Case Study: Stephen Guise: An Independent Author Focused On Quality

Case Study: Stephen Guise: An Independent Author Focused On Quality

how to be an imperfectionist by stephen guiseStephen Guise is an Amazon Kindle e-book selling phenomenon. Until May 22, 2015 he had one title to his name. That title has sold more than 75,000 copies worldwide.

Unlike other e-book authors who strive to publish a lot of books and turn a profit based on total volume of sales, Guise focuses on publishing a high quality book and selling a lot of copies of each title. He may publish fewer titles that way, but his income from e-book sales isn’t suffering.

How Stephen Guise Makes Money Teaching People About Good Habits

Stephen Guise focuses first on producing a top quality product.

Stephen Guise has been writing about personal development topics for a long time. In December 2013, he self-published his first e-book titled “Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results.” Today, that e-book is in the top 10 in two e-book categories in the Amazon Kindle store and has more than 400 reviews, most of them positive. His star rating is 4.6 out of a possible 5 with 75% of his reader reviews being 5-star reviews.

“The primary factors of my success,” Guise says, “are that I’m cognizant of the importance of marketing, and book marketability.”

In other words, he focuses on producing a top quality product. He makes sure he’s got a winning topic, it is written about well, and he’s got a good cover, great editing, and professional proofreading. He does everything he can to make a positive first impression.

The Stephen Guise Writing Routine

The idea for Mini Habits came from personal experience. Guise wanted to develop his own personal fitness habits and decided to start small. One day, he forced himself to complete one pushup. The next day, he did two. He gradually worked his way up to a 30-minute workout unconsciously as he strove to better his own output. As a result of this routine, he came upon the idea for a book and started writing.

“The idea was to build small daily behaviors into habitual behaviors,” he said.

Guise writes using Scrivener, a software for professional writers. After putting his personal experiences down on paper, he supplemented them with scientific research to help himself and his readers gain a better understanding about why certain personal habits work better than others.

He then published his book and began the marketing process.

How Mini Habits Became The #1 Best Selling Nonfiction Book on Amazon

Mini Habits by Stephen GuiseAfter writing and producing an excellent book—which is very important for self-publishers, Guise says—the secret to becoming a worldwide best seller is a service called BookBub.

“They’re the holy grail of book marketing,” he says. “There’s nothing comparable–except being on Oprah.”

Authors and self-publishers discount the price of their books and submit them to BookBub, which in turn notifies readers with daily e-mail blasts. With millions of subscribers, BookBub has a lot of power in the e-book publishing world.

Mini Habits is priced at $5.99, but Guise runs frequent sales and discounts the book to 99 cents.

“That’s well below the actual value of the book,” he says. “It moves more copies. It’s a trade off I’m willing to make to spread the message and rise up Amazon’s sales charts to get more exposure.”

He uses pricing as a way to distinguish his books from the competition. Setting a higher price gives the perception that the book, and the information inside, is higher quality. He also notes that when he discounts his books to 99 cents it’s a bigger promotional factor and drives more sales.

Mini Habits has been featured on BookBub three times. Before being accepted for a BookBub promotion, Guise was selling 10 to 15 copies per day. That’s not bad for a self-published author, but after its first appearance on BookBub, a feat itself which isn’t easy to achieve, the book sold 5,000 copies within 48 hours. Guise then started receiving requests from foreign publishers to translate his book into other languages. As of now, the book has been published in German and Korean.

As a result of this exposure, Mini Habits rose to #11 in overall sales in the Amazon Kindle store and #1 in nonfiction titles.

After being featured on BookBub the second and third time, the book rose to #15 and #14 overall, respectively, and #1 in nonfiction. It even became the #1 selling self help book in South Korea, Guise says. He now markets himself as an “international best selling author.”

The Stephen Guise Book Promotion Method

There’s nothing comparable–except being on Oprah.”

Besides BookBub, Guise has a proactive way of promoting his books. For his latest book, “How to Be An Imperfectionist“, he attempted to release it as a pre-order, but he was disappointed in its sales rankings after a two-month pre-order period.

“I got 420 pre-orders,” he says. “I thought that was pretty good, but because those sales are spread out over two months instead of rolled into one day, it hurt my Amazon ranking. ”

As a result of that experience, Guise said he likely won’t offer future books on pre-order.

“If I do,” he says, “It will be a week or two so I can maintain momentum going into launch.’

The primary ways Guise promotes his books are through his mailing list and by guest blogging.

“Having an e-mail list is the single most important way to market a book,” he says. “That means establishing a platform. It took me 2 1/2 to 3 years to build a platform. Marketing to that list is really important.”

He tries to build anticipation for new titles by promoting them to his list before launch. On launch day, he offered Mini Habits for $4.99 to encourage early buying. He then raised the price to $9.99 and sales dropped sharply. When he dropped the price to $5.99, sales went up again.

“I reacted to the market and that’s extremely important,” he said.

After releasing his book in late December, he sold 500 copies in the first eight or nine days leading into the new year. The next month, in January, he sold another 500 copies. That translated into nearly $3,000. One month later, he was featured on BookBub.

He also tried Facebook and Google ads, but neither paid model worked out so well.

At the end of Mini Habits, Guise asks readers to leave a review of the book on Amazon. He doesn’t ask for positive reviews. He simply writes a book worthy of a positive review and leaves it up to the reader to decide.

“I don’t manipulate reviews as some authors do,” he says. “I feel strongly about not review swapping or nudging people to give a 5-star review.”

Mini Habits is also now available as an audio book and in print. It’s selling well in both formats.

The Future of E-book Publishing for Stephen Guise

stephen guise bestselling e-book authorIt’s awkward to start off so strongly,” Guise says, “and wonder if it was a fluke or if you can replicate it. It’s a good problem to have.”

While Guise’s second book isn’t selling as well as Mini Habits did, it’s not doing too badly. Three months after its initial release, it’s in the top 20 in two e-book categories in the Kindle store. But Guise is not sure he’s going to continue his Kindle-only e-book publishing policy.

“Until this point it’s been in my best interest to stay exclusive to Amazon,” he says. Recent changes in Amazon’s author pay schedule, however, are causing him to rethink that strategy.

Having a book listed in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) reading library is contingent upon authors agreeing to list their books exclusively through Amazon. In July 2015, Amazon began paying authors based on pages read rather than book downloads. Guise isn’t sure yet how that’s going to affect his earnings. However, he did see a drop in sales and an increase in books borrowed after Amazon rolled out KU last year.

Prior to the introduction of KU, readers could borrow books through Amazon Prime. When KU launched, Guise said he saw his income from borrowed books go down.

“It was pretty significant too,” he says. “It was a 20 to 40 percent decline in revenues.”

Because Mini Habits is listed at $5.99 instead of $2.99 like so many other independent authors, that drop was much more noticeable. Guise is now considering the possibility of publishing in other e-book formats. Nevertheless, you can expect great things from Stephen Guise in the future. He’s an independent nonfiction book author who clearly knows what he’s doing.

“I’m in this for the long term,” he says, “so I want every book I write to be something I’m proud of in 20 years. There’s more value in the long term in writing really good books.”

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Buy Stephen Guise’s books at Amazon

Stephen Guise Mini Habits and How to Be an Imperfectionist

Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor is a freelance writer, content strategist, and award-winning journalist. He is the author of "E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books," available in the Kindle, ePub, iBooks, and PDF formats.

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