Becoming an Indie Author: The First Step in Writing a Book

The book is all done – it’s on Amazon and everything. I just need help selling it.

In my days as a branding and business sales coach for investors and new entrepreneurs, I helped a handful of indie authors with publishing and promoting their books. Often they just needed help with the first step in writing a book, but this client was in a slightly different situation. She’d already written and published the book through a ‘done for you’ service, and was surprised to discover that her book wasn’t selling. She believed that once it was on Amazon the sales would start rolling in.

She was mistaken. A month after hitting Amazon, she’d sold two copies.

There are more than 8 million books on Amazon.

Nobody is going to buy your book without you selling it. The problem many authors encounter is that they realize this AFTER their book is done.

Smart authors know the first step in writing a book is creating a plan to sell their book.

Most authors worry about distribution – getting their book on Amazon or in book stores. That is important but there’s so much more involved in selling a book than just having somewhere for people to buy it.

Before you even finalize the subject you are going to write about, you should do some research.


  • Who will be buying your book? This is two parts – who is your ideal reader, and who is already reading books like the one you’ll write?
  • What books will you be competing with? This requires you to research the categories your book is most likely to fit in, and read some of the books that are tops in those categories. Then, you want to understand how you’re different and what need your book will fill that isn’t being filled right now. (This video will help you with this research.)
  • How will you market your book? Do you have a strong author platform to promote your book to right now, or will you be relying on other sources? What book is most likely to appeal to the people in your current platform or in the other sources you are connected with?

My client was in a pretty tough spot. Her book was not unique. It was very much like half of the books in the categories she fit in. It didn’t have any of her personality in it. She didn’t have a unique angle to use to market the book. And, she’d picked her cover from a bunch of templates to save money, which meant her cover didn’t stand out in a sea of thumbnails on Amazon.

She was never going to make her book competitive on Amazon with all the obstacles she faced.

She’d have to go back to the beginning and redo so much to sell anything on Amazon. So, our solution was to find other ways to sell her book so she could reach her business goals. She packaged the material in the book up as part of a workshop she was starting to offer and used the book to sell the workshop. She began focusing on women and immigrant groups in her city to offer the workshop, and after six months she was pretty close to selling 500 copies as part of the package she was offering. More importantly, she’d booked several workshops which made her a lot more money than she’d ever make from book sales.

Her Amazon sales continued to be abysmal, but by focusing on another strategy, she still achieved her business goals with the book. She could have done a lot better if she’d planned how to sell her book before she started writing.

Don’t let this happen to you – set yourself up from success from the start.

Book Launchers clients all begin their service with a platform and promotion planning call. This sets you up to reach your business goals with your book, helps you assess what categories will give you the best chance of success, and uncovers the best angle to take so your book is unique and saleable in the marketplace.

The First Step in Writing Your Book … Research and Consider the Following 8 Questions:

  1. Identify your primary goal for your book? What is secondary?
  2. Get clear on what makes YOU unique? It’s not just the area of expertise you’ll be writing about. Someone else has probably already written a book about the same thing. What experience or stories will you use to market the book?
  3. What Amazon book categories fit your book? How competitive are those categories?
  4. List the books you have read that are like the book you’d like to write. Now, research how they are selling? What makes them unique? How are they the same?
  5. Are there categories that you can list your book in that are popular (high sales volume) but not super competitive (not that many top selling books to compete with)?
  6. What is your current author platform? What will these folks want from a book you write?
  7. List the promotional strategies you’ll use for your book. Will the book you plan to write fit in well with the strategies?
  8. How much money, time and effort are you willing to invest after your book is launched to promote your book?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you’re now in a good position to start writing your book. You’ll be able to write a a great book with a unique angle. Small adjustments to the content will ensure that it fits into categories where your book will sell well and appeal to the audiences you can most easily reach. And, as a result of all this work, you’ll have a basic plan for selling your book – which you can build upon while you’re working on your book.

And, of course, if you want help with any of the steps along the way, let us know! We’re your professional publishing team … ready to help you!

Why You’re Wasting Your Time Chasing Amazon Bestseller Status

With sleepy eyes, I glanced at my iPhone to see the time. I figured my alarm was going to go off soon.

That’s when I saw the text message:

“Julie – your book is #1 on Amazon! OMG – Way to go!”

Amazon Bestseller Status in Business and InvestingI was still half asleep so the message didn’t really hit me at first.

But, after a few seconds I felt a surge of adrenaline.

Did my friend mean my book was #1 OVERALL on Amazon?

I jumped out of bed and ran to my laptop.

If it was true, I needed to see it on the big screen.

My book had hit the Top 10 overall on Amazon the day before. Could it possibly be #1 overall?

I shrieked when I saw it.

It was true.

My book, More than Cashflow, was sitting at the top of ALL BOOKS FOR SALE ON AMAZON! I could legitimately claim Amazon Bestseller status!

Amazon Bestseller Status for Julie Broad


My self-published niche non-fiction book that was turned away by publishers, had surpassed all other books to sell the most copies that day.

There were no tricks or gimmicks that put my book on the top. My book was selling for full price. A Kindle version wasn’t available yet up yet. I had a solid marketing launch plan with some incredible supporters … and they helped push my book to the top of the heap – taking home a status few will ever get: Overall #1 Amazon Bestseller.

[I shot a video shortly after this happened called 5 Ways to Sell Your Self-Published Book to explain what worked and what didn’t work to get so many book sales. The video is a bit outdated now … but it tells the story of what worked in 2013].

I admit to checking the Amazon page every hour. It just doesn’t get old seeing your book at #1.

And, my book stayed at the top for nearly 36 hours.

It was a pretty cool day.

Definitely one of the best days I’ve ever had in my career.

Despite the joy and sense of accomplishment I felt hitting #1 overall, I think that pursuing Amazon Bestseller Status is not a good goal for an author.

You may even want to steer clear of anyone who promises to make you an Amazon bestseller.

Do a quick internet search and you’ll find a dozen companies who promise to make your book a Best Seller. They say it’s a huge credibility boost. They will celebrate your ‘success’ when you hit #1 …(some even have awards they give all their authors so you can say you’re ‘award winning’).

Some even guarantee your book will be a #1 bestseller, and show you hundreds of success stories so you think nothing of spending $5,000 on their weekend course or their bestseller training.

In most cases, your #1 Bestseller status it’s actually a #1 book in a sub-sub-sub category like Motivation (see image to the left).

Motivation is under:

Books > Professional & Technical > Business Management > Management & Leadership > Motivational

Sometimes a Best Seller Means Selling Only 5-10 Copies!

Now, looking at the heavy hitters who are in this category, I suspect it’s actually a pretty competitive category. You’d have to sell a large number of books in order to hit #1 in this category. That’s not the case for a lot of the categories. As a result, it can take very few sales to hit #1 in one of the more obscure sub-sub-sub categories. That’s why these companies can guarantee you’ll be a #1 bestseller. All you have to do is sell 5-10 copies in an hour to get there.

Congratulations! 🙂

My favorite story of this comes from a marketing guy named Brent Underwood. Tired of everyone saying they were an Amazon Bestseller he set out to prove how bogus it was. He took a picture of his foot, put it on the cover of a book, uploaded it to CreateSpace and made it an Amazon Bestseller.

His article in the Observer, called ‘Behind the Scam: What does it take to be a Best-Selling Author? $3 and 5 minutes‘ is a hilarious, eye opening and a rather sad read for every author.

Thankfully, Amazon is finally starting to crack down on the bogus Best Seller claims.

Before you waste time, energy and money trying to become a bogus best seller, carefully consider your goals when you create a marketing plan:

What is most important?

Perhaps you want to attract new clients for your business. Maybe you have an important message to get out in the world. You certainly have important expertise and experience that others will benefit from. In most cases you’re doing it to make money at some point – whether from book sales or some other back end strategy.

A book can beautifully position you as THE expert in a niche. The credibility boost that comes with being a ‘Bestseller’ is nice … but only if that status really means something and you aren’t giving up other goals to get there.

Hitting #1 in a sub-sub-sub category does very little for you or your book.

To achieve this, you’ll often have to give away your book for free or sell at a severely discounted price as a pre-launch strategy. It doesn’t do much for you, but it does have some benefits to hit #1 in a sub-sub category:

  • Ranking highly in a category is good for your visibility. It DOES help other readers find you. For this reason it’s smart to consistently run promotions to boost the ranking of your book on Amazon. [I actually talked about this as one of the 5 things you need to do once your book is on Amazon.]
  • It builds momentum for your book. If you have a smart marketing plan, including securing reviews, being featured on a variety of media and doing speaking engagements, there is nothing wrong with a big push to kick off to hit #1. Marketing is a part time job for an author – and one push at the start isn’t going to do anything. You have to plan for at least a year of marketing post book launch to generate any sort of solid results as a result of publishing your book.
  • It feels good. Yup – when your book is sitting at #1 in a category beside a well known author it does give your ego a little boost. You can post that on Facebook and your friends will all congratulate you. We can all use a little ego boost now and again, but you can’t take an ego boost to the bank. Your ego doesn’t pay your bills. And, your ego certainly doesn’t attract new business through your door … so how much is this really worth to you?

What Amazon Bestseller in a category doesn’t usually do:

  • Sell a lot of books. To hit #1 overall on Amazon, I sold over 2,500

    books in a 24 hour period. This was by the way. I’m Canadian and my first book, More than Cashflow was a Canadian focused real estate investing book. You probably have sell more than 5,000 to top the charts on

    There is no ‘magic number’ to hit to make #1 overall Amazon Bestseller. The number required is relative to how other books are selling at that time. If launch alongside a famous author with a huge following, you’ll have to sell THAT many more books to rise to the top.Selling 20-35 books per day over a year is pretty good. In one day, to hit #1 in a sub-category once … well … that’s not my idea of success no matter what ranking I hit.

  • Boost Future Sales. Amazon collects a massive amount of data. There is some speculation that the rankings, while calculated based on hourly sales, is also based on a historic trend of performance for your book. In other words, if your book only has one single sales spike and then drops off, Amazon is not going to feature it anywhere else. There’s also speculation that a consistently strong performing book can climb the sales ranks more quickly if it’s sales history has been consistent. If it’s true, you can see #1 in a category more frequently if you have a more steady sales performance history versus a one time hot day.
  • Generate Revenue. Unless you are really clever with your marketing inside of your book and people actually ready it, what has your pre-launch really done for you if you did a freebie or $1.99 launch? Books in readers hands without considering how it will generate leads for your business doesn’t show a good return on investment. It’s just not enough to get someone to get their hands on your book if you want to reach your goals.
  • Lead to more sales. Again, without an extensive plan to market yourself and market your book, one big boost at pre-launch doesn’t sustain itself. In fact, your biggest fans (the people who would have happily paid $20 for the book and told friends about it) are the ones that will be first in line for your pre-launch. They will get the book free or at a low cost, if that’s the prelaunch strategy you use. If your biggest fans get the book free, who is left to buy your book without a whole bunch of marketing? It can work, but you need to be strategic with your entire marketing plan.
  • Provide a Big Credibility Boost. The volume of authors who say they are Bestselling is definitely reducing the credibility boost the title will give you. Being a New York Times Bestseller isn’t as clean and clear as people once thought either. If you have a few hundred thousand dollars the title could be yours too.Amazon Bestseller status is not all you need to establish yourself as an expert. You need a high quality book, great reviews, a sustainable marketing plan to generate consistent sales for your book, and the expertise to back it up. That’s where your real focus should be. Write and publish a book you’re proud to hand to anyone!

Ultimately, it comes down to understanding what’s important to you. There is a price for every choice to make. The price of pursuing Amazon Bestseller status can be quite high depending on the strategy you use to achieve it.

When you sit down to write your book and work through a marketing plan, know what you want to achieve with your book baby. It’s easier than ever to write and publish your book, but it’s more difficult than ever before to sell it. Success will come from a good plan from the start. And, if you still want to pursue an Amazon Bestseller status, go for it. May you hit the Top 100, or top the charts overall. Now you know to back it up with a whole lot of other things to ensure your overall project is a rocking success.