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HOT TOPIC Are Non-Fiction "to do" Books Facing an Existential Crisis?

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MTF

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@ChickenHawk, update?

Also, could you please share your yearly percentage increase/decrease in profit over the last years? Here's mine taking 2015 as baseline:

2015: baseline, it was my first full year
2016: +350% (compared to 2015)
2017: +111% (compared to 2016)
2018: -15% (compared to 2017)
2019: -59% (compared to 2018)
2020: -21% (compared to 2019)

Best year (2017) vs 2020: -72% decline

@MJ DeMarco I'm curious about your data as well if you're comfortable sharing it. Just percentages.

I'm wondering if self-publishing is a declining industry due to massive competition. It comes not only from other authors but also other types of content.

For example, why read a how-to book when you can watch a YouTube video (for free, and maybe even learn faster for many skills) or why read fiction if you can entertain yourself with a TV show (which is actually cheaper with a Netflix subscription than if you have to pay for each book, unless it's enrolled in KDP Select).

Or maybe it's just me and I'm looking for confirmation that the industry is declining while in fact I'm just becoming irrelevant.
 

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MJ DeMarco

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I'm curious about your data as well if you're comfortable sharing it. Just percentages.

I don't really count book sales or pay much attention to individual numbers, but YOY (and month to month), my revenues continue to climb, every year better than the last. Both my books sell better today, than they did a few years ago. And with a new book, I'm sure that trend will continue, even if that book doesn't perform the same.

Not to dismiss your point, I think actually it is a good one. You're suggesting that the immediacy of information is an existential threat to the industry? Soon to be replaced by YouTube and other "on demand" knowledge sources?

I dare to admit, it is an excellent point -- my numbers don't reflect that, but that doesn't mean your speculation is incorrect.
 

MTF

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Both my books sell better today, than they did a few years ago.

Wow, these are solid, time-tested bestsellers then. I mean, it's kind of obvious to me but I'm glad to hear that they're selling better than ever, confirmed by market demand.

In my case, my first books continue to sell best (though now it's shifting to translations). Anything recent sucks sales-wise, even by far the best book I've ever written. But maybe that one was the wrong topic.

Either way, I have a friend in the same niche and he's also observing a steady decline. Not that it means anything of course. There may be hundreds new authors who are killing it and I don't know them.

Not to dismiss your point, I think actually it is a good one. You're suggesting that the immediacy of information is an existential threat to the industry? Soon to be replaced by YouTube and other "on demand" knowledge sources?

For non-fiction, I think it is a big risk. Not that books will disappear. But many people may shift to other types of content that work better for them.

For world-class video how-to, you now have Masterclass. Then there are the cheaper e-learning platforms like Udemy and Skillshare. Then of course YouTube and also countless blogs, podcasts, courses, communities, and other digital products. Even narrative non-fiction and its educational/entertaining value can be replaced by well-produced independent documentaries.

I myself, when looking for a book, pretty much always check publication date now (unless it's evergreen stuff like spirituality). In most cases, I wouldn't buy a how-to book that was published 5-10+ years ago.

The world changes too fast for books to keep up. For example, when I wanted to learn about cryptocurrency, I wanted to read an easy, comprehensive book about it. But since it's such a fast-changing industry, in the end I read free blog articles and watched some YouTube videos.

Books seem to be too old school for many modern inventions. Classics won't go out of fashion but I'm afraid that in many new industries, books just aren't the best way of sharing information anymore.

If you want to, say, plant a fruit forest, would you rather learn from a mostly non-visual, non-interactive book or from a consistently updated blog or YouTube channel where you can ask the content creator questions directly?

Again, not saying books will die. But there seems to be a risk that they'll become less and less relevant. Sort of like stage plays vs movies vs watch-at-home TV shows now vs webisodes/vlogs and all that stuff.

Or maybe I'm entirely wrong and assume things just because it's not going as well for me as it did a few years ago.
 

MJ DeMarco

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The world changes too fast for books to keep up.

Yes, which is why I try to stick to concepts and strategies that will be relevant today, and 10+ years from now. This is why TMF still sells, it is as relevant today as it was in 2010.

When people bitch about lack of "actionable advice" in various books, they fail to realize that anything actionable today is not actionable in 12 months. That's why I stick to only transcendent ideas and concepts that will stand the test of time.

Marketing books tend to be out of flavor by the time they get to print -- the last marketing book I bought discussed hacking Craigslist which was great in 2013, but it doesn't work today (and the guy even admitted so), so why waste 2 chapters talking about it?

"Books" = non-fiction?

Or do you think fictional stories as well?
 

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"Books" = non-fiction?

Or do you think fictional stories as well?

Forgot to add it to my previous post...

I think that fiction fares better as it doesn't have such a direct competitor as non-fiction. I mean, TV shows and silly YouTube/TikTok etc. videos do compete as they also offer entertainment/provoke emotions etc. But non-fiction is most of the time purely utilitarian so whatever gets the job done best wins. Meanwhile, fiction is almost 100% emotional. And particularly romance/erotica which seems to be like 90% of the fiction market.

Also, many fiction genres are very underrepresented in a (high-quality high-budget) TV show format (for example fantasy and sci-fi) so people who like this stuff don't have alternatives for escape into these different worlds.

As a side note, this is probably just me, but I used to enjoy reading fiction more. Nowadays, with just a few exceptions, it bores me (I mostly read sci-fi/fantasy). It's just the same story I've read before, often written in such a way as to hit all the right cliches in the genre so that the reader feels comfortable. And even if the first book is great, often sequels are terrible (I was excited to read Ready Player Two only to give up reading the same day and return the book for a refund).

Maybe I need to learn how to find better lesser-known fiction because the stuff that dominates the bestseller lists now is terrible. In whatever category you check on Amazon, it's swarmed with cheap romance stories (check fantasy, it's some silly shapeshifter romance; check sci-fi, you get some alien prince BS).

This is IMO a big challenge for Amazon as their bestseller lists are cluttered with this crap. This is also a huge challenge for non-romance, non-erotica authors as it doesn't matter in what category you list your book, you'll be competing for space with these titles.
 

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Yes, which is why I try to stick to concepts and strategies that will be relevant today, and 10+ years from now. This is why TMF still sells, it is as relevant today as it was in 2010.

When people bitch about lack of "actionable advice" in various books, they fail to realize that anything actionable today is not actionable in 12 months. That's why I stick to only transcendent ideas and concepts that will stand the test of time.

Just to give a consumer's perspective, without even trying to write in proper English (I'm French speaking and I drank 2 strong Belgian beers already :p):

Like you @MTF , when I can, I prefer a 10 minutes video that will give me the "how to" solution I'm looking for.

Recently: I could get up to speed on advanced concepts of genetics and bio techs for a new IT project I work on, in just over 1 hour! thanks to a specific youtube channel. 10 years ago it would have taken me hours to go through written documentation and connect the dots to get to the same level of understanding.

BUT, I still buy paper books that I consider references in their domain.
Books that I will go back to, over and over again, because they improved my understanding of reality.

Like the books of @MJ DeMarco and other books of the same quality that reveal in detail "universal laws" that are unknown to most people (e.g. about the psychology of people at the office, in sales, in relationships,...)

Info that is life-changing and that is not talked about at school, or in the media.
And when an expert shares his understanding with us that way, it is worth spending hours reading every details of his/her book. And go back to it on a regular basis.

Many youtube channels will pretend that they have that info, but they are just providing part of the info (and sometimes they will insert counter-productive info on purpose) because their business model requires the users to come back over and over for more.

For the rest: youtube and Google cover most of my needs.

And for fiction books, I can't tell, I don't take the time for it anymore.
 

.B.

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BUT, I still buy paper books that I consider references in their domain.
Books that I will go back to, over and over again, because they improved my understanding of reality.

Like the books of @MJ DeMarco and other books of the same quality that reveal in detail "universal laws" that are unknown to most people (e.g. about the psychology of people at the office, in sales, in relationships,...)

Info that is life-changing and that is not talked about at school, or in the media.
And when an expert shares his understanding with us that way, it is worth spending hours reading every details of his/her book. And go back to it on a regular basis.

What I forgot to say, that can be important in terms of sales:

I buy these life-changing reference books, not once only.
Every time that I want to make a valuable gift to a friend, I buy a paper version of the reference book that I think will most benefit him/ her right now to offer as a present.

So for such life-changing reference books, there is no need for the author to produce more books to make the most of the existing customer base.

It's as @MJ DeMarco said: word of mouth marketing, compounded with the fact that each reader is likely to buy many copies of the same book to offer them to people he cares about.
 

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I'm wondering if self-publishing is a declining industry due to massive competition. It comes not only from other authors but also other types of content.

For example, why read a how-to book when you can watch a YouTube video (for free, and maybe even learn faster for many skills) or why read fiction if you can entertain yourself with a TV show (which is actually cheaper with a Netflix subscription than if you have to pay for each book, unless it's enrolled in KDP Select).

Or maybe it's just me and I'm looking for confirmation that the industry is declining while in fact I'm just becoming irrelevant.
I don't know much about your industry, but this is correct. There's more entertainment than ever, just one click away, and mostly for free or very cheap. It's just ridiculous. You could spend your entire life just consuming entertainment non-stop and not cover even a fraction of it. So many content creators are suffering, not only from the increasing competition in their niches, but from the time that YouTube, Facebook, etc. take from their customers. It's not going to get any better.
 

Lex DeVille

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Home Depot (and maybe other stores) uploads to Youtube. They have all sorts of tutorials and "how-tos" with step-by-step instructions for DIY projects. They list out the materials, and then they sell the materials to the viewer.

Woodworkers are creating videos showing how to build things. Then they upsell step-by-step plans with all of the materials, pictures etc. My dad keeps buying them so he can build things in his garage.

I even turned to Youtube to set up my table saw the other day. Didn't bother with the instruction manual because some dude had a step-by-step video tutorial with helpful hints and tips.

Going forward it may be necessary to have some kind of video content to establish feelings of trust and knowing with the audience. Once they feel like they know you, then they will buy from you.

I can't imagine turning to kindle before YouTube anymore. It just wouldn't make sense unless I really value the individual author's content style or branding, or the topic is just so niche that nobody else has good content in that space.
 

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Going forward it may be necessary to have some kind of video content to establish feelings of trust and knowing with the audience. Once they feel like they know you, then they will buy from you.

When I had issues building my current chair I had to go on YouTube and find some ghetto YT channel with 30 subscribers who just so happened to be building my same chair. The video quality wasn't that great, but it was good enough to get the job done. I couldn't have done it without its help.

If only the company had done the same, with better picture quality and explanation...I'd trust them a lot more. When people ask me for a gaming chair I don't instantly suggest mine (despite the fact that it is pretty good!), I may have done it if I didn't run into issues building it. Which could have been prevented or solved easily by having a company-approved building video.

Some user manuals have a QR code in them that you can scan with your phone and takes you directly to a video guide on YouTube on how to build or use the product. I could also look up the video by myself on YT. It's useful for the end user and it can be used for upsells like you said.
 

MTF

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BUT, I still buy paper books that I consider references in their domain.

This definitely applies to established topics. But it seems to be less and less relevant for new industries unless the writer is extremely careful to cover only the unchanging fundamentals (which may be hard to identify).

Every time that I want to make a valuable gift to a friend, I buy a paper version of the reference book that I think will most benefit him/ her right now to offer as a present.

The problem is that many people don't want print books anymore. I prefer Kindle and would even pay twice the price of a print book just for the convenience of an e-book. And gifting an ebook is weird lol.

I don't know much about your industry, but this is correct. There's more entertainment than ever, just one click away, and mostly for free or very cheap. It's just ridiculous. You could spend your entire life just consuming entertainment non-stop and not cover even a fraction of it. So many content creators are suffering, not only from the increasing competition in their niches, but from the time that YouTube, Facebook, etc. take from their customers. It's not going to get any better.

Even I, a person who used to read a lot more in the past, now spend way more time online than reading. Which is something I'd like to change. But the truth is that for education, I'm now finding it easier to search the Internet and search for whatever specific thing I want to learn than look for a book that will (maybe) answer my question (and often is outdated).

As for entertainment, I spend way less time both reading fiction and watching TV shows. YouTube is probably more or less the same.

I can't imagine turning to kindle before YouTube anymore. It just wouldn't make sense unless I really value the individual author's content style or branding, or the topic is just so niche that nobody else has good content in that space.

Do you still buy any books? Fiction, any kind of non-fiction? Would you say that you're consuming fewer books because you get the same stuff you're looking for elsewhere, whether it be entertainment or education?

@ChickenHawk, sorry for ruining your progress thread with this discussion...
 

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Lex DeVille

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Do you still buy any books? Fiction, any kind of non-fiction? Would you say that you're consuming fewer books because you get the same stuff you're looking for elsewhere, whether it be entertainment or education?

@ChickenHawk, sorry for ruining your progress thread with this discussion...

Maybe this needs a separate topic?

I buy print books when they would make a good fit for my shelf or when I think I would want to mark them up with highlights for fast reference.

I buy kindle books for "How Tos" in off-the-cuff niches. For instance, I've purchased kindle books on D/s Relationships and the Phone Sex Industry within the last 6 months.

The only fiction I've ever bought was print and those were Harry Potter, and the Darth Bane Star Wars trilogy.

Mostly I buy audio, but I don't want audio for anything where I want to return later for reference material. More challenging subjects are better in book format where I can see the words and process the information at my own speed. Sometimes I re-read a sentence a bunch of times before what is being said sinks in.
 

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The problem is that many people don't want print books anymore. I prefer Kindle and would even pay twice the price of a print book just for the convenience of an e-book. And gifting an ebook is weird lol.

You are right totally right @MTF :

I have 180 books on my smartphone (Kindle)
+ 130 free samples (also Amazon/Kindle).

Since I moved house more than a dozen time,I had to throw away too many paper books. So I only want to buy a paper book when I know that I will want to take my annotated version of the print book with me next time I travel.

Often my buying process is, first the electronic version:
1) download the free sample,
2) if at the end of the free sample I feel the urge to read more, then I buy it. If not, it stops there. (Amazon's free samples are great for the consumer, but that must negatively impact the sales of many authors)
4) If it seems really interesting, but I don't have the time to read per se, I also buy the Audible version to listen to it while doing sthg else.

( I remembered that I also read fiction on Kindle but that's only when I want to practice a foreign language. E.g. I bought some nice fiction books in Spanish when I lived in Spain).

5) Then, like @Lex DeVille, I will buy the printed version of a book (that I already read on Kindle/Audible) when the book has so much value that:
- I will want to mark pages, highlight parts, summarize parts, add notes...
- I will want to go back to them over and over again, and be able to flip through the book to jump from one section to the other, or to review key elements.
It's hard to get that feeling of overview with a Kindle.


And my comment about the printed book to offer as a gift, was just to highlight the impact on sales: one single great book can still be sold many times to the same consumer, just because it will be seen as a great gift to offer.
 

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Do you still buy any books? Fiction, any kind of non-fiction? Would you say that you're consuming fewer books because you get the same stuff you're looking for elsewhere, whether it be entertainment or education?

Although I watch certain shows in the evenings, I still read every day (and I buy books too).
I read almost a book a day (ebooks) - fiction. And maybe 1/4 of a non fiction book a day.

I send print books as gifts. Those are certain non fiction books that I think are lovely and timeless (inspirational or spiritual - the kind of books you get from Hay House but I buy from indies a lot).

I also buy books from fellow authors I know and recommend their books in FB groups.

So, I still look online for how-to info and watch my favourite shows (usually Marvel/Star Wars-related), but that hasn't decreased my reading or buying of books, personally.
 

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I listen to non-fiction audiobooks all the time. Also, podcasts. (I had cataract eye surgery a few years ago and it's easier to listen than to read these days.)
Now I feel like I'm living in hog heaven. This brave new world is stuffed with all kinds of treasures for us relentlessly curious people. The gatekeepers of the past have been brushed aside. Anyone can publish their indy book on limitless subjects. Anyone can make a video and upload it. And they are made available to me! I don't have to sit through a physical class anymore. The information I crave is out there for the asking. I can study any subject from many points of view without having to go to college or school. And, if I get stuck on a point or question, there are tons of sources to give me their particular answer. If I cannot find my answer, I can even hire a tutor remotely to get individual help with my project through a zoom meeting on my computer. As I said, I feel like I'm in hog heaven!
 

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@ChickenHawk, sorry for ruining your progress thread with this discussion...
How embarrassing! I didn't even realize the discussion was on my progress thread because I've been in writing-mode. But I wouldn't have considered it ruined regardless. Still, I'm glad it was separated, just because it's an interesting topic on its own. :)

Also, could you please share your yearly percentage increase/decrease in profit over the last years? Here's mine taking 2015 as baseline:
I'd be happy to share it, but I don't have the numbers handy. I'd have to dig through my tax stuff, and it's a bit scattered at the moment. I'll try though! (Tax season IS coming up. Ugh.)


Here's mine taking 2015 as baseline:

2015: baseline, it was my first full year
2016: +350% (compared to 2015)
2017: +111% (compared to 2016)
2018: -15% (compared to 2017)
2019: -59% (compared to 2018)
2020: -21% (compared to 2019)

Interesting numbers. I think mine would look similar, except that one year (2018 maybe?) was AWFUL. It was when the Kindle Unlimited scamming was going on, and the whole fiction market was a nightmare. That year, I would have made more working fast food. Ugh. Looking back, I wish I hadn't bothered publishing any books that year, just because the market was so whacked.

I don't really count book sales or pay much attention to individual numbers, but YOY (and month to month), my revenues continue to climb, every year better than the last.
I could be wrong, but I think this is the exception rather than the rule. "The Millionaire Fastlane" in particular has reached legendary status, along the same lines as "Think and Grow Rich" and "How to Win Friends and Influence People." And the concepts are timeless, so it's almost in a league of its own. The book really IS one in a million.
 

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MTF, I don't know what kind of non-fiction books you write. I only get biographies or books that a friend recommends to me.

I have an audible subscription and I mainly get non-fiction books. In the past, I've had to wait a month to get 1 credit to order a book. But right now I'm sitting on 12 credits because I just don't listen to books that much anymore.
 

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@ChickenHawk, update?

Also, could you please share your yearly percentage increase/decrease in profit over the last years? Here's mine taking 2015 as baseline:

2015: baseline, it was my first full year
2016: +350% (compared to 2015)
2017: +111% (compared to 2016)
2018: -15% (compared to 2017)
2019: -59% (compared to 2018)
2020: -21% (compared to 2019)

Best year (2017) vs 2020: -72% decline

@MJ DeMarco I'm curious about your data as well if you're comfortable sharing it. Just percentages.

I'm wondering if self-publishing is a declining industry due to massive competition. It comes not only from other authors but also other types of content.

For example, why read a how-to book when you can watch a YouTube video (for free, and maybe even learn faster for many skills) or why read fiction if you can entertain yourself with a TV show (which is actually cheaper with a Netflix subscription than if you have to pay for each book, unless it's enrolled in KDP Select).

Or maybe it's just me and I'm looking for confirmation that the industry is declining while in fact I'm just becoming irrelevant.
I think that, just like most new industries, there is a process of development. When you're dealing with B2C especially, it's all about building a brand and an audience around it. What's happening is that over time, relatively new and innovative niches/industries get crowded by competition, and it becomes harder and harder to make money in them, unless you have your own audience and brand.

@MJ DeMarco has built an audience and a brand around this forum, and has created a home for a lot of us. We buy his books also because we know him and he is here every day to help us and interact with us. He is a real presence in our lives and a friend to many of us - it's really a community, much more that any individual book that I think is the key to MJ's continued success here. New people come to the forums every day... on average the forum peaks at around 100-150 active registered members at one time, and between 1000 and 1500 total users, including guests. Having bought ads on this forum, I can see that there is a continued stream of new users joining and viewing the forums. Based on my own data, most of them are at the beginning stages of their journey (80%+ haven't even started anything yet), but there are some more experienced entrepreneurs too.

The industry for "how to" is afflicted by two problems that continue to grow... increasing skepticism from newcomers, and rapidly increasing competition. Those who thrive have already built solid brands and audiences, which they continue to use to push their success into the future. Everyone else is having a harder and harder time, regardless of quality, because there is just so much content out there, and people don't know whom to trust.

I have worked with a lot of clients in this niche - and one example illustrates this very well. I have a client who tried for 2 years to sell an info product and how-to course, with minimal results - just breaking even pretty much. And trust me, both him and my team worked super hard to make it work. And he is well known, but he didn't have a brand. And he just couldn't do it, even with the best marketing out there. Another guy in the same niche though, who already had a brand, was killing it, and using pretty much the exact same strategies... the difference has to do with the branding, and the first-mover advantage. This same client switched from an educational business to providing a service via software to this same niche (where there are like 7-10 competitors), and within two months, he was clearing 10K/mo profits. So switching to something less crowded will typically yield you MUCH MUCH higher results, for less effort. I mean, terrible marketing and copy can still work in a hungry market. I've been as a consultant to a business whose marketing was terrible - I was surprised they could have scaled to 6M with that marketing. But hey - they did. And the secret was the market. It was the right market, so it accepted a ton of mistakes. It was idiot proof.

B2B is another story - there it's all about salesmanship and connecting with people, and brand is LESS important. Personal connections much more so.
 

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And my comment about the printed book to offer as a gift, was just to highlight the impact on sales: one single great book can still be sold many times to the same consumer, just because it will be seen as a great gift to offer.

This is a great point for writers: ask yourself if your book can be gift-worthy and if not, how to make it so.

I read almost a book a day (ebooks) - fiction. And maybe 1/4 of a non fiction book a day.

WOW. So you read a few hours a day?

I can study any subject from many points of view without having to go to college or school. And, if I get stuck on a point or question, there are tons of sources to give me their particular answer. If I cannot find my answer, I can even hire a tutor remotely to get individual help with my project through a zoom meeting on my computer. As I said, I feel like I'm in hog heaven!

Now the challenge is to identify who/what is a good source of information and who's teaching outdated information or gives bad advice.

I'd be happy to share it, but I don't have the numbers handy. I'd have to dig through my tax stuff, and it's a bit scattered at the moment. I'll try though! (Tax season IS coming up. Ugh.)

Thank you. Very curious about your numbers.

Interesting numbers. I think mine would look similar, except that one year (2018 maybe?) was AWFUL. It was when the Kindle Unlimited scamming was going on, and the whole fiction market was a nightmare. That year, I would have made more working fast food. Ugh. Looking back, I wish I hadn't bothered publishing any books that year, just because the market was so whacked.

This is me in 2019 and 2020 as well. I would have made way more money not writing anything at all. So that's why I haven't worked since November. I'm not sure if it makes sense to write another book only to lose time and money.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the exception rather than the rule. "The Millionaire Fastlane" in particular has reached legendary status, along the same lines as "Think and Grow Rich" and "How to Win Friends and Influence People." And the concepts are timeless, so it's almost in a league of its own. The book really IS one in a million.

And there was A LOT of work behind the scenes on this book. I'm not sure if nowadays, as a nobody, you can just write an excellent book, market it a little and expect it to gain traction. But if you're a well-known person, you can write whatever you want and it'll land on bestseller lists anyway...

MTF, I don't know what kind of non-fiction books you write. I only get biographies or books that a friend recommends to me.

I have an audible subscription and I mainly get non-fiction books. In the past, I've had to wait a month to get 1 credit to order a book. But right now I'm sitting on 12 credits because I just don't listen to books that much anymore.

Is there any reason why you don't listen to books that much anymore? Do you mean you don't consume books at all or listen to audiobooks specifically?

I think that, just like most new industries, there is a process of development. When you're dealing with B2C especially, it's all about building a brand and an audience around it. What's happening is that over time, relatively new and innovative niches/industries get crowded by competition, and it becomes harder and harder to make money in them, unless you have your own audience and brand.

Solid observation.

I have worked with a lot of clients in this niche - and one example illustrates this very well. I have a client who tried for 2 years to sell an info product and how-to course, with minimal results - just breaking even pretty much. And trust me, both him and my team worked super hard to make it work. And he is well known, but he didn't have a brand. And he just couldn't do it, even with the best marketing out there. Another guy in the same niche though, who already had a brand, was killing it, and using pretty much the exact same strategies... the difference has to do with the branding, and the first-mover advantage. This same client switched from an educational business to providing a service via software to this same niche (where there are like 7-10 competitors), and within two months, he was clearing 10K/mo profits. So switching to something less crowded will typically yield you MUCH MUCH higher results, for less effort. I mean, terrible marketing and copy can still work in a hungry market. I've been as a consultant to a business whose marketing was terrible - I was surprised they could have scaled to 6M with that marketing. But hey - they did. And the secret was the market. It was the right market, so it accepted a ton of mistakes. It was idiot proof.

So how you do realize that despite your best efforts you're irrelevant and it's time to try something else? Theoretically, if his stuff was really good, how is it possible that you couldn't make it work? The brand would eventually be established with more sales, wouldn't it?
 

Black_Dragon43

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So how you do realize that despite your best efforts you're irrelevant and it's time to try something else?
Thing is, you can always choose to go on, so you never know for sure. But after some time of trying to make it work, you have to look in the mirror and say that you're probably better off trying something new. After all you tried to make this work, and there's no embarrassment saying that you just weren't able to and moving to something that could be more productive. How long that time is will vary from person to person, but I think you must put in a concentrated effort for a sufficiently long time so that you determine that the effort required is pretty much not worth it for you even if it works in the future.

Theoretically, if his stuff was really good, how is it possible that you couldn't make it work?
The market is oversaturated, and stronger brands dominate it. It is possible to carve out your own niche, but you need to build a personal brand that you grow organically. That means a blog, a discord server, a forum, a place where people congregate to follow you. Basically your own tribe. If you have time to personally interact with people, create free content, and so on, absolutely you can do it. Nobody can stop you.

But if you want to make money in the process, and grow via direct response to a cold audience - you'll have a very tough time. Direct response means you go for directly selling something, rather than focusing on building your audience, which takes longer but is more effective when the market is overcrowded.

This guy didn't have time to personally hop on calls with people, publish free content, maintain a blog and so on. He was interested to use his domain expertise to teach others how to achieve the same results he had achieved. So we tried a lot of different ways to do it... different funnels, different offers, different approaches. Everything made a profit initially, but quickly dried out, requiring moving on to the new thing. It pretty much wasn't worth the continued effort.

The competitor who was massively successful, making millions of dollars doing the same thing, had built his brand over 10 years, starting organically initially, and moving to direct response over time. He reached a point where he was doing just direct response... But he combined it with a 50 people sales team, who would relentlessly call everyone who joined his funnel to buy his products. The personal touch is what was actually driving the sales. If you can't afford to hire the team, or you don't do it yourself, it's tough to grow in a very competitive environment.... and they also had 24 different offers, that they were rotating. So now you were sold one product, you didn't buy, no worries, next 2 weeks would be the next product and so on. Sales were coming from everywhere.
 

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MTF

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This guy didn't have time to personally hop on calls with people, publish free content, maintain a blog and so on. He was interested to use his domain expertise to teach others how to achieve the same results he had achieved. So we tried a lot of different ways to do it... different funnels, different offers, different approaches. Everything made a profit initially, but quickly dried out, requiring moving on to the new thing. It pretty much wasn't worth the continued effort.

So would you say it's primarily a matter of trust? And to build trust, you need something for free apart from your products?

So for example, in a crowded non-fiction niche, an author needs a platform first to build trust so that they can succeed with the book? And in a niche that maybe not as crowded, just publishing a great book may be sufficient?
 

Black_Dragon43

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So would you say it's primarily a matter of trust?
Yes, you need to be the go-to person for your audience when it comes to that specific field.
So for example, in a crowded non-fiction niche, an author needs a platform first to build trust so that they can succeed with the book? And in a niche that maybe not as crowded, just publishing a great book may be sufficient?
Yes. If you look at the most successful authors or course creators nowadays, you will see that they have all built a brand that they're recognized for. David Goggins, James Clear, Mark Mason, and so on. They all had a following prior to their big successes, which has only expanded, and they keep in touch with their followers via YouTube (for Goggins) and blogging for the other two. Even MJ had a following and a forum prior to the release of TMF - not as a big as now of course, but a base level of folks interested in his work was there.

These people achieve lasting success. If you hit a hot niche, where there isn't much competition, you will make sales even without that, but unless you get established and build a brand around it, you'll have a hard time maintaining it or growing to the next stage, since competition comes after you.

That has also been my experience based on the number of people I've worked with (I own a marketing agency) and the situations I've seen.

And to build trust, you need something for free apart from your products?
Yes, BUT this something free should not be a one-time product or lead magnet. It needs to be something dynamic - new info that you release continuously, like when you grow a blog or a YT channel, and in a place where people can congregate ideally.
 

Seniorpreneur

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@ChickenHawk, update?

Also, could you please share your yearly percentage increase/decrease in profit over the last years? Here's mine taking 2015 as baseline:

2015: baseline, it was my first full year
2016: +350% (compared to 2015)
2017: +111% (compared to 2016)
2018: -15% (compared to 2017)
2019: -59% (compared to 2018)
2020: -21% (compared to 2019)

Best year (2017) vs 2020: -72% decline

@MJ DeMarco I'm curious about your data as well if you're comfortable sharing it. Just percentages.

I'm wondering if self-publishing is a declining industry due to massive competition. It comes not only from other authors but also other types of content.

For example, why read a how-to book when you can watch a YouTube video (for free, and maybe even learn faster for many skills) or why read fiction if you can entertain yourself with a TV show (which is actually cheaper with a Netflix subscription than if you have to pay for each book, unless it's enrolled in KDP Select).

Or maybe it's just me and I'm looking for confirmation that the industry is declining while in fact I'm just becoming irrelevant.
Question- Are non-fiction business books losing their 'purchase price' but not value? Yes, I agree that if you are research minded like I am you can find any information required on the internet for the price of a whistle. What about those best sellers should I buy them? You can save your money here IF you go to your local public library and buy ANY soft covers for $1.00 and hard covers for $2.00. When I purchase these there are no library markings or even any evidence that the book has been read. Do your due diligence and save your money if you can.
 

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A couple of thoughts on this...

When I buy an nonfiction audiobook these days I always look in advance to see if they have a website or internet presence with more up to date info, a forum, or some interactive content. It's like I am buying a book with a bonus, but it's expected these days.

Book reviews and summaries are big on YT these days. A person could watch a series of summaries and then find the author's website and get the bonus info. In many cases the consumer can get all that for free. Maybe bonus stuff behind paywall?
 

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And there was A LOT of work behind the scenes on this book. I'm not sure if nowadays, as a nobody, you can just write an excellent book, market it a little and expect it to gain traction. But if you're a well-known person, you can write whatever you want and it'll land on bestseller lists anyway...
I think you need an audience before the book. I have a friend writing a business book that already has a following online. I think it will be easy for that book to gain traction because he can email his list once it comes out and also begin to do podcasts and youtube videos about it.

After all, we want to read about someone with a track record. I don't know what type of nonfiction you are talking about, but if it's about business I'd want to have heard of you from somewhere else. If I find a book about flying drones for profit. I expect to see a business attached to the author's name somewhere online. Else I would just pass on the book.

Is there any reason why you don't listen to books that much anymore? Do you mean you don't consume books at all or listen to audiobooks specifically?
I'm 100% audiobooks now. If I hear of a good book and I can't find it on Audible, I just skip past it. I hope the book will be on Audible later, but I never buy a kindle or paper version. This has happened to me twice in the past year. A book will get recommended by someone on a podcast, I'll go search it and won't see an audible version. Sadly, I can't remember which books these were now, so I'll probably never read them.

I also don't listen to as many books now because I am more picky on what I read. As I said above, I do a small amount of research on the author and if it satisfies my background test, then I may buy it.

I should add that probably the number one way I find new books is when a new author is on a podcast talking about his book. If I already like listening to the person and the podcast is interesting to me, I will generally buy his book. It doesn't really matter what the topic is, as long as it is interesting to me and I'm learning something during the podcast.
 

CJW

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As someone who has negotiated book deals for authors; the majority of books sell a lot fewer than people think, especially in bookstores. I've met people who thought that they were going to fund their retirement with 1 book about the story of there work-life exploits! Not gonna happen.

On the other hand, if you have a decent cover, title, blurb and evergreen premise of the book and are willing to run ads you can get a semi-decent revenue stream (by author royalty standards) on Amazon if you self publish.

The number of times I've torn my hair out at big, big publishers who seem to find it difficult to put a book in the correct Amazon categories or don't add any relevant keywords in the backend!
 

MTF

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On the other hand, if you have a decent cover, title, blurb and evergreen premise of the book and are willing to run ads you can get a semi-decent revenue stream (by author royalty standards) on Amazon if you self publish.

And how much that is? I'm curious what you consider "author royalty standards."
 

ChickenHawk

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@ChickenHawk, update?

Also, could you please share your yearly percentage increase/decrease in profit over the last years? Here's mine taking 2015 as baseline:
Hey, sorry it's taken me so long to get to this! I had to dig through my old taxes to get some numbers, but I've finally snagged everything I need. (Whew!)

First though, just to make sure we're comparing apples to apples, here are a couple of questions...
1. With your figures, did you go by when you earned the royalties? Or when you actually received payment? For example, let's say you earned $20,000 from book sales in December, but didn't receive the royalties until February of the next year. On which year did you put the $20K? (I can provide the numbers either way. I just want to make sure I do it the same as you did, so it's consistent.)

2. Did you include audiobook production costs in there?

Just looking at my initial figures, here's one thing that stands out to me: My drop of best to worse is waaaaaay worse than yours.
 

MTF

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1. With your figures, did you go by when you earned the royalties?
I've been calculating it both ways since last year but for this I used numbers when I earned them because that's how I've been doing it since I started.

So for a full year, the profit numbers come from the earnings (and costs) from this year, and not delayed earnings by 1-2 months as paid out.

Did you include audiobook production costs in there?

Yes, every single cost.
 

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