Last week marked the launch of my new co-written ebook “Social Media Guide for Small Businesses“! Getting the thing written and out the door was a true creative process, and a lot more work than you would expect. I’m happy to have popped my Amazon publishing cherry, but there are a bunch of things I would have loved to know before I started the process.
Thankfully, when co-author Amy Mitchell and I were in the final stages of preparing the ebook for publishing, an Amazon specialist jumped on board to help us. Between the confusing and sometimes conflicting information I was finding online about publishing an ebook on Amazon, I was starting to feel a little crazy. Was it all worth it for a $7.99 USD ebook?
You might be asking why we didn’t just sell it from our websites. The truth is, both Amy and I wanted to experience whether listing something on Amazon is worth it. Amazon is a high-traffic site with people already looking for this content and ready to buy, and while they do take a percentage of every sale, we wanted to see if this was worth it. Would the ebook market itself through good keyword and category selection, and reviews, or would we have been better off listing it on our websites and using content marketing and Facebook ads to generate sales? Time will tell.
An ebook is a great way to establish yourself as a thought-leader, share your knowledge through evergreen content (it doesn’t require constant maintenance), and encourage people to follow you online to learn more. More than that, it’s a great exercise in creativity, persistance, and long form writing (organizing your ideas into a logical sequence).
“Social Media Guide for Small Businesses” is not a huge ebook and does not dive into social media channels in detail. Amy and I wrote the ebook to help small business owners, nonprofits, and social enterprises wrangle the social media beast. We heard many people were overwhelmed by all of the information, strategies, tactics, and this and that that they would have to do to even make an impact. From experience, Amy and I both knew this wasn’t true. Pick your action plan and implement, then tweak as you go along.
It’s a fairly straightforward ebook, but MAN did it take some work to sort out the details and to write everything in a way that we were both happy with.
The ebook started out pretty dry and then as we started to gain more and more confidence that this was a winning thing, our personalities flowed out onto the pages. The writing was probably the easiest part. The rest, which I’m going to outline next, is the stuff no one really talks about, but is really important.
Your ebook cover design
“Social Media Guide for Small Businesses” went through about five different cover designs before we went back to the original design.
The truth is, I got tired of the first design and as we were developing the first draft of the ebook, we really wanted to run a travel metaphor through it. Our original title was “Social Media Roadmap”, but that got ditched in favour of an Amazon-friendly title.
The ebook cover is 1563px by 2500px. It took way longer than needed to find that number, but use it because it works.
It was really important to me to have an ebook cover that stood out. There are a lot of garbage-y, cheesy, and generic ebook covers out there. I designed a handful of zany cover ideas, which we tested in Facebook groups. People aren’t a fan of this green, but at the end of the day, we weren’t about to change the whole brand colour scheme, so we’re going with it because no one else is using this colour.
The most important thing is to make your title easy to read on a thumbnail size.
Your ebook title
As aforementioned, we ditched our original title in favour of an Amazon-friendly one. Amazon-friendly means it contains keywords. Our Amazon specialist helped us to come up with this title based on his detailed keyword analysis. While Amy and I would have preferred something more creative, at the end of the day we want people to find this ebook.
Also, make sure you check all over the place for other books with the same title as yours. You don’t want to fight over that copyright issue. Do Google, Amazon, and Youtube searches on your title.
Your subtitle should also contain keywords, because you’ll include the subtitle in your listing and description.
Categories and keywords
When we were preparing “Social Media Guide for Small Businesses” for Amazon, we hadn’t even considered how we would list it in terms of categories and keywords. Turns out this is pretty important for your ranking.
One very useful tip we received, since our ebook was going to be one of the thousands of other social media business books, was to choose specific categories instead of general ones. For example, we’re specifically helping small businesses with this ebook, so listing it under marketing would be too general.
You also get the option to add 7 keywords for your ebook, so choose wisely. Do some research and think specifically again about who you want to read your ebook.
I was clearly warned about formatting content for Kindle. I took most of that warning into account, but when it came to uploading and testing the ebook, there were still issues.
Firstly, Amazon tells you that .docx and other word processing formats will work. Not true, and don’t even try uploading a PDF.
Kindle ebooks need to have responsive content, which means it has to look good on a number of different devices. For this reason, keep your styling minimal and be mindful of using consistent bulleted list styles, titles, and so on. Don’t even bother with things like sidebars, text boxes, and fancy graphics or tables unless you have CSS (cascading style sheets) experience and the right program to create these.
I used Adobe Indesign to create my final file. I tried a fixed .epub layout at first, but learned that it didn’t work for people. You need to use a reflowable .epub or .mobi file. There is software you can find online to do this for you.
If you’re thinking about writing an ebook, I highly recommend doing it. It’s such an amazing experience and now that I’ve got one under my belt you can bet to see more from me!
And, if you want advice from the Amazon specialist who helped Amy and I out, please get in touch.