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GOLD! [PROGRESS THREAD] ChickenHawk's Self-Published Fiction EBooks

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ChickenHawk

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The series aspect is interesting to me. As I went through my old manuscript, I realized it could easily be stretched out as a series of at least one more book. With that in mind, I'm wondering if I should launch book 1 as the first of a series or wait to see how it does before committing. The first option seems like the smarter choice, but the commitment to this strategy brings a lot of indecisiveness into play.
Is there a way to split the difference? Like, think of the first Matrix movie. It worked fine on its own, but also left open the possibility for a sequel. I read somewhere that the creators did this on purpose, so they'd be fine either way.

For my next book (meaning the one after I finish this), I'm writing a standalone. Or, at the very least, I'm writing a book that could be a standalone. There are pros and cons to each approach.
  • Benefits of a Series: If you have a series, you can really build momentum off each book and maximize your promo-investment, because you basically promote the heck out of book #1 and let the writing/story carry your audience into the next book(s). If a series hits, you can make a ton of money.
  • Benefits of a Standalone: Standalones are more popular at the moment, and they offer a good chance to find new readers. Plus, each one succeeds or fails on its own merit.
  • Downsides of a Series: If you commit to a series, and the first one has lackluster sales, you're between a rock and a hard place. Once you have a certain number of readers, it becomes increasingly hard to abandon a story that isn't working. Plus, series books seem to be out of favor, particularly in romance. This is particularly true if the books feature the same couple in multiple books. If a series doesn't hit, you can lose a ton of time, because you're writing books for a limited audience, meaning fans of book#1.
  • Downsides of a Standalone: They're more expensive to advertise, because you're advertising for Book#1 and there's no book #2. In contrast, if you're a strong writer and have a series, you can often afford to lose money advertising book#1, because you'll make it up on sales of book#2. This isn't the case with standalone books.
Good luck in whichever route you choose! I hope you'll keep us posted on what you decide!
 

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ChickenHawk

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Look @ Nora Roberts. All 2,800 of her books? The same. Think she agonizes over each word? Write faster.
EXCELLENT insight and so true! Also, in a weird perversion, there's an inverse correlation between the books I write fast and the books I write slow. Faster=better sales. Although, part of this might be unrelated to the quality of writing, but rather due their accelerated release schedule. The faster you release, the more Amazon rewards you in the algos. But whatever the reason, you're absolutely right! Must write faster!!!
 
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"Better" can be the writing, more books, better mailing list, better marketing, anything, but the bottomline is the honeymoon is over as self-publishing being some kind of passive income machine for the newbs. Sure is, but it will take work like anything.
This is SO true. I was thinking about this last night, in fact. One nice thing, though, is that Amazon is finally taking some action on weeding out the "stuffed" books. Still, with Kindle Unlmited, I suspect there will always be ways of scamming it. Later this year, I'm looking to move some of my books back "wide", meaning I'll be selling them on other retailers too.

Regardless, the days of just throwing a book out there and seeing if it finds an audience are long-gone. My first book cost me nearly nothing to release. I designed my own cover and did zero advertising. My investment? Probably less than twenty bucks. If I released the same book today, I doubt it would find an audience without a big marketing push. And advertising is expensive. When I'm in full promotion mode, I can easily drop $10,000 - $20,000 a month or more on advertising. And that doesn't even take into account all the time involved.

One lesson in this, I think, is to strike when the iron is hot. Strike hard, strike fast, take chances, because while you're waffling/thinking/deciding, someone else is acting. And those early entrants have a huge advantage later on.
 

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Good luck in whichever route you choose! I hope you'll keep us posted on what you decide!
Will do. I'm struggling a bit between getting the dang thing out there in the world and paralysis from trying to make sure every aspect (website, mailing list, etc.) is done properly.
 
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Will do. I'm struggling a bit between getting the dang thing out there in the world and paralysis from trying to make sure every aspect (website, mailing list, etc.) is done properly.
My advice? Unless your Web site is integral to your product, I wouldn't let that hold you up. As far as the mailing list, you can go through MailChimp and set it up for free in under an hour. One thing to consider: Until you actually release your book, you wont know for sure whether or not it finds an audience. I burned through one pen name (the kids books) without success, and am glad I didn't spend time on a Web site, etc. beforehand on a pen name that ultimately didn't go anywhere. If I were in your shoes, I'd snag the domain name, but hold off on any Web site stuff for now. (You could do a Facebook fan page for free while you wait.)

All this to say, don't let that other stuff hold you up. You must have a mailing list from the get-go, but other than that, getting the book out there is the only thing that really matters. (*Cracks whip.* Just do it!)
 

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but the bottomline is the honeymoon is over as self-publishing being some kind of passive income machine for the newbs. Sure is, but it will take work like anything.
1) how is it no longer a passive income machine?






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1) how is it no longer a passive income machine?
I know you posed this to MJ, but I'll take a stab at this. It's no longer a passive machine because it's no longer a matter of publishing a good book and waiting for the sales to roll in. You've got to advertise, promote, work your mailing list, keep an eye on pricing, etc. Several of my books were huge successes, but without advertising or a new release by the same pen name, they sink like a stone.

Basically, it's a non-stop churn of time and money, and that's aside from the actual writing. This latest book, I spent almost $1,000 and that was without any real advertising. (Edit to include this additional thought: I wouldn't recommend this for anyone just starting out. If you're not sure you have an audience, this is a crazy amount to spend.)
 

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My advice? Unless your Web site is integral to your product, I wouldn't let that hold you up. As far as the mailing list, you can go through MailChimp and set it up for free in under an hour. One thing to consider: Until you actually release your book, you wont know for sure whether or not it finds an audience. I burned through one pen name (the kids books) without success, and am glad I didn't spend time on a Web site, etc. beforehand on a pen name that ultimately didn't go anywhere. If I were in your shoes, I'd snag the domain name, but hold off on any Web site stuff for now. (You could do a Facebook fan page for free while you wait.)

All this to say, don't let that other stuff hold you up. You must have a mailing list from the get-go, but other than that, getting the book out there is the only thing that really matters. (*Cracks whip.* Just do it!)
Thank you VERY much. I had a suspicion this might be the case, so I'm going to immediately devote all my energies to getting the final edit done by the end of the week. I have already set up an account with MailChimp.

On a side note, since joining this forum, reading MFL and listening to @Andy Black I have adopted the question "How can I help?" to every facet of my life (day job, my side business, personal interactions, etc.) and the change in mindset has been very rewarding.
 

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I know you posed this to MJ, but I'll take a stab at this. It's no longer a passive machine because it's no longer a matter of publishing a good book and waiting for the sales to roll in. You've got to advertise, promote, work your mailing list, keep an eye on pricing, etc. Several of my books were huge successes, but without advertising or a new release by the same pen name, they sink like a stone.

Basically, it's a non-stop churn of time and money, and that's aside from the actual writing. This latest book, I spent almost $1,000 and that was without any real advertising. (Edit to include this additional thought: I wouldn't recommend this for anyone just starting out. If you're not sure you have an audience, this is a crazy amount to spend.)
@ChickenHawk I got you. Yes, I've already figured out that you have to do all those other things to have a chance. Thanks!
 

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SO glad you have seen success ChickenHawk.

We did 7 series' in different genres and had little to no success (maybe $10k each in 3 years?) because we found the email list just ended up being clogged with people who wanted free books. In fact in one series I did an experiment, it was a 4 book series I did

permafree - $2.99 - permafree - $2.99 and people were just buying part 1 and 3, leaving reviews saying they won't read part 2 and 4 unless it is free. They weren't even negative reviews, some of them left 5 star reviews saying the work was brilliant but they were confused as to why it seemed to skip an entire book - they didn't even look at part 2. Also hostage reviews - leaving a one star and then contacting me via email and telling me that they would change it to a 5 star if I sent them all of the books for free.

But the major issue was other authors leaving 1 stars and saying the books needed editing. Amazon even flagged it as "needs editing" but I send it to an editor and then 5 proof readers and it has none of the grammar errors that these reviews say. The content of these reviews tends to be "crap book needs editing , read my series instead" and Amazon actually allow this behavior....
 
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We did 7 series' in different genres and had little to no success (maybe $10k each in 3 years?) because we found the email list just ended up being clogged with people who wanted free books. In fact in one series I did an experiment, it was a 4 book series I did permafree - $2.99 - permafree - $2.99 and people were just buying part 1 and 3, leaving reviews saying they won't read part 2 and 4 unless it is free.
Gotta love those freebie-seekers! Did you ever consider going permafree, 99 cents, $2.99, $2.99? I wonder if part of the problem was staggering them like that. Just a thought! Also, I'm wondering if you might've had more success if you'd stuck to one genre. Sometimes, when you switch it up like that, you don't get the chance to build an audience.

Also hostage reviews - leaving a one star and then contacting me via email and telling me that they would change it to a 5 star if I sent them all of the books for free.
There's a special place in hell for people like this.

Amazon even flagged it as "needs editing" but I send it to an editor and then 5 proof readers and it has none of the grammar errors that these reviews say.
I've had similar things happen, but not to this extent. Nine times out of ten, the grammar-reporter is wrong. Usually, these are "mistakes" similar to what Microsoft Word might falsely auto-correct. I usually go ahead and reword the offending sentence anyway, because it's easier to change a sentence than to argue the point with an Amazon support person whose primary language isn't even the same as my book.

Amazon actually allow this behavior....
Amazon definitely needs to do a better job of policing unethical behavior of all varieties, for sure!
 

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Yeah very real!!!

In the end, for me, it was too time consuming and made me want to jump off a large bridge every day. It is a business where you have to spend a lot of time talking to your customers. It is worse if you are using pen names.

The other negative is that many of the authors got there from doing it as a hobby. Half the posts on the paywalled forums were along the lines of "I made $30k this month, how do I hide it from the IRS".

Eugh.

Still life is a journey, in doing this I discovered my true joy - FB ads!
 

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Man, some of this is deterring me from wanting to finish this book.


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If it is non fiction, I would get on with it.

If it is fiction I would look at using Kindle to leverage a better deal with a traditional publisher but I would not count on launching a fiction brand on Kindle, from scratch, with either no shoutouts from existing authors or no email list.....

UNLESS

you can blow 6 figures in FB ads. But even then you might end up doing what happened to me - spend $1k a week on FB ads only for everyone who sees your book to buy the competitiors whole funnel instead.
 
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If it is non fiction, I would get on with it. If it is fiction I would look at using Kindle to leverage a better deal with a traditional publisher but I would not count on launching a fiction brand on Kindle, from scratch, with either no shoutouts from existing authors or no email list.....
I agree with the part of "getting on with it" if there's still an interest, but I'd extend that to non-fiction and fiction. Also, I can't quite agree about the traditional publisher route. That's a very, very long process. Let's say you're a terrific writer and have a finished, edited manuscript. If you go the traditional route, you're probably looking at a year's turnaround time before the book actually makes it to market. And that's if you're very, very lucky. If I were starting out right now, I'd still self-publish.

you can blow 6 figures in FB ads. But even then you might end up doing what happened to me - spend $1k a week on FB ads only for everyone who sees your book to buy the competitiors whole funnel instead.
Facebook ads are a funny thing. I've done a ton of them, and one thing I've learned is that a terrific ad can't sell a book that doesn't resonate with readers. Of all my books, the ones that were the most successful through Facebook ads were the same books that were the most successful without any advertising at all. Who knows why this is? Maybe it's the blurb. Maybe it's the cover. Maybe it's the book itself, but for whatever reason, some books just move, while others don't. If only we could crack the code, we'd be bajillionaires!
 
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Man, some of this is deterring me from wanting to finish this book.
If so, this might be a good time to assess what you're looking to get out this. If it's a case where you only want to write one book, I could definitely see hesitating. Right now, the market strongly favors those who write multiple books and keep on publishing. As I'm fond of saying, I didn't see any real success until my seventh book. And even now, if I go too long between books, my sales almost totally dry up.

Of course, I write genre fiction, which has always had a certain churn-and-burn quality to it. Non-fiction, I think, has better staying power, which bodes well for you if you write an amazing book.
 

Sequential

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Just be careful is all I am saying. It takes ages to write, edit, proofread on your own let alone when waiting for other people to edit, proofread your books... it can take months if not years... this is a lot of time invested given that 90 odd percent of books released go nowhere.
 

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To avoid cluttering Held for Ransom's incredible self-publishing thread, https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/self-publishing-writing-authorship/46006-hello-denver-self-publishing-success-21.html#post297921, here's my separate progress thread.

The Goal: To Make a Living Through Fiction Writing. To make a great living would be even better.

My Background: I have a Journalism/English/Public Relations degree and supported myself and my family through writing for years now, slowlane style, mostly in marketing and public relations. This gives me a great head start on the mechanics, but not necessarily on story-creation.

Other Publishing Ventures: As I've alluded to elsewhere, I've pursued the traditional fiction-publishing route with only minimal success. I was able to secure a top literary agent, but not a publishing deal. The whole thing was incredibly frustrating, because I spent so much time and energy trying to get published that I didn't have any time or energy left to actually write. Plus, it was one of those scenarios where if even one person in the publishing hierarchy said no, the deal was toast. This lack of control was maddening. Plus, I'm friends with several traditionally published authors and quite honestly, they weren't making enough money to make me think it was the best use of my time, especially when juggling a family and full-time career. (More information on self-publishing versus the traditional route is available on this thread: https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/self-publishing-writing-authorship/47831-self-publishing-kindle-book-then-finding-publisher.html#post297561 )

Where I Stand Now: Thanks to the knowledge shared by Held for Ransom and others, I've recently written and published three fiction books. They all went live on Amazon this month. Here is where they stand so far.
  • Book #1 (Published 8/1/13): 17 sold, 6 borrows, about 300 "sold" during a two-day free promo.
  • Book #2: (Published 8/4/13): 17 sold, 1 borrow, about 200 "sold" during a two-day free promo.
  • Book #3: (Published 8/17/13): 43 sold, 3 borrows, about 600 "sold" during a two-day free promo.

Book #1 is about 18,000 words for $2.99. Book #2 is about 300 words for $1.25. Book #3 is about 14,500 words for $2.99. All books are heavy on original illustrations though so they're quite longer than these word counts suggest.

I'm working on Book #4, which will be under the same pen name, and Book #5, which will be under a completely different pen name because it's a very different genre, a genre with a deeper pool of buyers. It will be interesting to compare results for different genres and see which one gains more traction.

Wish me luck!
So is the market saturated? Like people are saying? I got a ghost writer to write this book on my profile picture- Self-discipline. How did you promoate and market your book? I would love to talk to you more!
 
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So is the market saturated? Like people are saying? I got a ghost writer to write this book on my profile picture- Self-discipline. How did you promoate and market your book? I would love to talk to you more!
Right now, the market does seem pretty saturated, but I still think there's money to be made, especially if you're an engaging writer and plan on releasing multiple books in the same genre. One potential issue I see with your plan is that you're hiring a ghost-writer. That can make it difficult to build an audience, because unless you hire the same ghost-writer each time, the "voice" of your books might not be as consistent as it needs to be. (In general, I'm not a fan of the ghost-writer approach for long-term success, but others might view this differently.)

When I first started out, I did no marketing except for my mailing list. Alas, those days are gone. Now, in addition to my mailing list, I advertise on Facebook and use Amazon AMS ads. Advertising, however, is no guarantee that you can make a profit. I've seen lots of writers lose money on advertising if for whatever reason, their book doesn't resonate with readers.

Good luck as you move forward!
 

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I've read books recently on.... writing books! I figure if I'm going to make any money at this, I have to not just be an average or above average writer, I have to be a really good one.

Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass and a few others seem to be pretty good.



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The only reason I'm mentioning this now, is because I've finally got a much better handle on them, and have reduced these headaches from maybe 25-30 days a month to 5-7 days a month. HUGE improvement!!!!
Congrats on the book and the reduction of migraines! So, how did you reduce your migraines?? my sis-in-law suffers regularly as you did and I'd love to pass along anything at this point.
 
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I've read books recently on.... writing books! I figure if I'm going to make any money at this, I have to not just be an average or above average writer, I have to be a really good one. Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass and a few others seem to be pretty good.
I really like that approach (assuming, of course, that it doesn't derail you from actually writing). I read a TON of books on writing novels when I started out, back when I'd been pursuing the traditional route. They were a huge help, and I agree, the one by Donald Maass was excellent.
 
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Congrats on the book and the reduction of migraines! So, how did you reduce your migraines?? my sis-in-law suffers regularly as you did and I'd love to pass along anything at this point.
Thanks so much!

Ugh. I was hit with more this month. (I'm like on my tenth migraine day in a row. WAH!) But I've still managed to cut them down considerably. You know how some people have weak stomachs, and everything makes them queasy? I'm one of those people, except that instead of stomach problems, everything gives me a migraine. Stress = migraine. Hormonal changes = migraine. Sinus problems = migraine. Change of seasons = migraine.

It was the environmentally-caused ones that I've been able to get a better handle on. I've cut them down by treating the cause, rather than the symptoms. For me, this has meant staying mostly indoors with the windows shut (which I hate), extensive sinus irrigation (like a neti pot, but a power one), and to offset sinus issues, taking Ziertec-D (you've got to get it at the pharmacy-counter to prove you're not a meth-head). If I catch the migraine at the first hint of it, I can sometimes make it go away. Unfortunately, once I officially have one, it sticks around for days/weeks. The secret, I think, is to not get one in the first place. Easier said than done! Also, eating a ton of watermelon and blueberries seem to help, because it naturally reduces inflammation.

I'm sorry to hear about your sister's migraines! I feel her pain, literally. It's so thoughtful that you want to help. I'd love to know if she tries any of this, and if anything helps! :)
 

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Thanks so much!

Ugh. I was hit with more this month. (I'm like on my tenth migraine day in a row. WAH!) But I've still managed to cut them down considerably. You know how some people have weak stomachs, and everything makes them queasy? I'm one of those people, except that instead of stomach problems, everything gives me a migraine. Stress = migraine. Hormonal changes = migraine. Sinus problems = migraine. Change of seasons = migraine.

It was the environmentally-caused ones that I've been able to get a better handle on. I've cut them down by treating the cause, rather than the symptoms. For me, this has meant staying mostly indoors with the windows shut (which I hate), extensive sinus irrigation (like a neti pot, but a power one), and to offset sinus issues, taking Ziertec-D (you've got to get it at the pharmacy-counter to prove you're not a meth-head). If I catch the migraine at the first hint of it, I can sometimes make it go away. Unfortunately, once I officially have one, it sticks around for days/weeks. The secret, I think, is to not get one in the first place. Easier said than done! Also, eating a ton of watermelon and blueberries seem to help, because it naturally reduces inflammation.

I'm sorry to hear about your sister's migraines! I feel her pain, literally. It's so thoughtful that you want to help. I'd love to know if she tries any of this, and if anything helps! :)
Thanks so much! I'll pass along the info and see what she says. I know that she's had digestive issues, but the blueberries and watermelon should be 100% okay.
 

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My mother has decided to write a series of books.

This time round I am going to publish them everywhere as usual, no Kindle Select, and specifically I want to try a funnel with something like Clickfunnels so you send traffic to your landing page and there they can buy your book and then you offer all the others in the series as well at selective discounts. Not only can you run many at once with the same product for split testing but there is no competition on your page. I don't see why you couldn't use Amazon API to include your Amazon reviews on your own page either. This genre is more a paperback reading audience than Kindle too.

Then lob FB ads at at.
 
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My mother has decided to write a series of books.

This time round I am going to publish them everywhere as usual, no Kindle Select, and specifically I want to try a funnel with something like Clickfunnels so you send traffic to your landing page and there they can buy your book and then you offer all the others in the series as well at selective discounts. Not only can you run many at once with the same product for split testing but there is no competition on your page. I don't see why you couldn't use Amazon API to include your Amazon reviews on your own page either. This genre is more a paperback reading audience than Kindle too. Then lob FB ads at at.
Interesting! I hope you'll keep us posted.

I recently somewhere (maybe on the KBoards) that if you have a series of books already written, that instead of releasing them all at once, stagger them so they come out every two weeks or something, because it helps in the Amazon algos. I can't attest to this personally, but I figured I'd pass it along for what it's worth.

Good luck as you move foward!
 

Shepherd

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Well, I finally hit "Publish". I will start a separate progress thread to chronicle how things go with the book and my progress moving toward the Fastlane overall, but I'm excited and thankful for the guidance I've gotten here. Hopefully I can pay it forward.
 

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Well, I finally hit "Publish". I will start a separate progress thread to chronicle how things go with the book and my progress moving toward the Fastlane overall, but I'm excited and thankful for the guidance I've gotten here. Hopefully I can pay it forward.
Congrats! That sounds like a euphoric moment.


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