The Great Content Business Challenge – Week 1 Results
Starting the New Year by keeping on keeping on. Last year’s work on Fiction is just one avenue of my own content business. This year’s challenge is to make that business more sustainable.
New Instafreebie/PW: 531
Overall Total: 4025
Published Words Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 5967, Medium: 0, Wattpad: 0
– paid – Book Outlets: 9009, Medium: 0
Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 1405+594, Else: 0
– paid – Book Outlets: 0, Medium: 0
- A World Gone Reverse
Books In Progress
- How I Survived My First Year of Fiction Writing
- This Fiction Business – (H. Bedford-Jones re-publish)
- Think and Grow Rich for Authors
- Content Inc for Authors (working title)
Book sales this week:
Amazon – 46, Draft2Digital – 3, Gumroad – 1 = Total Week’s Sales – 50
- Fiction: 16
- Non-Fiction – Self-Help: 27, Ag-related: 3, Business: 5, Misc: 1
Lulu print sales coming Jan 15 (for Dec.)
Audio minutes published: 0
Audiobooks In Progress: 4 more (audio ready or in serious planning)
- Make Yourself Great Again
- Count to Four
- Becoming A Writer
- Freedom Is
- A World Gone Reverse
Published Courses (free – in beta):
Podcasts: 7 (continuing) 1 in planning for fiction
We’re just past the Premise stage with this. See the recent links on this:
- Introducing The Great Author Content Business Challenge
- The Great Content Business Challenge: Publishing Premises
Last year was building the fiction writing habit and a backlist that opens the door to additional income.
This year is in working out how an author runs a content-business in earnest – meaning a living income (like .4% of all Amazon authors take home – and this number is dropping.)
So I’ll be reporting all weekly book sales, as I get the data in. Monthly, in Lulu’s case.
The first few weeks will deal with sorting out the basics any author has to have, and getting these into shape. I’ve already got a course called the “Author Freedom Course”. This will be updated, but also supplemented.
What My Metrics Tell
I’ve moved Subscribers to the top, since this is the priority of any standalone business per Content Inc and others.
Published words, fiction and non-fiction. This is simply the content I got on offer this week. Combine this with published books and we’ll see the actual progress.
This year, I’m including the non-fiction books I’m working on as well. Non-fiction has been the backbone of my work until last year. Now I’ve invested into fiction writing as an additional income source.
Audiobooks/Courses are separated out, as these require more input cost (time/money).
The priority is to get subscribers, but you get them by creating valuable content first. Then keep creating it according to what your audience keeps asking for. Because some of those books won’t sell well.
Non-fiction writing is included as on-site articles and those syndicated to Medium. Like fiction is syndicated from on-site there and to Wattpad as well. Both fiction and non-fiction are aggregated into books.
Sales are at the bottom of the books categories, since both subscribers, words published, and books pre-published are prerequisites to sales.
To be transparent, I’ve listed the audiobooks I’ve recorded or had recorded that simply need to be uploaded to Findaway and put up on sale. Also in this list is that book I just published this week. I’ll be cranking out the audiobook and an author’s commentary on each book I produce this year, hoping I can get back through the hundred I published last year, at least the commentary while I get the books themselves out-sourced. That depends on getting income high enough to afford it. Otherwise, it’s DIY on time-available basis.
Those commentaries go into a weekly podcast, which then get the backlist books added on as I can. They’ll wind up as continuing podcasts as a promotion – with the idea of putting a full week’s worth of fiction available all year round eventually (Only need 250 more short books…)
Making it as an Author
There are different estimates on how long it can take to “make it” as an author.
Most of this seems to be rooted in naivety. And that is self-fulfilling disaster prophecy if you follow the conventional wisdom.
One of the biggest breakthroughs is realizing that Amazon isn’t built for author discovery. It’s built to be an ebook graveyard, honestly.
Most authors get this completely wrong. Some have worked out a system of ads and fiction production that works for them. Mark Dawson reported his first 7-figure income year in December [link]. And that’s based on starting in 2001, but only seriously in 2013. And by 2015 was reported as making $450K by Forbes.
But the “overnight” successes are simply bringing their audience with them to Amazon and other book outlets. For no real cost.
The Author’s Content Business Model
Content Inc is the model to test. It makes the most sense, and still does.
Meanwhile, the current top end of author earnings is with non-fiction courses and fiction bundles.
The trick is always in getting from here to there.
Per Content Inc, you build the audience and then ask them what they want most. And then simply deliver it.
This was brought home with a nice book about emails [title – link]
You are the Rock Star, and you are “selling yourself” in your newsletters. But don’t expect your audience to share in your own purchasing preferences. You simply have to ask them what they like, dislike, will buy.
And you are constantly adding more audience and weeding out those who aren’t a good fit for you and your offers.
A year’s analysis of IF subscribers shows this is about 50%. But that is a “cookie” audience that came from giving them something for an email address. Since these are only 30-40% of the opt-in’s, you are really giving away an extra 85 books for every 15 subscribers you earn through giveaways and then your regular emails to them.
Today, I found out that the Thinkific site has gone to only having three courses available for free. Then it’s $50 per month. Leanpub might be an option after that point, but will mean writing/converting your books into their “markua” text language.
I’ve already been paying for an LMS system via Rainmaker (site hosting), so I’ll dust this off and start getting to work.
Otherwise, I’d suggest creating bundles on Gumroad and testing sales of these, then building out based on what is popular. Their bundles are built in – same low cost (10% of sales, roughly).
Other options for starting/struggling authors
The things an author needs – even to start out:
- Your own site
- Your own mailing list
- Content (your backlist of books)
- Book outlets to sell them for you
- Places to put free material to build audience (like Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, etc.)
Once you start expanding your base and asking your audience what they most want, then you’ll be able to find places you can afford to fulfill those needs.
Content Inc just tells you the focus you need to have – audience first, monetization last.
And that book, plus the above list, can tell any author where they sit and what they need to do next to build their content business.
(Interestingly, this is the same scene that the Internet Marketing types were pushing years ago. Income is based on a website+list+products. Their failure was in not seeing that audience doesn’t equal list. And not surveying that list for what they want, but jamming the latest and greatest down their craw. And so the massive failures in this area.)
The failure of authors is also not seeing that audience comes first. But building on rented land (or a someone else’s “free” sandbox) is also failure sooner or later. The breakthrough is to bring them to your site to click on their favorite book outlet’s link. (Via books2read.com links.) Your site first, then the “free” outlets. If any of them close down, you can always sell through your own site – providing you are producing regular new content that they really want.
Testing the Author Content Business as I go.
While I wrote as many as five books in a week, I only suggest anyone write an publish more than one in a week now, and spend the rest of the time carefully bringing that book to life.
The trick with Content Inc is to have everything set up from the beginning. As you read through to the end of your book, he says to have your opt-in right off the bat, but also be willing to accept their money from the beginning as well.
In short, you start building everything from the beginning, but your emphasis is on those six points roughly as he lays out. The last three will fall into place quickly, per his book, but only as you work out the first three roughly in that order. But you are prepared for monetizing at any point – it’s just not your first focus.
I’ll go into more of this as I finish up my basic research. Note I have a “Content Inc for Authors” up there. That is the big container I’m dropping all this content into. More than likely it will become a podcast, a course, and then a book – depending on how well its recieved.
I’ve listed out the five areas you have to establish right off as any starting or struggling author (even stalled veterans.) After that come diversification into courses and other services. Bundles are a cross-over between your ebooks, audiobooks, and your site. Like courses, they can come at any time you have a package ready, but are best done after surveys (unless you simply need to get them out out from under your skin as they are itching you too much).
That study of Content Inc is also forcing a re-study (and course) for Think and Grow Rich, since he mentions it heavily at the beginning of the book as being a core reference for his own success.
Other Analysis and Roundups
I did get all my invoices from Amazon and everywhere else. Found out that I have been making more than half my income from paperbacks via Lulu. Other outlets are giving me nearly half as much as Amazon. Roughly, my books have been selling at 1/3 business books, 1/3 self-help books, a fifth is fiction ebooks (no print sales), and the rest are Ag-related or miscellaneous.
Meaning that Amazon isn’t big in my book, by actual sales. But again, I’m not running ads. That old Steve Scott quote comes to mind – “Amazon works as well as you send traffic to it.”
What afforded my fiction challenge last year was the un-promoted non-fiction sales from perennial-selling books, especially paperbacks.
So far this year (not including Lulu which hasn’t given me fiction paperback sales) Fiction is around a third of my sales already. Of course, that’s just a first week. And still no taking out ads. This is all organic and my own email work.
With a new master list of all the books I’d had available in 2018, I know which are selling, have sold. So these also need to be ported to the other aggregators. (PublishDrive and StreetLib.)
This all points to backing up my non-fiction books with courses while I port all my fiction everywhere else possible.
Every fiction and non-fiction book needs to be updated with new backend ads for courses or bundles. I may work these upgrades into these books as I syndicate them weekly, instead of working to get big batches of books done.
There is another podcast I’d like to revamp – Classics You Should Know. This would be for fiction books, and offering them as high-quality ebooks and paperbacks at a premium price (or discounted on my own site). A nice test of things, particularly if it would break down into the pulp fiction shorts that are available, but mostly unknown.
Public Domain can be successful if you nichify it. And that goes right down the Content Inc line. So reviving the authors and their stories from the pulp hay-days is an interesting approach. PD isn’t welcome on most aggregators, but I only need one to reach the largest outlets (Streetlib will do). This would then follow the line of my current fiction, where I crank these out on a one-per week basis and then anthologize them. SF pulps are prime for this. Again, navigating the vagaries of PD distribution is tricky. Many of these don’t meet the author+70 standard for International distribution (author would have to have died in the late 40’s). And so, a backburner for other than die-hard enthusiasts – not my current audience. Meaning, it would be a longer project for a later time. (Not like these books are going anywhere soon…)
My current PD books in Agriculture are a better choice for amplifying. Finding that audience should be simpler, but will take some work.
– – – –
Lots of work to do in setting everything up. Priorities and focus are the key.
Last Week’s To-Do’s:
- Podcast recorded for this Challenge. NOPE
- Pull rest of Stats from outlets (Amazon, PubD, SL, Nook, Kobo, ITunes) YUP
- New fiction book written and published as text. YUP
- Set up New Podcast and publish first episode of fiction promotion. NOPE
- Set up, record and publish audiobook. Nope
- Get lists of books published and compile master list (Lulu, PubD, SL, Nook, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes) YUP
- If time, find all unpublished audio books. YUP
- Analysis and first new Challenge report posted. YUP
To Do This Week:
- Emails out.
- New fiction commentary recorded. New podcast template built.
- New Fiction audiobook recorded.
- New book syndicated to all aggregators and Amazon
- Bundle created on Gumroad
- Next new fiction book written and run through the above.
- All continuing podcasts rescheduled.
- Review existing IF/PW giveaways and create any needed for 2nd quarter
- Two non-fiction books edited and published.
- Push the Content Inc and TGR book projects ahead.
Also published on Medium.