Why Is Our New Book Already #2 in Its Amazon Category?

Ebeling Cover SmallThe Future of Freedom Foundation’s newest release is soaring through the Amazon charts. The book is Richard Ebeling’s Monetary Central Planning and the State, and we released it just yesterday.

How did we do this — again?

(The “we” here is FFF plus InvisibleOrder.com.)

Well, it helps that there are hundreds or maybe thousands of readers who have been thrilled by this book already in its first incarnation as a series of 40 articles in FFF’s Freedom Daily years ago. So right out of the gate, this book starts with a great reputation.

It also certainly helps that Ebeling is a venerable figure, who has built a mighty following with decades of consistently erudite, clear writing.

It helps that the cover is interesting to look at and well-suited to the Amazon sales environment.

It sure helps that the book itself is of professional quality, but it’s also priced down low to make it move (just 99 cents!).

And it helps that we picked good categories for it to succeed in (you want a category that does have other books your potential customers are reading, but that isn’t so crowded that you’re going to be stuck down at 1,000,000th place).

Right now, Monetary Central Planning is #2 on Amazon’s charts in the category of Political Freedom, and it’s #5 in Economic Theory. That is an amazing place to be on its very first day. And there’s no reason it can’t hit #1 in both tomorrow.

Now, when we look at tomorrow’s rankings, it’s going to help that we built on this early success by blogging about it, and that our friends and fans shared and tweeted posts like this one (hint, hint).

And when we look at the rankings over the next month, it’s going to help even more that our friends and fans and readers wrote some reviews of the book on Amazon (hint, hint, hint).

Leave a comment

Filed under Ebooks, Publishing

What Is the Best Length for a Book?

Tinybook-IOI recently had a conversation with an author who is planning on publishing a book of her short stories on Amazon.com. She wondered what the best length for a story and the best length for a whole book would be.

My suggestion to her was that she experiment by releasing some of her short pieces as individual ebooks, as well as and before putting them together and releasing them as a big Kindle or print compilation.

In fact, this is good advice for almost any author today, fiction or nonfiction.


The old physical constraints of paper books once forced authors, publishers, and readers to deal in bulky objects of 100 pages or more. It was just uneconomical in most cases to ship and sell physical books much smaller than that. Nowadays, ebooks let you sidestep this physical constraint, and that creates an opening to trade in smaller units of writing.

Salamander Six, a gripping short story by Mike DiBaggio.

Salamander Six, a gripping short story by Mike DiBaggio. ~10,000 words.

It’s as if once upon a time you could only buy grapes in 1lb bags. Anybody who wanted to buy less than that had to choose between (a) no grapes at all, or (b) moldy grapes in the fridge.

Nowadays, you can buy and sell grapes individually. And it turns out there are customers who only wanted one grape at a time, and there are customers who would never buy a full 1lb of some new exotic Mediterranean grape — but would happily gobble up two or three just to try it out.

Based on my experience, I’d say releasing some smaller ebooks plus a compilation gives you three advantages over authors who stick to selling great big books exclusively.

Advantage 1. You make your compilation look more awesome.

Say you were going to sell a compilation ebook of your short stories at $4.99. If it contains 10 stories, 3 of which you also sell individually for $0.99 each, then you can say that the book has 7 great stories PLUS as a bonus it contains stories X, Y, and Z for free.

Now the perceptive customer can see that your $4.99 book comes with ~$3.00 of bonus material. Everybody loves bonus material.

Advantage 2. It gives you a better chance of being discovered by a new customer.

If a new customer who has never read anything by you before, and never bought anything from you before, only has to pay $0.99 to get their first hit of your stuff, they are more likely to jump in.

Advantage 3. You get more detailed market feedback, and you get it sooner.

In the long run, this is the most important benefit.

A Car Crash of Sorts, by Frank Marcopolos. A very fun story, just ~8,000 words.

A Car Crash of Sorts, a very fun short story by Frank Marcopolos. ~8,000 words.

Let’s say you’ve finished the first 3 short stories, and you plan to write 7 more for your book. (If you’re Frank Marcopolos, you can write a story a month and then publish them all for Christmas). You can keep those first 3 stories to yourself and spend the next few months toiling away in isolation. Or you can sell those first 3 stories separately, and learn from how the readers respond to them while you’re writing the rest.

The sales and reviews will tell you whether they like your longest story or your shortest one, whether they like your first-person-present murder mystery or your third-person-past wizard duel, et cetera. And all that feedback helps you decide what to write more of and what to emphasize in your bigger volumes.

Of course, it’s a great idea to keep tabs on what other successful authors with a similar target audience are doing, but every book and every author’s voice is unique. Your writing isn’t really just another fruit in the produce section.

If Daniel Sanchez and Wendy McElroy and Jeffrey Tucker each wrote a 1,000-word article about the same new law, you would have 3 very different pieces of writing, with three different audience reactions.

The same goes for you. Your readers are going to find you and interact with your writing a little bit differently than they do with anybody else. The best way to find out how is to put some of your writing on the market and see what they do with it.


For all three of these reasons, nowadays I find myself advising just about every author and publisher I meet to release some smaller pieces of writing as well as big tomes of knowledge.

Its one more way to get your grapes on the table.

However, there are three caveats you should be aware of.

Caveat 1. Maximize the power of your preview.

Amazon automatically lets people see the first 10% of your book as a preview via the Look Inside feature. For a very short book, the front matter can eat up a lot of that 10%. To get around this, just put your copyright, dedication, et cetera, at the end of the book.

That way, readers who check out your preview will see the things that might make them want to buy.

Caveat 2. Amazon’s royalty system used to be better for short books.

Those of you familiar with the intricacies of Amazon’s royalty system know that Amazon recently changed the payout scheme for some royalties on some books. The short version is that within the Kindle Select program, you are now getting paid based on the number of pages your customers read rather than the sticker price of your book, so short books are penalized relative to long books with the same price.

This does reduce the potential monetary gains to selling shorter books via the Kindle Select program. But the three reasons to do it listed above still stand. Just sell a short book and include the text of it in a long one.

Caveat 3. What is the smallest size you can effectively sell?

Once upon a time, Amazon sent out messages to authors of very small ebooks, saying “Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.”

A Century of Anarchy, by Peter C. Earle. A most edifying grape.

A Century of Anarchy, by Peter C. Earle. At ~5,000 words, it is a most edifying grape.

Amazon doesn’t appear to do that anymore. And some authors report having success with really short ebooks. See the forum comments here and here, for instance.

Personally, I would start out with something 5,000 words or more. If your pieces are naturally shorter than that, you could try putting a few of them together as a small compilation.

Whatever you do with a smaller book, put the word count in the description, or even put something like “A Short Story” as the subtitle, so the reader isn’t surprised by its brevity. Nothing generates bad reviews like readers who feel cheated.

(Yes, the number of pages is automatically listed by Amazon, way down on your book page, but some readers won’t look at that.)

My fellow authors and publishers, have you tried releasing pieces of different lengths, either for free or for sale? What have you learned about your own corner of the market? I’m eager to find out in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ebooks, Publishing

Tell Stories to Sell Ideas

How do you get people to buy your book?

Today, three of my books are in Amazon’s top 100 in their category (20th-century history). I’m prouder than lions to see them there, and I’m hungrier than jackals to get another book up the charts. But let me back up a moment and explain how this happened.

When I say “my books,” I mean that I’m the publishing consultant on all three. The books really belong to the Future of Freedom Foundation, and the authors are Jacob Hornberger and Douglas Horne. Jacob, Douglas, and FFF are the mothers of these excellent books. I’m just the midwife.

In the fall of 2014, I helped FFF put out their first two ebooks on the JFK assassination: The Kennedy Autopsy by Hornberger and JFK’s War by Horne.

They both hit the top 100 before Christmas — in fact both books had started selling copies like hotcakes before we even officially announced or advertised them.

So we followed up by releasing a third ebook in spring 2015 — Regime Change. (Jacob Hornberger wrote it in less than a month.)

So why are these books so successful? Why are people buying them?

Well, take a minute to look at the three books and their Amazon rankings today.


#33 Regime Change: The JFK Assassination (by Jacob Hornberger)



#36 The Kennedy Autopsy (by Jacob Hornberger)



#46 JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated (by Douglas Horne)


Even just judging by the titles, you can see that all three of these books are about a specific, concrete, visceral story — a story with murder, betrayal, and mystery.

In fact, of those three, The Kennedy Autopsy has been by far the most consistently successful. (Today is the first day Regime Change ever beat Autopsy on the charts.) And notice that Autopsy also has by far the most concrete, specific, and visceral title and topic. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Now, all three of these books are from the Future of Freedom Foundation, so you can rest assured there are some strong libertarian themes inside each book. In particular, all three do a very compelling job of demonstrating that the Kennedy assassination is linked to the broader rise of the military-industrial complex.

But libertarian theory isn’t the headline feature that made these books start selling before we even advertised them.  Would The Kennedy Autopsy have sold as well if we’d called it The Military-Industrial Complex and the Deep State’s Medical Cover-Up? I don’t think so.

Instead, the books are focused on and advertised around specific stories. The libertarian principles flow through each book subtly, strengthening the authors’ research and and sharpening their narrative.

In other words, for these books, libertarian theory isn’t the consumer good that people are rushing out to buy, it’s a capital good that authors used to make their specific stories.

The stories themselves are what people want to buy.

You may have noticed that Jeffrey Tucker also uses this formula of telling a specific story to illustrate a general theory.

In his wildly successful article, “Five Years of Gas Can Hell!,” Tucker opens with 7 hilarious paragraphs about spilling gasoline — reeking, staining, flammable gasoline — all over himself. He waits until paragraph 8 before he even mentions “government,” but then he explains the theory of regulation and shows it all comes together. The libertarian theory explains the visceral experience.

Jacob Hornberger does it this way in The Kennedy Autopsy too. He opens chapter 1 with Secret Service agents brandishing their guns and staring down the Dallas doctors over the corpse of the president. That’s a helluva hook.

And Jacob waits until all the way to chapter 12 to come out explicitly with his killer libertarian analysis of the military-industrial complex. Once again, the libertarian theory explains the visceral experience.

So here is the takeaway insight for liberty-minded writers:

The readers know what they want. Mostly, they want stories. Our job is to help them realize that the best stories are made with liberty.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Announcing the New Freeman

20150413_freemancoverspring2015coverWe are exceedingly proud to be a part of the relaunch of the new Freeman.

We’ve been working with FEE for the last 6 months, and it’s been a constant pleasure.

What a delight to see the new magazine in print at last, with a new, professional look on par with the most modern magazines for thinking people.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are We Too Dumb for Democracy?

BK Marcus is in the Freeman today explaining why we humans are so bad at democracy:

Ignorance, like knowledge, tends to be specialized. We all know highly educated people who haven’t a clue how prices and wages work — or what damage is done to the most vulnerable in the economy when someone tries to engineer the price system. The problem isn’t that Americans (and Italians, and voters in every country) are “wrong about almost everything.” The problem is that they’re being asked to make decisions outside those fields in which they have plenty of knowledge.

Read the whole article.

Leave a comment

Filed under Economics

Mike Reid on Terrorism in Canada

Our own Mike Reid has been writing about last week’s tragedies in Canada. You can read his “Canadian Vengeance” over at Come Home America.

This is a sad day in Canada, presaging even sadder ones to come.

Today, an as-yet-unidentified man shot a soldier near Parliament Hill, and then rushed further, armed and aggressive, into the halls of Canadian government. He was then shot and killed himself.

Read more here…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hayek’s “Rejuvenating Event”

Today is the 40th anniversary of F.A. Hayek’s Nobel Prize. My article in The Freeman tells the story behind the so-called Nobel, the controversy around Hayek’s winning it (and sharing it with a socialist economist), and what the prize did for Hayek’s personal life, his reputation, and his impact on the fall of European communism.

Leave a comment

Filed under Austrian Economics