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

Discussion in 'Business Models, Niches, Industries' started by ChickenHawk, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. Readerly
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    Readerly Yes and Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Nice theory. As you know, Amazon's strategy from day one has been to lose money or break even while cornering the market. They are, though, making money hand-over-fist with Amazon Web Services, the absolute behemoth in cloud computing.
     
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  2. JustKris
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    JustKris Writing and talking, basically. Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    @ChickenHawk Is it possible to pivot to similar genre or have the scammers taken over every single niche in that category?
     
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  3. ChickenHawk
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    Thanks so much for the feedback and ideas, @SinisterLex! I always appreciate them! I like what you're thinking. The primary challenge, I think, would be scaling it up. Just to get crazy, let's say I priced a high-end book for $20 or even $200. I think it would be harder to sell a single high-end $20 (or $200) book than it would be to sell 20 (or 200) 99-cent books, if that makes any sense. The thing that makes the wider digital book market so lucrative is that there's the potential for massive scaling. Unfortunately, this is part of the reason that scammers have taken up residence. Payoffs can be huge when you hit the Amazon top 100, and they've been perched there pretty much nonstop.

    But you know what? You really ARE onto something, even if I don't take it quite as high-end as you're suggesting. I still think there's still a huge market for non-scammy books, and I'm resisting the temptation to lower my prices. Speaking as a reader (not as an author), I've started avoiding those 99-cent books like the plague they are (which is sad, because not all 99-cent books are scam books.) But there's something to be said for differentiating yourself, and price is one way to do that. Both of my last books hit the top 100 in my category (not in the whole Amazon store), and it was funny to see that my books were among just two or three that weren't 99-cents.

    All this to say, I'm going to hold my ground on pricing, if only to avoid "training" my readers to expect 99-cent books. I price at $3.99, which is still a bargain, IMO. We'll have to see if the market agrees, LOL!

    Thanks again for the response and ideas! Even if I don't act on every single one, they're a huge help! :)
     
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  4. ChickenHawk
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    ChickenHawk Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Interesting. There's definitely something strange going on with KU. I can't help but wonder at what point customers might start to wander away from Kindle Unlimited entirely. A challenge, I think, is that romance readers are particular voracious, with some fans reading a book a day. (!!!) At first glance, we might not expect this to impact readers and authors in other genres. However, with romance readers "taking" (aka consuming/reading) much more than they're paying into the system, that money has to come from somewhere. Probably, readers and authors in other genres are hugely subsidizing all those voracious romance reading habits. I can't remember the specifics, but there was another subscription service that went belly-up, thanks to romance readers over-consuming.

    About the gate-keepers, you're absolutely right. If Kindle Unlimited is so survive, Amazon might have to go this route. What's really sad is that when readers had to actually purchase books, this wasn't so much a factor. But something's definitely gotta give.

    Man, I can see where you'd run into writer's block. You wrote more words in a few short years than 99% of writers write in a whole lifetime. I hope you'll keep us posted on your new venture, and that you see lots of success!
     
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  5. ChickenHawk
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    ChickenHawk Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    True on all counts! What's particularly interesting is that a lot of those cloud services are provided to the U.S. government. Traditionally, the government isn't known for being particularly cost-conscious. However, with a new administration, I've wondered if some of those lucrative contracts might be scaled down or renegotiated. If this happens, Amazon might have to take a closer look at their bottom line and perhaps do more to stem the losses in Kindle Unlimited. To me, this would be a positive development for almost everyone concerned because it would restore some balance to the ebook marketplace.

    Thanks so much for the suggestion! I think you're onto something, and I've definitely considered it. In fact, a lot of romance authors are shifting to smaller, less lucrative categories. For example, rather than writing "new adult" romance, they're moving into sweet & clean romance, or maybe cozy romantic mysteries. Some are leaving romance all together, while others are just sitting it out until the dust clears. I do believe, though, that if this isn't stopped by Amazon, the scammers will spread to every profitable category. This is one thing that makes me hesitant to switch. Odds are, it would only be a short-term fix.

    That being said, I still might eventually end up switching categories or going into non-fiction, but I'm stubbornly refusing, at least for now. Under my pen name, I'm a USA Today Bestseller, which is something I'm reluctant to give up. If I tried to use this same pen name and write something too different, I'd probably face a reader revolt and a bunch of negative reviews. ("What? There's no sex or cursing in this book? WTF!!!! ONE Star!") In line with your suggestion, I could try to make a gradual shift though, and that's what I'm contemplating -- edging my way toward more mainstream contemporary romance, for example. Regardless of how this ends up, it's definitely nice to know I have options, and I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on this! More heads are definitely better than one! :)
     
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  6. TKRR
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    I'm a musician and can relate to the Kindle Unlimited problem. It's very difficult to make any money streaming. No one buys albums at all anymore. Spotify pays .007 per song play. So if someone listens to your 10 song album. You get about 7 cents..... it's outrageous.

    And that's if you do it independently. That might be an hour of someone's time. Sure, there is replay value, but to even come close to what is make on selling an album (where i make about 7 bucks). You're talking 1000 streamed songs to make 7 dollars.

    Which means you need a million steamed songs a month to make 7000 a month.... and that's if you do everything yourself. Have a band and multiply that by everyone involved.

    At least in music you can also perform in music, but that's not passive at all, and it hasn't kept up with inflation at all. The same clubs that paid 200 bucks in the late 70s; pay 200 bucks now.

    I hope writing doesn't go the same path, but it seems it is already on its way.
     
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  7. TKRR
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    Speaking as a reader, I really don't see a difference in price between 99 cents and 4 dollars or so. I mean, I've never forgone buying a book because it was 3.99 that I would have bought for 99 cents. Not sure if it's just me... then again people are really cheap (see my streaming post above).
     
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  8. 404profound
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    You should rally the other legit authors in the genre, unionize, and collectively withdraw from Amazon to another platform until Amazon vets and removes scammers. Teamwork makes the dream work.
     
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  9. Readerly
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    I didn't know that...very intersting! I found this article from the Washington Business Journal that reports on a new contract AWS got with the CIA! AWS has built a "secret region." Mr. Bezos is now a spy.

    The article also estimates that government contracts constitute roughly 15% of total revenue for AWS. A big chunk of change. No wonder Amazon is building up an army of lobbyists. I'm skeptical that the current administration's crack team of deal makers is going to have much success hammering down Amazon's prices.

    https://www.bizjournals.com/washing...unches-secret-region-for-intel-customers.html
     
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  10. JustKris
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    I think you'd be surprised at how your fans will come along for the ride. Walter Mosley is my hands-down favorite author. And he does detective novels, sci-fi, slice-of-life, even erotica. Knocks it out of the park on all of them and doesn't seem to hurt his sales at all.

    Even Steven King---known as the horror guy. At this point, he's probably written more NON-horror novels than in his "claim to fame" genre.

    At a certain point, your fans will realize that YOU are the genre.
     
  11. Real Deal Denver
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    I will have to check out Walter Mosley, after such a glowing review.

    I've never gotten pulled into fiction. I don't care about things that never happened. However, I am thinking of exploring that as a writer, purely from a business venture perspective.

    I've read Stephen King and wasn't impressed at all. Maybe if he hadn't had so much press, I would have had more reasonable expectations - maybe not.

    But I have completely enjoyed Dean Koontz. I am wondering if you've ever read any of his books, and, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate him? How about next to Walter - which do you like better?
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2018
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  12. Real Deal Denver
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    You are in the perfect storm, my friend.

    I'd highly suggest editing your books to interconnect with one another, and then breaking them up into a series of some sort. As someone with interest in music, myself, I cannot imagine a 100K monster book. I might like parts of it, but I am not interested in making my life revolve around music to such a degree and to such depth.

    You can have a bookshelf of books already ready for release, with a little snipping here and there.

    I sure wish I had a situation to deal with like that! Good luck ~
     
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  13. ChickenHawk
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    ChickenHawk Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Oh yeah. It IS quite interesting. And here's where it gets more interesting. Around five years ago, Amazon won a $600 million cloud computer contract from the CIA. Shortly thereafter, Amazon's Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. (To put this into context, Bezos used less than half of his CIA money to buy a newspaper in decline.) Coincidentally, that same newspaper now often quotes unnamed CIA sources and is one of the primary agenda-setters of the day's talking points. Yet, in these articles, the Post doesn’t disclose or mention these financial connections, which might be considered a conflict of interest.

    If I were to put on my tinfoil hat, I might wonder what, exactly, the CIA is really paying for, aside from computer services. Are they paying Amazon inflated cloud-computer rates in return for influential coverage in a traditionally powerful newspaper? If I were to adjust that tinfoil hat slightly, I might also wonder how many Washington Post articles are the result of genuine journalism and how many are a form of paid propaganda.

    Either way, I've begun to wonder if Amazon might see some of those monies pulled back if the CIA ever loses influence or sees a reduction in funding. If/when that happens, I would expect Amazon to take a hard look at policies that lose them money, which of course, would likely include Kindle Unlimited. It will be interesting to see, that's for sure.
     
  14. Readerly
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    Readerly Yes and Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Causes for tin-foil-hatism abound! It'd be a great narrative if the Kindle Unlimited debacle were the result, however attenuated, of some CIA-jiggered conspiracy. But it could probably be chalked up to simple hubris and greed on Amazon's part. Or maybe just incompetence, as you suggest.
     
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  15. ChickenHawk
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    ChickenHawk Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Just a quick update... I've recently put out another book. It's doing surprisingly good, considering that all romance segments of Amazon's bookstore are in awful shape, and I'm doing only the bare minimum of advertising. Basically, the romance lists remain a massive trainwreck as scammery has consumed almost every romance bestseller list in the entire Amazon store. In truth, if I didn't already have an existing fan-base to keep engaged, I would've held off on releasing anything until things settle down. But I didn't want my fans to forget me entirely, so I released this latest book in spite of my misgivings. It's not doing terrific, but it's doing a lot better than I might've expected, all things considered.

    In cheerier news, Amazon is finally taking steps to rein in the stuffing and scamming. Will it work? The jury is still out. But either way, I'm moving forward with a goal of releasing two more books before year-end. (Need I say it? Must write faster!) The plan is to release two related books within a couple of months together so I can make better use of my advertising funds.

    Regarding the stuffing and scamming, I might need to start a separate thread, because some new developments offer some interesting insights that extend beyond the self-publishing world and serve to reinforce some of the lessons our gracious host relayed in The Millionaire Fastlane. Stay tuned...*

    *Edit to add link to the thread about stuffing and scamming:
    Money-Chasing Burns Bestselling Author...*Poof!* His pen name is gone.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  16. MJ DeMarco
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    MJ DeMarco Raving Lunatic Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    You mean sh*t like this?

    [​IMG]

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BZV1RL4/

    Can't wait to hear it!! Great to see you!
     
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  17. ChickenHawk
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    ChickenHawk Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    What the heck???~!!!! That isn't the same type of scamming I was referring to, but that's absolutely shameful -- and sadly, not surprising. The whole Amazon store could use a lot more oversight. That really is awful.
     
  18. Real Deal Denver
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    I read the "peek inside" preview of this book. Worthless.

    I also see that he has written nine books that I counted.

    This particular one has 84 pages.

    In the preview, he often mentions the conditions in "his country" where people work for 30 cents an hour.

    Who gave this guy a book on how to make millions writing books?
     
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  19. WTF
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    ChickenHawk, how many books do you currently have published on Amazon in total? Would you consider the past 4-5 years you've spent writing books justified by the monetary gain you've made? Would you mind sharing the numbers you got for a good months income from this 5-year-long project?

    Not trying to be condemning -- but I just don't see how this method of income is ever going to be particularly profitable unless you have around 10,000 books on the market...

    Maybe I'm wrong though... I truly don't know...

    In any case, best of luck to you.
     
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  20. ChickenHawk
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    ChickenHawk Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    book-report-2018-June25.jpg

    This is a screen capture of my earnings on Amazon since I started out. On my best month, I made around $120,000. On my worst month, I made a couple hundred bucks, which means, of course, that my income varies wildly.

    In addition to my earnings on Amazon, I've made some nice money on Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc., along with some nice performance bonuses from Amazon. But I've also spent around 100K on advertising, so this might be a wash.

    I'm pretty sure this is chump-change compared to what @MTF has made in his self-publishing venture. (He has a terrific thread on the Insider's portion, which details his amazing progress.)

    I should add, though, that my progress is not typical. It's true that many authors make a lot more than I do, but many, many authors make less. If you're seriously interested in this biz, you have to have a lot of talent, good technical skills, and a strong work ethic. You also have to be able to get up when you're knocked down -- when a book flops, when Amazon's store goes through one of its awful phases (like now), and when you get reviews telling you that you suck. Also, if you truly do suck, you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes and take criticism without crying or lashing out. None of this is easy.

    In short, it's not for pussies. But even on the bad days, it's a zillion times better than working for anyone else. Hope that helps!

    *EDIT TO ADD: I've released 16 books. On Amazon, the best-selling book grossed $189K. The worst-selling book grossed a whopping 48 bucks. (LOL!)
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2018
  21. MTF
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    My current view on self-publishing is that it can be a business, but it isn't exactly a "real" business.

    What I mean by "real" is that in my opinion, a business is a real business if you can sell it or if it can operate without your direct involvement.

    While you can theoretically sell the rights to your books, it's very rare. Also, while you can delegate writing, in most cases (almost all cases?) it leads to low-quality books, so in the end it's you who has to constantly produce more. It doesn't have to be bad, though, if you love what you're doing - people need something productive to do and if you're a writer by nature, you'll never stop writing anyway.

    Some authors make boatloads of cash from royalties for their entire lives, but let's not fool ourselves - your chances of becoming another Stephen King or J. K. Rowling are slim to none. I believe that a good writer with solid book marketing skills can reach $100,000-200,000 a year relatively quickly. Perhaps you can even hit $300k, $400k or even $500k. Making consistent $500k a year is a completely different thing, though. It's the same as in music - you can be a one-hit wonder and then disappear even if your song was an international hit.

    Most authors make most money from their books within a year of publication (or sometimes just three months) and then income slowly dries up. You can revive your sales to a certain extent, but Amazon loves new books so the odds are against you. Fortunately there are several other formats and retailers, so it balances things a little, but still - if you want to stay relevant, you have to consistently put out new books.

    In the end, your business equals you as it's you who's the author and the only person capable of creating more products (books). Unfortunately, since you can't really exit this business, your time investment in self-publishing might be less lucrative than time invested in building a real business where you make money twice (in current income and through increasing the value of your company).

    @ChickenHawk is a good example of why this matters a lot. During her best month, she made $120,000 and I guess that her income was much higher for at least several months or more. If it were a "real" business that she could sell, sensing the incoming unfavorable changes on Amazon, she could have sold it for, say, 20x earnings, and made perhaps up to $2,000,000. With the uncertainty among fiction writers on Amazon, guaranteed $2,000,000 might be much better than wildly fluctuating income and the often sold by fake self-publishing gurus dream of living off royalties for the rest of your life.

    You can transform your self-publishing business to make more money on the back end (for example, by becoming a public speaker or selling more expensive courses in the case of non-fiction or selling the rights to your books for film adaptations in the case of fiction), but it always comes back to you in one way or another.

    A good example is Tony Robbins. There are Tony Robbins coaches and courses, but if Tony Robbins ceased to be the face of the business, how well do you think it would fare? That's the inherent problem in all kinds of information-based businesses. If you're the person creating them, you essentially have a personal brand kind of a business and while it can be extremely lucrative, it isn't as easily sellable as a business that's a regular brand.

    Don't get me wrong, though. I love self-publishing as for me, it's a great fit for my personality and my skills. I'm aware of its limitations, though - you're unlikely to go big in this industry because there's too much competition and no matter how great your book is, guess what... There are thousands of other incredibly great books written throughout history and many of them have been already forgotten. Looking at it from this perspective, if you're after building something really big, memorable, and powerful, it's probably not the right business for you.

    And again, there are exceptions - certain people making hundreds of thousands or even millions a month off their books - but it's like saying that if you launch another social media site you have a chance of becoming the next Zuckerberg. Yeah, you have a chance, but it's so low it's not even worth trying. I like thinking big, but I also prefer to be realistic and accept the fact that book publishing is extremely competitive and there's a huuuuuuuge chasm between your typical independent author and a major top dog.

    Six figures a year are absolutely achievable in this business if you're dedicated enough - but six figures a year is chump change for many people on this forum. Seven figures? Extremely difficult unless you're an incredible fiction writer with connections or a well-known public persona (and fame comes with a host of problems - it's better to be wealthy and unknown). Eight figures? Close to impossible.
     
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  22. Richie Rich
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    Talk about no shame, wow. Just straight up word for word of the title of The Millionaire Fastlane. I checked out the book's page on Amazon as well and it's comedy. Here are some screenshots I took:

    Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 11.55.44 PM.png Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 11.55.50 PM.png

    I have no idea who Andrews A.K. is and apparently, he is the only person who has read the book, as it has no reviews. Only seven chapters? Seriously? And the capper is the link to join the author's financial coaching program. Which led to this:

    Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 11.22.01 PM.png

    6 months? Where do I sign up? I scrolled down and skimmed the info and he sounds like those televangelists that are on at 3 A.M. asking viewers to "pledge" $1000 "seed money", which will, in turn, multiply many times over. Right. I noticed the author quoted scripture as well, in the book and on his coaching page. Anytime I see that, that's a huge red flag and I steer clear. Nothing against religion and those whose intentions are true, but when it comes to hucksters and snake oil salesmen, those who co-opt religion/the Bible in order to scam those who don't know any better, well, they are in a league of their own and have their own circle of hell waiting for them.

    Sorry for the blatant copyright infringement MJ, but thanks for sharing the link to the book, as it was good for a laugh; that and the author's link to his website for financial coaching. Also, the author isn't a very good writer/proofreader, as he uses incorrect punctuation and his sentence structure isn't the best, at least that's what I ascertained from the preview. It's the grammar-nazi in me, sorry.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  23. EricZ
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    "...For the Around in 6 months"
    PRICELESS! The guy can't even get his English straight...probably the Nigerian Prince has upgraded his game.
    LoL!
     
  24. MTF
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    MTF Never give up Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Hey @ChickenHawk, thought you'd find it interesting: https://empireflippers.com/listing/44862/

    I'm surprised that the owner reached such high numbers while outsourcing writing. I'm curious if the reason why he or she is selling is true as I have a feeling that perhaps they want to get out while the going is good. By the way, 30x valuation is incredible for such a vulnerable business.
     
    ChickenHawk, webcomber and diegorueda like this.
  25. webcomber
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    webcomber Contributor

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    I am surprised no one has responded to this in light of the ongoing debate on whether writing is a scalable fast lane business. It appears it is when you invite a workshop of outsourced writers to do the writing while you focus on the research, but as far as being "butt in chair" for eight - ten hours a day making fast food wages from an Amazon KDP payment plan, probably not.
     

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