Author Topic: I was making $3-5k a month consistently. Now I'm making less than $400  (Read 26661 times)  

Offline JeanetteRaleigh

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Do you also include research in those hours?

While I'm not anywhere nearly as efficient as Amanda (working on it), I have a suggestion for research.  If you're writing and get to a place that would stop you, highlight it as a question in yellow and move on.

For example, let's say I couldn't think of a specific type of dessert, I would type "Look up fancy dessert" and move on.  I have the Oxford Thesaurus on hand and will use that or a dictionary for some of the basic words a writer needs, but if the research would require going to the internet, I save it for later.

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Offline Simon Haynes

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I just chuck 'TK' into my wip wherever I need to go look something up. Supposed to stand for 'to come', and apparently 'tk' is a letter combo you don't see in English so it's easy to search for.

I never stop typing to look something up. That way lies 30 minutes of time wasting.


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Offline CatParker

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It definitely is for some people. But that's been the case for 20+ years.

It hasn't been the case for twenty years that hotmail and gmail limit who sees emails from mailouts in a way that will impact on ALL authors.

Don't be silly now.

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It hasn't been the case for twenty years that hotmail and gmail limit who sees emails from mailouts in a way that will impact on ALL authors.

Don't be silly now.

I didn't say that.

You said "I truly believe the email list is on its way out as the number one promotional tool."

I replied that that has been the case for 20+ years.

It sounds to me like you're seeing decreasing effectiveness in your emails and blaming it largely on Gmail and Hotmail's filters. I've been mailing a long time. My metrics have improved since Gmail introduced filters.

As I said, the difference is in the approach.

 

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Offline David Chill

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I've made well into six figures for almost six years in a row, since I started publishing, netting mid-six-figures for all but the first year, when it was low six figures. I know many people who've been in 7-figure territory for years.

You obviously know some very wealthy people.

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Online Patty Jansen

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I see a lot of mention of email lists.

The problem is that younger people increasingly don't use email. They use social media messaging.

Just another change in the cycle of publishing.

I'm sure email lists work for those who have enthusiastic fans, though. And still use email.


My house is full of young people of the type that you want to attract: with new jobs and few other financial commitments.

They use social media for catching up with friends and keeping up with news etc., but everything serious is through email. The mostly use their phones or other mobile devices to read it, and they use webmail services, not mail clients, but they use email a lot. Just not for talking to friends. You're not their friend. You're a business.

Offline katrina46

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Was reaching for the popcorn to watch the erotica authors rightly take issue with that part, but then I remembered that most of em have been run off already, lol. Good luck with that approach tho.
My only issues are that if it's not your thing in the slightest you'll quickly find it's not so easy writing something you hate and that these days starting an erom name is probably a better way to save your ass. My erotica earns me money because I wrote a lot of it in KU1 so I have several huge catalogs. As for being male, that's why you see so many authors with neutral names. There's no need to tell readers what you are if you feel it's awkward. As for someone saying it kills your visibility for other genres just having it on your account, I can't be sure. It never seemed to hurt me when I switched to romance, or maybe it did and I never knew it because I met my income goals. Maybe I'd be bigger if it wasn't on there. I just can't speak to that.

Online Mark Dawson

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My email list is still the most important part of my business. Bar none. Second place is a very, very distant second. If youre not cultivating a list, youre at a significant disadvantage. I can launch new books into the top 50 and sell thousands of copies (at $5 a pop) because of my list.

Offline juliatheswede

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While I'm not anywhere nearly as efficient as Amanda (working on it), I have a suggestion for research.  If you're writing and get to a place that would stop you, highlight it as a question in yellow and move on.

For example, let's say I couldn't think of a specific type of dessert, I would type "Look up fancy dessert" and move on.  I have the Oxford Thesaurus on hand and will use that or a dictionary for some of the basic words a writer needs, but if the research would require going to the internet, I save it for later.

Thanks for chiming in. I didn't mean that type of research. If it's just a word or something, I would just write XXX or something and come back to it later. I meant much more intricate research like legal stuff and diseases and police procedures, you name it. I write thrillers firmly set in reality. Often, a scene/plot point is very much dependent on this research and will effect the rest of the story, so I have to look it up. Yes, I sometimes do look up stuff like that before I start the book, but being a pantser--in my humble opinion the only way to write a mystery that's hard to solve and has lots of levels and also makes sense---I wouldn't know that plot point would occur until I got to, say, the middle of the story.

I'm thinking it would be easier to write fast if you write fantasy stories--I mean, what's there to look up?---but I could be wrong. Also, romance. I used to write romance and there wasn't much for me to research. I just had to be inspired:)
 


Online Usedtoposthere

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Thanks for chiming in. I didn't mean that type of research. If it's just a word or something, I would just write XXX or something and come back to it later. I meant much more intricate research like legal stuff and diseases and police procedures, you name it. I write thrillers firmly set in reality. Often, a scene/plot point is very much dependent on this research and will effect the rest of the story, so I have to look it up. Yes, I sometimes do look up stuff like that before I start the book, but being a pantser--in my humble opinion the only way to write a mystery that's hard to solve and has lots of levels and also makes sense---I wouldn't know that plot point would occur until I got to, say, the middle of the story.

I'm thinking it would be easier to write fast if you write fantasy stories--I mean, what's there to look up?---but I could be wrong. Also, romance. I used to write romance and there wasn't much for me to research. I just had to be inspired:)
 


This is probably why I'm much faster at the end of a book (up to 8K edited words a day) than at the beginning, which is more like 2K. Especially as you say with more intricate suspense stories. I find the research, though, whether it's a beautiful dress or an esoteric detail about the foster care system, can help me take the story in the direction it needs to go. So I embrace it. Besides, it's one of my favorite parts--it's just FUN. And if the job isn't fun for me, it's just a job, and I've done enough of that!

Offline Crystal_

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Yeah I'm only about 67% certain you can't do anything like that in mailchimp.  :D I'd play with it more but I pay for convenience.

And indeed it's off topic. The point was, my subscribers have commented that convertkit also goes straight to inbox, not in promotions or "other".  When I email regularly (like every 1-2 weeks), my open rate is 40-50%, but keeping that in mind. It's not an author list, it's an artist/crafter list that discusses things like the best way to add an accent wall and isn't usually targeted towards selling.

My mailchimp author list gets about 35% open rate, but it's a lot smaller at around 300 subscribers.

You can do different drips for the same list with MC. You need to add sign up location tags to your different sign up forms, then create one drip for each sign up location. It takes a bit of work setting up, but once it's set up the list runs smoothly.

My email list is still the most important part of my business. Bar none. Second place is a very, very distant second. If youre not cultivating a list, youre at a significant disadvantage. I can launch new books into the top 50 and sell thousands of copies (at $5 a pop) because of my list.

Mark, I hate to thread jack, but I have to ask: last time I looked, all your books were in KU. Are you still doing a lead generation campaign with your books on KU?

I only write series so with all my books in KU, I really have no proper lead generation giveaway, so I've never really tried running leadgen campaigns (or even taken that part of your course). I'm at the point where I'm willing to take some older stuff out of KU for leadgen purposes, but I'd still rather not. I've also gotten unclear answers from ECR about giving KU books directly to subscribers.

Offline juliatheswede

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This is probably why I'm much faster at the end of a book (up to 8K edited words a day) than at the beginning, which is more like 2K. Especially as you say with more intricate suspense stories. I find the research, though, whether it's a beautiful dress or an esoteric detail about the foster care system, can help me take the story in the direction it needs to go. So I embrace it. Besides, it's one of my favorite parts--it's just FUN. And if the job isn't fun for me, it's just a job, and I've done enough of that!
Yes, I'm also way more efficient toward the latter parts. And, yes, research is kind of fun, especially when I do it watching a few movies about the subject:)(I find watching a few well-plotted movies to be great when I'm stuck and don't know what should come next.)  Also, you do become very knowledgable about the world reading up about all the stuff related to different subjects. It's all good, but it does slow you down...

Offline CatParker

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It sounds to me like you're seeing decreasing effectiveness in your emails and blaming it largely on Gmail and Hotmail's filters.

Don't be silly now.

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Offline CatParker

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My email list is still the most important part of my business. Bar none. Second place is a very, very distant second. If youre not cultivating a list, youre at a significant disadvantage. I can launch new books into the top 50 and sell thousands of copies (at $5 a pop) because of my list.

My bet is that you're getting less of a return on your list per head than you did in the past though, no?

I've been selling to organic, highly engaged, email lists since 2003, and you can't deny that in recent years the percentage of opens, click-throughs and sales is lower than it was in the golden years, can you?

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Online Anarchist

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Don't be silly now.

Don't be silly now.

Fair enough. Keep winning, Cat.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline juliatheswede

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Fair enough. Keep winning, Cat.
I was thinking the same thing.

Online Usedtoposthere

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You obviously know some very wealthy people.
I do. It has helped me see the insidiousness of comparing myself to others, unless it motivates me to be better. Which it does in terms of craft, but that is about it. I am in a recalibration period, personally. It is important to know what you are in this game for. Also to realize why some people do better than personal-you. In most cases, I have realized that they simply ARE better or more motivated, or understand the market better. Such is life!

As a somewhat humorous example, I was recently trying to fix covers for my worst selling series. Reviews were great on book 1; sales were not. I was explaining that it was set in Montana and everybody said that I needed the cowboy theme. I said, it is nothing to do with cowboys. They said, here is what small town romance covers should look like, and I said, no, it is not that kind of book. They were nonplussed. I in my usual dopey innocence had no idea that Montana was a trope and it should be cowboys. Or the rules about small town romance. To me Montana is a state a couple hours away from me with a similar sort of mindset and has beautiful mountains, and small towns are how I grew up. Cowboys and sweet romance never figured into it. I ended up doing a completely different kind of cover that is pretty cool, but it sure as heck has no cowboys!

On the other hand I have a pretty good hold on a corner of the market that likes my particular tea blend. I like writing it and some people really like reading it. Nora Roberts is not glancing anxiously in the rearview mirror however and never will be.

Offline RightHoJeeves

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This has probably been mentioned in this thread, but a real key to any form of content marketing is actually providing superb value. I mean, Mark is really a fine example of that. Thats what his podcast is.

Im actually going through this at work at the moment. Were putting together a lead generation content marketing strategy and my boss (bless her) keeps wanting to start doing something next week. Like, well just put together some management tips! type of thing. I keep having to put my foot down and say no, we have to provide genuine value above and beyond what people are expecting or could get elsewhere.

Funnily enough we are actually going to be doing a podcast. But only because I noticed its a popular podcast topic and we have a USP (as well as access to some legit impressive people).

But anyway, not that I really know anything, but I kind of suspect that a lot of peoples email-related woes are down to not providing adequate value.

James Lawson

Offline juliatheswede

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This has probably been mentioned in this thread, but a real key to any form of content marketing is actually providing superb value. I mean, Mark is really a fine example of that. Thats what his podcast is.

Im actually going through this at work at the moment. Were putting together a lead generation content marketing strategy and my boss (bless her) keeps wanting to start doing something next week. Like, well just put together some management tips! type of thing. I keep having to put my foot down and say no, we have to provide genuine value above and beyond what people are expecting or could get elsewhere.

Funnily enough we are actually going to be doing a podcast. But only because I noticed its a popular podcast topic and we have a USP (as well as access to some legit impressive people).

But anyway, not that I really know anything, but I kind of suspect that a lot of peoples email-related woes are down to not providing adequate value.

You mean you should offer, say 3-5 free books instead of one as your reader magnet? Or what would "superb value" mean otherwise?

Offline RightHoJeeves

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You mean you should offer, say 3-5 free books instead of one as your reader magnet? Or what would "superb value" mean otherwise?

People's struggles seem to be more with dwindling open rates than acquiring subscribers, so I don't think I mean the reader magnet. As for superb value... I don't totally know what it means. It's the thing that makes people want to actually get an author's emails, rather than just opening them because they signed up on Instafreebie six months ago. Might be a new free short story. Might be just a great email. That differs from reader to reader, and author to author.

I, like most people, am signed up to many email newsletters. I regularly open maybe... four? One is a local independent cinema that often does Q&As for weird films (I recently saw The Disaster Artist with the bloke who wrote the book doing a Q&A). One is an event promoter that tells me when big acts like Bob Dylan etc are coming to town. One is Goodreads, that tells me new books by authors I like. The last, at a stretch, is probably a boutique glasses place near me that always has incredible photography and neat designs and I just like looking at it because it's pretty. But they are all providing some kind of value. I'm not just opening them because I ticked a box once. For some reason, I'm still send newsletters from a hostel I stayed at in Amsterdam like 3 years ago. They know I'm Australian and they know I stayed there for 3 nights in 2015, so why are they bothering sending me newsletters.

Incidentally, the worst retail and newsletter targeting (in the sense they don't seem do it at all) is from the Book Depository. I've probably bought 500 books over the years through that website. When I sign in, why on Earth do they try and sell me The Barefoot Investor, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or The Little Book of Hygge? All good books I'm sure, but from the amount of data I've given them, they should be throwing me up some seriously targeted products.

/rant

James Lawson

Offline Nicholas Erik

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You mean you should offer, say 3-5 free books instead of one as your reader magnet? Or what would "superb value" mean otherwise?

Offering more books or stories doesn't help. I had an autoresponder sequence of three or four novellas/stories. Didn't increase engagement.

Most readers don't want free or cheap books so much as they want entertaining books. Most of these reader magnets are marketing tools that offer little appeal to the reader.

Value is such a nebulous term as to be almost meaningless, but I think the shortest answer is this: the reader magnet should be your absolute best work. What I see, instead, is authors giving readers a blah free story, then wonder why readers don't come back for more (often accompanied by a proclamation lamenting "freebie hoarders"). Sturgeon's law states that 90% of everything is crap (tongue in cheek, of course), but I'd suspect that rate is more like 99% for the reader magnets I see. Your magnet has to be a pro-quality product that you could charge money for, and I don't see that with most of them. If we are being honest, most of them are written because some person on a forum or book said we needed one, and it was just a little thing to tick off on the massive to do list. This is generally not a recipe for compelling fiction.

Even if you deliver a dynamite story, you have other problems to solve - most reader magnet stories don't have a cliffhanger or any pressing need to buy the main series. Or the magnet is some sort of spinoff/prequel that doesn't introduce the main characters/setting of the core novels. I have a prequel set in 1812 that converts poorly to the main urban fantasy trilogy because of this issue. With a prequel, you also run the risk of gutting your Book 1's backstory by accident (guilty), thus leaving some people confused who haven't read the prequel.

Optimally, I think, an effective reader magnet should end in a whopping cliffhanger that doesn't affect the main narrative arc of the series, but still demands answering (I haven't tested this, but it should increase sellthrough), while having the same vibe/characters as the main series - just in a novella format. If one could write a novel as a lead magnet, I suspect that would perform better, but this involves a tremendous amount of time and additional production costs - and thus, added risk.

You're also going to need a solid autoresponder behind the reader magnet if you're giving away your reader magnet via Facebook or Instafreebie et al. to engage your new readers.

Thus, upon further examination, "write a valuable reader magnet" quickly becomes a fairly time-consuming and complex strategy to A) be profitable and B) generate a steady stream of readers who like your work. It's not so much that it's an impossible strategy to pull off; it's just more difficult than most people suspect, and the market is really, really saturated at this point.

After writing ten or so reader magnets over the past three years, I think most authors would be better served directing those words toward novels they plan to offer for sale. Then, later on, you can use these novels as freebies - permafree, BookFunnel, Instafreebie et al. - thus repurposing them into reader magnets. This is the path forward I'm taking for 2018. If you're KU-only, and need a magnet to build subs, then I'd make sure it matches the vibe of the main series exactly - and gives readers a really compelling reason to press BUY on Book 1.

Nick

Online Patty Jansen

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You mean you should offer, say 3-5 free books instead of one as your reader magnet? Or what would "superb value" mean otherwise?

People can't tell you what "superb value" means because it's one of those "I'll know it when I see it" things. Also, it means different things for different people. One person's "must open" is another person's "why do I need this annoying crap?"

You can never be everything to everyone. Just be genuine to the people you want to attract.

About this whole "reader magnet" thing, I just roll my eyes at the tactic of deliberately writing a prequel to lure people in. Seriously, readers can smell that BS a mile off. Either write a full series and simply give book 1 for free, or write a novella that explains something about book 1 and put the signup at the end of book 1 where it's an incentive to sign up once they have bought and read book 1. Caveat: to make the latter tactic work well, you need to actually sell a lot of books.

Giving out "value" usually means it hurts or takes something from you, in a metaphysical kind of way. You don't want to give this whole book away because you slaved over those words. Or on a different front: you make yourself vulnerable when you share personal information. I believe it's the sense of "it costs me something to share this with you" that represents the beginnings of value to the people you want to attract.

Offline jb1111

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My email list is still the most important part of my business. Bar none. Second place is a very, very distant second. If youre not cultivating a list, youre at a significant disadvantage. I can launch new books into the top 50 and sell thousands of copies (at $5 a pop) because of my list.

When did you start your list? What year? Just curious.

Offline activeindieauthor

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People can't tell you what "superb value" means because it's one of those "I'll know it when I see it" things. Also, it means different things for different people. One person's "must open" is another person's "why do I need this annoying crap?"

You can never be everything to everyone. Just be genuine to the people you want to attract.

About this whole "reader magnet" thing, I just roll my eyes at the tactic of deliberately writing a prequel to lure people in. Seriously, readers can smell that BS a mile off. Either write a full series and simply give book 1 for free, or write a novella that explains something about book 1 and put the signup at the end of book 1 where it's an incentive to sign up once they have bought and read book 1. Caveat: to make the latter tactic work well, you need to actually sell a lot of books.

Giving out "value" usually means it hurts or takes something from you, in a metaphysical kind of way. You don't want to give this whole book away because you slaved over those words. Or on a different front: you make yourself vulnerable when you share personal information. I believe it's the sense of "it costs me something to share this with you" that represents the beginnings of value to the people you want to attract.

I do think the Book #1 permafree tactic is really silly. At least, it is for me. I had a series starter on permafree for a year and it only gave away 1,000 copies and led to little sell-through, but I've had 10k sales for it at 0.99 and good read through for those paid buys.

Out of all the BookBubs I've had, the permafree one was the worst. I gave away 20k copies of Book #1 in a day and significantly more afterwards, but read-through was awful. I think I sold around 100 copies (if that) of Book 2 months afterward. It messed up my also-boughts with a bunch of books that weren't even related to my genre. This was a book that was on the bestseller lists consistently at 0.99. If I could, I would take it back and try a BookBub for it at 0.99.

I think by giving a full book away you're just encouraging the reader 1) not to read it and 2) not to continue the series, because they got #1 for free and therefore don't want to invest. I do have a free short story offer for my mailing list that my readers love and want me to expand on into a full novel, but I don't think I'm going to.

So... yeah. Permafree BookBubs are a total let down.

Offline activeindieauthor

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I also want to add that readers can't see value anymore in a free book, even if it does hurt the author to give it away. Free books are a dime a dozen and every author is expected to offer at least one. You're not gifting the reader anything, you're just setting them up to take advantage of you later, expecting free or 0.99 books. Many readers of mine refuse to read the rest of my sequels unless it's in KU, it's free, or it's 0.99 (and I even have people protesting the measly 0.99). Books have become cheap products. And I think that's one of the downfalls of writing to market: if you have something unique that can't be found anywhere else, readers will pay to get that, but if you're trying to sell your standard generic vampire novel that has a billion copies of it out there, readers won't be concerned with paying for your story, as you can get a cheaper or free one that's nearly identical to it somewhere else.