Part Two: How to Earn $1,000 a Month From Self-Publishing

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This is a four part series. You might want to start from the beginning. Click here to view part one.

2. The Second Quarter: April – June

Your first book is out and you’re starting to gain traction with fans. Even though instinct may tell you to go out and market your book, you’re still in the building phase. If you have to choose between marketing your first book and writing your second book, then the next book should almost always be the path you take.

Task 1: Write Your Second Book

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It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or non-fiction. The second book you write should be a part of the same series as your first. You’re setting up a funnel for your readers. When you’ve written a bunch of standalone books, you have no way of knowing if readers who liked one will like the others. By writing a series, you’ll give existing readers a chance to read new work that they’re already inclined toward liking. It also provides new readers with a chance to purchase something else if they stumble upon your first book.

Write your second book using the method you perfected during the first quarter of the year. It should be easier the second time around, but if you run into any stumbling blocks, make sure to consult with your beta readers, editors, and fans to give you the boost you need.

Remember to brand your cover and blurb similarly to the first book in your series. Readers should be able to tell that they’re all connected.

Task 2: Connect With Authors and Host an Event

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Writing is no longer a solitary sport. Most of the authors who’ve learned the tools they need to succeed picked up those skills from other authors. Some writers go about networking in the wrong way. They’re only looking to take information without giving. You’re going to go in the complete opposite direction.

Host a multi-author event and ask the other members of your genre to be a part of it. This can be a Facebook event, Google Plus Hangout, in-person, or on another platform. You can also include a multi-author box set or other types of collaboration as well. Make helping these other authors find new readers the primary focus of the event.

When other authors see that you care about helping people, they’ll want to help you as well. It takes a lot of time to organize, but the insight and connections you make from these events are priceless. During the event, feel free to ask questions about platforms and marketing. Find out new information about what works without being too pushy. You never know how these connections will pay dividends, but you can be sure that they will.

Task 3: Optimize Every Platform

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As part of a recent series of articles for Author Marketing Institute, we’ve talked about getting a foothold on other platforms. You can go exclusive on Amazon if you want, but that will cause you to miss out on at least four viable platforms where you can find new readers. Learn as much as you can about Apple, Nook Press, Kobo, and Google Play. Once you’ve placed your books there, figure out everything you can about Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange and translation services like Babelcube. Take advantage of all possible opportunities to earn money from your books.

Task 4: Improve Your Habits

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You’ve build up some strong habits for writing, publishing, and marketing in the first quarter. The second quarter gives you a chance to strengthen those skills. Aside from repetition, one of the best ways to improve your habits is to brainstorm ways to increase your productivity.

Sit down with a blank word processor doc or a sheet of paper. Pick an area of your business that seems to be lagging behind the rest. Use stream-of-consciousness writing to brainstorm the issues with your current system and ways you might be able to patch them up. You’d be surprised by how much a daily brainstorming session like this can fix most of the issues with your business over the course of a few weeks.

Task 5: Apply Your Findings

If your data collection has been comprehensive, then you may have some action steps worth taking. Let’s say that Facebook is the top referrer to your website’s book page. That may be a clue to start putting more time into the social media platform.

Do you have three fans who do all the commenting on your blog and reply to all your emails? Consider asking them to be a part of your street team to promote your book for you. Does one platform sell better than the others? See what you can do to enhance editions of the book sold at that location. There’s no point in gathering data if you aren’t going to use it. Learn everything you can from the information you’ve collected and apply it to your business.

Click here to read Part 3.

Part One: How to Earn $1,000 a Month From Self-Publishing

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The supposed gold rush has come to a close. Gone are the days where you could use your KDP Select free promotion to makes tens of thousands of dollars. Some authors exploited the Amazon algorithm or the customer review system to net a boatload of cash from 2010 on. The loopholes are closing and the number of books is swelling. Authors who want to earn a living from their books in the next five years will need to worry less about formulas and more about good old-fashioned hard work.

If you’re looking to make six-figures a year from your time as an indie author, then you should prepare to work 80-100 hours a week for the next few years. That being said, it’s possible for authors to earn supplementary income by combining daily writing, effective marketing, and targeted networking. Unless you have a massive breakthrough, 15-30 hours a week of work won’t net you a big payday, but you should be able to creep into the four-figure per month club by the end of a calendar year.

This four-part article goes over all the steps you’ll need to take to reach your goal of $1,000 per month. It assumes that you have all the fundamentals in place: professional-looking covers, a well-edited series of books, captivating blurbs, a website, and a mailing list. The following tips are unlikely to help if you don’t already have a solid foundation. Take the free Selling the First 100 Copies of Your Book course on the Author Marketing Academy and follow all the steps within to hit the bare minimum level for starting this process.

Once you’ve got your ducks in a row, make sure that you’ve secured 15 to 30 hours per week in your schedule for the entire year. This is non-negotiable. You can’t expect to take a few weeks or months off in the middle of the year and maintain the momentum you’ll need to build your business. Block out the time to take action, or you’re unlikely to reach your income goal.

With your schedule and a firm understanding of how to deliver a professional book in pace, here is a 12-month overview of what it’ll take to earn $1,000 from your monthly self-publishing sales:

1. The First Quarter: January – March

The first quarter of the year is your time to get good habits in place for the subsequent nine months. The publishing, marketing, and networking habits you establish now will help you build your brand exponentially as the year goes on. Many authors concentrate on writing their first book and save the other four tasks for later. That would be a mistake and it could set your income goal back indefinitely.

Task 1: Write Your First Book

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You might say to yourself, “I’m already doing this.” There’s a little more to it than that. Writing your first book has a lot to do with playing the percentages. Let’s say you have three ideas for stories. If you want to make a living from your writing, then it behooves you to pick the most popular genre with the greatest potential for a multi-book series. The artist in you might resist that sort of thinking, but you have to make a choice. Use your inner artist to write something that could be popular and earn you some money or spend your time on a passion project that probably won’t sell. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the former: the first book of a series in a popular genre.

Writing your first book in this series will be a challenge if it’s your first piece of work overall. You’ll need to establish a workable system to write additional books in the series. Many authors have found that system through creating story beats, using that outline for a rough draft, and then editing with the help of beta readers. We’ve previously covered a sample 90-day writing plan, which you can use as a template for this 12-month system. Writing and finishing this book is key, but it’s not as important as figuring out a repeatable procedure that you can use over and over again to write more books.

Task 2: Set Up Your Website and Email List

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While you’re working on the first book of the year, it’s time to set up your website and email list. Blogging is becoming less important for authors as readers start to take in content in a variety of ways. Your website is really just a hub for your books, special announcements, and your email list signup form. It’s a necessary base of operations, but you also don’t have to spend top dollar or 20 hours a week keeping it up to date. Set up a simple, easy to follow site through WordPress or a similar platform, and put up a home page, a page for your books, a mailing list signup form, a contact form, and your social media links. Aside from collecting email addresses and allowing people to contact you, the website will probably not factor deeply into your monthly income.

The email list, on the other hand, is one of the most important tools in your arsenal. It’s where you’ll connect with and engage with potential fans. It’s how you’ll spread your reach to new readers. Your email list must be set up early on if you want to have any hope of expanding your audience.

Task 3: Choose One Social Platform

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It’s too much to keep up with more than one social media platform at a time. There are plenty of authors who do it, though it’s doubtful that many of them see big results from the time they put in. Instead of spending hours of time on social media outreach every week, pick one platform to focus most of your attention on. There’s a spectrum of social outreach that goes from most time-consuming and rewarding to least time-consuming and valuable. Putting consistent time into things like podcasts and video will likely yield the biggest results. Spending all your time with Twitter and Facebook may lead to returns, but it has a high potential of being a time-waster. Pick one platform and spend 90 percent of your social media time there. It’s fine to dabble a little bit in all the platforms, but if you don’t have one front-runner, it’s unlikely you’ll see many results from your efforts.

Task 4: Create Your Habits

We’ve already discussed writing habits, but you’ll need to set up repeatable tasks in every area of your business. Figure out systems for sending your emails, posting on social media, and balancing your life and work tasks. Motivation and deadlines will drive you to complete projects, but these habits are what will keep you in line between your goal completion dates. Continual improvement of your systems will result in increased efficiency, organization, and income.

Task 5: Start Gathering Data

Use tracking links and analytics from your website to determine where your customers come from. An effective tracking system will tell you if your social media efforts are worth it. They’ll let you know which of your emails has been the most effective, and who your top readers are. The more data you’re able to collect, the better you’ll be able to set up marketing in the months and years ahead. For an example of tracking to the extreme, check out Steve Scott’s quarterly income reports.

Click here to read Part 2.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Publishing A Book On Nook Press

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When you have a business that’s solidly number two at something, you can either strive to reach #1 or abandon your position. Pepsi is the number two soft drink, and it’s reveled in that slot with goofy comparison ads and celebrity endorsements. AT&T is the #2 cellular network, and it’s pushed forward to enhance reliability and create memorable commercials. Barnes & Noble, the company behind the Nook Press publishing platform, however, has opted for the latter path.

Barnes & Noble has withdrawn significant financial support from its self-publishing platform. The business already lacked in several key areas compared to Amazon. Now it’s starting to fall even further behind.

So, here’s the big question: Is it still worth publishing there? It takes time and resources to get your book up on any platform, so you need to make sure that Nook Press is worth your investment. Here are five facts about the platform that may influence your decision:

1. Nook Is on the Decline

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Before any kind of wide-sweeping statistics came out, it was obvious among indies that Nook Press was losing its grip on the #2 sales spot. Once the studies did come out, the numbers were no surprise. According to a Barnes & Noble press release, digital sales of ebooks were down 25 percent during the 2014 holiday season when compared to 2013. Seeing such a significant drop with more e-reading products out than ever shows just how far Nook Press has fallen.

Some authors expressed hope that the company’s new offering of print on demand services might be a positive sign for the platform. Unfortunately, most pundits believe that the additional features are nothing more than part of a play to sell the struggling division. If they’re right, then the future of Nook Press could have more to do with the company that buys the platform than the fate of Barnes & Noble.

2. Indie Authors Dominate the Bestseller Lists

One of the problems for Nook Press has been its poor user interface. Searching for the right book on the platform can be a challenge for Nook readers. In fact, some voracious readers have admitted to searching for books on Amazon and then buying them on Barnes & Noble. Their search engine is so bad it’s literally pushing people away.

Searching the bestseller lists is similarly rough. That’s why it was so important when Hugh Howey and Data Guy pulled statistics from the Barnes & Noble bestseller list as part of their Author Earnings project. Without that data, the media could label their Amazon findings as a one-platform fluke. The pundits needn’t have worried.

Howey and Data Guy found that more than half of the books on the Barnes & Noble bestseller lists were written by indies. While the overall earnings from the platform were still weighed in favor of the Big 5 Publishing companies, the data showed that self-published authors have a major presence on the platform.

3. You Need to Pay Attention to Format

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When Nook Press, formerly Pub It!, came into being, it looked a little half-baked compared to Amazon. Payment problems surfaced from time to time. There were issues with formatting and support. While some of those issues have been corrected in over two years of business, a few of them remain in place for indies to cope with.

Nook Press uses the ePub format. You’d think that would mean you could easily add in your Apple or Kobo version and upload it to the platform. The only problem is, that’s no guarantee your file will be accepted. Formatting can be wonky on Nook Press, and you may upload a book that returns errors for no discernible reason. Nook Press doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to fix these ongoing issues.

That being said, there are some formatting benefits to Nook Press. After you upload your book file, you can get a chapter-by-chapter look of your ePub file in a manual editor. Author Joanna Penn has said this editor allows her to easily switch in new front and back matter or fix errors without having to upload it all over again. This is by far one of the best book preview features of all the self-publishing platforms.

4. Support Has a Bad Reputation

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Amazon and Apple have their shortcomings when it comes to support, but their customer service is golden compared to Nook Press. The retailer’s support is notoriously bad. Many emails go completely unanswered, and the replies that are sent seem like they’re simply meant to delay the issue. It can be more productive to unpublish a problematic book than it is to get Nook Press support to fix the errors.

With the withdrawal of financial backing from the parent company, it’s doubtful this issue will change going forward. If you ever have questions or issues with a Nook book, then you should first take to forums like KBoards and ask other authors before trying to contact support.

5. Connections With Merchandizers Are Key

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It’s been a running theme with Kobo and Apple, and the theme continues with Barnes & Noble. Nook Press isn’t built to give customers the best possible book for them. It’s meant to sell higher-ticket items. To improve your sales at Nook Press, you’ll need to make connections with Nook reps and present them with a strong pitch in the company’s best interest. If you can convince them with numbers that promoting your $9.99 box set will do well, then you might be able to make it happen.

Meeting a Nook Press rep is about knowing the right people or visiting conferences where the reps will be in attendance. The latter may be more effective due to the face time you’re able to secure. It can also be expensive to attend these kinds of events, but a $300 price tag may be worth thousands of dollars you could sell with a strong promo on Nook Press.

6. It’s Still #2 For Many Authors

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Despite all the problems, Nook Press continues to be the number two source of income for many authors. Even though the support is practically nonexistent and networking is a key part of success, it’s a worthwhile platform if you’re willing to work it hard. With enough high-quality books in your catalogue, four-figure months are definitely possible on Nook Press.

Get In While You Can

There’s no telling what the future holds for Nook Press in 2015 and beyond. The retailer could stabilize and remain a major publishing option for indie authors. It could also tank, either to disappear or be absorbed by one of the other major platforms. Whichever path Nook takes, it’s unlikely to happen until at least the end of the year. At least 5-10 good sales months remain for the retailer, and your efforts to build relationships with readers and reps will be well rewarded if Nook Press takes the more optimistic of the two paths.

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5 Important Things To Know About Publishing A Digital Book On Kobo

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There aren’t many book retailers with as much of a personal focus as Kobo. When’s the last time you listened to a podcast sponsored by the iBooks store or Nook Press? The team at Kobo Writing Life has done a lot to get its name out there in the indie community. The PR for Kobo is through the roof, but how are the book sales at the Canadian retailer?

Like with Apple or Nook Press, few authors count Kobo as their number one source of sales. Authors who’ve had their work featured in a Kobo promotion have touted four-figure monthly revenue with books sold in a variety of countries. Meanwhile, most indies sum up their experience with Kobo like so: I love Kobo. I just wish I sold some books there.

There are several action steps you’ll need to take if you plan to pull in some sales at Kobo. Here are five things you may not have known about the Canadian sleeping giant:

1. It Has An International Focus

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On the KBoards forum, some authors talk at great length about the Brown Bar of Shame (BBOS). This refers to the formerly browned out monthly report that you see if you haven’t made a sale in a certain country on Amazon. If Kobo had a similar interface, then there would be a lot more BBOSes to speak of.

Kobo sells books to 190 countries. Any listener of The Creative Penn has heard host Joanna Penn talk at length about her sales in dozens of countries. While it’s difficult to get a foothold in countries outside the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, Kobo can help you to sell books to millions of readers throughout the globe.

2. Kobo Took Over for Sony

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If you published books on Smashwords between 2010 and 2013, then you’ll remember the ever-present disappointment from the Sony store. The platform, which was rarely known to bring indies significant sales, faded into obscurity long before Kobo acquired its customers in March 2014.

By obtaining Sony’s ebook customers, Kobo increased its number of clients served from several million to 21 million. What’s difficult to know is how many of those millions of additional customers were disillusioned by the problematic Sony store. Regardless, Sony’s loss is Kobo’s gain and the platform has higher potential after the acquisition than it did beforehand.

3. You Can Schedule Promos Ahead of Time

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Kobo is a very recent entry to the ebook game. This leads to both positives and negatives for the platform. While it doesn’t have nearly the customer reach of Amazon or Apple, it does have one of the cleanest publishing interfaces of the entire bunch.

Kobo Writing Life’s publishing program allows you to schedule price promotions well in advance. It also lets you set these promotional prices in different currencies. To do the same thing on Amazon, you’d need to remind yourself to change the prices manually on the day before your promo. Kobo has made it much easier for the overworked indie to keep discounted book campaigns on schedule.

4. There’s a Page For Free Book Promos

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Kobo made waves in 2014 by promoting its First Book Free page. This is a page dedicated solely to free books, with most of them representing the start of a new series for readers to check out. Mark Lefebvre, the director of self-publishing and author services at Kobo Writing Life, has given multiple interviews on the subject of Kobo and the First Books Free page. To get featured on the page, authors should contact the Kobo Writing Life team directly. You’re more likely to get your page featured there if it’s linking to other higher-priced books later on in the series.

 

5. Success Requires Networking

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Kobo has massive potential and the platform has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years. For all its promise, the retailer is still based on merchandisers who want to move books that are $4.99 or higher. If you’re selling a ton of books on Kobo, then you’ll probably hear from a Kobo rep to include you in future promotions. When your Kobo sales are lagging, however, you’ll need a sales pitch and the ear of a rep to give you a shot at joining a lucrative promotion.

Try to make a direct connection with Kobo reps at conferences or online through podcasts and blog comments on the Kobo Writing Life website. Keep in mind that a random email requesting your inclusion in a promo won’t be good enough. You need one or multiple books at a high-enough price point for it to be worth their time. If you peddle nothing but 99-cent novellas, then you may not get much help from the Kobo hierarchy.

A Brand On The Rise

Kobo is doing almost everything right when it comes to getting its name out there. Authors who sell with Kobo have rated it highly for both attitude and customer experience. While the platform tends to be a third, fourth or fifth option for some authors, this will change over time as the ebook market matures internationally. It may not ever overtake Amazon, but it’s easy enough to publish on Kobo that it’s more than worth it to put your books up there and give it a go.

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6 Things You Didn’t Know About Publishing A Digital Book On Apple iBooks

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Your time as an indie author is precious. There are more than enough tasks to fill up your schedule, and if you did them all, it’s likely you’d be working 80 hours a week. For most of the last two years, publishing directly to Apple hasn’t seemed like a worthwhile investment in time.

While there have been stories of some genres performing well on the platform, there are ten-fold as many tales of authors putting time and energy into Apple with no results to speak of. The publishing platform isn’t intuitive, and it may require a Google Search or two for strange error messages returned by your document. After uploading, Apple has been notorious for taking at least a week to get books live. Once the books become available, discoverability has been hit or miss, often leaving products languishing in sales despite your best intentions.

Without question, there are shortcomings to the Apple platform, but there is hope for 2015 and beyond. Apple’s recent acquisition of BookLamp, a book discoverability engine that could rival Amazon’s recommendation algorithm, and a renewed dedication to faster book processing, has some authors excited about the platform’s prospects. If you’re considering publishing on Apple’s iBooks store, here are six things you should keep in mind:

1. Apple is the #2 U.S. Ebook Retailer

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The iBooks store has a lot of readers. According to Mark Coker from Smashwords, Apple is the number two ebook retailer behind Amazon. While there are some restrictions on who can download books from the platform, the numbers are there to support your time investment to get your books on board.

2. You Need a Mac or a Third-Party to Publish

The reason there’s a restriction on who can download your products from iBooks is because only Apple users can access the store’s app. While there are workarounds, most of the readers shopping on the store are Mac or Apple users. This roadblock is even more present for authors looking to publish on the platform.

Publishing on iBooks requires the iTunes Producer program, which is only available for a Mac. Unless you have the software to make your PC run Mac programs, you’ll need to take one of two steps to get your books on the platform. Either you’ll have to get someone with a Mac to let you publish, or you’ll need to go through a third-party publisher like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. Both paths come with complications.

If you borrow a friend’s computer to upload your books, then you’ll need to borrow that same computer any time you have to make a change on your book. When you use a third-party publisher like Smashwords or Draft2Digital, you’ll get lower royalties and you’re stuck at their speed when you have to make small changes. To avoid these two options, you may want to make a small investment in a refurbished Mac Air laptop to give you easy accessibility to iBooks.

3. More Readers Have iBooks Access

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Apple has made two major changes in the last year that could give its store an advantage in the mobile reading sector. In the last year, the retailer has started to pre-install the iBooks applications on both its Mavericks operating system and its iOS8 mobile devices. While most readers need to download the free Kindle app to get Amazon-based books on their phone, the latest Apple customers will be ready to download books right out of the box. Apple has been running a series of promotions to bring attention to the iBooks app, including several indie centered-deals.

4. Content Is Curated

On Amazon, you’re more likely to get pulled into promotions like the Deal of the Day if you have great sales numbers. On the iBooks store, that’s only half of the puzzle. Like Kobo and Nook Press, Apple has merchandisers who decide which books will be a part of the Breakout Books list or other promotions. This is great news if you know an Apple iBooks merchandiser. It’s not so helpful if you don’t.

There are two main ways that authors get in touch with Apple merchandisers. The first is that they know a fellow author with the connection. After being introduced to the merchandiser, the hopeful author can pitch his or her series to be part of a promotion. The other way is to meet Apple reps directly during a conference or other book-related event. The latter method could pay more dividends because of your new personal connection. It never hurts to have a face to put with a name.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Apple is known for promoting its free books. Since the company’s primary focus is hardware, free iBooks can help bring customers into the Apple ecosystem. The more free books it pushes to new users, the more potential iPads and laptops it can sell down the line. As a result, your pitch to an iBooks representative may get more traction when it involves a free series starter.

5. You Need to Show Your Support

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Apple is notorious for rejecting manuscripts that have Amazon and other competitor links inside. This is pretty smart on their part. When you simply copy and paste your Amazon manuscript over to your Apple version, you’re wasting an opportunity to get more sell-throughs to your other work on iBooks. By placing Apple-specific links in your calls to action, you’ll be better equipped to succeed on the platform.

Apple reps like to see iBooks support beyond the contents of your book. One of the quickest ways to put the reps off is to have no Apple links whatsoever on your site. It’s very important during the pitch stage to place sales links to your work that point toward the iBooks store. It’s worth pointing these links out during your Apple rep proposal. Beyond your pitch, this will ensure that iBooks readers who visit your site will have a place to click through to buy your books.

6. There Are Features You Can’t Find on Amazon

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While some will decry Apple’s slow processing speed when compared to Amazon’s, the retailer has several features you can’t find anywhere else. Apple will let you do a pre-order for a book up to a year in advance. Unlike Amazon, where you need to have a rough draft to post your 90-day pre-order, Apple simply requires a cover and a blurb. Reps for iBooks also tend to like an author who’s generated sales and buzz through pre-orders.

Apple has been known to do indie-centric deals, and has also invited self-published authors to join their Breakout Books promotion. There are various monthly and weekly deals that indies can be apart of, once they’ve made inroads with an Apple rep.

When you publish a series on iBooks, Apple will link them together on a convenient series page. While Amazon is experimenting with a better interface for a series, Apple’s current layout makes it easier for readers to access follow-ups of your work. Apple also has several Amazon-like tools that can help you build links and widgets for iBooks products. Make sure to test out the iBooks LinkMaker, the Banner Builder, and the Widget Builder when you’re trying to grow an Apple-based audience.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

It’ll probably take about 10 hours for you to get a handle on the iBooks platform. A lot of authors only think of their time commitment in terms of the short-term value per hour. In this case, think about how much value your time could be worth, even in a semi-worst case scenario. Let’s say for all your trouble, you sell one copy of one book a day for the next three years. At a $2.99 price point, that’s approximately $2,200 of income for your 10 hours. Not a bad way to spend your time.

Learn the iBooks platform to open up a new potential revenue stream. It may provide you with additional income and more time to take your sales to the next level.

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