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Writing and Promoting Self Published Books

Updated on December 2, 2014

My Personal eBook Journey

So you have an idea for a eBook or maybe it has already been written. You are amped up and ready to go make a fortune, but most will quit in the early stages. I am going to give you tips from my personal experience on promoting and selling your first eBook. This will be a combination of what I have learned and what I use to promote my eBook the Xbox 360 DVD Repair Guide

This is my first eBook that is completed. It is a Xbox 360 DVD Repair Guide. The book itself started in October 2009. It is Feb. 2010 and although the eBook is complete and has been since Dec. 2009, I have learned it is not as easy as just writing a good eBook.

I have written 3 eBooks and I am working on my 4Th. The first one took me a month. The second a week and the third took one day. Once you have your subject it is just a matter of doing it. My first was a Xbox 360 DVD Drive Repair Guide. Most Xbox 360 repair guides are a couple pages long. Mine was 37 pages. I have step by step follow along pictures and made sure it was very detailed. I swore I would never write another one. But I did and it does get easier.

Follow me on my personal journey as I show you my EBay store and how it started until now. Building a hubpage, selling on Zazzle, writing ezine articles, making YouTube videos, twitter, and blogs are things I had never done and never knew would have to be done. so come with me, follow me on this journey and learn the good and the bad of what goes into Internet marketing.

Starting a Home Based Business.

We started where everyone online does!

An EBay Store - This is where it all started!

Like a lot of people, EBay is where it all began for us. We bought broken Xbox 360's and repaired them, then resold them for profit. What we did not know was how much time it would require for starters. Then we had to learn the hard way Xbox 360s were the most brutal thing to sell. Customers are not, shall we say, always the best to work with, as well as EBay's rules and feedback abuse, and finally Pay pal being judge and jury of all so that the sellers no longer had control. It was to easy for us to sell a working Xbox 360 and someone swap the shells on the Xbox 360 we sold them with a broken one and then get a refund from Paypal. We still sell some on EBay but nothing like we used to. We had decided we either needed to change what we were doing or change with whom we were doing it.

Do Not Fall Into The Guru Trap

When trying to go to a new idea DO NOT fall for the Get Rich Schemes

Time to move on and leave EBay

The Search Begins.

The difficult time we had on EBay made us look for other ways to make money. Not quite sure exactly what direction we were headed in, I started searching the Internet for ways to make money online and business opportunities that I thought we could make money at. That is when I fell into what I like to call the Guru Trap. Basically this is the Guru Trap:

Make $50,000 in 30 days or I made $50,000 in 30 days and so can you.

We have all heard it and who does not want to make that kind of money? So of course people click on it and some of those people will buy the eBook eager to learn how to make $50,000 in 30 days. The problem is most people looking for the "how to" don't realize all they did was help the Guru making the statement make $50,000 and that they never will make that kind of money using the content that they just bought.

The reason you will not make that money is very simple. They do not tell you everything you need to know to be successful enough to make that kind of money.


Back To What We Knew

The Xbox 360

After falling into multiple Guru Traps myself, we decided to take a look again at what we knew worked. We were successful with the Xbox 360 so we started trying to find ways to continue working with those. After some research we decided to write a Xbox 360 DVD Drive Repair Guide. It was time to begin the newest and hardest journey thus far. One month is how long it took me to write our first book. This is a 37 page repair guide, not a 2 or 3 page guide like most.

The eBook - The Beginning started like this

I had a personal investment in this book. My own precious time. And we thought it is something that is going to turn into gold. It is a well written book, I covered every detail I could possibly cover, I had spent a month on producing this, and I know a lot of people will be interested in this. Trust me, my husband felt this way too.

  1. When we wrote our eBook Xbox 360 DVD Drive Repair Guide we thought we had hit the jackpot, and we still think that. But expectations have been changed. In the process of getting the book finished up I started looking at people like Kevin Wilke. He is like the Internet Marketing God. Problem is I could not afford him. So we started talking to other gurus. We were offered $10,000 to give up all rights to our book and walk away from it by another Internet guru. At that point we knew this would be huge.There are no other Xbox 360 DVD Drive Guides on the market. . . hence jackpot!
  2. Our book was well written. I sent my book to a few Xbox 360 repair techs before it even went up on the market. All they could say is wow! So I knew we were starting out strong!
  3. I knew I had covered everything with great detail, well no I had not. We had 37 pages of step by step instructions and guess what. I forgot or I should say assumed everyone knew how to take the Xbox 360 apart. It was not until someone pointed out to me they did not know how to open a box and my guide was not usable. That was like salt in an open wound or a dagger to the heart when people started ripping apart my months of work.
  4. I knew a lot of people will be interested in this. This is a big one. How did I really know? Had I researched it? Put it in blogs to see if people would be interested in buying something like that? Of course not. The greatest thing I learned was explained like this. If you are writing on "How to fix a sink in 10 min- DIY Guide" yeah that may be something everyone should need to know or when searching the Internet for repairs see that for 29.99 instead of paying $150.00 to a plumber and you would think they would be very interested in. But are they. You may sell a few to people that are hard up for cash or are DIY type people, but a lot of people don't care how to they are fine with paying $150.00. That is just one example. Another, maybe you love dogs and want to tell people how to work with them, plan on selling to dog owners and no one else.

I got lucky because I had something that people are searching for daily. On average Xbox 360 Repair is searched on Google 300,000+ a month. And I am holding the only Xbox 360 DVD Repair Guide. No one else has wrote on this subject. You can find all kinds of Red Ring of Death Repair Guides, but none on Xbox 360 DVD repairs.

So as you can tell by this point I feel like I have hit 3 out of 4 points, was able to correct the mistake and we were ready to make the mula! But this is where it takes a nose dive.

Where Are We Going To Sell Our eBook?

So we have covered the eBook now it is time to sell it. I was still struggling with a cover so I decided to pay to have one designed. Obviously I still needed somewhere to sell our eBook. We choose a stand alone website or what they call a sales page. I was determined to do this on my own. I did not realize how difficult or expensive this could be. For two weeks I studied night and day and researched and tried this and that and was still not getting any closer to getting my site up and going. In a last ditch effort I bought a product called website in a box. I still could not do it because I do not know or understand HTML. At that point I gave up and hired an expert Web Designer

I had a hot product and knew it, I had the website built, and I was ready to set the world on fire. But I did not realize all the marketing that I would have to do.

We need advertising. TV is expensive and YouTube is Free. Ummm . . . I can make a commercial myself!

Making Videos - Try Different things

Our first video did not go so well, we had an xbox catch fire while trying to show what not to do when repairing a gaming system. Our next video a power cord exploded, and we picked up the nickname Xbox 360 mythbusters. Once we were nicknamed the Xbox 360 mythbusters our fans had an expectation of us. So we continued to make the informational commercials along with the videos they expected to see. We have shown what really happens when you put a Xbox 360 in Water, tested the myth that if you plug a American power brick into 220 would it explode, and then I learned how using a video of kids can be the best promotional tools ever. Our nephew also made a parody using the song Ring of Fire of us catching the Xbox 360 on Fire. All of these are great links but we still were not getting customers to our website.

Hmmm.... Still need more marketing! Let's try T Shirts to wear in our videos with our name and website to be seen.

Note To Self

Need to get the hang of this blog thingy. I do not understand it. Find a "Blogger" to help me along. Also need to learn what backlinks and SEO are!

eBook not selling like we thought - To quit or not to quit

At this point we are wondering why people are not flocking to our masterpiece. Notice I say "our masterpiece." Yes we still believed this book was going to catch on even though up until now we are having problems with effective marketing, Here is my list where I went wrong promoting the book.

  1. You can't go into forums and just start talking up your book and telling everyone about it. For starters it is spam and will probably get you kicked out of the forum. Your customers you are trying so hard to get to buy your product, they will see you coming a mile a way and not even listen to a word you have to say. You have to get involved, talk to them on their level, ask questions, and join in discussions. Then after a month or two then start talking about your product. So that's exactly what I did, and started joining all the Xbox 360 forums I could find. I found one forum particularly interesting that was very active because this one was full of people with Xbox 360 problem they couldn't figure out how to repair. I started just casually discussing different Xbox 360 repairs on a forum and actually told a few people how to fix their Xbox DVD problem for free. After 3 about weeks the 1 question I had been waiting for was finally asked directly to me, "You helped my friend and he told me to talk to you, that you know what your talking about." After about 30 min we had his Xbox 360 back up and running, and that's when he asked, "So do you have some guide your following or do you fix these for a living, because you seem to know things that no one else does?" It made me laugh for a moment, and when I replied my answer was simple. "A year ago, I was you. I couldn't find anyone that knew how to fix Xbox 360 DVD drives. So believe me man, I feel your pain. I had asked the exact same questions you all have asked me for weeks and no one had the answers. So I learned on my own, and kept it all written down, and have just put out our Xbox 360 DVD repair guide.You can get it here." After successfully helping a few people fix their own Xbox 360 I had proven I knew what I was talking about and then reveling the guide, that of course stirred the pot and got people commenting. I even posted a little bit of the book so they could see it and then gave the website again so they knew where to get it at. We sold 10 that night.
  2. We were not showing up in search engine results. This is huge. I thought that since I had the only Xbox 360 DVD Repair Guide if someone Googled Xbox 360 DVD Drive Repair I would show up at the top. Boy was I wrong. The first month Google did not even know we existed. The good thing I was doing was linking our YouTube videos to our website which helped raise us in the search. So by month 2 we were showing up, but back on page 10 and up.
  3. I was priced too high. I started out at $29.99 and I have dropped it down to $19.99. I priced it at what other Xbox 360 Repair Guides that were only 2 pages long were being sold for. I thought I was safe with the higher price since mine was 37 pages long. It wasn't until recently when someone pointed out they could buy a brand new DVD Drive for $26.99 and replace the broken one. That made it a hard sell.
  4. Not fully understanding the competition. You need to know everything you can and knowing where they rank with search terms. I thought I would have the DVD repair locked up. That was silly of me because these guys that have been around for 3 years have covered all 360 repairs and even though they don't have a DVD guide they use the keywords to show up in those results and have been around for a few years. So I have to show Google I have better related content to knock them down and bring myself up in rankings on my keywords.

What all I learned in the first few months - And I Am Still Learning

I did not understand back links, what is important for raising you in search results, keywords, search phrases, which sites were the most important, and really how google worked. I did not get all of this until month 3. I even made the comment "I wish I knew this 3 months ago, but I don't know that it would have helped because it would not have made any sense." I am going to try to explain all of this the best I can.

  • Google only searches every so often. So they may send bots to your site once a month. But over time you start building more and more good quality links and high rated websites the more often they will comeback and raise you in the search engine rankings.
  • Links need to be of good quality. Meaning if my website is on Xbox 360 repair and I post my link in a forum about farming, what good is that?
  • Keywords. I had to figure out what the most important words or phrases in our website. Mine was Xbox 360 DVD Drive Repair, and about 20 more.
  • Search phrases. I had to find out what the best and most searched phrases are for my niche. Xbox 360 Repair is mine.

And Finally Social Marketing - This Is Very Important

This is where I learned the most important steps on this journey. Which sites are good for links? Squidoo, Ezine Articles, YouTube videos, Hubpages, and Facebook. Reddit, Stumbleupon, digg, and delicious are also good ones to be part of. I did not start doing this until month 3 and now I am on page 1 of 2 google search terms or phrases. You need to think of it as a spider web that you are building with everything pointing to your website and yet the other links. It is not the easiest thing to do.

Learning To Write Without Hardselling Your Product.

Writing articles about a topic without ever saying anything in the text that would promote your product. One of the hardest things I have ever had to learn, but one of the best!

Our eBook Is Hopeless

No It Is Not

Starting a website and selling a eBook take time. It is not going to happen overnight or even the first month. We had some other options like letting affiliates sell our product. We would give them a percentage of each sale. But they would have helped advertise and promote our eBook. Another would be a Joint Venture. A joint venture is where you and another person go into this together and split the sales and they help promote the product. I could have paid people to set up links but it was very expensive. I had to learn as much as I could and look for people that would help you understand what to do.

You have seen our journey from start to the current point today. It has been a lot of work and not much money. But we will continue to post what we are learning and doing so you can follow along our journey too. I am still new to this also and I am still learning, but hopefully I have helped you understand what really happens when you set out to be an Internet marketer.

Sometimes things start out because of one intention, but then they bloom into something bigger and better than what you ever expected. When you're growing, it's because you are learning and open to the idea of changing, but only if you are listening.

— Shawn J. Gourley

What are we doing now?

Since 2010 when I originally wrote this piece sharing my personal journey, our life has taken a completely different course. Because of this piece and all the comments and interactions, I realized where my strengths are with writing for the first time. Sharing my personal experience was so profound that I decided to keep doing everything I had done the same way in the future.

I wrote a completely different book in July of 2010. The new direction while at first was still geared toward helping people work from home, the topic of writing was not. I wrote a 29 page book sharing my experience of living with my husband who had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which led to turning it into a fully-published 320 page book. Showing you a bit of the story is probably easiest so you can see how this turn of events played out.

Excerpt from "The War at Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD" by Shawn J. Gourley, pg 172.

Reading over the letter, I started to wonder if I couldn’t share my story about living with PTSD as a way of helping other spouses understand the situation the same way my stories about Xbox machine repair were helping people learn about that. I wasn’t thinking of making money off people’s pain. In my heart, I just wanted to help them get informed. More than that, I thought my situation with Justin and my writing ability put me in a position where I could really help people know what could actually happen if PTSD goes untreated so they could get help quicker. I never wanted anyone else to go through the hell I had. I also thought it would be another way to get my name out there as a work-from-home expert because many spouses living with people who have PTSD are forced to work-from-home, just like I had been. As much as I wanted to help them, I was also hoping to keep money coming into our house so that we could stay afloat. It was a fine line to walk between making money off PTSD and trying to keep my other job going, so I decided I would write and give away a free book about my PTSD experiences to make absolutely certain that I wasn’t crossing that line. Giving the book away as a digital download was the only way I knew to provide it free to the masses without spending a lot of extra money to print copies to give away. And besides that, a download would be instant, and I wouldn’t have the same hassles with shipping stuff out as I did with the Xbox machines that I repaired. I took Justin’s PTSD stressor letter and my letter and combined them into one to make up the contents of the free book. In July 2010 I started making a Facebook Fan page and named it Military with PTSD™. I really didn’t know what to expect when I started the page. I thought maybe I’d find more women like me who were tired of fighting with their vets and tired of fighting the VA to get help. But I suspected that there would be a lot of anger, so I thought I had better set things up right to take care of it. I laid out some very specific ground rules for this page. Firstly and most importantly, this was a place to give away my free book. Secondly, I wanted to help spouses prepare for when their members of the armed forces came home and give them an understanding of what could really happen, so there would be no selling or solicitations of any kind on the page. Thirdly, the page would be open so spouses could talk and get support from one another. Lastly, as rule for myself, I wasn’t going to hide the side of me who was an Internet marketer, just to make sure people didn’t think I was trying to sneak my way into selling them something.

I wrote the free book and started giving it out in October of 2010. Although I was hoping to help spouses work from home, my intentions changed when I realized that my free mini-book had such an impact on people when they read it. They asked me to please turn it into a full book and add my husband's side of the story. I knew then I had found my purpose, and it wasn't teaching people how to work from home, but rather using my personal experience to help other families. So we did what was asked while still keeping the writing style the exact same for both my husband's side and mine. Our book "The War At Home: One Family's Fight Against PTSD" was published in September 2011. Since that time, we have also founded the Indiana non profit Military with PTSD in 2012 and became a 501c3 in July 2014 with over 90,000 members on our Facebook page. This whole journey has taught me more than anything how a personal story can keep us from feeling alone. Most of the work I do for Military with PTSD is about sharing my personal story.

© 2014 Shawn Gourley

Do you have any questions?

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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You seem to have bumped into a lot of the roadblock I discussed in...

      ...The Seven Secrets of Profitable e-Books.

      I've had more success with my own e-books, but there have been plenty of frustrating moments along the way too. One great way to avoid wasting time and energy on a project is to run a test campaign to see if anyone is willing to buy your product before you make it.

      Don't quit. If you want to figure this out, it is possible.

    • profile image

      pumpnut lm 

      10 years ago

      Interesting trip you took. Keep at it.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      10 years ago

      Fabulous lens on promoting your books and not falling into the guru trap. I will be back to absorb more of this, and am blessing and featuring on Squidoo Tips Blessings.

    • myneverboredhands profile image


      10 years ago

      Very informative lens. Thanks for sharing. I think all those hard steps you've went through trying to promote your e-book, also will apply to anyone who tries to sell through internet (any product)...

    • norma-holt profile image


      10 years ago

      Now also featured on my awards lens charity-lenses-for-summer-sunshine-giveaway.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      10 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This was such an interesting and educational read. I had no idea how one would go about writing and promoting an ebook. This lens is now featured on Squidoo's Summer Sunshine Award Nominees. Good Luck.

    • norma-holt profile image


      10 years ago

      Yes, a great lens on this subject. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust and also on How to Write Well

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      great lens, wonderful personal story. thumbs up.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I used to think that social networks were a waste of time. After being on Squidoo for the last 3 months I can see how valuable they really are. This is a great lens and a big help.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 

      10 years ago

      Great personal storry, thumbs up :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Yes keep posting more. Great lens as I said on squidu and thumbs up from me!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens! Stopped by form SquidU to wish you all the best with this lens, I like it!


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very informative. Nicely done lens. Love your stories. squid angle Blessed.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very interesting lens. You've covered the topic in great depth and it has that "genuine" ring of truth about it. I'm sure your ebook will really take off as you master the promotional side.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      10 years ago

      Nicely done. Helpful information for others wanting to write and promote and e-book. Blessed by an angel :)

    • GonnaFly profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      What an interesting read. I have an idea rattling around in my head for an ebook, but you have shown how hard it is! All the best with your sales.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very informative lens and now I'm off to check out your other lenses!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Ain't it fun to learn the hard way? Sounds a lot like my story, but we keep plugging!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 

      10 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      10 years ago from California

      Interesting...I learned a lot more about e-books than I how to get them sold :) Blessed by an Angel ;)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I am definitely learning there is much more involved in the promotion of lenses than I ever realized. This will all be helpful as I hope to write my own book one day soon. The Youtube commercials are a great idea! Thanks!

    • Nicky2Time profile image


      10 years ago

      The section, 'eBook not selling like w thought' is great because it give a behind the scenes look at your promotion process. I have written a few myself, and am about ready to launch another one for my blog. this was some good insight. Thanks!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the experience. Wonderful information. 5*

    • shawnjgourley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shawn Gourley 

      10 years ago from Evansville, IN.

      @justholidays: Thank you so much!! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very nice lens.

    • justholidays profile image


      10 years ago

      Definitely appreciated learning more about your own ebook writing and publishing experience!

      Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      10 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      How generous to share your experience because you've written an excellent guide for other people hoping to sell online without resorting to 'get rich quick schemes'. Well done.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      great lens, keep on like this ;)

    • GuyB LM profile image

      GuyB LM 

      10 years ago

      Interesting lens-sounds like you know your way around an XBox

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I love your lense my friend!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very interesting. Love the story so far... keep going!

    • shawnjgourley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shawn Gourley 

      10 years ago from Evansville, IN.

      @hNizam: Thank you very much!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens and more imformation : )

    • shawnjgourley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shawn Gourley 

      10 years ago from Evansville, IN.

      @OnlyFunStuff LM: Thank you very much!

    • profile image

      OnlyFunStuff LM 

      11 years ago

      What a great lens and interesting personal journey, I wish you every success with your project.


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