Indie Publishing Business Rants Self Publishing

Ryan Deiss’s Number One Book System: Scam Or Just Incompetent?

Now – fair disclosure – I haven’t seen Ryan Deiss’s Number One Book System, that’s because it’s not live yet. But I’ve seen his pre-launch hype machine in action all over Facebook – so I took a longer look. 

Who’s Ryan Deiss?

His name rang vague bells in my head, I don’t think I’ve lost any money to him in the past, but it appears that he managed to annoy Aaron Wall (SEO Book) and of course the robot was not impressed either: the ‘Droid calls Ryan Deiss a Scammer

But hey maybe he’s found his calling, maybe he’s got really good at e-book publishing – or as he likes to call it the Kindle Publishing Revolution So I bought his book, it’s free on Amazon for 5 days,  and read it. The book is being promoted free to his list, and some VERY keen affiliates as a 5-day give away – during the 5 days before the Number One Book System going live. Clever idea – it means the book can give a very, very clear idea to potential customers about what they are going to get in the course. The book, is free, the course will not be, price not yet disclosed but I bet it’s four figures and ends in a “7”. 

Kindle Publishing Revolution Review

Unfortunately, by any objective measure, i.e. from someone who is not an affiliate looking for 40% or so of the price for signing you up on their review, the Kindle Publishing Revolution  fails at so many levels it’s hard to keep it short, but we could start with – the book doesn’t deliver on the title, subtitle or blurb. Deiss  points out that eBooks, particularly erotic fiction has exploded, and then spends a long time suggesting that writing a book is the perfect way to launch your public speaking or coaching career (what this has to do with the Kindle Revolution is beyond me – you’d be much better off with printed books to give away at live gigs).

However if you want to know how to use a free book on Kindle to promote an over-priced product costing a lot and probably under-delivering then I suggest you sign up for all his lists and watch what he DOES rather than listen to what he SAYS. 

In the Kindle Publishing Revolution we have a step by step how to upload your book via KDP without actually discussing formatting or cover design. Some of the information is plain wrong (cover image size, implying that uploaded public domain books is a good idea, suggesting that  DRM  is difficult to understand) 

The worst part is actually the section on marketing. There’s nothing new here: use keywords in your title/blurb, use authorcentral get a blog and start a facebook page (and this guy is supposed to be a marketer!).  He talks about free Kindle book sites without actually ever mentioning the decision of putting your book in Select or not! Never mind whether you should only use Amazon for distribution or whether you should go broader. 

And no point does he actually talk about finding your audience or connecting to them.  Nor does he mention that the best way to sell books is the have multiple books in a niche, nor, and this did surprise me, did he mention books as a way to grow your customer list. Maybe he’s leaving that for the Number One Book System course – after all you can’t give away the good ideas for free can you!  Particularly as you are not showing much evidence of having any. 

Number One Book System – Review Deiss’s Books Before You Buy 

The scary part though is the book is just part of a launch, a hook into his soon to be launched Number One Book System.  The other part of the hook is that Deiss is publicly disclosing how, he hopes, to give away 10,000 copies of another book. Now to me it’s obvious if you flash a book all over the Internet Marketing forums as a case study, plus prime all your affiliates, plus you’re a “name” in Internet Marketing, then obviously a lot of IMers are going to download your book out of curiosity. But maybe I need to say it, because it does seem that some people are fairly naive. 

So I’m not directly linking to the example book here, but you can find if you take 2 seconds, I’m just saying, think before you download. 

So let’s review this show-case book – this book which is supposed to persuade me that Ryan knows how to create a GOOD BOOK i.e good cover, well-written, good formatting.  – a point he emphasizes a lot. Because you know we wouldn’t want to spam Amazon – like an evil Internet Marketer would! 

So this is supposed to be the show case part that will make you really impressed by the guy’s track record and ability with eBook publishing. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Cover Design 

So let’s talk about what  goes to make a great book, at least on Amazon. First you need an eye-catching cover – something that can be read as a tiny thumbnail . In fact his Kindle Publishing Revolution book has a great cover, the book he’s using as a case study – not so much. Hard to read, title doesn’t stand out, sub-title illegible, doesn’t stand out in the category listing at all. 

A Good Book 

What is a good book? Most marketers seem to think that a good book is a “long” book and most of those define long as 10,000 words. Most author’s would call a long book at 150,000 plus, a normal novel runs to around 80,000. A 10,000 word piece of fiction is called a short story. 

I actually don’t think the length is the issue – though if it’s less than about 50k words you better be making that clear to purchasers in the blurb. 

What’s critical though – is that you need to deliver on the promises made in the title/sub-title and blurb. In this book’s case something called: Vertical Gardening and Container Gardening Ideas for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Small Vertical Places Outdoors and Indoors should provide the following: 

  • specific information on vertical gardening
  • specific information on container gardening
  • information on growing vegetables and herbs in those settings 
  • information about both outdoor and indoor growing of vegetables and herbs in containers and vertical areas. 

What I don’t expect from a book delivering on those promises is: 

  • a long discussion about why home-grown vegetables are better than shop-bought
  • how to hoe (I’m no expert but you can’t hoe containers!) 
  • a discussion on general gardening techniques except where they pertain to verticals or containers and how.
  • absolutely nothing about container gardening or indoor gardening 
  • general introduction to garden gear which has nothing to do with vertical and container gardening including general soil testing.

Formatting Of The Book 

Okay, I have a simple check list to look for when I check a book’s formatting: table of contents available on menu bar? indents? bullets? 

Is there any formatting used that doesn’t work well on eBook readers – like tables? All of those are fails in this Ryan Deiss’s book as you can see below. 

Why the newspaper displaying today’s date- 23 August – you may ask? Well because Deiss claimed that my review of his book was a jack up or paid, nope you don’t need to pay me to get my honest opinion! He also says he’s corrected all the formatting issues. Well he hasn’t, and if there were even more formatting issues than this originally he needs to hire some better staff, or hell, learn how to do it himself! 

Is the Table of Contents live on the Kinde’s menu bar?


Are there inadvertent indents throughout the book making the sub-title look odd?


Are the bullets incorrectly indented?


Tables are illegible in Kindles- this is at maximum magnification, and there are pages of it

Summary Why I’m Ranting Again

Because I see every hallmark off an over-hyped launch of an over-priced light-weight product, which will do well for Deiss and his main affiliates because a lot of people are still looking for short-cuts and for for the moment, the mood is that Kindle books are that short cut.

 They are not. Can you make money with them, yes you can. Will the Number One Book System teach you how to – I sincerely doubt it. How can I possibly say that? How can I review a product and call it a scam without having seen it? Because some people’s track records speak for themselves.

Market The Book Self Publishing

Kindle Free Strategy For Nonfiction Books

The other weekend I ran my 3-day free promotion of one of my travel books. As I’ve discussed previously I did a fair bit of work promoting my free giveaway which was 3 days running from the 8-10 August.  BTW this coincided with the London Olympics – which may have been significant… 

Rankings v. Sales 

I’m mainly talking about rankings in order to determine whether going free is worthwhile. Why not absolute sales ? Because I’m never ever going to sell 5,000 copies of  this book. It’s a niche subject. I’ll never hit the top 100 best-sellers either, instead my aim is quite simple, to be #1 in the relevant travel categories. 

Prior To Going Free 

Published: 26 July 2012 

Not New Releases on 4 August in Travel Tips
Hot New Releases on 4 August in Travel Tips

Prior to going free:

  • 3 reviews – 5-star rating
  • ranking #89,595 overall, #27 in speciality travel/tips 
  • price 99c

I’d managed to show up in the “hot new releases” in travel tips – this was the 4 August, just after I’d upped the price to $2.99 prior to going free, so the higher price would show during the free period (“you save 2.99” )

Screen shots are from my author central statistics. Note the statistics have been a little slow to update all of August, but I suspect that they are close enough for comparison purposes. 

What Happened When The Book Was Free

During 3 days of going free I gave away: 

  • 589 first day 
  • 340 the second day 
  • 79 the third day (stopped early about 7pm Pacific time) 

I ranked as high as #464 in the free bestsellers on amazon and #259 on 

Effect On Sales Rankings - After Going Free
Effect On Sales Rankings – After Going Free

Those are the statistics: I also gave away: 

  • 986
  • 203
  • 16
  • 3
  • 1
  • 2

Lesson learned: I had a lot more interest in the UK than I’d anticipated, remember this was in the middle of the Olympics being held in London so therefore wall-to-wall media coverage, and far more TV viewing happening than normal.

What I really saw though was a marked increase in sales for my existing Vacation Packing book which still at it’s regular price of $2.99. This had been on sale for a year, and had had a new cover which improved sales for a while. The week before the promo it was selling about 1 book every couple of days. On the first day of the promo I sold 5 copies, (in the US , like I say I wasn’t watching the UK as closely) followed by 2 the second day. 

Lesson learned: there is probably no point going free with only one book in the same genre. I suspect that the “halo” effect would have worked better if I’d had more books in the genre: I’m now aiming for five or six travel books in the next couple of months. 

Sales of not free related book during free promo period
Sales of not free related book during free promo period

What Happened When The Book Comes Off Free

 After being free for 3 days and allowing 24 hours for paid rankings to return: 

  • I picked up 5 more reviews, which surprised me, I think this is somewhat biased by online friends helping out, as I rather  suspect that many people who download free books never get around to reading them, never mind reviewing! 
  • ranking #71340 overall and #19 for travel tips, which promptly dropped over the next few days. 
  • I’ve left the price at $2.99 as I don’t think it’s a reasonable price for the book. 

So was it worth giving away the book for three days, free? If you just look at the book in isolation, no. Initially a book coming off free, plummets in the paid rankings, all the way to #238,164 in this case). After about 24 hours I suspect the algo adds in the free “sales” and I ended up at 71,340. As I was around #89,000 before the giveaway period this doesn’t amount to much.  Since then it’s pretty much averaged 1 to 2 sales a day, possibly slightly up from before the giveaway, though the rankings are very similar.

The book where I can see increased sales is the Vacation Packing one. Since then it’s sold between 1 and 3 copies every day for the week after the free promotion. 

Lesson learned: Some people report amazing results from promos, some not so much. I rather suspect that it purely depends on how much your promo gets picked up and promoted in social media and blogs. The free Kindle books sites that I used are generic and mainly focussed towards fiction. I rather think I’d be better off promoting on travel blogs and will probably try that next time. 

Is Going Free Worth It on Kindle Select?

There is an awful lot of angst in authorly circles about how going free is destroying Indies writers in general, devaluing authors, and will quite possibly see the end of literary works  as we know them, very soon. Seriously, I’m not making this up! On the contrary, going free probably has little to no effect on actual book sales, in fact I am fairly confident on the limited data I have is that it boosted sales, but of my other book, not the one on promo.Why? Because the other book(s) show up in the “Customers who bought this book also bought” line. Given the size of the thumbnails I’d suggest that you make sure all your books have a distinctive and consistent covers so at a glance the reader can see that they are related. 

The only way to do a free promo like this is to have the book enrolled in Amazon’s Select program, has two benefits for authors: 

  • your book can be borrowed;
  • your book can be made free for 5 days out of 90. 

The price you pay – is exclusivity. 

That’s a fairly high price, particularly if your book is likely to appeal outside of the US of A.  Outside of the US, Kindles don’t rule, Kobo is a lot more popular and common in NZ for example, purely because it’s sold through the country’s leading chain of booksellers. In addition if your readers are outside of certain “core” Amazon countries e.g. Western Europe, Australia, NZ, Canada they pay an extra $2 per a book on the “usual” price from Amazon. This annoys me hugely because it’s utterly unfair, it doesn’t go to the author, that’s for sure. I could avoid this charge for my readers by directing them to an alternative download site like Smashwords or even just sell the book direct from my own site, but I can’t while it’s in Select. 

It’s been an interesting exercise and I’d do it again, but I’m not rushing to enrol all my books in Select, particularly as, between the three books, I’ve had precisely one borrow. As Amazon Prime members can only borrow one book a month, I would imagine most will use that borrow for something a little more expensive and longer than my books. 

Publish The Book Self Publishing

Kindle Formatting – Hire Me Or Buy The Book!

The initial reason I got into travel eBooks is I could see a gap in the market. The travel industry is dominated by the big guide book publishers: Lonely Planet, Frommers and similar. And none of them do eBooks well. In fact the eBooks I’ve seen from Lonely Planet are virtually unusable. But for a traveller an eBook reader is the best invention since cheap international airfares. So there was a bit of a supply, demand disconnect, and decided to fill it. 

So I published one book, and then I got distracted. Frankly, I found writing something longer, and better organised, than a rambling 800-word blog post quite intimidating. Like hard work or something. 

However as I said recently – Google managed  to focus my attention back to Amazon. So I wrote a second travel book, as was my Editorial Plan, which I now actually wrote down (that helps with plans!). 

I wrote the next travel book, got a a great cover, paid an editor, and then I started formatting … Several days later I finished formatting. And I was mad, it had taken far longer than it should have. I wrote notes so I could replicate the process more efficiently next time.  The notes were quite long, (about 10,000 words in the end). Seemed like a potential book really. After all I’d bought several books on the subject of Kindle formatting – and they had varied from dire, to out-of-date, from misleading, to plain annoying. Really. So I, out of genre, I needed to  write another  book the one I couldn’t buy!  

I wanted some reviews so I priced it at 99c and mentioned it to my mailing list and on a couple of forums and Facebook groups I’m a member of. I sold some copies: 

#1 Hot New Release in Editing/Writing

We are not talking hundreds here – but selling 35-odd at 99c within 24 hours pushed me up the best-seller lists in the niche and I even, briefly, ranking in the7000’s overall. 

So now I have a side business! If you want to either buy my book on Kindle formatting or get help with your book’s formatting check out: 

Also, some time in the next few days I’m going to redesign the site – so if it looks funky for a while – stay with me – it will get sorted, probably!

Marketing Self Publishing

Promoting Your Free Book

When I published my first book, way back in 2011, the only way to have a book free on was to make it free on Smashwords and wait for Amazon to price match (or get your mates to tell Amazon to price match). Being  fairly lazy, I never bothered. 

Going Free 8/9/10 August
Going Free 8/9/10 August

However the KDP Select program changed things up. And I’ve enrolled both my two most recent books in it to see how it works. If the book is in Select I can set it free for 5 days out of the 90 days that the Select contract runs for. 

My initial thought was to set a new book free immediately, in order to get reviews. The resounding response on forums was that this doesn’t work as people who download free books rarely read them, never mind review them. Sounds true, after all I have quite a lot of unread books on my Kindle! 

Also who’s going to take the risk on a book with no reviews from an unknown author – even if it is free? 

So instead I decided to price low – as in my Kindle Launch and Pricing Strategy. This worked, I now have nice reviews and a 5-star ranking. 

Choosing Free Days

So then I started looking at the “when” question. When to go free and for how long? I could go free for anywhere between one to all five days. Initially I was going to do one day, but then I realised there are lots of sites that promote free books, so it seemed that I was likely to miss being promoted by them. 

Then I discovered that most (many?), Americans are paid on a Friday (who knew). So I’ve taken an educated guess and decided my book would go free 8/9/10 August (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). 

The theory is that if you get some downloads, that should push my book up the bestseller lists for free, so that when it goes back to paid, 

Oh and when I decided on the days I was going free, I put the price back to $2.99, so it shows as a bigger discount when free, plus will go straight back to that price (which is my standard pricing for this series for the moment). 

Promoting Free Days

There are HEAPS of places to promote free books, some require some notice, so I spent a busy day yesterday submitting my book to a list of sites. Not all accept nonfiction, but this is the list I have that do. 

First this Group You Can Submit To A Few Days In Advance useful site developed by Jim Kurkal who knows what he’s talking about in respect to marketing.  The forums are a bit quite but their videos are worth watching. 

Editorial Submissions 

Plus This List To Submit To On the Day

Lucky for me middnight in Amazon-land is about 7pm my time -so I’m going to have a busy evening: 

Latest Books – quite a nice forum this, looks like it could be more useful than just for book promotion.

Adding Tags To The Listing 

Also suggested was that you add tags like “free kindle book”, “free kindle nonfiction book”, “kindle free nonfiction”,”kindle freebies” ,”kindle free books” to your listing so those site that build automatic “free book” lists will find it. 

Apparently I can spam Twitter as well, but as I don’t really do much on Twitter I’m not sure whether that will be worthwhile or not. 

So my calculation my book will be free in about an 1.5 hours – that’s if they are prompt at price changes? I have no idea! EDIT – apparently not still paid at 1:30am there time :-< 

Oh yeah the links

Market The Book Self Publishing

A Book Launch – But Not As We Know It

Covers Sell Indie Nonfiction

Around the middle of  the month I changed the cover and title of my existing book – I talked about it previously. Well I know it’s been said before but – covers sell books. 

Because you know something, my first book, used to sit in the 20’s for a ranking under the travel tips category, then I talked about it, changed the cover, and it bounced up to first page of tips hitting #8, and the sales have stayed up. In fact I’ve just had the best month EVER for sales for the first book, and I didn’t publish the new book until the 25th – so it’s not the multiple book effect!  The figures aren’t big, but the percentage is – I’ve sold 50% more copies of The Non-Boring Vacation Packing Guide in July, than I have in any other month (sales figures here). 

A Boat Launch, Savaii, Samoa

Launching Indie Books – Doing It Differently

There’s an awful lot written about and discussed on how to launch an Indie book.  Almost all the time the discussion is around fiction, and  somewhat flawed I think. 

In the old days e.g. 2010, paper books had a limited shelf life. If you book didn’t have good sales within a few weeks, it was pulled off the shelves and remaindered or pulped. I book had about 12 weeks to make it or die. After all, shelf space was a valuable and limited commodity. 

Hence the tradition of the “book launch” – a big splash over a whole lot of media, writer doing interviews all around the place, and hopefully enough sales to keep the book in print.  It was a concept that Indie writers have taken and developed into the online equivalent e.g. blog tours, social media love-in’s etc. All the same work as a traditional launch, without the booze and nibbles – that’s got to be wrong! 

Fortunately, these days we all know that whatever you write on the Internet is there forever, equally Amazon may have over 1.2 million books in the Kindle eBook Store – but it’s not running out of shelf space any time soon.  So the need to make a big splash, is less compelling. 

My priority was to get my book live on Amazon. While it was still on my hard drive it was definitely not earning any money! So instead of a lot of promotion I focussed on two things: 

  • a quality book;
  • a backend to build my buyer’s list

To Do List For A Nonfiction Book Launch 

Here’s a short list of the stuff I’ve found that you need to do to launch a book: 

  • sort out your typos get the final copy,
  • get cool cover done,
  • find more typos, this is definitely the final copy,
  • format the book, while finding more typos,
  • format the book some more, work out how to format books correctly (save that thought for later),
  • publish book,
  • notice more typos, fix them up and re-publish,
  • leave the price at 99c for a few days to get some reviews,
  • update your book’s sales page or in the case of re-branding the entire series, launch a new website,
  • re-do formatting for existing book to match the new one
  • update the old book to promote the new book at the end
  • setup an email capture page for each book.

Building a List With A Book

Look I was late to the party in terms of building a list of interested peeps from my websites, but I got there eventually. And now I notice, with amazement, that hardly any of the books that peeps are selling, have a signup at the back! WTF? It can’t be a BAD idea to have readers emails can it? Hey maybe everybody tried this already and readers don’t sign up. Maybe. But hell it costs nothing to try does it? 

Using AWeber I’m setting up a signup to the The Non-Boring Travel Newsletter, so that I can communicate updates and new promos to the people I know who have bought the book.  How do I know they bought the book, or stole it I guess, because the signup page is not indexed and not linked to from front page of the site, so you will only find it at the back of the book.  I’m curious to see just what percentage of readers will go to this trouble.

I’d My Like Books To Be Self-Promoting

I have a vision.

What if everytime I released a book that was in the same niche I could email a list of buyers, people who’d already bought my previous book, and offer them the limited-time opportunity to purchase a book for a discounted price? I wonder what that would do to my book’s rankings? I’d immediately get reviews and buys from people who were buying other travel books, so my book would show with relevant “also boughts” showing at the bottom of the page. 

Maybe it’s a pipe-dream, but it just seems that I have so much more control over a mailing list than I do social media sites that now want to charge me to have my updates show in subscribers news feeds (Facebook).  Does anyone else think I’m on to something?