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

srodrigo

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I had a brief look at this (long) thread and I just have to say: this is TRULY inspirational and very well deserved. Thank you so much for sharing :)
 

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Varun

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I can't seem to find the original thread OP referenced in the first comment...anyone know where it has gone?
 
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ChickenHawk

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I was curious if you'd ever thought about going the co-author route to increase your throughput and gain more readers by cross-pollination. What you've described in the last year seems to be closer to a job where you have to keep producing output in order to get paid. Which has me wondering how you scale something like this.
I have thought about it, but always reject the idea, mostly because my writing "voice" is a bit quirky, and I just don't see myself meshing it with another writer. I suspect that you're right in that I could boost my income by such an approach, but some of this would be offset by the fact that I'd be splitting the profits. Plus, in all honesty, partnering with others hasn't ever worked out for me. Mostly, it's just made me crazy, and I think I'd have to exhaust all of my other avenues for boosting my income before I'd seriously consider it. But it's certainly thought-provoking, and I'd never say never, so thanks for the insight!

@ChickenHawk, do you run ads to a permafree title, to a paid title, or to your newsletter? How long are your series? How about extending some of your bestselling series so that you can make more money with each person entering the book series funnel?
Very good questions! Happily, I took your very fine suggestion from a while back and now offer one of my best-selling titles for free as a newsletter incentive sign-up, and that seems to be working fairly well, so THANKS! I don't have a traditional permafree, but by keeping some of my books in Kindle Unlimited, it seems to serve the same purpose, luring in new readers with a free read. About the series aspect, a bunch of my books are related, so it's hard to say how long the series, is, LOL! For example, I have a three-book series starring one couple, which relates to a four-book series starring a related family member, etc. All this to say, most of my books are loosely related, and happily, when one of them is doing well, it definitely boosts the sales of the other books. I'm actually going to take a different approach for the next year, and try to write more standalones. It will be interesting to see how that goes. (A side note... My book that's selling best at the moment is a total standalone, completely unrelated from my other books. I think a lot of this just depends on trends. Standalones seem to be pretty big right now in romance.)

I also think there is a time to look back and look if you can work smarter. Not saying I've figured it out but I know what the grind of writing for $ is. And I hope you're getting sweet points/rewards from FB ads by putting them on credit cards - that alone could be really good at those kind of spends.
I agree 100%. I definitely need to see what I can do to streamline the process. I do think that this last book went faster writing-wise, but then I ran into a bunch of problems afterward, mostly with FaceBook ads. It was just some sort of technical glitch, but I swear, I spent a week dealing with it. It's funny how things unrelated to writing can eat up a HUGE chunk of time, sometimes totally unexpectedly. Oh yeah, about the credit cards, I've got an Amazon Rewards card that's racking it up pretty well at the moment. It's amazing how those points add up!

And Now, a Mini Update...
On my graph above (the one from Nov. 17th), my older titles accounted for around $70 in sales. Yesterday, this amount was $100. One neat thing about this is that these titles aren't being advertised at the moment, but rather are being boosted by my two newest releases. This income is pretty much passive even though yes, it does depend on a new release to fuel it. But it's still pretty sweet! I'm also glad to see this amount growing, because this tells me that new readers are coming into the fold. Yay!

Also, a BIG, BIG Thanks, everyone for all the insight and encouragement!!!
 
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ChickenHawk

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Hi ChickenHawk,

I'm so glad that I finally joined this forums. Seeing the journey of other authors is fascinating and amazing. You are doing better than 99% of authors out there and it's really great that you're doing it in romance which is so competitive.

When looking at your stats it seems like you really have your Facebook ads dialed in. Why is your Amazon ad spends only 5% of your FB ad spend? I find amazon ads to be way easier to make work than fb.

(Sorry if I missed a few key point when getting caught up on your thread.)

Are your books a sequential series or are they standalone?

It sounds like your biggest bottleneck is your speed of output. Which part of the process is slowing you down? Is it the outlining and planning your book, the writing phase, or the editing phase?

I have some friends in romance that will outsource the plot and then do all the writing themselves to increase their speed significantly. This might be the best of both worlds, where you don't have to outsource the writing, but you can increase your speed of production.

I think that a big part of this business is your passion. If you didn't love writing, then writing books is a tough path to follow.

I'm on the non-fiction side of the fence and the majority of my earnings are from my backend rather than my initial sales. I'm happy to break even on my adspend, because my subscribers are willing to buy my other courses.

With romance, have you found anything besides more books in your series that you can offer to your readers? I know that most romance readers don't want to wear a shirt with a picture of Fabio on the cover, but if you can find a secondary way to engage them that could help to create a buffer during the months in between launches.

Do you participate in book swaps? There a few websites that let you do exchanges and I've found these to be very lucrative for me this year. I run many swaps directly from my own website, but there are some really good romance swaps every month as readers are voracious.

i'm excited to see more of your progress as I think that romance is a very cool niche and I would put out more romance books if I could write love scenes ;)
Lots of great questions here...

About Amazon ads, they're notoriously hard to spend. I'm glad you're having better luck with them, but for me, it's always been iffy. Amazon won't take my money, dammit! Maybe it's because my genre is so saturated and competitive. It's definitely something I'd like to do better with, but so far, I haven't quite solved that mystery.

My books are mostly related and/or in a series, but I plan to write more standalones in the future, mostly because that's what seems to be most popular at the moment.

Yup, my bottleneck is definitely my speed out output. I think it's probably the actual writing that's slowing me down. Interesting about plot outsourcing. I haven't heard of that, but it's certainly thought-provoking. Funny, I didn't even know that such a service existed!

About selling things other than books, I've heard of some authors selling related merchandise and having some success, but honestly, I just can't even fathom adding one more non-writing thing to my to-do list. By far, the most profitable thing I can do is write another book (well, unless it flops, that is, lol!). I do think there's merit to this idea, but it's just not terribly feasible for me at the moment.
I haven't done any book swaps, but that's interesting insight!

Thanks for the comments and questions!
 

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The secret to success with Amazon ads is volume + bid. The more keywords you have in your campaigns, the more likely you are to appear in a search result. Make a campaign with the name of every romance author (one word at a time) and every romance title. That should give you a few campaigns since Amazon maxes out at 1000 keywords per campaign.

Then it's all about the bid. If you are running ads to a boxset, then you have more money top play with in the bid. Right now bids above 60 cents get a lot of spend and you can just tweak until your are getting volume + positive ROI. Then you can tweak n scale.

Let me know if that makes sense.

(Since I sell non-fiction, my ROI comes from backend sales rather than a box set)
 

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Interesting article on the decline in author incomes. As much as I love the idea of writing for a living it is a rough, rough road.

Does It Pay to Be a Writer?

Authors Guild Survey Shows Drastic 42 Percent Decline in Authors Earnings in Last Decade - The Authors Guild
With no time to read the article, is it possible that these are averages? If so, it's likely to be because there are more authors self-publishing than ever before and diluting the average. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

However, I've said all along that writing isn't fast lane. It's a lot of hours of non-passive work and dependency on other people's platforms. Not to mention a slow build to a large income, if one is ever to get there, with a few outliers to fool the masses.
 

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Dear ChickenHawk you are one of the stars here, and you have provided so much insight. Thanks.

If I may comment

If I want to reclaim my earlier success, I need to boost that up to at least four books a year, possibly more (six to eight seems to be the magic number).
So the market is telling you this is the direction you should take? I am curious what you think.

There's been some discussion of whether or not writing a book generates passive income.
Well.... ok ... it is passive when you have sold so much that you don't have to write anymore. Or it is a perpetuum mobile so doesn't require any input (self perpetuates). It seems like in your case it's a mixture because you sell pieces that are already done, and you don't have to rewrite them, but also you need to write new ones to fire up the old ones. Do you have a youtube channel? Or have you thought about public appearances to boost the sales? etc etc jsut thinking out loud...

This makes it insanely hard, I think, for anyone just starting out, because it's getting harder and harder for new writers to gain an audience without spending a ton of money.
Thanks for this one. I hope you will not be offended but what I will write now. The publishing business has been active for ages and it evolves, but I think it;s still going to be there for us to publish and buy books. This way (paper) or another (kindle). We should probably think of new ways to get to our desired audience...

On the upside, it's still a TON better than a day job, and if I want to boost my income, at least it's within my power, and not at the whim of some corporate overlord, so there's that. And now, back to outlining my next book.... :)
Exactly. The essence of life and fastlane! Great update ChickenHawk. Thanks for giving us some food for thought. Have a good one!
 

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Any updates, @ChickenHawk? I'm not sure if it's only me, but it seems like the self-publishing industry is much, much more competitive now and it's getting less and less profitable (and it's been the case for me even when spending up to $20k per book launch). I'm curious about your observations.
 

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I've just skimmed a bit of this thread, but I wanted to say a great big huge thank you for sharing everything you've shared so far! Super encouraging and helpful. Would love to hear an update on your progress, if you feel up to sharing...

xWW
 
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ChickenHawk

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Hey @ChickenHawk, are you still on the forum? How is your self pub biz going?
I've just skimmed a bit of this thread, but I wanted to say a great big huge thank you for sharing everything you've shared so far! Super encouraging and helpful. Would love to hear an update on your progress, if you feel up to sharing...
You're so welcome! And sorry for the delay in keeping up with the thread. The truth is, I've been so buried that it's become hard for me to keep up with much of anything. It's sad really, but I definitely need to do better. (I really do love this place and miss it when I'm away.)

Any updates, @ChickenHawk? I'm not sure if it's only me, but it seems like the self-publishing industry is much, much more competitive now and it's getting less and less profitable (and it's been the case for me even when spending up to $20k per book launch). I'm curious about your observations.
Oh yeah. It's not just you. The biz is MUCH more competitive now, especially in the popular genres like romance. The truth is, I sometimes feel like I'm working to keep the advertising sources in business as opposed to making money for myself. When I launch a book, I throw a ton of money at Facebook, Amazon, and now BookBub. Together, they make a lot more money off my books than I do, which can be a big depressing.

Here's a good example. Yesterday, my books grossed about $625 in revenue. But to achieve that revenue, I spent $456 on advertising. This left $169 for me, which equates to an annual income of around 61K. Not that this isn't decent money, but it's actually less than I made at my day job. (Day job...*shudders*.)

The funny thing is, if someone looked at my books, they'd say that I'm doing fairly well. And in reality, I am, since I can support myself without a dreaded day job. But it really HAS become a job. I almost always work seven days a week -- weekends and often holidays, too. The primary thing is that I have to spend a ton of time/energy/money on advertising, which means I have a lot less time and money for myself, not to mention actually, oh, I dunno, writing the next book.

I always, ALWAYS, feel like I'm behind and scrambling to keep up. Write faster, release more books, learn a new advertising platform, keep up with changes to existing ones, engage with fans, etc. etc. etc.

Maybe a month ago, a friend asked me if I enjoyed what I was doing, and for the first time ever, I actually had to pause and think. And my pathetic answer was, "Well, it's better than a day job..."

I think what we're seeing is a consolidation, where the market has shifted away from writers to marketers. What I mean is that people are using ghostwriters more and more, or teaming up with other writers to release more quickly. The charts are often dominated by authors who release a book every couple of months, or even once a month. This tells me that there's a lot of outsourcing going on -- where "authors" release super-fast to maximize their advertising dollars and feed Amazon's algos.

I DO think that the people at the top are making a lot of money. But I know they're spending a ton of money, too. It's become a bit of a winner-take-all thing where if you release *only* three books a year, you're going to be in for an uphill battle.

Another big issue, I think, is that Amazon has shifted priorities away from selling books to selling ads for books. This means that while they technically offer a 70% royalty, they hoover much of that money back by charging authors for visibility. And if you're in a pond with the big fish (like romance), you're going to end up paying obscene amounts for each click. As an example, I sometimes need to bid 70-cents per click to get my ads to run on Amazon. With a $3.99 book, you could see where that would eat up the profits pretty quickly.

So where does this leave me? Hmmmm… I have some thoughts, which are probably worth an additional post.
 
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ChickenHawk

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Okay, so above, I've highlighted some of the challenges in self-publishing. Looking at some possible solutions, here are some thoughts on how someone could mitigate those challenges.

1. Write faster. Yeah, it's an oldie, but it still holds true. I'm writing faster these days, but I'm also spending more time on advertising, which means that the faster writing doesn't necessarily translate to more books. Still, I know there's always room for improvement.

2. Team up with another writer(s). I'm giving this some serious thought. My best friend is a good writer and just quit her job. I'm tempted to approach her and ask if she wants to co-write some books. But...(and this is a biggie), I've never found success in partnering with anyone, mostly because (just behind honest here), I've never found anyone who works as hard as I do. It always leads to friction, and hard feelings. Plus, mixing finances with friends and family is seldom a good idea, which I know from hard experience.

3. Change genres. Under my current pen name, I'm a national best-seller with lots of fans and followers. But my genre is so swamped these days (partly due to the winner-take-all dynamics of Kindle Unlimited) that visibility is insanely expensive. Even though romance grosses a ton of money, I suspect most of it goes straight back to the advertising sources (Facebook, Amazon, BookBub, etc). I saw a post recently on the KBoards (an Amazon-related writing forum), where another writer posted that she'd gotten tired and burned out, because she was working crazy hard, only to see all of her money hoovered up by advertising expenses. She decided she couldn't do it anymore, so she changed pen names and genres. Even though she grosses much less money these days, she's keeping a lot more money for herself and has seen her income rise back to previous levels.

4. More/different advertising. I've seen several suggestions by posters here that I need to find new ways to reach readers, such as by starting a YouTube channel, etc. THANKS for those suggestions, truly! I'm never offended by them and always appreciative. But alas, there's no way I could add another creative thing to my to-do list and still keep my sanity. Yes, I would make time if it were a tried-and-true way of reaching lots and lots of readers. But most of those types of marketing efforts aren't worth the effort, meaning the time-cost to create/maintain/promote them would not generate enough book sales to be worth it. If I were going to create something, the best thing I could create is another book, which brings me back to the first point about writing faster. Heh. It always does, right?

The nice thing is, though, that my strength is my writing, and I'm not particularly attached to the romance genre, so there's always someplace to go, if/when I decide to make a move. That day might be coming even though I HATE the thought of giving up everything I've built -- the mailing list, the bestselling credentials, the Facebook followers, etc. Still, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

All of this goes to show just how much the market has changed. When HeldforRanson started his incredible thread several years ago, he had some great timely advice -- find a genre that's super popular and dive in. Even if you get scraps compared to the biggies, you'll still be making good money. Today, I suspect that the opposite is true. A writer might be better off finding a quieter niche and looking to hum along there, grossing less, but KEEPING more.

If anyone has thoughts or insight on this, I'd love to hear it! And as always, thanks so much for all the support and encouragement!
 

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Long reply post ahead, but first, thank you so much for posting your thoughts, @ChickenHawk.

Here's a good example. Yesterday, my books grossed about $625 in revenue. But to achieve that revenue, I spent $456 on advertising. This left $169 for me, which equates to an annual income of around 61K. Not that this isn't decent money, but it's actually less than I made at my day job. (Day job...*shudders*.)
Wow, that is really depressing indeed. I only spend money on book launches and do very little marketing in-between but just to console you, I spent $10,000 on my recent launch a few weeks ago and recouped maybe $1,500 so far.

The funny thing is, if someone looked at my books, they'd say that I'm doing fairly well. And in reality, I am, since I can support myself without a dreaded day job. But it really HAS become a job. I almost always work seven days a week -- weekends and often holidays, too. The primary thing is that I have to spend a ton of time/energy/money on advertising, which means I have a lot less time and money for myself, not to mention actually, oh, I dunno, writing the next book.
It seems like your genre and the product you offer has become a commodity and it's no longer about quality as it is purely about quantity (average quality is more than sufficient), which means that unless you can somehow become a one-person factory, it's not a sustainable business model.

Maybe a month ago, a friend asked me if I enjoyed what I was doing, and for the first time ever, I actually had to pause and think. And my pathetic answer was, "Well, it's better than a day job..."
That's so sad to hear from a person who's really invested in their craft and to see so many shitty books of sleazy marketers performing so well...

I used to make 5-6x more than I'm making now so I feel this a lot. It's hard to keep enjoying something that kicks you in the butt so hard despite putting in so much effort (and effort that used to reward you handsomely just a couple of years ago).

I think what we're seeing is a consolidation, where the market has shifted away from writers to marketers. What I mean is that people are using ghostwriters more and more, or teaming up with other writers to release more quickly. The charts are often dominated by authors who release a book every couple of months, or even once a month. This tells me that there's a lot of outsourcing going on -- where "authors" release super-fast to maximize their advertising dollars and feed Amazon's algos.
Definitely, I know some examples of people outsourcing and they're making up to mid five-figures a month working much less than you do. It's a different job, though, because essentially you're then a manager instead of a writer and if that's not your strength, it's not going to work.

As an example, I sometimes need to bid 70-cents per click to get my ads to run on Amazon. With a $3.99 book, you could see where that would eat up the profits pretty quickly.
Same in non-fiction. I was actually bidding up to $1 for my recent launches and my conversion rates weren't that great. I think that readers are probably tired of the ads now so they'll get even more expensive and even less effective. I personally only run ads on Amazon UK now where they're still cheap and convert very well.

1. Write faster. Yeah, it's an oldie, but it still holds true. I'm writing faster these days, but I'm also spending more time on advertising, which means that the faster writing doesn't necessarily translate to more books. Still, I know there's always room for improvement.
Makes me think of the overused, but relevant here nonetheless, cliche: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I thought the same so I tried releasing three books in three months, one a month. It changed nothing. All of the launches, despite much higher budget than my previous launches and all of them getting very good reviews, were in the end failures (after switching the price to $3.99 sales quickly dwindled, in the past the books kept selling very well for at least a few months or more).

Now I don't think that "more" is the answer to this problem.

2. Team up with another writer(s). I'm giving this some serious thought. My best friend is a good writer and just quit her job. I'm tempted to approach her and ask if she wants to co-write some books. But...(and this is a biggie), I've never found success in partnering with anyone, mostly because (just behind honest here), I've never found anyone who works as hard as I do. It always leads to friction, and hard feelings. Plus, mixing finances with friends and family is seldom a good idea, which I know from hard experience.
I don't like this idea. It's very hard to split royalties and it's bound to lead to a lot of drama. IMO not worth it, just because of the emotional costs.

3. Change genres. Under my current pen name, I'm a national best-seller with lots of fans and followers. But my genre is so swamped these days (partly due to the winner-take-all dynamics of Kindle Unlimited) that visibility is insanely expensive.
I like this idea and am actually experimenting with it myself, with fiction and possibly non-fiction, too. Perhaps it's now better to have a few more pen names and be the biggest fish in a few small ponds than struggle as a tiny fish in a shark-infested ocean.

4. More/different advertising. I've seen several suggestions by posters here that I need to find new ways to reach readers, such as by starting a YouTube channel, etc.
Have you read this post?

I agree with most of it, regarding marketing, too. YouTube and related platforms don't make much sense for fiction because it's a different medium. I think they might work for non-fiction, but fiction is IMO very dependent on Amazon and the most crowded advertising platforms.

All of this goes to show just how much the market has changed. When HeldforRanson started his incredible thread several years ago, he had some great timely advice -- find a genre that's super popular and dive in. Even if you get scraps compared to the biggies, you'll still be making good money. Today, I suspect that the opposite is true. A writer might be better off finding a quieter niche and looking to hum along there, grossing less, but KEEPING more.
The market has changed a lot and with the changes in the market, we have to change our strategies, too.

I also have a big following in my niche but what good does it do if I lose money with every single release? Who cares that my books get dozens of great reviews and I get emails from my fans if my business is no longer sustainable? It sucks, but we as author entrepreneurs want to keep growing, not contracting and struggling harder with each year...
 
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ChickenHawk

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The market has changed a lot and with the changes in the market, we have to change our strategies, too.
So very, very true. And also a BIG thanks for all of the insight you posted above!

I only spend money on book launches and do very little marketing in-between but just to console you, I spent $10,000 on my recent launch a few weeks ago and recouped maybe $1,500 so far.
Ugh. It's scary how quickly those advertising costs can add up. On my last release, I spent $12,600 (and counting). So far, that book has grossed $16,400. It's respectable, but not magnificent. On the upside, it's boosted sales of my older books, so that's nice bonus.

It seems like your genre and the product you offer has become a commodity and it's no longer about quality as it is purely about quantity (average quality is more than sufficient), which means that unless you can somehow become a one-person factory, it's not a sustainable business model.
Oh yeah. It's definitely non sustainable the way I'm doing it. You're right that I need to make some changes, if only to preserve my sanity.

I used to make 5-6x more than I'm making now so I feel this a lot. It's hard to keep enjoying something that kicks you in the butt so hard despite putting in so much effort (and effort that used to reward you handsomely just a couple of years ago).
I'm really sorry to hear this. Selfishly, there's some comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in my frustration, but it still sucks, bigtime.

Definitely, I know some examples of people outsourcing and they're making up to mid five-figures a month working much less than you do. It's a different job, though, because essentially you're then a manager instead of a writer and if that's not your strength, it's not going to work.
True on all counts. And with me, my primary strength is the writing itself, which is GREAT when Amazon rewards good writing, but really frustrating when they reward aggressive marketing and outsourcing.

Same in non-fiction. I was actually bidding up to $1 for my recent launches and my conversion rates weren't that great. I think that readers are probably tired of the ads now so they'll get even more expensive and even less effective. I personally only run ads on Amazon UK now where they're still cheap and convert very well.
Wow. I had no idea that bids were so high in other genres. Yikes. I'm with you on Amazon UK. Even though I advertise on Amazon USA too, I definitely get more bang for my buck in the UK.

I don't like this idea (of teaming up with another writer). It's very hard to split royalties and it's bound to lead to a lot of drama. IMO not worth it, just because of the emotional costs.
Thanks for this. I was expecting people to tell me I'm an idiot for not teaming up with someone. But I really do believe you're right, so it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one who thinks so.

I thought the same so I tried releasing three books in three months, one a month. It changed nothing.
Interesting. I could be wrong, but I suspect that a frequent release schedule is more critical with fiction, especially for books in Kindle Unlimited. And yet, I AM surprised to hear that it made no difference for you, so that's definitely food for thought.

Perhaps it's now better to have a few more pen names and be the biggest fish in a few small ponds than struggle as a tiny fish in a shark-infested ocean.
If nothing else, it certainly seems like this approach would be a little smoother. What always makes me hesitate is that I know that when a book truly hits for me, I can make gobs of money rather quickly. Of course, this just might mean that I'm like the gambling addict, putting in just one more dollar into the slot, except it's more like thousands of dollars, not to mention all of the time.

Wow. I just read it, and it was VERY thought-provoking. His approach, to summarize, is to write five 75K novels a year and spend minimal time/money on advertising. This is quite a bit different than what I've been doing. In contrast, I've been writing three 100K words novel a year and spending a ton of time and money on advertising. Comparing the two approaches, he's been producing only 75K words a year more than I do, while delivering nearly double the books. Hmmm...

Thinking out loud, an approach like this would play to my strengths, meaning the actual writing. He also strongly recommends writing in a series, which is getting a bit harder in romance. Standalones are the big thing right now, which is also part of the reason my advertising has gotten so out of hand. It used to be, I could write a two-book series, or a three-book series, advertise the snot out of book #1, and rake in sales for all books in the series. Not anymore. I DO write books that are loosely related, so I get some related sales, but not nearly as many as when the books were more serial in nature.

THANKS again, @MTF, for all the great insight! It's all really thought provoking, and I'll mull it over as I move forward. For now, I'm committed to writing at least two more romance books and seeing what happens. After that, I think I'll stop and reassess. In the meantime, I think I'll poke around Amazon in my free time and see if I can find some genres that are less shark-infested, just in case I decide to make the leap.
 

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Hi @ChickenHawk, long time. Sad to hear that things aren't as good as they used to be.

1. Write faster.
Sure, but the problem with this is that you've probably reached a level of proficiency with diminishing returns. You must be at least at 90% of your capabilities, if not 95-99%. There's a point where increasing a tinny 1% takes ages and it's just a battle you can't win. Human beings have a limit, you can squeeze it, but up to a point.

I think what we're seeing is a consolidation, where the market has shifted away from writers to marketers.
Unfortunately, it looks like some other markets. Also, when you see people talking more about business than writing, that's a signed that the whole things has become extremely competitive and might even be close to a cycle burst.

I've seen this in the video games industry already. Too many business folks talking at conferences, sign of things becoming unsustainable.

mixing finances with friends and family is seldom a good idea, which I know from hard experience.
100% true. I would personally not involve my best friend, specially given how hard/stressful it's the whole thing becoming.

Change genres.
Sounds like an option. If your current niche is not working well enough anymore, or it's going to become even worse in the future, maybe it's time for greener pastures. This wouldn't be a massive problem for a musician, game developer, etc., but for writers sounds like starting over. Can you reuse the same pen name for a new niche? Al least some people would associate it with quality. But you know better, sounds like this doesn't really make sense for writers.

More/different advertising.
Again, I might be wrong, but sounds like a battle that only advertising companies can win.

Best of luck :)
 

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I recorded me doing some keyword research for you @ChickenHawk:
Oh, wow, THANKS a MILLION FOR THIS!!! On the forums, lots of fellow romance writers have mentioned trying Google ads, but (assuming they're being honest, which I think they are), none of them could make the ads profitable with the low price points of their books. This does make sense, given that most indies publish books in the $2.99 to $4.99 range. I guess when it comes down to it, there's not a lot of wiggle room. (It does make me wonder why Facebook ads work so much better than Google ads. Something to ponder.)

But... Even if I don't try Google ads, I can think of lots of ways to make use of that information. I used to deal with Google ads for a different venture, but had completely forgotten about them. I could see this information as a great resource for seeing what's becoming popular, or maybe what types of romance books are under-served. It was also interesting to see that "romance novels" is a more popular search term than "romance books." That's really great information to have when using keywords on other adverting venues or for the keywords on my books.

I could also see this as being a great resource for researching new genres if/when I decide to make a switch. LOTS of good information there, which is something I definitely need.

Thanks again for this info!!! It's something I'll definitely use, and I really appreciate it! :)
 

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Oh, wow, THANKS a MILLION FOR THIS!!! On the forums, lots of fellow romance writers have mentioned trying Google ads, but (assuming they're being honest, which I think they are), none of them could make the ads profitable with the low price points of their books. This does make sense, given that most indies publish books in the $2.99 to $4.99 range. I guess when it comes down to it, there's not a lot of wiggle room. (It does make me wonder why Facebook ads work so much better than Google ads. Something to ponder.)

But... Even if I don't try Google ads, I can think of lots of ways to make use of that information. I used to deal with Google ads for a different venture, but had completely forgotten about them. I could see this information as a great resource for seeing what's becoming popular, or maybe what types of romance books are under-served. It was also interesting to see that "romance novels" is a more popular search term than "romance books." That's really great information to have when using keywords on other adverting venues or for the keywords on my books.

I could also see this as being a great resource for researching new genres if/when I decide to make a switch. LOTS of good information there, which is something I definitely need.

Thanks again for this info!!! It's something I'll definitely use, and I really appreciate it! :)
You’re very welcome. It was a chance for me to record another video. I can tell I need a quieter keyboard!

Are people trying to sell straight from their landing page, or get people to opt into something? Might be worth testing.
 

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I'm going to go out on a limb here.

I did a quick search of responses to threads and this thread is ranked third on the homepage. It was only behind "I read unscripted" and "I read TMFL".

Perhaps the gold is in teaching how to write, not the writing itself.

You have inspired thousands here. I think there are more out in that big ole' world.
 
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Are people trying to sell straight from their landing page, or get people to opt into something? Might be worth testing.
Hmmm...I actually don't know. That's a good question. I might have to poke around the writing forums and see if I can get any info. Thanks again for the help!
 

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You’re very welcome. It was a chance for me to record another video. I can tell I need a quieter keyboard!

Are people trying to sell straight from their landing page, or get people to opt into something? Might be worth testing.
I was wondering this...

Breaking even on ads spend with a $4 book is hard... but if you put them into an upsell where they could pay $30 (or whatever) for your entire collection... would that work?

Are you able to contact your audience (Facebook, IG, Email...?), or is all your customer data in Amazon?



If you have an audience already, can you expand your offering - maybe a t shirt with a catch phrase from a fan favourite character? You could put up a facebook poll asking people about their favourite character... then a week or two later put some photos up of t shirt designs with the characters catch phrase... see if people respond or not.

Maybe offer posters of book covers?

Or ask your audience what kind of merch they would be interested in...

Is there any possibility for MRR? A paid email list where you email out a draft of a new chapter or something?
 

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I'm going to go out on a limb here.

I did a quick search of responses to threads and this thread is ranked third on the homepage. It was only behind "I read unscripted" and "I read TMFL".

Perhaps the gold is in teaching how to write, not the writing itself.

You have inspired thousands here. I think there are more out in that big ole' world.
Yup. A writer called Jeff Goins took this approach. He built a huge audience, then launched a $50/mo writers club, and hit $8k-9k/mo from it pretty fast.
 

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Breaking even on ads spend with a $4 book is hard... but if you put them into an upsell where they could pay $30 (or whatever) for your entire collection... would that work?
The highest price that makes sense on Amazon is $9.99. Above that, you're only getting 35% in royalties, so for something priced $30 you'd only get $10.5 (compared to $7 for a $9.99 book).

You can drive traffic to the first book in a series and calculate how many people buy the second, the third, etc., but first you need a series and @ChickenHawk is mostly focused on standalones. Also, to make $30, you'd need a very long series.

Yup. A writer called Jeff Goins took this approach. He built a huge audience, then launched a $50/mo writers club, and hit $8k-9k/mo from it pretty fast.
Perhaps the gold is in teaching how to write, not the writing itself.
I find this idea unsettling for some reason, perhaps because of my aversion for gurus or because it sounds like giving up. Would you tell a musician who used to be very popular a few years ago to become a singing teacher or to focus on planning how to make a comeback?

I have no doubt that @ChickenHawk has a lot to teach about writing, but it just doesn't sound right. It's like telling an entrepreneur that perhaps the gold is not in building a company, but teaching how to build companies.

If Stephen King were struggling to sell his books, would this mean that he's no longer a good writer and he has to switch to teaching others how to write or that perhaps it was time to reinvent himself?

I think that non-writers or "casual" writers look at the self-publishing business from a very different perspective than a writer dedicated to their craft.

As a writer, your strength is writing, period. It's your superpower, your value skew, in the same way as music is for Ed Sheeran or acting for Anthony Hopkins. That's how they provide most value, not through teaching how to do that.

IMO the goal is to figure out how to make the most of writing, not shift to a non-writing job like teaching how to write or selling t-shirts or other merchandise. Of course, this can be a supplement to your main business, but the idea of "authorpreneurship" is that you're an author, not a marketer building cheesy funnels or a business guru because this is a completely different business.

One could argue that it's a forum for entrepreneurs and you shouldn't attach yourself so much to a specific business model, but I just wanted to emphasize that many suggestions here mean completely changing @ChickenHawk's business model which is mostly akin to giving up, forgoing her skills and experience, and doing something else. It sounds like a giant waste of talent and her efforts until now (though maybe she doesn't agree, I'm curious to hear her opinion).
 

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Found this video (I've started it at the relevant part).
  • I forgot to mention the Google Display Network.
  • I also forgot to mention remarketing. Send high intent Google Paid Search visitors to a page and build good quality Google and Facebook remarketing lists?
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FDmTR2PTQ8&feature=youtu.be&t=127



What about free and paid email newsetters? I have my email newsletter on Substack. I don't know how good their discovery feature is.

You have me interested in this now. I may run a small test to see what potential Google Ads has for promoting books.
 

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I find this idea unsettling for some reason, perhaps because of my aversion for gurus or because it sounds like giving up. Would you tell a musician who used to be very popular a few years ago to become a singing teacher or to focus on planning how to make a comeback?
I understand where you are coming from and lets face it we have seen 'gurus' pop up with 'how to sell with Amazon FBA' courses simply because the market has become too saturated and difficult to make decent margins consistently as every time you hit a good product copycats are right on your tail.

However there is the other side of the coin that says creating a business on @ChickenHawk 's expertise would be a positive move as she is moving towards the commandment of control which I have always argued is the main stumbling block with anything associated with selling on Amazon.
 

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To me the most viable funnel option for books leads to a "fan club" of some sort, especially in the fiction space. You've already got an audience. They already like your brand. If you present them with an opportunity to more closely identify with you, or gain more personalized attention from you (even if that isn't necessarily what joining the club entails) then they will happily buy.

This, as @MTF mentioned, is not a way to replace your business model. It is an add-on and an upgrade. A way to take back some control. You can keep it as simple as you want.

Could be one email per month with personal updates. Could be that you send them book add-ons or extra chapters. Could be that joining the club just lets them say they're part of the fan club and you send out a welcome packet by mail with a brand sticker and a hand-written typed welcome letter. Keep it simple.

I paid over $100/year for Ash Ambirges Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends Facebook Group fan club. Mostly the group members interacted with one another. Ash rarely popped in and the group was managed by a Virtual Assistant, but I was happy to pay. Likewise, there are people paying $100+/year for my private email lists right now for personal updates.

Some people have tattoos of Joe Rogan's face on their arm. They aren't paid to do that. That's something they willingly pay for so they can be more closely identified with Rogan.

It's simple to set up and test this.

@Andy Black has a whole thread on how to do it here.

Every time I consider returning to ebook writing, I always start with this approach in mind. I haven't returned to ebook writing, so take that with a grain of salt. But if I did, I would start with the brand in mind, and would be thinking about how I can give those who want more the opportunity to buy more at higher prices.
 

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