I started writing Exploitive NLHE: An Experts Insight on How to become a Winning Poker Player in the fall of 2012. The process has been simultaneously incredibly rewarding and frustrating. I decided to write Exploitive NLHE because I enjoy the process of teaching and sharing with others, and I feel that many can benefit from my extensive poker experience. Writing the book was fun, but explaining the complexities of poker in words was significantly more challenging than I had anticipated. Now that I am done, I can happily say that the final product turned out significantly better than I anticipated, and I hope that my readers will enjoy reading it. There is a ton of great material in this book for online and live players who are striving to deepen their understanding of NLHE. For those of you who are wondering what it was like to write, edit, and publish a poker book, I am sharing my insights below.
Most aspiring authors are interested in this question. If you are writing for profit this is an incredibly important consideration. My experience was somewhat different because I never asked this question before I started writing. I started writing simply because I wanted to write a poker book and share what I have learned with others. Anyhow, the question may seem simple, but it is surprisingly difficult to answer because most authors aren’t big on publicly sharing their sales statistics. I, however, am going to give you all my numbers later in this post.
I have heard from multiple sources that if you sell 5,000 books lifetime, that would be considered a successful poker book. Having said that, some books that are “transformative” may actually sell well over 10,000 copies in today’s market. Generally, this type of book needs to be doing something that has never been done before. A great recipe for good sales is limited competition. One of the biggest challenges that new authors face in this space is the quantity of instructional content available. Why should a reader buy your book when they can google search and find “quality” information? Obviously, the key is that the potential reader needs to trust the product. So many aspiring poker players are confused about what advice they should be listening to, and trust that a book by a reputable author can be a high quality authoritative source (compared to free online content). If you want to sell a lot of copies, it definitely helps to have a name that people recognize.
It probably took me a little over 400-600 hours to do the writing alone, and that was the fun part. Without a doubt the most challenging part of writing your first book is organizing all of the material. I had so many ideas to share and I needed to focus them appropriately for the reader. What worked best for me was flash cards with different concepts that I placed on a giant desk and moved around to set the primary structure.
The not so fun part of the process was the editing! That process took a couple of weeks where I simply ate, slept, and edited. Thankfully, I had some help during this process or I might not have made it through. There are so many things to look for, and it tends to be rather overwhelming and consuming. Editing is a seemingly endless process that can drive you a bit crazy, and the final result will still include more typos than you would imagine possible. The sheer volume of material is difficult to plough through without becoming bleary eyed. Fortunately, I was able to team up with another very talented individual who provided invaluable support through the editing process. I would highly recommend you do the same.
I think the answer to this question is much like the answer to many poker strategy questions: it depends…. Amazon/KDP its ebook publishing arm takes 70% of ebook sales priced over $9.99, which is a steep commission to pay. However, if they are able to drive enough sales for you it is well worth it. One of the biggest problems with selling on Amazon from an internet marketing perspective is that purchasers are not “your” customers. There is a major benefit to having a reader transact through you. They are more attached and engaged with your website, which can theoretically be monetized at some point in the future. The value of building a loyal base through your own website should not be underestimated.
You should also be prepared for a withholding tax of 30% for non-US citizens. This is a bit annoying, but for the most part you should be able to get this back. Amazon is also incredibly controlling in terms of pricing. For example, you are not allowed to price your book lower anywhere on the web than on their website. Also, you are not allowed to price the paperback below the ebook. Any promotion that you offer elsewhere on the web will also need to be simultaneously offered on Amazon. The Amazon team will email you and threaten to remove you from the store if you do not comply with all of their rules. Overall, I would say that if you feel you can publish without Amazon then absolutely go for it. Amazon has effectively become a monopoly in the ebook publishing world. With that monopoly poker it is able to dictate to authors how to publish their books and how much they will receive that pays authors as little as possible, and collects massive profits.
Again this is a tough one. If you price your ebook at $9.99, your royalty is $7. If you price it at $20 your royalty is $6. Weird, right? Yes, Amazon has a funky royalty structure that incentivizes authors to price books under $10. Obviously, the lower you price your book the more sales it will get and the higher it will rank on Amazon’s sales list. Finding the right price for your ebook will depend on the market.
In my opinion the sweet spot for a mass marketed poker ebook is between $25 and $35. This is the price point where you can likely maximize sales. Having said that, I have my book priced a bit higher at $49.99. Why? It is a slightly different market focused on players who are already skilled NLHE players. Also, the book was never broadly marketed so most of the buyers know me directly through DragTheBar or ThePokerCapitalist. When I had my book priced lower on Amazon, I didn’t notice any boost in sales and the royalty authors receive when pricing the book at $30 isn’t much better than if it is priced at $10. I felt that if I reduced the price on the book it would have to be to $9.99. Because my book hasn’t been broadly marketed and is focused toward strong NLHE players I felt the $49.99 price point is/was more appropriate.
Deciding your price is a tough call because it is entirely possible I would sell a ton more books at $9.99 on Amazon, but I am not fully convinced that would be the case. The poker book market is fairly niche and in my opinion, a lot of my sales are not especially price sensitive. Because my book focuses on taking solid poker players and turning them into significant winners, the reader is going to get far more than $49.99 in value from the purchase.
One of the major advantages of pricing your poker book lower is that you gain readers. This is especially beneficial if the plan is to publish several books and you want to build a loyal following to boost sales of any subsequent books. Perhaps you could even consider giving the book away in
Ebook or Paperback?
While it might seem like releasing only an ebook makes a lot of sense due to zero publishing costs (and much less effort!), in truth it really doesn’t. Royalties are actually significantly higher when you sell a paperback compared to an ebook because of Amazon’s push to get more ebooks under $10. I get about $26 for every $50 paperback that I sell versus $15 for an ebook. Many readers still refuse to read ebooks, so when I released Exploitive No Limit Holdem in ebook only, I had several people who requested and waited months to get a paper copy. In retrospect, having the book printed first and then released would have been the way to go.
Since it will be difficult to know how many sales to expect, I would suggest using a print on demand publisher. I went through Createspace.com and they were fairly good. It takes a bit of effort to get setup with a print on demand company (sending in the script, cover design, and typesetting) but it is probably well worth your time in the long run. Also, I would suggest doing this before your initial release so that people don’t go and buy the ebook for lower royalty when they would have actually preferred the hard copy, which pays you more.
The cool thing about Createspace is that they are an Amazon company and once you upload the specs to create space and click publish, it will be available as a paperback on Amazon. The process is seamless and all you need to do is click publish.
I have sold a grand total of two book on these platforms. Perhaps it is just because I am in the gaming industry, but in my experience so far, these platforms do not move books. I think that when readers think about buying a book, Amazon is the first name that pops in their head. Amazon is an incredibly powerful brand that is synonymous with book buying. With their restrictive pricing policies, Amazon protects its brand and makes sure the product is not offered for less anywhere else on the web. This gives the consumer little incentive to look elsewhere to buy books.
Again it depends on how you do it. I decided early on in the process I was going to take control of all aspects of the publishing process. This helped to keep costs down significantly. As a result, the total publishing costs for me were only $100. Unless you know some people to help you or are able to do everything yourself it will probably cost $1,000-$3000.
Cover design can easily run you $200-$300 or more, and a decent editor can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. You may also want to consider having a graphic designer take care of the typesetting, etc. If you have any images in the book, things can get really pricy. The majority of my poker book is text, which helped to keep costs down.
ThePokerCapitalist’s Book Sales?
What have my poker book sales been? I know you have all been wondering so I am going to provide you with some exact numbers.
Direct ThePokerCapitalist Sales March = 18
Direct ThePokerCapitalist Sales April = 11 / Amazon ebook sales April = 15
Direct ThePokerCapitalist Sales = 7 / Amazon ebook sales May = 19
Direct ThePokerCapitalist Sales=21 / Amazon ebook sales June = 19 / Google Play Store 0 / Itunes Store 0
Direct ThePokerCapitalist Sales =4 / Amazon ebook sales July = 15 / Google Play Store Sales 2 / Paperback Sales = 20 / Itunes Store 0
Direct =0 / Amazon ebook sales Month to Date Aug = 11 / Paperback Sales = 4 / Google Play Store =0 / Itunes Store =0
So the total copies I have solid is 164 and I have made something like $4,000 off of the book. Average royalty has been approximately $24. Big money, I know 🙂 Considering that the number of hours I spent writing, editing, and publishing this book is probably around 750, I think my hourly rate so far is $5.33. That’s about half of the minimum wage here in Canada, where I live. I do expect that number to rise a good bit over time, but don’t expect to get rich writing a poker book.
Most authors I know have spent a lot more time than I have on the marketing side of things. Personally, I enjoyed the writing part but don’t have a great deal of interest in marketing this book. As a result, most of my sales have come from good reviews and word of mouth. There is no easy advertising in the poker space since “poker news” companies don’t even mention the release of new poker books unless they are getting a cut. The most effective marketing is content heavy and takes a lot of time. For me that just didn’t make any sense since I don’t enjoy it and the hourly return is not high enough in my opinion.
My poker book has been well received and the reviews I have received have been almost universally favorable. Even despite this, my sales remain relatively lackluster. I believe that other authors are seeing significantly higher sales than I am, which tells me that, in many ways, marketing is more important than the quality of your content in driving sales. I hope that you enjoyed reading this post and I encourage other authors to share their experiences and sales numbers, too.
-Written by Paul Ratchford aka ThePokerCapitalist