Every author needs to grow a thick skin if he or she wasn’t born with one, because without it, the sting of criticism will stop you from doing what you desperately want to do: write.
Recently I got a nasty review for one of my books (I won’t name which, or who posted it). I was surprised that the reviewer ended the tirade with the words: “I won’t be recommending this book.”
Obviously, from the poor review.
I was shocked at first, then followed my own policy of never giving it a second thought and refusing to rush to defend the book in the review comments.
I am always reminded of this quote summing up criticism: “Something you can avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
It seems some reviewers are convinced that book that they don’t like should have never been written, that the author should have never been allowed to publish it, and that nobody else can change their mind.
One interesting comment this reviewer left was that the author (that would be me) presented the material in a way that made the reader doubt they could succeed in this home business.
Of that observation, I totally agree with the reviewer.
I always aim, in all my books, to present the pros and cons, the good, the bad and the ugly when I show readers how they can follow my steps and earn extra income. The reason I spend a lot of each book presenting the difficulties and the obstacles isn’t really to send a message of defeatism. It’s not that I want to discourage a reader from trying. I simply want to warn them that difficulties and problems are sure to crop up. Most home business ventures, whether they are part-time or full-time businesses, are fraught with problems, and what I try to do is to identify these problems early on some the reader can prepare and be ready to handle the obstacle.
I pride myself in presenting simple how-to books which help readers get a fast start to make extra money in their spare time. I also pride myself that I don’t make the process look too rosy. Yes, there will be problems, I tell my readers; But you can overcome them, I remind them. And, then I show them how.
Have I grown a thick enough skin over the years? Yes I have. Does the criticism still sting?
As a wise man once said: “If you want a place in the sun, you’ve got to expect a few blisters.”
All authors step out from the harbor of their dreams, to sail their written works out before the public. But being safe in a harbor isn’t what a ship was made for; likewise, being safe and protected and unpublished to avoid criticism isn’t the answer for the selling author. Toughening up that skin to deflect the slings and arrows of unfriendly reviews is the answer, and one of the most important skills to develop.
Don’t think I wasn’t appreciative of what that reviewer posted. I don’t think it will lose me too many sales. In fact, it gave me a reality check to completely explain the hows and whys of what I’m writing in future titles and when I update revisions of my current works in the future.
So, bottom line, this reviewer actually helped me see some improvements I can make to help sell even more books. Remember this: “To succeed, keep on doing what it took you to get started.”
It is never too late to revert to perseverance to get things done. It was Dr. Samuel Johnson who advised us: “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”
Some call it “stick-to-itivness” or “gumption.”
Some call it grit.
Some call it obsession.
But I think staying the course self-publishing your work comes down to the internal quality of having the habit of persistence.
“Nothing in the world,” said Calvin Coolidge, “can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than the unsuccessful man with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is sull of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On!” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
So ask yourself….
“Do I practice the habit of persistence?”
“Could I be more committed to what I want to achieve?”
“Can I do something more, everyday, to advance me toward my goals?”
When you start putting pressure on yourself to reach your goals, you stretch your talents and abilities to new lengths, and they will never shrink back to their original limitations.
You have to set a fire under your butt to get going. No, you can’t do everything at once. But, you can do something at once. You can do one thing at once. So there’s no excuse to do one thing…. the next thing… that you need to do to make progress.
Not sometimes. All the time.
Everyday, think perseverance:
“He who is often shooting hits the mark at last.” (A German proverb)
“The sea is made bigger even by one drop.” (A Kalmuk proverb)
“Where one man finds an obstacle a stumbling block, another finds it a stepping stone.” (William Lyon Phelps)
“To wait for luck is the same things as waiting for death.” (A Japanese proverb)
“Weak men wait for opportunities…. strong men make them.” (Anderson Baten)
Finally, here is an extract from the public domain edition of Napoleon Hill’s classic “Think and Grow Rich” published by The Ralston Society back in 1937, where he underscores 8 key causes underlying persistence:
“Persistence is a state of mind, therefore it can be cultivated. Like all states of
mind, persistence is based upon definite causes, among them these:
a. DEFINITENESS OF PURPOSE. Knowing what one wants
is the first and, perhaps, the most important step toward the
development of persistence. A strong motive forces one to
surmount many difficulties.
b. DESIRE. It is comparatively easy to acquire and to
maintain persistence in pursuing the object of intense desire.
c. SELF-RELIANCE. Belief in one’s ability to carry out a plan
encourages one to follow the plan through with persistence.
d. DEFINITENESS OF PLANS. Organized plans, even
though they may be weak and entirely impractical, encourage
e. ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE. Knowing that one’s plans are
sound, based upon experience or observation, encourages
persistence; “guessing” instead of “knowing” destroys persistence.
f. CO-OPERATION. Sympathy, understanding, and
harmonious cooperation with others tend to develop persistence.
g. WILL-POWER. The habit of concentrating one’s thoughts
upon the building of plans for the attainment of a definitepurpose, leads to persistence.
h. HABIT. Persistence is the direct result of habit. The mind
absorbs and becomes a part of the daily experiences upon which it
feeds. Fear, the worst of all enemies, can be effectively cured by
forced repetition of acts of courage.”
It may be just my sales. But I quit Kindle Unlimited/Kindle Select in early 2015; it was back when I noticed a steep 50% drop in Kindle Unlimited borrows from 28 days in Febrary 2015 compared with 30 days in March 2015. Fifty percent was huge. Could this be a sign that users are no longer interested in keeping their KU subscriptions active?
Meanwhile, although February sales were down slightly from January, February to March sales stayed fairly consistent. In my own case, sales were down 3.4% in March when compared to February sales. And that’s counting 2 additional days of sales (30 days in March; 28 days in Febrary). On March 31 I reduced my selling price on my top sellers from $3.99 to $2.99, in an effort to determine if the $2.99 pricing would spur sales. I lost about 70 cents on each sale by dropping the price $1.00 per unit. Ultimately, I dropped out of the KU program. It just didn’t seem worth it to me.
My results likely differ from other authors. My e-books are non-fiction, not genre fiction, a hot niche on the KDP platform these days.
The beauty of non-fiction, though, is that it appeals to people who have urgent desires to learn something new or solve a problem. Fiction is an entirely different type of e-book. I believe fiction authors have a much harder time marketing their work, as they need to build an audience and a brand, while my non-fiction ranks high in niche keyword searches on Amazon and Google searches. Thus, Kindle Unlimited might just be what they need to build an audience for their work.
I’ve come to the conclusion that sales and borrows are two different customer groups. I feel my borrows of my e-books were by readers who seldom/never would pay for Kindle books, but love to have an “all-you-can-read” option with Kindle Unlimited. Likewise, my sales have continued to be strong from that other group (God Bless Them!) that are willing to pay $3-$5 for good quality information.
When you create nonfiction ‘How-To’ or ‘Self-Help’ titles, the best way to be successful (that is, sell lots of e-books and earn a fair profit) is to discover what potential readers are looking for, research the solutions, compile the answers, write up the step-by-step plans, and then create/format/illustrate/upload/promote your e-book yourself.
With nonfiction you do not entertain; you offer solutions to problems.
HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT SELLS BEST
If you were going to invent something, wouldn’t you put all your energy and your intelligence and sweat labor into inventing something people actually needed and couldn’t wait to purchase?
Well, that’s what I do. In my opinion, nonfiction, self-help, “how-to-do-it-yourself” e-books will tend to sell better, longer, and at a higher price point than any other type of digital product.
Before you waste time choosing the wrong e-book to research, write, edit, publish and promote, follow these two simple rules to determine your best options by writing in your notebook answers to these questions and exercises meant to get the creative ideas flowing:
- Ask yourself: “What do I love to do?” The answers will lead you to consider what you’re passionate about in life, work, play and relationships. By being passionate about something, you’ll find the energy you’ll need to follow through on a subject long enough to dig up the information, compile, craft and distribute your work to others who are able and willing to pay for this information.
- Write down five 3-5 word phrases like “work from home” or “natural acne remedies” or “how to stop smoking fast” that relate to the things you love to do. Type them the way you speak them. Some will be winners, some will not. Your key to success is eliminating the keyword phrases that have low demand/high supply (that is, not many people looking for them and/or too many webpages competing for a high ranking on that particular keyword). Another factor in your decision making process will be how valuable your keywords will be. It’s nice to rank high in the search engine results for your keyword… but if no one is buying in that category or advertisers are not spending money on ads in those search results, you’ll be barking up the wrong tree with you e-book efforts and you’ll likely spend a lot of time writing an e-book that few people are needing. If they don’t need it they’re not going to spend money on it. And charging for your e-book is the only way you’ll make steady cash in this business.
This past week there’s been a lot of chatter in writer’s forums about IndieBookDiscover.com, which promises to make your books more discoverable.
The interesting part of this is that the website promotion got ahead of them building the website. It seems to be a little buggy (they admit they’re still ironing out the kinks).
Their promise: to help more readers find (and hopefully buy) your book. Your part in this: List your book for $2.99 each per year (currently as they are still in beta, they say they are allowing authors to list their books for free.)
In their own words, here is their basic goal: “The plan is to get ‘lots’ of authors to list their books and then use this list to attract ‘lots and lots’ of readers.”
I don’t know how successful this new website service will be. There is a lot of speculation surrounding it. I can’t tell if it’s justified or simply hype. I wish this website lots of success in helping new self-published authors gain new exposure and sell more Kindle Books!
Online services like this portend new types of promotional businesses aimed at authors in the coming years: making your books more discoverable; helping you promote your books on the cheap; perhaps assisting in getting more positive reviews (they state they don’t review books, but the extra exposure may get more eyeballs and just maybe, more reviews, according to their website).
Here is how they are describing their new service…
We know how it is when you’ve written a book, got some good reviews and now you’re languishing, way down in the Amazon bestseller lists. So how are your books going to get discovered? Let’s face it, if you’re not on the first page or two, your next reader is not going to come from someone browsing the bestseller lists.
Indie book Discovery is looking to give readers a simple way of browsing books in the hope of finding something different. It’s hoped that with a good list of books, we’ll be able to position ourselves as ‘the’ place for readers to find their next book.
We want to offer authors a different approach to getting their books out there to be discovered. This is a level playing field where every author has an opportunity for a reader to find their books. It doesn’t matter:
where you are in the best seller lists (our lists are randomised),
how many reviews you have (you cant filter our lists),
how many social media followers you have (the plan is that we’ll attract readers),
how much money you have to spend (there’s no ‘diddling’ of the lists so some authors get to the top ahead of others)
how many books you’ve written (this shouldn’t affect your discoverability),
… even the premium/promotional offerings we have planned will be geared to give all authors a chance (super cheap and fair).
First things first, we want authors to register and list their books… then we’ll see about getting the readers! Come and join us!
Here is the list of their FAQS I’ve found while purusing their website:
Getting Started as an Author FAQ
How does this work?
Register yourself as an author and you’ll be able to add your books to the lists to be discovered.
So how do I register?
You need to sign up/in and verify your email before you can register as an author.
Sign Up/Sign In
Hit the ‘Author Registration’ button to enter your author details!
Sign In or Sign Up
Why should I register as an author?
Indie Book Discovery is a way to get your books noticed. It doesn’t matter where your books are in the best-seller lists, at Indie Book Discovery your books will be listed in a random order to be discovered/noticed by readers and book browsers.
As well as getting your books listed, you’ll also get to list your website and social networking links to aid in your online presence.
Who should register as an author?
If you have books listed on Amazon, you should get them listed on Indie Book Discovery.
What can I do once I’ve registered as an author?
Options are available from the ‘Admin’ menu option or your ‘My Profile’ page, or of course from your Author page.
How much does it cost?
It’s FREE to register as an author and while we build our author/book lists, there is no cost to list a book (it’s FREE). However, eventually there will be a nominal book subscription fee, $2.99USD per book per year (about the cost of a single coffee).
What do I get when I register a book?
You get your books listed on a website to be visited by readers looking for books, providing another avenue for your books to be discovered. Indie Book Discovery makes it easy for readers to click directly to your book on Amazon … hopefully to purchase.
The plan is to get ‘lots’ of authors to list their books and then use this list to attract ‘lots and lots’ of readers.
There’s also social networking links to help your book be shared too!
Soon, you’ll also be able to see metrics of how your book is doing on the site (how many times it’s been seen, clicked, etc).
Do you do reviews?
No… but people who do reviews, readers, browse Indie Book Discovery book lists looking for their next book.
I’ll keep my eye on this service and post updates as it emerges from beta, and share observations of indie authors who are using it to publicize their books.
Back when I earned my keep selling advertising, it was understood that you always needed new prospects, even when you had plenty of sales. That is, you had plenty of sales right now. Next month, you started over from zero. Not having any prospect halfway sold was like being out of business.
It is called keeping your pipeline full.
That holds true for self-publishing as well. No projects in the pipeline, no juice to keep your sales going.
Now, it you’re not writing to make money, then stop reading right now. This blog is for writers who treat what they publish as a business. If it’s a hobby for you, what I’m about to share will probably just irritate or annoy or outrage you, so skip this blog post.
For myself, I have come to the end of my author series, on how to sell more Kindle books, at least for the time being. I have the outline of a new ebook on how to gain more positive reviews and how to advertise your books for free, but those will move over and wait. My latest book will publish in March 2015, and will focus on helping the indie author find that missing spark, that magic formula if you will, to get started and complete everything you start.
And “The Magic Formula” is the basis of my next series of books. They’ll allow me to look at non-fiction self-help topics in a fresh way. I’ve got one ebook almost ready for final proofing. I’ve got several other titles in development. I’m filling the pipeline as we speak.
My goal has evolved to the point where I want to create a long-lasting, “evergreen” body of work, that will sell long after I’ve written it. That’s what I hope you, the reader, strive for too.
My topics will aim at self-help solutions. They will fall under the “Magic Formula” umbrella. Yes, they will be shorter than my current works. But they’ll offer up immediate solutions to everyday problems. The goal: once you read it, you can apply it; once you apply it, problem gone.
Yes… many would scoff at such an approach. But in my mind, people are buying Kindle books either for escape or personal solutions. They want fast ways to solve their problems. They need help. These new books will allow me to deliver that help. Quick and easy.
Back to the pipeline: by pushing this new series of ebooks forward, I can anticipate these new projects, work through them, get them published and move on to the next. They’ll be available both in paperback and in digital download formats. Having my pipeline full gives me a full plate to start working from.
The secret now is staying on track, keeping up with a full schedule, and knowing when to stick a fork in once book project, publish it and then move on to the next.
So what do you have in your pipeline?
Have you set up a series that needs to be finished?
Great. What then?
What have you got waiting in the wings?
Kindle book publishing is a simple process. Write what you want, push a button, and whoola! — your book is available to millions of readers on the world’s best bookselling platform, the Amazon website.
Once you’re finished with the book you’re currently writing, what will you write next?
If you’re not sure, then decide now what you will write next month, next year, five years from now, and do it today. Time will pass. Tomorrow — the day you put the hard stuff off to — is rushing toward you. Fill up your pipeline now to be ready when it arrives. Keep writing, keep learning, keep expanding your indie publishing bookshelf. You will succeed so long as you never quit!
Using a pen name (“pseudonym” is the proper term) might keep your identity secret; but that doesn’t mean you won’t upset some people.
Here’s a forum where the subject of using a pen name when writing a non-fiction self-help book reveals stark differences of opinion that exist among authors.
I’ve always used my real name in my publishing projects.
I do have an old friend, though, who chose to publish under a pen name because the information he was wanting to release was in the industry he worked in at that time. Although most of his book was very generic, he did this to prevent his employer from accusing him of releasing trade secrets. (He didn’t.)
Here’s that link to the back-and-forth conversation between authors debating the reasons for and against using a pen name. Warning: some of the language can get pretty racy. Yet another clue that there are strong feelings among writers about the practice of using a pen name.
I’ve never sold many of my Kindle books in the United Kingdom; perhaps I’ll gross $10-$17 a month. But recent changes in European tax law seem to be making it even harder to earn royalties on the Amazon.uk.co website.
Here is post from Amazon on how the new VAT-inclusive pricing that kicked into effect Jan. 1, 2015 will affect readers, authors and publishers who sell e-books in countries where the company operates a Kindle Store:
On January 1, 2015, European Union (EU) tax laws regarding the taxation of digital products (including eBooks) will change: previously, Value Added Tax (VAT) was applied based on the seller’s country – as of January 1st, VAT will be applied based on the buyer’s country. As a result, starting on January 1st, KDP authors must set list prices to be inclusive of VAT.
You can read more about this on their website…
This new tax situation will effectively translate into about a 20% price hike for Kindle Book readers. In my opinion, this will hurt authors and publishers due to lost sales, and readers will have to be more choosy about the books they purchase. The VAT used to be just 3%, so the extra few pence in the UK didn’t seem to deter sales. I’m afraid that’s about to change. In December 2014, my sales of Kindle Books dropped to zero in the U.K. since this news spread across the Internet. Will this be as bad as I predicted …. or will it be worse?
Of course, the bright side of this might be that Kindle Unlimited borrowing in the UK will gain acceptance, as it allows subscribers to read as much as they can read (yes, they are limited to 10 ebooks at a time; but they can delete the ones they’ve read. It is just like checking out books from the library. You check them out, you read them, and then you take them back and check out more.)
I’ve found minor success with the Kindle Unlimited program, and I’ve renewed two of my titles through the month of February 2015 to take into account all the new Kindle e-book readers that will be given as gifts. I noticed in some of the holiday sales advertising online that 6 months of KU was being offered with some e-readers. That in itself might mean more borrow, more money, and more time for the Kindle Unlimited program to work itself out and prove it’s a long-term money-maker for authors.
Again, to get all the details about how the VAT-inclusive at Amazon.
In Chapter 7 of his book “Maximum Achievement,” Brian Tracy tells a story of his awakening to his own “Master Decision” in his early 20’s.
He finally realized, after much failure in his young life, that his ultimate success and happiness in life was totally up to him. As he recounts his epiphany:
… It suddenly dawned on me that everything that I would ever become was completely up to me. No one else was going to do it for me.
Even he wasn’t sure who originally said this quote, but it perfectly sums up what he and legions of others must conquer if they want to be successful: “True maturity only comes when you finally realize that no one is coming to the rescue.” (Page 200-201, “Maximum Achievement,” by Brian Tracy, published by Simon & Schuster)
That statement has stuck with me for the past 20 years since I first read it, and I hope it sticks with you too.
Far too many indie publishers and self-published authors seem to want somebody else to do the heavy lifting of marketing and promotion. I think it’s a good thing for authors that now they have to be responsible for all the things traditional publishers have promised to take care of in the past: proofreading, editing, printing, cover design, promotion, book tours, TV and radio interviews, cash advances to take the financial pressure off so an author can focus on writing. Those services are ‘pay-as-you-go’ these days as authors who choose to go it alone must take on tasks related to the business-side of writing.
Reminding yourself that “Nobody is coming to rescue me” is the first step to your accepting complete personal responsibility for your own writing and publishing career.
Another book, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle, relates one of his stories about the Indian philosopher and teacher J. Krishnamurti, who told an audience his secret for happiness: “I don’t mind what happens.”
If you take this approach every day, reminding yourself, “I don’t mind what happens,” you’re likely to enjoy the moment, the space you are in, the journey you are on, the goals you are achieving when things go right, the lessons you are learning when things go wrong. When you don’t mind what happens, you are free to express your creativity and go with the flow of reality.
So, armed with these two approaches to finding your own way to success, happiness and contentment as a self-published writer seeking to sell more Kindle Books, take time to reflect on them when you wonder what to do next: First, telling yourself, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” And, next, taking the pressure off by telling yourself, “I don’t mind what happens.”
Third, it’s up to you to take action. No, like I’ve said before, you can’t do everything at once; but, you can do something at once. You can do ONE THING at once. Choose the “Next Thing” that you need to do, throw your whole self and attention and imagination into it, and never mind what anyone else things about it. Don’t allow your own fear of being judged by others stop you. Don’t allow your own fear of failure — or your own fear of success — stop you. Nobody will rescue you, and none of it matters. So do what you want with your writing, your books, your life. You’re free to express who you are and how you feel about it.
Like I said at the beginning, you are now totally responsible for selling your books to your readers. And that’s good. Get busy.
Photo by khunaspix, and used with permission from FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I realize some authors are dissatisfied with their results after publishing their book to Amazon Kindle. For my own case, I’m amazed that I’ve earned so much for so little time invested. Sure, I’d love to earn more from my Kindle Books. Who wouldn’t? But when you factor in how I wrote almost all my books in my ‘Instead Of’ time — the time I would have been watching TV re-runs or reading a book or napping — it’s hard to believe I receive royalty checks all the time for work I did so long ago.
It was nearly 3 years ago when I got the crazy idea to write down what I’d learn about selling used books online and publish it as a digital ebook with KDP. It was the end of 2011. I wrote it MS Word. I started with a list of things I wished I knew when I started out, and I “fleshed out” the manuscript with lessons learned along the way.
The book took a few weeks to write; I didn’t spend enough time editing and proofreading the text; I made a lousy book cover in less than 1 hour using Microsoft Publisher because it came free with MS Office. Yes, I am that much of a cheapskate. I had very little belief that the book would sell. So writing it in my “Instead Of” time cost me nothing, publishing it on KDP cost me nothing, my lack of proofing and poor book cover cost me nothing. I clicked on “Publish” and I got a dribble of clicks for the next couple of months. My first royalty check was less than $20. But I was thrilled to get it. Since then, that amount has risen and fallen from month to month. I’ve published about a dozen titles since then. But that first book remains my bestseller.
How much of my ‘Instead Of’ time did I invest? Maybe 50 hours. Maybe more, maybe less. I won’t count in the next four revisions I’ve done once readers complained of typos and poorly formatted pages. I won’t count in the $5.00 I spent on Fiverr getting a professional ebook cover created (the same one I’ve used for the past 2 years) that immediately boosted book sales. I won’t count the time it spent to offer my book for free via my first test of KDP Select, where I gave away over 1800 ebooks and had a boom of in sales the very next month. So, for 50 hours of writing, editing, formatting and publishing my first book on Amazon Kindle, I’ve earned thousands of dollars from those hours. Yes, thousands of dollars, for doing what I love to do rather than what I usually do.
Thousands of dollars for 50 hours (more or less) of turning what I know into step-by-step instructions on how others can duplicate my success. You can do the math and decide for yourself if it was worth my spare time or not.
For me, I believe it was.
I quickly made plans — and I still am working on those plans — of writing and publishing more non-fiction titles over the next five years to increase my monthly self-publishing income. I intend to earn $100 a day by the time I retire early at 62. That will be $3,000 a month in royalties on top of my retirement plan income. When I retire, I intend to have $36,000 a year in KDP income plus paperback royalties from Amazon’s sister website, CreateSpace.com. All because of turning my spare time into writing time, and turning my writing into income. Like I said before, turning what I know into automatic monthly income for life.
All my titles will be in various non-fiction categories. That’s what comes natural for me. If you prefer fiction, get busy. Turn your own ‘Instead Of’ time into ebooks and paperback books that will sell and pay your royalties for years to come. No, you might not get rich and hit the New York Times or USA Today bestseller lists. But you’ll earn way more month after month this way than if you’d watched yet another TV re-run or a movie you’d already seen before.
Expect to win. Get busy. Start up the engine of your imagination. If I did it, you can too.
And, if all my sales on my first book ended tomorrow, I’d be thankful.
Then, I’d be busy… turning off the TV and getting with it, cranking out another book.