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Why Authors Fail

by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

There’s been a lot of super-serious talk on the interwebs that “the Kindle goldrush is over” and that “Kindle Unlimited is ruining authors’ careers” and “ebook sales have plateaued”. Further, these news reports are being cited as the reason why authors fail to build a successful career on Amazon and the other ebook retailers.

To that, I say “hogwash”.

And not just because I love the word “hogwash”, but because this kind of fear-mongering isn’t only misleading – it’s downright harmful. Look, there is only one reason why authors “fail”. And that’s when they don’t understand how online business actually works.

Assuming you actually have some books to sell, there are only two things you need to do:

  • Find a way to attract readers
  • Find a way to convert prospective readers into long-term fans

Focus on anything else and you’re wasting your time.

But it’s easy to get side-tracked. Authors still spend their time focusing on either (a) things that don’t get results, or (b) things they can’t control. Let me show you what I mean…

Focus on Getting Results

When I first started in this gig, I used to spend 45 minutes a day on Twitter, trying to get new followers. I took part in “Tweet Teams” and various other tactics to boost my followers. I managed to gather a few thousand followers over the course of several weeks.

And can you guess how many books I sold from all that effort? How much profit I made? That’s right. Nada

I also spent months trying to get my books into my local Waterstones store. In the end, I succeeded. Waterstones ordered 5 copies. Total profit to me = less than $8.

$8 for several months of effort? No thanks.

I even considered hiring a top-rated Marketing & PR firm, at the cost of several thousand dollars, because some of the “big names” had used them in the past. I figured: my books are at least as good, I should have the same level of marketing power behind me too!

But I ran the numbers. They didn’t make any sense at the time. Even now, with a successful six-figure publishing business, they still don’t. I won’t even tell you about my Pay-Per-Click and Facebook experiments…

I made the same mistake that thousands of other authors make all the time – I was focusing on things that didn’t matter. Things that didn’t directly affect my bottom line or bring me new readers.

Can some of these approaches get you new readers? Possibly. But chances are, they won’t.

I learned to be more effective with my time. I figured out what marketing approaches actually worked, and ignored everything else completely. And my business grew significantly as a result.

What were those things? Put simply:

  • A way to attract new readers and drive web traffic to my books and websites
  • A way to turn those browsers into committed, long-term readers (who will actually buy my work).

And that’s it. Any activity that didn’t directly help me with either of the above was scrapped. The result? My business grew ten-fold in 2014, even though I didn’t publish as many books. And if you want similar results, you need to commit to the same thing – focus only on what works, and put anything else out of your mind.


The Illusion of Control

A few months ago, Facebook announced they would be reducing the effectiveness of businesses’ Facebook pages – essentially meaning that any promotional posts would lose 50% – 90% of their organic reach.

For many authors who built their entire marketing plan around Facebook, this basically means they’ve just lost a significant source of readers. Because they spent their time focusing on something they can’t control.

The same goes for Amazon. They frequently change their algorithms and recommendation engines – not to mention bringing in services like Kindle Unlimited – and we hear about the fallout from these changes all the time.

Several top-tier indie authors have reported 75%+ drops in revenue, all thanks to a simple change made behind the scenes at Amazon. Why such a huge drop in overall revenue? Because they were relying on a source of income and readership that they don’t control.

The same goes for all those authors who spend their days clicking “refresh” on the KDP dashboard, checking their sales every hour (raise your hands – you know who you are!).

We all know that doesn’t get us anywhere…. so why do we do it?

I believe it’s because we all have a compulsion to try and control everything in our lives. But in many cases, “working hard” won’t get you anywhere near as far as “working smart”. If you’re basing your entire business on something you have no influence over, you’re swimming in very dangerous waters.

And those waters can (and often will) suck you down at any moment, usually with zero warning. So, what can you do about it?

Building your career long-term means focusing on the things you CAN control. This means spending time on the books you publish, building your platform outside of Facebook or Twitter, and driving readers to your work and your platform.

In short, this means:

  • Getting more traffic to your books, and
  • Getting that traffic OFF the ebook retailers and ONTO your mailing list

This will result in more sales and more fans. Once I figured this out, my business results increased ten-fold and I grew my author platform by 15,000 readers in the first few months.

More important than that:

  • I was able to move my family out of our cramped apartment and into a bigger house
  • My wife didn’t need to go back to work after our children were born (amazing!)
  • I get to talk to my readers daily, and hear about their lives and their interests
  • I get to do something I love, each and every day.

And, as I’ve said before, I’m no special snowflake. If I can figure it out, so can you. To make things easy, I’ve put together some premium training that will lead you through exactly what I did, step-by-step.

It’s called “Your First 10,000 Readers”, and you can get 90+ minutes of video training (for free) at this link to get a taster of what this approach will mean for your career:


After you confirm your email address, you’ll get a detailed case study and the first video right away. Once you’ve signed up, leave a comment below and tell me:

What business activities are you spending too much time on that you don’t control? What about those you know don’t matter? Let me know if the comments section below (and make sure you read what others have to say too).

Here’s to a kick-ass year!

If you want a step-by-step guide to getting started on your email list, go download “Reader Magnets”. This free ebook will show you how to put this process in place and start building your email list – click below to grab your copy:



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