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Stephanie Langford | Keeper of the Home

 

eBook Information:

ebook: Plan It, Don’t Panic

date published: January 2012

copies sold: ~4,000

 

ebook: Real Food on a Real Budget

date published: May 2010

copies sold: ~1467

 

ebook: Healthy Homemaking

date published: April 2009

copies sold: ~1000

 

Social Media:

 

Case Study:

Your ebooks vary in length from 75-280 pages. Can you talk a little bit about your writing process and how you balance writing ebooks with still providing content for your blog?
I find it challenging to fit in time for book writing while maintaining my blog, since blogging as a mom and homemaker can already be stretching as it is. The majority of the content for my books has been written during extra “coffee shop sessions”, over and above the time I usually set aside each week to work and write. When I’m in a book writing season, my husband (or sometimes, a hired babysitter) will help make it work for me to sneak in extra afternoons, evenings, or occasionally full days out, so that I can focus hard and push through a lot of writing at once. I wish I was one of those diligent writers who can pump out books by devoting 15-20 minutes per day, but it just doesn’t work for me. I have to get into my groove and be completely focused.

Because it adds so much extra to my plate during these seasons, I have to space them apart and take long breaks in between. One book per year is my absolute maximum, and it’s usually less often than that. Also, I don’t pressure myself with short deadlines. My two longer books both took between 6-12 months to write, and though I’d prefer to make the process shorter, that was the best that I could do. In my opinion, it’s better to take longer to do it and actually get that book written, then to never attempt it because you can’t do it in a short window of time.

I believe you've said you hire an outside editor to review your ebooks before publishing them. In terms of ROI, why do consider that a worthwile investment?
Initially I didn’t go with an outside editor that I hired, although I did have both my husband and a good friend with a linguistics/English background to read through the books and offer me suggestions. I’ve realized, though, that while self-editing and having friends or family help is one way to do it, hiring a professional editor is what can really make a book stand out as excellent versus being only mediocre. It’s a common idea that ebooks are of a lesser quality than traditionally published books, and unfortunately, this is sometimes true. I never want to put out something of inferior quality, because it’s my name, my reputation and my career at stake. That’s tough to place a money value on, but to me, it’s of the utmost importance.

That said, when it comes to ROI, although I can’t give you a formula for why it makes sense financially, here are a few benefits that I see:

  • If someone buys one of my books, recognizes that the quality of the writing and content is high, they are that much more likely to buy another book from me, to recommend my books to someone else, or to simply leave a good review somewhere like Amazon.
  • Other bloggers and those with websites are more likely to promote my book if it is professionally done. The more that other people get behind my books and promote them with enthusiasm, naturally, the more sales I make.
  • Ebooks can often be a gateway to other opportunities. Having a well-edited book that lands in the hands of an agent or a publishing house can help you to land a traditional publishing contract, if this is something you desire. I’ve known this to be the case with other bloggers, and it was a factor for me in connecting with the agent that I am now working with.
Do you outsource the design of your ebooks (interior and exterior), or is that something you do yourself? Again, what do you see as the benefits of outsourcing those tasks?
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the simple truth is, we all do it! A well-designed book cover is one of the primary ways that someone will be drawn to buy your book, other than the title and the topic itself. But you can have the best topic, and the most fantastic content, and a poorly designed cover that looks like it was made by an amateur and you know what? It just won’t’ sell very many copies. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and beautifully designed ebooks look more valuable, interesting and worth buying.

When I’m making financial decisions like these, such as whether to hire an editor, or a cover designer, or someone to format the book, here’s how I think about it. Consider the price point that you’ve chosen for your book, and how much profit you actually keep from each sale (after any fees you pay, like Paypal, for example). Take the potential cost of that editor or that cover design, and divide it by your earnings per book, and you’ll know how many books you need to sell to make up that initial cost. I remember with my first book, I was scared no one would buy it and I just desperately wanted to recoup the costs that I had put into it. The funny thing is, I made up all of that money and more within the first couple days of selling it, back when my blog had a fraction of the traffic it has now. After that, it’s all profit and if you’re careful and conservative with those upfront costs, it’s easier to make up for than you think.

Your sales page(s) are hosted on your website as opposed to a separate domain/website. Can you talk a little bit about that decision and why you went that route?
When I first began putting out ebooks, it wasn’t quite the polished, professional thing that it is today. People were really still figuring it out, still designing their own covers with Microsoft Word (horror!), still writing up tacky, horrendously long sales pages, and so on. The idea of buying the domain for your specific book and creating a unique website for it hadn’t quite caught on, and most people simply sold off of their regular website. That’s how I launched my first one simply because it was all that I knew.

With my second and third books, I was beginning to see this separate website trend emerging strongly, but wasn’t convinced that it was the right route for me. Spending the extra time and money to have a separate website designed was a cost I didn’t know if I was prepared to pay, when I wasn’t convinced of any additional value that I would get from it. My traffic was all on my regular blog, and setting up sales pages on that site was a fairly quick and painless process. Also, when  reader discovers one of my ebooks on my blog, they likely also discover that I’ve written two others, and I feel that this leads to more sales. It also meant that I didn’t ultimately end up with 3 extra websites to maintain in addition to my main blog. It made it easy to promote and make my books visible on the blog (though I did remove the sidebar from those book promo pages, just to simplify the sales pages and make them cleaner and more readable).

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s any better to have my books hosted on their own site or not, but I can tell you that each of my books has sold very successfully using this method, and it has saved me time and money. It works for me.

With two priced at $12.95 and a third at $4.99, how do you decide on a price point for your ebooks?
Again, when I first started selling, ebooks had a higher price point. There wasn’t nearly the same level of market competition, nor did Amazon Kindle and things like $0.99 or $1.99 ebooks exist. In fact, most ebooks were on very niche topics, things that were not available as print books, and thus were priced higher as speciality topics that you couldn’t get anywhere else. I priced my first two books along those lines, as I really didn’t know of any books (print or digital) that were like them or offered the same type of information.

Since that time, a flood of ebooks have hit the market, and my books are not as unique as they once were. I have actually been in the process of considering lowering the price on my first two books recently, and am particularly affected by the pricing regulations for Amazon Kindle, where books over $9.99 are penalized and authors earn a lower commission (30% compared to 70%!), since Amazon wants to incentivize authors to keep Kindle book prices low. I haven’t reached a firm decision yet, but the reality of the internet is that as trends and seasons change, sometimes what worked before doesn’t continue to work as it once did, and so you always have to be willing to change and evolve your strategies as the market shifts.

When I launched my third book, I priced it at $4.99 for several reasons. For one, it was significantly shorter than my previous books (75 pages, compared with 170 and 280). For another, it contained some writing that had previously been posted (and still existed) on my blog and could be accessed for free. I had edited that writing and added to it significantly, so I knew that it was worth something, but I didn’t feel like I could charge as much for that reason. Lastly, I wanted to experiment with a lower price point, compared to my first two books, and see how that impacted sales and whether the sheer quantity of sales made up for the loss of profit per sale. Whether it did or not is still hard to say, but that third book has done extremely well and added a nice Amazon income stream as well that I didn’t have before. It’s difficult to compare, but I do feel that both strategies (both pricing higher for a niche, unique product, as well as pricing lower for higher volume and affordability for more people) can work. A big part of it is knowing your market and what they’re willing to pay. I will be the very first person to say that I am NOT even remotely an expert on any of this and I work by trial and error, learning as I go!

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