Few self-published authors can earn money selling both fiction and non-fiction. Bryan Cohen is one of them. He’s got around 40 titles published, 25 of them are non-fiction, and he’s still going.
Cohen’s non-fiction book publishing started with one book that has become an iconic brand. There have been more than 25,000 copies of “1,000 Creative Writing Prompts” sold worldwide, and Cohen has spun the book off into five separate niche books with complementary workbooks. In a word, he’s a brilliant marketer and a brilliant publisher. There is much to learn from his story.
This should miff the “SEO is dead” crowd, but the truth is the truth. What Bryan Cohen did to push himself to the top of the best selling charts was nothing magical, just pure search engine optimization.
“I used Google’s keyword tool, and it showed me that ‘creative writing prompts’ was a strong keyword,” Cohen said. He then created a website around the keyword and start writing prompts for his audience. “I was a former improv comedian,” he said, “and writing creative writing prompts was a lot like creating an improv scene, which I was very familiar with.”
Eighty pages later, his creative writing prompts were the most visited pages on his website. In 2010, he discovered info products and turned his writing prompts into an e-book for the Kindle, writing more prompts just for the book.
“I had my first 10-book sale day and was hooked,” he said.
Bryan Cohen doesn’t have to do anything to see a minimum of $500 per month in e-book income. And this is just from his non-fiction titles.
Today, Cohen still sells the lion’s share of his books on Amazon, but he does get enough sales through the other stores to make it worth it. In a typical month he’ll see sales figures that look like this:
On Amazon, he can make as little as $300-$400 in one month or as much as $3,000-$4,000, depending on his publishing schedule, active promotions, and reader interest in his titles. These may not look like impressive numbers, but remember, it’s passive income. He doesn’t have to do anything to see a minimum of $500 per month in e-book income. And this is just from his non-fiction titles.
On top of that, he sees irregular income from the sale of his paperback books at Createspace, which are also listed at Amazon.
The brilliance Cohen displays through the publishing process is that he doesn’t do anything complicated. No part of the process involves fancy bells and whistles. There’s no magic, no expensive software or other tools, and nothing really complicated.
“I am super old-school,” he said. “For writing, I use a discontinued electronic keyboard from the AlphaSmart company called Neo 2. It’s the best thing I’ve bought in my life.”
He sends his finished manuscripts to an editor, who uses Word with two passes and sends it back. Cohen then switches to Microsoft Word for the rest of the process. To convert the book for the Kindle, he uses a free software called Calibre. For the ePub format, he uses Sigil, also free.
When it comes to publishing, he sends his manuscripts directly to Kobo and Nook Press, but he uses Draft2Digital for publishing to Apple.
“The only time I won’t go direct to Nook is when I want to make a title permanently free,” he said. In that case, he uses Draft2Digital because Nook Press doesn’t allow authors to set books to free whereas book distributors like Draft2Digital and Smashwords do. “I like Draft2Digital because they have nice reports, good support, and they make traction at Apple easier.”
When he published “1,000 Creative Writing Prompts,” he did his own editing, so the cost of the book cover–$100—was his only expense.
Because he did his own editing, he noticed the book had a lot of errors. Later, he sent the book out for professional editing. As a result of this process, he earned $50,000 on that book, and it continues to sell in all the stores where it is listed.
The modern-day version of the blog tour is a podcast.
“I did run a really big blog tour,” he said, “but they don’t work any more.”
When he ran his blog tour, Cohen said he sold 25 books a day. In his articles he’d talk about himself and his writing schedule, his books, and the process of writing and publishing. He would schedule posts on 30 different blogs over the course of a 30-day period and write about topics of interest to his target audience.
“The modern-day version of the blog tour is a podcast,” Cohen said. Last month he executed a mini-podcast tour to promote his book description writing business.
Cohen is always looking for new ways to promote himself and publish his knowledge. These days he’s creating Udemy courses and promoting them through his podcast show, “The Sell More Books Show”.
It’s going to play more into promoting the e-courses going forward,” he said. “That audience doesn’t want writing prompts.”
For Cohen, publishing is about building authority.
“When I get to work on my next non-fiction book, I’ll become an authority on why everyone should have a podcast,” he said. “If you do that in conjunction with a website, an email list, an e-course, and a podcast, then you can round out the entire industry. Just make sure you get enough people into your sphere of influence as possible.”
Wise words, indeed. Because he’s done it.
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