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MTF

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How about partnering with or identifying businesses where writing is integral to the success of the business but they aren't in the writing business. For example, an ecommerce company may use written content (e.g. marketing, documentation, internal processes) as their key differentiator (and value it nearly as highly as the product) but they make their money on selling products.

I think you mentioned newsletters before, but I follow Stratechery by Ben Thompson and he's built out a pretty decent business from subscribers willing to pay for his analysis on tech. If you don't want to be the 'expert', maybe you could be the writer for another expert who wants to create these newsletters.

That's a solid suggestion for the right person. Same goes for ghostwriting for well-known people, as long as you can somehow negotiate a deal where you're getting a percentage of royalties (which I believe is rare). And of course, as long as you can convince them to let you write a book for them.

I once tried partnerships. Never again :)
 

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To clarify this a little, I'm already financially independent and that has happened exclusively because of my self-publishing business going Fastlane. I can write for fun alone but it just doesn't work for me. You mentioned MJ's example and him being wired to do stuff the Fastlane way. I'm the same.

Say that I would want to write a book about one of my passions. If I knew for a fact that it wouldn't ever turn a profit, I wouldn't write it, no matter how much I'd want to write about the topic.



There is leverage if you become a bestselling author on Amazon because it can generate organic traffic. I still keep making money from books I published a few years ago and that's not because of my own efforts but because of the leverage Amazon offers.

As for the platform that sells my books, I'm not sure how would this differ from any blog, authority site or anything like that. Is MJ's Viperion Publishing store his platform to sell books? I assume he still sells 90%+ via distributors like Amazon or iTunes. Or is MJ's platform this forum and by a platform you mean any website where you gather an audience? I'm just trying to understand what you mean by that.
@MTF

Very interesting post, again.

For one, you used available leverage and turned writing into enough profits to become financially independent. Awesome. But then, if you knew you would not make a profit you would not write a book, no matter how much you liked the topic.

I’d be curious to know if @MJ DeMarco felt the same way. What I mean is this: are you treating profits from writing as a signal of your own writing mastery? Meaning you want recognition that what you write is quality material and people should pay for it? Not the money.

Or, are you writing to make a profit for the profit $$?

There is a huge difference between the two. Because if you are after $$ money, my (one man’s) opinion is that writing is just not Fastlane. My analogy being, running shoes are slow, bicycle is much faster and get get you even across a country, but it’s not a car and definitely not an airplane. To me, Fastlane means very fast. You travel making profits faster.

But if you are not after the money but need some validation for your work, that can be achieved in other ways. Reviews, impact made on other people etc.

As a hobby, I volunteer my time. I have no expectation of ever making a dime from helping others. But if I felt that my work with them was not yielding any positive results, I would not do it. One day I too hope to write (when I hit my exit number on my Fastlane) and I probably will charge some fee for some of it to ensure it’s not confused with any of the millions of free garbage published daily out there. Yet profit is not on my mind with that, making an impact on someone else is.

If profits are the main objective, then there are other businesses that are more suitable to Fastlane.

To clarify my comments on the use of a platform. Amazon is a dominant force for books, its wicked huge. You can’t ignore an elephant in the room and most sales (even for MJ) will happen there. Platform like this forum, SMS list that MJ maintains and his social media accounts allow him to continue distributing his books regardless of what happens to Amazon. That’s key point I was trying to make. If you become a niche market writer, famous in a circle of people who will want to buy ANY book you publish, that’s a platform. To simplify, if MJ texts to his group that he just published one more book, I’ll buy it without having to see a tile, cover page or anything else. I know enough about him to just buy. More than that, if he said I am pre-selling a book I didn’t even write yet, I’ll buy it too. Why? That’s the power of his platform. How can you create something similar?
 

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Or, are you writing to make a profit for the profit $$?

This. I don't really care about recognition (which is also why I use pen names).

That’s the power of his platform. How can you create something similar?

I have a list of almost 30,000 subscribers for my main pen name. So I sort of do have this platform but I think that my subscribers aren't super loyal or extremely interested in my work. I'm saying this because for the past several releases, I got at best 200 or so sales from this list (perhaps 300-400 if including audio and print). And that's for a $0.99 book.

Just out of curiosity, when you write this:

Because if you are after $$ money, my (one man’s) opinion is that writing is just not Fastlane. My analogy being, running shoes are slow, bicycle is much faster and get get you even across a country, but it’s not a car and definitely not an airplane. To me, Fastlane means very fast. You travel making profits faster.

Would you say that creating products for my list would be Fastlane?

In theory it sounds great but in reality it has never worked for me. I always got way more out of writing books for Amazon (where there's potential for millions of people to see it every day) than from trying to get traffic to my own site. But I suck at traffic generation so there's that...
 

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Would you say that creating products for my list would be Fastlane?

Yes and no. A book is already a product. Adding one more should not change your list’s loyalty. But the concept of using your list as a leverage to generate profits - that’s Fastlane.

Based on your other comments, that fact that you know your list isn’t super loyal means your attention should be spent on figuring out why. Then fixing it.

Because my main business is so different from writing, I have to rely on MJ as example here to demonstrate my points. So, why an I loyal to MJ? I never met the guy. I wouldn’t recognize him if he sat next table enjoying dinner. And he’s not the wealthiest person I know either, so it’s not his success. Then what makes me pay for insiders on this forum? Buy his books instantly, even if I can’t read them right this moment?

The answer is simple. He already helped make me millions. He gave me to tools to do better in my own business. The value he gave me already is so far above anything I pay for a subscription or a book that’s is laughable.

Your list is telling you something. And I’ll turn your own words on you “think 80/20” - what could you do to turn your 20% into enough profits to ensure everything you publish is profitable? Because I am sure that not all MJs followers are instant buyers of his books and that it’s likely only 20% that are.

You said that in theory that’s all great but you made more money on Amazon. In no way do I suggest that you only leverage your platform. But if your writing fails without Amazon, that’s not Fastlane, you lost control.

One more thing from my many meals with Sy Sperling. He felt that his most important skill was marketing. In your case you said “lead generation”. Even if you have the best book that’s ever been written, you must have a way to let the world know.
 

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@MTF - It seems the natural approach for writers is to diversify into coaching, seminars, and other courses.

Aren't you paying for a course from David Farland? I never heard of the man as an author, but I'm guessing he makes more $$ as a trainer/coach, than an author.
 

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Based on your other comments, that fact that you know your list isn’t super loyal means your attention should be spent on figuring out why. Then fixing it.

I know why. I have way too many readers from poor countries who can't afford books. So maybe they are loyal but only if I can give them something for free.

One more thing from my many meals with Sy Sperling. He felt that his most important skill was marketing. In your case you said “lead generation”. Even if you have the best book that’s ever been written, you must have a way to let the world know.

True. Marketing is my big weakness.

@MTF - It seems the natural approach for writers is to diversify into coaching, seminars, and other courses.

Aren't you paying for a course from David Farland? I never heard of the man as an author, but I'm guessing he makes more $$ as a trainer/coach, than an author.

As far as I know he made at least $2 million from his fiction, mostly published in the late 90s and early 00s. I'm not sure if he makes more as a coach.
 

Metz

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What are in your opinion the best Fastlane opportunities for writers? Which opportunities are exhausted and which ones may still have a bright future? Is writing still a lucrative skill or should writers consider it more of a supplemental skill?

[...]

What are your thoughts on various business models for writers? How would you monetize your writing skill in the most Fastlane way possible?
Going back to the original questions, I just wanted to weigh in having worked in this area for almost ten years now. I think there a lot of Fastlane opportunities for writers BUT it requires one to think a bit outside the box for it to be a lucrative business. A lot of people who want to make money often think solely in terms of themselves doing the writing but copywriting, in and of itself, is hard to turn into a Fastlane opportunity for a few reasons:
  • Market saturation. Whether you're trying to sell B2B content or ebooks, there are hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of people you're competing against. Especially when you're starting out and decide to focus on job boards like Upwork, most jobs within your reach are fractions of a penny per word (I've seen too many $10/1000 word articles) with quite a handful of people fighting over them. If you try self-publishing a book on Amazon, the barrier is so low that if you don't know how to market your book, it'll maximally make you $200 in profit. This brings me to the next point:
  • Time investment. Good copywriting takes time. Especially on your own, you have to research, outline, draft, proofread, edit, and format your work. For me, most 1000ish word articles take about 3-4 hours start to finish depending on the topic but I don't sit down and write it all in one go. It's a good practice to outline and draft your article and let it sit for at least a day so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes; otherwise you're too used to the copy and can't catch certain errors like duplication or transposition. If you're providing B2B copywriting, you're also competing with a lot of content mills that specialize in pumping out mountains of low-quality copy and unfortunately a lot of clients in this area have a...
  • Quantity > Quality Mentality. A lot of these content mills exist because many businesses erroneously believe that quantity is the sole factor for success. B2B content is produced not just for sales but for SEO and funneling to a specific call-to-action. A lot of non-tech people don't understand what SEO is let alone how it can impact their business; they just know they need things like blog posts because that's the baseline of what they might hear. The problem is they'll go with a content mill who fills their pages with inferior content that's keyword-packed and ends up dragging SEO down while inflating performance with paid PPC/CPC campaigns but then not explaining this to their client. So the client sees improvement in site performance but not real improvement in their business goals. A lot of legitimate copywriters fail to recognize this as an issue and, even if they do understand it, don't know how to explain to clients why their SEO-rich copy is better than the content mill without sounding like you're just putting down the competition.
Most of my time as a copywriter was spent working with one, maybe two clients, but getting paid decently. The only way for me to scale my income was charging more for my services or finding bigger clients with larger budgets that the money I charged was still small compared to competitors. However good writing takes up a lot of time and no matter how efficient I become with my process, doing all this alone has a lot of limiting factors, the biggest one is the 24 hours a day we all have to work within. I've also self-published a book on Amazon (mostly to learn how to not only write a full book but how to create a physical product and sell it online) and despite any marketing efforts or value (when it was first released, I was #21 most popular in my primary category but that dipped quickly after), I don't have much control of it -- at least what I'd like.

Now, I've pivoted my model away from branding myself as a copywriter, but a content strategist. I still write and edit, work on SEO, and solve the problems my clients have always come to me for help, but I've delegated the majority of research, outlining, and drafting to a team of writer-contractors. I still make good margins AND pay the writers better than anything they'd find on their own at their skill level (instead of them negotiating with clients on their own, they now have the weight of an agency behind them and get to focus solely on writing) AND I can help more clients simultaneously and scale much easier. If we get overwhelmed, we find more writers which because of how many low-quality opportunities there are, I always have multiple high-quality applicants.

Where maximally I was making $5k on my own on a good month, I'm closing on deals (they're mostly done but I don't celebrate until the ink's dry and that first invoice comes in) worth almost $12k this month alone; this isn't including the quasi-warm leads who approached me and are interested and I still need to give them proposals, nor does it include my two current clients. Wrapped up together, this could be around the $15k-20k neighborhood and I'm just getting started on scaling.

To sum up though, if you want to make Fastlane money copywriting you:
  • Need to augment copywriting with other skills. For me, it was organic SEO strategies and solving problems for businesses they care about ("generate more leads and sales revenue" is much more enticing than "more blog articles for customers to read").
  • Need to duplicate yourself by delegating work in your production process. Assuming I sleep (duh) and have time to eat and recharge a bit as well as giving copy time to rest between drafts so my editing is more effective, I can only dedicate 12 hours maximally to writing alone (this doesn't include marketing, meeting with clients, doing research and prepping reports, accounting, etc.). Finding three writers to start (with another three in the wings), I go from 12 hours of labor a day to 72 hours. I might not be writing a lot myself, but now I can focus on activities that bring in more money.
  • Need to distinguish yourself from the competition. There's a lot of people who take projects for extremely low pay; there are a lot of *really good writers* who, given how passionate they are for writing, also competing for these low fruit because they don't know how to market themselves. One of the reasons I'm okay with sharing all this is that I've developed a niche not just for who I work with (i.e. me writing in a certain industry) but that people are impressed with my writing, voice, and style. I won over the head of marketing for a major tech company using samples from my site on gamified entrepreneurialism not to mention the strategies I pitched to him and their value. There are soooooooo many people who need this kind of stuff, but different clients look for different writers because they need different tones, styles, and expertise. The same can be said as to why multimillionaire novelists become so popular; you have access to tons of books in the thriller and horror genres, but Stephen King has the name recognition, a distinct voice, and years upon years of experience compared to the handful of those books by unknown amateurs that have been self-published on Amazon since you started reading this post.
And mind you, take my advice with a grain of salt because the system I've built is just starting up and I'm still testing it. BUT never have I seen my business take off as it has in such a short amount of time, nor finding a way to get people to clamor for my writing (and strategy) specifically.

At the same time though, if you're cool just with writing because you like it, by all means go for it. But if you're trying to make a Fastlane income stream from it, you're gonna have to get creative and write with purpose beyond "more words good."
 

Antifragile

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I know why. I have way too many readers from poor countries who can't afford books. So maybe they are loyal but only if I can give them something for free.

True. Marketing is my big weakness.

That's an excellent realization. You see it, it's better to be fishing in a small but rich pond than a big ocean with vast empty spaces. To support those who don't have money to buy your books, you must have additional people on your list who have the means to buy full price. Or your books should help them attain the means to be able to buy a whole lot more. Like subscription to an email (think insiders forum here) etc.

And here is a fun fact, I didn't have the attitude I currently do towards @MJ DeMarco when I got his first book. It was a totally random thing. It was years ago and I knew my own math was bad. I was a rat in a race that even if I win, too bad, still an f-ing rat. I was so frustrated that I was reading a book a week in hopes to find the right guide. Thinking back, what a terrible time of my life. And keep in mind, I was a C-suite executive! I was earning more than most. Yet I knew I needed something but I wasn't even aware of how to look for it. It's like not knowing what you don't know. And here is this book from a random guy MJ and it's like it spoke to me, not general more of the same garbage I kept seeing (invest like Buffet and when you are 10,000 years old, you'll be rich, dead for sure but rich). He got me. His book I gifted to so many friends I lost count. This is the power of marketing! I don't even remember how I got that book. But he did something right by getting it in front of me, the rest is history. Marketing... is a must.
 

Black_Dragon43

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So you mean that today you basically have two ways if you want to sell information and info products efficiently.
Either you build an audience first and then sell them customized info products or you offer results in the form of coaching and similar things.
Yes, pretty much, this is a solid summary. If you have an audience, you can sell ANYTHING - and I literarily mean anything. If Tony Robbins puts out a crappy book next year, will still probably get millions to buy it, by virtue of his reputation and the fact he has already established a very large audience for himself.

I know big names in copywriting/direct response, I won't name any names, who put out outdated content that is frankly CRAP now (but may have been good 20 years ago), and their fans are still like "OMG wow, super valuable, awesome". And some of it has been recycled 3-4 times as well, literarily just changing the name of the product in some cases. People still buy and are happy. Most people who buy NEVER open what they buy anyway.
What would you prefer and why?
Do you think that it is necessary to build a personal brand to succeed in either endeavor? Or could a "corporate brand" also be successful without yourself as the face of the brand?
I am personally going to go for coaching and teaching others how to create success for themselves with a business by using effective marketing. I'm not much of an "entertainer" which I believe you have to be in order to really build up an audience these days. Look at your typical Instagram influencer and you'll see.

Having a personal brand helps. Coaching is a person to person thing. It's not that you can't do it with a "corporate brand", but rather that if a personal brand comes head to head with you, they'll probably win out. It offers higher value. It's why people like Tony Robbins, Dan Sullivan and so on have first built personal brands, and then converted this into an organisation that helps people.

This reminds me of the Mexican fisherman tale. Go through all this trouble to eventually do the same thing again as you're doing now lol. At least that's how it feels when I imagine doing it myself, currently enjoying a simple life of a writer with none of these headaches.

This was actually an interesting realization for me as I read your post. I'd rather live a simple life as I live now and make less than be so married to a business that I have to do things live, work with other people, etc.
A perfectly normal choice if that's what you want! The only thing that you'd be missing out on is the level of impact you could have on others. Obviously, if you go for a simpler life, you'll touch fewer people. That isn't to say that you won't enjoy your life, or you won't live a meaningful life, or you won't touch SOME people in a deeper way, but it's just the truth.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Going back to the original questions, I just wanted to weigh in having worked in this area for almost ten years now. I think there a lot of Fastlane opportunities for writers BUT it requires one to think a bit outside the box for it to be a lucrative business. A lot of people who want to make money often think solely in terms of themselves doing the writing but copywriting, in and of itself, is hard to turn into a Fastlane opportunity for a few reasons:
  • Market saturation. Whether you're trying to sell B2B content or ebooks, there are hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of people you're competing against. Especially when you're starting out and decide to focus on job boards like Upwork, most jobs within your reach are fractions of a penny per word (I've seen too many $10/1000 word articles) with quite a handful of people fighting over them. If you try self-publishing a book on Amazon, the barrier is so low that if you don't know how to market your book, it'll maximally make you $200 in profit. This brings me to the next point:
  • Time investment. Good copywriting takes time. Especially on your own, you have to research, outline, draft, proofread, edit, and format your work. For me, most 1000ish word articles take about 3-4 hours start to finish depending on the topic but I don't sit down and write it all in one go. It's a good practice to outline and draft your article and let it sit for at least a day so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes; otherwise you're too used to the copy and can't catch certain errors like duplication or transposition. If you're providing B2B copywriting, you're also competing with a lot of content mills that specialize in pumping out mountains of low-quality copy and unfortunately a lot of clients in this area have a...
  • Quantity > Quality Mentality. A lot of these content mills exist because many businesses erroneously believe that quantity is the sole factor for success. B2B content is produced not just for sales but for SEO and funneling to a specific call-to-action. A lot of non-tech people don't understand what SEO is let alone how it can impact their business; they just know they need things like blog posts because that's the baseline of what they might hear. The problem is they'll go with a content mill who fills their pages with inferior content that's keyword-packed and ends up dragging SEO down while inflating performance with paid PPC/CPC campaigns but then not explaining this to their client. So the client sees improvement in site performance but not real improvement in their business goals. A lot of legitimate copywriters fail to recognize this as an issue and, even if they do understand it, don't know how to explain to clients why their SEO-rich copy is better than the content mill without sounding like you're just putting down the competition.
Most of my time as a copywriter was spent working with one, maybe two clients, but getting paid decently. The only way for me to scale my income was charging more for my services or finding bigger clients with larger budgets that the money I charged was still small compared to competitors. However good writing takes up a lot of time and no matter how efficient I become with my process, doing all this alone has a lot of limiting factors, the biggest one is the 24 hours a day we all have to work within. I've also self-published a book on Amazon (mostly to learn how to not only write a full book but how to create a physical product and sell it online) and despite any marketing efforts or value (when it was first released, I was #21 most popular in my primary category but that dipped quickly after), I don't have much control of it -- at least what I'd like.

Now, I've pivoted my model away from branding myself as a copywriter, but a content strategist. I still write and edit, work on SEO, and solve the problems my clients have always come to me for help, but I've delegated the majority of research, outlining, and drafting to a team of writer-contractors. I still make good margins AND pay the writers better than anything they'd find on their own at their skill level (instead of them negotiating with clients on their own, they now have the weight of an agency behind them and get to focus solely on writing) AND I can help more clients simultaneously and scale much easier. If we get overwhelmed, we find more writers which because of how many low-quality opportunities there are, I always have multiple high-quality applicants.

Where maximally I was making $5k on my own on a good month, I'm closing on deals (they're mostly done but I don't celebrate until the ink's dry and that first invoice comes in) worth almost $12k this month alone; this isn't including the quasi-warm leads who approached me and are interested and I still need to give them proposals, nor does it include my two current clients. Wrapped up together, this could be around the $15k-20k neighborhood and I'm just getting started on scaling.

To sum up though, if you want to make Fastlane money copywriting you:
  • Need to augment copywriting with other skills. For me, it was organic SEO strategies and solving problems for businesses they care about ("generate more leads and sales revenue" is much more enticing than "more blog articles for customers to read").
  • Need to duplicate yourself by delegating work in your production process. Assuming I sleep (duh) and have time to eat and recharge a bit as well as giving copy time to rest between drafts so my editing is more effective, I can only dedicate 12 hours maximally to writing alone (this doesn't include marketing, meeting with clients, doing research and prepping reports, accounting, etc.). Finding three writers to start (with another three in the wings), I go from 12 hours of labor a day to 72 hours. I might not be writing a lot myself, but now I can focus on activities that bring in more money.
  • Need to distinguish yourself from the competition. There's a lot of people who take projects for extremely low pay; there are a lot of *really good writers* who, given how passionate they are for writing, also competing for these low fruit because they don't know how to market themselves. One of the reasons I'm okay with sharing all this is that I've developed a niche not just for who I work with (i.e. me writing in a certain industry) but that people are impressed with my writing, voice, and style. I won over the head of marketing for a major tech company using samples from my site on gamified entrepreneurialism not to mention the strategies I pitched to him and their value. There are soooooooo many people who need this kind of stuff, but different clients look for different writers because they need different tones, styles, and expertise. The same can be said as to why multimillionaire novelists become so popular; you have access to tons of books in the thriller and horror genres, but Stephen King has the name recognition, a distinct voice, and years upon years of experience compared to the handful of those books by unknown amateurs that have been self-published on Amazon since you started reading this post.
And mind you, take my advice with a grain of salt because the system I've built is just starting up and I'm still testing it. BUT never have I seen my business take off as it has in such a short amount of time, nor finding a way to get people to clamor for my writing (and strategy) specifically.

At the same time though, if you're cool just with writing because you like it, by all means go for it. But if you're trying to make a Fastlane income stream from it, you're gonna have to get creative and write with purpose beyond "more words good."

Just want to say "thank you" for your contributions, I'm finding them of extremely "stop what you're doing and read" value.

But he did something right by getting it in front of me, the rest is history. Marketing... is a must.

That's the thing though, I didn't spend any time/money on marketing except in the first few months. The product did the selling, through recommendations of satisfied readers. So from my POV, marketing is important, but the product has to deliver and have productocracy components.

And with a "cheezy title" like The Millionaire Fastlane , my marketing started at a disadvantage. 10+ years later, I still get shit about the horrible title.
 

MTF

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Going back to the original questions, I just wanted to weigh in having worked in this area for almost ten years now. I think there a lot of Fastlane opportunities for writers BUT it requires one to think a bit outside the box for it to be a lucrative business. A lot of people who want to make money often think solely in terms of themselves doing the writing but copywriting, in and of itself, is hard to turn into a Fastlane opportunity for a few reasons:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on copywriting. Glad to hear you found a system that's working well for you.

That's an excellent realization. You see it, it's better to be fishing in a small but rich pond than a big ocean with vast empty spaces. To support those who don't have money to buy your books, you must have additional people on your list who have the means to buy full price. Or your books should help them attain the means to be able to buy a whole lot more. Like subscription to an email (think insiders forum here) etc.

I'm going to test my assumption. I just sent an email to my list with an offer (a discount for my course). Let's see if it generates at least a few sales...
 

Metz

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts on copywriting. Glad to hear you found a system that's working well for you.
Any time, friend.

I apologize if you already answered this earlier but I'm curious: what prompted you to start this thread in the first place? Been brainstorming ways to scale your own writing income or just making conversation with the good people of the forum?
 

MTF

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Been brainstorming ways to scale your own writing income or just making conversation with the good people of the forum?

Both. It's interesting to learn how people use their writing skills and it's possible it'll also give me some ideas.

I studied copywriting many years ago (read everything by Gary Halbert, a lot of old stuff he recommended and Jay Abraham as well) but in the end I couldn't find myself doing this.

Writing for others is too difficult for me. My writing usually sucks if I'm not invested in a project.

I hired writers for my businesses as well and while it was easy to judge who got the skills, I didn't enjoy the job of managing them. It felt literally like a job, not running a business. That's why I limit my options to solopreneurial ventures—I've learned that "standard" entrepreneurship doesn't work for me.
 

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Both. It's interesting to learn how people use their writing skills and it's possible it'll also give me some ideas.

I studied copywriting many years ago (read everything by Gary Halbert, a lot of old stuff he recommended and Jay Abraham as well) but in the end I couldn't find myself doing this.

Writing for others is too difficult for me. My writing usually sucks if I'm not invested in a project.

I hired writers for my businesses as well and while it was easy to judge who got the skills, I didn't enjoy the job of managing them. It felt literally like a job, not running a business. That's why I limit my options to solopreneurial ventures—I've learned that "standard" entrepreneurship doesn't work for me.
So are you still doing copywriting stuff for solopreneurs or how did you pivot? Feel free to link to other threads you might've made if you already answered this question elsewhere. I just enjoy learning how others adapt is all. :)
 

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That's the thing though, I didn't spend any time/money on marketing except in the first few months. The product did the selling, through recommendations of satisfied readers. So from my POV, marketing is important, but the product has to deliver and have productocracy components.

And with a "cheezy title" like The Millionaire Fastlane , my marketing started at a disadvantage. 10+ years later, I still get shit about the horrible title.

Oh brother, you've just shot my high horse marketing importance speech LOL.

And then again, word of mouth is legitimate marketing. Isn't that the best of the best? Costs nothing but is exceptionally effective because your product must deliver to be recommended.
 

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I don't publish exclusively on Amazon and have multiple sources of income. Still, at least 80% comes from Amazon because it dominates the market. Non-fiction writers can possibly escape this by selling their own products, courses, etc. But fiction writers would have a hard time avoiding breaking the commandment of control.

No. That's the common thinking: 'self-publishing' = 'ebooks on retailer sites'. In fact, nearly every successful person I was speaking of (and have seen) does not do only this--they sell them on their own site, for example, or through several other methods. But more importantly, they have multiple streams of income and built a robust mailing list of potential customers. Those streams are interrelated and help power each other. Penn, for example, only makes about 50% of her income from books. To make it even simpler: they are entrepreneurs, not 'self published writers'.

Also: many of those entreprenurial writers never come near Amazon. I've seen this more often in the tech space, which I'm most familiar with. They're not throwing up $2.99 ebooks on Amazon; they're launching a $49 product on their site, often with more expensive package tiers. They do this by, again, building a mailing list and establishing themselves with an audience to sell into. This isn't an exotic scenario; it's happening out there daily.

As far as I know she's making at most $100k a year. It's hardly a hugely successful business considering how much recognition she has as a self-publishing expert.
She claims to make a mid-six-figure income. Based on what she's done, and the detail she's provided over many years, it sounds legitimate. If you have different information, I'd love to see it posted here.

My self-publishing business fuels my investments so I'm not really putting all my eggs in one basket. But I do understand what you're trying to say. Thank you.
You're putting most all your publishing business eggs in one basket--Amazon (you said 80%).
 
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What are your thoughts on various business models for writers? How would you monetize your writing skill in the most Fastlane way possible?

The way I see it there are three main paths:
  • book publishing - crowded, Amazon-dependent, you can sometimes spend months working on a book only for it to fail miserably (there's no easy way to test a product before creating it),
  • copywriting - may become a career instead of a business, though some copywriters earn incredible amounts of money (like Jay Abraham who's technically more of a consultant),
  • blogging/courses/other digital products not sold as books - this requires a personal brand and narrowing your expertise to one main topic. Also, writing seems to be more of a side skill here, with marketing experience and personal branding being the primary skills needed.

I work with a mega best-selling author who's made millions selling books.

In a nutshell, he started with a blog and a one-on-one coaching business, then created courses and wrote a book he self-published.

His blog gained traction and he used it to build a list and a social media following. He then leveraged this into a book deal.

To write the book, he took ideas from his blog that really resonated with readers and went deep with them. So basically, the blog was his testing ground.

Before we sent the book off for publishing, he said "This will either set me up for life we'll have to come back and try again."

Well, the book took off and he's set for life. He's written more books, which also sold well, and we're branching out into more products now.

As @MJ DeMarco pointed out, books/writing gives you scale and time, but control, entry, and need are weak.

One of the ways my employer has worked around this is by really nailing his email list and marketing. We've got a huge list that's highly engaged—open and click rates are truly astonishing.

This mitigates some of the risk of Amazon controlling everything. If they pulled his books or whatever he would at least have an engaged list that he send to another platform or sell directly to them.

If you really want to do this long-term, I'd say find ways to build a really solid email list.

I'm very impressed with what Cole Schafer has built at Honey Copy. He runs a mix of high-end freelancing, courses that are 100% written, and a few email lists, one of which is paid. Oh, and he sells his poetry books too, but from chatting with him, those don't bring in a lot of cash.
 

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So are you still doing copywriting stuff for solopreneurs or how did you pivot? Feel free to link to other threads you might've made if you already answered this question elsewhere. I just enjoy learning how others adapt is all. :)

I never really worked seriously as a copywriter. I'm in the self-publishing business, or more specifically I write non-fiction books (and have been doing it since 2014). I have a progress thread on the inside.

That's the common thinking: 'self-publishing' = 'ebooks on retailer sites'. In fact, nearly every successful person I was speaking of (and have seen) does not do only this--they sell them on their own site, for example, or through several other methods

Well we have different definitions. What you're saying is just Internet marketing, self-publishing is IMO publishing on retailer sites (and that's mostly what you'll find if you google the term). Not saying you aren't right as for selling elsewhere, just pointing out that my definition is different.

She claims to make a mid-six-figure income. Based on what she's done, and the detail she's provided over many years, it sounds legitimate. If you have different information, I'd love to see it posted here.

Unless her business somehow exploded in the last two years (as far as I know it hasn't) here are her numbers from 2019:


Quote:

My book sales income alone is around about 2.5x the UK national average salary and 7x the average author income reported in the recent All Party Writer's Group report.

The average author income as reported in this PDF was 10,500 GBP so she made about 73,500 GBP (roughly $100k USD). I consider it low when you take into account her high profile as a self-publishing expert. I know people who make way more than her yet nobody knows about them (well, usually the people only doing this stuff but not teaching it are the ones who are really killing it lol).

You're putting most all your publishing business eggs in one basket--Amazon (you said 80%).

True but that's what it is for most self-published authors, and particularly fiction writers.

I work with a mega best-selling author who's made millions selling books.

I appreciate you sharing this interesting example.

If you really want to do this long-term, I'd say find ways to build a really solid email list.

I have one and it never worked as well as promised by Internet gurus. I now have almost 30,000 people on my list. I emailed an offer yesterday for a product that cost $27. I made 5 sales. Granted, it's a product many of my subscribers already know about but still... The conversion rate is close to 0.

I send my subscribers tons of free stuff, respond to every email and in general try offer a lot of value. Even back in the day when I emailed my list regularly, it never had any real impact on my earnings (except for its impact on my Amazon earnings through helping me with reviews and initial traction).

In total, since I launched the product three years ago, I've made merely $10k on it. It was sold entirely through my list, is very relevant to my audience, and I consider it a very good value. As for ALL the products I sold to my list, I've made $30k since April 2016. So yeah, email marketing isn't always the solution to everything.
 

sanzen

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Well we have different definitions. What you're saying is just Internet marketing, self-publishing is IMO publishing on retailer sites (and that's mostly what you'll find if you google the term). Not saying you aren't right as for selling elsewhere, just pointing out that my definition is different.

You can define it that way if you like, but successful entrepreneurs don't.

Unless her business somehow exploded in the last two years (as far as I know it hasn't) here are her numbers from 2019:

Nope. First, this is strictly *book* sales; second, it describes the sales ratios, not the dollar amounts. She even lays out her journey to multi-six figures here (April 2016 onward): My Author Timeline. From First Book To Author Entrepreneur | The Creative Penn

But I get the feeling Penn is a straw man here for you. Personally, I don't think of her as exceptional in the field, just successful.

True but that's what it is for most self-published authors, and particularly fiction writers.

You're still conflating 'author' and 'writer' with 'self publishing entrepreneur'. I get that; it's a view many hold. But it misses the entire point of self publishing, which is not 'put ebooks on Amazon'. You're confusing 'books' with 'self publishing' and the business of leveraging publishing to develop multiple streams of income. You're still in the narrow world view of 'romance novels on Amazon'.

I won't try and convince you of how it really works out there; all I can tell you is that you're missing 90% of the big picture with these beliefs.
 

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I have one and it never worked as well as promised by Internet gurus. I now have almost 30,000 people on my list. I emailed an offer yesterday for a product that cost $27. I made 5 sales. Granted, it's a product many of my subscribers already know about but still... The conversion rate is close to 0.

I send my subscribers tons of free stuff, respond to every email and in general try offer a lot of value. Even back in the day when I emailed my list regularly, it never had any real impact on my earnings (except for its impact on my Amazon earnings through helping me with reviews and initial traction).

In total, since I launched the product three years ago, I've made merely $10k on it. It was sold entirely through my list, is very relevant to my audience, and I consider it a very good value. As for ALL the products I sold to my list, I've made $30k since April 2016. So yeah, email marketing isn't always the solution to everything.

As someone with nearly a decade of first hand experience in the book publishing world who's helped people sell literally millions of books, I'm telling you, you need an engaged list if you want to make big money.

You have a list. You don't have an engaged audience in that list though.

If you only made $27 with a list of 30k people, you don't have product market fit. You're selling to the wrong audience. It doesn't matter if you consider it to be a good value—it's obviously not to them (or they're just cheap). Change your product or find a different audience.

Now, you're right, email marketing doesn't solve everything. But that might just mean it's not an email list for you—you need some asset that you control though.

MJ uses this forum. All the authors in the space I operate in focus on their email lists as their bread and butter sales channel. They diversify with other products, yes, but that's also derived from the list. I'm talking best-selling authors who've sold millions of books each. They're all multi millionaires at this point.

The reason an engaged list—or some other asset like it that you control—is so important in this space is, as I said, to get around weak control, entry, and need.

If you control the platform, you're not as dependent on Amazon and other retailers (you still are to a large degree, just not as much). It's hard and takes time to build a highly engaged list—there's your barrier to entry. If your list is engaged, that means they're hungry for what you're putting out, which solves need to some degree.

Alternatively, you can leverage your big, highly engaged list into a book deal.

I know you're all about self-publishing, but the big publishers are not going anywhere anytime soon. The smart ones leverage the internet by filtering for people who already have engaged audiences to sell to. They mitigate their risk better that way.
 

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His blog gained traction and he used it to build a list and a social media following. He then leveraged this into a book deal.

To write the book, he took ideas from his blog that really resonated with readers and went deep with them. So basically, the blog was his testing ground.

James Clear?
 

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And with a "cheezy title" like The Millionaire Fastlane , my marketing started at a disadvantage. 10+ years later, I still get shit about the horrible title.

Is it me, or are you too hard on yourself about this? I've heard you make this comment several times.

But isn't it a rule in marketing to be polarizing? Have you considered how this title directly spoke to thousands of people? How it stood out amongst the noise?

Love it or hate it, they're not ignoring it.

Is that really a disadvantage?

Could it have been better? Sure. But I think the 3-hour work week would have done better than the 4-hour work week. Are we quibbling?

At the end of the day it beats the pants off titles like "the one thing" or "big magic" or "zero to one" or "the four agreements". Clearly those titles needed other advantages to make a bestseller list.

You chose a striking title. You wrote an impactful book. You built a personal brand in a space that's crowded with personal brands.

That's something. That's something special.

(The title is fine. The first book cover did need to go. Haha.)
 

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You can define it that way if you like, but successful entrepreneurs don't.


Successful entrepreneurs can call it whatever they want. For authors, this is self-publishing:


Self-publishing is the publication of media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher. The term usually refers to written media, such as books and magazines, either as an ebook or as a physical copy using POD (print on demand) technology. It may also apply to albums, pamphlets, brochures, video content, and zines.

If you created a $97 guide and sold it via Clickbank, this is information marketing, not self-publishing according to this definition. I'm NOT arguing what you're proposing doesn't work. I'm merely saying it's another path, just like copywriting or blogging isn't self-publishing.

Can these work together? Of course. But you can't tell Mark Dawson (a well-known self-publisher) he's missing the entire point because he doesn't sell PDFs on his website.

Nope. First, this is strictly *book* sales; second, it describes the sales ratios, not the dollar amounts.

Well we're talking about book sales here. I sometimes make money through services for authors but this is not my writing income, just like public speaking wouldn't be writing income, either. She has multiple sources of income and that's excellent. Just not all of them are from writing.

Also, how is her saying "My book sales income alone is around about 2.5x the UK national average salary and 7x the average author income" describing sales ratios?

You're still conflating 'author' and 'writer' with 'self publishing entrepreneur'. I get that; it's a view many hold. But it misses the entire point of self publishing, which is not 'put ebooks on Amazon'. You're confusing 'books' with 'self publishing' and the business of leveraging publishing to develop multiple streams of income. You're still in the narrow world view of 'romance novels on Amazon'.

Like I said above, we're talking about different things. I don't publish romance novels on Amazon but those who do don't have a narrow worldview. It's what it is for self-published romance writers.

I publish through every retailer as well as internationally, including selling translation rights to traditional publishing houses so I do have multiple streams of income. It doesn't change the fact that for regular books (I'm not talking highly technical guides or books that you sell exclusively/primarily in print like some brands like Monocle do) Amazon IS the place to go (and other book retailers, too).
 
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You have a list. You don't have an engaged audience in that list though.

If you only made $27 with a list of 30k people, you don't have product market fit. You're selling to the wrong audience. It doesn't matter if you consider it to be a good value—it's obviously not to them (or they're just cheap). Change your product or find a different audience.

Now, you're right, email marketing doesn't solve everything. But that might just mean it's not an email list for you—you need some asset that you control though.

That's a very good point and thank you for pointing that out. I've built a lot of this list through a few free books I distribute online. I assume that's what destroyed its quality. People joined it to get more free stuff, and among them, a lot are from very poor countries. I often get emails from people who say they can't afford my stuff or people who are begging me to send them more free stuff (even though I offer a lot for free).

The reason an engaged list—or some other asset like it that you control—is so important in this space is, as I said, to get around weak control, entry, and need.

If you control the platform, you're not as dependent on Amazon and other retailers (you still are to a large degree, just not as much). It's hard and takes time to build a highly engaged list—there's your barrier to entry. If your list is engaged, that means they're hungry for what you're putting out, which solves need to some degree.

Great observations, particularly that a highly engaged list is a barrier to entry. I'm now considering a new non-fiction series in a new niche (in addition to fiction but that's more in the future). I'll follow your advice and approach it from the asset point of view first.

Can you recommend any resources that focus on how to build an engaged list?

By the way, I have a great example of someone who's doing exactly what you're saying even though he's traditionally published: Brandon Sanderson.

He has many platforms where he has a highly engaged audience: his website Home | Brandon Sanderson (including a newsletter), conventions where he appears (he tells people where he'll be via his website), social media (with huge followings considering a topic that isn't really that super social media friendly), and his podcast for writers www.writingexcuses.com (pretty much all writers are readers so audiences overlap).
 

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If you created a $97 guide and sold it via Clickbank, this is information marketing, not self-publishing according to this definition. I'm NOT arguing what you're proposing doesn't work. I'm merely saying it's another path

Not all blogs are magazines and not all magazines are blogs.

Nevertheless, certainly some blogs are effectively e-zines. And by the definition you shared, that is self-publishing.

And if I sell a $97 150 page guide, in e-form, a pdf, which proposes to teach people how to do something, how exactly is that different than a book?

Is it the fact that it's on clickbank? Would it become a book if I sold it on my own website?

You seem to be adamant about your own terms, but I read the definition you shared, and the lines are pretty blurry these days.

Written media published without the help of a publisher, is self-publishing. The definition even includes pamphlets.

Back in the day, professionals looked down on self-publishing. That's not "real" publishing. I suspect some of that sentiment was still around when you first got in this business.

But now you're kind of on a high horse about "real" self-publishing?

Publishers had to adapt. Maybe it's time self-publishers adapt.

Do you want to make money, or do you want to be right?
 

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And if I sell a $97 150 page guide, in e-form, a pdf, which proposes to teach people how to do something, how exactly is that different than a book?

Is it the fact that it's on clickbank? Would it become a book if I sold it on my own website?

You seem to be adamant about your own terms, but I read the definition you shared, and the lines are pretty blurry these days.

I won't defend myself anymore because you got me here :)

I agree that the lines are pretty blurry these days. My definition needs updating.

Nice rhetoric work and thank you for your post. It got me thinking.
 

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I won't defend myself anymore because you got me here :)

I agree that the lines are pretty blurry these days. My definition needs updating.

Nice rhetoric work and thank you for your post. It got me thinking.

Sometimes I make a post like that and things unfortunately go sideways. I have great respect for your contributions here, and was nervous my comment/tone might not reflect that.

So thank you for taking it in the spirit it was intended. And thanks for starting this discussion too.
 

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As someone with nearly a decade of first hand experience in the book publishing world who's helped people sell literally millions of books, I'm telling you, you need an engaged list if you want to make big money.

You have a list. You don't have an engaged audience in that list though.

If you only made $27 with a list of 30k people, you don't have product market fit. You're selling to the wrong audience. It doesn't matter if you consider it to be a good value—it's obviously not to them (or they're just cheap). Change your product or find a different audience.

Now, you're right, email marketing doesn't solve everything. But that might just mean it's not an email list for you—you need some asset that you control though.

MJ uses this forum. All the authors in the space I operate in focus on their email lists as their bread and butter sales channel. They diversify with other products, yes, but that's also derived from the list. I'm talking best-selling authors who've sold millions of books each. They're all multi millionaires at this point.

The reason an engaged list—or some other asset like it that you control—is so important in this space is, as I said, to get around weak control, entry, and need.

If you control the platform, you're not as dependent on Amazon and other retailers (you still are to a large degree, just not as much). It's hard and takes time to build a highly engaged list—there's your barrier to entry. If your list is engaged, that means they're hungry for what you're putting out, which solves need to some degree.

Alternatively, you can leverage your big, highly engaged list into a book deal.

I know you're all about self-publishing, but the big publishers are not going anywhere anytime soon. The smart ones leverage the internet by filtering for people who already have engaged audiences to sell to. They mitigate their risk better that way.
In your experience, if someone is just starting out, has books to publish, and wants to do it right, what are some of the highest-leverage actions that person should take?

Obviously, build an engaged email list.

What else do you recommend?
 

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Is it me, or are you too hard on yourself about this?

Not really sure. Maybe, maybe not.

I'm just reflecting on how many times I've heard "I didn't buy your book because of the title, it was only until it was recommended by 3 people I respect." When I hear that, and it is quite often, I wonder how many thousands of sales I lost because of it ... that I needed 3 people to recommend the book to secure a new reader, to me, speaks to negative skew, rather than a positive one.


You chose a striking title. You wrote an impactful book. You built a personal brand in a space that's crowded with personal brands.

That's something. That's something special.

Thank you, yes I try to remind myself that my work has been read by millions and it is something I can be proud and grateful for.
 

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I'm just reflecting on how many times I've heard "I didn't buy your book because of the title, it was only until it was recommended by 3 people I respect." When I hear that, and it is quite often, I wonder how many thousands of sales I lost because of it ... that I needed 3 people to recommend the book to secure a new reader, to me, speaks to negative skew, rather than a positive one.
I think some people feel like that because this market ("how to get rich") has a bad reputation, AND it's extremely crowded which means high buyer skepticism. When buyers are skeptical, it's not so much that your product is bad or lacks positive skew, but rather that buyers do not believe it, at least not upfront, without the other people they respect recommending it.

Back when I bought TMF , I had read Rich dad Poor Dad, and saw the book as a recommendation on Amazon. That's how I ended up looking into it, and it seemed cool, so I was like, why not, let me buy this. It ended up being a great decision.

I think that, unlike other authors, one of the core differentiators that you have is that you've created this forum, where people can come and interact directly with you. I'm sure that nowadays many people come to the forum, and THEN get the books. It's quite rare to have an author interact directly with his readers the way you do. I think that's really special.
 

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