Some progress in courses. Used life’s situations to inspire a book – or used a book to defuse a life situation. Either way, it worked.
The Great Writing Business Challenge – Week 37 Results
Instafreebie/PW: 123/371 (Actual vs. Reported: 33.1%) 4 non-IF subscribes. 417 no-openers moved off.
Overall Total: 3115 (Overdue overboarding disguised this as “slow growth”. New giveaways producing new readers. 3 new giveaways started Sept 1 and are producing more than others, right according to strategy. Yet these overboard in the same percentages. People wanting free giveaways are freebie-seekers, by definition. Maybe 20% will stay on, and 70% of those don’t intend to buy – ever. I’ll try to fit in another survey this week of people who have stayed on my list after a year…)
Book sales – October Monthly sales:
Next Lulu report for Sept – due Oct 15
Note: I’m quitting the weekly reporting as its more discouraging than informative. Monthly reports will give more valuable data in terms of trends.
Published Words Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 0, Medium: 0, Wattpad: 0
– paid – Book Outlets: 9703, Medium: 0
Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – Own Site: 772 this blog, Else: 0 (Medium)
– paid – Book Outlets: 0, Medium: 0
Fiction Books re-published with updates:
- No recent progress – will be addressed after courses.
Books In Progress:
- “Felicity”, “Sitting Felicity”, “Their Eyes” – a trilogy now.
- “Walkaway Blues” sequel “Walkaway Diner Doubts”
- “Hermione (5)“
- Books 3, 4 & 5 of Hooman Saga (several above are prequels to this.)
Courses in Progress:
- “Strangest Secret”,
- “Get Everything You Want Out of Life”,
- “If You Can Count to Four…”,
- “Completely Change Your Life in 30 Seconds” – all in alpha (see below).
New Podcast Episodes:
- Some progress in courses. Got scammed this last week from that eBay mess, and recovering. Work is the best salve – earning more income than I can waste.
- (Did get a new set of audio burned to hard drive for processing…)
“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
Course work stopped this week, after a dear pet died – and that inspired a book to deal with the upset.
One of my more “tissue-alert” books if you’ve had any deaths in your own family to get over. Took Thurs – Sat, start to finish. Final proofing and review took far longer than I recalled.
Surprise – Fiction Income Isn’t Instant
“Back-of-the-envelope” figuring shows that fiction is no instant money-maker. But even my non-fiction took years to develop into a decent scene – and the books that sell are extremely rare, but follow my passions and interests. Both are long-haul to build your brand.
The people who make the most money on fiction are selling courses (and scams) to wannabe also-ran authors. Like anyone who tells you that your books need to look, read, and get described like all the rest. They’re telling you to write also-ran fiction (so you won’t be any real competition to them.)
My email list is mostly fiction readers – over 3K of them. Almost all from Instafreebie/PW. A 40% open rate, and 3% click (10% of those who clicked). Maybe 3% of those actually buy books. Meaning 3% of 4% – or .1% (one out of a thousand). 3 books sold per weekly email, on average. So I’m running a non-profitable scene on fiction. 12 books per month hardly is sustainable. And far from what was ballyhooed by all these characters. Even my email coach said I needed to have about 18K list – and needed to advertise to get them – in order to get anywhere.
The real point is that I’ve done this backwards, as covered before. Instafreebie fills your list with freebie-seekers. Amazon buries your books somewhere between immediately and instantly. I should have simply published wide and shipped those books by chapter to Wattpad.
Non-fiction is far more profitable – without needing a list or even advertising. The trick is that I like writing fiction, and any list has to be maintained. At least I now have a nice scene going that isn’t taking a lot of time.
Building courses does take a lot of time and work. Just to get everything right. But the payoff is reputedly 100x income that you’d get from a book.
Fiction is currently disposable. So it’s seems like the consensus is you have to keep feeding the beast in order to get anywhere. But mainly, you need a thick hide and simply enjoy the writing process. Sure, set up a free or very low cost email service to gather subscribers, but don’t sweat the load.
Practically, you’re better off simply telling them what you put up on Wattpad that week and how they can buy your printed works. And a little personal data. But mainly – your guess is as good as mine.
The real core solution is to follow your bliss – set your goal and keep it in front of you at all times, with that feeling of having it already accomplished. Then release any non-supportive feelings you get – as in “If You Can Count to Four…”
The other point is to streamline your life to just what you need to do, to burn your bridges so you’re completely devoted to your own success. The inspired solutions you’ll get will be from “out of the blue” and those are the ones to act on.
Here’s the people I followed into this fiction scene:
- Geoff Shaw – “Teachable”. That course is gone. He’s always been an affiliate marketer. Pushed KDP Select and “also-ran” writing to market. Most of his advice hasn’t proved out in wide markets.
- Nick Stephenson – wrote some fiction, then started working full time on his courses. Started out in marketing.
- Mark Dawson – made his claim to fame on thrillers backed up by Facebook advertising. Facebook was since discovered to have a business plan of ripping off your personal data. Dawson had a $1M year on Amazon in 2018. Good for him. I mostly hear about the many courses he’s pushing. His “successes” mostly all write “thrillers”.
- DW Smith – known for writing contracted fan-fiction and his many courses (and opinions). Nice basics, but you have a lot of material to study in addition to his in order to get out of the “also-ran” category. Again, test everything.
- Tim Grahl – wrote one fiction and a few non-fiction books. Quit his author services business to only run courses. Note that “no one school has all the teachers.”
- Chris Fox – known more for his “write to market” non-fiction books than his fiction. (Most “write to market” advice trains you as an also-ran author.)
- Steve Scott – affiliate marketer who discovered how to game Amazon with thin non-fiction books (disposable, not perennial-selling classics) Launched his own course on authoring.
Of those, they’ve all made a nice living by writing. Most have written fiction. All have branched into (or focused entirely on) non-fiction books and usually courses. (You can see where I got the idea that successful writers are either marketers-turned-authors or authors who learned to market.) Sorry it’s so sardonic. Only one taught me anything about writing – the others are on the mechanics of making Amazon pay you – and everything I’ve learned I’ve had to test. The bottom line is that the vast majority of what they’ve taught is a lot of pumped-up hope balloons.
Yes, I’ve invested heavily in other people’s writing how-to books and courses. Shaw was the one I thought I could follow and did – but only lately found out his “success” was again based on gaming Amazon – or willingly being played by them. (Meanwhile, Amazon has paid less and less to their KU authors – more than 50% less than when they started with KU. Your margin is their opportunity, so you can just go ahead and race to the bottom like the rest of the also-ran’s publishing there.)
Again, most of these authors above are making a sizeable if not entire income from “helping” authors. There are probably a dozen more also-ran’s who aren’t worth mentioning. (Oh – and if they have a “this prize” or “that bestseller list” by their name, it’s a vanity thing. Pick up their books and see if you can stand to get through the first couple of chapters. I mostly can’t when I’ve tried. One for one.) Also, ignore everyone that has saving time or earning money in their headline – it’s a scam.
All these do show that individual success is possible. Duplicating their success isn’t. Your success will be individual to yourself. If you want to write thrillers and advertise them, that seems to be the best bet (see Dawson, above – or Amanda Hocking for Romance). Get known for something (build your brand over time) and then diversify into courses seems to be the next step.
Marketers are doing major shifts all the time. Regularly changing their model. Usually within just a couple of years. Because what they were doing either didn’t work or didn’t keep working.
There’s more to boil down in marketing. Teaching about writing is like anything else – all non-fiction areas are silo’s. Tall and deep. Audiences in these tend to buy several versions of those books – and courses built on them. The amount of competition for the eyeballs of writer-wannabe’s is intense. And 90% crud. Some of my books sell in this area, but it’s just enough to stand out as an area that needs more support. Behind three other areas ahead of it in continuing sales that have nothing to do with each other, particularly. Silo’s inside my own broad interests.
But where there are regular sales I don’t have to advertise to get, there are people who I can get into courses and additional versions of those books.
That’s the approach I’m taking right now. While keeping my fiction going at a more moderate pace as I catch up all these more profitable non-fiction silo’s with additional material they want.
I love to create new stuff. Non-fiction just seems to take a bit longer to get it right.
Steps to Build Your Fiction Brand
- Realize that you are building a brand, a long-haul approach. Test all advice carefully, and ignore any articles or books that have time or money in their headline. Figure you’re going to be writing for some 5 years before you can get any real traction. There never has been any get-rich-quick.
- Set up a schedule where you can write daily, read daily, and publish regularly. Which means you’re day job will be paying your operating costs to begin with.
- Get your own site (can be a blogger blog) and your email service. This is where you’ll send readers for updates – and sell books directly. You’ll need to be able to allow people to directly subscribe with you.
- Set up local sales via Gumroad so you publish here as well as the other book distributors.
- Get the equivalent of 10 novels published at prices on par with others of that length – but ignore the temptation to advertise these. Instead, post the first few books by chapters to Wattpad. Your priority is building audience.
- Work out someone with artistic and proofing skills who can help you with your covers and editing needs.
- Publish to Amazon last, after your other aggregators, but before Wattpad. Publish wide. Ignore the temptation to master the quirks of Amazon for now. Direct to Digital is the current market leader. You can also invest time in using PublishDrive and Streetlib to reach European and Asian markets – but have to avoid duplicating books across their platforms.
- When you start advertising in earnest, study and learn both Bookbub and Kobo. These are the only current places where honest book discovery is possible, per my research. Everything else is an also-ran, at best. Once you have stable income from the Bookbub->Kobo setup, then expand into Amazon. Expect no better than 50% of your income from Amazon.
Note1: I no longer suggest you try to jumpstart your income by getting subscribers from Instafreebie or KingSumo giveaways, etc. These are filled with freebie-seekers, obviously. I’ve found only 30% actually buy anything – yet you have to pay to keep mailing them to keep them “engaged”. Cherish your back-ad and on-site opt-in’s – those are the real reading audience.
Note2: Realize that the bulk of the advice out there is crud. Test everything – every. single. thing. that you run across for workability with your own resources. Including what I say. Your mileage will definitely vary.
My Steps to Take About Subscribers
Mainly, quit worrying about numbers. Get back to being ruthless about overboards – someone can’t open a single weekly email in three months, they aren’t probably going to click on something. Much less buy anything. All that having these people around does is to lower the numbers of real activity. So I’ve sent them all a “still interested?” email and will then overboarded the still non-openers two days later. (90+% will open in two days.)
That was eye-opening. Updated the dates to affect everyone who hadn’t opened in 90 days and had signed up more than 90 days prior. Over 430 slackers in that list. Takes me down to around 3000 subscribers. Since I’ve excluded these from my weekly emails this week, that should raise the opens and clicks markedly. (I’ll update this.) Ended up cutting 411 of them off. Stats from Mailerlite reflected their lifetime open and click rates, not the last 90 days.
Always testing. I don’t need freebie-seekers, and I don’t need no-openers. This was a severe action (by some other’s accounts) to keeping my list cleaned up. If people aren’t buying or even opening my stuff, I hardly need to keep promoting to them. But I’ll give them half a chance to stay on. (And this week, an even dozen out of over 400 took that opportunity.)
- 42% of those now-departed were of the no-openers were Instafreebie opt-in’s from my books.
- 5% were from elsewhere.
- The remaining 53% were subscribers from my “verified” status giveaways.
Nice to know. Still follows the line of freebie-seekers. And points to spending time on simply doing ad-spend for actual readers to get back-of-book opt-ins.
Frankly, I was earlier expecting to retain only 10% of the IF opt-in’s. I’ll need to run a year-over-year retention workout to see if that’s still the case…
I have 1365 IF subscribers that have been on my list for over a year – and 231 haven’t opened anything in the last 90 days. So an estimated 1134 subscribers will be staying after this week’s overboarding. Out of 5873 sent me by IF more than a year ago (which is 30% of claims, so 19,576 books given away to get these). That gives a hair under 20% retention. That revises my earlier estimate of 25%. 9891 total IF subscribers to date – and I can expect that list to be running just under 2,000 retained. Still paying for IF, so I’ll continue to use their systems to find those 6% claim-takers that will open and click.
Since my last survey said that 70% were freebie seekers and had no intention of buying anything, this predicts that most of those departures are in that group.
Building this as a segment gives me a new survey to do on the “old-timers” who have stuck around and kept opening emails.
Current Non-Fiction Silo
This is “goal achievement”. Based on a perennial top-selling “How to Completely Change Your Life in 30 Seconds“. That is built from “The Strangest Secret” transcript. Right now, I’m building out a course for that book and three related courses. I’ll be re-publishing the audiobook for this into Findaway to get it going wide, as it’s earlier version is exclusively on Audible at their price-structure. I also have a derivative series of books built from that course material that can each have their own audiobook. All the books in this series need to be updated, with at least more extensive backmatter that will have discount coupons for the courses.
Books are all in ebook, paperback, hardback, and deluxe hardback. Also, audiobook versions. Courses and even webinars for them. Bookbub ads to the loss-leader ebooks. Mini-courses are also syndicated to Udemy and Skillshare. (Those derivative books above, with their own audio, would be logical low-cost course-prospects.) All books and courses recommend the other “idea-container” versions of the book.)
Next silo’s (in the next year):
- Copywriting Classics – a review guide to Eugene Schwartz sells well, as well as one by Collier.
- Cattle Grazing – a book on “rational grazing” by Voison leads these references.
- Becoming a Writer (based on Brande’s perennial-selling classic of that name).
- Huna series – Max Freedom Long’s PD and orphan works sell some every month.
What has worked in book publishing for me
Finding high demand areas with public domain or orphan non-fiction works.
Too simple. A lot of hard work. As mentioned, statistics on these are that 50% never sell, 20% sell somewhat, 3% or less sell very well.
Those few are the ones you then go all-out in publishing to all formats. Because they’ll sell in all formats.
Takes a few years for them to prove their worth. All without advertising, building on the demand for that author or information about that area.
Here’s something these current fiction authors won’t try: quit advertising your current topseller for 6 months and see if it’s become a perennial top-selling book. Flinched? Exactly.
That’s where fiction booksales are today. Buy promotion – or get buried on Amazon. Because they’ve short-cutted building their real audience.
By adding promotion to books that are already selling, you then are just leveraging something that is already working on its own.
How to Write a Blockbuster “Big Book”
DW Smith recommends Albert Zuckerberg’s “Writing the Blockbuster Novel”. (DW Smith had an offer at one point to be trained into writing blockbusters, but turned that coach down.)
In that book we have some basics. That link above gives more on what follows.
- The blockbuster book is defined as one that sells hundreds of thousands of hardbacks
- Zuckerberg defines the audience as: “That public, which is affluent (with hardcover novels these days costing between twenty-five and forty dollars) and which comprises no more than 3 percent of our population, also tends to favor stories set in the worlds of characters who are powerful, rich, and famous, as opposed to environments inhabited by convicts, small farmers, blue-collar workers, welfare recipients, or even “average” middle-class families.”
Meaning: Bi-coastal elites, mainly. Very limited audience. (Not the type who made the Harry Potter series into bestsellers, or who routinely buy Louis L’Amour or Max Brand perennial top sellers. And you can see why I say test all advice. Especially from “experts”.)
What makes a “Blockbuster” (per Zuckerberg):
High Stakes – “The first thing to note about a big novel is that what’s at stake is high—for a character, a family, sometimes a whole nation. The life of at least one major character is usually in peril. But more than that, in this type of book the individual at risk often represents not just himself, but a community, a city, an entire country.”
Dramatic Question – “[T]he book’s spine—the ongoing central conflict around which its major characters interact, the main issue that drives and unites its myriad scenes—couldn’t be more basic and clear-cut. This novelistic foundation is its suspense factor, which I call the dramatic question.”
High Concept – “[I]n essence a radical or even somewhat outlandish premise. Can a young lawyer escape a seemingly respectable law firm that secretly launders money for the Mafia, whose hoods kill any attorney who even talks about trying to leave?”
Setting – “Readers of popular books enjoy escaping into the minds, hearts, and vicissitudes of fictional characters, but they also like to be drawn into new, unfamiliar, and even exotic environments.”
Larger-Than-Life Characters – “Characters in fiction, as in life, are defined by what they do, and in big novels the main characters do extraordinary things.”
Multiple Points of View – “The story is not primarily narrated by an omniscient author or by a single character in the novel in the first person, but rather expressed through the feelings, thoughts, and sensibilities of a small number of major characters.”
Now, boil that down to essentials:
Ordinary, relatable characters find themselves placed in a dramatic, high stakes situation – where they search within themselves to take extraordinary actions – in order to resolve an eternal theme that is presented through a radical premise – and who describe the developing story through their own feelings, thoughts, and sensibilities – all while performing in an unfamiliar and even exotic environment (to the reader).
- Ordinary, relatable characters find themselves placed in a dramatic, high stakes situation
- where they search within themselves to take extraordinary actions
- in order to resolve an eternal theme that is presented through a radical premise
- and who describe the developing story through their own feelings, thoughts, and sensibilities
- all while performing in an unfamiliar and even exotic environment (to the reader).
So you see there why Harry Potter and Louis L’Amour continue to sell well. You don’t have to buy hardbacks and live in New York or L.A. to appreciate them. This also explains long-running TV series and movie-franchises. See also Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces” and Vogler’s “Writer’s Journey”
Take your writing into those realms and you’ll solve the perennial top-seller scene. Which is after you solve getting regular inspiration coming your way and your own prolificity.
(See also Francis L. Fugate’s “The Story Telling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner” for another workable approach.)
Last week’s to-do’s:
- Emails out – blitz (Sun/Mon) – Yup
- Strangest Secret videos created and uploaded – Nope
- Strangest Secret pages with action steps and downloads (to beta) – Nope
- Publish to Wattpad and Medium (Sat) – Nope
This week’s to-do’s:
- Emails out – Blitz (Sun/Mon) –
- Strangest Secret downloads uploaded and linked.
- Other two mini-courses downloads created, uploaded, linked.
- Publish to Wattpad and Medium (Sat)
- If possible, set up a survey of my subscribers who click through and have been on my list for over a year.