2021 Review Part 2: KDP:
A bit extra for Christmas?, Or a new side hustle to earn £1,000’s
In 2021 I started an exploration into another little side hustle. This is Kindle direct publishing (KDP). I cannot honestly remember where I first saw about it. I am semi-confident it was of someone on Twitter, talking about their successes in 2020. @Thatkdpguy on twitter possibly.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I started to look more into it, the talk of earning easy money with no upfront cost. By just uploading some covers to amazon seemed too good to be true. But the more I looked into it and looked at some examples, the more I thought, why not give it a shot.
So that is exactly what I did, I uploaded a few notebooks and planners and waited to see whether they sold. Added a nice little bonus to my end of year tally. This was all a learning experience, and my initial offerings were particularly poor. There is probably also still much to learn. But am confident we have made a good start to the journey.
What is KDP?
First of all to explain a bit more about KDP and specifically low or no content books. Kindle direct publishing allows anyone to publish a book and have it visible for sale to millions of customers worldwide. All through the following of simple steps. This has allowed anyone to be a published author, and earn money from it. With the royalties being substantial for sales of your book.
There is also no cost to any of this, it is free to have a KDP account, you can either use your current Amazon account or create a new one specifically for KDP. You then write a title a description, upload your pdf interior, and a cover which can be created on amazon or uploaded as a pdf straight into amazon. Set your price and see how much royalties you will get per market, job done.
For the books, I was selling you are looking at making £1 per notepad or journal if you price at between £4.50 - 5
Low or no-content books
Now I am certainly not a writer, mainly due to those damn apostrophes, and my general lack of creativity. But with KDP it does not have to be a novel or short stories that you upload, oh no there is a huge market for either no content or low content books. This could be anything from notebooks, journals, diaries, planners, guest books, logbooks, handwriting books the list could go on and on.
So that is what I tried my hand at first of all. Thought what is the worst that can happen we can give it a go if it works great we earn a few pennies, if not oh well I have only wasted my time.
So I thought I would start with notebooks first of all. Doing some research on youtube and the internet, I sought how I would actually get started. Starting with finding my interiors, first of all, book bolt as a great free interior wizard that allows you to download a variety of free interiors selecting the size and page count taking just a couple of minutes. Then the only other thing I needed to do was a way to make the covers. Realising very quickly that the cover creator within KDP is very limited, so settling on canva. Another free web browser program, that allows you to create covers and save your work within the browser before downloading and uploading. Although you can pay for Canva pro which is certainly worth it (not actually signed up myself at the moment, but you can try their free pro trial), their free service is still great and allows lots of potential for making covers with different fonts or graphics. With these tools, I haven’t spent a penny and have got everything I need to go and create some notebooks.
My creations, notebooks and planners.
I started with just making notebooks, they were really easy to start making, covers with simple few words typed up on there, or simple graphics they could be made very quickly, using the cover template from bookow, allowed me to ensure my dimensions were all correct and the graphics were centred, when it would upload. I started with about 10-20 notebooks in a few different niches, taking a few minutes to create the cover and upload.
Soon into my KDP journey maybe after a month, saw the suggestion that in the lead up to Christmas, planners were the way to go with less competition than notebooks, and also the ideal cheap Christmas present. I thought instead of just notebooks I would create planners and diaries that would hopefully sell more in the run up to Christmas.
This is where my first expense came from, but it was only £2, I bought a ready-made pdf interior for a 6” x 9” book, with all the dates for 2022 from etsy. You could probably make this yourself, but I thought for the time to take to do this it was just not worth it, plus I was never going to make it better than it was already. 1 month down and 20 books created and still no sales and nowhere to be found in the first top pages when searching. It was easy to learn why …. Niche research.
Niches are vital in choosing the right books to make
First starting out, I would just have an amusing idea and turn it into a notebook and be done with it, it is not at all as easy as that.
You need to find a good balance of a couple of things. You need firstly something popular that people are going to buy…… sounds obvious, but very easy to just make a notebook that you think is cool, but no-one is going to search for and buy. So, you need to do your research for your niche example golfing notebooks. Are they popular? Well find out by searching for them in amazon, have a look at the first few pages, click on each of them and navigate to their BSR rankings, how many are selling, this is found in the product details section of the listing. Target is looking for something in the top 300,000 for notebooks and planners.
Then you want to have a fighting chance of selling it so you need to make sure the competition is not so high, again you can do this really easily, just from seeing the number of results on a page. I started posting a few teachers notebooks, the competitions were huge the numbers massive. It is no wonder no one was buying my books, they were lost in a black hole of people thinking they were going to get rich. It certainly is a good niche that is popular and has lots of sales, but the competition plainly makes it unviable. For search results, you certainly want something less than 5-10,000, much more likely your notebook goes up to the top with correct keywords. If you are on the front pages you are visible. Then down to your cover to do the work. So I found 3-4 niches after a bit of research one evening, one topic that I was an avid fan of myself and a few others, that were then my baseline, for creating some.
One of the things you need to enter on your book creation is the space for 7 keyword phrases. Do not overlook this, this is vital to ensure the ranking of your book. Once book iscreated in a good niche with a good cover. Keyword research is the next step. Again this is not as difficult as it sounds, what you want to be achieving is finding what people are searching for when buying your type of book.
There are two tools I use for this, one the Amazon search bar, which will tell you what people search for by auto-filling. You might type in golfing notebooks and it comes up with golfing notebooks for husband. There is your keyword phrase. You can improve this even better by using AMZ suggestion expander. This tool expands amazon searches even further so you can see even more what people are searching for.
The next tool I used was cerebero, which gives you two searches a day, with this you copy and paste the ASIN into their search bar, of books similar to yours, and it shows you all the keywords that they are using, to get the sales and on to the front page. Use these and away.
These have served me really well, and changed my mindset of keywords, also using these tools it allows for finding the phrases that you would never have thought people are searching for. There is no point guessing the information is out there.
So that was my process in a nutshell and my development. But did it work?, well I would have to say yes, and better than I had hoped for. I am a pessimist at heart, so I didn’t expect anything at all.
When my first 1-2 sales popped up at the beginning of October, I was over the moon. I couldn’t quite believe something that I had created on the computer somebody was actually purchasing. I got more fulfilment out of those £2 than I did from a day’s salary in my 9-5 but unfortunately fulfilment does not pay the bills.
Over the course of a few months, I listed just over 60 notebooks and planners. In various different categories.
My results are quite telling, and I think to tell a story that is not as easy as uploading some notebooks and getting sales, you need to hit a lot of markers, find the right niche that actually sells, rank on searches, and then have a decent enough cover that people want to buy it.
I sold over 450 copies of my notebooks in 3 months, the vast majority being in December, getting about £1 for each. But that doesn’t tell all the facts. There were 2 books that sold 256 between them, 7 books that we're into double figures. Then 25 books that sold less than 10 books, some selling just 1 or 2. Then another 25 -30 that sold none at all. Granted some of these are ones that I first uploaded and for so many reasons they are absolute trash. Chucked into huge niches, with the massive competition with no keyword research, and shoddy covers to boot.
Plans for 2022
Last year, I did not take this side of things as seriously, spent a few random hours creating covers and uploading them. But as you will know this wasn’t my only side hustle. So definitely I could have done a lot more. But it is difficult to throw all the time into something until you realise it is actually going to work. Last year has shown me that it is doable and there are some huge potentials out there.
There is a niggling doubt in my mind that well without those two books, with 100+ sales, my results would not have been as encouraging as they were. But I think that is the logic, the consistency to keep plugging away will encourage some to take off. There is still a lot more to learn a lot of research to do. But the feeling of creating something that will be uploaded to amazon and stay there for ever potentially bringing in sales on a regular basis without me having to do anything is the big encouraging factor.
I expect sales to drop off massively if not completely. But I have a whole year to work towards next Christmas. I want to build up an armoury of notebooks and journals that will hopefully sell. Find hopefully some evergreen books that sell all year round.
Then the potential for growth is huge, there is so much potential that I haven’t tapped, colouring books, activity books, log books, composition notebooks, the list goes on and on.
So stay tuned and see where this takes us into 2022 and beyond, and see if a terribly creative person, can actually make money, making pretty books to sell on amazon.
Thanks for reading. Part 3 of the 2021 review looking at a different side hustle ‘Lego investing’ is in the works as well.