SSA #030: 5 Lessons We've Learned Building A Six-Figure Author BusinessJul 29, 2023
Read Time: 7 Minutes
My wife and I have been in the self-publishing space since the beginning of 2020, and in that time we've learned more than we ever thought possible.
It has also provided us with a life that offers incredible freedom and allows us to spend time with our 3 children every single day.
This is something we never take for granted, and we know how incredibly fortunate we are to be in this position.
So today, I thought I'd share 5 of the biggest lessons we've learned building Lori's six-figure author business.
Let's dive in...
Lesson #1: More Time Doesn't Equal More Results
It's not about how many hours you put in that will determine your success as an author. It's about what you put into those hours that truly matters.
Spending time on busy work that is easy and doesn't move the needle just so you feel like you've achieved something isn't going to cut it.
Sure, it's going to stroke your ego, but it's going to do very little for your bottom line.
You have to work on the tasks that are going to move mountains.
I'm not saying that busy work, such as emails, replying to comments on social media, doing accounts and taxes, etc, isn't important. It is, and it needs to be done.
But, if you truly want to thrive as an author, you're going to have to do the things that feel a little... uncomfortable, in the beginning.
Over time though, these needle-moving activities will become far more enjoyable as you begin to the fruits of your labour.
The secret to thriving as an author is not to do more, it's to do less but do it better.
So, be 100% honest with yourself and identify what actually moves the needle in your author business.
If you want evidence that you don't need to work 12+ hours per day, my wife, Lori, writes for 3-4 hours each day, Monday - Friday.
But, if we want to take a day off, we can.
The caveat to this is when she's up against a deadline (which she is now as we have a book launch in a couple of weeks time), and is writing 6-8 hours per day.
I work on Lori's business and marketing for 30-90 minutes each day, Monday - Friday.
And yet, by working such few hours (in comparison to societal beliefs and expectations), we've built a six-figure business from Lori's 4 books.
The key reason we have achieved this is due to Lori taking the best part of 12 months to write one book.
Quality is far more critical than quantity in our eyes, and Lori is intent on making the reading experience of every single reader of her books the absolute best it can be.
For myself, working on Lori's business and marketing, I only focus on the activities that are going to make a significant impact on our results.
How have I done this?
I've audited everything I've done over the past few years and identified what is actually moving the needle for us, focused on that and eliminated, delegated or automated everything else.
We don't follow "best practice", we go against the grain and question everything.
To wrap this lesson up, you don't need to burn the candle at both ends to build a thriving career as an author.
You just need to figure out where your focus should be directed and double down on that.
3-4 hours of focused work will achieve far more than 8 hours of distracted work.
Lesson #2: Don't Learn Everything
It can be incredibly tempting to do a bit of everything in the hopes that something sticks:
- Facebook Ads
- Amazon Ads
- BookBub Ads
- Social Media
- Newsletter Swaps
- Group Promos
But combined, all of these are just distractions disguised as opportunities.
Want to learn Facebook Ads, for example?
Focus on it for 90 days straight (this will help you do that) and commit to not being distracted by the latest fad or shiny object.
There are distractions everywhere, for example:
- Author Forums
- Facebook Groups
One thing you must understand is that if you want to succeed in this game, you need to FOCUS:
And over time, you will learn, adapt and evolve, just as I have done myself.
If I want to learn something new, I create a project for that thing.
As a real-time example, I'm currently learning about running a Shopify Store to sell Lori's print books direct to readers (www.loriholmesbooks.com).
It's slow going, but we are making sales most days.
More than that though, in this early stage, I'm seeing the money and time we're putting into this venture as an investment, and I'm learning a huge amount in the process:
- Building a store (and all the intricacies that go into that alone)
- Running Facebook Ads for direct sales (very different from running Facebook Ads to books on Amazon)
- Winning back people who added books to their shopping cart, but didn’t purchase
- Conversion Rate Optimization (improving the layout and content of the page to improve sales)
- Upsells and Cross-sells to other products
- Collecting reviews from customers (we have to be much more intentional about collecting reviews when selling direct, as when you're selling on Amazon. they do a lot of this for you through their emails and rating/review requests on Kindle devices)
- Building relationships with every customer, as we have their email addresses – something we clearly don’t have for every customer who buys or borrows our books on Amazon
- And so much more besides
This is my project for at least the next 6-12 months, and I’m working on it every day, even if it’s just one little thing for 20-30 minutes. I’m learning something new every single time.
I'll continue running the store after these first 6-12 months, but the point I want to drive home to you is that I'm committing to this project before I learn anything else that is as involved as selling direct.
Learning too much at once is going to overwhelm you, and put you in a position of paralysis by analysis, leading to you very likely taking no action at all, as you don’t know what to work on because you have so much on your plate.
Inaction creates more inaction.
Action creates more action.
Lesson #3: Build A Brand, And Success Will Come
When you first start out as an author, your initial goal is to make sales and find yourself in a position of Amazon paying you, rather than you paying them (if you’re anything like us, you’ll get Amazon deliveries every other day!).
But if you’re in this for the long haul, you should also be building a brand; your author brand.
What is a brand, you ask?
In the words of world-renowned marketer, Seth Godin:
"A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another."
So, how does this translate into actionable steps you can take in your author business?
- Become known for a certain style of writing (your style)
- Use book covers that align with one another, even across different series
- Create a brand voice you use in all communication (emails, ads, blurbs, etc)
- Create a website that uses a consistent colour palette and fonts
- Offer a way for readers to get more value from you (e.g. Reader Magnets)
- Setup an email autoresponder to nurture readers who download your Reader Magnet(s)
- Send a weekly or monthly newsletter to stay top of mind with your readers
- Let readers get to know the real “you” ( as much as you’re comfortable with, of course)
And when the time comes for a new release, you'll have built up such a strong bond with your readers, that they'll be scrambling for their wallets to get their hands on your new book.
Don’t try and be someone you’re not. Create your own niche. The niche of one. The niche of you.
You are your brand. You are your niche.
Lesson #4: Be Curious
In a world of constant evolution and change, if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards.
I’m not saying you need to change your strategy once a week, once a month – that’s not a good move.
What I am saying is you need to remain open-minded at all times, and never assume you know everything, because what you know now could become outdated in just a few months.
So, stay curious, and spend time each day, each week, learning.
This isn’t to say that when you find something new you should jump on it there and then.
You’re just expanding your knowledge for when the time comes to implement it.
And don’t assume that everything you hear is good advice; question everything and apply it to your own goals, aspirations and curiosity.
Coming back to the direct sales example we touched on earlier, I’ve been hearing whispers of direct sales for a long time now.
In the background, I’ve been reading and absorbing as much as I can about selling books direct, but it’s only in the past month or so that I’ve taken action.
And in taking that action, I’m learning more than I have in just reading or learning about selling direct.
So whilst learning is important, there is no replacement for implementation.
Had I not been curious about direct sales and open-minded to adding this stream of revenue into our business, I wouldn’t be talking to you about this today.
Tomorrow, next week, or next month isn’t always the right time to add something as big as direct sales into your business, but one day, it just might be.
So, I urge you to always be curious; this way, your mind is going to be open to receiving new ideas. A closed-off mind will never allow new ideas to flow in.
Lesson #5: There Are No Mistakes – Only Learnings
This may sound a little cliche, but hear me out.
Mistakes are not really mistakes, they are lessons.
And if the lesson is big enough, you won’t make that mistake again.
If you’re consistently trapped in this “perfection bubble” of trying to get everything right the first time, you’re going to drive yourself crazy.
Mistakes aren’t bad; although that is how society generally views them, and many of us adopt society’s beliefs.
Being fearful of failure will only limit your potential.
Allow failure to be a part of your journey to success.
A great acronym for the word FEAR is:
We’re so afraid of the situation we’re imagining if we were to fail at something, that our brain tricks us into thinking it’s safer to take no action whatsoever.
This is inbuilt into all of us.
And it’s holding you back more than you know.
Accept that you will fail at some things, but also know and take comfort in the fact that you don’t need everything you do to succeed.
Success in a few areas will more than make up for failure in other areas, as Pareto’s Principle (The 80.20 Rule) has proven time and time again.
As an author, if you’re wanting to turn writing books into your full-time business, you need to regularly take a step back and look at your author business holistically.
Put your business hat on and see this as a way of life, not just a hobby.
It’s about more than writing books.
Yes, your books are your product, and they need and deserve the care, attention and devotion to make them the absolute best they can be.
But at the same time, you are running a business, and with that comes responsibilities, challenges, obstacles, wins, losses, stumbling blocks and more besides.
Some days, weeks and months are going to be better than others, I’m not going to lie to you.
But with the right mindset, you can achieve more than you think is possible.
You got this.
Thanks for reading, and I'll be back with you again next Saturday.
To Your Success
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