The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

GOLD! Hello from Denver - self publishing success

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
Hi everyone. I apologize in advance for the length of this post. :tiphat:

I joined here yesterday but was first introduced to the MFL in December of 2011. I am A LOT older than most here (42) and certainly not a millionaire by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact, until the past several months I have never earned enough from any business I have started to support myself completely from that business. I have always worked for others in one fashion or another until recently. But, as of this month, I have earned more in a single month than I ever did working for myself (obviously) or anyone else. This has been an absolutley incredible acheivement for me which took forever to happen but now that it has, I feel 20 years younger.

So I'm not going to waste alot of time talking about all the things I've tried to become successful over the years. It's just not important to me anymore. Pretty much I used to think that sucked at everything I ever did, but then I read MFL and I realized it was the choices I was making that was the culprit.

Now I'd like to say that I read MFL and wham, I started on my fastlane within 24 hours but that would not be true. I still struggled. Mostly because I was mired in several things which produced modest results. But then in mid-2012 I finally burned all those bridges, focused on one thing and it all turned around for me. You see, it was around that time that I a friend of mine (who is not a serial entrepreneur but a real writer) told me about some success he was having writing e-books for platforms like Kindle, Nook and the like.

So, I researched it a bit and to make a long story short, one thing led to another and this month, it looks like I'll clear somewhere around $15,000 for my fiction titles.

Of course I realize that this road violates a couple of fastlane principles - control (ultimately Amazon and the rest are in control of much of what happens) and entry (anyone could write an e-book). Otherwise, it's been scalable as hell, definitely separates my time from my money and, the way I write, is without question an A-Z process.

In other words, I've been able to systematize much of what I do. I think that was the biggest surprise of all to me. But, when you really learn about what the big earners do, it's all systems. Very, very, very few successful fiction writers do it for "passion" and in fact write in a formulaic manner and cater to what the genre wants to read. Honestly, I truly believe that almost anyone can do this if they work this as a system.

Not being a writer myself (thank God for Word's spell and grammar checker!), I relied heavily on my ability to do market research and understand the Amazon ecosystem throughly (in terms of keywords). In my mind, this is definitely what has made me successful in this so far. Aside from that, I am an expert in creating catchy titles, coming up with eye grabbing covers, writing enticing descriptions and hooking folks when they "Look Inside" at the first 10-12% of my books. Of course, I do the very best job I can as a writer but I'm no Shakespeare. Luckily, it turns out that it doesn't matter at all.

My formula is simple.

Step 1 - Look at what is selling.
Step 2 - Come up with my own spin/version of it and sell it.

That said, I don't want to mislead anyone that is reading this... Behind the scenes, within that simplicity are mutiple layers of complexity that represent my system. Nothing I do is accidental or "inspired". I don't write for inspiration or passion.

I write for people and markets. That's it.

Over the long run, I think that this will be my true fastlane. That is, exposing my systems approach to others. The true beauty of it is is that there is no saturation possible. There are thousands of e-book categories on Amazon and hundreds of thousands of possible methods for serving those markets. In my mind, my system is like a Swiss Army knife that can be used in whole or part to achieve goals.

In fact, I hired a programmer last November to help me automate much of the research I do on the biggest platform of them all - Amazon. It is still a long way from being finished but even what I've come up with so far has quintupled my income. I am pretty confident that if it works for me, it will work for others. Time will tell of course - I am still very early in all stages here.

In the meantime, I am writing and building up my credibility as a "non-writing/author" expert. I believe that if I am able to demonstrate competence at a high level using my approach that it will make my job of implementing my fastlane easier down the line. I haven't seen alot of folks on here self pubbing but I just wanted to put this out there for anyone lurking and thinking about giving it a shot.

A word of warning if you do decide to try... Understand that it will not happen overnight.

It took me 227 days or, more precisely, 732 hours, 38 minutes and 44 seconds in working time to get there. How do I know? I use a time tracking program called Toggl to categorize and track every single minute I spend in my business. Again, part of my system since time is my most precious asset.

Beyond the time, it took me 34 titles (ranging from 8,000 - 20,000 words each) to break the $10,000 earned in a single month threshold. You see, once I ironed out what worked (and didn't) in my market, it all turned around - my last three titles have been awesome sellers.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you decide to try it you probably won't get a bestseller but everything sells so just keep at it. In fact, if I can keep doing what I've been doing, I've got a roadmap to $20,000 and even $100,000 per month mapped out.

I figure that even if I'm half wrong, that's still $50,000 per month!

Will I get there? I have no idea. It's a rough and tumble volatile, cutthroat business with Amazon constantly mucking around. But, what business doesn't have an equal number of threats? All I can do is keep it at and see what happens.

Anyway, sorry again for the lengthy post everyone. I hope that I am able to add some value here over time.

Thanks alot MJ for the inspiration - it has changed my life!
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

MJ DeMarco

Administrator
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Jul 23, 2007
29,191
100,568
3,751
Fountain Hills, AZ
F*cking awesome intro and it feel honored to have another self-pub'r here!

And yes, self-pub violates some of the Commandments (control namely due to Amazon's power) but you still maintain your brand and name. When my next book is finished I still would be able to sell 1000's without Amazon due to having built a following.

Insofar as the big FL C's (commandments) I'd say SCALE and NEED are the two most important and it seems like you got that covered.

So, I researched it a bit and to make a long story short, one thing led to another and this month, it looks like I'll clear somewhere around $15,000 for my fiction titles.
Fricken Fastlane! Love it! Now that's a type of figure where your life can start to change!

I've got a roadmap to $20,000 and even $100,000 per month mapped out.
Each book you write builds the momentum.

Look forward to hearing more from you.
 

Twiki

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Oct 7, 2012
274
279
172
Great stuff! I especially like your "word of caution" about it not happening overnight --- pumping out 34 titles must represent real effort.

Two questions:

a) are you focusing on one market/niche to establish credibility/expertise? Are most of those 34 in the same subject? Or are you hopping around to whatever seems to satisfy market at time of your analysis?

b) Amazon reviews seems to be more unreliable and untrustworthy... are fake/paid reviews as rampant as they seem to be (to me at least?)? How do you handle this form of credibility issue, if it is a factor at all?
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
@ MJ - Thanks for the kind words. I was pretty surprised to see you comment. I can't tell you how much your ideas have changed my life man.

@ Twiki - Thanks, yeah it's been some work but really it's just intense periods of focus, rest and then repeat. I shoot for one new title a week but I actually have averaged about one new title every 10-14 days. YMMV but in my niche, titles have a shelf life so new producing new content on a regular basis is just part of the game.

On question A. One market/niche/pen name so far. I sort of dug around before I got started to figure out the average sales rank of the top sellers in the biggest fiction categories. Then, I just narrowed it down to a few that I thought would be relatively easy for me to get into within 3-6 months. From there, I picked one and stuck with it. It's one of the most competitive categories on all Amazon so I figured if I went where there was lots of money, that some of it would come my way. There's people that makes wayyyy more than I do so there's plenty of room to grow.

As an aside, that's the biggest mistake I see people complaining about on writer's forums - lack of sales. But if you read between then lines, I'd say that 95% of the time their work isn't targeted to a deep pool of buyers. So, instead of trying to fix the problem, they carry on about how their novel which took them five years to write doesn't sell. Then they blame Amazon or whatever when in fact they are just ignoring the needs of the market. It's sort of like the karate studio example MJ gives in MFL. Same thing. People doing something for their own selfish desire instead of producing what the market wants.

On question B. Early on, I stopped looking at reviews of my work. The first time I got a one star, it crushed me. But soon thereafter, I got over it. See, I've gotten five stars on stuff that barely sells and gotten more one stars on my very best selling title than anything else. I couldn't speak to whether they are fake or not. I know there's lots of people gaming it but I just don't pay any attention at all.

I think the bottom line with e-books is that it's zero risk for the buyer so reviews are probably not as big a factor as if I was buying a 60" flat screen. What I mean is that you have seven days to return a book on Amazon.com and when it's just $2.99 or whatever, I think most people just kind of shrug and say, "Well, I'll read it anyway. I can always return it."

I know lots of writers think reviews are everything but in my experience, they haven't made much difference. That's not to say that if all my work got five stars I wouldn't sell way more but they don't get that, there's nothing I can do about it anyway and I'm doing alright so honestly I don't care. Besides, if you do the math on the reviews to sales ratios, less than one half of one percent of my buyers leave reviews so it's just not even an issue at all.

Just my 2 cents...

In general, my basic rule is that if it distracts from my writing, I avoid it. This also includes obsessing over my stats all day long. I monitor them daily. Some people do more or less but that is just what works well for me without disrupting my work flow too much.

In the end, I only care about two things once I publish a title - sales and returns. I have targets for both. In my mind, this is the market voting for my work and so they are the only metrics I care about. What people say about my work doesn't matter. All I care about is what their wallet/purse says about it.

It usually takes me about 10 - 14 days for the numbers to settle out when a new title goes live but if I don't see the sales I'm after and/or the return rates I want, then I know I missed the mark.

Hope that helps!
 

Twiki

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Oct 7, 2012
274
279
172
Berry good yo! Thanks for the response. I'm self-published myself but only did it to support a very Slowlane offline business (got a bunch of other people in my field to each write a chapter, and set myself up as the "editor" --- all i did was copy and paste, format the doc, and write the intro --- ta da!), but that's in a market that's probably not be viable on its own. It sounds like you're following that Fastlane math of "serving large numbers of people in a small way". You sir are a MACHINE!
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
Hi everyone... Wall of text below. It's an answer to another PM from a member here. I have a busy writing schedule this week so I really can't answer that many questions right now, unfortunately!

My guess is that this post will could spawn more questions so please be patient if you have them. It probably won't be until sometime over the weekend or early next week until I can get to them.

Anyway, I've posted what we discussed which may (or may not) help someone here if they are curious at all about how I size up a market.

Sorry again for the length! :groove:

--- Begin Wall ---

Hey Darren! Great to hear from another writer on here... I've answered your questions below. I hope that they help you.
djrobinson said:
1. Would you mind pointing me to one of your books? I'm always interested in seeing what successful people have written.
I asked my wife if she would mind if I shared my pen name before I joined here and she requested that I don't for now. So, I have to respect that. I'm sorry, I hope you can understand.
djrobinson said:
2. You mentioned you've written 8,000-20,000 stories. Are these in Amazon Singles?
No, they are just short novellas basically.
djrobinson said:
3. Do you think the shorts are better to write?
That depends on your market. In mine, they are pretty commonplace. The downside to short works is that while they are easier to crank out, they tend to have a much shorter shelf life. In the end, you have to write on a consistent basis to keep up with the fall off and to maintain momentum - especially on Amazon.
djrobinson said:
My true interests are in dark fiction, fantasy and the likes and I would appreciate any advice you'd be willing to share.
What follows are the most BASIC things I would look at it if I were you...

The first thing is that if I were you I'd try to find the largest subcategory of fantasy that I could compete in and figure out what the potential is for a good selling title.

It boils down to demand in that market and whether or not you can produce something that people want to buy.

Within fantasy as a whole, Amazon currently lists 57, 854 results. Now, dark fantasy only has 366 results which means 1 of 2 things to me.

The first is that it's dominated by big names or there's very low demand. In either case, it might not be worth your time if your goal is to make the most money possible. Of course, that may not be your only goal, which is fine, but as someone who's on this forum, my guess is that your goal is at least partially financial.

But assume that you want to investigate further...

I would sort by New and Popular and then examine each listing for the following for at least the first several pages of results in Amazon. Compile your results in a spreadsheet and it'll give you a rough idea of the market's profitability.

  1. The Sales Rank (if it's anything above 10,000, I generally ignore it unless it is at least several months old - I'll explain below).
  2. Whether or not the title is published just on Kindle (by someone like us) or is offered through a publisher. In my experience, this is a much better apples to apples type of comparison than comparing your work to something that has the backing of a publisher.
  3. The number of pages. This will let you know basically what the market expects in the category in terms of book length. It's not set in stone, you can do whatever you want, but it's good to have a feel for it.
  4. The publication date. Here's the thing about this. What I like to see is a title that has good age (>3 months and a rank of <10,000). This will tell you a couple of things. The first is that if it can maintain a rank of 10,000 it means that it has probably had ranks in the low 1,000s at some stage. Once you get down to this level you are going to be selling 75-100 copies a day of whatever it is. But books are wasting assets (sort of like a stock option) and as time goes on, more people purchase it and demand starts to wane. So, if I see a title that still has a low rank after 90 days, I know that this is something I may want to model in my own writing. Usually you will find that this is a person who has been around for a while and has a decent catalog. It's worth taking the time to look at how they market on Amazon (cover, description, etc.) and learn from it.
  5. The price.
  6. Now add everything up in a spreadsheet and assign a dollar value to it. An easy way to do this, is to just make a spreadsheet with columns for the title, the length, the pub date, the sales rank and the price. A formula that I came across for estimating sales rank in Excel is =EXP(10.526-(0.92*LN(A1))). Basically, put the Sales Rank value in column A1 (or whatever column you want) and then copy the formula to B1 (or whatever). It will spit out a value that is roughly the number of sales made per day. Multiply that times the list price to come up with a gross revenue number per day for that title. The formula isn't terribly accurate but it's better than nothing and will give you a feel for market viability which is really all you are after. Once you have all the gross revenue numbers together, total them and that will tell you roughly how much money all of those titles make as a group each day. From there, it's up to you as to whether or not you want to give it a shot.
By the way, you can also do this whole process by entering a keyword first and then seeing what pops up. You could start at the root directory of Kindle e-books or drill down to Fantasy and do keyword research from there as well. Keyword research is a whole topic within itself that I don't have time to get into at the moment.

As you know, you are going to be entering 7 keywords with your title anyway, so you want to do solid keyword research also.

It's the same basic approach otherwise.

Anyway man, I know that's alot to throw out there but that's the basic method I use to get a feel for a market. As I mentioned, I have been working with a programmer to automate alot of this but it's not there yet so I still have to use this longhand method. It's a pain but it's like the old saying, "Measure twice, cut once."

The same thing applies in fiction writing on Amazon. While it's possible to have a runaway bestseller, it isn't likely. I'd rather put out 20 consecutive titles that will be sub 10K for a few months each by doing solid research than by risking it all with a monstrous tome that no one buys.

Hope that helps!

--- End Wall ---
 

drmctcher

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Sep 14, 2009
58
64
137
Phoenix Metro
Thanks for sharing!! Your story is very inspiring!! :thankyousign: Appreciate learning about your process & systems.
Are you familiar with Pat Flynn and the E-book he wrote that got his business off the ground..? Sounds similar to some of the things you have said.
Do you happen to use any dictation software? ... For us typers with 5 :thumbsup:
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
Hi there! No, I'm not familiar with him. Sounds like something I should check out. Thanks for the tip!

With respect to dictation software, I attempted to use Dragon Naturally Speaking for a while. But, as slow a typist as I am, it is still faster than having to go back and constantly correct/train DNS.

I have another part of my process where I basically do a detailed outline of the entire book. This process (while somewhat lengthy) cut my actual writing time down by 1/3 so in the end, it saved me time. Most of the time, I get anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 words per hour in when I am actually typing.
 

MJ DeMarco

Administrator
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Jul 23, 2007
29,191
100,568
3,751
Fountain Hills, AZ
I moved the thread to the authoring forum and changed the title (hope you don't mind!)

There is some great information here and because it is an "intro" it might get overlooked.
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
Thanks MJ. Great stuff in the authoring forum as well!
 

Rawr

Gold Contributor
Speedway Pass
Aug 12, 2007
1,818
1,688
454
south florida
Speed+ Action taker gold in a very action faker field.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

santa

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Jul 15, 2011
242
192
114
UK
Great stuff!

I've also thought the barriers to entry (people hopping on bandwagon etc) and control are issues with this
But as someone trying to make a bit of extra money from this I'm really grateful for your take on things.

One piece of advice that I hope is useful to you;
Your wife is a wise woman. DO NOT tell anyone or show anyone your author page or books. People will saturate your exact market and make it harder for you...
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
I've also thought the barriers to entry (people hopping on bandwagon etc) and control are issues with this
But as someone trying to make a bit of extra money from this I'm really grateful for your take on things.
I appreciate what you are saying here. It's funny because when I started, everyone was saying the same thing.

It's too crowded, everyone is doing it, etc. And, you're right, anyone can do it. I agree 100% and I've said as much which is a problem from a Fastlane POV.

But, I think that in the long run, most people just don't stick with stuff whether it's e-books or whatever. For instance, I can tell you that when I login to my Author Central account on Amazon.com and look at my Author Rank, I can scroll back all the way to last fall when they first started to track that stat. Now, really it's a useless statistic but there's a point to what I'm saying...

Back then, I was in the 3,000s+ in my sub genre! So, what I mean is that last fall there was 3,000+++ people already writing in my sub genre. Talk about no barrier to entry!

I already knew I wasn't a writer, never desired to be, etc. so I had to figure something else out if I wanted to give it a legit shot. So, I just kept looking at the winners. What were they doing? What types of stories were they writing? Could I do something similar, or different or better?

I just kept plugging away - 1-star reviews and all. I even had someone once say they wish they could have given me negative stars.

Hilarious! :eusa_clap:

Fast forward six months, and I'm firmly in the Top 100 of my sub genre, day in, day out. It's one of the most competitive genres of all so if a guy who doesn't write and sits on his couch can do it, anyone can.

The point of all of this is not talk about my rank or anything but to illustrate the point that I could have looked at my situation when I was 3,000+ with only a handful of titles under my belt and said, "Bah, too competitive. It's not worth the $100 I made in September. E-books don't work."

I'm not saying that you are saying that but I'm saying that it's worth sticking with if you are interested at all.

So, for whatever reason, I didn't quit. I just kept digging. I could see the money there. I could look at their sales ranks and see it. I just knew I could do it. I just needed time.

Today, I'm right there with them and I'd say to anyone that the same opportunity is still there. You just have to be willing to ride the highs and lows of it all, of which there are many. Getting there is one thing, staying there is a different animal altogether.

One piece of advice that I hope is useful to you;Your wife is a wise woman. DO NOT tell anyone or show anyone your author page or books. People will saturate your exact market and make it harder for you...
I'm actually keeping it private for a different reason entirely but again, it's kind of the same thing. I don't think there's any competition for good content.

As I mentioned above, I'm not a writer by profession and I'm one of the top ranked writers in my category in the WORLD. How insane is that? Like I outsell NY Times bestsellers with publishing houses behind them and everything.

It's all smoke and mirrors. Amazon makes the whole thing very democratic from a competitive standpoint. All of the competitive intelligence you'll ever need is right there for the taking.

It's f'ing amazing when you really think about it. At least as things stand right now, the little guy really does still have a chance.

But, I think most people think it's a real barrier so they don't even try. I don't think there will ever be a saturation point for good stories. People have been writing them for 1000s of years and that won't change anytime soon.
 

Twiki

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Oct 7, 2012
274
279
172
The Excel formula that you've provided here is GOLD++ alone... thank you so much! Maybe there aren't technical barriers to entry into self-publishing anymore, but there will always be barriers in terms of (lack of) persistence and wishful thinking (dreaming that the first one or two tries leads to a runaway Harry Potter-type bestseller). It's like Seth Godin's concept of the Dip --- how many people are crazy enough to keep plugging away at something for 30+ books???

I agree with Santa that your wife is smart about her suggestion, and whatever other reason you have for not revealing too much is totally understandable. I think another good reason for not revealing your niche is that it'd be giving too much of a hand-out to people --- just serving it on a plate would actually hurt them because they wouldn't have to then go do the research and analysis steps you've provided, so they'd never understand the process and get a feel for the underlying principles.
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
Answer to another PM - LONG!

CosmicBlip said:
If you don't mind, I have a few questions:
1. When you say to sort by New and Popular, would you do this on the broader category you want to get in, or the lowest sub-category? I'm assuming a sub-category or niche, but would you dig to the deepest one?
Depends on what you're after. It's going be tougher to compete at the highest level of any genre but it doesn't mean you should exclude it from your research. If you see an indie crossing over from a sub category to the main category, that might be something you want to investigate. That's no easy feat.
CosmicBlip said:
2. If there are a lot of big time publishers in the category that are just adding Kindle as an electronic option, do you shy away from that category? or just ignore those books?
Well, I would never say you shouldn't be aware of everything that is happening in your niche. Of course, you are going to see the monster hits up there. Everyone knows what those are in their respective niches so what I try to find are people like myself who are doing well.

My reasoning is this...

I really have no idea what goes on behind the scenes with big time publishing. Usually when publishers are involved they have huge mailing lists and routinely engage in book bombs when titles get released. A book bomb is a coordinated purchase of a new release on a mass scale to game Amazon's ranking algo. Paid reviews are not unheard of, etc. There are just so many shenanigans that it's impossible to try and reverse engineer it.

That's why I just look at people who I feel like I can match up against. By that I mean independent publishers. It's usually pretty obvious who's doing their own thing. The covers are kind of homemade looking. The publisher is Amazon Digital Services, etc. Their author profile has a picture of their cat, and so on. So while I may never get to #20 in the Kindle Store with my approach, I have been near 1,000 repeatedly. When you get to that level, you'll be selling a healthy amount each day. And you're kind of under the radar still which is fine with me.

CosmicBlip said:
3. Sale Rank - so when you're doing your calculations, do you ignore >10000 sales rank unless it is >3 months old? and you say if it's above 10K you ignore it... so.... since this is not Best Sellers and just New and Popular, I'm assuming that sales ranks will be varied...hence the ignore if over 10K. So if it's >10K sales rank and brand new, then ignore? if >3 months then use in your calculations?
The example I gave was of someone who already sort of knew the kind of fiction they wanted to produce. Your questions are somewhat different but alot of the same basic approach would apply.

But, the 10,000 SR and 3 months aren't absolutes. It's just something that's served me pretty well when I don't know the market very well. Even in my sub niche, there are further sub niches that I've had to investigate. All those numbers tell me that this is a title that's selling at a level I'm happy with over the course of several months.

In general, if something is new and has a rank of more than 10K, it usually won't show up on the list against the better selling titles anyway. To get bestselling status or hot new release status in my sub niche I generally have to get below 5K rank. The thing about those lists is that they tend to be fickle. That's why I look at things with longer track records rather than just trying to catch a hot trend.

On the other hand, you can make a lot of dough quickly with trends. It boils down to preferences.

CosmicBlip said:
1. Pick your lowest sub-category that you want to get into, maybe one level higher depending on the number of books.
Yep.

CosmicBlip said:
2. Sort by New and Popular and look at the first 2-3 pages of books.
Yes, or as many as you want. People do buy from page fifty so if you feel like it's worth it, take a peek.

CosmicBlip said:
3. Get numbers for books that fit this criteria:a. Self-published - not big name publishing house books b. Sales rank <10K AND pub date >3 months c. Price
Self vs. publisher. It's up to you for the reasons I outlined above but if you are in a narrow niche, that may be all you have to work with. 10K and 3 mos., again just a quick rule of thumb. You may find evidence to the contrary that suits your objectives better.

CosmicBlip said:
4. Things like book length are an indication of how long typical books are, so you can model yours after that, but this is not a hard rule
Right. It's just more an indication of consumer preference in that niche. At least, that's how I see it.

CosmicBlip said:
Then, once you do this, you may have just 5 books if there are a lot of big publisher books in this category, or you may have 20 books. Doesn't matter (or does it?).
Doesn't matter to me. Heck you could have way more than that in a big niche. But I've had success within a broad niche for a certain keyword where there were only five titles competing. All of them were bigtime publishers and all the books had ranks of less than 5K and were between six months to five years old. My reasoning was pretty simple. Obviously people are using this keyword but literally no one is directly competing for it. So, I wrote a title around that keyword and within a month, I was selling 80-100 copies of that a day.

So, that's an example of something to the contrary. But, the basic rule still applied. There weren't five titles with 5K that were on the HNR. They had age and track records which told me that this little honey hole had a steady demand that lasted YEARS in some cases.

The bottom line is do you think that you could write a good enough title to get similar ranks to the books you are looking at or not.

CosmicBlip said:
Use the formula for sales rank to # of books sold as an estimation, then multiply by price of the book, then add all of them up. This is the gross revenue for indie books in this category per day - very roughly.
Yeah, very roughly but it's better than nothing. At least as far as I am concerned.

CosmicBlip said:
Then maybe choose another (sub) category and repeat, and see which one is more/most profitable and go into that category to write your book.
Yeah, I think that's a good idea. After you've done it for a while, you start to get a feel for the relative strength of one type of niche versus another, one book length versus another, and so on.

CosmicBlip said:
Question: why not sort by Best Sellers or do this on the Best Seller status instead of New and Popular? Seems that would be a good/better indication of how much money the niche is making per day.
You can sort by as many different ways as you like. I tend to avoid HNR and bestselling lists for the reasons stated above. If I do look at them for research purposes, it's only to get a feel for overall market trends but otherwise they are too volatile for me.

CosmicBlip said:
I know this is really just a guess anyway, and a general idea of what a category makes, so I guess it's all just trying to guess which niches make the most money and getting into those.
Right, well, it's an educated guess but yeah, it's an inexact science - that is 100% true. It's a bit of art and science for sure. It's more about stacking the odds in your favor. That's really all I am trying to do with all of this market research stuff.

Everything in business is percentages and odds and math in general. The same is true here. At least that's how I look at it. So, for some people who don't think that way, my methodology won't resonate very well. All I know is that as I have continually measured and monitored my results have improved. Of course I have no idea for certain if that will continue but in the meantime I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

Truthfully, there's even more to examine - also bought lists, keywords and Author Profiles and on and on. I haven't touched on any of that but if Amazon puts it out there, it's worth considering IMO. They are a money printing machine and my goal as publisher is to slip my titles into that well designed framework as quickly as I can.

I do everything in my power to ensure that and no detail is left to chance.

You really just have to do the best job you can with the information you have and try it out. Unfortunately, that's really the only way to be sure. You won't know if you've cracked the code on any market until you put out in the wild. The difference between where I'm at today versus where I was when I started is that I have a much better feel for what my readers want. After you do it a few times, you will as well.

The bottom line is that the more you do it, the better you'll get. And even though I'd like to say that every title I put out sells 100 copies a day, they don't. But, my misses are more accurate now. In other words, they may not sell 100 but they'll usually sell 15, 20, 25 a day for quite a while. Add ten of those up and you have $500 a day. That's basically how I look at it now.

Hope that helped!
 

DavidofMN

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 19, 2011
211
465
238
Stillwater, MN
Great thread and info!

Quick question: Are you writing fiction books/novellas or how to/informational books/guides? Thanks

David

-Looks like you said in the OP. Fiction.
 
Last edited:

cashflow3000

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 13, 2011
150
36
32
Bellingham, Washington, USA
Fascinating thread and plus speed of course.

Out of curiosity, what made you decide to do this as your fastlane path?
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
@ DavidofMN - Fiction yep!

@ cashflow3000 - I wouldn't say it's my ultimate fastlane path as it violates control and ease of entry. Beyond that, income can fluctuate dramatically and it's certainly not 100% passive. OTOH, it has the potential for massive scale (when you have something that really takes off). I am hopeful that if I can continue to do well I can help others learn from my method of doing things. Then, perhaps I can use that as a path to my fastlane in the long run. There's an awful lot of folks trying to self publish these days so a demand is there. So, I suppose it's really kind of a hybrid approach at this stage. But, I'd be lying if I said I had all of that figured out. I really don't at this point, I'm just trying to continually improve. In the meantime, I've been able to give some advice here and elsewhere which I enjoy doing so we'll see how all of that turns out.

Probably not the simplest answer was it??? :rolleyes:
 

DavidofMN

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 19, 2011
211
465
238
Stillwater, MN
So do you think that the same type of success can be had by writing how to/the secrets of .... informational type books if you followed the same market identification processes?
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
So do you think that the same type of success can be had by writing how to/the secrets of .... informational type books if you followed the same market identification processes?
Hmmm, well the actual research process would be the same but you'd have to consider the average Kindle reader. In other words, I suppose it's possible but I don't know that the books in and of themselves would be successful unless the reader could be further monetized.

Honestly, I wrestled with this question myself before I began and ultimately concluded that I wasn't an expert on anything of value. Still, e-books appealed to me for alot of the reasons I listed above earlier in this thread. Anyway, one day I was discussing the issue with my wife (e.g., should I go with fiction or non-fiction) and she said something that just made total sense.

In essence she said, "Well, aren't people that own Kindles basically the same people who buy books?"

It was kind of a duh moment for me. I was thinking like someone who was trying to apply what I knew to make money rather than looking at where the money was being spent and figuring out if I could compete in that way.

And, if you look at where the big money is for books, it's pretty much fiction hands down.

That said, I would consider non-fiction if I had some other way to monetize (via the principle of magnitude). For example, I've read a bit about your journey here. Let's say that you are able to turn the fashion truck business into a viable enterprise. Well, with an e-book, you could setup a funnel for people who might be interested in taking training to learn how to do it vis-a-vis an high ticket training course or if you are thinking of franchising, same thing.

In other words, someone buys a $.99 e-book on Amazon which leads them into your funnel. Your training system costs $10,000 or your franchise fees cost whatever. In this way, the book becomes your round-the-clock salesman. It's a low risk purchase and it gets people familiar with you. You can get them on a mailing list for more info and the like with all of it leading to some big transaction for you down the line.

Of course, I'm just making all of that up off the top of my head but there's no question that there are opportunity seekers on Amazon all the time. And, you don't even have to physically own a Kindle to read a Kindle e-book so if you can target a book correctly, it's very likely you could get enough people in the funnel to make it payoff.

So, assuming that I did want to go the non-fiction route you are suggesting, I would really have to have some idea of how I could use the e-books as a loss leader/funnel to a more expensive item. I've read of anecdotal success people have with this approach. Now, within that framework, brainstorm ideas and then do the same basic research I outlined above but instead of doing within a fiction category, you would pick the relevant non-fiction category and figure out who the leaders are.

For instance, if you look here - Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Nonfiction › Business & Investing › Small Business & Entrepreneurship › Entrepreneurship you can see (at that time of this writing) that there are 9,316 results in this category.

I would peruse the list (or others) in this area of non-fiction and isolate titles that are similar to what you are trying to achieve. Ignore all those goofballs selling Millionaire books :p. Now, you probably won't find a book on how to start your own fashion truck business but you will find books on "how to make money online", "how to start an e-bay business", etc.

These are your target readers - they are opportunity seekers. So even though it might not make sense to examine why some of those books do well, try and see if they have a funnel. How are they monetizing the reader besides simply selling e-books? Chances are that at least some of them are trying.

Anyway, that's how I think about the kind of stuff you are talking about.

Wow, shocking... Another long winded reply! :tiphat:

But to sum up, I would say that as a general rule pick fiction if you want to make money from just selling books. Pick non-fiction if you have another way to monetize the book readers.
 

ZDS

Bronze Contributor
Oct 2, 2008
498
160
97
30
I wonder if you could hire college students(english / creative writing students are always hurting for jobs) and do an "internship" course for them(could even pay them like $500 stipend on completion). You give them a few topics you've already researched and they write it with your guidance. Might be able to scale it and publish 10 books / week rather than one?
 

Milkanic

Gold Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Apr 17, 2012
587
1,062
384
35
Madison, WI
In fact, I hired a programmer last November to help me automate much of the research I do on the biggest platform of them all - Amazon. It is still a long way from being finished but even what I've come up with so far has quintupled my income. I am pretty confident that if it works for me, it will work for others. Time will tell of course - I am still very early in all stages here.
Are you using an API to do this or are you scraping information? If your current programmer doesn't work out, shoot me a PM. I'd be interested in maybe taking this on.
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
I wonder if you could hire college students(english / creative writing students are always hurting for jobs) and do an "internship" course for them(could even pay them like $500 stipend on completion). You give them a few topics you've already researched and they write it with your guidance. Might be able to scale it and publish 10 books / week rather than one?
Hey ZDS. I think that's a possibility for non-fiction. But, if it were me, I would still do it myself if I were writing non-fiction. As I examined subjects that I thought would make good non-fiction sellers (in and of themselves) I kept running into the same issue. Namely, I'm not really an expert here and what's worse, beyond the $2.00 royalty from Amazon, I really had no way of getting more revenue from the book sale.

So, in my initial thought process, I was left to consider publishing a lot of non-fiction books on lots of different topics and hoping I could sell enough books that way. But then I hit another snag with the "keyword based" writing approach. By keyword based, I mean using some keyword tool and looking up phrases like, "How do I do XYZ?" or whatever. You see this kind of advice everywhere for non-fiction. Anyway, back to my dilemma... Suppose a reader was to browse my Author Central profile where all of my books are listed. There I've got e-books on "How to Date if You're Shy", "How to Run a Hot Dog Stand" or "How to Make Money with Forex".

Do you see what I was doing? I was trying to sell a lot of books by giving the market what I thought it wanted. What people really want in these areas are actual real-life experts, not a guy who hired someone to write stuff about it. Once they hit that profile page, it's pretty clear I'm not an expert on anything. Anyway, that's where I ended up with that. I figured that when or if I ever actually became an expert at something, I'd already know how to produce the e-book.

But, here's the really ironic part of all of this that didn't occur to me until I was a few months into my fiction writing...

With my fiction, it's not unusual for someone to grab 5 or 6 of my titles at once. In fact, I've had a couple of occasions where people have purchased my whole catalog. So, at the end of the day, I achieved my goal - selling lots of books and I didn't have to anything other than write to accomplish it.

There were no long hours of Google keyword research, no hiring writers/editors/graphic designers, etc. In fact, when I really sat back and figured out how much time each of those outsourcing tasks were to going to be costing me, it just wasn't worth it - for me.

So, I'd never tell someone absolutely don't do this or that. I think that it depends on your objectives but even so, I really believe from the bottom of my heart that if you can be a real expert in one thing, you have a much better chance of success in non-fiction over the long run versus the "keyword based" writing strategy that plagues much of the non-fiction category.

You don't have to look too hard to find it! :)
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
If your current programmer doesn't work out, shoot me a PM. I'd be interested in maybe taking this on.
I'll definitely be in touch. Thanks for the offer!
 

ZDS

Bronze Contributor
Oct 2, 2008
498
160
97
30
I definitely agree with you on the non-fiction aspect. The money is in the upsell, the add-ons and the expertise. If I were developing an E-Book. I'd want it to be higher priced and to sell it after hooking people through quality free information that positioned me as an expert.

Writings not really my thing, but I enjoy brainstorming ideas! My question was actually focused towards fiction. Why couldn't you outsource the writing to college students. I could be way off here, you know the industry much better than I do!

There's tons of students with creative writing degrees that want to write. Even more that want to write fiction because it's the area that get's publicized the most. It seems a huge part of the value is in the market research.

My question is I wonder if you could set up the structure: Let the students pick from a few ideas you've already researched, give them a framework for writing that's worked in previous stories. Let them write it.

Now a potential downfall would be: The managing could take way more time than writing the book would take(not sure), but it could also potentially be a way to scale it into a fast lane business.

Just a few thoughts! Take them with a grain of salt! :)
 
OP
OP
Held for Ransom

Held for Ransom

Butt In Chair
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Apr 22, 2013
292
1,290
362
Denver, CO
Now a potential downfall would be: The managing could take way more time than writing the book would take(not sure), but it could also potentially be a way to scale it into a fast lane business.
Well, the thing with fiction is that usually you want to try and build a fan base/readership. Typically that occurs because people like the way you write/tell a story. If you have lots of different people writing under the same pen name, it's naturally going to be confusing to the reader.

So, it's not something I would recommend if you plan on going the standard fiction writing route. However, as I sat here thinking it over however, a possible alternative did occur to me.

Within KDP, you have the option assign multiple contributors to a book. So essentially, you could combine a number of stories into a larger work (sort of like a collection of stories) and then sell them that way - with the various authors listed as contributors. Perhaps you could even price it at a premium. The limiting factor is that per KDP terms, you are only allowed three pen names per KDP account so you'd have to open multiple accounts if you wanted to scale it.

Now, in full disclosure I've heard mixed reports that opening multiple KDP accounts may or may not be against the KDP TOS so be sure and clarify that for yourself. From the terms themselves, it is but it's like alot of things at Amazon, it's not necessarily enforced. Also, from what I've read, it depends on the KDP rep you talk to so the answer will be murky at best. I suppose the point here is that while I wouldn't go this route for some of the reasons I've outlined, I suppose it is possible but I think it might still be tricky.

However, if your strength/skill set is in organizing and managing people in that way, it might be something to consider. If it were me... before I pulled the trigger and did it... I'd try to find someone who's already taking that approach and at least try and figure out if its working.

At the end of the day, it's all about the Sales Rank. If you find someone that's doing something like that and is doing well, it could well be worth considering.

Probably not the answer you were looking for but I'm just being honest!
 

ZDS

Bronze Contributor
Oct 2, 2008
498
160
97
30
Makes a ton of sense! Speed++

Wasn't looking for any particular answer other than learning more about the industry and you've done a phenomenal job with all the questions!:)
 

ROBugatti

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Apr 25, 2013
23
45
121
Cincinnati, OH
Beyond the time, it took me 34 titles (ranging from 8,000 - 20,000 words each) to break the $10,000 earned in a single month threshold. You see, once I ironed out what worked (and didn't) in my market, it all turned around - my last three titles have been awesome sellers.
So 8K-20K words (novellas)...about how many pages does that come out to be? I'm looking at a fiction genre right now and I see books that are 275-300 pages, which is really a full novel. I like your idea of 8-20K words, especially since I already have some experience in writing short stories. This would really be a small step up from that. I've got 1000 ideas in my head (and on paper) and just wondered about how many pages in Word this will be. I guess I could figure it out on my own (I'll Google it and see what I can find), but just thought I'd ask you as well.
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.


Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom