This is my yearly The Slight Edge report. I post such a report every year on the anniversary of reading this awesome book.
The last year of my life was wild. I’ve had a lot of progress as well as a lot of struggle. But it’s a struggle that make us stronger.
The leader of my mastermind has a saying: “It’s NOT just a business.”
I’ll start this year’s report with relationships, because it was what affected this year the most.
I went through the darkest moment in my marriage. “Moment,” ha! These were long, excruciating months when I felt my marriage was falling apart and I could do nothing about that. It was killing me. I had been depressed in my life before, but this was something even worse.
Let me explain. But first, a word of warning. This story is raw and not for the faint of heart. In the spirit of transparency, I will share and clarify this a bit more because I know there may be others out there going through something similar.
For years, my wife struggled with my pivot into a writing career. It built up a tension between us. She was extremely hesitant to support this, and I was trying to prove she was wrong.
For years, we lived in something like a delicate balance. Then my books finally took off, and my wife’s stance toward my side business noticeably softened.
However, I had hoped for something else. I had hoped for her support; harmony at home, so I could focus on writing and make our dreams come true.
I was also overburdened and emotionally burned out. The entrepreneur rollercoaster was brutal for me.
To regain my senses, I decided to stop publishing any more books. More out of desperation than anything else, I started playing with Amazon ads. They helped more than a bit. I stabilized my Kindle sales in September, and they remained stable till December. What is more, my paperback sales suddenly skyrocketed because of ads.
I had felt an ounce of relief. I stopped subsidizing my business from my salary and started earning a side income again.
I had hoped for some appreciation from my wife but, on that front, nothing had changed. Well, it got even worse. My wife was overwhelmed with her life as well. Her day job was quite demanding physically; enough to say that she regularly worked 12-hour shifts and night shifts 2-4 times a week.
It all cumulated in an ugly scene, and I realized that we were not on the same page. It looked like we never would be. It was more than four years since my personal transformation. I did all in my power to convince her that this is the best course of action for our family, and she still didn’t approve nor support me.
I was crushed. I felt totally helpless. I saw no way out.
I remember a Monday night in December when I was spilling my heart in front of my mastermind. I did that on their insistence. I didn’t feel it would help an ounce. However, I was unable to talk about my business when my life was falling apart, so I told them about the situation and my feelings.
I really had been trying hard to be a good husband for years, but it all seemed to be in vain. The mastermind call didn’t help much.
When I look back, I don’t comprehend how I survived from December to April or how I stayed sane. I attribute this to the power of my habits and God’s grace.
My heart was broken, but I went through the motions every day. I went to my day job, I attended household chores, I interacted with my kids, wife and friends, I wrote. I lived my life despite the fact I saw no sense in it.
At the end of December, I reconsidered my goals and decided to focus on prayer and family in 2017. I cut out even more of my business activities. I stopped proofreading my Quora content altogether. I outsourced keyword research for Amazon ads to my sons. I depended on my eldest to do many repetitive tasks and smaller projects.
By the way, the tough situation in our marriage didn’t evade my kids’ attention. One of the immediate positive outputs was that I got closer to my boys and received some support from them.
Another important action I took was sharing my royalties income with my wife. I had been telling her for months, if not years, that she should let me quit my job or she could quit her job. She objected because she didn’t feel we had the financial stability for this.
In January, I received almost two of my salaries from royalties. Half of it went into my wife’s pet project fund – the renovation of our home. Since January, I was at least matching her day job salary out of royalties and telling her that was her money, and she could do with it whatever she wanted.
Focusing more on prayer didn’t hurt as well. It was my relationship with God that took me through difficulties in the relationship with my wife.
In April, we got the first signs of a thaw in our strained marriage. My wife started hinting that she just might be interested in quitting her day job. Our relationship improved. I no longer felt as if each next breath was an unbearable effort. In May, peace returned to my heart.
At the beginning of June, my wife decided to quit her job and she gave her notice in the middle of the month. She even noticed how burdened I was and declared that she will help me in my business. That is yet to be seen, because her company doesn’t want to let her go before the end of September. Well, she has plenty of overdo furlough, so she won’t be working much; but at any rate, I don’t want to pressure her. I’m happy she will be free from the day job shackles and at home for our kids.
In July, we exported the kids to Ireland to my mother. I took some free days and we visited friends and family. We also spent a week charging our batteries in a resort in Bulgaria.
The first Slight Edge principle is “show up.” I’ve been experiencing many times its power in the past.
That way I noticed and got interested in Amazon ads in the first place. Since 2013, I’ve been active in a Facebook group for authors started by Pat Flynn. I met Derek Doepker there. If not for this, I would have happily ignored the matter of Amazon ads when seeing his book among other books advertised on my book’s page. But I knew him and exchanged more than one message with Derek in the past, so I asked him about his results. He was very enthusiastic about ads. He shared with me his beta version of his KD Sales Machine course.
I hate learning from videos more than I can describe, but I went through the course out of respect to his gesture.
And it appeared to be the most impactful decision in my author career.
Because I was active in that FB authors group and my books were in sales for the last few years, I was contacted by Raza Imam, and he invited me to participate in a big giveaway. I took part in it, and I got over 1,000 new subscribers. That was the single most impressive growth of my email list from its very beginning.
In the same fashion, I was invited to become an affiliate in Chris Naish and Matt Stone’s “Internet Business Insights” launch. I wrote a post that will direct readers to a sign-up on their landing page and got $100 for it. During the launch, I sent over 70 new subscribers to that page and already earned some commission from affiliate sales.
In the last year, I gave a few podcast interviews, and each time it was the initiative of the hosts who knew me via my books or my activity on Facebook.
In July, I had a promo of my three books and my mentor, Steve Scott, was polite enough to inform his list about the promo. I got 713 sales as a result.
I got sick in December 2016. Considering my pitiful emotional state, I’m amazed I was functioning at all. I had a fever for a few days. That was my first sickness and first sick leave since July 2013.
Since the last report, I beat another dozen or so personal fitness records.
I made my health automatic, and I didn’t even realize to what degree. Quite recently, a coaching client asked me about my fitness routine. Going through it, I discovered that some habits that I installed 3-4 years ago are still working without my conscious supervision.
I avoid elevators, run through any stairs I encounter, including 17 steps at my home that I use many times a day.
I track my sleep since July 2013, and it provides me enough awareness to avoid sleep deprivation.
I read food labels instinctively. I was visiting my mother in Ireland in June. I was hungry, opened the fridge and found bread. I read its label, and my hunger evaporated. It read like an insane chemical experiment, not a food.
I’m an amazingly healthy and fit specimen, but only because I implemented a ‘maintenance mode’ into my health.
My career as an author, with the help of my Amazon ads work, has overtaken my day job career.
And rightfully so. As an author, coach and book business consultant, I matched or exceeded my salary for the last several months.
In June, I offered my services as Amazon ads’ administrator to an author whose book I read and valued. When I took it on 8th of June, it had #841,000 rank in the Kindle store. We sold 144 copies in the rest of June, and I received my first commission at the beginning of July. In July, we sold over 200 copies.
I learned how to resurrect books. I am the first person I’ve heard of that can make that process repeatable. It doesn’t work with all of the books, but it works with most of them.
Now, I also took a friend’s book that was barely making back the cost of ads. However, the ads still provide some results for him.
I have also several more authors in the pipeline.
I struck a deal with Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur. This relationship is the result of “show up” networking too. Dave will send graduates of his online course about Amazon ads to me telling them I am the guy who can run advertising campaigns for them on autopilot.
This is my new career, and it’s naturally growing. I know more about book marketing than most marketing specialists in big publishing houses only because my books’ survival depended on this knowledge. My interactions with fellow authors, listening to dozens of self-publishing podcast episodes, and reading through hundreds of blog posts is like an unofficial master’s degree.
My business exploded in more than one area since the last Slight Edge report.
Amazon Ads and Book Sales
In the last year, I reported 6,000 Kindle sales and 228 paperback sales. Between August 2016 and August 2017, I sold 8,500 and 2,500, respectively. Readers bought my books worth at least $26,000 via my Amazon ads.
Right now, I run over 500 ad campaigns for my 11 books and a few dozen campaigns for other authors.
At the beginning of June 2016, I bought Dave Chesson’s keyword research tool called the KDP Rocket. It was a game changer. Keyword research was the most work-intensive part of setting up my advertising campaigns. KDP Rocket has changed that. After only a couple of months, campaigns created with Rocket’s help consist of well over half of my campaigns.
Thanks to those new campaigns, I was able to estimate how much my work on new campaigns is worth. The conservative assumption says it’s $100 per hour in the first 10 months.
My first reaction was: What the hell am I still doing in my day job, where they pay me about 10 times less? My second was: Why the heck am I not doing those campaigns 100 hours a week? I intend to dedicate at least 10 hours a week to this activity for the next few months.
I remember when I was listening to Internet Business Mastery podcast, and Jason Van Orden was sharing how he felt after selling his first product online – he was, like, “Wow, I can print money on demand!” For the first time in my business, a similar feeling hit me. I found a money machine. All I need to do now is to input my effort, energy, time and a bit of money (for ads), and the output is guaranteed: more money.
The stability of sales and income I got from running ads is something I’ve never experienced before. For the first three years, a 4-figure month was a rare occurrence and an occasion to celebrate. Since December 2016, every single month was 4-figure for me. Since the last report, I invested over $1,000 in audiobook production, only because I had spare funds at last!
Stabilization of income was crucial in my wife’s decision to quit her day job.
Saying that Amazon ads were a game-changer for me would be a gross understatement.
A few months, a few hundred campaigns, and I became an expert in advertising on Amazon. Oh, of course, I’m not nearly as good as Derek Doepker who catapulted his Healthy Habits Revolution into the top #100 in the whole Kindle store – and keeps it there.
But I gained another skill, very useful for most self-publishers who are busy people with a day job: I can create and have several campaigns up and running within an hour, and they will provide some results.
My campaigns aren’t insanely profitable, nor do they get plenty of clicks. But they can keep my books alive. By the way, in my 4-year author career, Amazon ads are the only resource I’ve found that can resurrect books. Any other method I tried (and I tried many of them!) could provide only a temporary boost in sales, if that.
When your book is dead, a few dozen sales a month makes a huge difference. It can rescue you from the horrible oblivion abyss.
It looks like Amazon ads not only rescued my books, but they can become a valid business venture for me.
Since October, a steady trickle of new clients materialized. They were finding me via Coach.me. It motivated me to finish the certification on Coach.me I started at the end of August 2016. Around January, I finally set my profile and messages according to guidelines and approached the exam once again. In the first half of January, I got the certificate. At the beginning of May, I was featured in Coach.me’s newsletter. Generally, since obtaining the certification, I have always had about 12 clients; about 20 in a peak after the newsletter.
Right now, I have 12 coaching clients, and this is the least I’ve had in months because I focused on my Amazon ad business.
One of my readers of “Bulletproof Health and Fitness” contacted me around January. We exchanged a few emails, and he asked me for a consultation. We had a great chat and, when I explained the nuts and bolts of coaching on Coach.me, he jumped on the bandwagon. I also offered him an additional deal – Pay What It’s Worth coaching. I gave him access to me via the audio messaging service called Voxer.
This is how my new coaching service started. I had a few conversations with other clients about this kind of coaching and a few more of them were interested, but so far only my first client is utilizing this opportunity to the fullest.
My email list grew by more than 100% in the last year. It was mainly the result of discovering the platform for organizing giveaways called InstaFreebie.
I have a few permanent giveaways set up, but they don’t provide many results – maybe 20 subscribers a month.
What really makes the difference on InstaFreebie is being featured on their blog. Unfortunately, it’s hard to engineer (read: it is hard work), so I don’t engineer it. I wait for a lucky shot. My books were picked by the InstaFreebie team twice in the last year. “Making Business Connections that Count” was featured in September, and “Learn to Read with Great Speed” in July. Each time, I got a few hundred new subscribers.
I was invited by Raza Imam to participate in a huge giveaway at the end of April. I included “The Art of Persistence” and hosted the event on InstaFreebie. It was a huge success. I got several hundred new subscribers and, a week after the giveaway, InstaFreebie featured the book once again on their blog. Thanks to this giveaway, I got over 1,000 subscribers.
I also organized a giveaway on the NoiseTrade platform for “A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road to Happiness.” It was definitely less of a hit. I had to pay for a feature and got about 150 subscribers from that source.
Thanks to increased traffic to my blog from Quora and Medium, it made sense at last to install sign-up forms on my most visited pages. I converted my main page from blog to a static page with my Expand Beyond Yourself manifesto. I guesstimate the number of new subscribers coming via my blog exceeded the number of subscribers I got via my Kindle books.
Many Streams of Income
After a few years of my online hustle, it finally became real.
Almost every month, I get money from several sources: my Kindle sales, my eBook sales from Draft2Digital, paperback sales from CreateSpace, audiobook sales, coaching and affiliate sales.
Most of those sources are connected somehow with my books (different formats, translations, etc.), but others are only loosely connected (coaching, affiliate sales, or my share in advertised books of other authors).
Kindle and CreateSpace sales make each about 30-40% of my side hustle income, but the share from other sources has been steadily climbing in the last few months.
Last year, I had been fussing a lot over the fact that I needed to draw from my salary to pay my business bills. Nowadays, coaching practice alone pays for my mastermind and various services I use on a monthly basis.
Income Side of Things
My personal income grew by 31%, mostly because of increased book sales, but those additional income streams had something to do with this as well.
Since the last report, I sold over 8,500 copies of my eBooks. They provided something like $11,000 of gross income.
My paperback sales exploded thanks to Amazon ads. I sold 2,500 copies, which was 10x growth compared to the previous year.
Income from that source was about $13,500, mostly because of a pricing trick I used around a hot book selling period at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017.
But even without the trick, my revenue from print sales more or less matches the revenue from digital sales. I earn about 200% more on a print copy than on a digital one.
Unfortunately, my costs increased as well. Every month I have about $450 of fixed business costs plus another several hundred for Amazon ads.
I also invested about $2,000 into my books: new covers, paperback versions, audio version for three of my books, translation of “A Personal Mission Statement” into Spanish, and so on.
However, those investments were meant to provide income in the future. Paperbacks are the best example. Without a print version I, obviously, couldn’t have sold them. It took me about $50-$100 to publish each paperback for my Six Simple Steps to Success volumes. None of them is a blockbuster, but each of them made that investment back several times and will continue to do so for a long time.
I finally published a print version of “99 Perseverance Success Stories” in July 2016. This title did really well for a few months and made me over $1,200. (And this is only half of the revenue! The rest I shared with my co-author.)
I almost made back my investment into audiobooks of “A Personal Mission Statement” and “Know Yourself Like Your Success Depends on It.” In 2-3 months, those audiobooks will become my golden geese providing pure income month after month.
31% income growth is amazing, but when I take into account just royalties growth (52.7%), or coaching income growth (1,238% !!!), it gets insane. I also earned a few hundred dollars in affiliate commissions for the first time in something resembling a regular fashion.
Even my salary increased by 15%, not because of any raise, but mostly because I took more stand-by duties than a year ago.
It all contributed into our net value increase. I stacked away about $10K in my peace-of-mind fund (aka ‘rainy days fund’ for most of the world). My wife saved most of her ‘bonus salaries’ from my royalties for house renovation. The rest she already spent on renovation, and she funded our vacation trip to Bulgaria last month.
I paid off early about 1.6% of our mortgage in one year. I tithed more.
Our recurrent payments fund is fully stacked up. We have a year’s worth of recurring bills for water and waste. We have funds prepared for car insurance, coal for the whole year ahead, textbooks for kids, unexpected car repairs or replacement of white goods.
Some unpleasant financial surprises are no longer a headache. I had to spend over 100% more on our car insurance this year. I expected some inflation, but not to this degree. I had about half of this sum saved, and I simply took the rest from our monthly income.
We bought a new vacuum cleaner in July. The old one was 8 years old. I took money from the white goods fund and filled the fund in about a week. In the past, those would be major headaches requiring significant sacrifices.
When I took a mental inventory of this area, initially I couldn’t put a finger on any progress.
And maybe this is how it should be. Take, for example, transparency. I’m so used to sharing almost everything from my progress journey that I don’t realize when people find it inspiring or unusual.
My supervisor from my corporation found my Facebook account. I felt a pang of dread for about a second. What to do? Ignore her friend request? I quickly corrected myself. What would be the use of this? Everything on my Facebook profile is public anyway.
My supervisor is an unusual person, so she had no problems with my “second life” I reveal on Facebook; the life of an author. She wished me all the best in my second career, including quitting my job (which didn’t stop her from enjoying the news that my wife quit her job first, and I’ll be stuck there a little longer).
When I shared the details of hardships of my marriage in my mastermind group, I had no second thoughts about it. However, the leader of my mastermind group said he appreciated very much what I had done, and that it really solidified integrity of our group and gave other members “permission” to be vulnerable as well.
After a moment of reflection, I found one thing I improved: my prayer. Thanks to the book “Confessions of a Prayer Slacker,” I introduced a new 5-minute prayer into my morning ritual.
On the other hand, I almost completely quit listening to podcasts and doing cardio exercises in the morning. It’s hard to call it “progress,” isn’t it?
In the past, I struggled a lot with big goals. They always intimidated me, and that hampered my progress. Now, I focus on daily actions and they compound into something much greater.
Consistency brings growth and results. I had been showing up for a long period of time in my authors group, and that created networking opportunities.
It worked for me as good as, or even better than, setting big goals and pursuing them. For two years, I tried in vain to grow my email list to 1,000 people. This year, one offer of participating in a giveaway resulted in more than 1,000 subscribers.
I had set goals of selling hundreds and thousands of books in the past, and I didn’t reach those numbers. In July, I sent a single email to Steve Scott inquiring if he could inform his email list about my free promo. He couldn’t. He did something better – he sent an email when four of my books were on Buck Books promo. I sold over 130 copies of each!
The fundament of those successes wasn’t goal setting; it was merely showing up.
The same happened with my speed reading practice. I broke down an intensive 2-hour-a-day program into 10-minute practices. In less than two years, I was done with it. I ran out of materials and techniques to practice. So, I decided to maintain speed reading practice by reading as fast as possible for ten minutes a day.
I haven’t done anything more for 20 months or so. A few months ago, I decided to check my speed reading on a paperback. I took Robin Cook’s medical thriller and checked my reading speed. It was over 220% of my starting reading speed. I almost finished that book, and my results were always in 200-280% range.
So, I felt like I was making no progress while, in fact, I progressed. The progress was so slow that I didn’t notice it.
I rarely speak publicly about this topic. I am no priest nor pastor. I’m just an ordinary guy who tries to recognize and follow God’s will as I understand it.
I consider any spiritual-inclined rumination about my own experience highly suspicious and probably originating from haughtiness: “Look at me, what I achieved; I’m almost a saint – listen to me!”
However, I cannot keep quiet about what happened to me in the past year.
This year, I suffered like never before in my whole life. A crisis in my marriage was a darker period than anything else that happened to me.
And with a clean conscience, I tell you this: the experience of torment was profitable for me beyond my understanding. I suffered like a beast. I saw no sense in my life. I saw no way out. All I could do was trust God with my life and focus only on the next step in my life. Wake up. Do my morning ritual. Commute to work. Survive a day in my day job. Commute back. Do household chores. Write.
I felt barren and dry all the time, but I kept going.
In the darkest period, I found Julien of Norwich’s “Revelations of a Divine Love.” It was a perfect cure for my state of soul. I read it and added it as a third daily lecture to my morning ritual. It means I’ll read a paragraph or sentence from this book every day till the end of my life.
That was another case that convinced me that there are no accidents in life; everything is governed by God’s Providence. I’ve been reading saints’ books for years, I heard about a mystic Julien a couple of years ago. But I read it when I mostly needed it, and its message infiltrated my heart. The premise of this book, by the way, is that God’s Providence is all-encompassing and overarching. I recommend it to any Christian that goes through a tough time in their life.
From this experience, I took away one great lesson: pain equals growth. I no longer shy away from pain. I embrace it. I got humbled. My ego diminished a bit. I even started to see other people from behind it. I thought I was ready for anything, but I was wrong. Now I know, I’m ready for more than I had been before.
All I want from my life is growth, and spiritual growth is the most important aspect for me. If I had experienced the same amount of suffering for half the growth I got, I would’ve volunteered without a second of hesitation.
There is no sense in anticipating future disasters. When I went through my dark period, sometimes I wished I could hold my breath and suffocate. When you live through a disaster, you need to focus 100% of your life energy on the next breath or the next step. Living in the past or the future is a luxury you cannot afford.
Lately, I’ve met many people who’ve suffered a lot more than I have. People who lost their relatives, who got cancer, whose kids got cancer, are miserable with their life, or are constantly making bad choices and their parents can only observe with pain how they struggle. My cousin’s son was born prematurely and went through a couple of serious illnesses in the first months of his life. He suffers from neurological affliction, and my cousin lives every day with anxiety as to his child’s future.
In the past, such encounters with the suffering of others were very unsettling for me. I had lost peace of mind and ruminated why it happened to them and why I was so blessed in my life.
Now, I can state I accept their challenges. I don’t just theoretically know they will benefit from their struggles. I feel it deep in my gut. Pain equals growth. What will not kill you, will make you stronger. What will kill you, will kill you.
I passed through my valley of shadow, and I emerged on the other side stronger than ever. I attained peace of mind I wouldn’t have believed was possible. I’m more grounded in the present moment and my current life. I think less of me. I see more of my flaws and, at the same time, it doesn’t rob me of power, but entices me to become better. I am more compassionate. I judge people less. I serve them more. I trust God more and am less afraid. “Do not be afraid” is a phrase that is repeated in the Bible the most times. Strangely enough, I became less afraid going through the worst time in my life.
In hindsight, I feel I grew the most in my spirit. Skim through this report once again. Read all those fantastic numbers and metrics: thousands of subscribers and thousands of dollars; fitness records, networking opportunities and starting a new business; my wife quitting her job and her first tentative steps in supporting me.
All those things are wonderful on their own, but I consider them small potatoes compared to my spiritual growth.
I became a better version of myself. I expanded beyond what I thought was possible. I’m at peace and more connected to God than I ever was.
This is worth the world to me.