How A Bunch of Emails Became A Best Selling Kindle Book

by Scott - 22 Comments

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On Monday I launched a book on Amazon that climbed to #1 in Business and #4 amongst all Kindle books on Amazon in the free section.

I’m new to this game and have no idea whether this will actually result in anything in besides bio bling, but that’s not what this post is about…

Bets

What I want to share with you is the exact process of how this kindle “Best Seller” was created in less than 5 hours by leveraging outsourcing and assets I already had…

My hope is that by the end of this post, you’ll have some fresh ideas about how you can be creating assets that push you forward using things you already have without too much heavy lifting…

outsource a book

The book I launched has a succinct title that isn’t optimized for Amazon Keywords…

Lifehacks: 63 Ways to Save Money, Improve Time Management, Produce Great Work, and Increase Productivity

The pursuit of this project began after a buddy told me he had someone transcribe an online course that he’d already created, then used a ghostwriter to create the initial manuscript from the transcription.

With some tweaking, that manuscript turned into a book deal with one of the world’s biggest publishers…and hopefully some pretty cushy paid speaking gigs in the near future.

When I heard this my brain practically exploded thinking about the cool things I could create and make $$ from using content that already had…

Lead magnets…passive income…free gifts…a book deal…reaching audiences on a new platform. Lots of cool stuff could things could be accomplished with a book, even if it wasn’t the next Hamlet.

Question numero uno: What assets did I already have that I could repurpose into a book?

I took an inventory of all the different pieces of content I created and decided I wanted to test this with something that would take the least amount of work to create. It also had to be something I’d be proud to share with my family, friends, and mentors…

A few years ago, I created an online community using google groups called HackingNYC. To be candid, I originally started the group because I wanted to stay in touch with the Skillshare students I was doing live classes for and I didn’t have a mailing list (or even know what the heck that was).

My college football team used a google group to stay in touch so I decided to use one of those.

HackingNYC is still an active community with over 300 people. The group collectively shares lifehacks as we encounter them.

I thought it’d be a cool idea to take all the lifehacks that people shared amongst the google group and turn it into a book.

Such is the origin story of my book Lifehacks: (keyworded out amazon title).

My Exact Process For Outsourcing The Creation of This Book

Step 1. Use My Intern and VA to Get Organized

I had my intern at the time go through all of the messages in the HackingNYC google group and compile the following information into a spreadsheet:

• Hack description
• Category (put your best guess)
• Tool or App (external Links)
• # of replies
• # of views
• Author

This information gave me a bird’s eye view of potential book sections and the most popular hacks.

I spent 15 minutes highlighting all the ones I wanted to include. My virtual assistant then copied and pasted the emails containing these hacks into a word document.

*If you’ve never used google groups, it’s basically just a big email group.

exampleemails

These emails were used to form the initial version of my version my manuscript.

Step 2: Find A Ghostwriter/Editor

For most online things, I just assume people that have the results I want are 80-90% optimized…so I just copy what they’re doing.

I asked my friend Ari who had nabbed a book deal from one of the world’s biggest publishers who he used….then reached out to her on Elance.

I emailed her my list of emails my VA pasted in and asked if she could turn it into a book.

She got back to me and said she could do the whole thing for around 500 bones.

This was her exact response:

emailresponse

At this point, I had no idea whether I’d make my money back on this project.

But I knew that getting comfortable with ghostwriters and going through the process would be worth the investment so I went for it.

Step 3: A Little Organizing to Minimize the Back and Forth

From here the process was very simple.

I went back to the master hacks PDF and organized the hacks by category and had my VA provide attribution to each lifehack if it was submitted by another person (Hack Credit!)

I then sent it to my ghostwriter/editor for her to transform my pile of emails into a polished manuscript.

She got back to me with a few questions.

Two back and forths later I had a final manuscript that also included a table of contents, welcome page, places she suggested screenshots, and information she needed for the title page.

I went through the manuscript and adjusted it so it was in my voice (a.k.a made it more bro-ey) and gave her the final thumbs up.

Step 4: Cover Design

I know a good design when I see one, but I’m playing in the pee wee league when it comes to coming up with design ideas myself.

If you’re like me, I’ve found the best thing to do is to give multiple low-cost designers on sites like fiverr.com examples of work you like and see what they come up with. This will give you’ll get a bunch of ideas and help you hone in on one concept to really create something excellent.

I did this for my cover and ended up using a design from my awesome friend Vanessa. Here was the final cover before optimized for Kindle formatting and keywords.

LifeHacks_BookMockup

I sent my ghostwriter the cover design and she fired back with final versions of the book in PDF, Kindle, and E-pub.

Costs and Logistics of Outsourcing My Book

Book length: 82 pages (PDF), 69 pages (Kindle)

Cost: $550 (I think?)

Personal Time Spent In Creation Process: Less than 5 hours

Project delivery time: Roughly 1 month

I initially did a little test promotion with this book by offering it up to one of my Udemy classes if they joined my list. I was able to get another 800 subscribers from this email.

After 3 days of launching on Amazon, it’s been downloaded by around 25,000 people.

3days copy

I’m only sharing this with you to spark some thinking about why you might want to start taking advantage of ghostwriting…even if you possess a limiting belief that all you create is a crappy ebook.

The initial version of my book was literally just a bunch of emails.

Let’s put our heads in the clouds and expand upon what investing a few hundred bucks in replicating this type of strategy might be able to accomplish if you’re willing to hustle your ass off marketing it once it’s done like I did.

You could:

    • Make you thousands of dollars in passive income a year. I have multiple friends doing this with kindle books.
    • Drive thousands of leads
    • Get a major book deal
    • Open your eyes to why and how you can start using ghost writers
    • Feel like a boss amongst your family for having an Amazon Author page

Cool stuff can happen. You get the picture.

Anyways, this book was totally an experiment…and the emails I’ve gotten from people it’s helped has made investing my time and money worth it already.

We’ll see how much dinero I can make off of it, but I like my odds that I can recoup $550 in less than a month due to smart keywording, niche selection, and hopefully some love with reviews from you all ; )

How You Can Replicate This Strategy

Okay, let’s talk about how you can take this story and emulate a similar outcome for yourself or business.

Step 1. Identify a piece of existing content that could potentially be turned into a book

This could be:

• Any video content (courses, speeches, etc)
• An audio interview
• A series of emails
• A collection of existing blog posts
• A recording of yourself talking about something

You’ll need to transcribe any audio into text which typically costs around $20-40 per hour of audio depending on turnaround time.

You can get this done on Fiverr, Elance, and Odesk.

2. Clearly Outline What You’re Looking For and Find a Freelancer

If you’re trying to emulate what I did, you’re looking for someone who can turn a manuscript into a book. Ideally this person can ghostwrite, edit, and design so that one person is managing the entire publishing process.

In a perfect lifehacking utopia, you can find someone that can turn a rough outline or transcript into a book. Look for that in candidates profiles and ask everyone you’re potentially hiring whether they can do that. Hell, tell them read this post.

3. Send them everything they need in a way that minimizes back and forth

You want to try and anticipate where the holes are in your draft to pre-empt any repetitive back and forth.

When I sent my manuscript to my freelancer, I spent an extra 20 minutes ordering the content so that she didn’t have to ask me how to do this.

For design stuff, I’d use the strategy of getting cheap concepts from multiple places like I recommended above.

What Else…?

In terms of the creation process, there’s not much else. Marketing it to get the results you want deserves a whole other post….I’ve spent at least 3X as much effort marketing this than creating it.

Alrighty. This is the secret sauce behind the creation of my lifehacker book and a blueprint for anyone who wants to outsource a book.

cover (1)

If you’d like to see how I marketed this book to become a number #1 best seller on Amazon, check out this post I wrote about How to get an ebook to #1 on Amazon on OkDork.

Are you curious about anything else in the creation or outsourcing process? What other creative ways do you think the ideas from this post could be leveraged in your business?

 

Get My Exact Book Marketing Blueprint In An Upcoming Post


22 comments, add to the conversation.

  1. hdawg

    I already ready your book yesterday and throughly enjoyed it. I knew a decent amount of the hacks already, but it was self assuring to know I had others that think like me. This article has made me want to potential write my own book. I was wondering, how are you making money on this if you don’t mind me asking? Since it is Free now I assume this is just to get the word out then offer it for $1+ or is amazon still paying for every download you get?

    Reply

    1. Post Author Scott

      Thanks man! Glad to hear that this post is pushing you in the direction of creating something : )

      The strategy is to give the book away for free to optimize downloads and reviews which helps ranking for keywords searches in the Kindle Store. I.E. I think I’m number one for Lifehacks now which gets about 10k searches a month. That ranking wouldn’t be possible without the reviews and downloads I’ve gotten.

      From here I’ll push price to .99 and then try to climb category ranks in paid. Once I crack a category ranking, I’ll price test to figure out what the best price point is. Hope this helps!

      Reply

  2. Nick Loper

    Hey Scott, awesome case study. Plus by “crowdsourcing” the content, everyone who’s lifehack got included in the final version is likely to share as well. Way to make a splash in Amazon and I’m sure this will continue to move units after the free promo is over.

    I’m looking forward to checking it out and will drop in a review for you as well. This post could be lifehack #64 :)

    Cheers,

    Nick

    Reply

  3. Hynek

    Scott, congratulations on your success. Getting to the #4 free spot is not easy. Will you also write a post about your marketing? Because honestly, that would be the most interesting part. :)

    Reply

  4. John

    Cool post. Did you get permission (legal releases) from each friend to be able to use their hack in the ebook?

    Reply

  5. Ruth

    Well the last was also my greatest burning question: what if those who posted didn’t know it would turn into a book nor want their comment used? How to ask each one, or how to put a visible note on where they post, asking if their comments can be used in a book & offer them a website mention of their own for benefit to them as well… ?

    Reply

  6. Post Author Scott

    I did not use their exact comment, just sourced them as credit for the resource. The content in the book was entirely re-written. If this was a concern in trying to replicate this, you could always ask them before publishing. Every single person did receive a website mention and link in the book

    Reply

  7. Win

    Scott, this is awesome! Love your organized and professional approach to getting a “real” book on Kindle. I’m doing this a bit differently (and for a lot less) at the moment, but will definitely be going this direction with some of my more “serious” books in the near future. Thanks man!

    Reply

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  13. Sebastian Aiden DAniels

    First that is an impressive of book sales in such a short time. I have a book on kindle right now and I agree that cover design is so important. What type of books are your friends selling and making passive income from in the thousands? Are they fiction or nonfiction?

    Reply

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  15. Aya

    Love this post. I’m looking to organize a bunch of the Questions people privately email my site, anonymize them and put them into .pdf format for a email list opt-in. This post is exactly what I was looking for to outsource the formatting and make the book better. Thanks.

    Reply

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