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SPQ 081: How Would You Start a Book Business with $5?

Written by Steve Scott on May 11, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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How Would You Start a Book Business with $5?

The Question

Michal asks: When I started writing and publishing, I wasn’t in the business owner mindset at all. I published my first book with an investment of just five dollars. I needed to grow and see progress before I was willing to invest more in my books. How would you have started with just five bucks? Forget about your business background when you answer the question. Thanks.

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

Michal is the first repeat caller Steve’s answered on SPQ. His most recent book, “The Art of Persistence,” has a 7,900 ranking on Amazon, so it’s a solid book that is selling well. Michael is a great example of someone who takes action. English isn’t his first language, but he’s still doing a great job putting out valuable content and building an audience.

Steve says it would be really hard to launch a book with five dollars, but here is the 10-step plan he would follow if he had to try.

  1. Find the right niche. (Cost: Free) Spend a week or two researching the Amazon marketplace. Look for a combination of profit, passion, and personal experience. You want to find a niche that interests you and makes money at the same time. Steve talked about this extensively in episode 3 and episode 4. If he had to go back and start over again, he’d probably pick travel hacking, running, traveling, or fitness at 40.
  2. Research a bang-up topic. (Cost: Free) Spend one week researching potential book topics, using Evernote to organize your notes. Steve talked about Evernote in episode 27. He’d probably do something with a number in the title (e.g. 67 tips or 77 tips), or he’d do an interview-style book. He would interview authorities in his niche and ask them to give their best tips for getting started or succeeding in a particular niche.
  3. Write the best possible book. (Cost: Free) Steve would write a book that is at least 25,000 words long. The book would have a lot of useful content to help readers.
  4. Barter services with an editor. (Cost: Free) Find a great editor on Facebook or a writing website. Look for someone who is willing to provide their editing services in exchange for a service you provide. If you don’t have a business skill to trade, you could find someone local and offer to do lawn work or provide other services.
  5. Create a lead magnet. (Cost: Free) Compile a list of free websites, apps, and tools related to a problem you are trying to solve by writing your book. Offer this list as a free download to people who sign up for your email list.
  6. Sign up for MailChimp. (Cost: Free) This is not Steve’s preferred email service, but you get your first 2,000 subscribers for free. You can also use their opt-in forms to advertise your lead magnet.
  7. Pay for a book cover. (Cost: $5) Fiverr is not Steve’s preferred design option, but if you only have $5, it’s the best place he can think of to get a book cover. First, research book covers in your niche. Find books that sell well and have eye-catching covers. Save the links to those books. Ask people on Facebook or KBoards.com who they recommend for cover design. When you find a designer, provide links to the examples of covers you really like.
  8. Launch the book for free. (Cost: Free). Launch your book with a five-day free promo through KDP Select. Focus on promoting your book in as many places as possible. Talk to high-level bloggers and authority figures to get them to share your book with their followers. Steve talked about this in episode 72.
  9. Reinvest the money you make back into the business. (Free) You can use the money to pay for better covers ($100 to $200), save up for the edits for your next book ($300 to $600), sign up for AWeber ($20 per month), create a squeeze page (LeadPages or OptimizePress), pay for blog hosting ($5 to $7 per month through Bluehost), or pay for a premium theme for your website.
  10. Rinse and repeat. By repeating this process, you can create a nice passive income.

It would be difficult to do all this for five dollars. Hopefully, this process helps you cut costs while also providing value to your customers.

Resources and Links

SPQ 003: Steve explains how to choose a profitable niche

SPQ 004: Steve talks about the importance of focusing on one niche at a time

SPQ 027: Learn how to use Evernote to organize your book research

SPQ 072: Steve explains how to use paid advertising to launch a book

  • I like it Steve and once again, the idea of giving freely precedes generating sales. Many authors feel that they can get without giving. Have an abundant mindset. I’m currently running a free giveaway for 1 of my books and plan to do a 5 day free giveaway for all of my books. Since I’ve 24 on Amazon, that’s a lot of books and weeks 😉

    But really though, ya can’t go wrong by doing some research, by publishing intelligently and by simply doing the best job possible giving freely of your time and talents. That’s the real secret, the real key, to getting started with like $5, or with no money investment right off of the bat. Thanks Steve!

    Ryan

    • That’s awesome to hear you’ve given away so many books. Did it help your numbers?

  • Wow Steve, I’m blown away by your reply. In the hindsight it makes so much sense, ha, ha, ha!
    #4 is the most important in the process. Without decent-quality content, you won’t sell anything. I actually didn’t barter. My proofreader donated her time. Ask around. There are people willing to help.
    #9 is fine… if your book sells. If I would have waited for profits to reinvest them, I would have waited looong time.
    But once you put something out there and see the process working, your confidence grows and next time you act bolder.
    #10. Amen to that.

  • Hey Michal — Great question by the way. Yeah, the only real monetary stuff starting out is the edits and cover. Like you said, “ask around.” It’s good to see you had someone donate their time. I do agree that it is a rough hurdle with the reinvesting if you’re not making money. But hopefully anyone’s book will make more than $5. haha.

  • Hi Scott, I’m trying to figure out how to subscribe to your rss fide for selfpublishingquestions.com.. I’d rather read your podcast, then listen to it.

  • Marnie Ginsberg

    Glad to hear a succinct plan for developing an ebook. A good exercise, too, but I’ll probably spend more than $5!

  • Steve! I really like the content you produce. It helped my a lot and motivated my to start running my own kindle business. I also set up an author platform, if you find a few seconds of time feel free to check out my content. All the best for you