Friday, 1 March 2013

Launching VFX book to number 1 best-seller spot on Amazon

So the past month I have been really busy launching my book 'VFX and CG for Producers and Filmmakers' on Amazon.


Paperback


US and International -> http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
UK -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Austria and Germany -> http://www.amazon.de/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
France -> http://www.amazon.fr/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Italy -> http://www.amazon.it/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Spain -> http://www.amazon.es/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/

Kindle



US and International -> http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
UK -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
Canada -> http://www.amazon.ca/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
Austria and Germany -> http://www.amazon.de/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
France -> http://www.amazon.fr/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Italy -> http://www.amazon.it/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Japan -> http://www.amazon.co.jp/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Spain (and Latin America) -> http://www.amazon.es/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/


I started writing the book in July 2012 and launched it in February 2013, again much like my film making this has all been part time after work and getting two kids to bed - whatever energy I could summon I put into the book.

I launched the book in the middle of February and managed to get it to number one on Amazon under the following categories within 48 hours of launch - it was a massive undertaking which I'll detail for you below.

Fig 1. Putting the book up on Amazon and getting it to number 1 on the 16th Feb 2013 in its relevant categories



Fig 2. VFX and CG for Producers and Filmmakers number 1 bestseller in 'Computers and Film' category on Amazon, 16th Feb 2013

Fig 3. VFX and CG for Producers and Filmmakers number 1 bestseller in 'Graphic Design' category on Amazon, 16th Feb 2013

Fig 4. VFX and CG for Producers and Filmmakers number 1 bestseller in 'Web Graphics' category on Amazon, 16th Feb 2013
Launching a book to Amazon has several different stages.

i. Writing the best book you can
ii. Converting it into an ebook
iii.  Selecting a place to sell it - Amazon vs the rest
iv. Finding your target audience - twitter vs the rest
v. Marketing to that audience

I'll deal with each of these stages in turn


i. Writing the best book you can


So this is fairly obvious but actually there are few points to take into consideration before you start this step.  Firstly writing the best book you can means you have to write an 'excellent' book.  Note I said 'excellent' not 'perfect'.  Once you understand that perfection is an abstract concept you will know when to stop writing and move onto the next steps.

Which leads onto the next point.  Writing the book is stage one.  There are other stages to follow.  When you start writing your book make sure you know this so a) you don't burn out in the writing process and b) that you have enough energy to go through the next steps.

Stage i is where you are going to be most excited and pumped up to do this.  But writing an excellent book in itself will not get you to number one best sellers list.

Before you start writing I recommmend you do some research about how to get your book to number one on Amazon.  This blog is a good starting point, I won't go into too much detail as there are whole books written on this subject.  I read two books on this subject both of which are excellent.

Kindle Self Publishing on Amazon: How to Become an Amazon #1 Bestselling Author - and Make Money! - A Guide to Self Publishing on Kindle by Oli Hillie
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindle-Self-Publishing-Amazon-ebook/dp/B007DJ9G92/

and

How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! by John Locke
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook/dp/B0056BMK6K/


They can explain it better than I can, also I don't want to disrespect their work by giving away the formulas in their books.
Fig 5.  These two books helped me set the the plan to launch my book



After you've done a few drafts, I did six drafts on my own, send it out to people to read and give feedback on.  Make sure you select the people wisely, i.e. do not give it to a family member or your best friend who will say it's excellent.  My book was on VFX so I gave it to a VFX producer who I respect greatly, and he gave me really excellent feedback which I then incorporated into draft 7.

Going to draft 8 was one more session of proofreading and re-evaluating.

Okay a note here on burning out.  Inspiration is a perishable commodity, yes you read that right.  The initial inspiration that you had at the start will be diminishing rapidly by the time you are on draft 7 or 8 and remember you are still on stage i of the process.

Give yourself a break between drafts and take some time out to relax.  The argument that I heard most often is that you will burn out if you don't break, the response I gave was 'well no one else is going to do the work for me'.  The truth is both of these are right.  No one else will do the next stages for you - unless you pay them, even if you do you will probably spend at least half the effort in managing them than you would if you did it yourself.  You have to do it, but without taking a break you will tire and as well as making mistakes you will make bad choices which you'll ultimately have to come back and fix, i.e. have to do even more work.

Here's a tip while you are waiting for feedback, allow two weeks or so, take a break and then at at more comfortable pace start investigating the next stages, how to format your book, where are you going to sell it etc.

I used a gant chart from google docs to plan out all the upcoming stages.

Fig 6. Schedule your tasks so you know what you are supposed to be doing on any given day
This is really important to do as
a) you won't waste time when you have the opportunity to work (especially important when you have kids to look after and a day job to do)
b) you'll have a clear target to work towards and not meander and
c) you'll know how many more tasks are still to be done so you can plan your time and energy accordingly.


ii. Converting it into an ebook


It may seem daunting, how do you convert your text document into an e-book, how will the text fit onto a tablet screen or a mobile phone screen how do I go about putting in page breaks etc?  There are a plethora of softwares that will convert your text document into an e-book for you.

E-books use their own markup, much like HTML will resize your webpage to fit any window size so the e-book markup language will do the same for any reading device.

There are two main markup langauges to use, so depending upon which e-reading device you are planning to launch your book on, you will need to convert your book into either a .mobi for Kindle readers or .epub for other e-readers (e.g. Nook, Kobo, Google Books, iBooks etc.).

The software will convert the book for you into whatever format you choose to export to (for the record I chose Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php but there are plenty others out there too).  You can typically download a 30 day free trial and find which works best for you.

Fig 7. Scrivener home page, 



iii.  Selecting a place to sell it - Amazon versus the rest


So assuming now you have a final version of the book (with multiple drafts and feedback applied) the question is where are you going to sell the book, Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, etc.?  The answer will lie in where is your target audience buying these books from?  All these book stores are good but for me as I was writing a book on VFX and CG for Producers and Filmmakers I searched the various book stores to see how many titles they had that fit into the same category as my book would.  I was quite shocked to find out that there was hardly any animation or film making books presence on Kobo.  

Fig 8.  This is what the search results for 'computer animation' returned from the Kobo book store

Fig 9. a search for 'VFX' only returned four books on Kobo
The reason I wanted so much for there to be a animation and filmmaking presence especially on Kobo was that I had read that they were leading the charge into the Asian market where there is a large audience for CG and VFX.  At the time I was researching into this Amazon did not have a presence in India.  However as I got onto the other stages of releasing a book, Amazon had announced that they would be selling to India through their main Amazon.com store.  

The final factor that swung it for me to go exclusively on Amazon is their KDP Select programme, which essentially says means by enrolling in KDP Select you forfeit the right for your book to be published in any other e-bookstore in exchange for which your book will be eligible for Amazon Prime inclusion.  Amazon Prime is the service they give to their Kindle readers, whereby in exchange for an annual fee Amazon Prime customers get access to free books which they can borrow for a certain period of time.  What that means for you is that more people will see your book without having to buy it.  But wait a minute how can people reading your book without buying it be good for you?  Well the answer is once enrolled in KDP Select you will be eligible for a monthly bonus pool of cash reserved for KDP Select authors, each time your book is borrowed by Amazon Prime users you will get a share of the monthly bonus pool depending upon how many borrows of your book occur.  This could be potentially more rewarding than selling your book as readers don't have to stake the cash for your book, they get it free as they've already paid upfront for borrowing on Prime.  

Each book store has its own merits, I would just advise you to look to see how many similar books to yours are sold at these book stores.  If one of them has a larger catalogue than the others, chances are your target audience are already buying from that bookstore.  Also remember people do not need to own a Kindle, Nook or Kobo to read your book, there are apps that can be downloaded onto tablets and smart phones for each of these, in fact chances are many avid readers already have all three installed onto their tablets/smart phones (see the links at the bottom of the page).  

iv. Finding your target audience - Twitter versus the rest


Early on in the process, ideally while you are waiting for feedback from an early draft you will want to go and search for where your target audience frequent on the internet.  Are your customers more likely to converse through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Google+, Pintrest etc.?  Wherever they are you need to find them first, establish how many people you can find in these places and how many you can engage with earlier.  

Expecting Amazon to promote your book is a false assumption.  Amazon or any other book store will not go out of their way to promote your book, what they will do is host it for you and make it easy for customers to buy and read it.  You have to promote your own book, most likely you don't have a marketing budget to spend on plastering billboards and buses with your book cover so it's smarter for you to find out where your target audience lives and focus your energy on marketing directly to them through social media and forums.

Fig 10.  I used my book cover to help point people to my book
The other great thing about twitter is that you can brand your homepage anyway you like  While you can serve your page to a lot of people on twitter there is also a lot of spawning every second on twitter and though you think you may have served it to thousands of people, really they may not see it in amongst all the other tweets.  Also the time of day you tweet is important, if you tweet while half your audience is asleep (remember it is an international business) by the time they wake up and log in, how many other tweets are they going to have in their timeline.  The twitter homepage will list the most recent tweets first, even then then there is not guaranteed way to ensure your tweets will be the first one seen, all you can do is maximise its chances to be seen by tweeting at the right time of day.  However twitter is only part of the marketing process, there are many other social media platforms.

v. Marketing to that audience


I use the word 'engage' and not 'sell', there is a big difference in the two.  Engaging means you are sharing the same interests and ideas with like-minded people.  Even if you do not sell to them you will have made new acquaintances and potentially friends too based on your common interests.  

I went (initially) down the route of twitter, I found that I could find people who had the same interests as I had here and they were are keen on sharing knowledge especially when it comes it education and learning new skills and techniques in CG and VFX.  The use of hash tags (#) was key to finding an audience who I could connect with.  Hash tags are like keywords whereby you can quickly find other people who are using the same hash tag that you are interested in.  

If  you go down the route of twitter you had better find a way to shorten any links to your book into a shortened form otherwise you will burn through your 140 character limit.  Again there are many sites that will shorten URLs for you, I went for bit.ly as I had seen that used more often.  

One of the interesting things about using bit.ly is the analytics tools it comes with.  

Fig 11.  Bit.ly analytics allowed me to track the effectiveness of my twitter strategy
Using the bit.ly analytics toolset I could drill down into granular details including see right down to the number of clicks in the last hour and where they came from.  I timed the analytics checks to coincide with how many hits a tweet (or retweet from a high net tweeter) generated.  I could then establish the returns on my time and effort and where to focus next.  

Conclusion

All in all, the main takeaway is that while writing an excellent book should be your primary goal there is a lot of other work to be done to get your book to the number one best-seller list in any book store.  Pace yourself, the race is long and you'll need help to get you to the finish line.

You can see my book at any of the following Amazon sites, international customers please use the Amazon.com link below.  


Paperback


US and International -> http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
UK -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Austria and Germany -> http://www.amazon.de/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
France -> http://www.amazon.fr/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Italy -> http://www.amazon.it/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Spain -> http://www.amazon.es/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/

Kindle


US and International -> http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
UK -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
Canada -> http://www.amazon.ca/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
Austria and Germany -> http://www.amazon.de/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
France -> http://www.amazon.fr/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Italy -> http://www.amazon.it/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Japan -> http://www.amazon.co.jp/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Spain (and Latin America) -> http://www.amazon.es/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/


*BTW you don't need to own a kindle to read this, you can download a kindle app for you smart phone or tablet from your app store or 
or get the kindle cloud reader which will allow you to read kindle in your web browser here -> https://read.amazon.com/about



Please feel free to leave comments and your own experience in the comment section below.  Thanks for reading.

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VFX and CG from Film Producers and Filmmakers

My book 'VFX and CG from Film Producers and Filmmakers' will teach you how you can create your own animated movie and add CG/VFX into your own film


Latest reviews for VFX & CG Survival Guide for Producers and Filmmakers from Amazon




you can buy your copy here

Paperback


US and International -> http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
UK -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Austria and Germany -> http://www.amazon.de/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
France -> http://www.amazon.fr/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Italy -> http://www.amazon.it/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/
Spain -> http://www.amazon.es/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-Volume/dp/1484021541/

Kindle



US and International -> http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
UK -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
India -> http://www.amazon.in/Survival-Producers-makers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Brazil -> http://www.amazon.com.br/kindle/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Mexico -> http://www.amazon.com.mx/kindle/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Canada -> http://www.amazon.ca/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2
Austria and Germany -> http://www.amazon.de/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
France -> http://www.amazon.fr/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Italy -> http://www.amazon.it/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Japan -> http://www.amazon.co.jp/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/
Spain -> http://www.amazon.es/Survival-Producers-Filmmakers-Guides-ebook/dp/B00BDV8GY2/


*BTW you don't need to own a kindle to read this, you can download a kindle app for you smart phone or tablet from your app store or 
or get the kindle cloud reader which will allow you to read kindle in your web browser here ->https://read.amazon.com/about


Thanks