Monday, September 17, 2018

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 37 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 37 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 37 Results

Regular writing becomes regular, plus more inspired ideas of how to roll out a conversion plan..


Published Words Fiction:
– free – 6581 (Wattpad)
– paid – 21948

Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – 1389
– paid – 0 (Medium)

Free Views:
– Medium – 16
– Wattpad – 2

Mailerlite: 34 (non-IF), MailChimp: 24, Instafreebie –242 (down from 363 and 848)
New Total: 4046 (from 4247, decrease of 201, earlier 4193)

Book sales this week:
Amazon – 4, Draft2Digital – 1, Gumroad – 1= Total Week’s sales – 6

Books (pre-)published this week:

For the Love of ‘Cagga

A Case of Missing Wings

In Progress:

  • Hooman Saga: Book Two, Part Two, Section 01

Total fiction books published:

77 (Should be at or over 74 by now to make 100 by year end. Next target is 100 short stories…)


Instafreebie continues down as I’m not actively working to be part of all possible giveaways. And I’m only promoting giveaways that last the month or most of it. The other decrease was from the giveaways I was running that had organizer opt-ins. Oddly that resulted in a higher percentage of unsubscribes.

I did some number-crunching to see what the turnover rate was for IF subscribers. Over five months, it’s averaged almost a 53% drop. An average drop of just over 9% per month, with the first month being 12%. This needs a larger data set to determine what is possible.

The first month dropped out high as this removed all those who never opened after recieving at least 5 emails. The third month also spiked as I removed anyone who hadn’t opened in 90 days, after trying to re-engage them.

It does set up a new approach and testing for IF. I can continue to use my Verified status to get opt-ins as an organizer, but then enter my books on a free plan to simply test their in-book opt-ins. That will then give me a clean test of both subscriber bases. Another 6 months will prove this out. I’ll still have to pay IF on their Pro Plan, but will then prove whether these pay-to-giveaway-free-books are worth anything.

What IF does show is the value of someone else’s list. And is that IF is good for – their own promotion of books. The only trick is to understand that when you are only getting 40% of your claimants to opt-in, and then over 50% of them leave in the first four months, you still are getting that 20% onto your list.

Mailchimp Subscribers – were somewhat backlogged, but an uptick in course enrollments that didn’t come from earlier subscribers. Of course, if they had earlier unsubscribed, they wouldn’t be re-added – however, Thinkific (the backend) has its own notification system, so I’d still be able to send them notices.

Writing Becomes More Regular – I have no lack of inspiration for writing. Two short stories per week is more the discipline of just getting things done. Persistence. After watching some truly crappy short stories with many of the same actors/actresses with short videos that are more titillating than actual stories, I got disenchanted with one of my books during the proofing. But I was done writing, and at the tail end of the proofing, so it’s published and I simply need to concentrate on writing the next one better.

The trick here is that I like to binge-watch series (except procedurals like Mystery She Wrote, and stupid human tricks like 90210, and dark plots that don’t really have happy endings in each episode like Battlestar Galactica.) Those are the only series I haven’t finished. But explains why I haven’t started Gunsmoke, Dr. Quinn, or Dexter.

I’m watching Angel right now and have the TNT Librarians series queued up for re-watching. But I really need to start cranking through some short stories. So I collected up some L’Amour, Heinlein, and Dasheill Hammet, and need to get back to Robert E. Howard. All of these fit the scene of perennial-selling, never out of print books. I haven’t yet found short-story romances that make that grade.

The point is to make some time each evening to simply read. I have numerous short story collections to peruse and enjoy if I can. Those that make the enjoyment cut will get re-viewed and studied for how-they-did-it’s. Just more grist for the ever-turning mill…

New Conversion Point – The 99-cent starting level for Amazon has always irked me. The solution (after reading a comment that higher-priced books get more respect) is to raise them to $2.99 a week after they are off pre-order. (The reason for not using $1.99 is that it’s a dead zone for buyers.) Of course, then promote these pre-order books with the limited time offer. After that, the bargains will be in getting the anthologies, which are also marked down ($2.99) for pre-order, and then all prices raise after that.

Of course, that is all a lot of extra work. Mostly backlogged, with 70+ fiction books to work over.

I may also set pre-order prices on D2D that low, and raise them as well. At least D2D makes it simpler to change prices with their recent site interface improvements.

Writers Have to Learn Marketing – this is the simple conclusion when I started working on conversions. It doesn’t mean they have to become marketers (like Joanna Penn – who still writes – and Nick Stephenson – who quit writing.) There are others who started out in sales/marketing and never made it as authors. I do recall one author who did make the leap – but he’s an outlier.)

Wattpad/Medium – continue to show early signs of life as audience builders. I won’t really see trends until I get about 6 months of books up there, probably a year or more. But stats are available on both platforms for reads (compared to look-at’s). A non fiction book I published in 2012 on WattPad has 395 reads since 2012. Setting this up on both, with a course to follow, would be a logical way to approach this. (See the Leanpub description below this as a logical way to form real lead gen’s.)

I’ve included metrics for Medium and Wattpad reads to start tracking these. Now, these aren’t set to get subscribers, except through the book ads. I link to the book on my own site, and then if they buy it through that site, I’ll get their email. Remote purchases means they have to click on the in-book ad. Asking for opt-ins directly is prohibited on Medium and also Wattpad as far as I know.

LeanPub Comes Back to Life – When these guys came out with their idea of $99 per book upfront fee, I wrote them off. Doesn’t fit the model of simply starting from scratch with no costs, or small payment per sales. And setting their minimum price at $4.99 was a bit revolutionary – but not since most of their books were non-fiction, and usually textbooks for arcane programming. Since then, they’ve come out with a freemium version, which allows you to publish “only” 20 books per year, and get only 80% royalties (D2D, PubD, and SL only take 10%. Amazon grabs between 30% and 70%.)

What makes this interesting is that they now have added the capability of adding a course for every book. And this follows their model of pushing non-fiction books, which is their main following.

This goes right down the approach found in “Backwards Book Publishing.” Again, you are talking out the book, transcribing it, posting the book in all formats, including audiobook, and taking that audio to make videos from it that become courses. LeanPub has set it up as simple as adding a single line of code that auto-creates your course. And the hosting is free for this.

Here’s a sample of how a fiction book looks there:

I’ve yet to test out their course builder, but am pushing that way as I can, since my own various books on how to write-publish have been mostly built with the idea of creating small courses from them as well.

You’ve also seen in my recent weeks that I push having a course as a necessity for fiction writers in addition to their own backlist of books.

What makes Leanpub interesting is their own in-house shopping cart experience, meaning you again can build on their audience and so build a list to expand your own audience.

The main approach is to use Thinkific as a main area, but then also create other versions of that course for Udemy, Skillshare, and now Leanpub. This last allows a direct tie back to the book as a required text. And their audience is tech-savvy, non-fiction, so this is a great match.

Stay tuned for more details.

Two Big Promo Projects Upcoming – I’ve mentioned these in passing before, but now they seem to come forward more.

First, a weekly podcast. Or a couple. One would be just reading the blurb for my book published that week. This would add to the value on the book page itself – author reading his own book, and adding behind the scenes/easter eggs data. Another would be to curate the data I am assembling daily about how to write and publish better. Since weekly shows are time consuming, I’d probably do the new releases on one week (only about 5 minutes each) and then write an essay and link to the courses and non-fiction books about how to write-publish-market better, leaving a list of valuable content links to follow. For me, that also covers my whole-life system (Living Sensical) and so have some for every core area as I do this.

Thinking this through, I could also separate out the writing-publishing area specifically and put these in new releases on the second week – pushing that conversion route that way.

Second, improving what courses I already have , by taking the up-tick in Becoming A Writer subscriptions and working to improve one lesson per week of that course, as well as getting feedback from the early adopters. The idea would then be to get this past the alpha stage and into beta with a paid subscription. At the end of the course would be all the other books I’ve written along this line, and asking what they were most interested in. Then creating a course for that book, updating it at the same time. Then spinning off mini-courses (Udemy, Skillshare) for each full course as feeders. (Leanpub would get the whole course.)

I probably have enough time to get these courses completed that already have audio and courses sitting there. However, this will then enable something like single-subscription sign-on for multiple courses where they are small.

That practice also sets me up for this next year, where I’ll be working up two books/courses that build up the natural-living part of Living Sensical, and so then finish that research. The third year will be then to take these self-improvement materials I have and create courses for each of the Strangest Secret Library, and also self-recording Nightingale essays to create a series of audio books for them. The original book that sells regularly will be expanded with new material month by month, linking to new audiobooks as they are released.

All from the idea of pushing people to get their next book or service as a regular basis. Again, where writers should learn and utilize marketing as a regular part of telling their journey as they go. This then goes back to Content Marketing (Copyblogger) scene of regularly pushing your own material while also giving tons of content away free.

To Do Last Week:

  • 2 or 3 books written and published. To all channels. DONE
  • Emails out on schedule. DONE
  • Conversion automation completed and tuned. Nope – more ideas, though.
  • Createspace books over to KDP – Turns out Amazon is jammed. I’ve done everything on my end (updating prices that were too low) and now they simply need to catch up. Meanwhile, a handful of those books keep selling…

To Do This Week:

  1. At least two new shorts written.
  2. Emails out per schedule.
  3. One lesson in BAW Course updated.
  4. LeanPub course setup reviewed.

The post The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 37 Results appeared first on Living Sensical.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 36 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 36 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 36 Results

Breakthrough (finally) on Medium and Wattpad, plus – just how focused you need to be…


Published Words Fiction:
– free – 6693 (Wattpad)
– paid – 47504

Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – 2123
– paid – 1563 (Medium)

Mailerlite: 1 (non-IF), MailChimp: 2, Instafreebie – 363 (down from 848)
New Total: 4274 (4193 last week – net increase of 79)

Book sales this week:
Amazon – 4, Draft2Digital – 4, Gumroad – 1= Total Week’s sales – 9

Books (pre-)published this week:
Ghost Hunters Anthology 3


In Progress:

  • Hooman Saga: Book Two, Part Two, Section 01
  • The Calling Crow Mystery
  • For the Love of Cagga
  • A Case of Missing Wings

Total fiction books published:
75 (Should be at or over 72 by now to make 100 by year end. Next target is 100 short stories…)


Focus on what you want and get it done.
Goals data applies. I got into editing and transcribing a 2 hour transcript which I won’t need until next year – but I started using the data immediately in feeding these cows this fall. That took a day and 1/2 out of my schedule. Lesson learned.

You can’t fix stupid – and trolls.
I sent out an email to my small list of just Instafreebie authors. Telling them I was shutting down my giveaways until I cracked conversions. And got several very supportive emails in return.

In sending out an Advance Readers’ Club enrollment, I recieved one attaboy, and 5 trollish comments (which led me to conclude that they didn’t really need to be on my list – and one had left that comment, then unsubscribed.)

It’s a bit like living in L.A. or New York, where people won’t probably see you again and so don’t need to be polite to you at all. Still, it’s a tiny, tiny minority out of 176 people who did successfully enroll into that list.

The great part about that ARC list is that I can now send them direct emails and update them on the new books available just for them. 2 new every week, plus several that come off pre-release. That is one part of the promotion needed to get the free subscribers moved over to paying support.

Sidebar: A truly stupid algorithm from the KDP troll bots sent me two automated emails that were insulting and impossible to answer. Saying that I had violated the copyright on my own books. I complained to and got it corrected. (Their horrible treatment of authors is most of my dislike of that platform. Buy from Walmart instead – the have real people you can talk to there.) The upshot is to always add all your original pen-names when you re-publish into an anthology. (Such dumasses.)

This week, also, a podcast interview from last week went live – so that will also go out to my list as an additional goodie – and linked in to the ARC page.

I do want to start up a podcast which tells the background and universe of these books – easter eggs, etc. That is my next approach to getting these books into wider circulation. Once I set up the template for these, they will be an ongoing production through next year and beyond.

Another part of the conversion patterin I am working up is to get the new collections pushed out by genre to those clickers. The rough scene is to get opens, clicks, buys.

It looks right now like the conversion pattern will go that way for free subscribers while my bigger anthologies will be able to be revamped (re-covered, re-titled) and advertised with positive ROI. Still, right now it will be simply cranking out at least two books per week (anthology or new originals) to keep building up those resources. (Still don’t know that I’m going to pick up working on free subscribers after the end of this year.)

Again, next year’s projects are starting to haunt me in their preps. I’ll be “only” cranking out one new fiction per week during the next year, with probably three podcast episodes in three subject areas at the same time. I’m writing two more non-fiction books this next year (typically backward, as covered in the course) and will be reviving several of my classic PD books. So that will cover about four days of production for sure. Work with says still that my most efficient way is to write the script and then record it, opposed to freewheeling and transcribing. 1 day of fiction writing, the second day of publishing it, with pulling an earlier work to publish on Medium/Wattpad. 1 day of writing, recording a chapter on permaculture. 1 day of writing/recording a chapter on grassfed beef/grazing. 1 day of republishing – or the rest of that week, depending on interruptions.

This next year will also be deep into course creation – fleshing out all the books I already have recorded and built for courses, but not finished with the powerpoints and videos. Again, it’s only about a day of writing and recording to bring the bones of a course into view, but several days after that polishing it. I do appreciate how DW Smith pushes his courses weekly through his blog. He will record something like 6 weeks of 5 videos that are evergreen and then announce he is “re-opening” that workshop every few months, giving tiny homework pieces he can keep up with via email. Those courses can be downsampled into smaller pieces and promoted via Skilshare and Udemy.

Just as a tracking note – I did get into a membership backend on JVZoo which was a one-time purchase for unlimited bandwidth. This might be where some of my material winds up as it includes several courses for each membership. There are some limits to it, but would cover almost any amount of courses a person would want to create – about five memberships with seven courses. A nice passive income backend. My current provider is costing me nearly a hundred bucks monthly for nearly the same backend. However, I can publish books locally and also host podcasts – all unlimited – and great for someone over-prolific as myself.

There is another interesting point of listing incomplete books. Heinlein Rules. I got an inspiration, so I can then just chase these down. Having them all listed up there makes me want to simply complete them. This accountability journal is helping me track things – so will probably continue under a content-business challenge this next year. NaNoWriMo inspired me to take one of these old covers and use the output from November as the content for an anthology. I have the cover for a SF/Fantasy-type book, and “all” I’ll have to do is to crank out 12K per week, which is two short stories of 6K each.

To Do Last Week:

  1. 2 new short stories published, to all outlets (Medium & Wattpad.)
    I took a book (“When the Cities Died, I Danced”) and put these three short stories up on both Medium and Wattpad. I’m starting with my oldest books and linking to my book page – so they have all the buy links they could want. Very interesting: I started getting direct traffic from Wattpad to my site. This is exactly the point. Creating specific Uniform Resource Locaters for each specific bitly book link for these is a likely next step. Tracking data sources is key.
  2. Conversion automation set up.
    Working on this. The idea is to have an A/R sequence go out to them by genre about a week after they opt-in on automatic. The another one that goes out two weeks, by author.
  3. Membership debugged and operating.
    Yes – finally. Just set up a password protected page and then gave this password away as part of the opt-in process. Too simple. (I’ll get that other one figured out later.
    This ARC membership is going to be pushed on every new release email.
  4. Oh – and get my Createspace books over to KDP
    Nope. Some sort out needed on this. Looks like another day on this. I have a couple hundred books up there and they have to be checked for prices and whether they have ever sold anything. Particularly if I already published them on Lulu. Moving over to KDP Print already says there are quality issues coming up. The homework alone will take a lot of the time, as well as downloading all the sales data from CS.

To Do Next Week:

  1. 2 or 3 books written and published. To all channels.
  2. Emails out on schedule.
  3. Conversion automation completed and tuned.
  4. Createspace books over to KDP

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How to Avoid “Death by Sales Funnel” in Fiction Writing

FIction Writing - Avoiding Death By Sales Funnel

How to Avoid “Death by Sales Funnel” in Fiction Writing

(Or: A Preliminary Conversion Pattern for Fiction Writers)

I found out during the last couple of weeks that I’ve been doing something horribly wrong for months. The first indicator is that my book sales have been very poor to get off the ground, while my subscribers were skyrocketing. Now the conventional wisdom is that you email to your list and then they find your links and rocket your sales.

And that didn’t happen.

Because my skyrocketing list was from paying to give my books away for free.

When I recalled the data I’d aggregated on how to list build, it said to get them from free books on Amazon and others. Meaning two things: a) your opt-ins were coming from a pay-for-it site. b) they probably read your book.

In the free book giveaways, people pick your book over others by your cover and marketing copy – about 800 to 2K characters of text. All designed to get them to select your book. But they go to these giveaways because they are free, and never have to read the text inside your book before they opt-in.

Those subscribers have no skin in the game. So they opt-out, or get weeded out as they never open (or quit opening) emails. And that gave me a 44% shrinkage of new subscribers in their first month alone.

And to keep them onboard, I figure that I have to keep offering them giveaways. So I was actually working for that giveaway company – and paying them to do so. Plus, it was a regular part time job keeping up with all the details.

So I shut all these down, and I’m just letting them run out.

Time to get back to working for myself. If I had to have a reason: it doesn’t make sense to pay to give away books for free. (And there is also the unexplored concept to ask yourself: When you get a lot of free books, what do you do with them? Right – store them somewhere “until you can get around to them.”)

Sales Funnels and Conversion Process

The term “sales funnel” is a lousy term, and I dislike it intensely. Because it dehumanizes the process. (Probably the point.)

Here are the steps to help a subscriber become your personal evangelist:

  1. A person opts-in to get something free. (subscriber)
  2. A person opts-in to a free membership.
  3. A person buys something from you, or of yours on your request (like from a book outlet.)
  4. A person buys a service – limited paid subscription.
  5. A person buys a big-ticket item from you.
  6. A person buys a continuing subscription.
  7. That person becomes an affiliate and starts promoting your products and services. (evangelist)

From that you can see how Mark Dawson has created his 7-figure income-producing business from book writing.

  • He has books, some are free.
  • He has a free podcast (with ads that plead for donations.)
  • He runs ads to get people to buy his books – which all have an opt-in ad in them.
  • He has a few courses that people can pay for once and then have eternal access to them.
  • He has some bigger courses that cost a lot more.
  • He has a lot of people saying how great his courses are – and has an affiliate sales program to pay them. (He also has a lot of great book reviews on Amazon – FWIW.)

The difference between any beginning fiction writer and Dawson, is either that he’s been at it longer, or they never built things up in this sequence like he did.

In Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc, your monetization occurs toward the latter half of the cycle, right after you are well into building the base. All fiction writers are also building a content-based online business. (Content Inc. book was built from finding how content-based businesses became successful – they all used the same pattern, knowingly or not.)

Content Inc Model for authors - Joe Pulizzi

For fiction authors, this is when you both have found your own profitable genres athat ou like write in (sweet spot) and your own author’s voice (content tilt). Building the Base has to do with cranking out a great deal of backlist books, as well as asking your readers to join your mailing list. (And the shortcut of running massive free book giveaways starts to show the failure here. You want buying readers to join your list, not freebie seekers – however casual or addicted.)

You want them into your ARC group so you can send them advance reader copies and they can start leaving you reviews as well as buying your books. That’s your first free membership.

By surveying your list, you can find out what problems they are having and then produce a non-fiction course that helps them solve this. That’s a paid, limited subscription.

And begins your monetization.

Then you build bigger and more expensive services or products, and get them to buy from you. Meanwhile, you’re running affiliate offers so that your buyers can start spreading the word about your products and services.

And you also continue to write more books, which make the earlier books in that series sell even better. More books, more courses, more affiliates – the whole scene just continues along and you pass 7-figures if you do it right and pay attention to details.

The Beginning Author Should Do What?

  1. Start with reading and writing what you love. Then get into sites like to find where people are buying books and stories like yours. Tweak your production so that what you are producing is closer to that readers expect from the genre’s closest to yours. (Of course, you are always continuing to work on your craft and make each book better than the one before.) This is also where I pitch that you should be writing short stories to both improve your craft and be able to quickly shift between good-better-best markets. You hone your production habits so that you are regular, if not prolific in your output. A large body of work starts now – and shows up some decades later – otherwise, get into another line of work. (And a tip here is to put your books all pre-scheduled and then post them in parts on Medium and Wattpad with links to the book outlets, as well as where they can buy it from you meanwhile.)
  2. Set up some simple ARC membership. I did one yesterday which just consists of a static password on a single page with downloads on it. (And when I have time, I’ll get my web-host company’s lousy how-to articles figured out – as I did it somehow the first time, but can’t get it to work now.)
  3. And probably start running positive ROI ads to increase your sales on the book outlets.
  4. You’re then tracking (best is blogging/podcasting) about the problems you have run into as an author. These then become the raw material you can use to build your first non-fiction course. And you build that by iterations. There’s your first paid service/subscription model. You invite your list to have an inside view of it and beta-test, then tweak it up and do a wider launch, etc.
  5. Run this (and keep writing-publishing) for a while and you’ll get into something with more teeth to it and you can charge more for. Most of the course providers incorporate affiliate marketing into their back-ends, so that is where this starts. You can always use evangelists, even when you’re just starting out.
  6. If  you can, set up your output to generate some ongoing paid subscription membership – like Patreon, etc. Then you have a great way to keep going. That’s real commitment to your art. Like shipping people hand-signed first editions of every work you publish in print, as well as the ebook versions. Can/has been done. Has to cost less than your production costs, of course. And not kill your time. In my scene, it’s possible as I create a bi-monthly collection of all my short stories. Six Anthologies a year that are routinely bigger than 250 pages (last one was nearly 350 pages.)

See how this works?

My problem was not sitting down and figuring out this sequence, then sticking to it as I went. Because I got off onto the “free giveaway” scene for a few months instead of just working on the above. Of course, the second-best time to start (re-start) is now.

As covered elsewhere, I’d tell a beginning fiction writer now to just work out how to pay their bills for a year and then concentrate on simply getting your writer sweet-spot and content tilt down – with ads in the back of your books for opt-in’s and a free ARC membership being requested of everyone that opts in. That builds a backlist. Those are your three basics to work on first. (And it wouldn’t hurt to podcast about every book you write – and also port your books to Wattpad and Medium while they are all in pre-release everywhere else -but tell your subscribers they can buy from you direct meanwhile and not have to wait. All more promotion so people can find your books.)

So, What About You?

You are what these articles are for. Just so you can avoid the worst traps and get to making stellar income on your own much faster. You don’t have to be talented beyond dreams, but you do have to be persistent…

The post How to Avoid “Death by Sales Funnel” in Fiction Writing appeared first on Living Sensical.

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