Episode 25: Publishing on Amazon for Passive Income with Jeanette Cates

October 28, 2019

In this episode, Jeanette Cates, shares how she sells books and online courses by publishing on Amazon.

Resources mentioned

Teach Online: Desing Your First Online Course

Teleseminar Basics is out of print.

3 Key Points

Books are a great way to create long-term passive income

A lot of the work is done before you ever write the first page if you market correctly on Amazon.

Market for the first thirty days and it will pay long-term dividends without a lot of work.


[00:51] Ellen Violette: Today my guest is Jeanette Cates. Jeanette is actually a doctor. Dr. Jeanette Cates is a noted authority on e-Learning. She has designed and created numerous eBooks, booklets and special reports, and the hundreds of courses since her initial course in 1983.

Her clients range from A to Z, from Apple Computers to San Diego Zoo, and include many independent business owners who look to her for strategic and tactical support for their online businesses.

Dr. Cates holds a Ph.D. in instructional design and technology and an MEd in adult education from the University of Texas in Austin. And Jeanette has been married for more than forty years to her husband, Bob. They have three daughters and six grandchildren. Welcome to the call.

[01:41] Jeanette Cates: Well, thank you, Ellen. It’s good to talk with you.

[01:44] Ellen Violette: It is. We’ve known each other a long time. You were one of the first people I met (in this business).

[01:47] Jeanette Cates: I was trying to think, when did we meet? It’s been a lot of years now.

[01:50] Ellen Violette: Yeah, yeah. We actually met… You were speaking at a conference. It was a conference, and I remember it was Wake Up, and then there was something before that was a women’s group or something. And then when-

[02:01] Jeanette Cates: Oh yeah. We did the Women’s Power Summit.

[02:02] Ellen Violette: Yeah.

[02:02] Jeanette Cates: That was back in 2005 I think.

[02:05] Ellen Violette: Yeah.

[02:05] Jeanette Cates: We’ve been at this for a long time.

[02:07] Ellen Violette: Anyway, and every so often we touch base, and I’m always amazed at what I learn and what you’re doing and how prolific you are, and I know that you’ve gotten into the book area, and I wanted to have you on and interview you today. Let’s jump right in, okay?

[02:25] Jeanette Cates: All right.

[02:26] Ellen Violette: Okay, do you write books, eBooks, or both?

[02:29] Jeanette Cates: Well, both. Originally, we started writing eBooks per se because they were PDFs that we put on our websites and had people download them from there.

Several years ago, I started publishing on Kindle and therefore, I’m still essentially doing eBooks. They’re electronic or digital books now, but that’s really morphed into more of the standard publishing side and a lot of my Kindle books, I also go ahead and put into print books as well. It all becomes kind of blurred at this point on whether there is a distinction between books, eBooks, or both.

[03:05] Ellen Violette: Well, I love that you said that because I completely agree, and I really hope that people start to understand that. To not think in just one or the other. That it’s really about the whole thing is flowing from one to the other. Yeah. How many have you written? Do you know?

[03:24] Jeanette Cates: Well, in the past eighteen months, I’ve written fifteen books. (She now has eighteen books on Amazon.)

[03:27] Ellen Violette: Wow, that’s awesome.

[03:30] Jeanette Cates: Yeah. I write fast, it really helps. And because at this point in my career, I’m semi-retired, this is where I’m really putting my focus. I don’t do a whole lot of course creation anymore or other product creation. I decided that I would kind of codify many of the things that I know and put those into a book format.

This has really given me a whole new lease on how to share my information. It’s an old way to share information because of course, we all started writing books originally and then we put them into digital format into videos and audios and online. But you go back to it because books have a way of becoming a little bit more permanent. They have a little bit more of a staying power I think than sometimes, particularly with the new launch model of online marketing.

[04:23] Ellen Violette: Well, yeah, they do. And also, there’s just such an easy entry for people to find out about you.

[04:30] Jeanette Cates: Right, right. And particularly, with the Kindle books because so often people take a look at that and they say, “Oh that’s the topic I want to know about.” Or, “That’s a problem I’m trying to solve.” And they’ll pick up that particular book that then leads them into other things.

[04:45] Ellen Violette:    Well, and I love that you said that because we’re really on the same path. I’m doing the same thing. I have several eBooks that I have not put on Kindle, and part of the reason was I was torn, and you said something in the beginning that I want to come back to, which was in the beginning, which for me was 2004, I was doing eBook launches from my website, and making a lot of money doing them, so I was very reticent to go to Kindle because of the whole setup and the price differential.

[05:14] Jeanette Cates: Well, because the price differential is huge.

[05:16] Ellen Violette: Right.

[05:16]  Jeanette Cates: I was just talking to somebody today about the fact that we used to sell what is considered a Kindle book now that we sell for $2.99, $4.99, we used to sell that same type of a book for anywhere from $37 to $97.

[05:29] Ellen Violette: Right.

[05:30] Jeanette Cates: There was a huge difference.

[05:32] Ellen Violette: Right. Since the model has changed so much, how do you reconcile doing it on Kindle? What are the advantages? Why do you see that as a good model to go with as opposed to the old model?

[05:43] Jeanette Cates: Well, for me, one of the big factors is that it’s on Amazon. What that means to me at this point in my career, since I’m really trying to wind things down is I have no overhead. That means don’t have to have a website for that particular book. I don’t have to do any marketing per se for that particular book. I can really put it on autopilot.

I do marketing, but I also know that I’m getting money from books that I wrote eighteen months ago. That money keeps coming in month, after month, after month, with zero effort on my part. And it all comes because I have it well-placed on Amazon. I did a lot of work at the beginning in order to get it up to that place of visibility, and then I can let it coast and the checks just keep coming in.

[06:31] Ellen Violette: They do, and it’s really nice.

[06:33] Jeanette Cates: Yeah, I don’t want to work as hard as I did for many years and for me that has been really nice. The other thing that happened, which comes back to a personal perspective, and that was I went through a period of depression. And I couldn’t depend on myself too, for example, know that I was going to feel good to do a webinar that day, so I stopped scheduling webinars. I stopped doing a lot of live performances, and a lot of live events because I couldn’t really depend that that was going to be a day I felt like getting out of bed.

On the other hand, what I found is that there are some days that I just want to write. Well, I could write on those days, and if tomorrow I don’t feel like writing, it’s okay. It fits in really nicely with my particular lifestyle right now, and I encourage anybody who has good days and bad days, or has really busy periods and then some off periods depending on your work style, it’s a great way to work. That’s been one of the reasons that I decided to do a lot more into Kindle format in particular because it is so easy for me to crank those out and to put them on the Amazon and let Amazon take care of a lot of the marketing.

[07:45] Ellen Violette: Yeah, it is. It’s so easy, and I love it when I get those emails and it says, “We thought you might be interested in these,” and I see my books showing up on there.

[07:55] Jeanette Cates: I know, isn’t it great? Tomorrow (at the time we recorded this) I have a promotion that Amazon, Brazil is doing. They have some of my books that they really like to promote and about once a quarter they’ll write and ask permission, “Can we put it on a special here in Brazil?” And my sales numbers just go through the roof. It’s like, “Yes, please do that.”

[08:13] Ellen Violette: They just contacted you just from finding your
book on Amazon to do that?

[08:17] Jeanette Cates: Literally, out of the clear blue.

[08:19] Ellen Violette: Wow.

[08:19] Jeanette Cates: … they just contacted me and this woman from Amazon marketing contacts me every three or four months and says, “Hey, we’d really like to run a special on your books here in Brazil.” It’s like, “Okay, I guess you talked me into it.” Yeah. These things happen. They don’t happen immediately, but over a period of time as you build your reputation, and one of the things we’re finding now, for example, is that Amazon likes prolific authors. Of course, they’re going to make more money that way.

And they also like them to be spread out. What I’ve found is I was writing books too fast for a little while. My review crew couldn’t review them fast enough. I couldn’t get them published fast enough or Amazon wasn’t promoting them as much. When I slowed back down to about one book per month, then that seems to be a real good spacing. Every four to six weeks, I want to release a new book, and that seems to be about the best marketing pace for the types of books that I write.

[09:17] Ellen Violette: Wow. Well, thanks for sharing that with my audience. What kind of books do you write?

[09:22] Jeanette Cates: I’m definitely nonfiction. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. The first time I tried to write a dialogue back in the olden days when I thought I wanted to write a novel, and I realized I had to have dialogue in it, it’s like, “Oh no, this isn’t going to work for me at all.”

[09:37] Ellen Violette: I know. Me too. We’re so alike.

[09:40] Jeanette Cates: Yeah, it’s like, “No, no, no.” If I can tell you how to do something, I can help you solve a problem. I love that. I love writing procedural-type things. My most recent book is literally a step-by-step guide on how do you advertise your book for pennies. Essentially, I’ve gotten rave reviews about that because people love the step-by-step, which fits in beautifully with my writing style. That’s the type of books that I like to write is things that I have traditionally put into a training manual or a training program, I just put those now into a book.

[10:17] Ellen Violette: I love it. You’re talking about marketing your books on Amazon and you’re talking about writing this eBook on that. Tell us a little bit about how do you promote.

[10:28] Jeanette Cates: Well, I have what I call a 30-day plan. Of course, I documented that as well with an eBook. But essentially, what I do is I believe that a lot of work, particularly if you’re going to market on Amazon, a lot of your work is done before you ever write the first page.

[10:44] Ellen Violette: Oh, I totally agree. Totally, totally. Yes.

[10:48] Jeanette Cates: Before I ever start writing, I already know what categories it’s going to go into, I know the keywords I’m going to use, I already have the book description written because I find that if I begin to stray off of the book idea, I think, “Oh wait a minute, what did I put in the book description?” Essentially, you’re writing the sales letter for the book ahead of time. I’ve already titled the book and subtitled the book, I already know which of my series it’s going to go into. All of that preliminary stuff is done.

Two things that that does. One is that it creates a guide for you essentially. And number two, when you’re finished writing the book, what has happened, and I used to do this with sales letters and products, I found that if I created the product that was great, but then I had to stop and create the sales letter.

It was like, “Bummer, I don’t want to stop and do that.” And the same thing with books is if I don’t write the description ahead of time, it’s like, “Oh darn, I finished the book, I’m ready to publish, but oh, now I have to do the description.” That’s never an author’s favorite part. I’ve found that if I get that out of the way first, then it lets me write really quickly, and I can get the book all finished and published a lot faster.

[11:52] Ellen Violette: That is so true. It’s so funny. Today, I did a bestseller launch with a client, and she wanted to do the whole thing, start to finish in two weeks. And what happened was she wrote the book really fast, and then when it came time to do all the other pieces like you’re talking about, she was like, “Oh Ellen, I’m exhausted. I don’t want to do anymore.” And-

[12:14] Jeanette Cates: But, if you already have all that finished, then you’re excited because you just finished writing the book and boom, you can publish by the next day.

[12:20] Ellen Violette: Right, exactly. Well, what I told her was, I had 100% (launching books to #1 on Amazon) and I still do. I have a 100% success rate taking people to bestseller number ones who work with me. And I told her, I’m not going to let you screw up my run of number- one hit books by falling down on the job. And then, of course, she thanked me. But yeah, there’s that place at which you just get exhausted if you do it that way. That’s a great tip.

[12:52]  Jeanette Cates: Yeah, always start at the beginning before you actually start. Then of course, after I have the book ready, I have my list that I’m going to send an email to. I’m going to do social media marketing. I’m going to post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. And I probably don’t hit those as much as a lot of other people might primarily because I just don’t spend that much time on social media. I think there’s a lot that can be done with social media and particularly for your audiences there, that makes a huge difference.

A lot of times if you’re writing a how-to book, you may find your audience on Facebook or you may find it on LinkedIn, or maybe even on one of the other social-media sites, but you have to know where your audience is. If you know your audience, it’s lot easier to do the marketing because you already know where they’re hanging out.

[13:38] Ellen Violette: Definitely. Do you use the announcement sites? Or, no?

[13:44] Jeanette Cates: I haven’t used the announcement sites, no.

[13:47] Ellen Violette: Wow. Wow, okay.

[13:50] Jeanette Cates: Announcement sites have not been something… I’ve done a few paid ads. I found a couple of places, particularly for the books that I do for authors. I found a couple of places to advertise the books for authors really well. That has proven very helpful. And the nice thing about that is that because I paid for an ad, I find that that tends to drive traffic on an ongoing basis. That’s worked out really well.

[14:15] Ellen Violette: Do you do the KDP launches? Or, you just put them in there and just sell them for money?

[14:20] Jeanette Cates: I don’t do free launches. I cannot bear to give my books away for free.

[14:25] Ellen Violette: Okay, well, that’s good to know.

[14:27] Jeanette Cates: Initially, when I put them out, I’ll do it for 99 cents. Or, I used to do it for the first thirty days, and it really depends on the book and how well it’s doing. If it’s, I would say struggling or it’s not doing as well as I expect it to do, I’ll leave it at 99 cents for that first thirty days, and then I’m going to put it at the price that I think it is. Most of my books are 2.99, 3.99. One trend we are seeing is that Kindle books are getting more expensive.

We’re seeing people raise their prices. Where a standard book might’ve been $2.99, the standard is closer to $3.99 now. (Traditional publishers are pricing them much higher.) We’re going to see an increase in those. I leave mine at 99 cents for as long as I think I need to.

The important thing I find on the Amazon Kindle books is to make sure you’re on that new and noteworthy list because you get a tremendous amount of traffic off of that. You want to be sure that in your category, you’re on the new and noteworthy list for that first thirty days. You can only be there for thirty days, so you want to make sure that you stay there for the whole thirty days.

[15:34] Ellen Violette: That’s actually a category in there?

[15:36] Jeanette Cates : Well, what it is, it’s the top three books in any given category. If you go to any given category within Amazon and you essentially look on the Amazon Best Sellers List, there’s going to be over there, hot new releases. It’s the hot new releases, there are three books up there next to all of the other bestsellers. If you can get your book to stay up there, then you want to keep it there for the whole thirty days if you can.

[16:04] Ellen Violette: I see, and you’re saying you’re doing that with paid ads?

[16:07] Jeanette Cates: Not necessarily paid ads as much as the pricing. If I keep it at 99 cents, I tend to sell more for that first 30 days.

[16:12] Ellen Violette: That’s really interesting because you know when you price them at 99 cents, you only get a 35% royalty.

[16:18] Jeanette Cates: Right, but we’re going for the long term. What you want to do is you want to take advantage of that first thirty days. I do all of my marketing in the first thirty days and then pretty much ignore it after that. If I’ve done a good job in that first thirty days, not only will it get great rankings, but it will continue to rank well over a period of time. And that’s where you begin to make your money because as soon as you raise it to $2.99, that’s when you get your 70% royalties.

[16:44] Ellen Violette: Right. Now, people should know, if you do a Countdown, you can get it to 99 cents to get 70%, but then, you can only go as much as seven days. Yeah, this is why I love talking to all the different people that I bring onto my podcast because everybody’s got a different way of doing it, and it’s just fascinating to me.

[17:00] Jeanette Cates: Well, and so many different approaches work.

[17:03] Ellen Violette: Right.

[17:03] Jeanette Cates: You have to find what works for you and what you’re comfortable with. I knew when I started doing these, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time marketing. I was tired of marketing, which is the reason I started writing books.

[17:14] Ellen Violette: Oh, exactly.

[17:15] Jeanette Cates: I thought, yeah, I want to do minimal marketing. I believe in doing one thing per day, per book. If I do just one thing on a book per day for the first thirty days, then it’s got a good solid background and it will continue to carry through.

[17:33] Ellen Violette: We’ll, do you find also that they do better than more books that you now have? That they all sort of …

[17:37] Jeanette Cates: …oh absolutely, because they feed into each other. One of the things to keep in mind, and one of the reasons I love working with Kindle in particular, is as soon as you launch a new book, you want to go back and add that book to any other related books in any of your other publications, and then you will upload the revised manuscripts.

It’s a very forgiving platform. You want to just go back, and it doesn’t take anything to upload a new version of it. It takes about two minutes to upload the new version. It’ll take them four hours to approve it (it can take from four hours to forty-eight hours), but essentially, you’re still selling books as you go, so there’s no reason not to upload a revised version anytime you decide you want to add something.

Or, a lot of times, I find people hold up on their publishing a book because they want it to be perfect, and then they’ll find a typo no matter how many copies they’ve already printed. What you do is that you publish on Kindle first, get all those little kinks worked out, and then you can go to print.

[18:34] Ellen Violette: You and I are so much on the same page, I love it. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

[18:42] Jeanette Cates Now, a couple of other things that you want to do on your marketing. One thing is YouTube because YouTube is incredibly popular, so that’s a great place to really tie into the keywords for your book, and to do some short how-to’s or tips, or anything else that that leads them back to your book. I’ve done one or two book trailers where I do have a dedicated [crosstalk [00:19:06]-

[19:03] Ellen Violette: Yeah, and what do you think?

[19:05] Jeanette Cates: Oh, I really liked it. It was the time-consuming process, so I haven’t done a whole lot of those since because I started writing more, but I’ve found that it does seem to help over a longer period of time. And the other thing a lot of people ignore is your Amazon author page.

[19:21] Ellen Violette: Yes.

[19:22] Jeanette Cates: You can put videos and tie into your blog and your Twitter account. All those things go into your Amazon author page, so be sure you’re taking advantage of all of the things that go into that because that’s another great marketing place for you. People are going to look you up. And when they look you up for one book, they see all of your other books and all of a sudden, they’re in love.

[19:43] Ellen Violette: Right, right.

[19:45] Jeanette Cates: That makes a huge difference.

[19:49] Ellen Violette: When you say it was time-consuming to do a book trailer, what’s it about that or what was the process with it?

[19:57] Jeanette Cates: Well, I went through and followed Tony Laidig’s course. And, you’ve got to pull together… I probably used 30 or 40 different images, background sound, and then had to come in with the voiceover. It was time-consuming to put all that together. You have to have some video skills in order to do that, and you have to have some sort of composition skills in order to put it together. Or, you could pay somebody to do that for you.

[20:21] Ellen Violette: Yeah, I’m wondering if you can do those that like on Fiverr, if you could get one that would be good enough to actually make any sales.

[20:27] Jeanette Cates: It’d be worth trying. You could at least have them do pieces and parts of it. And I think now, I was usually the fairly early adopter on these, so I was pretty early on doing book trailers. I did my first one for my first book actually. That one, it actually has done pretty well in terms of views and continues to get traffic.

Or, you could just take a simple PowerPoint slide, put three or four, five points on there that you want to make and then just, show point one, and talk through it. Point two, talk through it. Do all of that and then bring up your book on the next slide and tell them to buy it on Amazon. That works just as well because you could use keywords really well and people are looking for short tips. That same video you can post on social media is just one more reminder of great information, by the way, there’s a book on it. Great information, there’s a book on it.

[21:23] Ellen Violette That’s what I’ve been looking at in Fiverr because that’s how they do on this. That’s exactly what you just said. That’s pretty cool. Yeah. As you said, you’re transitioning your business. What I wanted to ask you about, one last question here… Actually, there were two last questions here, but one is do you find that you actually get business from this though even though you’re trying not to get business at this point, right?

[21:47] Jeanette Cates: Well it depends on the book. for example, my teach online books, I have a whole series of teach online books, those all direct back to my design your online course. And that is probably my best-selling course. It has been for several years. It literally walks them through step-by-step, exactly the same process they went through in the book, but it uses videos and a whole lot more information, plus the case studies that come with it. I find that I probably sell… I would say probably one out of twenty people who buy the book also buy the course. The course is a hundred-dollar course, so my three-dollar book is selling a hundred-dollar course.

[22:26] Ellen Violette: How does that work? In the back of your book, does it send them to an opt-in page or directly to buy the book?

[22:30] Jeanette Cates: Oh, I send them directly to the sales page for the course.

[22:31] Ellen Violette: Oh, directly to the sales page, okay.

[22:35] Jeanette Cates: Yeah. I have a dedicated section in the book, and I probably mention it two or three times in the book, but I will have a dedicated section of resources so that it would be listed there in the resources, and I also, of course, list the other books in the series. And then I also would probably have a half-page where I talk about that particular course. It’s included in next steps. In next steps in the book, here’s the next thing you need to do. I just find a lot of people sign up for the course that way.

The same thing happens with my teleseminar book. I have one on how to sell more books with the teleseminar. And again, in that one, even though I’m talking about how to do interviews on teleseminars, my other course teaches you how to host teleseminars. And I tell them, “If you want to get into hosting, here’s the course you need to go take.” It’s really simple, low key, no pressure. It doesn’t even take up a whole page.

There’s no fancy graphics or anything else, it’s just right there on the page and it says, “Here’s what you need to do next.” And people who are reading the book and are serious about doing something, go over, click and sign up.

[23:43] Ellen Violette: That is awesome. And it’s encouraging too, because like you said, you’ve got this so that it’s pretty passive.

[23:50] Jeanette Cates: Oh yeah, it’s pretty wildly passive.

[23:52] Ellen Violette: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny, I was just thinking that… Or, you probably don’t remember this, but you were one of my guest speakers at one of my Virtual eBook Expos, and that’s exactly what we talked about was doing teleseminars.

[24:07] Jeanette Cates: Yeah. Well, the original teleseminar product I created in 2004.

[24:11] Ellen Violette: Yeah, and we did in less than 2006 I think, or 2007-

[24:15] Jeanette Cates: Well, I revised it multiple times, but the basics of a teleseminar, still the basics of a teleseminar and how to host one and how to do it well and the checklist you need and all that kind of stuff, those basics are still the basics. And it’s one of those evergreen-type products.

The same thing with designing your online course, that’s another evergreen product because how you do it doesn’t really change. The media changes and other things, but the basic principles are the same exactly. When you have something like that that you can continue to sell on an ongoing basis, that’s the perfect thing to have a book that points back to that.

And again, because I’m not doing any pressure, they’re not getting an email sequence that says, “Oh, you got to sign up for this, or we’re closing it down, or we’re launching it now, or we’re closing.” There is no pressure. There’s no time pressure. They may buy the book now and six months later decide they want to take some action and sign up for the course.

[25:11] Ellen Violette: Right, right. And sometimes, it does take people some time. I’m always surprised at how long it takes some people sometimes to take action.

[25:19] Jeanette Cates: Well, particularly if you have a family and a job, and so many other things going on in your life. It’s like I’ve got to pace myself to get a few other things out of the way first before I have time to do that. It makes a big difference.

[25:31] Ellen Violette: Well, boy, I could just keep on listening. I mean, this is just really great stuff, but we need to wrap it up. Thank you, Jeanette. I really appreciate this. It’s been extremely enlightening for me, and I’m sure for my listeners.

[25:44] Jeanette Cates: I enjoyed every minute of it, Ellen. Thank you.

[25:46] Ellen Violette: Okay, you’re welcome. Take care. Bye-Bye.


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About the Author

Ellen Violette

Ellen is an 3X award-winning book, including being named one of the Top 20 Book Coaches of 2022 by Coach Foundation. She's also a multiple #1 bestselling author, a 3-time eLit award winner, podcast host, and a Grammy-nominated songwriter. She has been helping entrepreneurs increase their credibility and expert status, become #1 bestselling authors, and make a bigger impact in the world since 2004. Her mission is to make the world a better place one author and one book at a time!



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