” that you can choose to market heavily or leave alone for a few months.

Several of your ebooks have pretty specific topics (i.e., not real food in general, but remaking processed favorites). How do you come up with topics for your ebooks?
When I began, not many people were publishing eBooks. The blog colleagues I was imitating included Stephanie at Keeper of the Home and Laura at Heavenly Homemakers. Laura has many books with narrow topics, and I thought that was a great idea. Plus, I needed something manageable.

The topics come from readers, typically, or in the case of the camping handbook, it was something I was inspired to write – I had so many ideas while camping but didn’t think they were a perfect fit for ten blog posts on a Kitchen blog, so…eBook idea! I ask for topic ideas when I do reader surveys, and sometimes people will make requests on blog posts: “Can you make this idea into an ebook?”

I have a list of ideas for at least the next 4 books. 🙂

I did a talk on ebook writing once, and this is what I said about choosing my first idea (snacks):

Healthy Snacks to Go was the perfect topic because:

  • My readers were asking for it – often
  • It spanned multiple niches
  • I had lots of material
  • It was unique
  • It was a “gap” for most people (hint: fill the gap!)
  • Some of my highest Google searches and most popular recipes are snacks recipes from this book
What does your writing/recipe testing process look like? How do you make time for writing an ebook in the midst of your other family/professional obligations?
I am not the person to ask about this! There’s no process, no calendar (that I stick to). I make time at night…when I should be sleeping.

However, I do have a bit of a system now that I’ve been doing it a while:

  1. collect recipes
  2. make a recipe list
  3. send recipes to testers (readers who volunteered; they get a free copy of the book) once finalized here
  4. make edits based on tester feedback
  5. create a recipe “template” for the format, icons, font, etc.
  6. make an outline of the “rest” of the book beyond the recipes
  7. start filling in the blanks!
  8. push to the finish…using any time I can scrounge up

Making a deadline that other people know about helps me to make time, even when I’m busy. I’m accountable that way – so I might start scheduling giveaways for launch or just talk about the book on social media to get people excited, and then I’m more motivated.

You recently updated The Family Camping Handbook, including a new title and cover. What role do you think good design plays in the success of an ebook?
I’m swimming upstream on this one. I DO think design has to help, and in fact I got a new cover for the Family Camping Handbook because I was launching on Kindle, and Amazon is very visual with the thumbnails at the bottom (“Other people have bought…”) I changed the title because the old one was terrible (a real mouthful!), and a new cover was the only opportunity I’d have to change it!

On the flip side, I made the cover to Healthy Snacks to Go 15 minutes before I published it using MS LiveWriter and two sort of dark photographs. It was literally an afterthought (that I almost forgot completely). But that book still sold well, at least making more money/sales than I ever expected at the time! My own readers, at least, forgave the horrid cover. It’s still a DIY cover albeit with updated photos, although I used a different cover (also free, DIY, from CreateSpace when I published in print) on Kindle because it really is more attractive.

Of the first 4 books, the most expensive cover and first done by a professional designer was Smart Sweets…which can’t sell itself for anything. So. In my experience, design is only one piece of the puzzle, and not the most important one – but I know MANY will disagree with me.

While many bloggers set up separate sales pages for their ebooks, you keep yours all on your blog. Can you talk about that decision and why you've made that decision?
I never gave it a thought when I first launched, because I had no precedent.

Now that I have many books, I recently considered a new site for all of them. The main reason TO make a separate site is so that the sidebar doesn’t distract the customers. We decided that, since KS needs a new theme anyway, we’d get one where we can put a custom sidebar on the eBook buy page and leave it where it is. I enjoy the SEO benefit of affiliates linking to my site, one reason I changed shopping carts a year ago.

I definitely didn’t want 5 new sites to manage (one for each book) and I also wanted all the books together for those customers who might buy more than one. Making a new “KS eBooks” site didn’t seem to make sense for the reasons above.

One of the things you do amazingly well is maintain relationships with your affiliates. What role do affiliate promotions play in the promotion of your books? How did you decide on a 33% payout for affiliates?
I do make a note to self to email my affiliates once a month with promo ideas. It doesn’t always work. My affiliates usually sell about 1/4 to 1/3 of the books sold in a given month (guesstimating). I know other bloggers’ affiliates sell many more than they do, so either I am just good at selling to my own audience or I need to seek out some bigger affiliates! (Or maybe my covers just stink…) 😉

I have started running 50% off promos with special landing pages for affiliates with big audiences, and that does seem to be a good way to get a boost in sales on a given book for the month. I also offer a half-off-any-book code on the thank you page after a purchase, and that also makes an impact on those special sales.

For my commission level, again this is partly a result of publishing before a gazillion bloggers had ebooks. Many now offer 50% commission.

How do you feel about publishing ebooks as part of Amazon's exclusive KDP program? Do the benefits of that platform outweigh the limitations on selling the ebook via other platforms?
I’m very much in the middle of evaluating this process, but it’s very interesting so far! The Camping Handbook is currently only for sale on Amazon, not on my own site. When I get to the end of the 90 days (you have to leave your ebook in KDP Select for 90 days, minimum) I will have to compare to last summer’s camping book sales stats and see how much I may have “missed out on” here at KS vs. what I make at Amazon.

I did offer the book for free for 2 days, which was GREAT for promotion. Results:

  • Gave away almost 10K books – being in the hands of 10K people has to be a good thing, if they read the book someday.
  • No noticeable increase in blog traffic from people browsing the book and clicking links to KS
  • Sold a good handful of books after the free promotion at full price. I’m fairly certain that was positive fallout from the promo.
  • The next month, the camping book sold 5-10x as many copies as my other books – again, I think that’s because of increased exposure with the promo, and I’m very happy with that! However, it’s POSSIBLE that it’s because I just released the camping book on Kindle. Hard to tell – If I do KDP Select with another book, it would NOT be within the first week of the Kindle release.
  • I didn’t see increased sales of other books, unfortunately, but I think I did the freebie too early – my books weren’t really “related” as far as Amazon knew, so my other books weren’t showing up in the “people are also looking at…” thumbnails. Oops on my part.
  • I offer a coupon for $1.95 to get printable versions of the charts, checklists and recipes in the book back at my own site. I have seen 20 people purchase that, so that’s nice – although not a very big percentage of the 10K freebies!!
  • The book HAS been lent out through the Kindle lending library, which can only happen as part of KDP select. I love that part, because I can offer a book for free to my readers, but Amazon pays out based on the percentage of all books lent out. The first month, I was VERY pleasantly surprised to see that the payout per book was close to $2, which is very respectable in my mind.

So 2 questions remain for me – (1) is the KDP Select program worthwhile based on the lending library payouts (vs. being able to sell on my own site)? (2) Is giving away the book for free worth the promotion time and energy? If yes, then KDP Select is more worthwhile, if no, then KDP Select has to stand on the lending library alone.

I DO think that publishing via Kindle is always a good idea – Amazon sells itself, so there are always a few sales a month, totally passive income, and I love that. If you have an eBook, Kindle-ize it immediately. 🙂

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