How I Did on The Great Fiction Writing Challenge:
Week 01: Jan 01 – Jan 08, 2018
Not so hot.
- Words Written – tens of thousands, not kept.
- Words Published (Paid) – 0
- Words Published (Free) – 0
- Subscribers – 15 – Instafreebie:2, Gumroad: 2, LiveSensical: 8, AWeber (mystery): 3
- Book Sales – 0 (These start from paid works published during the challenge.)
And that is what the whole scene is for. Holding myself accountable.
Those subscribers are (obviously) from my work prior to starting this challenge. But now I’m working to track these as they happen. And unsubscribes (none this week) will be as a minus. (Note to self: I should add a total since challenge started next week.)
The first action I have been working on is getting my fiction writing in as a habit. I write plenty during the day. But mostly non-fiction.
Yes, there are unanswered questions about writing, and I’m taking two courses right now to improve in a couple of areas. Meanwhile, I restudied “Becoming a Writer” by Dorothea Brande. (Get book | Start course.)
Sure enough, the base is still this: I need to find stories I like to read. Reading and writing are interlocked. When I read books that were tragic, I had tragic dreams. Nightmares, they are called. When I found stories that were more to my liking (they ended well) then I was given great inspiration. You can only really write what you like, what you enjoy. If you don’t, your readers won’t.
And doing that solved a story I’d been writing and was stumped on. But I had to find the right stories to read. Lesson: discard stories you don’t like right off.
A note on those subscriptions. Yes, I have four email services right now. Trying to drop AWeber, but I don’t have a clue where these few subscribers are coming from every week. Have to simply ask them, and hope they answer. I’m paying AWeber by the quarter right now. My own site hosting comes with “free” email service and is somehow subscribing people, another mystery. MailerLite connects through Instafreebie. MailChimp is another free hosting which is more widely accepted, but has less options on their free plan. Three out of four are free. The idea is to test and promote the Instafreebie-Mailerlite connection as the are an efficient (far less expensive) tool for starting writers.
That’s the next scene. Of course, these change anyone’s production. And I’ve separately written an article about how authors over 40 tend to have better production. One of these is that they’ve graduated all their children and so have a quiet space.
These distractions kept my publishing to nothing. I have a non-fiction book of over 130 pages ready. 8 articles ready, one of which is another fiction work. Another two fiction books, one of 73 pages, and another needing the addition of another short story to bring it up to a thin paperback length.
Public Domain Publishing
More distractions along this line, one was solving the mystery of why my ebooks quit selling via Lulu. Back in August, I noted their sudden decline to nothing. Poor support at the time, and my other researches kept me from following this up. Recently, I started checking this out again. Asking that same support person got me another run-around, until I sent him about 40 projects to check into. Then he replied that someone had taken all my ebooks out of distribution there. No email or warning. Thanks.
Actually, they have done me a favor. Lulu has probably the poorest interface for meta-data. When they started submitting to Amazon, they stopped accepting public domain. I had many titles grandfathered in, but could not revise them. Now they have been cleared out of all sales points so that I can re-submit them anywhere that will accept them. The only other major outlet that won’t accept PD is Google Play. The only other aggregator that won’t submit PD is Smashwords. Meanwhile, I’ve already gotten most of these books up on PublishDrive to everywhere else possible. Its a simple change to get them out to the rest.
It will take some time to get those books back up again. And I have a few hundred more to work up along that line. Compiling my list of books into its own library on Calibre gives me a way to do this and some idea of what I’ve created. Once these books are published, I’ll be somewhere north of 1500 titles in multiple versions. Those will improve my income, but not as much as print books, which I cover shortly.
This meant I lost a few days just in checking into these things, which I could have prevented last April.
Now I only recommend print works on Lulu. You don’t need their ISBN to publish anywhere else.
Year-end Review of Books
And also, the final month came in on Lulu for print books, and so I have another year of data.
It also shows why I am moving from PD publishing over to Fiction.
- Amazon actively trolls anyone who tries to publish PD there, other than as print books. Even then, they make trouble.
- PD Fiction makes next to no income, as the prices are very low and competition high.
- Your best income is in posting collections of books, which then have to be priced low and get trolled by Amazon.
- The best income in PD is through print books, in non-fiction. Below is a graphic from K-lytics.com which shows what Amazon lists as selling best in the top “Print” bestseller categories. You’ll see that in fiction, the bestsellers are primarily ebooks. It gradually gets better as you move toward non-fiction categories. (Here’s the video: http://k-lytics.com/video-vault/amazon-print-book-best-seller-sales-rank/)
PD publishing is another form of distraction, but it’s one that is paying my bills so I can write al this fiction.
That chart above proved a point in retrospect. To start this challenge, I found a bunch of short story collections and published them as print versions. Something like a 99% fail. One or two were bought over 6 months.
But my year-end analysis said that I should be finding and publishing more non-fiction Farming books, and keep them at a $5 royalty. Meanwhile, my market leader last year, “Becoming a Writer”, fell to fifth place this year.
On ebooks, while these are gone from Lulu now, “The Strangest Secret” and my own version of “Think and Grow Rich” were my bestsellers. As my TGR podcast (book-cast) is most subscribed of all of them, it’s probably a good idea to make TGR into a course of its own.
Like I didn’t have enough to do with writing fiction.
(Update: From that chart, it looks like printed memoirs and history would be a jumping off place for print books. Oddly, hardcover out-sells paperback on those. Needs more granular research.)
Is This Another Failed New Year’s Resolution?
Other than I started prepping for this six months ago, I don’t think so. It just happened to start on the first of January.
There are just a few delays, is all. Even as I write this, I’ve been getting some of this work out. You can see two fiction works published this week, at least on this blog (and I have a follow up article to do about how to publish short fiction online.) Also, I’m going to now get all the rest of my backlogged books up to PublishDrive, Draft2Digital, etc. Print copies through Lulu.
This is just a shift in focus, not a new focus. Since writing and publishing are already established habits, I don’t have a 30-day drop-off like most resolutions.
Keeping this weekly blog in place will set me up to create this business for more profit. And profit is a great motivator. Live within your means, and expand those means.
Promotion as the Third Habit
I did sign up to pay Instafreebie to enroll my subscribers into MailerLite. And pulled my lists from AWeber over to there. The Instafreebie set-up is cheaper than FB ads, which keep getting more expensive. More research for me, still. I’ll brief you more as I work this all out. Right now, it’s getting my publishing going with the writing, while I’m reading nightly.
There are the HARO emails and RadioGuestList to invest in as well. HARO is no cost, but time. Podcast/Radio Interviews are both. So I want to make sure I write daily and publish weekly as a habit first. With those two habits solidly in, I can work on promotion. (And promotion will work best when I have a big backlist to send people to.)
I hate advertising. It gives me stuff I don’t want and it’s forced on me. So I use only ad-blocking browsers now. And I only log into Facebook when absolutely necessary. I am working to wean myself off Amazon by searching for alternate places to get the books I need. Amazon is still trying to lock me into their “lease, not buy” scene, so I’m busy finding other places I can actually get the ebook I paid for.
So far, Books2Read.com is my backup when I have a specific title. Wish they had a search function, they could be getting sales in spades – but their server overhead would go through the roof.
Google itself is good if you have a particular book you’re searching for. The trick is to not buy it anywhere that they are giving you the “feature” of holding onto your book for you (like Amazon) Only the places that actually tell you where to download it. They will often give you a Kobo or Nook link. Use that link over at Books2Read.com and you can buy the book you want from a retailer you already trust. And keep it to put it on all your devices.
I already tell people not to use Facebook. They use all your data and are becoming another “free” TV station – where you have to accept the ads to get what they want you to see. There is no sense in trying to develop a following there, unless you want to pay Facebook to access them. Right now, you have an “organic reach” of something between 5 and 10% of them. And figure that at least half of your followers are bots. (And don’t get me going on how Twitter is even more worthless for book sales.) Just figure that the bots rule all the social media. But not the email lists you maintain personally. Facebook and Amazon won’t let you get email addresses. Because that’s their platform. Social networks need to be used as lead generators. End of story.
Beyond getting out of Facebook’s tracking, your Google usage may also need a diet. You can also quit using Chrome (Try Brave – based on Chromium – or AdBlock – based on Firefox.) Those will quit giving your data to Google. (And they are both available on mobile.) Also, DuckDuckGo is a decent search engine that is also Google agnostic. (Try this: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Abooks2read.com+romance – and you’ll get different results than on Google. For instance, they don’t send you to Amazon every other link.)
I’ve also found that I don’t like traffic from search engines to my main site as it’s 50% bots. Meaning they drive up your bounce rate and never buy anything. So I’ll probably move more of my content over to subscriptions. But that is another back-burner blog topic, when I’ve been able to do more research and tests.
While I love gmail for being able to separate out social and promotional emails, I still get a lot of them. Recently, I’ve been doing the necessary work of unsubscribing from them. And I noticed that there is a network of “services” which are being pushed on authors via affiliate sales points.
What this showed was all the “authors” I was following who were part of that scammy marketing network. There’s this one guys who had supposedly six “Amazon bestsellers” and is constantly marketing for his $2,000 course. What you get is 90 days of handholding and additional upsale offers.
Follow authors who have a few dozen books out and are actively writing more. The ones who are working on their craft as their best promotion. Not just running ads and gaming the system.
The “authors” who are marketing all came from a marketing background. They “know” there is more “fast money to be made” in pushing courses than there is from the harder work of writing and publishing quality books. (And you can find them because they pitch each other’s stuff. Big giveaway. )
The trick with marketers, is that they are constantly changing their focus. These people cannot become well-loved, perennial-selling authors because they can’t execute for the long game. Authors get a following because they constantly improve their craft. Craft, not sales. Decades of writing, not just a handful of ebooks.
Perennial-selling authors will sell consistently, regardless of ad spends. Public Domain classics that are still popular prove this. Honest and dedicated authors are going to constantly improve their craft (and also ask for opt-ins, let’s be real here.) Look for the “bestsellers” held up only by ad-buys to disappear in a decade or less. Meanwhile, you keep cranking out your content, year in and year out, while you improve your reader experience in every story. Tell your most devoted fans about your new releases, of course. You’ll still be writing in 10 or 20 years. Because it’s your life, your passion.
(This post is triggering me to get my other backlogged posts out. So you’ll see a flurry of stuff published right after this, written over the last weeks, but not published. Then I’ll write the next week’s review, which will say that what I’ve caught up. You’ll then see another post that I’ll release on Monday for this week we are in. Then I should be getting these out on that schedule after that. Sunday is a day where I can pull all this data together, since it’s usually quiet.)
A Change in Newsletter Formats
Because I would rather have a newsy newsletter than these ones that are simply designed to get you to buy something. I almost did that this week, and then saw a couple of people who have been sending out newsletters since before email existed. And still have the same format.
Plus, when I got rid of all those “promotional” emails, I saw why I seldom opened any of them. They didn’t care about me, they only wanted to sell me something.
The ones I opened always had something of value to share. Even if I didn’t click on their paid webinars, I at least appreciated the first half. (Like their free webinars – duck out after the 50% mark. The rest is a typical sales letter.)
So, just like I don’t run ads, I won’t be sending out spammy emails after this.
I made it a point to make this into a podcast. But I put off recording as I had to write a bunch of stuff, edit it several times, record it and then edit the recording. Hours and hours of work.
The change will be that I’m going to free-write the blog post, and then free-record what I think is valuable. The blog post will be the outline, but I’m not going to talk it through verbatim.
Hopefully, I’ll get enough good content here that I can make it into a course. That’s work for another day. Ideally, a writer would convert all of his non-fiction work into podcasts and then a course as well. (Fiction writers should put their short works up as podcasts, for sure, with ads to buy the full book, especially in print.)
As below, let me know how you like it.
Thanks for Being Here
Again, it’s your support, even if tacit, that keeps me going.
Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Of course, sign up for an email newsletter below. You get access to all my subscriber-only material, with plenty of free data and downloads. Plus I don’t send out scammy affiliate offers (other than a quiet pitch for my own books and new releases.)