The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

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Bestseller Quest Part III: Writing process

Welcome back to another entry into Bestseller Quest! If you’d like to check out the full series, go here. Or, if you just want to freshen up on the previous entry, go here.

Now that we’ve talked about everything in my life BESIDES writing, let’s get into the process itself: my system and the tools I use.

Everyone has their own way of writing — the time, place, program, speed, etc. This post isn’t about figuring out what works for you. It’s about what I prefer and what I’ll be using throughout the Bestseller Quest to get words on the screen. There are a couple of nifty tools I think every writer could benefit from if you’re not already using them. The following are resources I’ve come to rely on to get my writing done:


Straight Outta Scrivener

Scrivener is awesome. It’s what I’m writing this blog post with. It’s what I write all of my books with now and pretty much anything else I can think of. If you STILL haven’t checked it out, here’s the link . You can also get a free, thirty-day trial to test it out. (And those are 30 days of use — by not closing the program or turning off my computer as much as I probably should, I wrote an entire 165k book using the trial version. Of course, I bought the program anyway but just saying).

During the first draft stage, I’ll be writing the entire trilogy within the same Scrivener project, judiciously backed up, of course. One of Scrivener’s most important features, when I start crapping out letters is the ability to see my word count. I track this every time I write, which brings us to our next handy-dandy tool.

The 5k Words per Hour app

This tracker/timer was developed by Chris Fox (we’ll talk more about him later) to track his writing speed. [Insert motivational quote about not being able to improve what you don’t record here]. The free version is great, but you get some advanced features with the paid version in exchange for a couple bucks. Check it out here.

I absolutely recommend using the 5KWPH app. It helped me improve my writing speed from about 1k/hour to around 3k/ when I’m really in the zone and in tip-top writing form. Basically, what you do is set a timer and write until the voice of Chris’ girlfriend-now-wife tells you Wahoo! Sprint complete. Then you look at your word count in Scrivener and enter it in to see how many words you’re averaging per hour. You can also set up projects to see how much longer you have to type to finish that first draft.

This app is fantastic, trust me. No matter what your writing style is, give it a try.

Put it together and what do ya got?

Okay, now we combine the wondrous powers of Scrivener and the 5KWPH app into a super-writer serum that will turn this everyday author into a word count vomiting machine. Important note: I have no plans of using dictation during the Bestseller Quest.

Do you even write, bro-

My daily word count goal is 2500k words. How did I reach this number? I have a rough estimate that this entire trilogy will be around 180k words — we’ll talk about why that is in future posts). This means if I start writing on January 9th and want to be done the week before the Smarter Artist Summit at the end of April, I need to produce 2500 words per day for 5 days/ week, plus whatever I have to make up on Saturday

Knowing that life will happen on certain days, not allowing me to reach my goal, I’m planning on doing short sessions Saturday mornings. I will recharge the batteries on Sunday. Once I get back in writing shape (I haven’t done sprint-writing in a few months) I can do 2500 words in an hour, no problem.


One thing I want to make clear: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 5KWPH writing sprint, it means you type as fast as you reasonably can, without pausing to read/edit what you’ve just done or make any typo corrections. A writing sprint is about going balls to the walls for X amount of time and telling your inner editor to shut up and hold on. (Trust me, until you get the hang of it, he’s going to scream bloody murder and tell you to slow down).

The majority of writing will take place in the mornings. I’ve got a 30-45 minute block for this and I could get most of my writing done, outside of 500 words or less, once I’m back at top speed (which will probably take a week or two).

If mornings and Saturdays aren’t enough, additional writing will be done 2-3 days/week on my lunch break at work. I’m not huge on the idea of taking my personal computer back and forth to the office throughout the week, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. This time will be between 15-25 minutes most days.

Depending on how much I’ve slacked/fallen behind during the week, my Saturday writing sessions should NEVER be more than an hour, tops. That being said, I have to hit 12,500 words per week, minimum, so I don’t fall behind.

And that’s about it! This entry is shorter for a reason — no matter how or what you write, it’s all really about one thing: getting those words on a page. It doesn’t matter how fancy and complex you make your system if you aren’t producing!

UP NEXT: Part IV, The Gameplan

Bestseller Quest Part II: The Groundwork

Welcome back to another entry into Bestseller Quest! If you’d like to check out the full series, go here. Or, if you just want to freshen up on the previous entry, go here.

The Groundwork

Whether you’re making a story trilogy, cleaning an outhouse or slaying a dragon (bonus points if you know what they all have in common), you’ve got to start somewhere. Today, we’ll be talking about all of the foundational work I’ve started in preparation for my quest in 2017. I’m thinking of separating this into two parts: one that goes over lifestyle circumstances, necessary changes and time management and another that talks about research and planning, but we’ll see how it goes.

Circumstances and responsibilities.

First let me say that, as a single, healthy white dude in America, I’ve got it pretty good. Any complaining from here on out comes not from me thinking the cards are stacked against me, it’ll be about self-frustration for being human, wasting time and doing stupid stuff people do. But hopefully,j that doesn’t happen very often.

In addition to writing, I have a number of responsibilities and endeavors that I pursue. As any of you know that read the Everyday Author, I work a full-time job (Mon. – Fri. 8: 5:00) that obviously takes a large amount of my time. There is the potential that I could be called out to work overtime or on weekends, but (knock on wood) it hasn’t happened yet.

Jobs are good! In addition to a. Providing me with the funding to be an indie author, it also b. Gives me benefits (so my teeth stay purty and I can get treatment if I contract some deadly disease) and c. While this may not sound like a benefit, it forces me to use my free time wisely. I’ve had much more flexible 25-30 hours jobs in the past and I’m actually more productive and have a better schedule now than I did then.


Outside of my job, I also help out on my family’s fourth-generation farm and ranch. This takes up most of the daylight hours on Saturdays and some holidays, in addition to regular chores that have to been done every night and morning, like feeding animals. As I write this (January) we’re right in the middle of sheep having lambs. This will take an extra 30-45 minutes out of each morning before work, meaning I’ll have to get up earlier if I want to get anything done. We’ll talk more about mornings a little later.

Like many creative minds and entrepreneurial-minded folks, my eyes are often bigger than my schedule. In addition to writing, a full-time job and farm work, I also have a couple other projects/side hustles. Before I go through the list, yes, I know that this is probably counter productive. (It’s like juggling flaming bowling pins — you don’t want to drop any and you also don’t want to let them catch you on fire.) It’s just how I am, though. Although these extra interests may take precious writing time, I like variety. Here’s the list and estimated times each take during the week:

Everyday Author
Time per week: 2-4 hours
Most of my time spent going forward with Everyday Author (at least for the next 9 months) will be writing these posts and also conducting outreach for guest interviews and posts. This usually amounts to one article per week when we’ve got a full editorial lineup and also a monthly newsletter, so nothing too serious.

Book Review 22
Time per week: 3-6 hours
I’m fortunate that we have an awesome team at BR 22 that helps with submissions, pitching, outreach and follow-up. Most of my work here involves helping out with support emails the others pass along and also drumming up new business (on both the author and reviewer side of things). Outside of writing, I’ve placed a big focus on expanding and improving this service in 2017.

The rest of my time


I’ve heard good things about the Miracle Morning for a couple of years now, but filed it away in the back of my mind. When Miracle Morning for Writers recently came out, I knew it was time to buckle down and give it a try. I started the audiobook last week and, as I started writing this, had just finished day 5 (the first work week). I’m a HUGE fan already. I’ve been working on these posts in the mornings before I got to the office and am accomplishing more in 20-30 minutes before my day starts than I would in 1-2 hours in the evenings when my motivation tank is running on fumes. As I approach the start line for writing the first draft, I’m gradually getting up earlier. Still need to work on getting to bed in time for seven and a half hours, though! I highly recommend checking this book out.

Getting ripped


I’m fortunate that we have a decent one-room gym at my office and take lunch breaks to work out there 2-3 times per week, for 30-60 minutes. On the days I don’t work out, I’ll use my break time to write. I enjoy exercise, but like many people, I struggled setting specific times and days to do it. I’ll spare you going over my routine, but some apps/programs I’ve found effective are:


My drive to work is only about 20 minutes now, but I still use this time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I also play podcasts throughout the day, depending on what I’m working on and sometimes listen to audiobooks while I work out as well. I recommend and listen to a variety of writing and publishing podcasts. See a list here and here . Outside of the author industry, I also enjoy The Art of Charm, Unemployable and The #AskGaryVee Show.


My time and energy in the evenings fluctuates, which is a big reason I’m working on my Miracle Morning. Mornings are much more consistent and reliable for me. Even so, there’s only so many hours in a day and I need to take advantage of as many as I can. Most evenings, I have a couple hours max to do stuff and my motivation often runs low by that point. It’s easier (at least in theory, still working to consistently bring it in to practice) to go to bed earlier when I’m already fried. Also, I’m a human, meaning I need social time with friends and family on nights and weekends — one of the biggest ways I unwind.

I don’t want to sound superhuman or like I’ve especially got it together because I don’t. I waste time, get discouraged and lose motivation just like everyone else. But hopefully, this paints an accurate picture of my circumstances and sets some parameters around how I structure my day.

UP NEXT: Part III, Writing Process

Guest post: Automating Twitter for authors by Tim Morgan

Getting the Word Out – And Still Having a Life

As indie authors, we fill many roles, especially when we’re first starting out. We are the marketing department; the quality control department; the design team; and most importantly, the content creator.

Once you finish that book and upload it to your outlet of choice, you’re going to need to tell the world about it. This is something I see newer authors balk at, maybe because they don’t understand social media and how it works. Some try, only to walk away feeling like a failure when it doesn’t work out.

In this post, I’m going to share my secrets – approaches and tools to help you automate your social networking. If you automate, you can do more in less time – freeing you up to create more.

Wasted Time = Lost Money

Many of us start as creatives because we enjoy it. The process of making something from nothing exhilarates us. We’re energized when we create something new and original. However, if you want to move beyond your art as a hobby, you need to view it as a business.

Whether you go indie or you publish through a traditional publisher, you’re going to be the one who needs to care most about promoting your work. Promoting on social media can be a time suck and it can take time to bear fruit, so many people throw their hands up and walk away.

There’s a saying that in business time is money. Every hour you spend on social media is an hour less you have for creating new work. If you learn effective ways to automate that, though, you can set things on auto-pilot for a while so you can get back to creating.

Which Social Network?

I don’t have the space to explore every social network, so I’m going to focus on Twitter. It’s where I spend most of my time and I’ve had the most success. Some of the concepts like hashtags are the same across different networks – but they’re all very different animals.

One of the things you need to consider while you’re planning your social media strategy is where is your target audience. A Google search can pull up relatively current metrics on who’s using which social media platform. I strongly recommend HubSpot, they offer lots of free reports and guides if you give them your email address. All are highly visual and easy to understand.

Your Primary Focus: Good, Relevant Content

I can’t say this enough. In order to get noticed on any social media, you need to send out good quality content that’s relevant to your target audience.

What’s good content? Things your audience finds valuable. An author you like is running a free promotion? That’s good content. New movie coming out by your favorite director? That’s great too. You’re going to a conference? Fantastic.

Do you see a pattern here? The secret here is most of your messages shouldn’t be about you, they should be supporting other people. Every once in a while, I see some statistic that 2 out of every 10 tweets need to be about you, everything else should be about other people.

In reality, there’s no Twitter cop coming to give you a ticket because you didn’t follow that convention – just know if you overdo it you’ll lose followers.

How Often?

Some people tweet two or three times a day, some several times an hour. Either approach can be effective if you do it right. It’s all about who you want to reach: the internet is an always available, global system; people are constantly coming and going.  Tweets have a very short lifespan.

If you’re targeting consumers, plan your tweets around commuting times and weekends. If you’re after businesses, most of them are on during business hours. But in the end I don’t think you can tweet too much.

You should probably repeat your messages since people are always coming or going; there’s no law, but a good balance for me seems to be repeating after 8-12 hours.

Funny true story – when I first started tweeting, I was getting all kinds of followers in the United Kingdom. For a while I thought maybe my work was more appealing to people over there; then I realized I was sending out most of my tweets during the business day in the US – but if you were in the UK, you saw my tweets as you were going home.

Start locally, but don’t be afraid to think globally.

Effective Hashtagging and Tagging

For the uninitiated, hashtags are those words with a pound sign in front of them (#tag). These are used to aid discovery – I think they started on Twitter, but now are supported on just about all social networks. These help people find you. If you use a hashtag make sure it’s related.

Use them judiciously: some posts need a hashtag or two, some don’t need one at all. If you use them don’t use more than three or you’ll look like a spammer. (Yeah, I’ve done that and I’m not proud of it. Mea culpa.)

You can also use a popular hashtag to bring followers over to your product. There are no rules against this and it can aid your exposure, as long as it’s relevant.

Tagging is when you use an at sign in front of a name (@name). This is mentioning someone and will alert the person you tagged. Use these carefully as well; if you mention someone too many times you’ll get unfollowed or blocked. Once or twice a day is probably enough.

The Tools

Most of these are websites where you can do research and automate your messaging. They all provide free basic options as well as paid subscriptions that offer more features. HootSuite and both work across multiple social networks – paying for an account will get you access to more social networks along with other bonuses.

The Library – Core Strategy

When I started I kept trying to think of new tweets every week. It was tough and I often found myself blocked, and even worse – it ate up most of my Saturday mornings.

Inspiration struck when I heard Lynn Serafinn interviewed on The Author’s Marketing Podcast. Lynn talked about having a tweet library. I was thinking the same thing but thought it was nuts until I heard that interview.

Lynn created a library of tweets she uses for her messaging. She has a plan to rotate through them and had enough to not repeat a message for several weeks.

I went a little further: I use a spreadsheet of messages broken out by category (books, blog, film, screenwriting, etc). This way I can filter the sheet and pull up relevant messages. This simple method has saved me so much work and it cost nothing.

HootSuite – Schedule Your Messages

HootSuite is a web-based social message scheduler. It allows you to queue messages to be sent at a later time. Going to be signing at a bookstore? New book coming out? Review being published? If you know in advance you can time messages accordingly.

You can also set up messages that plug your books, other people’s books, or other things you find interesting.

HootSuite offers a free version with a limited number of social networks, with paid options that increase the number of networks you can manage. – Auto-Post Relevant Blogs

Who said you have to be the one coming up with all the content? lets you ping that blog’s RSS feed on a regular basis, posting new items to your social networks. allows up to four blogs free. – When is Your Audience Active

To maximize your chances of success, you need to figure out when people are talking about your topic. lets you see a graph of hashtag mentions over time. In the free tool you can see the last 24 hours; paid options let you track this over time.

Hashtagify – The Hashtag Thesaurus

Hashtagify is a visual representation of other hashtags related to a term you entered. If you enter the hashtag horror, for instance, Hashtagify will suggest other popular hashtags related to it. This is handy when you want to expand your reach but you’re stuck on new terms. A few minutes on here can free you up.

You can click on a related term and pull up other related hashtags as well.

The Result

At the time of this writing, I’ve been actively working with most of these tools for about four years. In the early days before automation, I was able to get a week’s worth of messages scheduled in about four hours on a Saturday morning.

After automating, I spend maybe an hour a week scheduling messages.

Don’t expect a big bang. It took a very long time for me to cross 900 followers; before that point things were really slow. After that things picked up significantly. I can’t tell you how long it will take; all I can say is it can take time. As you’re getting off the ground be patient, be persistent, and above all don’t give up.

Good luck, I’d love to hear if these tools help you, or if you have some I haven’t mentioned here.

Tim Morgan is a writer who masquerades as a software developer by day. He is the author of the novels WITCH CITY: CARDINAL, the launch of a paranormal detective series; THE TRIP, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse; and IC9: A CYBERPUNK DETECTIVE STORY. Tim’s very active on Twitter (@tmorgan_2100) and he shares writing advice on his own blog.

You can find out more about Tim and what he’s up to at his web site:

Guest Post: Adventures in Self-Publishing w/ Michael Fletcher

Note from D-Sidd: Michael first joined us for an Author Origins interview back in June of 2015.  He then returned in March of 2016 to give us a sobering update on his author career.  He’d just been dumped by his major publisher and was working on a sequel to his critically acclaimed dark fantasy/grimdark book, Beyond Redemption and wrote about it in this post. Since then, Michael turned to self-publishing for the sequel, The Mirror’s Truth. (FYI, the above picture is not Michael, but he lives in Canada so it’s not completely out of the question that it could be him)

Hey Folks,

Yep, it’s me sneaking in here again for an update on all things random and insane. There are a couple of earlier blog posts you can check out if you’d like some background, or I can just give it to you now in a trippy drug-fueled flashback.

Crap. I’m all out of mescaline. Awrighty. Here’s the fast version:

I wrote a book (Beyond Redemption), got an agent, and sold that book to Harper Voyager. The book received rave reviews and made over a dozen Best-of-2015 lists. Secure in the knowledge HV would want more of my madness, I wrote a sequel (The Mirror’s Truth) and another novel taking place in the same world but with new characters (Swarm and Steel). I then learned that reviews do not always equal sales, and HV passed on the next book without even looking at it. In their words, Beyond Redemption wasn’t selling enough to warrant investing in a sequel. Gut punch.

Okay. We’re kinda caught up.

After spending several weeks drunk and lying in a pool of my own tears, I finally picked myself up, dusted myself off (really needed to vacuum), and realized I still wanted to write.

But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.

Many years ago—back in 2008—I stated in no uncertain terms that I would never self-publish. The few self-published novels I’d read were garbage. I believed whole-heartedly that if my books weren’t good enough to sell to a publisher, they weren’t good enough to publish. That was how I defined success. Well, by that metric, in 2014 (when BR sold to HV) I became successful. But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.

It turns out publishers are not interested in a sequel to a book held by another publisher. No one wanted The Mirror’s Truth. Having sold a book to a Big 5 publisher I now felt fairly confident (well, as confident as a writer ever feels) that I could write at a professional level. I’d spent a lot of time on TMT, and while it was different that BR—more internally focused on the characters—I was pretty sure it was just as good. But it wouldn’t sell. I faced a choice: Self-publish it, or let it die.

I am so glad I chose to self-publish. The Mirror’s Truth has been out a little over a month, has already landed on several Best-of-2016 lists, and earned back what I spent publishing it.

I went in knowing nothing, made just about every mistake along the way, and learned some amazing lessons. Super fast summary, ‘cuz this post ain’t about those lessons: Hire a good artist. Hire a good typographer for the cover text. Hire a reputable editor. Understand your deadline is self-set and change it if you need to rather than rushing to meet it. Oh, and self-publishing costs money!

Swarm and Steel, on the other hand, was not a sequel. My agent found a home for it with Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse/Night Shade Books) and it’s being released in August of 2017.

So now we’re caught up with today.

What does life look like for me right now? Well, I have a job, a family, and have to sneak in the writing wherever I can.

“How do you do that?” you might ask.

I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

I realized right away I was too tired—too burned out—in the evenings to write. After work, there was cooking dinner, doing homework with my daughter, spending time with my wife, and of course, whiskey. The only time I might be able to write was early in the morning. So I changed my schedule around. I’m now up by 5 am every day, even on weekends. This gives me two solid hours of writing/editing time before everyone else rises and the day starts. At 7 am I get my daughter up, and at 7:30 am I leave for work. And yeah, I’m in bed before 10 pm most nights. I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

More recently I realized there were writing opportunities at work that I was missing. Breaks, lunch time, and the occasional slow-time when nothing is happening. This coincided nicely with my daughter jumping up and down on a cheap Acer tablet I’d bought her a while back. The screen cracked and I didn’t want her cutting herself, but it was still useable. After installing Dropbox and Word, I took the tablet to work. After two days I realized my plan was crap. The damned thing was an utter bastard to type on and kept creating “Conflicted Copies” in Dropbox. But as they say, peanut butter is the step-mother of adversity. Or something.

I couldn’t work on the novel I worked on each morning while at work. That sentence needs the word ‘work’ in it a few more times. But what if I worked (aigh!) on something different? For the last year or so I’d been thinking about experimenting with hand-writing a novel. I couldn’t ever quite bring myself to do it because I love the flexibility of digital and dread retyping the damned thing. But here was the perfect excuse/reason!

In the last week, I brought a binder, paper, and a lovely pen to my place of employment. I’ve started world-building a new project. Gods my writing is messy! I don’t care how long it takes, but I will finish this hand-written novel.

As writers we face adversity. It’s part of the business. But we’re like sharks: if we stop we drown. (Note: Yeah, yeah, apparently this isn’t true for all breeds of shark. Or might not be true at all. I write fiction. I’m allowed to make shit up!)

The future is less certain than a Terminator movie. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, never mind next year. Will I someday be able to quit my job and write full-time? Dunno. I hope so, but if not, it doesn’t really matter. I love what I’m doing.

And writing keeps me sane.

State of the Author: 2016 (plus 2017 publishing predictions)


Need I say more? I know many indie authors and creatives in general who are looking at the New Year with emotions ranging from trepidation to outright anxiety. No matter what your situation is now or what looms ahead, just remember this: you can only control you. As Chuck Wendig advised, write despite.

Focus on the things in your control — whatever else is going to happen will happen, whether you worry and let it affect your writing or not.

2016 quick recap

From the outside looking in, 2016 would appear to be a step backward. I haven’t published a book since July (Golden Mane) and my only other two titles were the Swords for Hire Anthology (which I edited and published through Undaunted, but only wrote a single, 12k short for) and Into Exile, a 35k novella I wrote and largely revised at the end of 2015 then published this March. That being said, I took a step back from hectic production in past years to hone the non-writing stuff like pre-production outlining, research and planning, book packaging, my overall author strategy and trajectory.

luke balance

Basically, this was the year I slogged through the swamps of Dagobah, doing flips and pull-ups, the muse manifest on my back in the form of a creepy little green dude. I’ve got a game plan and I’m ready to take names in 2017. If you’d like to follow the journey, I’ll be recording the Bestseller Quest here on the Everyday Author in written and possibly audio and video form.

2016 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words (for books only): 100,000+
  • Words published: 105,000+
  • Words revised: 175,000+
  • Books published: 3

What went well

Mailing list growth

This could also be filed under delegation because the biggest thing I did was hand over the reins to Author Platform Rocket. I have nothing but good things to say — my mailing list has more than doubled and I’m getting almost 50% open rates on my emails. I didn’t stay on the Instafreebie train for long, but I also found results there and know many authors who swear by it.

Miracle Morning for Writers

I’ve only been doing it for a month, but it’s still one of the most important changes I made this year. I’m soooo much more productive. Read the book and follow its advice, people. It’s a game-changer.


I took a swing at this with Golden Mane. Overall, it was a great experience ( I think my partner in crime, Joseph Medina would agree as well). Although it’s not something I’m ready to do on every book I write, I’ll definitely be collaboration on more books in the future.


Although it didn’t get much fanfare, releasing the Swords for Hire Anthology was an amazing experience. I’ve spent the last three months gearing up for our next one, the Lone Wolf Anthology, coming January 2017. Yet another great way to collaborate with other authors.

Permafree book

Into Exile is my best-written book to date…and I haven’t made a cent in sales from it. The verdict is still out over the value of permafree titles, but I welcome any way people can get into my funnel, even if some of them never turn into true fans or buying readers. Exposure is the name of the game!

Smarter Artist Summit

I can’t say enough good things about this event. The #1 best thing I did for my career in 2016. Cannot wait for the 2017 Summit in April. There’s nothing else like it, folks.


I’m getting regular exercise, clipping on with my author business and also seeing success with some other side hustles. There’s a LOT on my plate, but I’ve finally settled into a groove (knock on wood).

Book Review 22

I’m very proud of this service. We’ve delivered tons of great results for authors. I’ll be the first to admit we can do better, though. We’re constantly monitoring the numbers and tweaking things. One of my goals in the next two years is to make BR 22 one of the premiere author services out there.


As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, you can either spend time or money. We’ve established a top-rate team for Book Review 22 and have also assembled a number of professional editors and designers to work with through Undaunted. I hope to continue growing the crew in 2017. Cutting out tasks has helped me focus on what I do best and I’m starting to see major headway in all my pursuits because of it. 80/20, 80/20…

What didn’t go well

Golden Mane: The collaboration end was great, but Golden Mane as a write to market project failed. We failed to find our audience, but the people who did read it thought it was awesome. Unfortunately, they were few and far between. It didn’t help that I fizzled out around the launch and ensuing promoting, either. If I had hustled harder, I think we could have made a serious splash with this title.

The Swords for Hire launch and promotions: Another case of publishing a book and then basically doing nothing around the launch. I plan to solve part of this problem in the future by not immediately jumping into the next writing project after hitting publish. Building a backlist is great, but consistently missing launch opportunities is killing my business growth

Sales: I’ve seen a small trickling increase on sales, part of which is from being all over the board in 2016. I think ongoing sales will be determined in part by bigger, better launches (see above).

Reader quality: I mentioned mailing list growth as a positive, but I’m having a hard time getting my list to take basic actions like leave reviews, engage with my emails, etc. I recognize part of this is a numbers game, but I feel I do quite a bit of giving and relatively small amounts of asking, so when I do make an ask, I’d like to see a few more readers return the favor.


Audiobooks will continue to grow in popularity and become a larger income staple for authors.

Along with podcasts going mainstream and the audio-only version of Facebook Live coming next year, I expect audiobooks to take another leap forward. Average people just don’t have/make the time to sit down and read anymore and audio is easy to consume on the go. The cost of production will be a barrier for many authors, but those who bite the bullet will be glad they did a couple years down the line.

Foreign sales will become a larger income staple for authors.

And already are for authors like Joanna Penn. The ebook market in India is primed for an explosion and the German market is only a few years behind the U.S. in terms of size and growth. Like audiobooks, translations and foreign marketing will be a barrier to entry for many, but those authors who hop on board in the next couple of years can establish themselves early on with massive numbers of readers.

Authors writing shorter books on a faster production schedule will see increased success.

Say what you want, I think shorter books will become more popular across all genres (this is coming from someone who reads and writes fantasy, too). Aside from uber readers, people prefer content they can consume in smaller slots of time. There’s something about reading on a digital device that makes long books feel like they drag out — it’s just a different user experience. Reading time now competes with thousands of other entertainment options and people want to burn through their to-read piles without setting aside 2+ hours every day. I see trends shifting to shorter, punchier books in the 20-50k range that allow people to do what I’ve just described. (Speaking of 20to50k, if you don’t believe me, check out the success Michael Anderle has had with this model). Authors benefit because shorter books make the entire publishing process is quicker, meaning they can build up a backlist faster.

$4.99 will be the new $2.99.

In fact, I’d argue it already is. Indies are realizing they don’t have/want to charge $2.99 or less to sell books. As traditional publishing lowers prices of ebooks into the $5-9 range, indies who make their books look just like they belong in the big league will be able to charge these prices too. There will always be freebie seekers and bargain hunters, but building a career solely on these types of readers isn’t feasible.

Traditional publishing will reclaim more of the ebook market share.

According to the latest Author Earnings from October, they’re well on their way. (look up and verify) Scoff if you want, but I believe the big war machine is slowly churning to catch up with the times, as evidenced by the number of traditionally published books in Bookbub and the lower ebook prices of traditional titles. This doesn’t mean indies won’t be able to make a living, but the bottom-end authors will have to up their game. We also have the advantage of being infinitely more adaptable and savvy indies will always be at the forefront of publishing. Improving quality across the board is good in the long run. too.

The 2017 Smarter Artist Summit will establish itself as THE indie author conference to attend.

This isn’t just lip service. If you know anyone who attended the 2016 Summit, you’ve probably listened to them gush about it for past 9 months. In ten years, this could be the indie publishing version of Sundance.

Authors in KU will still be able to make loads of $$$.

I’m going to try very hard not to go on a rant here, but here’s how I see it: 1. You’re potentially missing out on a ton of money by not being in KU. 2. Ride the wave while it’s hot and save your money for when the so-called Amazon apocalypse comes. Don’t let fear be the reason you go wide. Strike while the iron is hot and get yours! 3. Saying that you distribute wide because you don’t want to rely on one income source is a little (cross this out) ridiculous. The book industry is one income source. Outlets are not industries. If book sales tank, they will across the board, not just for Amazon. I’m willing to bet if Amazon stops selling books for some reason, we’ll all have bigger worries, like World War III.

Amazon ads will be the new Facebook ads.

Meaning DROVES of authors will jump on them as a way to make money, most will waste their money and time and a few, savvy advertisers will make bank because they put in the time to learn the system. Amazon ads have the added advantage of being able to generate a positive ROI on individual titles, something that Facebook has been pretty awful for.

BONUS predictions that will most definitely come true:

Dave Wright moves to Austin and the Self-Publishing Podcast/ Smarter Artist community rejoices. Then he’ll promptly skip town to Alaska without telling anyone and break all the hearts.

Chris Fox begins experiments to assimilate his consciousness with AI. By 2020, his goals will switch from writing million-dollar books to world domination. As a side note, this will also be the year Platt/Truant announce their presidential campaign for 2024.

Joanna Penn is hired by Oculus Rift as a virtual storyteller. She then gets sucked into the Rift (was Chris Fox to blame?) and writes a bestselling Lit RPG book based on her experiences once she returns to reality.

New father Bryan Cohen sleeps through at least one Sell More Books Show episode then cancels the show due to broken heart when… Jim Kukral goes MIA in February and resurfaces in December as the Head of Publishing for Google Play, immediately declaring war on Kindle Direct Publishing.

Kevin Tumlinson becomes the first person to cross the Atlantic in an RV. He tragically strikes an iceberg on the return voyage but lives long enough to publish his memoir: Pants on the Ground.

Bestseller Quest Part I: Introduction

(Insert epic music here)

Welcome to Bestseller Quest, the live, real-time (if you’re reading this around January 2017) chronicle of my attempt to create a bestselling series. This will be my step-by-step process showing how I (hopefully) went from an indie author selling a handful of books per month to a bonafide bestseller with a foundation to begin making the transition from an everyday to full-time author. Let’s get started!

Throughout 2016, I’ve read a number of books and listened to several interviews with authors who finally cracked the self-publishing nut and are making solid incomes from their writing. I took notes and implemented some their strategies and tactics, but eventually came to the realization that if I wanted to truly test these methods for myself, if I really wanted to find out once and for all if this indie author game is more than just a lottery, I’d need to start from scratch. Bestseller Quest is intended to be my zero-to-hero journey you can follow step-by-step. Instead of showing my success at the end and talking in retrospect, I want everyone to see the blood, sweat and tears along the way, as they happen.

Here’s a quick origin story to set things up:

As many of you know (or can find out if you read the Everyday Author Archives) I started indie publishing in 2013. I had a helping hand from a number of authors but really didn’t know a whole lot about the world I’d just entered. Then, after Christmas 2013, I used an Amazon giftcard to buy a certain ebook on the Kindle app. It came courtesy of Amazon’s also-bought category, which I’ll forever owe the Amazon robots for. That book was Write. Publish. Repeat. 

Write. Publish. Repeat. (WPR) pulled back the curtains for me and showed me what it was really going to take to make it as an indie. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and Dave Wright introduced me to a world I didn’t even realize I was part of when I published my first title. If I was Luke Skywalker, writing and self-publishing Out of Exile  was me chasing after R2-D2 in the desert. These guys were my Ben Kenobi who led me on my first steps into a larger world.

first step ben kenobi

Fast forward three years later, and I’m Luke on Hoth — I can pull my lightsaber out of the snow to save me from a Wampa, but I’m not a Jedi yet. Since November 2013, I’ve learned a metric crap-ton of stuff from a variety of podcasts, books and good, old-fashioned mistakes I’ve made. I’m a better writer and marketer now, which is why I’ve decided to take this challenge.

luke hoth cave

Teutevar Saga will always be dear to my heart and I intend to get back to the series in 2018, but I came to the realization I would need to build a new foundation for this experiment. Here’s why:

Out of Exile was the first book I published. Although it’s been revised and edited numerous times, it could probably use another polish, given what I’ve learned about story since I last revisited it — not ideal conditions for a written to market book. I want a stronger launching point.

The Teutevar Saga has three books remaining, each of which I anticipate will be at least 150k words long. Given my circumstances (day job and other responsibilities), it would take me almost an entire year to write 450k words. And that’s just the rough drafts!

The Teutevar Saga is definitely a medieval fantasy epic, but it’s not a perfect fit in some of the smaller sub-categories I can realistically compete in as an indie (as it stands, anyway). It’s technically not written to market. Furthermore, the first three books have been out since March 2016, May 2015 and November 2013. This limits the number of launch strategies I can use, especially with new releases. If I’d chosen to write books 3,4 and 5 for this challenge, I’d only be working with a small group of readers who are already invested in the series.

Nevertheless, I have a few advantages I will be bringing to the table.

What I’m bringing to the table

I have a small but growing mailing list of just under 500 readers. Since the new trilogy, I will be writing is also in a sub-genre of fantasy (more on this in the next post), I believe most of them will be interested in reading it.

I said small but growing mailing list — I’m currently using Author Platform Rocket to grow my list. I’ve done okay in the past with Facebook ads for this, but Author Platform Rocket gets better results for cheaper and it also allows me more writing time.

Experience. As I mentioned above, it’s difficult to make a new book in a long series a success if your entry hole at the beginning is so small. I won’t list out all the hard lessons I’ve learned in the past three years (we’ll cover many of them later, anyway) but it’s safe to say I have a much more specific and effective set of strategies and tactics for this experiment. (A particular set of skills, if you will).


What I’m starting fresh with

A brand new trilogy, unrelated to my current series. Aside from a short story coming out as part of an anthology in January, there is absolutely nothing out there in this world. Could I have done a spinoff in the Teutevar Saga world? Probably, but my world building there didn’t allow for some of the tropes I’m using in this new trilogy.Mindset. I’m going into this with a professional mindset. In the past, I’ve cut a few corners in the writing, editing,

Mindset. I’m going into this with a professional mindset. In the past, I’ve cut a few corners in the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process, but everything is going to be by the book (we’ll talk about which books I’m using as a guide later). The strategies I’m using have been proven by more established authors, and if I can do it at this point in my career, anyone can.


What’s in store

Although I’m also going to throw in some video and audio clips here and there, the real meat of everything I’m doing will be in written format. EVERYTHING related to this project will be documented and designed to be replicated.


I explain the groundwork I’ve already done and outline the roadmap of my Bestseller Quest!

Are your hurt or just tired?

At the office gym the other day, I found myself trying to slack off. I’d just finished the first half of my workout (squats and Romanian Dead Lifts) and was moving into the second half (six rounds of lunges, box jumps and leap frogs). I had a couple of afternoon appointments as soon as I left the office, and was tempted to quit twenty minutes early. By this point I was already dripping sweat and my legs were dead after just one round of lunges and jumps.

My brain started thinking up excuses to get me out of there.

Call it good. You don’t want to strain your right calf, you know it’s been stiff lately.

Then I remembered a late summer morning my senior year of high school. It was Hell Week — five days of brutal relentless training to kick off the football season. We’d ran I don’t know how many 50 meter sprints and some of the younger guys were dropping like flies — walking off the track with various “injuries”preventing them from running any more.

There were a few — maybe even half — obviously faking it. Even more tapped out when we started doing laterals in front of the home team stands. The coaches and the rest of us still running were understandably pissed, but to our head coach’s credit, he didn’t force anyone to run. Instead, he said something like this:

“I can’t tell any of you that you’re not hurt and make you run. But you know yourselves, you know the difference between being hurt and just being tired. If you’re not hurt and just sick of running, you’re cheating yourself and your teammates.”

I know all this gym rat/jock-speak might be a turn-off for some of you, but the same rule applies to writing: only you know if you’re giving it your all or if you’re slacking, if you need a break or if you’re just being lazy.

It’s easy when you’ve got a day job and a thousand other responsibilities to feel drained and skip writing. To make it worse, the guilt starts setting in, messing with your head and stressing you out. It’s easy to beat yourself up and get trapped in a cycle that can seriously screw with your creativity.

On the other hand, sometimes you really do need to take the night off. Sometimes you need to take a week or even a month off! Overworking will mess you up just as much as slacking will. Knowing which is which can be more complicated than following Taylor Swift’s latest relationship.

There are an infinite number of ways to go at this author business and the only way to figure out the best process is through trial and error. But first, you’ve got to know your limits. Recognize the difference between doing half-assed work and legitimately needing a breather. Nobody but you can determine what you’re feeling.

Many authors advocate writing every day and that’s great if it works for you. For many, however, it’s impractical or even impossible. When I’m deep in the middle of a first draft, I usually only take off Sunday and sometimes Saturday. Not counting those days, my string of writing usually only lasts a month or so. I set a weekly wordcount to hit but my day-to-day output varies based on what’s going on with the rest of my life.

My revising/rewriting process is even more skiwampus. After too many tight deadlines and stress-filled weeks, I’ve learned to put some padding into my schedule to ensure I release the best work possible. The only way I figured this out, though was by testing my limits.

Don’t sell yourself short. You’re capable of achieving more than you think. On the flip side, don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Everyone needs breaks.

The next time you feel like quitting, be brutally honest. Cut out the excuses and all the other bullshit. Are you hurt or are you just tired?

Going big with your book launch with John L. Monk

The thing I like most about book launches is they’re one letter away from the word “lunches.” Other than that, there’s nothing at all that’s likable about them. All they do is disappoint … or at least that had been my experience writing four other books and selling them on Amazon.

The pattern is familiar:

  1. Cool idea.
  2. Tell our patient/suffering friends/family all about it while they smile and nod and tell us to keep our day jobs.
  3. We write the book.
  4. We launch it, and…
  5. It doesn’t sell. We keep our day job, and our friends/family pretend to ignore our brooding looks and streams of vile profanity.

All that changed when I launched “Hell’s Children.” Thank goodness for Chris Fox’s book “Launch To Market,” which I’d read late in May before my June launch. After reading it, I was able to incorporate a number of tips and tactics to sell my book well for going on three months.
Here were some of the things I did:

  1. I picked a type of book that people are actually looking for, in a definable genre with lots of readers. In my case: post-apocalyptic. Additionally, it’s a YA book, which people are also looking for. People type “post-apocalyptic” and “young adult” into Amazon’s search bar all the time. When I run my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ads, these keywords get the most hits.
  2. I got a great cover from a top cover designer, and didn’t break the bank doing it. $150 bucks from Yocla Designs. She’s usually backed up 3-4 months, so be prepared to wait. I started writing the book last December, so I had plenty of time.
  3. Title … hmm … ok, to be honest, I’ve never been very happy with my title. After struggling for several months, that’s the best I could come up with. “Hell’s Children.” I wanted something more grand like, “Children Of A Lesser God” or “Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil” or “The Sun Also Rises.” That said, “Hell’s Children” is sort of provocative. People have been clicking it. It’s doing its job.
  4. I asked 50 people from my mailing list if they’d like an Advanced Reading/Review Copy. About fifteen replied that they would. I also asked folks on Facebook in a post on my timeline, which got me about 20 responses (if I remember correctly). By the second day of my launch, I had 14 or so reviews.
  5. Following Chris Fox’s advice, I did a pre-order. Unlike Chris, I did mine over two weeks, and not one. The point was to generate “also-boughts” under other people’s books. This was to assist in building up my organic discoverability. People would look at other people’s books, scroll down, and then see mine there as something people had also-bought. The idea being they’d click my book and buy it.
  6. Still following Chris’s advice, I launched at 99 cents — in Kindle Unlimited. Chris jumped to 2.99 after a week, but I waited two weeks in order to accommodate an author friend who wanted to hit his list for me late in the second week (see below).
  7. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a lot of great friendships with other authors. For the most part, I’ve never asked any of them for anything. We just like each other’s cat videos or share information on cool authory things—podcasts we’ve heard, writing articles, etc. So it was with some trepidation that I actually asked some of them to read my book. Then, wonder of wonders, they all said yes. On top of that, many of them notified their mailing lists about the book, for the most part unasked for. This was some kind of crazy good fortune I’d never expected or even hoped for when I first reached out to all these great people, and I’ll forever be grateful to them for what they did. Having steady sales every day is what Amazon looks for when they decide to make your book “sticky” — keeping it visible to shoppers who type keywords into the search bar.
  8. Special point: one of my author friends — a top-tier sort of fellow — offered to boost a Facebook post to all his fans for me over a two day period. I paid him $50, which he applied in its entirety to the boosted post.These two days resulted in very high sales for me. About 145 on the first day, and around 120 the next day (going from memory — I may be off a little). So if you have any author friends with lots of fans (and your author friend likes your work), perhaps suggest paying him/her to boost your book. It’s a much easier ask than having someone hit their mailing list.
  9. Once folks started telling me they were hitting their lists, I created a spreadsheet and plotted out the first two weeks of my launch. I then took the dates they were going to hit their lists and plotted them into the little boxes under each day. For those days that were empty, I tried to do something. For example, I got a “Bargain Booksy” in one day. In another box, a friend talking about my book on Youtube. In another, Bookbub telling 80 people who followed my author profile (on their site) that I’d just released a book. In another box, I asked a top-tier author buddy if I could move his help to a different day, because he was doubled up with someone.The whole point of all this was to cover each day. I think when I was done, I had every day but one (a Sunday) covered in that spreadsheet.
  10. During the pre-order, I ran Facebook ads, which resulted in about 40 sales. Not that many, sure, and I spent about 5-10 dollars a day on it. But hey, it got me some also-boughts. That’s what I wanted. Next time, I’ll spend more.
  11. After my launch, I killed the Facebook ads after about the 2nd day — because my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ad had been approved!These ads rock. They don’t waste your money, and they move books. Also, they’re a great way to see what people are searching for, clicking on, and then buying. If your stuff isn’t selling and you don’t know why, create an Amazon ad (available to Kindle Unlimited members only, sadly). If you see 50 clicks on your ad and no buys, either your ad doesn’t match the product description, or the product description needs work. If you change one or the other and you suddenly start getting purchases, then you learned something very valuable.Note: be careful of the other ads — the “Product Display” ads. They’re more expensive, and they use up your money quicker. That said, they also sell books more quickly. They have their place, but they’re pricy. I like the idea of using them to fill holes in a launch, and that’s about it. I still have to experiment with them.

The Results:

After doing all this, for the first time in my author career (3 years and 5 books), I was able to stay in the top 1000 for the first month and a half, and I’ve stayed between 3000-4000 at the lowest as of the time of this article. It’s been great. The money came in at a very fortunate time. About a week after my launch, my wife was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and needed a hysterectomy. We were caught flat-footed. The money really saved us, because the insurance didn’t cover it all. More good news: my wife is now totally cured. The doctor thinks he got it all. We’ll be going back every three months for the next two years to ensure that’s the case.

I hope your next launch is as good or better than mine. If you’re curious about writing to market, pick up Chris’s other book “Write To Market.” I hadn’t read it when I decided to switch genres to post-apocalyptic, but I wish I had. It’s filled with great advice on finding and locating genres that are underserved—that have lots of readers and not a lot of writers. Hopefully you actually like these genres. I love reading post-apocalyptic books, so it was an easy and pleasant experience writing one. But you won’t be finding any John L. Monk romance books any time soon. At least none you’d like to read!

The benefits of going wide as an author – Kevin Tumlinson, Draft2Digital

There are times when you might forget that there’s a world beyond Amazon.

It’s easy to do. The KDP Select Global Fund makes being exclusive to Amazon pretty attractive, after all. It eases some of the burden on an author’s shoulders—you can earn a little bit just for the pages that are read, so that even if a reader doesn’t like the book, you still get something in the transaction. And there are other perks, as well—some authors find their core audience in the Kindle Unlimited ecosystem.

But most authors (and believe me, I’ve talked to a lot of authors) didn’t get into this business thinking, “Gee, I can’t wait to only be read by people who own a Kindle!” Most saw themselves standing behind a podium, sharing the stage with the likes of Stephen King or Lee Child or John Grisham. Most saw themselves hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists.

You don’t get to that level on one platform. Reaching that level of success means increasing your reach, making the effort to reach out on a global scale.

There are a number of benefits to ‘going wide’— branching out from Amazon.


Here’s an interesting tidbit: Africa largely skipped the desktop revolution.

While in the United States people were debating the merits of Mac versus PC, and computer manufacturing saw an explosion and a rapid evolution from desktop to laptop to mobile platforms, an enormous population in Africa had never even heard of computers. They had no notion of desktop publishing. No clue about the internet.

And then someone introduced the smartphone into the ecosystem.

Just like that, a revolution emerged. People who had limited access to water could now research how to drill for fresh groundwater and build windmills from bicycle parts, to power pumps and irrigation systems. And those who had no access to books suddenly had a virtual Library of Alexandria right in the palm of their hands.

Think about that.

From zero to a million, with the swipe of a finger, and suddenly a new and voracious appetite for knowledge springs up.

Amazon doesn’t serve that particular market. There’s no real profit to draw them there, just yet. African villagers don’t tend to have much (or any) money, after all. But as they gain access to the internet, they also gain access to the free resources online that allow them to build businesses of their own, to crowd source startup funds using Patreon and Kickstarter campaigns, and to participate in a global economy, using their innate industriousness and their wealth of time to get up to speed quickly.

Annnnnd boom. A brand new market, eager for knowledge, for stories, for anything that can help them change and improve their lives, emerges on the world stage.

It would be insane to not want to reach out and tap into that live-wire current, with intellectual property that has virtually no overhead, but can bring in tiny trickles that lead to big streams.

In other words, charge 99 cents for your book, and sell it to a few hundred million people, and you’re going to do alright.


Business is a funny thing. Even the very best business can fall to pieces without much warning.

My wife and I are fans of British television, and we recently watched the series finale of “Mr. Selfridge.” If you’re not familiar with the story, the gist is that the real-world, American-born Mr. Selfridge was the creator of one of the most successful department stores in all of the UK. Despite huge opposition, Selfridge built his store to be a new model for the industry—he literally redefined certain aspects of the business, including such innovations as moving the perfume counter out onto the main floor of the store, and encouraging shoppers to browse rather than forcing them to either buy or get out.

Selfridge had a few personal problems that eventually led to his being ousted from his own business—a move that took him from industry leader to sideline spectator in a single afternoon. He never saw it coming. Neither he nor his most loyal employees ever even considered it.

Selfridge, who was a paragon of business savvy for most of his career, saw his empire wrested from him with the dashing of a signature, and he never recovered.

The interesting thing: Selfridge’s was a diversified storefront. It had tons of merchandise in a variety of categories. But Selfridge himself had all of his eggs in the department store basket (for the most part—there are nuanced exceptions). And that was what led to him being vulnerable, to losing his authority over his own business, and to be ousted while someone else got to carry on with his name and his life’s work.

So let’s look at Amazon for a moment:

Authors who are exclusive to Amazon are beholden to its rules. And they have absolutely zero control over those rules—Amazon can choose to change its terms of service (TOS) at any moment, without warning and without recourse on the part of the authors. It’s happened before.

Recently, Amazon decided to crack down on an oft-ignored rule in the TOS, which prohibited the use of affiliate links in email. For quite some time, Amazon had simply turned its gaze from violators of this rule, and in that time several small businesses emerged, helping readers discover new authors and new books. These companies built their revenue streams based on Amazon’s affiliate links, and they did rather well.

And then, without warning, Amazon decided to start enforcing the rule. And just like that, dozens of small businesses were no longer in business. They’re primary source of revenue dried up in an afternoon.

Amazon had allowed the infractions to keep building up, because these services were funneling customers their way. But the moment it was no longer strategically advantageous to allow it, Amazon put a cork in it.

And here’s the lesson we have to learn:

Amazon will do what’s in the best interest of Amazon, always.

For a brief time, that may line up with what’s best for you as an author, as well. Certainly, having access to the KDP Global Fund is a perk for authors. Many authors have businesses that rely on that income, even up to 100%. But the program itself is a loss leader—meaning that Amazon really doesn’t make any money directly from eBook sales. They use that business to keep funneling customers into their more profitable revenue silos. Eventually, however, that will stop.

I’m not Nostradamus. I’m not gazing into a crystal ball or reading tea leaves or consulting the spirits. I’m looking at Amazon’s history when it comes to businesses like this one, and I’m considering the fact that at a certain level there will, by necessity, be an equilibrium, and the bubble will burst. Overnight, those authors relying solely on Amazon will lose their primary revenue stream, and they’ll start right back at zero.

Exclusivity with Amazon is a nice revenue booster. No question. But while you’re building that business, you’re not building the backup you’re going to need. Authors who have been in the Amazon ecosystem for years have spent zero time building up a presence and a platform outside of that ecosystem. So when it crashes, it’s game over.

The smarter play is to think in terms of the long game.

If you leave KDP Select, you will reduce the level of income you’re getting, no doubt. It’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get back to that level in the ‘outside world.’ But what you’ll build, by going wide, will be much more stable, much tougher, and much less prone to collapse than relying on Amazon alone.

The smarter business decision is to go wide.


There, I said it.

Being in the Kindle Unlimited library has a huge perk: More money, faster.

I’ve been there. I’ve seen my revenue quadruple in a month, because I pulled titles from other storefronts and went exclusive. But I also saw a lot of my readers—subscribers on my mailing list who were loyal and trusted me to provide great stories—write to tell me that they were incredibly frustrated that all of my new books were only on Amazon, which meant they couldn’t read them.

Bad press. Bad reputation. It made me suddenly very small.

Like a lot of authors, I got into this business to go big. I wanted name recognition. I wanted invitations to speak at conventions and banquets and award ceremonies. And now, as a KDP Select author, I was doing alright financially, but not meeting any of my other life goals.

I was still a nobody on the global scene.

I’m not exactly Lee Child now, but I can say that my platform is a bit more diverse, and my reach is a bit longer. I have readers in hundreds of different countries now, including several that Amazon hasn’t yet touched. And as my work trickles and crawls and spreads, the cumulative effect starts to make a big difference in my income.

Ultimately, there’s a bit of a ceiling on the number of readers you can reach, in a given amount of time, on Amazon’s platform. And that’s because, unlike out in the ‘wild,’ when you’re locked into one ecosystem you inevitably face competition.

I tell authors every day that there’s no such thing as competition in the publishing industry. If someone picks up the latest book by James Rollins, they aren’t choosing his book instead of mine. They’re choosing his book for now. I still have a shot at capturing that reader, who may enjoy reading both Rollins and Tumlinson.

There’s no competition, because reading books isn’t a zero sum game. If a reader chooses one book, it doesn’t destroy all the other books, so that they are never an option.

If there’s competition for anything in publishing, it’s competition for attention. And on that playing field, ‘clever and creative’ can put you on equal ground with ‘spends the most money.’

So on the whole, there’s no real competition in the publishing industry in general. But in any given specific ecosystem, competition is a natural byproduct of exclusivity.

In biology, all life forms in a closed system compete for resources. That’s the nature of a closed system. It’s inevitable that I will compete against another author for placement, for attention, for the limited time and limited money that a reader has to spend. And where I could be on more or less equal footing out in the ‘wild,’ due mostly to the diversity of readers, when I’m in an aquarium I’m limited to only what Amazon is willing to feed me.

Give me wide open spaces.

A wider pool of potential readers means far more opportunities to capture interest. There are fewer limitations, and more avenues for revenue.

To put it bluntly: The world outside Amazon is much, much bigger than the world inside Amazon.

By it’s very nature, going wide offers more revenue potential than exclusivity—given time.

That’s the thing that really sticks a lot of authors. There’s simply no denying that the way to fast income is through Amazon. You’re marketing efforts will gain much bigger returns in a shorter timeframe. That’s really attractive.

The only promise that can be made, however, is that given enough time your global distribution can outpace that exclusivity. If you can be patient, and use that time to build your platform (including your mailing list, your ad campaigns, and any other resources that let you talk to your audience), you’ll eventually net returns that make it all worthwhile.

PRO TIP: Use the time to write and publish as many books as possible. Even without any other marketing, having a huge library of books available will help you increase your income—first incrementally, and then exponentially.

The more you know.


For those of us who built our revenue streams on the back of Amazon, it looks kind of bleak when we consider moving. But there’s a way to do this strategically that will help ease the pain while still protecting you as you grow your platform.

Let’s break it down into easy steps:

  • Determine your 80/20—You may be familiar with this phrase, but just in case, what you want to figure out is what 20% of your books is bringing in 80% of your revenue. If you don’t happen to have multiple books, the answer is “my book.” And it’s more of a 100/100 rule at that point. But that’s ok … this plan is still going to work for you, with slight modification.
  • Move the other 80%—You know what makes you the most money, so let’s keep that 20% of your work right where it is. Keep the marketing going, and keep the revenue coming. Take your less productive books out of exclusivity, though, and move them into a broad solution. Now you have a body of work out there for people to discover, at least, and that’s a start.
  • Write more books—This is just the Prime Directive for authors, frankly. Write more books. Then write more. And finally, write more books. But now, as you publish, put those books into your broad solution, again and again. And if you only had one book at the beginning of this, all you’re really doing is skipping the second step. More books means more revenue opportunities, so keep it coming.
  • Promote your new platform—Place Facebook ads, share Universal Book Links (UBLs) on social media, go on podcasts, do guest blog posts—do all the things you can think to do to tell the world your work exists, and encourage everyone to go read it. The best marketing advice you’ll ever get is “go to where your customer lives,” which means “focus all your effort on reaching your customer/reader where they spend the most time.” Do that. Over and over.
  • As wide revenue increases, move the rest of your books—Do it one at a time. As you replace the monthly income of one book, move it to wide distribution. And keep doing that until all of your books are wide.
  • Use exclusivity as part of a strategy, not as your business model—You can launch a book as exclusive to Amazon, and utilize their promotional tools. You can benefit from page reads, and garner tons of reviews. But use that exclusivity like a surgical instrument. Just like any good marketing campaign or product development strategy, you should plan for obsolescence. Use exclusivity as a tool for making more money faster, and then get your book out of that small pond and into the greater ocean as soon as you can.

And that’s it. That’s how you use Amazon exclusivity to your advantage, while continuing to build a wider, more stable, global platform for your work.

It won’t be as easy, I’ll admit. It will feel frustrating, as you see other authors making a lot more money, a lot faster. But in the end, you’re trading in short term gain for long term success, and that has always been a winning strategy for any business.


I’ve specifically avoided mentioned Draft2Digitial to this point, because all the advice above is completely unbiased, and unaffected by this little ‘pitch’ at the end. You can stop reading right up to this header, and you’ll have gotten some world-class advice for phenomenal author success.

Go ahead … go … it’s ok. I still love you.

But if you want make this whole thing a lot easier, then stick around for a second.

Draft2Digital helps you go wide by making it ridiculously easy. Upload your manuscript and your cover file, enter a bit of information, and hit ‘publish.’ And the world belongs to you.

When I was invited to become the Director of Marketing for D2D, I already knew all of this about the company. They have set up this business specifically to help authors to overcome some of the biggest, gnarliest pain points around. And they do a phenomenal job of it. I was a fanboy for years before I became part of the team.

Recently we introduced Universal Book Links, or UBLs. These are available free of charge at, and they give you some nice perks, including:

  • The ability to create a unique, customized URL that leads readers to every online storefront that carries your book. One link for you, every store online for them.
  • The ability to see data about how well your links perform, including the stores that more of your readers prefer.
  • The ability to instantly update your existing links with brand new storefronts, so that your links never expire. Use them on everything from email campaigns to printed materials, without worrying that they’ll one day stop working.

There are more benefits, and more uses, but you can already see how handy these things are.

And they are FREE. Always. Even when you register for an account, they’re free. Just like that.

So check out Draft2Digital for the ability to instantly go wide with your books, and check out Books2Read to start creating Universal Book Links (or UBLS as we call them) for promoting your work and making yourself more discoverable. These are some of the best decisions you’ll ever make for your author business.

But regardless of whatever else you do, start making plans to go wide and exist the exclusivity of the KDP ecosystem. Trade short-term, limited success for long-term, unlimited growth, and you’ll find that you’re in a better place than you could ever have imagined. And short of a global boycott on eBooks, you’ll  never have to worry about waking up to the nightmare of your business being shut down by the whims of someone else.

Kevin TumlinsonKevin Tumlinson is a self-published author with more than 30 novels, novellas, and non-fiction books in his catalog. He is also the Director of Marketing for Draft2Digital—a company absolutely bent on author success. Find out more about Kevin and his work, plus get three of his best books for FREE when you register at, and get a start on going wide with your own work at

Like an Olympian

Note: Hat tip goes to Joanna Penn, who often talks about this concept and inspired this post.

Watching the Summer Games this week gave me pause to reflect on the awesome and inspiring competition between Olympic athletes. These men and women have trained all of their lives for what can amount to a single defining performance. It doesn’t get much better than that.

There are many lessons we authors can learn from these athletes but the perhaps the most important are discipline and perseverance.

The day-to-day life on an Olympian athletes involves a constant grind of training, training and more training. When you’re competing against the best of the best, all those hours, weeks and months add up to small but vital dividends: you’re a fraction of a second faster, you can jump a half inch farther or higher — tiny little improvements that make the difference between a gold medal and last place.

For Olympians (and authors) it can be extremely discouraging to be trapped in a daily grind, working for such small changes without any immediate results. To keep their sanity, Olympians plan, prepare and measure their progress in four-year intervals.

As authors, it’s easy to get discouraged when our week-to-week book sales aren’t improving, when we’re not producing more and when our newsletter subscribers crawl up by one person every other month. At times like this, it’s vital to look at the big picture, at the change that’s taking place over the long term, not in the short run.

Four years ago, during the 2012 London Games, I was entering my senior year of college. I had a book I’d tinkered with since I was a teenager, writing and re-writing whenever the mood struck me. In August 2012 I made a goal: come hell or high water, I would finish the rough draft of that book before I graduated.

Out of Exile - Store Cover finalOut of Exile was finished in November 2012 and published in 2013. Four years later I’ve published three books in the Teutevar Saga series, a couple of short stories and a multi-author anthology. I’ve also started a hybrid publishing group and launched a service to help authors get reviews for their books. By the end of the year, we’ll be release another anthology and I’ll have outlined and started another trilogy.

Big change in four years, huh?

I don’t share this to brag or one-up anybody. There are hundreds — maybe thousands — of authors who’ve done 10x more than me in the last four years. In the same span, these men and women have become New York Times bestsellers, gathered thousands of fans and made writing their full-time occupations.

Most months, I still sell less than a dozen copies of books a month (although that number is climbing) and feel like I’m closer to the moon than becoming an author full-time. Until I look back on where I’ve come from, that is.

We’re each on our own journey, working at our own pace according to our own individual time lines. Day-to-day, it can feel like we’re spinning our wheels in the mud: like no one is reading our work, like the words we type up flow worse than a bowl of alphabet soup.

During the next two weeks, as the world celebrates Olympian achievement, take a moment to reflect on your own journey. Appreciate where you’ve come from and what you’ve accomplished in the last four years. You’ve probably come further than you realize.

Then make a plan and get to work. 2020 will be here before you know it.

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