How I Sold 10,000 Ebooks in One Year (+ surpassed the income from my day job)

Note from Laura: Today’s guest post is from Ernest Dempsey, a high school counselor and author of thrilling fiction. Ernest was one of the first students in my Skillshare book marketing class when I launched it last April. He was a super enthusiastic and active member of the class and if I gave out gold stars, he’d have got several of them! In short: I’m so delighted his books are selling so well and that his creativity and hard work is paying off. Here’s his account of how he sold 10,000 books in the last 12 months:


IMG_3147I started writing stories when I was in high school. Problem was, I never finished them. Years later, when I bumped into several of my professors and teachers at a gathering, they all asked me the same question. Was I still writing?


The conversations with those teachers and professors changed everything. Six years later, I’m a school counselor, but I write in my spare time.


I work a full-time job, and coach the boys’ soccer team at the school. I also run a blog, and do consultations on the side for writers who want to publish their own books. And then I write.


In 2010 I self-published my first novel, and only sold fifty copies. I actually gave away more than I sold. It also cost me two grand to do it.


In early 2012, I decided to do things differently. I wanted to see if I could publish the sequel, re-release the first book, release a companion short story for the series, and do it all at little or no cost.


In December 2012, I did just that. The only money I spent was on ten ISBN numbers. As of January 31, 2014 (only 13 months later), I’d sold over ten thousand copies of my books (I now have seven published), and my royalties for the month were more than my net income from my day job (a little over $3000 dollars.)


Here’s how I did it.


1. Create a Blog


You need to have an online headquarters where people can find you, find out more about you, and most importantly, find your books. But beware. You can’t just throw up a WordPress blog and write about your hobbies. It is critical that you find a Unique Selling Proposition.


What is that? A USP is what separates you from the other 4 million active blogs out there. You need to determine what your message is and why people should pay attention to it.


Here’s the good news, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with your books. I write blog posts that empower, entertain, and educate people on how to find a more fulfilling life because it’s what I’m good at.


What can you share with the world? Trust me. You’re good at something or know something someone else needs.


2. Create a Series

Most authors write one book then try to get it out there. Maybe they tried to get a publisher or an agent. After that didn’t work out they decided to try their hand in the self-publishing game. They put their book on Amazon or maybe some other online platform and hope that it will bring in some sales. It typically won’t.


Numbers don’t lie. My books that are in my main series are responsible for 85% of my sales. The ones that are alone haven’t done much…yet.


3. Drive Traffic

Get people to your site by writing guest posts for bigger blogs or by writing articles for online magazines. Be everywhere. Get an interview or a review on another popular blog if you can. And bring readers back to your site. Get those readers to sign up on your newsletter.


Ernest’s Launch Strategy

I’ll make this short and sweet:


Day 1- Email the subscriber list that you’ve built through your blog/ website.

Day 2- Tell your Social Media followers (Facebook, Twitter, G+).

Day 3- Run an ad on Book Blast or FK Books and Tips for one of your books that already has the required minimum reviews.

Day 4- Arrange for a guest post on another blog or spread out the ads to run on days 3 and 4, respectively.


This launch strategy works well with Amazon’s marketing algorithm and will give you vital, sustained visibility in key charts.


Use these strategies, and you should sell more books. Got a question? Feel free to email me. I’ll be happy to help. And if you really want to put together a solid marketing plan, learn more ways to find readers, and get to interact with a bunch of like-minded and helpful people, check out Laura’s Skillshare course. I took it in the summer of 2013, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I met lots of great people who have become online friends for life, and learning how to focus my marketing plan was something I needed badly. I highly recommend her course.




About the author: Ernest Dempsey is the author of up-tempo, thrilling fiction, as well as the book Chasing Comets: A little story about a powerful way to live. You can read his inspiring blog posts at or follow him on twitter @ErnDempsey.

*Note from Laura! This post has been getting a lot of traffic and I’d like to thank Amazon KDP for sending it my way. I’ve put together a special offer until March 21st to thank you for coming to the site – get 25% off my book marketing class (the one Ernest took last summer) with the code ERNEST.

Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She has worked with a variety of authors to successfully promote their books, including many Amazon best-sellers. Laura is the author of wedding non-fiction guides and book marketing guides 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!

Laura also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. When she's not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, "yoga-ing" or at a coffee shop in Seattle.


  • Patrick McNease

    Great post. I love the idea of creating a blog and coming up with an USP. I never thought of creating a series. I wonder if authors should use video to market their new release.

  • laurapepwu

    Hi Patrick, absolutely! Video is powerful (when done right) Helps authors to stand out in the blogosphere for sure – if they’re confident enough to do it and good on camera :)

  • Patrick McNease

    You are correct. Confidence is something that can be built up over time.

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  • Meghan Riley

    Done everything except the series. Working on book 2 now.

  • Niall Teasdale

    I had a blog and I wrote series, but I still don’t actually actively promote my books. My income from them this year will exceed that of my day job.
    You can come up with all the idea you like to sell books, but there is one thing which you need more than anything else, and it is something which you cannot plan for our make happen. It is a bit of luck. Enough luck to get noticed and get your book onto the top 100 listing on Amazon. Get in there and you get noticed by more readers, and from there it’s something of a feedback process.
    Of course, everything helps and having good material is always a good idea, but you need the luck to be noticed.

  • Tunisian Arabic 24

    Thank you for the Advice. I have sold 100s until now and hope I sell 1000s like you. I like the part of UPS: No other author offers a Tunisian Arabic Immersion Holiday in Tunisia, but enrollers in this program have first to purchase my book “Tunisian Arabic in 30 Lessons”. You are welcome in Tunisia!

  • Shawnda Dupree

    I am writing my first book. Thank you so much for this. If you can off me some advice. Please do.

  • kimanzi constable

    Great post solid tips, I would also add to form a launch team. It’s a great way to get the book exposed on multiple blogs and get reviews from the launch team.

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