Are you curious about a one-year delay? I explained it in my first income report.
September 2016 was a milestone in my writing career. Not the one you’re probably thinking about – I didn’t get a contract with a big publisher or publish a blockbuster. Quite to the contrary, and it served me well.
I published Directed by Purpose on Thursday, the 8th of September. Thanks to the preparations in August, the first week of September wasn’t insane; it was merely busy.
My friend who designed a cover delivered it a few days before the publication date, and I made one last-minute change, I got rid of the subtitle altogether to make a title and the main image bigger.
I hit the publish button on the 8th, but it was a silent launch only. The initial Buck Books promo was scheduled for Monday, the 12th of September. I took a day off on Thursday and wrote a few email broadcasts and an email template for my beta readers and potential reviewers. I posted info about the launch of the book here and there on social media and sent several emails, mainly to the people who promised to review the book in advance.
And the next day I went for a 3-day get-together organized by my employer.
It was in a remote area, and I had Wi-Fi connection only at a hotel. I enjoyed the trip and activities.
I woke up before 4 am and sent a couple of broadcasts. I also sent a few reminders to potential reviewers.
Then I could only wait for the results.
On the first of September, I signed up half a dozen of my books into KDP Select program and created the first advertising campaign for The Art of Persistence. It is still up and running.
I was stoked with the results. My dead books resurrected. The books that were selling a few to several copies a month started selling 1–2 copies a day.
Moreover, I quickly discovered that advertising had a significant impact on my print book sales.
On the 1st of September I was stoked to discover that Amazon bought 35 print copies of my personal mission statement book. That rescued the bottom line of the otherwise worst month of my book sales since January 2014.
Till that point in time, I was lucky to sell a 2-digit number of paperback copies a month. My best month was February 2015 when I sold 32 copies. The meager figures of CreateSpace royalties in my previous income reports reflect that reality quite aptly.
However, in September 2016, I sold 55 copies of my paperbacks.
69% of them came from the books included in the KDP Select program and advertised on Amazon.
September 2016 was the last month of a 2-digit sales number of my paperbacks. Since October 2016, they were always 3-digit.
While I had been submitting my books to the Select program, I received an email from InstaFreebie. They asked if I was interested in featuring Making Business Connections That Count on their platform.
This was serendipity. I still could reverse submission to Select. I definitely was interested in getting featured.
The feature was the same week as the book launch. It added some additional workload. I created a page on my blog and encouraged my readers and followers to share it.
I also adjusted the giveaway, making the sign-up to my list obligatory.
In the end, it was well worth it. I got over 250 new subscribers. My email list grew by 50% in a couple of months thanks to the InstaFreebie platform.
I decided to stick with them, even though their fee ($20) wasn’t worth the small trickle of subscribers I got outside promotions. Those promotions made up for that with vengeance.
InstaFreebie required the giveaway to be available for one more week, so I closed it on 15th of September and signed the book up into KDP Select program the next day.
Very quickly I recognized the fact that Amazon reporting in the case of ads was created without authors in mind. In other words, it was hopeless. It’s good to know how much you spent, but absolutely not useful in guessing how much you earned.
After several days of trying to squeeze an ounce of sense from Amazon reporting, I created my own Google sheet and a habit of updating that sheet every morning with data.
Maybe that didn’t make me much money, but it surely protected me from flushing money down the toilet.
I think it was more of paying daily attention to my campaigns than anything else that caused them to be profitable in 95% of cases.
Also, thanks to the Amazon ads, I re-discovered the importance of editorial reviews.
Making Business Connections… was advertised two weeks later than the other books. I noticed a strange data fluke. This book had more or less the same amount of clicks per impressions, but much less actual purchases. It meant that people were clicking on the ad, landing on the book’s page, and then they moved on without buying.
I wondered: How is this book’s page different than my other books?
I quickly noticed the difference – there were no editorial reviews on the page! I mined the reviews that I got from my readers and featured a few of them in the ‘Editorial Reviews’ section in Author Central.
The numbers improved to the levels observed with my other books.
InstaFreebie is integrated only with MailChimp, and I wasn’t familiar with this platform. But I got about 500 new subscribers, so I had to learn on the go.
September was a month rich with email interactions with my list. I sent several broadcasts to everybody and several dedicated to specific segments, like my beta readers who promised me a review of Directed by Purpose, or a welcome broadcast to new people who got on the list from InstaFreebie.
Wayne, my mastermind buddy, mentioned that he feels I’m doing my readers a disservice by not offering them some higher-tier product, like a coaching program based on my book.
So I went into a hustle mode again. However, I was smart about it – I started from surveying my subscribers, if they were interested in such a program. I created a survey, wrote a broadcast, and sent it at the end of September.
Apart from several broadcasts, I sent also a few dozen individual replies to my readers.
My son continued working for me as my assistant, and I recorded a few videos explaining what I require from him.
Our cooperation wasn’t rocky nor smooth. He didn’t share my enthusiasm for spreading my message and, like a proper teenager, had been lazy with his tasks.
On the other hand, he could do things for me no virtual assistant could have done. I shared with him my passwords and accounts with no risk whatsoever.
I managed to publish two paperbacks in September, one for Directed by Purpose, and it was only a couple weeks after the launch, and one for Know Yourself Like Your Success Depends on It. The last one was almost a year after the publication of an eBook version. I finally did that because I also decided to make an audiobook version of it.
Of course, this meant hours spent on adjusting the manuscripts, formatting, creating the Table of Contents, email correspondence with HappySelfPublishing who created the paperback covers for me, signing a contract with a narrator, and so on.
It was a very good decision, especially with Amazon ads positively affecting my print sales.
Important Decision and Announcement
On 22nd September, I sent an email to my list informing them about my decision to hold any new releases of mine for an unspecified period of time.
Here is the core of it:
I started my writer’s journey hoping that I will support my family from my writing. Three years down the road and it didn’t materialize. My hopes were even higher when I published a few bestsellers. But their fate was always the same: an initial surge of sales and quiet oblivion after a few months. Kindle publishing was, for me, like pumping a hand water-pump; as soon as I stopped pumping and took a break in publishing a next book, the sales dwindled. I have no more energy to pump. I put all my publishing projects on hold. Writing is for me a joy, but publishing is a taxing work.
I had enough. I was spent. Writing books for a living is a full-time job, at least at the beginning, when you try to make enough income to sustain your current lifestyle.
Part-time efforts can bring only part-time (or worse) results. Till the moment of sending the broadcast, I sold exactly 134 copies of Directed by Purpose, my latest title. After three years of publishing, I could predict the future. This book was no blockbuster. It would not have brought me freedom from my day job.
I was hustling for four years. At the end of August I received June’s royalties, only €311. I had already had figures for the next two months. They weren’t any better.
For the last few months, I had been drawing from my day job salary to pay my business expenses. I was working hard for relatively small results.
The worst part was that I felt a growing distance among my family. It was my fault as well. I didn’t dedicate enough time to keep our relationships thriving. I was overwhelmed with work.
I didn’t intend to give up, but I desperately needed to limit my workload. Eliminating the publishing process was the obvious choice. Five rounds of editions and corrections were taxing like nothing else. I didn’t like this activity, it drained me. And the results didn’t justify my time investment.
I was touched by the response of my readers. There were a few voices of disappointment, but everyone declared their support of my decision to spend more time with my family.
The new chapter of my author career began. I had no idea how much better it would be.
The Income Report Breakdown
Amazon royalties: €196.95 ($220.58)
CreateSpace royalties: €116.24 ($130.19)
Draft2Digital royalties: $21.67
Coach.me fees: $48.73
Audiobooks royalties: $4.32
$36.9, View From the Top Community fee
$29, Aweber fee
$265, Business on Purpose mastermind
$15.15, royalties split with co-author
$198.38, Amazon ads
$40, RA’s (RA = Real Assistant; my son 😉 ) remuneration
$65, cover for Directed by Purpose
Net Result: -$223.94