Fascinating changes this week. Surely a test of faith, vision, persistence. Nap Hill and Nightingale again show their brilliant wisdom. Starting this in the rain, two dogs by my feet at the the thunder…
The Great Writing Business Challenge – Week 24 Results
Instafreebie/PW: 16/51 (Actual vs. Reported: 31%)
Overall Total: 3252 (slow decrease, and continued slow onboarding from IF.)
Published Words Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 0, Medium: 0, Wattpad: 0
– paid – Book Outlets: 0, Medium: 0
Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 2093, Else: 0 (Medium)
– paid – Book Outlets: 0, Medium: 0
Fiction Books re-published with updates:
- Total: 20 to go, out of 111 total
Books In Progress:
- Rest of Hermione series
Book sales this week:
Note: Amazon Fiction – 1/26=not worth figuring%
Lulu sales for May: 2 ebooks, 139 paper/hardback (avg per week – 40 | avg. royalty – $3.40) only two fiction out of that, only reprints (none mine). Next report (for June) 15 July
New Podcast Episodes:
Did a survey to my subscribers to get more data about them. And did I ever – see below on new Instafreebie (IF) notes.
That’s taken a lot of my week. As well as setting up new books to go for this next week.
The core actions now finally distilled yesterday – to work in three batches.
As mentioned, a storm came up this am, which has pretty much put the cabosh on all my normal farm chores. Walking around and checking electric fence while lightning is flashing overhead is something I ruled out years ago. As well as getting soaked to the skin and filling up waterproof boots with water draining off my jeans into them.
So there are two family dogs looking to me for comfort and security – laying as close to me as they can while I start typing this.
Reports show the truth to Steve Scott’s phrase: “Amazon works as well as you send traffic to it.”
You’ll also see that if I’m after improving income goals, it has to take into account my non-fiction sales through Lulu and Amazon (soon – through D2D). Fiction is easy to get going, hard to get traction – but I’ve been publishing since 2006 through Lulu, so there’s over a decade of testing and building a perennial-selling backlist of titles. Original fiction: 18 months…
Key to Goal Achievement – Persistence and Coincidences
Some time back, I saw that I needed to use what I know and test it on myself.
This just got amplified and validated when I found what is routinely selling for me and has financed my foray into fiction writing.
Most of the books I’ve narrowed down as most valuable are mentioned – directly or indirectly – in the “Strangest Secret” recording-transcript. And obviously, starting from what works and what has routinely worked is better than testing the unknown and unproven.
I started the Great Fiction Writing Challenge last year to test out what I had uncovered about fiction writing. One of these was that it is a content business, and the model is Pulizzi’s “Content Inc.” So this Great Writing Business Challenge this year.
It’s going back, full circle, which isn’t all that surprising.
You do have to set your goals and envision/refine them daily. Two or more times each day. Again, see Nightingale and Nap Hill for why and how.
What I learned about Fiction Writing in 18 months
- Short stories are very useful in improving your writing habits and practices. They add up into anthologies, which can then be published and promoted.
- Writing fiction is fun – the way I do it. And it’s fairly easy, but takes discipline and persistence.
- Amazon is the writer’s graveyard. It’s not your first stop as a writer. It’s not the end-all of your success. Going exclusive throws away 50% of your possible income.
- Your first work as a writer is building audience. For an unknown author, you should post to Wattpad and develop audience there. The trick in this (in short) is to go ahead and publish what you have to Amazon first, then syndicate it to Wattpad as a completed work. (Because: Amazon bots are jealous.)
- Instafreebie (misnamed Prolific Works) is full of freebie seekers and new authors. See notes on this below. But they’ll give you a starter set of subscribers. You’ll then weed through these and replace them with organic subscribers.
- Get off any idea that you’re going to have instant success at fiction writing (or anything else.) Malcolm Gladwell famously misquoted the 10,000 hour rule, but made a point with it. Setting goals, persistence, planning, attaining specialized knowledge – and the rest of the Think and Grow Rich 13 points will get you there.
- Midlist authors tend to make a more sustainable, more stress-free lives than the “bestsellers”. Look at the bell-curve grade system – be in the 20% who make B’s and C’s while you skip the pressure to make A’s or anything else.
The failure of this model also showed up during this. I was basing a lot of it on an affiliate marketer named Geoff Shaw who used to run a course on training authors called “Kindling”. The core principle that made his students succeed weren’t stated. They were: 1) Exclusive to Amazon, 2) Running ads. Only testing this (and finding later posts after Shaw said he was shutting down his course) actually brought these to light. His “Kindling” course was another affiliate marketing ploy to game Amazon. Prolific writing for long periods of time just ingrains your habits of writing. Shaw’s use of ghost-writers just ingrains your editing, and makes you run a Patterson-type business.
Yes authors need to approach this as a business. Writing is more spiritual. Don’t take all this personal.
On ads – anecdotally, it looks like the Dawson FB ads course is primarily most useful to thriller writers. This genre produces addictive, consumable books. Same for romance. Needs more analysis to verify.
Your key points to learn as a beginning author is this:
- Learn to be prolific – love writing and write what you love. Write what you would like to find in the bookstores. Marketing starts after you find your author voice, and when you find what you are writing – then figure out what that genre/category is called and streamline your writing to those audience expectations.
- Learn to write in serials and series. Continuing long story arcs of characters. This is what Wattpad is for.
- Evolve and streamline your writing approach as in Becoming a Writer. Again, you don’t go backwards in time or your own writing. . If you feel you have to have outlines, character studies, storyboards, and multiple drafts to start with, fine. Eventually, you’ll be able to throw away the training wheels and speed up.
Here’s the bottom line: write once, revise/proof many times, publish – and don’t look back.
I do restudy my earlier works to make sure I get the character right in sequels or crossover appearances. (And still get misty-eyed at times.)
Smith says he never rereads anything – but that might be his ego talking. Again, I learned a lot from his courses (I’ve taken 6 – his classics are the best value.) But when his opinion started needing to be weeded out too frequently from the provable and workable basics he was teaching, it got in the way of my learning, so I was done with his training. (And his course on cliffhangers was just a list of lists – he never boiled down the principle which makes cliffhangers work: incomplete change.) And what I got from that was – it’s time to start teaching on my own.
A modified approach to inspired writing
My characters talk to me and tell me their story. I’m just the transcriptionist, sort of. You see, I leave out what I consider the dull parts. So I don’t outline, but I do have them tell me the story over and over while I work out what the key parts are. This is when I commit to writing several books in a series (all short stories) to buld a larger work. I need to know the big story arc without the details. I get a whisper of a story that is really big.
So I say – let’s do this in four parts. You need “pinch points” at each break – which become your cliffhangers. Some major change that is left incomplete. It will start in the middle of something changing. First part always sets up the characters and the setting. Between those is a pinch point, usually a big try/fail. Second part is the the heroes learning, but failing. Second pinch point is another try/fail. Third part is where they heroes take the fight to the enemy, who starts going on the defensive. Third pinch point is setting up for the final battle. Forth pat is the final battle (a try/succeed) and the validation for all that went before.
So I want to know what is the settings and major conflict in each of the four parts – which also each have their own four-part story arc – and the pinch points between them.
I may make notes of these, but I don’t cramp my style by saying these are etched in stone. If the story takes another bend in the road, I simply move with it. My job is to write it all down. And make sure I’m captivated by the story as I do. If I’m bored, so will be the reader. So – back up and revise/delete and come forward. I need to be in suspense and second-guessing the mystery all along. Getting misty-eyed at points. You put the creative mind in charge and then come back to have the editor mind do minor (MINOR) revisions so the text flows more smoothly for the reader. That’s the reason for proofing.
DW Smith (who, other than his big ego, has some good ideas) talks about constantly cycling through his books. But I prefer Brande’s use of the conscious and unconscious minds at work, rather than Smith’s brain-theory. (Note: Smith may be prolific, but he was never a pulp-fiction writer – born too late. And the brain is better explained by Nap Hill’s idea that it is more a broadcasting/receiving antenna. Scientists can’t find the mind, and their scientific/objective-based methodology throws out the other three methods of analysis – see Huna descriptions for these.) I don’t use his concept of cycling, as the story is generally over before I can do much “cycling” with it. Sure, I review things, sure I go back and put in the earlier references where they need to be (like red herrings and scene shifts) but short stories don’t lend themselves to his method – which seems to be designed for novels, mostly. That said, when you are working in parts like this, you will find need to go back and revise the earlier versions – just keep them updated in your published ebooks and free versions. I know that’s a pain. So maybe you want to hold off publishing, or limit your publishing to your ARC group, until you’re happy that the last story is done and everything is final.
Cycling is great for blog posts and emails. It still fits into write it once, proof it three times as I do. Probably where my short stories fit in. An average blog post of mine is often 2K words, my average short story is 6-8K words. My novel-length books are built out of (4-8) short stories. So you see how this all fits together.
Another note on Smith – he’s set up his own publishing company to publish and promote his works. His employee salaries are based on making his books succeed. Otherwise, he promotes his courses more than his own books – more lucrative, which also brings me back to fiction writers needing to diversify into non-fiction courses. (There should be more on this below.)
Copyblogger note: The flaming egoist is the same reason I don’t pay much attention to several authors at Copyblogger, including their founder. But several others there, I almost always read, save, and share. Because the people who are too into themselves are on a closed loop with a tiny reality. The people who are open-handedly sharing their journey – mistakes and successes – are invaluable. They have expanding universes of probably helpful data. (Oh, I don’t listen to their podcasts because I don’t have the time – my ears are better filled with the ones on this site, preferably classic and time-tested authors.)
Instafreebie failures and successes
This started out with the question of why my responsive list wasn’t buying more fiction books.
It turned out that I wasn’t seeing what was in front of me.
Instafreebie’s basic concept is to give away books for free to get subscribers. And their model still has them as the most affordable way to get a good number for subscribers fast. Their subscribers are also very responsive.
This survey also showed that you inherit the problem of people wanting free books, unwilling to invest income into more books, and having ereaders full of books they haven’t read yet – probably also free ones. 70% of these subscribers were in that category. Now that isn’t all of them. Out of over 3K subscribers, 45% (1450) opened and 7+% clicked (227). I got 73 surveys filled out. Statistically, something like 1% of your subscribers will originate or do anything.
What this actually did to was to put me into direct communication with these readers and get them involved more in the process of my book writing. Of course, having to individually answer 73 emails to give them books is a bit daunting – and I sill have some 20+ to go at this point. (And then open/answer their replies to my emails.)
But I did get a good proofer out of this, and another someone who will post reviews for every book he gets.
As I’ve covered, I generally get several people to unsubscribe with every email I send. Their choice. And what is left are people who are somehow in tune with my approach to fiction and writing. The crucible for both of us is sending weekly emails – and continuing to write-publish fiction every week.
What will result out of this is a core group of very involved readers. I give them stuff, they reciprocate by promoting my books. If they prove to be “can’t-fix-stupid” or just rude, I unsubscribe them. Life is too short as it is.
I’m still into the IF giveaways, and keep my books out there. I’ll need to update them all soon, as I finish updating them on the book outlets. And probably organize some new giveaways of my own. Meaning I’ll need to set up a content calendar.
The trick is that once they unsubscribe, I don’t get them back if they opt-in via IF again for another free book. So my percentage remains around 20-25% of the opt-in’s IF sends my way. This winds up being 10% of the total claims. So my books need to have good backmatter opt-ins – as a direct opt-in via my mail-list provider is probably the only way they can get back into my list (untested as yet.)
That 70% number almost made me seriously consider dropping fiction writing. But then I figured out another way to cross-check those numbers. And then realize that these were people who could at least leave reviews. (Regardless of Amazon’s scammer problems.) Simply tell them to leave them on Bookbub and Goodreads. That’s the next campaign.
And that is the point: you have to train your subscribers.
A revision of Backwards Book Publishing
This is evolving. As mentioned last week, a person wanted to help me build a webinar. This is another “idea-container” and adds on to the ebook-paperback-hardback-audiobook-course progression. You write backwards from making a course. But you also write backwards from building a webinar.
Your best talks are the TED talks, where they limit your video content to 14 minutes. Match this with the current model of 3-5 minute videos as module lessons in Udemy/Skillshare. Roughly three lessons per module on that idea. Plug in Jeff Walker’s sideways sales letter of three videos and a sales webinar, and you’ll start seeing a pattern here.
The core idea is to make these evergreen. So they deal in 1) Workable philosophy, 2) Principles, 3) Patterns, 4) Products. Those all lead to Profit and Planning – but the evergreen video deals with the top three, mainly. Product is pitching something you are making available as an upsell to what they are watching. Their product would be something that you’d help them build as a test from what you’re producing.
A 14 minute Ted talk is about 2800 words, if you talk fast. Three such talks would be 7400 words. With your backmatter, this is something you can make a paperback/hardback version of.
Record these as you write them and you have the audio book. Add powerpoint images to that audio and you have a video. Split those up into module-lessons and you’ll have a course.
Now, let’s dig into what we learned in fiction. Of course, this is writing three books over a story arc. The 3-act model says the second one is twice as long as the others. The short story model says the last part is the final win and the validation. Your fourth video (Jeff Walker model) then tells them where to go from there.
So, yes, you have four videos to produce, some 10.2K words. And it fits into the fiction model.
Each individual video has a marketing and story hook. Each story has a cliffhanger, which is taken up in the subsequent video. Each video leaves them wanting more – so they will then buy additional books/courses/material from you.
000-week24GWBCYou start backwards by writing four TED talks, a course from those, and all possible published formats of those books – all based on the same core ideas in that “idea-container”. The process is simply how to keep focused.
Each format of your “idea container” pitches the other formats of that one. Discount coupons, opt-in links, etc. The more versions of that “book” out there, the greater chance you have to sell multiple formats to the same customer. Can’t do that with fiction – unless your fiction books send them to your non-fiction on-boarding sequence (AKA: “funnel”).
Why fiction authors diversify into courses
100X income. Most of the modern “how-to” authors are telling the story of writing disposable fiction. And ebooks never disappear, they just drop out of sight when you quit paying to have them “sponsored” by Amazon.
You break out of this by simply learning and applying Schwartz’ Breakthrough Advertising – and quit being following the followers. (Write a quality that makes your books perennial top sellers – the ones that keep being sold with no advertising – see Gutenberg.org’s 100 top downloads.)
Fiction authors are on an endless treadmill, a squirrel-cage that goes nowhere. They have to continually produce new books, and market them continually. Diversifying into courses produces a higher income (closer to 100X what income you get out of a non-fiction book and makes an evergreen product that can be sold and re-sold regularly. (See Jeff Walker videos.)
Working in Big Batches
This was the next evolutionary step I ran into. Batches work. One day, one type of production. Two days to get a new story written-revised-proofed-published. Each week. Clockwork.
Big batches are the same concept on a larger scale. Stick to finishing up projects until they are done.
I have a) rest of emails, b) rest of fiction updates, c) rest of the four-part serialized series to write-publish.
So the resolution is to simply stick to each of these until they are done.
Then go back to daily batches.
Next coming up is to take these non-fiction books and fully re-publish those idea-containers fully. Working from the top-selling down. Because they each have their own tailored backmatter.
Now I can do a number of knowingly short-cutting these into placeholders so I get the opt-in subscribers from the routinely-top-selling books – then come back with a second pass to build the courses, webinars, etc. Probably a better idea. And that would include doing a survey to find out which ebooks used to sell for me (before Lulu delisted them.) So my income would increase again. Two batches, then.
The big batches:
- Rest of current emails send out to answer that survey.
- Rest (about 20) fiction boks updated
- Non-fiction books organized into groups and updated for subscribers (placeholders).
- Dig up and republish books that routinely sold (small amount) of ebooks and update/republish. Recover/reblurb as needed.)
Then get back into weekly batches to start posting podcasts and other content weekly. Back into writing-publishing fiction short stories weekly. Taking one non-fiction area and handling each book (idea-container) in that area through all possible formats in the highest-possible quality.
Somewhere around there, I start doing Walker-type launches for each set of material.
Most of the business books will be narrowed to teaching writers how to run businesses, under the brand “Becoming A Writer”
As a curious note – Lulu all-time report
I’m curious to find the books I’ve sold there, particularly the ebooks they delisted for me. Offhand my peak sales were in 2017 – probably ebooks.
I’ll then need to assemble a list of books that I currently have anywhere, and then compare these lists of titles to see what is missing where. I did this a couple of years ago, and need to build it from scratch again. Pulling down the Lulu data is a first step.
Preliminary reports show I’ve sold nearly 10K books in print through Lulu, an average of $3+ per print book.
Regular ebooks (not Lulu PDF’s) were about 5.5K ebooks at an average of $1.40 each.
Now I can compile my lists.
BTW, the earliest book sales date was November 2006.
Again, too bad Lulu has been allowed to get long in the tooth. (and took the step of delisting my ebooks.) At least now I have a complete list of “ever-sold” titles and can find the top-sellers out of these. 211 ebook titles total. Print and ebooks are remarkably different. (I haven’t distributed anything with them as an ebook aggregator for a few years now (since someone there dumped my books without notice – so this is another testing deal.)
When I get back to this, I’ll have the data. This doesn’t give current bestselling books on other platforms (Amazon is ridiculously hard to get – and requires you download data without fail every quarter on that exact date.)
Some Lulu titles might be better just to republish through them. If I’m reworking the backend, probably not – buy maybe. It will be faster to republish these there if I won’t be doing anything with them. None go to Amazon, so the PD is probably a good choice there – unless StreetLib gives me better royalty terms…
There is also another batch job of getting all these fiction works up on both PubD and SL. I’ve been getting regular payments now from both of them, so it might be worth the effort.
Program again is to get the earlier top-selling books back into circulation as a batch job of its own. Probably relegate this to one day per week. (Thurs) Tue-Wed will be Non-Fiction republishing. Fri-Sat is new ficton book writing-publishing. Sun is this report and catch up otherwise (spillover from writing-publishing.) Mon is emails.
Again, we are in big batch mode right now. Wrapping incomplete jobs up.
Note the successful models recurring in the above:
- Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc.
- Jeff Walkers Product Launch
- Working backward from existing sales
Last Week’s To-Do’s
- Emails out – blitz (Mon) Fiction, ARC, LS YUP
- New book written and published NOPE
- Re-publish fiction through all possible time this week – get all these re-published.NOPE
- In any spare time, set up new giveaways on IF and StoryOrigin NOPE
- Thursday auction NOPE – two loads of this week’s hay came in.
This week’s to-do’s
- Emails out – blitz (Mon) Fiction, ARC, LS YUP
- Rest of survey emails out
- Rest of fiction books updated
- Segment non-fiction books and begin updating in segments
- Thursday auction
Also published on Medium.