Everyone knows Amazon’s self-publishing platform is the place to be for indie authors.
That’s not news.
I mean, where else can you instantly get shelf space in the world’s largest bookstore, and reach a network of millions of Kindle owners, all for free?
To be sure, if you’re not on Amazon, you’re definitely missing out on a huge audience of potential buyers.
But I’d like to share a surprising new platform for self-publishing that actually out-performed Amazon the last couple months.
It wasn’t Barnes and Noble’s Nook, or Sony’s Kobo, or Apple’s iBooks, or Smashwords or CreateSpace.
It was Fiverr.
Let me explain.
Revoking Amazon’s Exclusivity Clause
My experiment with Fiverr was the perfect crossroads of a couple new things I’ve been meaning to test out.
The first step was to un-enroll in KDP Select, which is the program on Amazon where you grant them exclusive rights to your book, in exchange for being able to promote it for free for 5 days every three months, and to have Prime members be able to borrow the title for free.
Last year, you could run a free promo, generate a ton of downloads, and give yourself a jolt in sales after the promo ended.
This year, the impact of those free downloads is diminishing, as expert Kindle author Steve Scott mentioned on The Side Hustle Show this summer.
My KDP Select enrollment was up in early August, so I opted not to renew for the next 90-days.
Note: Your Kindle title may be set to auto-renew. I had to log into my account and manually un-check the box.
Now I was free to publish that work elsewhere online, including Barnes and Noble, Apple, and pretty much anywhere else.
But I had in mind the one place I wanted to try first.
I was inspired by my conversation with AnarchoFighter, the Fiverr seller who earned enough money to buy a house.
During our call, he explained that his $5 gigs were pre-created digital products that could be sold over and over again without any time investment on his part. Only when someone bought his upsells, or gig-extras, would he have to spend any additional time.
Note: It’s our longest podcast episode to-date, but it’s also the most popular. If you’re at all interested in the inner-workings of Fiverr and how to set yourself up for success there, it’s definitely worth a listen.
Perfect, I thought. I have a pre-created digital product that’s been a proven seller.
Let’s do this!
Setting Up Your Gig
Setting up your gig on Fiverr is very simple and straightforward. Every gig is set up using the same “I will _____ for $5” structure.
I made a point to call out the guide’s length in the title, so people would know it’s not some 5-page pdf I just slapped together.
You’ll need to add an image for your gig. Because I wanted something a little more interesting than the flat cover file I’d been using on Amazon, I made this 3D “paperback stack” image for free at MyeCoverMaker.com.
I borrowed some description text from my Amazon book description and edited it slightly to make it unique.
When you’re setting up your gig, Fiverr will show you a message that says gigs with videos sell 220% more.
OK, I guess I’ll record a video.
You can check it out here if you want; it’s a little awkward and there’s not a lot of production quality, but it seems to be working.
A couple subtle things I made sure to include in the video:
- Hold up a real, physical paperback copy of the book. Again, to show people this is big value for $5. (I got mine from CreateSpace for around $6 delivered.)
- Give a call-to-action (click the “order now” button) at the end.
And finally, I added a money-back guarantee to help seal the deal. Since each order wouldn’t take more than a minute or two to deliver, it really wouldn’t be a big deal to issue a refund.
That’s another tip I learned from AnarchoFighter to avoid negative feedback. Offering a no-hassle refund is better than risking the “thumbs down” of an angry buyer.
And so far, no one has exercised their refund option.
At the end of my 2-month experiment the grand total stood at:
- 37 copies on Amazon
- 45 copies on Fiverr!
And that was starting from scratch, as a brand new seller with no feedback.
Note: My study was not completely scientific; I was charging $6.99-7.99 on Amazon at the time, vs. well, $5 on Fiverr.
Amazon vs. Fiverr for Authors
There are advantages and disadvantages of both Amazon and Fiverr for authors, and you certainly won’t see me abandoning Amazon anytime soon.
I don’t see Fiverr as a great place for fiction writers, because I get a feeling like the audience is largely made up of entrepreneurs and others looking for answers to their problems.
That said, there are plenty of crazy Fiverr gigs that do VERY well, so maybe there’s an opportunity for fiction authors too.
In this section I’ll walk through some of the main differentiating factors between the two platforms.
Reach and Audience
Amazon has more than 200 million active user accounts. Fiver is roughly 1% of that size.
But even though the audience is MUCH smaller, but Fiverr users are ready to spend money. They know everything on the site starts at $5, where on Amazon the prices start at free.
There’s also less competition. This summer Fiverr just passed the 2 million active gig mark, while Amazon may have more than 10x that many items for sale at any given time.
Fiverr is a young marketplace; the company was only founded in 2010.
The time to get in is now!
With self-publishing on Amazon, you have some pricing flexibility you don’t get on Fiverr. You can set your book price as low as $0.99 and as high as you want on the other end.
With Fiverr, you have to charge a flat $5.
At a $5 price point, you would earn a 70% royalty on Amazon. If you price below $2.99 or above $9.99, that drops to 35%.
Fiverr sellers earn a flat 80% royalty.
On Amazon, delivery is seamless, automated, and invisible to the author. I don’t have to do any work at all if someone buys my book on Amazon.
When I get an order on Fiverr, I get a notice that I have 24 hours to deliver the goods. If I plan to be away from the interwebs for more than 24 hours (which is pretty rare), I have to “suspend” my gig so no one can buy it.
To deliver the book, I log in to my account and follow their instructions to upload the file. To expedite this process, I created a template “delivery text” I can just paste in that explains thanks the customer for their order, explains the book, and asks them to leave positive feedback if they find it helpful.
It might take all of 60 seconds, but delivery is NOT automated like it is on Amazon; it requires your hands-on involvement.
This is where I see the biggest opportunity in my future as a Fiverr seller, but is one I haven’t done a good job of exploring just yet.
Indeed, it’s the upsells, or “gig extras,” that allowed AnarchoFighter to earn the six-figure income he did.
As you sell more on Fiverr, you “level up” and gain more upsell power both in terms of the number of gig extras you can offer and how much you can charge.
Some of the top Fiverr sellers average over $30 per sale! Not bad for the $5 marketplace, right?
On Amazon, your upsell opportunities are limited to what you can sell in the book itself. Fiverr definitely wins this round by making your add-ons as simple as checking a box on your gig page.
There are some creative hacks around this, but Amazon really doesn’t want anyone else tracking consumer behavior on their site.
Without knowing how many people visited your book page, it’s difficult to gauge how effective it was at closing the deal. Did 10% of the visitors buy, or did 1%?
You can tweak and test different covers and description text and formatting, but it’s not easy to see how well your book pages are really performing.
On Fiverr, they show you some valuable metrics for your last 30 days, including impressions, views, and orders.
That means you can make adjustments to your gig sales material and see what the impact is. Unfortunately you can’t go back in time more than 30 days, so be sure to make a note of the data you want to test against.
Know “Your” Customers
The final point that makes Fiverr a compelling medium for self-publishing is you get the ability to communicate with your buyers after the sale.
Now you don’t usually get a real name or even an email address, but you’ll get their Fiverr username, and can follow-up with them through the Fiverr messaging system, which generates an auto-forwarded alert message to their email.
If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, consider that on Amazon your buyers are completely anonymous to you. They’re Amazon’s customers, not yours.
And unless they reach out to you through some call-to-action included in the text of the book itself, you’ll never have any idea who they are.
I’m excited to continue exploring and experimenting with the Fiverr platform. Specifically I plan to add a new title this month and begin rolling out some gig extras to try and increase the average order value.
What do you think? Ready to join me and give Fiverr a shot?