In 2018 my professional career followed two paths. On the creative side I continued my writing pursuits and published two novellas. On the traditional business side I started a consulting firm with my dad and brother.
Though I had two years more experience in writing, this felt like a year of growth for me — this felt more like the first year — more like I was truly getting my feet wet and building an audience.
On the consulting side I saw rapid growth and with that numerous avenues to explore and opportunities to expand the brand.
It left me asking why have customers resonated so much with a service driven business like consulting, one which requires an enormous amount of trust both ways and locks the individual in for a longer time commitment while my writing audience still hasn’t been defined.
It’s certainly cheaper to pick up a book, the relationship does not have to be as open and if one doesn’t like the writing they don’t even have to finish the using the product.
As I explored why my new business grew faster than my old business I realized I was sabotaging my growth in writing because I held myself to the standard of where I wanted to be — wanted to be Stephen King on page 1 and thought I had to follow the rules of how things have always been. I had to write a rough draft, edit it, send it to beta readers, get an editor, and this was all before sending it off to agents or publishers (if I wanted to go the traditional route).
My fastest growth in writing this year came from not over thinking and just doing it — realizing people want product. A book is a product like anything else. If it’s fiction it’s an emotional escape and the more I tried to be “perfect” the further from success I fell. A book doesn’t have to be perfect for someone to like the story and the less product I put out the less likely I was to find my fans.
When I put out my first novella this year, Third Life, I didn’t think it had much of a shot of going anywhere — it was 82 pages and a concept piece on consumerism and unsustainable advancement.
It didn’t become a best seller but it helped me find a few of my biggest fans who helped me launch Beds Are For Flowers which sold over 100 copies on its release day and reached #2 hottest new release in is category. Again, not a NYT best seller but it’s also a 139 page children’s book, which brought me new fans who now want product. Fans who never would’ve found me if I held back and let fear of not being perfect stop me from publishing.
Consulting on the other hand has been one leap after another. I have a background in economics, my brother and father have backgrounds in finance, but we didn’t see our business adapting as quickly as it has. We wanted to help startups — a couple months later we are in two cities, launched a podcast and youtube channel and have basically pushed all our fears and boundaries without a second thought. We’ve been excited to try new things and have been strong supporters of the “do it” and “learn on the go” mentality.
I’m very happy I learned this lesson in 2018. My friend Judi Fox says learning on the go means progress every day and she’s 100% right. As I face the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 I realize all those old sayings about being your own worst enemy are true. Don’t let fear of imperfection stop you because the minor bumps you feel are only felt on a road when you’re driving forward.
Today I want to talk about publishing. While storytelling may not be your G-d given talent, it’s a skill like any other and can be improved upon. Everyone has a story to tell and I think everyone can write a book. It’s a lot like starting a workout regiment. If you have the discipline and dedicate time to daily manageable goals you will reach the finished product without feeling overwhelmed.
Once you get started on your writing journey, you will want to think about distribution. I have experience with a few options, but if you’re just starting out I recommend KDP, which is Kindle Direct Publishing. You can capture up to 70% of the royalties of each digital book copy sold and if you feel like most of your sales come from Amazon you can join the select program and be exclusive to amazon in exchange for the ability to share your work with Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is great because it can help boost your book’s overall ranking and you get paid per page read by members (think of it like Netflix for books).
You can also create paperbacks on KDP, but if you’re interested in physical books there are other avenues with more options (like Ingram Spark) however I’m going to stick with KDP for the rest of this post. It’s effective, and simple. A great place for beginners looking to control their publishing fate.
So, why is writing a book important? It can help establish your brand; people still love to read books and what better way to capture your entire story than to write a book about it? It can be fiction (a parable or a fable), it can be nonfiction, it can be whatever you want–you could publish a cook book if that’s what you think fits your brand.
Books are timeless. Books go up on Amazon and you don’t have to think about them ever again. You could create some ads to draw traffic and reference them in your videos but they aren’t costing you any money by sitting there. You aren’t paying for warehouse space or anything.
At close to no cost (outside of time, professional editing, and cover art) you’ve opened yourself up to passive revenue streams that you don’t have to actively promote, that you don’t have to run the fulfillment services for, that you don’t have to handle shipping costs or anything. Your book is out there for the world to see and you can promote it however you want.
This isn’t a strategy that’s going to make you a millionaire, but it feels great to wake up in the morning and see 10 people were interested in your story and purchased a copy. This happened to me recently. I saw I had 40 bucks moved to my bank account from Amazon royalty services. I was stressed with exams, and feeling a little overwhelmed, and this put a smile on my face. It’s fun to be able to treat someone to dinner with royalties–it made me feel like a real writer. I think Stephen King once described talent as being able to pay the electric bill with something you wrote.
To conclude this post, writing a book is a great way to encapsulate your story, diversify your brand, and create passive revenue streams. It’s also a way to expand global reach, and grow your business affordably, by offering a new product with very low upfront costs AND offers you the ability to build an infrastructure around the culture you’re trying to implement into your business.
Today I want to tell you about how I grew my mailing list from zero to over 100 people for free and the steps I’m going to take down the line to continue its growth. One caveat to this advice is you must have a published book. Now, I say this all the time, everyone has a book in them. It doesn’t have to be fantasy or fiction. It could be nonfiction, it could be personal stories, it could be a collection of essays on your travels across the continental United States. Whatever you want as long as it’s published and available digitally. You also have to be willing to give it away for free. This book will be your anchor–it will be your funnel for those who have not heard your voice yet but are interested in what you have to say. You will draw new audience members and through the power of your newsletter you will hopefully convert them into diehard fans.
Let’s get into the good stuff. I started off with maybe three subscriber so it’s not quite zero to 100 but the three subscribers were something like a friend of mine and my parents. I identified the book I wanted to give away for free. It was Just Under the Sky, the first novella I ever published and I published with this small press down in Texas called Weasel Press.
It wasn’t Amazon exclusive, so I had flexibility. If a book is Amazon exclusive you can only run a giveaway on other platforms up to a certain percent of the book. I made a free account on a website called instafreebie, it’s now prolificworks but from what I’ve seen it operates the same way.
I uploaded an .epub copy of my manuscript but I believe any digital format works and individuals on the platform downloaded it for free. If you have a free account they do not have to opt into your newsletter to receive a free account. You will probably not receive many subs. HOWEVER you are still able to participate in the group giveaways. This was how I received all my subs with a free account. I signed up for as many group giveaways as I could–each giveaway has a theme so you have to make sure your book meets the criteria but there are plenty of options.
Not all group giveaways require email sign ups but you will gain a few more here and there. I managed to land mine in four group giveaways in the same month and after three weeks I collected around 350 subscribers! The first two emails were the most tumultuous. I received some subscribers who joined for the one free book and unsubscribed once they received their first email, but by the third email I had my true list set and a new audience interested in my content. I lost about 180 subs when Europe passed GDPR and I had to ask my subscribers to opt in to a new newsletter–I expected to take a loss–no one likes a hassle but I walked away with around 120.
Now, I mentioned before this was all with the free option. The paid option, which starts at $20 requires those who sign up for your book, even if it’s not in a group giveaway, to opt in to your newsletter. The site has a decent infrastructure in place, so even without promotion individuals still find your book and download it. I think my solo giveaway averaged about three downloads per day on its own before I took it down, with higher spikes on the days I shared across social media.
So if you want to get started, first tip is obviously have a book either in the process of being published or published already. Don’t stress about this, everyone has a book in them. It doesn’t have to be a 900 page monster, as long as it’s high quality you can giveaway a free 80 page book. Publish it through Draft 2 Digital so it’s available across all platforms (Amazon, B&N, Google, iBooks) and finally give your book away for free on prolific works.
I hope this helps!
If you have any questions on publishing a book never hesitate to reach out I’ll happily share all I know and be your accountability buddy.
It’s okay to fail NaNoWriMo. Writing is a process. At least I hope it is or I’m out of luck. Writing, like just about anything else in life, is a skill you can practice and get better at. So if you are feeling down about your lack of progress this NaNo, or just want to continue practicing your craft, this is the video for you. Why? Cause I’m in the same boat. I’m just practicing my craft and plan on doing these exercises along the way.
Videos of me doing it
- Random Image Generator
Google any random image generator or start with this one. This is an easy place to start and requires no written prompt. Simply find an image that inspires you and create a story/build a scene around it.
- The hero! What is the most heroic tribute you can think of? How many layers can you peel away until you reach the core of the trait?
It might answer questions about who you are as a creator too. Do you see courage as the defining characteristic of a hero, or empathy, or maybe brute force like Hercules.
- Put yourself in a room and describe the setting using all 5 senses.
Use your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch for this scene. Do you taste metal and cold saliva? Hear the wooden floorboards creaking from the draft. Think of a space, even if it’s just your living room, and include all your senses.
- Character Creation and Bio
This is how I start my stories and books. I use the character bio in scrivener and it helps me create unique fears, conflicts, and motivations for my characters. Personally, I find motivation to be the most intriguing driving force in a story and spend a lot of time focusing on that.
- Three wishes: Your character wakes a genie and gets three wishes. What are they and write a scene showing the consequences of that wish.
Just for fun, create a proactive character and figure out their greatest desires and the positive/negative consequences that follow when their wish is granted.
So there you have it. Five exercises to hone your craft. Comment below with your results. I’m by no stretch of the imagination a master of this craft and am always excited to meet new writers to improve with.