Stephanie Langford | Keeper of the Home
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!