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Self Publishing – Everybody Works in Sales

How one author grew his business from zero with Amazon Self Publishing

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Business Growth Strategies – How I Grew my Business from Zero with Self Publishing

By Niraj Kapur

February 2018. I reached the peak of my career after 23 years in London. I was a sales and marketing director, earning enough to take care of my family – not quite 6-figures a year, not far off – and enjoying eating in fine restaurants and enjoying expensive holidays in the UK and abroad.

So what did I do? I gave it all up and became a penniless author.

Did I think I would earn a living as an author?

Yes.

Did I? Not quite.

Was it a mid-life crisis?

No, I had that in 2010 when I lost my sales job in the recession. So what happened, how did I survive, and how did I take care of my family?

 

 

The home phone was ringing.

The only people who call me at home are my mother, my wife and sales people who do a terrible job trying to sell me things I didn’t need –  not sure who was worse.

I’ve taken risks my whole life – the problem is that most risks have led to horrible failure.

Aged 18, I avoided university to become a rock star. I was an Indian teenager from Belfast with Woody Allen glasses, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

I spent our wedding money putting on a play in London. Act 1 was awful and everyone left. Act 2 was brilliant and nobody saw it.

I spent 18 months writing my first novel, Heaven’s Delight – it was a wonderful idea that was badly executed.  A rebellious angel has 7 days to help 4 couples fall in love. If she succeeds, she goes back to earth. If she fails, she goes to hell. Back in 2006, self-publishing was new and expensive. I got into debt of £6,000.

My second book, The Magnificent Lassi, was a twist on children’s magic novels – the kids were British Indians and it was based on Indian mythology  (although many years later, it’s similar to the X-Men movies). I met so many agents and publishers who liked it, yet they said there was too much competition in magic with JK Rowling, Eoin Colfer Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman etc..

 

 

I spent 7 years writing movie scripts

A few got optioned, Naachle London got made in 2012 and was shown in cinemas across London for a week.  I went to Hollywood for 3 years. Most agents, managers and producers said I was awesome and that they wanted to work with me.

They didn’t, that’s just how everyone speaks in Hollywood.  I lost £17,500 on flights, hotels, taxis, food and conferences. My savings had disappeared. As Dorothy Parker said “Hollywood is the one place you can die of encouragement.”

So, with my daughter planning to go university, we needed money – and having paid off most of my Hollywood debts, everyone was worried this was just another impetuous choice – and they had every right to worry.

I explained to them that Winston Churchill once said “success is going from one failure to the next without loss of enthusiasm”.

My family are Indian. You lose money, there is no success, no matter how enthusiastic you are. They thought I was throwing away money. My relatives thought I was throwing money away. My best friend thought… you can see where this is going…

 

 

So after an intervention…

I tried to convince everyone I wasn’t insane and was simply trying to finish my book, Everybody Works In Sales. It’s so hard writing a book when you have a 9-5 job. Even harder when you have a family, friends and charity work. I needed to spend 4-5 hours a day finishing the book and 2-3 hours a day selling the book to everyone I knew and didn’t know.

When you hit 45 years old, your attitude towards life changes. It’s about making a positive difference and helping others. It’s not about selling millions or hitting it rich, which we all know is a long shot.

Most sales and business books have lots of stats or personal development and inspirational quotes we’ve heard 1000 times –  I wanted my book to be different.

People connect with stories and remembering them is easier than stats, so I wrote this as my autobiography. After all, people have always been fascinated by my story.

Born in working class Belfast during the terrorist-driven 1970s. Failing as a rock star. Having an arranged marriage to a woman I knew for 20 minutes. Refusing university education because school education taught me nothing about life or how to survive it, so what could university possibly teach me?

Then why did I write a sales book?

 

 

Every day we get sold to. Badly.

At home, on the phone, at exhibitions, by post, people are always selling to us and 80% are awful. I want to raise the standards of sales.

In addition, many people don’t want to sell, because they’re shy or they associate sales with sleazy car salesman or bad estate agents. I wanted to break down the myths and show that selling is part of everyday life. The great sales people I’ve met have integrity and come from a place of service. I’ve learned a lot from them and also from 23 years working in sales.

So what did I do to sell my book and grow my business?

 

 

Invest In Yourself

With my love of personal development, I made two smart investments. I hired Richard McMunn as my book coach and invested in Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10K Readers course.

Richard helped me cut 20 pages of negativity and make it more aspirational and positive. He also pushed me hard and kept me accountable like any good coach. Nick’s course taught me the finer details such as.

Embrace social media

  • Learning about Youtube videos, Facebook ads,
  • How to create Amazon ads. How to improve your Amazon ranking. 
  • Writing articles every fortnight on LinkedIn
  • Give massive value to everyone you meet
  • KDP Select. Pricing. Traffic. Keywords. Promotions. Creating a Dream team

I was scared of being on camera, so I hired Gordon Ramsey lookalike Martyn Jordan to record a video promoting my book –  I got more comments, likes and feedback on Facebook and LinkedIn on that than anything I’ve ever done. Many people even thought he was Gordon Ramsey.

 

 

Leverage Your Social Network

I contacted every single person in my LinkedIn network individually. If there were mentioned in the book, which many were, I told them and they all bought a copy = 610 people

  • I contacted every single person on Facebook = 303 people
  • I contacted every single person I knew on Twitter = 401 people
  • Friends and elderly neighbours who are not on social media = 40 people

No group emails. No hard sell. Every single person was individually contacted.

Take Care Of Your Health

Not enough people talk about this, yet it’s so important. The stress working for yourself is greater than any corporate company. Your work harder for less pay – which would stress anyone.  So every day I walked 20 mins in the morning, 20 mins at lunch and 20 mins in the evening. I ate more greens for more energy. You need so much energy to be successful.

 

 

Choose Your Book Release Carefully.

Research shows Tuesday is the best day of the week to release a book, so I released it 20th March.

Why 20th of the month? Most people I know get paid 20th and 21st of the month. Boom.

Everybody Works in Sales reached #17 under Business. Book sales rockets under Kindle which outsold 11: 1 paperbacks.

I took pictures and posted them on every social media channel which sold more books. I wrote articles every week on how I achieved success that I posted on LinkedIn, I wrote for free for several bloggers who had big audiences. Every time my book was mentioned at the end of the article, it sold more copies

 

 

How I’ve Grown

If you work 9-5, you assume people who work for themselves have it easier; no commuting, working from home, spending time with family, sounds lovely. I’ve learned to appreciate everyone owning their business, every freelancer – you have to work twice as hard.

There’s no guaranteed salary end of the month and you get paid when clients decide to pay you. That causes some scary moments and banks don’t care if clients pay late.

I’ve also surrounded myself with an excellent networking – or as Nick described it, my dream team. I was very British about the whole thing since I’ve lived in England now for 26 years and didn’t want to bother anyone.

When you write a book people like, they reach out to you and want to be part of your world. That was unexpected, so it was easier asking them to be part of my team to share my articles and social media posts.

 

 

What has worked

There’s no substitute for hard work, so ignore everyone who says you can become a successful author, or wealthy entrepreneur by working a few hours a week – you can’t.

Embrace social media. My LinkedIn has grown 120% to 1,477 connections. Twitter has grown 90% to 750 and Facebook has grown 50% to 470 people.

Speaking for free to build your profile. I have spoken at every networking event. Despite presenting to board level and having done business with Microsoft, MTV, BT and many huge names, now I don’t have a big corporate name behind me, people are more impatient, less trustworthy and give you less time – so sharpen up those pubic speaking skills.

I’ve spoken for free over 20 times and this led to me running sales training at Natwest, University of Buckingham, Cranfield Innovation Centre and some big names to be announced.

 

 

What hasn’t worked

Don’t try and please everyone – I was desperate to help microbusinesses since they need the most help – unfortunately, most microbusiness (businesses with 1 or 2 people) don’t have the budget or the mindset to invest in sales coaching.

They’ll throw extra money at Google Ad words, send more mails, more tweets, yet most don’t have the intelligence to invest in sales coaching.

So walk away and find those who appreciate what you do – for example, I know my ideal clients are entrepreneurs and small-to-medium enterprises.

Finances – I needed 12 months salary – and I had to wait 60 days for my Amazon royalties to come through the first time – so after speaking at every event I could, people bought my book, then hired me as a sales coach – that’s not a quick process.

It took 30-45 days which meant I had to borrow £5,000 to stay afloat. Running a business always costs more than you expect

 

 

Summary

I’m now earning £1,700 per month and it’s only month 5. It’s less than what I used to earn in the corporate world, which has made it a struggle at times – and I’m grateful to have my wife supporting me.

With upcoming sales training at big corporations, 121 coaching and my first full day event before end of the year, I will be back to my full salary by February 2019, 12 months after I started.

And from there, the opportunities are limitless.

 

Niraj Kapur is an expert sales coach and author of the Amazon bestseller, Everybody Works in Sales, which is available on Kindle and paperback right here

To learn more about Niraj, connect with him on LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/nkapur or visit www.everybodyworksinsales.com

 

 

And now we want to hear from you: how do you juggle your writing and business with a full-time job and family commitments? Do you have a plan for “going full time” on your business? Let us know in the comments below!

28 Comments
  1. I enjoyed reading that. Thank you. However, it worked very well for Niraj writing a non fiction book with opportunities to take up coaching posts but how does it work for fiction writers like me? Is it simply the same process? Or, is there some other path you have to follow?

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      It’s going to be different for everyone, Graeme – how do you think you’d adapt this for your business? (Another thing you’ll find is something that works for, say, a Crime author, you’ll get 100 people saying “How does this work for Romance?”).

      You can follow the principles without doing the exact same thing 🙂

  2. Dorota says:

    I would like to see the book promotional video. Any link please ?

    1. Shari says:

      I would, too.

  3. Francisco Po Egea says:

    It could be the case for my autobiographical novel, “WILD in the Himalayas”. Loves and tragedies from Paris to Kathmandu.
    “What am I doing with my life? I am about to turn 40, so I still have the other half left. And I want to live, to live.”
    A radical change. Francisco quits his profession as sales and marketing manager for Europe in a multinational Company in Paris, earning a 6 figures salary a year, flies to Nepal and embarks on a six-month adventure across the Himalayan Mountains. Near the end of his trip, he meets a dying mountaineer with whom he will share the next eleven days, suffering through among furious storms and eternal snows. It is a time of reflection, remembering those unique experiences and moments which have made him who he is now.

    Adventures, love and erotism, travels and exoticism in this autobiographical novel based on his own life. From his childhood in post-civil war Spain and his encounter with the republican guerrillas to his first tastes of freedom as a young man in a bohemian Paris. From his life as a high executive and his great romances to his adventures in Kathmandu, his encounter with the world of drugs and his journey across the Himalayas, loves and tragedies included.

    It is the english version of: “De Ejecutivo a trotamundos”. Both are in amazon. I am selling not bad the Spanish version but no the English one. So I am learning from Nick and appreciate very much all his teachings. Thank you. But I would need someone who does the promotion of my book. Any suggestions?

  4. Good post. Some tips here to be used fast!

  5. Two years ago, my job changed my pay from salary to hourly and told me I was required to take an hour for lunch. The first words out of my mouth were, “What am I going to do for an hour?” I thought about it for a second and then said, “Fine. I’ll write a book during my lunch.” Twenty months later, “Hollie” was published.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Love it!

  6. Danie Botha says:

    Niraj,
    Tip of the hat to you, sir.
    Thank you for such a (for a change) honest rendition of a life journey from the corporate world to that of author-preneur. (The overnight success that took 23 years.)
    You’re right—only those who keep on trying after failing (each time failing better) will pull it off. And, it’s hard, hard, hard work.
    I understand Graeme Gibson’s Q: although we can apply the principles used in marketing for nonfiction, it’s a different ballgame when you write fiction.
    Nevertheless—it was an inspiration, with a couple of actionable tips!
    I got a Kindle copy of ‘Everybody works in sales’ and will have look!
    I’ve just kicked off a book launch (fiction) and am discovering that many of my launch team members can’t leave reviews since they haven’t “purchased > US $ 50 during the previous year. Amazon’s rules.)
    Required: a new and better plan!
    Thanks for having him, Nick!

  7. It’s always interesting to see the paths that people have followed.

    I have a plan, not sure if it’s going to work but I’ll certainly give it my best. I lose nothing for trying. I’ve taken 5 months off work to concentrate on my writing. I’m up to rewriting/editing book 2 for my epic fantasy series. I plan to have that at the editor beginning of November.

    Then I’ll kick off the draft for the final book of the series, book 3. I plan to release both next year to complete the series. I’m engaging in list building, added 400+ people to my list in the last 3 weeks & have started setting up my autoresponder emails.

    I’ve also taken the plunge and getting my book 1 narrated. It is a gamble but it will be up and available for order by December so I’m planing/drawing up a marketing launch for it since it will be the lead up to Christmas.

    Once all 3 books of my first series inc audio’s are done I’ll launch straight into my next series. I plan to draft all 3 of them next year then launch them the year after. So reducing what was originally a 5-7 year plan to a 2-3 year plan to be a full time author.

    Of course I could just be nuts, but it will be a fun ride toward insanity. Lol.

    Thanks as always Nick. I’m not your best student but you are an inspiration which make me keep plugging away and at least now after doing your course and thinking about it. I actually have a plan. So that’s a step in the right direction.

  8. Janine says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing your story with us. I read it twice, there’s so much in here that I can relate to! I love your sense of humour, but most of all your resilience. Congratulations on your success, I’m really happy for you. I admire how hard you’ve worked. I’m working a day job and writing/promoting in my other hours. Some weeks I stick to the plan and others, not so much. This week I’m celebrating ‘zero’. It has taken a month or two just to get to the point where I have my book published and a functioning funnel. Not many people understand how much work goes into just getting into the game. Your story is inspiring, thank you.

  9. Thanks for this article, it was nice to see someone I can relate to on a normal level, not the the old “I got rich in 6 months and now I never have to work again” story. However, reading your story made me realise that I have been rather lazy in my efforts, in that I haven’t really bothered to engage with public speaking events recently. I tried it a few years ago, but back then I was unprepared and didn’t know how to convey my message to the audience. It’s no wonder they didn’t engage with my brand, because I didn’t have one! Using your experience as a guide, perhaps I will make a plan for 2019, and force myself to get on with the hard work.

  10. Victoria says:

    I could relate to the bits about not comfortable to appear on camera and his emphasis on social media contacts which for a newby ilike me is still new and terrifying. Overall a great article thanks for making it available,

  11. Jennifer says:

    I have tried many times to stop you from debiting my bank account. I am still yet to even have a reply. And I have no where else to go to try and contact you. Please respond… what the he’ll am I paying for? I have received nothing !

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Hi Jennifer! We’ve replied to you several times, latest one today – and you have around a dozen unread emails that have been sent to your .com.au email address recently (which suggests it is blocking / spamming everything). Not a huge fan of posting this publicly but for some reason you aren’t getting any of our emails (and you asked). Please can you email support@yourfirst10kreaders.com from a different email address and Renee / Tyler will help you out!

      PS – you purchased the course in January and last accessed in July. You can log in here: https://yourfirst10kreaders.com/login and all the material is waiting for you.

  12. Sigurjón Helgi Kristjánsson says:

    Hi I loved your blog about release dates. Unfortunately, If you do like I have done and use FREE online publishing of E-books, you do not get to choose your release date, however, I could choose, which day <> promote it, and of course, thereby follow your advice.

    I recently, used my time, to review courses I had bought on writing, and a new one I treated myself to for Christmas. I decided to be very unsociable, and closed myself off from the family, and just read, made notes, and did the outline and plot.

    As I packed in my old job, and went freelance full time 10 years ago, I can use the doldrums to write.

    I wrote a few e-books, but no great success. As Sean Connery said in a movie about being an author, my work was constipated or anally retentive. I followed only part of what authors should do, i.e. hypnotic writing.

    Hypnotic writing, is when you just type, and keep on typing. This is good to get all your ideas on paper, but you then have to edit, and re-edit, and I do not just mean looking for typographical and grammatical errors, but like you said, cut the bull out of the story line. Avoid the flowery prose, and get right to the point, so you don’t bore your readers to death.

    I learned a lot from the courses, and am now writing a laid out and plotted story, which is coming along nicely. I hope to have it ready by our wedding anniversary on Valentine’s day, and depending on how many books are in the pipeline, when it comes out.

    I learned from my mistakes what causes delays, and being declined for certain sellers like: Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc., so I always use the outline of my previous work, so I will not fall into that trap.

    Thanks for your tips and perhaps our books will both be on the electronic shelves.

  13. What an inspirational story, Nira, and so real. I get tired of the big promises and claims of making millions that seem to flood my inbox every day. Nice to hear a story that rings true.

    I’m a writer and am finishing my first business book “Harness the Power of Mentoring: How to Find and Work with the Right Mentor–A Guide for the Solopreneur.” I’m just waiting for the indexer to finish up. At this point, it feels like I’ve been pouring money into a big hole, so I’m anxious to release it. I wrote a scholarly book chapter first, so writing the trade book was a breeze. But I don’t know anything about marketing and promotion.

    I’ve been speaking (free) to groups and will be presenting workshops at one national and one international conference, and I have a monthly newsletter, so I hope that stimulates sales. I’m also creating an online course from the book and plan to write three more books in the series over the next few years.

    I started doing this later in life after a full career as a mother, researcher, university professor, senior government advisor, etc. How did I do all that? Well, one colleague of mine talks about work-life harmony, not balance. I don’t think balance is possible. Something is always happening to throw things off balance in my experience.

    Now I have similar responsibilities as a grandmother to a four-year old who lives with us, a wife to an older and not-very-well husband (41 years married), and (still) the chief earner, but I’m working for myself now. Not bad at almost 66 years of age!

    I love writing and learning about self-publishing. I love doing adult learner workshops and speaking to groups such as Rotary (on topics such as cross-gender mentoring in the post #MeToo era). And I still find time to do plenty of volunteer work including mentoring with two organizations several times per month.

    I would love to guest blog for you and vice versa.

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