How to Market Your Self-Published Ebook (Part I): One Freelance Writer Shares the Biggest Mistakes She’s Made

by Halona Black

Publisher Note: This is the first post in a four-part series written just for Inkwell Editorial outlining how to market your self published ebook. Successive posts will be published every Tuesday this month.

And, Happy Women’s History Month! For all my fellow female online business owners out there, let me “hear you roar,” as Katy Perry says. Now, to Halona’s post …

A Hard-Knock Year Inspires Self-Publishing Start

December 2012 was proving to be a difficult end to a rather trying year. Hurricane Sandy had put a halt on a gig I had recently secured teaching cooking classes in New York City public schools.

My fiance had been recently diagnosed with kidney failure and could not work. We were living with relatives and I had just enough cash to barely pay January rent, but not much more than that. I tried looking for work — just any work — but I couldn’t even get a $7 an hour job at the local dollar store. I felt like a failure. I needed money soon. What could I do to get money in the door fairly quickly that wouldn’t potentially land me in jail?

Note: Read Parts II, III and IV of this series.

How One Blogger Made Money Quickly as a Self-Publisher … without Writing One Word

I then remembered the story of Ashley Ambirge, the brain behind The Middle Finger Project, a website dedicated to helping people create unconventional businesses. I remember listening to her tell her story on a podcast a couple of years earlier talking about how she had one day found herself broke and homeless.

How to Market Your Self-Published EbookShe turned to her blog readers for help — not in donations, but in pre-orders for a book she hadn’t even written yet. Her sarcastic wit (as you can probably sense from her blog name) had garnered her a dedicated following of raging fans who voraciously gobbled up her blog posts.

When she put out the call for book pre-orders, her tribe responded with excitement. I thought, how could I use her example to get me over this financial slump?

I started my blog, Garlic & Lemons, just a year earlier as a way to connect with other women who had uterine fibroids. My blog was one of very few resources I could find on the internet that gave a first person account of living with this condition.

I was getting emails from women all over the world who wanted to know how they could get rid of their fibroids, preferably without surgery. I decided to use Ashley’s example of turning her blog into a self-publishing success story and put it to use with my own small, but loyal tribe of followers.

I then set a bold goal: I was going to release my first ebook in three weeks. In order to stick to that goal, I had to make sure I had some accountability. I turned to my email list and declared that my first ebook, Loving My Fibroids Away: A 10-Day Detox Plan, would be available in February 2013 and that they could pre-order it immediately for only $5. I didn’t expect anyone to go for it.

Who was I to think that someone would find value in my words and actually separate themselves from their hard earned money in exchange for my work? It turned out about 20 people said YES to my ebook the same day I sent the email! Those emails from PayPal confirming purchases were all I needed to keep going. Now I had no choice but to write.

The Ebook Writing Process

I started my ebook with a rough outline. I set daily goals for what I was going to complete. My computer died during the process, but I was still determined. I went to the public library 6 days a week to work on my ebook. And when the library was closed, I went home and edited on my low budget smartphone with the touch screen that jumped when I really needed it to be still. Nothing was going to get in the way of completing this ebook.

When the ebook was complete, I sent a copy to those who pre-ordered and gave my sincere thanks for believing in my work. Their pre-order was the vote of confidence I needed to believe that I could be an author.

I made the ebook available via E-Junkie so I didn’t have to worry about having to personally email a copy to everyone who made a purchase. I took another leap of faith and put it out there on Amazon for Kindle readers. Now all I had to do was wait for the money to roll in!

My Ebook is Complete! Now What?

What I have learned since the release of my ebook in February 2013 was that there is more to selling a book than just writing it and putting it on Amazon. I needed to market. While I did not have a real book marketing plan in place, there were several things that helped to sell it in the beginning:

  1. An established writing niche. I spent a year writing about a subject I was passionate about: healthy living and uterine fibroids.
  2. A responsive email list that continues to grow. When I announced I was writing the book, I already had a group of people who were excited about it.
  3. Good use of SEO on the blog. People learn about my ebook through blog posts that are still relevant 1 to 2 years after they were written.

However, even those 3 items were not enough to sell as many books as I would have liked. Here are some of my book marketing mistakes:

  1. I never bothered to learn book marketing basics. I had heard Ashley Ambirge’s story on a podcast and thought, “I could do that!” I now understand that most of the work in being a self publisher comes with marketing.
  2. I had no marketing goals. When you don’t have goals, you don’t have a way to measure your success.
  3. I stopped blogging regularly. Once I wrote the book, I allowed life to get in the way of my regular blogging schedule. This put a damper on my outreach efforts.
  4. No reader recommendations. Amazon book sales thrive when other people stop to offer their insights into whether or not the book was helpful to them. I never stepped up and asked anyone to write a recommendation, and I never got one.
  5. I made no connection with other bloggers and social media enthusiasts. There are loads of people on the internet who have established audiences of people who would buy my ebook. This was a big opportunity I missed out on.

I am doing a second release of the ebook and I plan on sharing my steps to creating an ebook marketing plan while letting readers in on the results. Hence, this series for Inkwell Editorial.

The intent is to support other freelance writers who are thinking about stepping into the self-publishing arena with first-hand information they can apply to their own ebook marketing plans.

Share Your Self-Publishing Insight? Ask Your Self-Publishing Questions?

Have you self published an ebook? What have you learned about ebook marketing since it was published? Do you have questions about the self-publishing/ ebook marketing process. Chime in in the comments below. I’ll get back to you and answer as best I can.

About the Author: Halona Black is Freelance Health Writer and Content Marketing Consultant in Orlando, FL. If you have questions about how to build your business through self-publishing ebooks, connect with her on her website or Google+.


P.S.: Get 4 Ebooks for One Low Price — The Ultimate Self-Publishing Package!

You’ll learn how to:
–>Discern whether your ebook will be profitable;
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    1. “I now understand that most of the work in being a self publisher comes with marketing.” So true! You’ve only just begun when you finish the book and publish it. As a self-published author you need to wear many hats. It’s important to understand this from the start.

      • It’s a business, Kristen — that’s what many self-publishers fail to understand. But the sooner you realize and accept that fact, the sooner you’ll be successful as a self-published author, as I’m sure you know.

        Thanks for dropping by, and have a good weekend! 🙂

    2. Thanks for stopping by Ashley — and for your inspirational blog. LOVE that pic on the home page — rocking! 🙂
      Yuwanda, Site Editor recently posted…Quick Tip for Freelance Writing SuccessMy Profile

    3. I’m so, so glad you did. 🙂

      Ash @ The Middle Finger Project recently posted…Just The Tip: Are You Selling The Wrong Thing?My Profile

    4. Thank you, Yuwanda! The reason I love freelance writing so much is because there is so much to learn along with learning how to be a business owner. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I thought I “knew everything” before starting a blog, or even writing my ebook. I just jumped in and I continue to figure it out as I go.

      Thank you for giving me the space to share my story. I hope it inspires others.
      Halona Black recently posted…How to Internationalize Your Health Content Marketing StrategyMy Profile

      • Thanks for sharing so FREELY Halona — it truly is a gift to others and I’m so glad you felt this blog is a worthy outlet for it.

        As for “waiting until you thought you knew everything before starting,” IMO, it’s the death of many would-be entrepreneurs. They never even get out of the gate because they’re waiting until …. until …. until. And we no where that eventually leads — nowhere. 🙂

    5. First Halona, congrats on your ebook sales — before writing a word. That’s amazing! That’s a method I’ve got to try for sure.

      As for ebook marketing, I say it all the time, but bears repeating — writing an ebook is the easy part; marketing is where the real sweat equity comes in — and it has to be a sustained effort, as you’re finding out.

      Good luck with it all – and write more in that genre. After all, you’re capturing readers interested in that particular subject matter, so give them more of it.

      It’s an easy, obvious way to monetize traffic and customers you work so hard to get.
      Yuwanda, Site Editor recently posted…How to Market Your Self-Published Ebook (Part I): One Freelance Writer Shares the Biggest Mistakes She’s MadeMy Profile

    6. For all you new self-publishers (and experienced ones too!), this is an excellent resource on self-publishing for everything from ebook design to marketing and the publishing process. Bookmarkable!


    1. […] Black presents How to Market Your Self Published Ebook (Part I): One Freelance Writer Shares the Biggest Mistakes S… posted at Inkwell Editorial, saying, “This is Part I in a 4-part series of guest posts on […]

    2. […] Part I of this series focused on some of my own mistakes I made when I wrote, self published, and began marketing my first ebook a little over one year ago. This post will focus on the process of creating a marketing plan using as many free tactics as possible. […]