October 2013 Kindle Income Report

Introduction

Welcome to the first Kindle Income Report. I’m writing these reports monthly in an attempt to capture the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to my Kindle Publishing business.

My goal is detail important events that happened the previous months, how much I made (or lost) during the month, key takeaways I learned and what I’m working on in the coming months. Since Amazon doesn’t release my monthly earnings until the the 15th of following month (Octobers earnings were released on November 15th) I plan to write up a report around the 15th of each month.

Let me be clear from the beginning – this monthly report isn’t to claim I make the most money on Kindle or beat my chest as the works greatest publisher – I don’t and I’m not – but rather take a few minutes to capture and reflect on the previous 30 days. Since this is the inaugural report, let me get you up to speed at where I currently am before we look back on October and then towards the future.

Where I Started

I published my first book on Amazon on August 8, 2013. Since then I’ve published 4 additional books on Amazon (giving me a total of 5 books). All of them are currently in the non-fiction children’s picture books niche.

I picked this niche for several reasons:

1. It is a fast to produce a book in this niche. All I need is a 1500 to 2000 word article, 25 to 45 photos, and a proper book cover. I’m able to get the writing down quickly and if my production schedule stays on target I can produce 2 to 4 books per month.

2. It’s simple to outsource. Since I don’t need much in the way of content I’m able to hire writers cheaply and provide them with most of the source information from other easy to find resources (Wikipedia, Similar Books, & other important websites mainly).

I’ve used writers from Fiverr, Odesk, and Need An Article. I get the majority of my covers made on Fiverr and I also use Fiverr providers to get photos for the book, format my book, and do various promotional tasks.

3. I can recover my cost quickly while keeping my risk low. Typically these picture books cost around $50 to produce in their entirety. Because they are so cheap, I can afford to have several produced at once. By doing that I mitigate my risk across several books and niches instead of just one. Also, because of their cheap price, it doesn’t take many sales to recover my cost.

My overall strategy (as of 11/1/13) when it comes to publishing is this:

First, I Initially I produce 2 books for each niche I am currently exploring. These are similar subjects (say animals) but not similar topics (I produce a snake and a bat book, but not two books on snakes). When they are ready to be published I do little more than free promotional days to get the initial traction for the books. If I notice that one or both of them begin to sell well I immediately commission a third book.

Next, I run these three books through my 90 day promotional calendar to coincide with the 5 free promotional days offered to me by Amazon’s KDP Program. Over those 90 days I track downloads, sales, and borrows of the individual books. In order to continue in a category/niche I need to have 2 of the 3 books I had written either break even or show a profit during the first 90 days of publication.

If that occurs then I commission an additional two books and scale my presence within that particular category. I continue to scale until I hit 10 books within that category.

So breaking it down:

Initially I outsource two books. If they appear to be selling well (enough for one of them to pay for itself within 90 days) I outsource an additional book.

If at the end of 90 days 2 out of the 3 books I outsourced have either broken even, or produced a profit (no matter how small), I get an additional two books written.

Now I repeat the tracking I did with the two initial books and once those books appear to be selling well I have an additional 3 books outsourced (bringing our book total to 8 in this category).

If at the end of the second 90 days, 5 of the 8 books have broken even or produced a profit – I have the final two books written (bringing me to 10 books).

I go back to the same initial testing and tracking I did with the initial books and my goal at the end is to have 7 out of 10 books that have broken even or produced a profit at covers all of my cost.

While all of this is going on I am using various promotional strategies to link the books together, capture email addresses, and build my Kindle publishing empire.

That’s enough background for now, let’s get to this months important events.

Important Occurrences In October

A lot of things happened in October.

A New Promotional Strategy

I tried a new service – this one – to help me promote my latest book on Kindle. By using the service I was able to get 2,998 downloads in a single day and because of cool trick they taught me (they’ll teach it to you to if you use their service) I went from 3 sales to 15 sales of the book in a single day.

The big reason I used the service was NOT just to bring in a flood of new sales (although the book continues to sell nicely). My main goal was to get to the #1 position within the niche making me a best selling author.

By achieving that, I am now able to claim best selling author status (written by bestselling author …) for all of my books written under that pen name. I believe that in time, being a best selling author will give me more credibility to the marketplace and potential buyers and it also provided me with a nice confidence and ego boost during my young publishing career.

I just checked and currently the book I used with this promotion is the top selling book of mine this month so the benefit of the promotion continues well after doing it.

A Curious Discovery

Even though the promotion paid for itself in several ways I noticed something curious. One of my books – a book about Bat’s outsold the book I did my paid promotion with. After some investigating the reason became clear. Halloween is in October and my guess is that a lot of parents, teachers, and kids wanted to learn more about bats because of it. As a result, I sold more copies of the Bat book in October than any other book I have published. This lead me to work on a strategy centered around important and recognized national holidays or events (Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, etc). I’ll talk about this more in the Looking Ahead section of this report.

Income Breakdown

I’ll be honest, I debated for some time whether or not to include this part in this report and here’s why. Currently my Kindle income isn’t where I want it to be. I don’t make a ton of money or even enough money to currently sustain my lifestyle, but despite all that I’m going to go with my gut and include it here as a benchmark and inspiration.

I’m doing this because I want to be truthful and transparent in my reports and also I want to inspire others who might be thinking about publishing on Kindle. Some people are intimidated by seeing someone making a large amount through Kindle and think “I can’t do that” or that’s not possible for everyone.

By showing you my current earnings I want to inspire people into action and also let people see that publishing on Kindle is a long term business and not some overnight riches. My income today does not reflect all of the effort I’ve put into getting started and is merely a starting point for me to grow from.

The way Amazon does their payments is this – you get paid 60 days following that particular month’s sales.

For example on November 29, 2013 I will get paid for all of Septembers earnings.

My first payment from Amazon was for August 2013 sales and it was $153.18.

This month I will get paid for September 2013 sales and it was $180.67.

The breakdown of that amount is as follows:

Kindle Direct Publishing Payment – $139.59
KDP KOLL Payment – $41.08

The KOLL payment is from Amazon Kindle’s Lending Library and is payment for the 17 times my book was borrowed in September 2013.

The increase in sales from August to September was $27.49 and sales continue to trend upwards.

Key Takeaways – October 2013

In October I made a critical change to the way I get books outsourced along with our production schedule.

Critical Change To How I Hire Outsourcers

This month I made a critical change to how I hire my outsourcers. I use to hire one outsourcer at a time and work on projects in a linear fashion. Get one story written, one set of photos, one cover, etc.

When that book was done, I would begin the process again with another book and rinse and repeat until finished. Recently I ran into several outsourcers that for one reason or another caused us serious delays in our ability to publish books effectively.

The biggest issue I had was the fact that by only having one person working for us at a time at a particular task, if they quit or became unreliable I lost out on several days of production along with having to start all over a hire someone new to replace them.

This is what I do now.

I start off by having two different books written at the same time. So I hire two of everyone in the process – two writers, two people to get us photos, covers, formatters, etc.

By doing this I have a built in backup in case one person doesn’t finish the job or work out.

This happened to me recently with my holiday books. I hired two writers for two different books and the first writer did a poor job of getting the work done and then complained when I requested changes.

In the past this would have caused a delay not only on that book, but other books in the production schedule due to the linear fashion I was having them completed in. With the new process I was able to fire the first writer and continue working on the second book with no production delays.

Once the second writer finished her book, I was so impressed by her work that I hired her to rewrite the first book. She ended up finishing both ahead of schedule and I didn’t lose any momentum while having to replace the first writer.

The key here is to never have a single point of failure in your business. By having two people working on projects at all times, if one of them goes AWOL or I have to fire them my delays are minimized. It also allows me to increase the number of books I produce each month and have a “stable” of writers to choose from instead of just one.

Changes To Our Production Schedule

Here is what I shared with my coaching students about a recent change I’ve made to my production schedule:

Last month was amazing.

I got to take some time off, travel to see a few of my favorite bands live and just enjoy some down time. That’s great and well deserved when it happens but there is a real danger in taking your eye off the steering wheel.

Today I noticed that a lull in my activity (and focus) caused a lull in production and more importantly income.

While I felt no ill effects at the time I was doing it, the setbacks and delays are starting to rear their ugly head now.

Basically I’m paying for decisions I made a month ago, today.

It’s like eating junk food – it taste amazing when you consume it, but if you don’t watch it your weight goes up, your mood can go down, and bad things happen over time.

So here’s my message to you (and myself).

Keep Moving.

When you want to take a break and enjoy all that life has to offer – GREAT! Do it.

BUT, always make sure something is happening in your absence and that the line is always moving forward.

Here’s how I’m addressing this challenge in my business – I’m taking a huge part of today and loading up on projects, ideas, and more.

Then I’ll be laying out the next few months (using a trusty calendar and paper) so my team and I have a master plan to work from.

Next, we simply work the plan and ensure that there are fewer and fewer gaps between projects.

That way, when you’re off seeing the world – your team is still working and you’re still producing an income.

The bottom line – just keep moving.

The key takeaway for me here was the need to plan out as much as possible in my business. From our production schedule to our promotional schedule my goal is to always have an eye to the future while working on the present.

Forcing myself to look ahead and plan allows me to take advantage of current and future opportunities and set a road map to get me from where I am, to where I want to be.

It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated – I find working 90 days in advance to be best – but decide on what makes sense to you and do it. Don’t make it to fancy – I simply use a paper calendar, pad of paper, and pen. Once I am comfortable with the plan, I commit it digital form with a Gmail calendar and reminders.

Don’t over think it – doing something is better than doing nothing.

Looking Ahead

Seeing that our bat book was a bestseller during the Halloween holiday got me thinking about how I could take advantage of institutional holidays as a whole.

For those of you who don’t know, I use to be a stage hypnotist and my busiest times of the year were Proms, Graduations, and Holiday Parties. My secret is this – I didn’t get booked because I was the greatest hypnotist ever – I got booked because schools and companies were forced to put on events around these specific dates and needed someone to entertain them regardless of quality. They didn’t have a choice – it was expected – and if it didn’t happen people would be disappointed.

Translate that into our own lives. There is always going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and more. Because of that families will be “forced” to get together and celebrate in some form or fashion – usually with a meal or activities or both.

So, knowing that I’ve decided the next niche I’m entering is the holiday niche. I currently have two holiday recipe books in production and expect to have them ready in time for the appropriate holiday. Because of their nature they will not sell very well year round, but I expect a flood of sales during the peak holiday times.

By having several books created for various holidays, my goal is to have a year round presence in the holiday market, moving from one best seller to the next. Also, over time I plan to move into specific sub niches within the holiday market that will be laser targeted to specific groups or popular fads/diets (think Gluten Free Christmas Cookies).

Wrap Up

In bringing this inaugural report to a close I want to take a second to say thank you. I know some gurus would admonish me for being so open and candid in this report.

They’d tell me about all the people I’ll lose because I don’t lie or claim an amazing income, that people won’t like the fact that it isn’t push button or overnight millions, and that I should find a way to make what I do sexy and attractive to everyone reading this.

That’s their opinion, here’s mine.

My goal in doing this and anything that I do in Kindle is to be completely transparent and open with my coaching students, readers, and clients – including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Right now, this may not look like much to some, but the smart people see and get it. They see that I’ve been profitable in 4 out of the 5 books I’ve published and that I have a solid roadmap for the future.

They see the value in reading something like this – even if it’s over 3000 words – because they know it gives them a competitive advantage over those who refuse to. They see the value in a long term plan and a proven system, over jumping from one thing to the next. Most of all, they see how they can use or relate the stuff I share with their own business.

It’s to those people I say thank you and good luck. I can honestly say that I don’t recall a recent time I’ve had as much fun as I’m having now with you. I enjoy being open and transparent with you and sharing how things really are – and of course how I’d love them to be.

My promise to you is simple – stick with me and you’ll learn what works and doesn’t work in my business and you’ll have the ability to translate that into your own.

It won’t happen overnight, I won’t always win, but win lose or draw I’ll always tell you the truth.

Thanks for your time and attention and I’ll try to make next month’s report a little shorter than this one.

Talk soon, be well, and good luck.

Tim Castleman

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