Business

  • How To Make Six-Figures Selling Low Content Books on Amazon KDP

    Can you really make money publishing low-content books on Amazon?

    The following interview outlines how a low content publisher is making thousands of dollars a month with low content books. What started out as a simple side hustle has quickly turned into a full-time income.

    Here’s exactly how he’s doing it.

    Meet Jake: low content publishing rockstar.

    Hey, Jake! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and answer some of the questions from our Low Content Publishing Facebook group! Let’s jump right into it!

    Question:
    A lot of people are publishing journals and planners on Amazon KDP, yet they aren’t seeing the sales that they were expecting. You’ve earned $20,000 in a single month before. What do you feel you are doing differently?

    Answer: Well, one of the things I do that I don’t see a lot of other people doing is register a domain that directs potential buyers to Amazon so that I am in full control and can build a list of buyers rather than never know who is purchasing my low content books.

    Now for this to be effective, you need to create an Author page via Author Central, add in a short bio (write it from the perspective of the creator who uses journals in your every day life), and claim at least 5-10 journals so you’re filling up your “shop”.

    When I first started publishing low content books, I used a ton of different pen names based on each main niche I was in.

    So for example, if I purchased rights to a gardening journal, I would use a pen name that included a keyword-targeted towards the kind of people who would buy that particular book (example: Gardening Planners, Garden Journals, etc.).

    After creating a plan to publish 500 journals in 6 months or less, I realized that it served me best to choose just 6-10 pen names and publish most of my journals under one of those umbrella “companies” because it helped me to create a system.

    That way, I could also create a series of journals catering to specific niches and demonstrate to my audience that I know what they want, rather than uploading a ton of misc journals spanning dozens of niches.

    That turns buyers off. They don’t think you know who they are or what they want if you’re trying to be all things to everyone.

    Question:
    Can you elaborate on how you choose your pen names?

    Answer: Sure! All of my pen names include a low-content-publishing based keyword such as: planners, journals, organizers, calendars, etc.

    So for example, and this is just as an example; I don’t know if anyone actually uses this pen name, but a name like Power Planners or Comical Journals would be great pen names for specific niches while still being broad enough names to incorporate all kinds of books.

    Make sure you run the name through Amazon just to make sure that no one else is using it. You don’t want to muddy the waters or confuse people by publishing low content books under a pen name that someone else has already established.

    Question:
    What did you do after deciding what pen names to use?

    Answer: After I chose a handful of pen names, I registered a domain name for each major niche.

    Sometimes I couldn’t get the domain for the initial pen name and in that case, I would choose something else. I felt it was really important to secure the exact domains for the pen names I wanted to focus on.

    By registering domains that direct buyers to specific Author Central pages and to my own landing pages, I’m able to gain some control over my traffic—at least within my own marketing campaigns, which is otherwise difficult to track since you don’t get any information relating to your Amazon customers.

    Question:
    How soon after you started publishing did you start seeing sales?

    Answer: I started selling journals in the first week I published, but my first month generated only a little over $400 in sales, however, it didn’t take long before I hit my first $5k month.

    The last few months have been mind-blowing with a high of just over $20,000 in December and a major win of almost $27,000 in January-Feb.

    I sold a ton of new year resolution-type journals (everything from weight loss to specific self-improvement planners), and yearly planners in that month and a lot of what were probably Christmas gifts the month before.

    Choose one style of weight loss, such as keto, and create a journal just for those people. While general weight loss journals also sell, if you cater to a specific weight loss STYLE or PROGRAM, you’ll sell far more and can hijack traffic by using keywords relating to those diets.

    Purchase a weight loss journal from someone and simply add in recipes pertaining to the diet program you choose. It’s that easy.

    I don’t expect to be able to maintain the $20k range every single month and that’s okay! I was just blown away that I was able to get my income up that high because until then 5K per month was my ultimate goal.

    Seeing just how much money I can actually make in low content publishing solidified my game plan, and now I know what is actually possible.

    Question:
    What do you feel was most responsible for the surge in sales? Do you think it was simply tapping into holiday markets or did you do anything else to boost your income?

    Answer: The holiday season definitely helped but since February was also a great month, I think it had more to do with the advertising I started to play around with.

    I swore I would never spend a dime on marketing until I hit $5k a month consistently. Before that my money went into covers, templates, and investing in a few tools. After I saw my sales increasing, it made sense to dig into what advertising avenues were available to me.

    I started thinking about how traditional books are marketed, as well as how indie authors promote their new releases.

    I knew a bit of this from being behind the scenes of some of your previous book launches. I figured those same channels would be a great place to start when figuring out how to promote my low content books.

    Question:
    What advertising channels did you use?

    Answer: I searched for a few niche blogs in my niche that ran a newsletter. I subscribed first to see the kind of content they put out but to also determine whether they promoted products.

    I was able to secure a couple of featured spots throughout the month of December and January and my campaigns were a huge success.

    It’s really easy to find blogs in almost any niche and newsletter advertising is not only more affordable than PPC campaigns, but since they’re dedicated to a home-grown audience, the traffic is high quality.

    And it’s just easier to do. I can’t be bothered to learn Facebook advertising or spend a lot of time analyzing click-through rates or adjusting ads. I’d rather spend that time researching low content markets and uploading books.

    Question:
    Do you plan to continue advertising in newsletters?

    Answer: Oh, most definitely. Going forward, the plan is to continue to find small, yet focused newsletters that I can squeeze my way into. I spent less than $400 on advertising and the ROI was just staggering.

    Plus, I was able to build a list so that Amazon isn’t the end-all to my business, but rather the entry of what I hope will become a very successful and long-term funnel.

    I also want to buy ad space on the blogs themselves just so I can get back-links to my Amazon listings because don’t forget, people search for journals and planners on Google as much as they do Amazon. People seem to think that all they have to do is upload books to Amazon, sit back and cash the checks.

    That may be true for established authors in fiction and non-fiction markets, but with low content books, you have to give it some sort of a boost, even if it’s simply with Pinterest.

    Question:
    Do you have any advice for those who aren’t sure of how to spot trends or find those golden niches?

    Answer: Talk to people in your life both on and offline so you can understand their passions and interests. You’ll also learn to speak their lingo which is really important.

    Kate, we’ve talked about a couple of our most profitable niches recently on a previous call and a lot of those came from speaking with our kids and our friends. Teens have their own language and you have to cater to that on your cover as well as inside the journal. Different groups use different terms.

    The same goes for single Moms who struggle with different parenting problems than single Dads do. The more I know my audience, the more money I make. It’s as simple as that.

    I know it sounds basic, but it’s the best place to start and you can find some really cool niches that aren’t being catered to by the mainstream publishing houses.

    When it comes to marketing, if you have a journal geared towards parenting, reach out to Mom bloggers and see if they offer paid newsletter advertising. Chances are they do.

    Bloggers are always looking for new tools and resources to share with their audience and not a lot of them are promoting journals and planners in their newsletters, so it’s a great way to offer their audience something different.

    Make sure you have link tracking enabled so you can see what newsletters are working for you. There are plenty of free tools out there that make it easy to track your click-through’s like the Pretty Links WordPress plugin available here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/pretty-link/.

    Eventually, I’m going to start reaching out to YouTubers in my niche and see what they’d charge me to create a review video once I send them a free copy of some of my top-selling journals (plus pay them for the content).

    Unboxing videos are always popular and so I want to tap into their existing audience with a few sponsored placements.

    Question:
    When it came to effectively advertising in newsletters, what was your strategy in terms of directing subscribers?

    Answer: This should have been a no-brainer, really, but I ended up testing out 2 different strategies for some reason.

    With the first newsletter I advertised in, I sent people directly to my BookLinker page which doesn’t have an opt-in form or anything, it just creates a universal link for all the Amazon stores.

    The second newsletter sent visitors to my landing page, which has an opt-in form and a digital giveaway that they get only after subscribing, as well as links to my Amazon books. That way if someone didn’t buy a journal, I had a chance of following up with them later. Save the sale, so to speak.

    I was able to add quite a few subscribers to my newsletter following that strategy, so going forward I’m always going to direct traffic to my landing page versus direct to Amazon.

    There are a few advertising networks like https://www.buysellads.com that are set up to connect advertisers with publishers, but I prefer to take a grassroots approach and search for blogs in my niche by using Google and social media.

    That way I’m able to connect with small, yet active blogs that aren’t diluting their content with a ton of ads. Then mine stands out! They’re also usually more affordable than going through some advertising company.

    I am also in the process of setting up a simple ad campaign with a blogger where I’m offering free physical copies of one of my journals, but because this actually costs me money I’m limiting how often I do those. I prefer digital giveaways that don’t cost me a dime.

    Also, I’m only doing this after qualifying the traffic from having ran an ad in their newsletter. I wouldn’t do this without first testing the traffic a blog can send your way.

    Finally, the physical product (an evergreen journal) that I’m giving away is part of a series so I’m counting on those who get the freebie to likely buy other journals from my collection.

    Question:
    Do you have any other tips that will help people zero in on profitable niches?

    Answer: The AHA moment actually came after a call with you. You mentioned how you had found a lot of hot niches on Etsy, particularly printables, that could be converted into KDP books. And you were right! This is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to uncover hot-selling niches.

    While printables aren’t exactly the same as low content books, the audience is! And the way Etsy is designed, it literally tells you what people are most interested in.

    This includes: What is in people’s shopping carts:

    When you visit Etsy, you can see what people are actively buying based on the little blurb that appears beneath products “xx people have this in their shopping carts”.

    This was a tremendous help in narrowing down a handful of niches that deserved my attention.

    In fact, researching hot sellers on Etsy and Shopify, specifically focusing on printables is how I uncovered many of my top-selling niches. These are the niches that make up the bulk of my sales. I also found a couple of under-serviced niches this way and I’m selling hundreds of journals a day in those markets.

    I mentioned searching for hot selling printables specifically because if you focus your research on the kind of journals that are selling on Etsy, rather than printables, you’ll find a lot of custom or handmade leather-bound fancy journals and those buyers aren’t necessarily going to buy a basic bound book from Amazon.

    Yet printable buyers will gladly buy our low content books because their only alternative is to print out the pages and bind them on their own.

    Researching printables on Etsy & Shopify also helped me get a clear idea of the kind of brand imaging that works well because until then I was pretty confused about how to create a stand-out identity on Amazon.

    I also realized that people who buy journals want to buy from other journal-writers because they feel that someone who actively uses journals will know what they want.

    So this became part of my brand – an avid journaler who just wanted to create things to help people get organized, stay on track or boost their creativity (depending on my niche, my Amazon bio changes a bit).

    Etsy’s Popular Printable Listing Directory:
    Check out the section on Etsy that reveals the top-selling printables and you’ll find tons of hot niche markets for low content publishing on Amazon.

    You can find that page here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/market/popular_printables

    Question:
    I know that no one wants to reveal their top selling niches, but is there anything you could add in terms of what kind of markets you are making the most money with?

    Answer: I mainly focus on 2 main markets: health & wealth because they’re evergreen and people will always be hungry for journals and planners in those niches.

    So I dig into these niches on a weekly basis and focus on selling journals that cater to one specific segment of that market at a time.

    I don’t sell journals that are all-in-one as much as I do when the planners are designed to serve a very specific problem people are having.

    The only exception has been life planners which can encompass many different things. Those are always hot sellers.

    So for example, rather than try to sell a journal that’s focused on all things pet-related, create (or buy rights to) a journal specifically for documenting a dog’s health, medication, vaccinations, grooming appointments, etc.

    One specific pet means you’re targeting one specific pet owner. It’s all about strict and narrow targeting.

    When I see people complaining that they aren’t making money selling journals, I wonder if they’re even targeting a market rather than throwing up a generic cover and expecting a large audience to want it.

    If your journal is nothing more than a flowery cover and lined pages, who exactly is your audience? Are there enough people who are willing to buy a journal simply because it has flowers? That’s not targeted whatsoever.

    If you focus on catering to a specific segment of a market and show those buyers that you’re “one of them”, and that you understand what they want, you won’t need 1000 journals to make $1000’s of dollars. You’ll outsell those bulk uploaders easily.

    Question:
    And from your research on Etsy and Shopify, what kind of evergreen planners are selling?

    Answer: There are tons, but 2 of my favorite niches (aside from health & wealth and these still fall into the wealth category to some degree) are:

    Business related journals, specifically start-up / new entrepreneurs who are floundering around trying to build a business or make some extra money. This could include things like business planning, blog management, expense trackers but also job hunting or career change journals.

    Project Management is also a huge one. It just made sense to create journals for programmers since that’s what I do, but I went down the rabbit hole with project management style planners and I’m so glad I did because they sell so easily.

    A lot of us use online task managers to keep track of our day-to-day but we also like jotting down notes the “old fashioned way”, so I knew there was already an audience for this. Etsy confirmed it.

    You’ll see a lot of productivity planners selling and they’re geared towards one specific task like time management or documenting hours spent freelancing.

    Question:
    What about social marketing? Does that fit into your strategy?

    Answer: The thought of spending hours a day promoting my books on social media platforms is exhausting, but yes, I’ve been playing around with one (and only one) because I don’t have enough hours in the day.

    I decided on Pinterest since it’s not only one of the easiest communities to get involved in, but it drives a ton of traffic to my landing pages quickly (and to my author pages on Amazon).

    People go to Pinterest for creative ideas and inspiration, but they’re also more likely to buy something compared to Twitter users. Plus I can easily outsource this without spending money on a full-time assistant.

    Here’s what I do:

    I create a tall graphic of every journal I create, or in most cases, buy. This is usually a snapshot of every interior page featured in my journal. Creating Pinterest images is easy using https://www.canva.com

    So if my journal is 120 pages long, chances are there’s about 20 different layouts in that book. I create Pinterest graphics of every layout and pin them separately with links to Booklinker, or a landing page geared specifically towards that audience.

    You can open your journal in PDF format and zoom out until you can see the full layout, take a screenshot and then drop it into Canva where you can add extra text or elements that will capture attention. I tend to highlight the benefits of using my journals rather than the features.

    For example, I wouldn’t add “120 Pages!” to the graphic. Instead, I’d add “Triple Your Productivity” or “Simplify Your Life”.

    I then create a global Amazon link using https://www.booklinker.net/

    As I’ve mentioned before, this is a really cool tool that features all of the links to different Amazon stores based on a customer’s location.

    I then link my pins a few different ways – the same system I use when advertising in newsletters, including:

    Direct to my Author Central Profile Page

    I do equal linking to my author central page as I do a landing page, but that’s only recently. Up until then, I simply linked to the journal on Amazon and saw a ton of traffic quickly but because I wanted more control and to be able to reach out to customer’s later on, I also include landing page links.

    Landing Pages

    I decided to start building mailing lists of people who are interested in my journals by directing traffic from Pinterest to a squeeze page that captures a name & email address.

    I also feature a “bribe” or giveaway to entice people to subscribe. Since my books are physical products on Amazon, it would cost too much to give those away, so I started creating a digital version of some of my popular journals.

    Resource: I use MailerLite to build my list. It’s cheaper than a lot of other providers, easy to use and they offer a free account to test things out so you don’t have to invest in anything until you see traction.

    Now here’s something to consider if you want to run a giveaway in either a newsletter ad or through Pinterest on your landing page: you need to make sure your digital planner isn’t exactly the same as your physical product.

    You want people who use your digital planner to buy your physical journal, so make sure there’s something different about the two products. I tend to create a digital journal that’s only 10 pages long (a typical printable spread), whereas my physical books are always 100-120.

    Since I had no idea how to create an interactive version of my journal, I hired a guy on Upwork and another one from Fiverr to do it for me. It cost me around $25-50 to get this done and it’s really paid off.

    Question:
    What about social marketing? Does that fit into your strategy?

    Answer: I started to see traffic almost immediately after just pinning my journal pages, linking them to Amazon and adding tags.

    However, recently I started to spend a bit of money promoting my pins, but only the ones that lead to a landing page so I can follow up with a lead later on. And I’ve yet to spend more than $50 in a week because I’m new to Pinterest marketing and am still learning as I go.

    Start off with small spends. Set a strict budget while you play around with promoted pins and get a feel for how it works. Only spend what you can afford to lose.

    You’ll also have to turn your Pinterest account into a business one in order to use their paid advertising options. Also, start off with only 4-5 boards. Don’t bog down your page.

    Create a board for every niche you’re in and pin your layouts in there. Then create one board that’s used to pin other people’s journals. This will encourage people to re-pin yours.

    Link: https://help.pinterest.com/en/article/promoted-pins

    Question:
    What about Amazon ads (AMS)? Have you done anything with that platform?

    Answer: No, I haven’t even thought about Amazon ads (AMS) yet, but I should invest a bit of my income into it soon. Perhaps we can have another discussion once I get those campaigns off the ground!

    I do understand the importance of reinvesting a percentage of my profits into my business and because of how profitable low content publishing has been for me, I want to do everything I can to keep boosting my book sales, so that’ll end up on my to-do list sometime soon.

    Question:
    Do you have any other tips on how to make low content books stand out without advertising?

    Answer: If you can manage to get a few reviews for some of your low content books it’ll be easier to stand out from the crowd. People are far more likely to purchase books with positive reviews than they are to buy books that don’t have any feedback.

    Social proof is everything! While I don’t encourage buying reviews from providers on places like Fiverr, I’ve managed to get reviews just by asking my own circle of friends and family to buy a copy and leave feedback.

    You only need 1-2 reviews on a handful of books (per pen name) so that people see some stars when they’re scrolling your Author Central page.

    Another way I’ve boosted reviews is by offering a giveaway, but this was only possible once I had a small mailing list using the strategies I’ve just mentioned: landing pages and Pinterest.

    Once I got a handful of subscribers, I ran a simple, internal giveaway, gifting a few copies in exchange for a review.

    To be honest, I had less than 100 subscribers at the time and basically offered a free copy of a journal to everyone LOL. Only 20-something took me up on it, but most of those people took the time to post reviews, so not bad for the cost of ordering a few copies of my journals.

    I just made sure to position the giveaway as my offering a free copy in exchange for honest feedback and it worked out great. I was clear with what I wanted from them but at the same time, didn’t force it.

    And yeah, I saw an immediate boost in sales for the journals that had at least 1 4 or 5-star review. Again, they really stand out in the marketplace when potential customers are scrolling on through.

    Question:
    Now let’s talk about keywords. Can you share anything about your keyword research strategy?

    Answer: You’ll hear how keywords are the lifeblood of every successful low content book, but honestly I haven’t spent a lot of time on finding keywords because the best ones for my books are usually quite obvious.

    I do however expand on foundational keywords and I also use a simple system to ensure I’m covering my bases.

    This includes:

    Coming up with 5-6 seed keywords. These are the obvious choices, the ones I would personally type into Amazon if searching for a journal like mine.

    Quickly expand on those keywords. I use a couple of tools to find alternative keywords I hadn’t thought about, but more importantly to gauge the profitability of a niche and see what the competition is doing.

    I will say that people should choose 1-2 tools at most and stick with those. I hear about people using 10 different tools and processes for publishing low content books and I can’t see how that doesn’t slow them down. They’re complicating the process when it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

    Just use the AMZ Suggestion Expander (Chrome plugin) and then run your keyword strings into Google as well. Scroll down to the bottom of the search results page and you’ll see alternative suggestions. That’s all you need to do.

    Think about it: if a keyword phrase is searched enough to where it should be included in your Amazon KDP listing, it’ll show up in one of those two places because they’re the 2 biggest search engines online!

    People love to make it out like they’ve found some golden keyword phrase that’s responsible for 100% of their book sales. Well take it from a guy who spends less than an hour on keyword research a week, I call BS on that.

    Favorite Tool: Publisher Rocket
    The new version of Publisher Rocket is a game-changer for low content publishers who don’t know how to find categories and keywords, so I highly recommend grabbing a copy.

    Question:
    When it comes to keywords, is there anything people should avoid other than the obvious ones like KDP, Amazon, author names, free, etc?

    Answer: I don’t include any physical descriptors in my keyword boxes. No one cares if it’s a 100 page journal or a 120 page journal, so don’t waste your valuable keyword space using these terms.

    Instead, think about how your journal benefits someone and include those kinds of keywords in your listing. Things like: get organized, life planner, time management, boost productivity, etc. And don’t repeat your keywords. Ever.

    To save time, I create a keyword swipe file so that I can quickly copy & paste keywords for each journal and then just change them up to suit the niche. This is part of my system and it’s the reason I’m able to not only publish regularly, but keep a pulse on what’s selling.

    I don’t use any form of automation to do this, despite being a coder. Honestly, manually uploading my books and filling out the forms and description boxes myself ensures I’m ticking off all the important boxes and I just prefer to do that all myself.

    Besides, Amazon isn’t a fan of automated uploaders and my account is far too valuable to risk.

    Question:
    What are your thoughts on the importance of book descriptions?

    Answer: Book Descriptions are extremely important. I can’t stress this enough because I see so many people overlook them which makes it so easy for someone (like me!) to swoop in and swipe their customers. Mwahaha. 😉

    Your book description is where you can highlight the benefits of your journal. Use bullet point lists to make important points stand out.

    Also keep in mind that when you write up your journal’s description during the KDP publishing phase, the text will all be one big paragraph, even if you think you’ve separated it during publishing. You’ll want to use Author Central to fix up the description once it’s published.

    This includes adding those bullet points I mentioned but also using bold text to highlight important elements of your listing. It’ll make all the difference.

    Using this journal as an example, you can see how injecting HTML into your listing helps it stand out.

    Click Here to find out what HTML is accepted by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

    The “Look Inside” feature is also really important, though I don’t think we have a lot of control over how much of the book is shown to potential buyers. I could be wrong about that, though.

    Still, people use the look inside feature to preview the interiors and in many cases to verify that it’s NOT just a lined journal. It’ll take a few days after your journal has been approved for the Look Inside feature to appear.

    Note: The Look Inside feature isn’t available to those on mobile devices, however it’s widely used by on-site shoppers who want to check out your interior before buying.

    Tom did a great job at writing an article that covers all things relating to Amazon KDP and SEO which you can find here. Even though the article focuses on Kindle books, you can glean some really useful tips that apply to print books as well.

    Question:
    You’ve mentioned how you’ve created a system that helps you upload books, keep track of sales and boost productivity. Can you tell us a little more about that?

    Answer: My system looks something like this:

    Monday:
    Cover Design: Since I’m outsourcing the bulk of this, my task involves coming up with titles, sub-titles and creating a description for the graphic designers. I send them a PDF every Monday with a listing of the type of covers I want. I also tend to spend time finding stock photos I like just because I’ve researched the niches and can’t expect my designers to know what sort of graphics will resonate with my audience.

    Tuesday:
    Write up my book descriptions and create a keyword swipe file. I spend roughly 2 hours doing this every week. I re-use a lot of the book descriptions and then just customize them as needed. Same with keywords (unless it’s a really different niche, of course, but by now I have tons of keyword swipe files so I can usually draw from those and save myself time.)

    Wednesday:
    Customize the interiors I’ve purchased. I don’t design any of my own interiors, nor do I plan to. My focus is uncovering hot niches and coming up with ways to market my books. However, I do customize the interiors a bit before publishing. This takes me anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on how much I change up the headlines, add in sub-headlines or graphics, and other text areas.

    Thursday:
    Niche Research! I usually do this on my lunch break (I’m still a full-time coder, remember!) and a bit in the evenings. I spend most of my time browsing Pinterest, Shopify and Etsy. Those are the 3 online hot spots I use to uncover profitable niches.

    Friday:
    Publish! I dedicate an entire afternoon to publishing and since I only work Mon-Thur it works out for me. I use Google Chrome to upload my journals and speed things up by opening 10-15 tabs at once and pre-loading the content while I wait for others to process.

    Weekends are off-limits for the most part. That’s family time and I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t force myself to get away from work I’ll end up burned out and my creativity will suffer. As a programmer, I need to be fresh come Monday morning so Saturday & Sunday is all about downtime.

    Question:
    There are 2 camps when it comes to low content publishing: those who focus on uploading thousands of journals and planners, and those who spend more time building their brand and in turn, publish fewer books. What are your thoughts about that?

    Answer: Quality over quantity is a good question. Low Content Mastery taught me that quality should be my main priority and it has been (and always will be), but quantity is also important.

    I started off publishing simple lined journals but I couldn’t get my sales up to where I wanted them to be doing that. It wasn’t until I started publishing higher-quality interiors that are geared towards very specific users that I saw my income skyrocket.

    I cringe when I see people teaching others to focus on quantity over all else. Ask those people who have 1000+ journals that are nothing but lined interiors and sloppy covers just how much money they’re making.

    I’d rather have 200 hot selling journals than 1000 duds, right? Anyone would!

    So create the kind of journals you would buy. Quality matters. Invest in high-quality interiors. Hire a cover designer. Write those detailed book descriptions. Take the time to set up your Author Central account.

    Don’t just publish 1000 journals and think you’re going to join the 5-figure monthly club because you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, create a stand-out brand.

    Yes, it’ll take time and effort. But would an extra $5,000 a month make it worth your while? Focus on building a long-term business in low content publishing. One that you’re proud of. The money will follow.

    Question:
    Your brand is key in setting you apart. So, before we sign off, do you have any last-minute tips for those who are struggling to gain traction on Amazon KDP?

    Answer: Some of the best advice I got was that I should focus on catering to lifestyles.

    People are passionate about things that affect them, are protective over people that matter to them, and are excited by anything that represents a very personal part of their life.

    Following this advice led me to finding niches where people will gladly pay money for products that highlight or represent who they are, what they stand for, and what they’re all about. This includes politics and religion. I don’t shy away from any topic!

    Kate, you got that ball rolling when you told me to think about the kind of T-shirts people buy. They wear them proudly to make a statement, to tell the world “I believe in fill-in-the-bank”. Journals are yet another creative outlet and so covers should speak loud & clear to your audience. And so should your brand.

    Here are a few other things that have helped me.

    Stick with 1-2 book sizes and don’t try not to go over 150 pages:
    I rarely go over 120 pages because they’re hard to write in if they end up too thick due to not having the option to publish spiral books through Amazon.

    Create a Better Version Than Anyone Else
    I take the journals I buy, like from your collection, KDP Monster, and I customize them so that they are specifically focused on ONE target audience at a time.

    I don’t do well with generic journals so even the ones in huge niches like wedding planning that I buy have to be customized somehow.

    I had to learn the basics of PowerPoint to do this since I mainly buy interiors from PP designers. It took me a few days to figure out how to do some simple customizations, but that was all I needed to learn.

    In fact, I don’t really customize the tables or styles of layouts that much at all. I focus on injecting text-based content & niche-specific graphics into the journals that apply to the people I’m targeting.

    People want journals that are proven to be designed just for them and that make sense for what they’re hoping to accomplish.

    Create Killer Covers
    A picture is worth a thousand words, right? When it comes to selling a ton of low content books on Amazon, covers are THE most important thing because they’re what people see first when scrolling through search results.

    You need to use vibrant colors that pop. Don’t create plain covers that feature only text. Add some kind of element to the cover and make sure you feature really crisp and clear typography.

    2 huge mistakes people make: They use Canva or PikMonkey to create their covers or worse, Amazon’s cover creator. How professional do those covers really look? And how unique could they possibly be?

    It’s the same reason I use 2 different graphic designers. I want variety, originality. I need my covers to look different for each pen name I publish under.

    I also never re-purpose covers. I don’t create covers in different colors either, even when one is selling hundreds of copies a week. Instead, I create entirely new covers for the same niche. That way I don’t confuse my audience. Give people too many options and they’ll choose none.

    The second mistake that I’ve seen people make is they expect the graphic artist to know what is actively selling in the niche. They’re artists and they’ll be able to create an awesome cover, sure, but will it include the elements or the look & feel that buyers will be drawn to?

    It’s your job to create an overview of the covers you are interested in outsourcing. Give them a detailed spec sheet and then let them get to work.

    Include Free Bonuses
    So one thing I did to continue building a buyers list was to include a free digital bonus offer that’s featured in my Amazon bios.

    I want to keep my pen names secret so I can’t get into too much detail but I followed the marketing strategy of traditionally published authors who include a link to their mailing list in their Author Central bio page.

    This works really well if you create a different landing page for every main niche you’re in so that when someone makes the jump from your Amazon book page to your opt-in form page, the transition is seamless and they aren’t confused by some weird bonus offer that doesn’t align with the journals you publish under that name.

    Free bonuses are really easy to create. I just offer a 1-page printable that’s relevant to the topic of the niche I’m targeting. It’s like an auxiliary component they get for free just for subscribing. It isn’t anything that’s repeated in my actual journal, but an extra resource. Offering something extra just helps me stand out a bit more.

    Stay Evergreen
    I know that yearly planners are hot sellers (I sell a TON of them), but I tend to stay away from anything that includes specific dates. I don’t want to have to go back in and edit books or remove anything once they become outdated.

    Instead, I publish yearly planners that let people fill in the month and year themselves. Make your publishing life easier by staying away from date-based templates on Amazon. Set and forget. We want this to be as passive an income source as possible and we’re already busy enough uploading, figuring out covers, etc.

    Tip: Focus on life management journals. They’re some of my best sellers.

    Question:
    What is your plan moving forward outside of AMS, contacting YouTubers and securing ad space on blogs and in newsletters?

    Answer: Next on my list is spiral-bound books. I want to start publishing through Lulu so that I can offer a variety of print options and widen my outreach.

    I’ll always focus primarily on Amazon KDP because it’s easier, but by creating a landing page for my top-selling books with links to both marketplaces, I’ll give people the flexibility of choosing what kind of binding they want.

    Plus it doesn’t cost anything to publish through Lulu so why not?

    I also want to expand my team. Right now I have 2 graphic designers working on creating covers for my journals. No matter what people tell you, you don’t have to invest a lot of money into covers, but they definitely have to stand out.

    Going forward, I want to hire someone to customize the interiors I purchase from you guys as well.

    Then there’s Pinterest which I’m now a strong believer of! Because of the success I’m seeing from it, my plan is to continue focusing on continue to grow that audience for both my low content books and other offers I’m working on that align with that industry.

    Then I am going to take your printable course and expand into creating a blog and selling printables from that vs Etsy since I can price those higher. I’m seeing printables selling for up to $200 per binder set!

    Question:
    Thanks! Do you have any last-minute takeaways?

    I sure do!

    Lined Journals = Zzz
    Lined journals are a dime a dozen. People can buy them for less than $5 at local shops, so I stay away from publishing them. The key is to stand out and you can’t do that with lined journals.

    Even an outstanding cover won’t help unless it’s something people can’t find anywhere else which means finding untapped niches and good luck with that!

    All of my top selling journals have been ones that feature detailed interiors. It’s not easy finding quality interiors that come with commercial rights so please, all you creative geniuses out there, keep those coming!

    Don’t Be Afraid of Color
    Yeah, color journals cost more to print but certain niches demand them. Don’t be afraid to publish a few journals that are in color.

    Get on Pinterest! If you don’t have a Pinterest account, go set up one up right now. Don’t put it off because it’s been instrumental in helping me boost sales quickly and at no (or very little) cost.

    CONTINUE READING

  • My Love/Hate Relationship with Thrive Cart

    Chances are, this is one of the only reviews you’ll ever read about ThriveCart that doesn’t include an affiliate link. There are literally hundreds of affiliate-based websites promoting ThriveCart, and they all share one thing in common: they fail to give you the whole truth.

    Check out the Thrive Cart affiliate program and you’ll quickly understand why.

    With 50% commissions paid out on every sale of their nearly $600 product, it serves those affiliates best to focus on the wonderful side of ThriveCart, rather than venture into the murky waters of what could very well send you paddling your ass off to the shores of another product.

    And to be frank, this review couldn’t include an affiliate link because I’m just not ready to promote ThriveCart and I may never be. I’m still on the fence.

    Yep, I have a major love/hate relationship with the “shopping cart” that boasts being “the number 1 platform for marketers!”.

    Anyway, let’s get on with the lovey-dovey stuff, so I can explain why I still want to desperately fall head over heels in love with Thrive Cart.

    Out With The Old, In With The New?

    Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to simplifying my business life. Despite the growling of my tech-savvy software-engineer of a husband, I still use Dreamweaver to design websites, prefer Photoshop CS3 over their new CC series and yes, I use Firefox (though I’m really trying to move to Chrome, I promise.)

    So when it came to how I processed orders for my digital products, it should come as no surprise to you that I was still using amember.

    I know, I know… save it.

    No diss to amember, but it’s ancient AF. I mean, despite their updates, the interface looks like it’s stuck in 1999.

    But I could get past that if only it was easy for my customers to use.

    Instead, I ended up with dozens of emails from people complaining that they hated the interface, didn’t want to have to create an account before being able to purchase, and the list went on.

    It wasn’t amember’s fault, it was mine.

    They’re designed to be a membership platform, not a shopping cart and while they offer that option, it’s seriously lacking. And cumbersome. And yeah, ugly.

    So despite the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” kinda gal that I am, I knew it was time to start looking at alternatives.

    And that’s when I spent 3 1/2 weeks testing out different shopping cart platforms.

    Hey, at least I now knew exactly what I was looking for.

    MUST HAVE’S:

    Visually appealing:
    I wanted my checkout pages to look great on both desktops and mobile devices. Modern, sleek… the kind of pretty pages that I can’t get enough of reloading.

    Look how nice they are! >> https://creatives.thrivecart.com/kdp-hot-sellers

    (And no, that’s not an affiliate link for Thrive Cart; it’s one of my own product checkout pages.)

    I will say that as much as I love the default templates and how easy they are to customize, the actual customization options are VERY limited.

    For example, you can choose 4 checkout templates, which would be plenty IF you could really customize the heck out of them to really work with your brand, but you can’t do that much.

    When it comes to order buttons or countdown timers, you only have 4 colors to choose from and rather than let you upload your own background, etc, you have to choose from just a few options.

    Not a deal breaker though. Not even close. I love the look and feel of Thrive Cart wayyyyy too much.

    Thrive Cart? CHECK!

    Simplistic Interface:
    I wanted to be able to move over a ton of digital products quickly, create success pages, and just get on with my life.

    No offense to the geeks in my life who get off on creating elaborate “systems”, but I didn’t want to have to install a ton of plugins, integrate into a blog, or even download and install anything. I was looking for a kick-ass, hosted SaaS solution.

    Not only does the Thrive Cart admin panel load super fast, but you can literally add payment processors and edit your funnels in a matter of minutes. It’s BLAZING fast.

    I think the interface, combined with the dummy-proof system, is my favorite thing about it.

    Thrive Cart? CHECK!

    Quick & Easy Payment Integration:
    I wanted to be able to add multiple payment options, including Paypal, Stripe and Google Pay and I wanted it to be drop-dead easy. No having to configure 10 different things to get it working. Enter my webhook or IPN and voila!

    Thrive Cart? CHECK!

    Mailing List Integration:
    I use MailerLite and oddly it’s not always a mailing list service that’s on the list of integrations. So I wanted my shopping cart to work with them.

    Thrive Cart? CHECK!

    Okay, so that was my absolute must-have list of features and I wasn’t too worried about it because nearly all shopping carts have those features by default.

    Then there was my wish-list.

    WANTS – not – NEEDS

    Upsells, Downsells, Meh.
    Anyone who knows me is aware of how much I personally hate upsells & downsells, so I rarely use them. Yeah, I know, I’m probably losing a lot of money, but my customers appreciate knowing they pay, they get the product, they move on. No endless dark hole of sales pitchy nonsense.

    Still, I kinda wanted the option of incorporating upsells/downsells because hey, a girl can change her mind. But it wasn’t a must-have.

    Thrive Cart? CHECK!

    Affiliate Program
    I really wanted a built-in affiliate program IF possible, but it wasn’t required. My plan was to purchase iDevAffiliate and just use that. However, when I saw that an affiliate program was part of ThriveCart, it sweetened the deal.

    Up until then, I had been using amember’s affiliate program which is pretty bare-bones and doesn’t give affiliates a lot of options.

    Thrive Cart? CHECK?

    Well, sort of. And this is where my first fizzle of WTF came into play.

    ThriveCart definitely offers built-in affiliate management, but it’s not quite what it appears to be.

    The first road block came when I realized that your affiliates don’t simply sign up and gain access to all of your products. You have to choose one main product that they sign up to promote.

    Okay, but what then?

    Well, THEN, you have to manually (yes, one-by-one) create rules for every single product you have that goes something like this:

    When an affiliate is approved for Product A then add them to another product and select the product. And on and on.

    I have more than 50 digital products, so it appears I’d have to create 50 rules JUST to make sure my affiliates can promote them all. And then every time I add a new digital product, I have to go back in and add another rule.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to get this set up correctly because it feels like this just can’t be right. But after researching as much as humanly possible, it seems to be the required method.

    But baby, it gets worse.

    So I spent an hour creating all these affiliate product rules, saved my page and then decided to log in as an affiliate just to see what it looked like.

    And that’s when I found this:

    Say, what?

    Thrive Cart recruits YOUR affiliates to promote THEIR product?

    Worse, they don’t even integrate that huge promo box with your affiliate link so at least you get compensated for sending customers to them.

    These are YOUR affiliates. You work hard to recruit them, to build that army of people who want to help you take your business to the next level. The last thing we want is to distract them with offers from Thrive Cart.

    And did you notice the “your product here” box next to it?

    Apparently, marketers’ can contact them about paying for ad space. When that rolls out you won’t have a clue what else is being promoted on your affiliate page.

    Nor will you have any control over it.

    My initial “Hell, yeah! Thrive Cart is exactly what I’ve been looking for”, turned into a bitter internal conflict about whether I’m okay with allowing them to potentially swipe my affiliates and pull them away from what should be a focus on promoting my products.

    So I did as any nice Canadian would do and I decided to contact them before I totally freaked out.

    Here’s their response:

    Thanks for getting in touch. It needs to show ThriveCart there because essentially, the affiliate is signing up for a Thrivecart account when they sign up to become an affiliate. They can use their account to sign up to promote other products from other vendors using ThriveCart. Also, it is our team that they would be reaching out to if they have any questions or problems. If Thrivecart is not mentioned there, the affiliate will not know who to contact.

    I would also just like to address the cost of ThriveCart. ThriveCart is one of the cheapest carts on the market right now. Yes, it is $600, however, other competing cart platforms cost between $100 – $200 per month. So to put that in perspective, that is between $1200 – $2400 per year. Not lifetime, but per year. And you get less of an extensive feature set for your money.

    Inside the affiliate centre that the affiliate signs into, there is a banner add where they can sign up to also promote ThriveCart. This in no way takes the focus away from your own product. This is also very common practice for affiliate platforms, I know other cart platforms do the same, if you look at JV Zoo or ClickBank for example, when you sign up to become an affiliate, you have hundreds of products listed that you can promote.



    I’ll be honest, I was left kinda speechless. I really don’t know how to feel about any of this.

    Starting from the beginning, he mentions:

    “Also, it is our team that they would be reaching out to if they have any questions or problems. If Thrivecart is not mentioned there, the affiliate will not know who to contact.”

    That kind of turns me off. I thought I’d be in full control of my affiliate program. That it would be up to me to respond to affiliates. That they would simply email ME if they needed help. I just wasn’t aware of the fact that any affiliate I recruit becomes part of Thrive Cart’s affiliate army.

    And no affiliate blogs out there cared to mention this.

    Second, he goes on to say:

    “ThriveCart is one of the cheapest carts on the market right now. Yes, it is $600, however, other competing cart platforms cost between $100 – $200 per month. So to put that in perspective, that is between $1200 – $2400 per year. Not lifetime, but per year. And you get less of an extensive feature set for your money.”

    I have no argument to make over the value of paying a one-time fee for lifetime access over a monthly charge. That’s one of the main attractions of Thrive Cart. Pay once, cry once. I think $600 is a more-than-fair price to pay for a lifetime license to a “shopping cart”.

    But if we’re being really honest, if I was paying $100-200 per month for a “shopping cart”, I’d expect a lot more out of Thrive Cart, such as my customers being able to add multiple products to one cart.

    That’s the basis of a shopping cart, isn’t it?

    Yet Thrive Cart allows customers to only add one product to the cart at a time. Sure, they let you add product bumps (where you can promote one other product), and you can create a funnel with upsells and downsells, but a SHOPPING CART typically means that customers can add multiple items to their cart, check out and go on their merry way.

    But that wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. I wasn’t thrilled to discover this huge limitation, considering I thought I was buying a “shopping cart”, but I could deal.

    Here’s what made me want to break up with Thrive Cart:

    “Inside the affiliate centre that the affiliate signs into, there is a banner add where they can sign up to also promote ThriveCart. This in no way takes the focus away from your own product. This is also very common practice for affiliate platforms, I know other cart platforms do the same, if you look at JV Zoo or ClickBank for example, when you sign up to become an affiliate, you have hundreds of products listed that you can promote.”

    Umm, come again? That monster-size advertisement box certainly DOES take away the focus from our own products. Their big promo banner is right there in the face of every affiliate I recruit to promote my products. It just shouldn’t be there.

    But then he goes on to say that it’s “very common practice for affiliate platforms…” and references Clickbank and JV Zoo.

    I didn’t sign up to sell my products through ClickBank or JVZoo! I bought what I thought was a “shopping cart system”.

    Thrive Cart doesn’t position themselves to be a marketplace. If they did, they wouldn’t get away with charging $600 for access to use their platform. ClickBank and JVZoo don’t charge those prices. No one does.

    And after digging around a bit more, thinking that maybe their optional upgrade to buy a “client license” removes their branding, I was left disappointed. Paying another $100 removes the “powered by thrivecart” that appears at the bottom of all of your checkout/sales/success pages (yeah, you have to pay to get that removed), but paying that fee doesn’t remove their branding from your affiliate pages.

    That’s there for good. Or at least until enough people throw a fit and force them to back away from your affiliates.

    And no, despite how many other platforms/tools Thrive Cart integrates with, such as:

    Payment Processors: Authorize.net, Paypal & Shopify.

    Membership Platforms: Teachable, Member Mouse, Memberpress, WishList, OptimizeMember, and Digital Access Pass.

    Autoresponders: All of the major players.

    Webinar Platform: Demio.

    Fulfillment Service: Zapier, Disk.com, Google Sheets, ShipStation, Shopify, Vervante, Printful, Lulu, Kumaki and Shippo.

    – There doesn’t seem to be an option to work with another affiliate platform while still selling your products using Thrive Cart.

    But I may be wrong… and I hope so because it might be the only way I can stick with them. Based on my research so far, I haven’t found a solution while being able to stay strictly ThriveCart order delivery, which is the point of buying this shopping cart.

    Remember how I mentioned I didn’t want to have to work with countless systems just to sell my stuff? So even if there is some work-around, it’ll likely require too much configuration and integrational headaches for me to take on.

    So, there you have it. Why I have a love/hate relationship with Thrive Cart and what no affiliate blogs seem to warn you about.

    Are these deal breakers for you? I know they will be for many of my team members who understand the importance of being in control of every aspect of their brand, especially their team of affiliates they worked so hard to recruit.

    Are these things deal breakers for me?

    That decision has yet to be made.




    CONTINUE READING