A big part of my personal revenue stream is 1) donations from people like you who enjoy this site and 2) the sale of technology books to tech teachers, classroom teachers and homeschoolers interested in how to teach something as complicated as computers to elementary-age children. Without that business, I couldn’t afford to give away as much as I do online (so feel free to purchase a book or two if they fill a need. I’m on Amazon and Google ebooks–check out my store. Or simply make a donation with the PayPal button on the left sidebar).
Here’s my story of how I grew that business to what it is today. If you’re an entrepreneur, or looking for life’s Next Big Opportunity, or maybe just trying to get by in this horrid economy, I hope this helps:
I started blogging a couple of years ago to connect with others who also might be getting those mixed reviews we writers get–some bad, some brutal, when the best endorsement is your mom who says, “Well, it doesn’t suck this time (Thanks, Nanette for this).”
A little background on me: I write non-fiction tech books (which have been published) and fiction thrillers (which haven’t). For more, visit my new website, JacquiMurray.net. My business is steady, but boring, so I started a blog called Ask a Tech Teacher and invited readers to pose questions about technology (my day job for the last twelve years is teaching K-8 technology). Interspersed with tips, I shared lesson plans and stories of my experience teaching technology to the layperson. The blog led to ezines and online newspaper columns and guest posts which led to books reviews and a gig as an Amazon Vine Voice. I learned about branding myself, not being afraid to use my real name and making sure everything I write is the best I can do (which is contradictory to my original impression of ‘blogging’ as ‘journaling’).
Sometime after my online life began, visitors to my outlets increased and more people bought my books. After just a year of what was now my “marketing” effort (online marketing tends to be a soft sell), I saw a 100% improvement. This was despite my refusal to spend any money on spreading the good word. That’s right. Everything I’ve done is free. Today, about eighteen months later, I’m still doubling last year’s sales—which means 4x my pre-online marketing sales. In fact, about forty of my top fifty referrers are sites I’ve cultivated over time.
Let me repeat that: 80% of my referrers are sites I have cultivated.
Here’s how I did it:
- I post 3-5 times a week on topics I find of interest to myself and relevant to the writers I’m in contact with
- I stay in touch with people I’ve met on social networks, blogs, and comments left on my online articles.
- I developed a presence on LinkedIn by completing the profile (have you done this?), joining groups and participating in the conversations.
- I developed a presence on Facebook–though only for my books. I’m not about to post family pictures and events. I’m one of those really private people so that doesn’t fit my lifestyle.
- I created a Twitter account and follow like-minded professionals.
- I created an Amazon account to sell my print books. I’ve tried Kindle, but my books are heavy on tables and pictures and don’t do well in that format.
- I created a store on Teachers Pay Teachers where I sell both print and digital books. This is a nice site focused on the teaching profession. You might want to consider it if that’s your area.
- I created a store on Scribd to sell digital books. Due to nothing I can figure out, sales here have plateaued.
- I harassed my publisher, Structured Learning, to make my presence on his website prettier. I think it worked. What do you think?
- I created a BarnesandNoble.com account for print books. That is pretty much a waste of time. It takes too much work to manage and they can’t seem to keep my book up on their website. Sometimes, the only way you can find it is by ISBN. Who would ever know the ISBN? I’ve sold a dozen books there so far. Not worth the effort. (Update: My book now shows up, but with the wrong cover. Argh.)
I tried many other sources—Freado, DocStoc, Author Central, FiledBy—with zero results. I didn’t even get referrals from them. I also started accounts on Google eBooks and Amazon’s Digital Platform. I get occasional checks from them, but it barely amounts to lunch money.
How much time does it take? A lot. In fact, I spent most of last summer getting things started, and most weekends keeping it going. I love writing so I do it twelve hours a day when I’m out of school. I work on my WIP and take breaks by marketing. That’s OK because I don’t have a life, although my husband and children might disagree.
Let me know if you do anything that works that I can try. I’d like to double my sales again!
Photo credit: Make Money Online
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.