Episode 11 – The Overnight Success Show

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We discussed several internal obstacles to becoming a successful indie author this week, including a lack of focus and a belief in the myth that you need to become an overnight success. Jim also talked about his new book and Bryan shared some results from his Facebook events. Other topics included mailing lists, the image creation tool Canva, the shame people feel when reading certain genres, diversity in publishing and self-publishing numbers in the U.K.
What You’ll Learn: 
  • The pros and cons of using contests to build your email lists
  • How to promote future content to gain email subscribers
  • How to use Canva to develop your author platform
  • The frequency with which you should email your subscribers
  • Why Kindles make it easier to sell certain genres
  • How indie publishing is providing new opportunities for minority authors
  • Seven habits to avoid to become a successful indie author
  • How much the self-publishing industry is growing in the U.K.
  • Why the need to sell books quickly is a myth

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  • Hi guys, I’ve listened to every one of your podcasts (There’s only 11 right now so it wasn’t hard), and I’m happy to say that it’s become a regular part of my weekly routine because of the great info you guys share. So yeah, nice work.

    In today’s podcast you mentioned 5 or 10 year plans. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I have a loose one in place. I say loose because I intentionally am leaving it open for flexibility.

    Here’s a quick preview:

    I released my first novel, Discovering Aberration, Feb. of this year. The first month of release was I paused writing, pushed marketing, and sold 8,000+ copies (not through Amazon). Since then the numbers have been less impressive, but I’m really pleased with how that turned out and will be attempting the same strategy on my next major release.

    Now I’m back in production mode with 1 day of marketing a week, and I’ve been appearing on and off of my genre’s bestsellers list. My next work takes place in the same world as my first novel, but this time I’m testing out an episodic tale that will eventually be compiled into an Omnibus. The goal is to release 1 episode every 3 months or so (each around 25-30,000 words), until the story is complete.

    From there I’m leaving the plan loose. Do I want to write another season? Or do I want to write another novel? Well, that depends on sales. If sales all around are lagging then I’ll start a different novel or series that doesn’t take place in this world, but if sales are good I’ll move forward with the sequel.

    I have rough plans for about 4 or 5 projects, some of which relate to the world I’ve created in Discovering Aberration, some not at all. So I know that I’m going to be working on one of those projects, but I’ll let my audience decide which one.

    Meanwhile, my priority has been building my mailing list, which is still modest but I did break 300 this weekend at a live event! Speaking of which, I’m also supporting my writing at various live events like NorWesCon, The Indie Book Fair, GearCon, etc because of the direct interaction with fans and the chance to build relationships, and this has been pretty successful so far.

    Anyway, you guys asked for it, so there it is. It sounded like you were looking for someone to talk to about this on the show, and I’d be happy to be a Guinea pig if you want.

    Love the show guys, keep up the good work 🙂

    • Bryan

      Hey, S.C., thank you so much for sharing this! Other authors should definitely follow your lead and go as in depth with their planning. I think leaving the plan loose to account for audience taste is a smart idea. Congrats on the numbers with your first book (did you sell direct, Jim would love that :)) and with your mailing list success as well.

      At these live events, do you typically rent a booth or just chat up readers whenever you have the opportunity?

      Glad you’re enjoying the show (please leave us an iTunes review if you haven’t already) and thanks for the guinea pig offer :). We’ll let you know if we decide to take you up on it!

      • I rent a booth, talk on panels, listen to people talk for 45 minutes about how they once thought about writing a book, that sort of thing. I generally am able to sell enough physical copies to pay for the expense (not much more than that yet though).

        But I also have built my mailing list by about 30+ subscribers at each event through a signed Hardback giveaway (I don’t sell Hardbacks in stores, just in person so it has that collectors item feel). It’s also a great way to capture those people who aren’t quite convinced enough to buy a book but are almost there. Gives you that second chance.

        • Bryan

          Very cool! That’s awesome that you’ve had such success putting yourself out there at the events.

  • Julie Farrell

    Thank you both so much for your clear and concise tips, support, and encouragement! This is my favourite indie author podcast! 🙂

    • Thank you for listening! We’re glad to help. Reviews are welcome on itunes. 🙂

      • Julie Farrell

        Review left on iTunes with pleasure! And thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to ask for reviews when people like my stuff! 🙂 I’m looking forward to hearing your take on the ‘Missed the Boat’ issue next week! 🙂

    • Bryan

      Thank you for the high praise, Julie!

  • Carl Sinclair

    Another good show lads.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Carl!

  • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

    I love this one! Number 11.
    I published my first novel, a dark epic fantasy in December 2012. Its the first of a series. I put a couple of novellas up there because I was thinking no traditional publsiher would want them because of legnth.
    I made every mistake in the book as far as marketing—6000 free downloads of Book One leading to nothing later on.
    I got feedback on the novellas that I should expand them, so I did. I had a bunch of short stories that had been traditionally published and put them up—all as an experiment. I did not take this Indie thing seriously until I began getting sales and some great reviews!
    Currently one of my expanded novellas, a Victorian Gothic, has been firmly in the top 10 or 20 of Werewolves and Shifters and sells every day in peaks and valleys.
    I wish I had more of that book but it stands alone.
    The idea of having a new novel out every 2-3 months is very destructive. My books often require research and that takes time. Shelf time takes time. I have noticed in all the years of reading print books, that it is obvious when an author is writing to a deadline and has had to skimp. This is where you get the lousy sequels. For Indies who want to build a fan base–and I am quite satisfied to have a 5 year plan—I want every book to be better than the last. This means more time for each book. Even writing them in tandem means I cannot finish a novel in less than 6 months. But that beats the years it took me to write the earlier stuff.
    Despite 50 Shades of Grey— which even my erotica fan friends couldn’t read—isn’t a big hit more likely with a book that is the best it can be, than having a whole bunch of poorly crafted stories out that will be consumed, forgetten and discarded like candy bar wrappers? This is the legacy of the Gold Rush mentality of internet marketers trying to cash in, not serious authors striving to write great books.
    Not everyone is an engery powerhouse like Russel Blake or The Boys. We each have to be true to ourselves and take the pressure off or we will begin to hate the work we have dreamed of doing since we first began to read.
    Thanks guys!
    Alyne de Winter

    • Bryan

      What great advice, Alyne! Being true to yourself is key, even if it does take you six months to write a book. Skimping definitely shows!

      If you ever wanted to share your five-year plan with us, that would be fantastic. If not, that’s totally fine as well. Happy to hear you have one :).


      • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

        That was quick! Thanks Bryan. I might do that if its not too boring, though I tend to need to rolll with the punches a bit. My goal is to at least reduce the day job next year if not dump it all together. Dream!
        I do love your show. I consciously follow only 2 marketers now becaue they are the best: Jim and Paul Coleman.

        And listen to good podcasts.

        • Chrishaun Keller

          I don’t think that the comment came off as snarky at all. If anything, it came off as someone that isn’t in it for the money, but for the craft. And you hit it right on the head; the 5-10 year plan is based on what you are writing, how much research it takes, your timeline and goals in terms of day job, how fast you type, etc. And the plan and output will be different for the pulp adventure writer (me) than it would be for the formula romance writer than it would be for the epic historical romance (like you).

          I can plan a new novel every 2-3 months because I’ve years of planning, all the outlines have been done, I was a English Instructor with loads of editor friends and I’m an empty nester. Someone just going in has to weigh all the costs (maybe using the first book as a control) before determining what the plan is.

          And that is the beauty of Indie Publishing to me – you can determine what “A Successful Career” looks like then plan (or adapt) accordingly and if the product is your best, then the readers will be there!

          Good Writing to you!

          • Bryan

            “And that is the beauty of Indie Publishing to me – you can determine what ‘A Successful Career’ looks like then plan (or adapt) accordingly and if the product is your best, then the readers will be there!”

            Great point, Chrishaun. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

        • Bryan

          I’m hoping to do the same next year. Here’s to 2015! 🙂

    • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

      Sorry you guys, I have to reply to myslef because this comment sounds snarky as hell. I didn’t mean it that way, I have just been frustrated with the plethora of messages to write fast and get books out on a really short schedule to make money fast. This tends to be the focus of the Romance genre–catagory or formula Romance. And internet markteters in general–who are our teachers.

      I have met lots of different types of writers online, and indeed those who write what in the old days used be called “dime novels” do make money faster than those who naturally write Gone With the Wind or Thorn Birds type romances that take lots of time.

      The point is that I think there have to be differnet marketing plans for different types of authors. In my world Haste Makes Waste — re: my many mistakes in the beginning of self publishing. If you are writing quick novellas, you are on the fast track–or you don’t have the day job—but of you are writing historicals or books that have layered plots, deep themes, and need research or time to simmer—there is nothing wrong with realizing you need a longer range marketing plan.

      The trouble I have –and I can only speak for me— is that so often the former are held up as examples of “success” because of the money. While those of us who take longer and write deeper more complex books that take time are viewed as “unsuccessful”. Literally.

      In a world of constant expert advice — I think you need to trust your own instincts, trust your own process and realize that different types of authors need different types of buisness plans. I
      personally realize I need to have X number of books published before I embark on major marketing so that readers who like my books have someplace to go. Plus to have a career that is sustainable means going at a pace you can maintain, not buidling unrealistic expecations in readers—or the George RR Martin effect. lol!
      Alyne de Winter

      • Bryan

        Don’t worry, it wasn’t snarky :). I completely agree! Everybody should create their own plan for sure!

  • Chrishaun Keller

    Thanks again for another great episode… I wanted to show you my 10 year plan for writing. I started writing again after recovering from my ex-husband destroying all of my work 7 years ago and the goal is simple:

    Make enough to pay my house and my student loans completely in 10 years (that’s 250,000$). Here is the breakout taken from my blogpost (http://allazar.com/doin-the-work/):

    I don’t have the ambition to be a hungry entrepreneur; I have the ambition to be a prolific writer and I want to be able to live as a writer by the time I am 50, which for me means:

    — Having no student loans (90,000)

    — Having no mortgage (160,000)

    That’s 250,000$

    If I set aside a third for taxes (about 80,000) and another 15% for expenses (about 37,500) that number goes up to 367,500$

    That is a big-ass number, fellow citizens…


    If I take that and divide by the number of years I have (I just turned 41, so I am fudging and giving myself until 51):

    367,500 / 10 years = 36,750 a year

    Then that result by month:

    36,750 / 12 months = 3063 a month

    That’s still a big number.


    If there are 5 books (as planned at the end of 2015) and each of them sell 200 a month at 4.99 each with a 70% royalty, then I will have that by the beginning of 2016:

    4.99$ * 70% = 3.49$ (the royalty for each book)

    5 books * 200 unit sold a month = 1000 total units a month (total unit sold goal with 5 books)

    3.49$ * 1000 = 3490$ (total income a month)

    And as I write and promote more, the number they have to sell to reach the goal reduces.

    For instance, by the end of 2016, I will have 9 books out:

    4.99$ * 70% = 3.49$ (assuming that this hasn’t changed)

    9 books * 111 units sold = 999

    3.49 * 999 = 3486.51

    Or if I push so all of them sell at least 200 a month

    9 books * 200 unit = 1800 units

    3.49 * 1800 = 6282 (that’s over 75,000 a year… and I am still working a day job)

    And if we look at the faaaar view, when I have all 36 books that are currently planned done, then it gets kinda silly…

    36 books * 30 units sold = 1080

    3.49 * 1080 = 3769

    Or again pushing at 200 units:

    36 books * 200 units sold = 7200 units

    3.49 * 7200 = 25,128$ a month (just over 300,000$ a year)

    These numbers still look really, Really, REALLY BIG.

    But the numbers are can be reached if I do the work.

    (sorry about the long post, but is the goal I am reaching for and when broken down like that, it feels doable)

    Thanks for giving the new authorpreneurs hope!!

    • Bryan

      No apologies necessary about the length of the post, Chrishaun! Great goals here and it’s smart for you to break them down into smaller chunks. You understand what you need to do and now you have the numbers right in front of you. I think you’ll make it happen :).

      Thank you for the kind words!