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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:



  1. Solid post, Nick! Even though I’m just starting out, I can see how beneficial this line of thinking really is. Now to implement it.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Thanks Adam 🙂

    2. Pat says:

      It all depends what you want out of writing. If you write just for the joy of telling a story and you’re not that bothered about having a wide readership then you’re still a successful author. I’ve written two novels and I’m working on my third. I love the writing and I love telling the story. I publish the novels on Amazon and sometimes people pay to download them. If I had to spend time developing a website and trying to push the novels as a business that would make me feel depressed. I would lose the sheer joy of the writing.

  2. Thanks for the great post, Nick. I confess I’m one of the KDP refreshers! I published my first book at the beginning of last year, and since then have wasted time, energy, and frustration on things that don’t have direct results in growing my fanbase (Facebook I’m looking at you!). This year I’m going to focus more on what’s important – writing books and implementing your suggestions. So far my newsletter has 336 subscribers since I started it last year, most who are inactive about opening/clicking on my e-mails (unless there’s a giveaway & suddenly they respond a little) so there’s plenty of room for improvement!

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      you’ll get there, Tracey!

    2. K T Bowes says:

      Ooh, I read your books, Tracey!

  3. Kenneth C Rossignol says:

    Great advice for a new author or one who is wondering about what Pogo said as he stood next to the trash-filled swamp. Nick’s credentials are in his record.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Pogo said “it looks wet out” shortly before vanishing into the mire. A lesson to be learned there. Probably.

      1. Kenneth C Rossignol says:

        Actually, in the 1971 comic strip he stood at the edge the swamp, filled with litter and junk, and he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us” …meaning that as Indie authors make progress in the war on typos and conquer Mount Formatta, clean up the gramatteria and undangle modifiers we can rise above the swamp.

        1. Gail Tilton says:

          Ken, I had to chime in after seeing your comment about grammar & syntax errors and typos. Seeing these in published works is a pet peeve of mine. Thanks to an excellent third grade teacher (and some higher education) these errors jump right off the pages at me. I recently started reading eBooks almost exclusively and have been amazed at the number of errors I see. I’ve even started highlighting (cool feature on Kindle BTW) the errors as I read just to see how many I find. That said, I know it’s very difficult to proof-read your own writing. If you’re having these problems you need to find a copy-editor. You want to sound professional but all the errors scream “lazy” or “illiterate”. You don’t want that! FYI, I’m not a writer. Sadly, I lack the necessary imagination. But I love to read and want you all to succeed. I’ve read a lot of good stories from various authors; they just need polish. Hmm… I’m now thinking about a second career as a copy-editor.

          1. Martin Haworth says:

            Hi there. I’m a bit fussy about proof reading and I know that stuff gets through. What I do after I’ve written the piece is go into content-free mode and ONLY look for grammar and punctuation errors. Then I can read the thing to see if it works for me. I’m sure I miss some, but rarely as I’m so pedantic. I have a Peppa Pig book that I read to my grandson. Officially produced, edited, published – the lot. And it has two words the same next to each other! How could that possibly get through. It irks me every time I read it!

          2. I agree errors are annoying, but don’t throw all the frustration at self-pubs or Indies. All of my years spent reading traditionally published books (long before eBooks existed) taught me that no editor or proof-reader finds everything. No matter how hard you try, how many times you go through it, there will always be one that sneaks by and probably more. That said, it is definitely a must to hire an editor before you publish. Reading your own work, it’s hard to see errors because you are too familiar with it.

          3. Janell says:

            The period goes inside the quote mark. 😉 I know it looks weird, but it’s correct.

          4. Aleta K Dye says:

            Hi, Gail. I am an author and I completely agree with you. I have a really hard time reading a book that is filled with typos and grammatical errors. That being said, I live on a SS income that is below the poverty level so paying someone to do my copy editing isn’t going to happen. My plan is to to proofread and edit no more than five chapters a week, giving my eyes and brain time to mull over the words, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. I do have a mentor in another state as well as a couple of other people who are willing to let me email them some chapters for proffreading. Hopefully we’ll be able to get it all correct before I upload it to Amazon for publication. If you would like to read my book that’s already out there I would be grateful for your constructive input.

  4. Hi, This is the second time I’ve tried to post a comment – can’t get Disqus sorted out! I watched the podcast last night and the 3 videos and found it all very educational and entertaining, and have been trying to implement some of the advice on keywords on some of my books. I have a bit of a problem though, as my books are mostly quite short and on a variety of subjects, fiction and non-fiction, so email posts will present a difficulty, unless I have a number of different lists. (Don’t know why I am even thinking about this, as I have no subscribers at all at present! ) Anyway, look forward to more tips from you in the future. Thank you.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      multiple lists are a good idea – targeting is the way forward!

  5. N.C Harley aka Nicky says:

    Excellent Post Nick! I just realised that twitter is mostly a waste of time! Since I Studied Graphic Design part time I’m totally obsessed with cover design and my tweaking my blog. So not much writing which no good if you want to be an indie author…Um you have to actually write and create. Also since publishing my first book Active Patience I cant but help and look at KDP site all the time!

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      A great saying: “good enough is perfect”

      Wise words to live by 😀

  6. Nicky says:

    I would also like to know Nick why you use Mailchimp as every blogger or Indie blogger I read is using Aweber or infusion soft? Cheers

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      It’s all good, Nicky – I like Mailchimp, but any service will work well 🙂

    2. EG Michaels says:

      Many years ago, I switched from Get Response to Aweber for my marketing business. At the time, It was the right move as Aweber was easier to use and boasted far better open rates. Problem was, 50% of my list did not bother to go through the double opt-in process that Aweber required for an imported list. At the time, it set my business back a few months until I rebuild my email list. My unsolicited opinion is to pick an autoresponder service provider and stick with them for the long haul unless they do something to deserve being replaced.

      1. Nicky says:

        Good to know E.G! I have heard its a pain to switch! I’m currently with Mailchimp so I may have to stick with them but I’m not that fussed as at the end of the day I think its all about the content and writing.

      2. Matt says:

        EG Michaels – Are you still using Aweber? I have the Get Response app ( haven’t had time to figure out how to use it) but wondering if it matters between the two?
        I’m new to driving readers and capturing emails. Any information would be appreciated.


    3. Antara Man says:

      Mailchimp is free (until 2000 subscribers) but Aweber – not. You have to pay 1$ per day which is not so little. Mailchimp also supports mobile formats for email campaigns and does A?B split tests but Aweber support is more reliable than Mailchimp’s. Hope that helps.

  7. Ninie Hammon says:

    I write 4 to 6 hrs a day, then jam the rest of this into the remainder of the day. You say tasks that don’t make money are a waste of time. I’d be interested in your take on my time usage.
    Tasks I perform that don’t directly make money.
    #1. Keeping records:
    *Of promotions– which got results, which didn’t? How high did the book go? For how long? Did other 6 books rise, too?
    *Of promotion website ads–which got results? How much? When eligible to apply again? Of sales–did they go up after a 99-cent? A give-away? All seven books or just one? Which one?
    *Of categories and keywords for 7 books and 3 book collections. Which words get into which categories? Search ranking? Change them–to what?
    *Of advertising costs vs revenue. Of sales.
    #2. Social media:
    *20,000 Twitter followers–website traffic tanks if auto tweets about blog posts goes offline. Does that matter?
    *Facebook Fan Page–readers say love humor there, lots of likes, comments. Does that matter?
    *Goodreads–running give-aways to coincide with promotions, minimal participation. Does that matter?
    *Blog–wannabe writers flock to old writing blogs. Write new ones? Worth the time? Blog for readers has only a handful of readers. Worth the time? Maintain site/comments/promos/etc. Worth the time?
    So, Nick…what do you think?

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      If any of that is helping you make more sales or get more subscribers, keep at it! Questions I’d be asking myself if I wanted to cut down on time spent…

      1) what can I track that the ebook retailers don’t track automatically for me in the dashboard?
      2) do I make more sales / get more subscribers if I get more website traffic? If not, what’s going wrong?
      3) same with Goodreads, Facebook, blog, etc

  8. Michael says:

    I’ve viewed the three videos and learned quite a bit. I was hoping that by changing my keywords would result in more sales. So far it hasn’t made any difference. But I only have one book on Amazon. It is a Middle Grade fantasy–Boon One in a series, It may be too soon for me to expect any uptick in sales until book 2 or 3 comes out. Maybe by then I will have built up a fan base–although book one has been well-received on Wattpad.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Hey Michael – if changing keywords hasn’t had any effect, chances are that you’re picking the wrong ones. That being said, it’s more important to build up that fan base – then you won’t have to worry too much about it (you’ll be able to run your own promos direct, which will kick you up the rankings).

      And if you can get those readers OFF wattpad and ONTO your mailing list, you’re golden 🙂

  9. Patty Jansen says:

    I wrote something very similar recently on my blog about weatherproofing your sales. It involves improving your background sales (the sales you get when you’re not running a promo or any kind of campaign). I think this is a very important thing that a writer can do. It’s not about staggering from external promo to external promo, but to control who your audience is, what they see and when.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Absolutely – I was in a position last year where 90% of my income was from Amazon, and 75% of that was coming from Bookbub. Not a very safe position….

  10. newbaku says:

    Nick, I’ve just arrived here after watching you on the Self Publishing Podcast. This is an outstanding blog post; thank you. As one who’s grappling with traditional publishing and considering the leap into indie publishing, the generosity of those who’ve traversed the path ahead of me is invaluable. Well done.

    By the way, I love the word “hogwash,” and was thrilled one afternoon at my county fair to stumble across an ACTUAL hogwash, stalls where the pigs were being soaped down prior to judging.

  11. Susannah Gautier says:

    Great post! I saw your pod cast and videos 1 and 2. I tried your advice on changing keywords for an upcoming 99 cent promo. It was time consuming but not too bad. I write romance, which is a huge genre. I ran two freebie promo ads that I usually get 5-10 sales from. I got 42 sales and made top 30 in Women’s Fiction, Action Adventure. I was floored! Now, 42 sales may not seem like much but I was expecting maybe 5 or 10- and my sales have been dead for the last couple of months. Thanks for thee great advice, Nick and for sharing so much with us other Indies.

    I did have a question about getting readers from Wattpad, which you mentioned in a comment below. Are you allowed to ask people to sign up for your newletter there? I know Goodreads has a strict policy about authors doing promo. What other ways (beside the free book you mention it in) can you find readers and get them to sign up on your website?

    I am redoing my website at the moment and want to get another book out in this genre before I try the free book thing, but I was just curious of other ways to get people to sign up. I have not had much luck with twitter, though I have a decent following, it is mostly authors promoting their books 🙂

  12. Delia Strange says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve heard it many times and believe it… yet I still catch myself fretting the small stuff. One day the information will get in there and stay in there. I’m always appreciative of those who share their success.

  13. Antara Man says:

    I can point AMC (Author Marketing Club) as one example of the 80/20 rule. twitter buzz, Sundays discoverability (they even want our book to have 10 reviews) and every Friday 99 cents free promotion. Number of sales? Nada. I signed up because a lot of authors, including Joanna Penn recommended it. Actually I am posting an entire post on my blog tomorrow about it.
    A lot of first-time authors ask again the same question not about AMC but about a lot of other venues.
    But some of the paid advertisers are totally worth it (like BookBub or Buck Books). or even ENT.

    1. Chris Brooks says:

      That was my experience of AMC also. No observable difference in free downloads or sales when I ran a promo with them.

  14. Elyse Salpeter says:

    Nick, a few PR firms have told me I do more than they do for their client, others have told me that it’s because I don’t have a full series yet – others have told me it’s because my books are fantasy and not the big romance, or political thrillers. I’ve got soon 7 books in market and am trying everything but the free book deal yet (when book #3 in one series is done, I will attempt). I work social media a few hours a day, I build across many networks and I PAY FB to promote (which I believe nets me sales and exposure), but I’m still missing something crucial. People sign up for my blog, NOT my mailing list. I can promote, offer things for free but I think they use my blog as their own platform to reach me and they get a consistent message from me each week. I changed up all my keywords per your advice as well. I am at a loss as to what else to do. I sell some books, but the $40-$60 a month isn’t cutting it. There’s got to be a way, something else I’m not doing.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Focus on the mailing list – having people following your blog isn’t the same thing. Are you measuring results with social media? If you’re spending 2 hours per day on there I’d be wanting to get at least a couple hundred dollars out of that. If not, it’s probably not a good use of your time right now (unless you like earning pennies per hour).

      And I KNOW you already know what you’ve not done yet!

      Free books = traffic
      Incentivise them onto your mailing list = customers
      More traffic & more customers = more sales

      When you control the line of communication to your customers, you can control your career. Otherwise you’re relying on someone else to do it for you (which is where “blind luck” comes into play).

      1. Elyse Salpeter says:

        You are right – I have not done the free book yet, except offer a free short story. My plan… get book #3 in a series out and try BookBub… then offer a book for free for anyone joining my mailing list… My blog hits over 950 people – how do we KNOW that it’s not as viable as a mailing list? Just curious. But you’re right, all that time and not getting at least a few hundred dollars a month. You’re right – I need to do something different. Thank you. You’ve been so helpful.

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          Actually, I meant I’d be wanting a couple of hundred dollars for every 2 hours spent on something 😀

          As for why a blog isn’t the same as a mailing list… can you track open rates and click rates? Can you set up automated scheduled emails? Can you see who’s subscribing, who isn’t, and figure out why? My guess is “no” – and above all else, if they’re not on your mailing list then you don’t control the platform. You could lose it if your blog platform decides to take it away from you!

      2. Carolyn says:

        What if you take the follow button off the blog, replace it with a sign up button for the email list? The subscribers you have stay, the new people who wander in, subscribe for an incentive. I just did it.

  15. HonADawson says:

    I have been in multiple tweeting groups, F.B groups who believe promoting the same thing repetitively I was ignorant at the time, as I thought it would help me get readers and connections, for this task social media is ineffective as I discovered over a period of 18 months.There were many tweeps who claimed it helped them an incredible amount!, I believe social media does nothing positive for writers unless you already have fans and engagement. There are some “social media specialists/experts who make exaggerated claims but do not deliver because effectively they are shouting at a massive waterfall, the only positive I observe is they may get their clients expensive reviews and “likes” this does not convert into genuine sales. I have been shy and an introvert since childhood, so I detest blowing my own trumpet, however It’s made easier commenting in text. My partner and myself have researched the plethora of advice sites and found many misleading statements and old information based on a blip in digital activity(i.e some silver bullet to make that crappy book sell big!) as they want you to give them “money for old rope” for some rubbish course, to make you a successful entrepreneur or superb writer. You need to be at least one of these to achieve your ambition then the other skills develop imperceptibly over time as you press yourself into action. I find myself only wanting to connect with fair minded writers who share properly as then I would reciprocate. NICK STEPHENSON shows his British attitude in his videos, as a result has reinforced my self belief in my writing. I have invested an enormous amount of time and effort into my 14 novels, however I did despair as I have only published 4 so far There is a freebie novella in process and I have always included extra material in my ebooks some more will help including links to OTHER WRITERS not necessarily in my genre.

    1. Carolyn says:

      Honada, what kind of authors are you looking to link with and how will that help you sell books?

  16. Antara Man says:

    I want to add what I learned from fellow authors recently: one can boost FB posts to drive people to sign to their email list. I think this is the key – call to action of the FB post that drives people to your email list. Has anyone tried this?

  17. Meredith Jacobs-Smith says:

    Hi Nick,
    My marketing Manager AKA my eldest son is a wizz with computers. We have removed two books off KDP and put them on Itunes. via Tablo. It’s an Australian site. I am halfway writing a free book, a short novella. It’s a spin off from one of my characters. I will be following your advice and make one novel free and the other free within it with a link via Mailchimp to my website. This is all coming together. My key words from Kindle Samurai is the best program I have seen, recommended by you. Thanks Nick for all the help. I write as MK Jacobs. cheers.

  18. Zara Altair says:

    Nick, your approach makes so much sense. I’m handling the marketing for an author. I have him working on the two free works to accompany the ebook (first in a series). I truly appreciate your straightforward no blather approach to doing all that it takes to lead readers to the book(s).

  19. vicki zell says:

    You are so right when it comes to putting yourself out there. I too have tried those avenues which you speak of and the results, practically 0 as you so stated. It’s a smothering pile of authors out there, not to mention you are competing with those a top the heap. I am so happy that you found your audience and are doing well. VLZBOOKS

  20. Emily Arden says:

    Fantastic post!

    I admit, I have probably been spending more time than I should on facebook, twitter and my blog. I guess I have been finding my feet with them, but I am aware that they are only a part of my author platform.

    Apart from writing and getting my new series ready for publication, my main priority at the moment is finishing my new website. Because my new website will include two important things that I can control – a mailing list (amazingly, I am just starting this from scratch – so lots to learn in this space) and a shopping cart so I can direct sell my eBooks. Thanks for helping me to refocus on finding my readers. Cheers

  21. Ryn Shell says:

    Hi. Nick. I wrote seven novels before publishing them two years ago. I’ve since written two more novels. I wrote the stories I wanted to write.

    My genres and tropes aren’t the popular ones, so I need to target my promotions to find my market. That’s what I’m working on this year, and I’m keen to use your techniques to help focus toward Australian Rural-lit and Australian 19th and 20th-century historical fiction. The US is my largest market, then the UK and then AU.

    That you for the freely available information. I’m ready for more.

  22. Kari says:

    Great letter! I want more! I’ve already decreased the amount of time I spend on Twitter & Facebook, and can’t wait to learn what to do that would attract readers.

  23. Earnie Banzhof says:

    Nick, I have just gone through the first video in the “1st 10K Readers Series” and I want to know if you have a product for sale on this subject. This info is so well presented that I want the whole package, BUT, It must be in PDF form to be used as a MARKETING ‘encyclopedia”… i need to be able to search it and print it to get the most out of it.

    Earnie B.

  24. sara says:

    I haven’t even published my first book and the amount of content I’ve read in the last couple of months is overwhelming. I’ve heard some authors get results from FB, some for Twitter, but all sing the praises of the mailing list and the importance of keywords. So that’s definitely something I’ll be focusing on, but with so much to do, and so many stories of limited, if any success, it does make me feel like giving up on a daily basis!

  25. I signed up to your post about a year ago, Nick, and have slowly been getting books out (three with two and a half in the making), setting up my funnels and am getting ready to run my first Facebook ads. I plan on a giveaway come fall to boost holiday sales. So far, in a matter of a week (with an Instafreebie trial account), I’ve managed to take my subscribers list from 63 to 152. Not earth-shattering, but encouraging. We’ll see how my ad does…and thanks.

  26. Kim Pullen says:

    Thanks Nick.
    I just started my free trial with ConvertKit (CK) as its whole purpose is to help you build your email list vs. social media via FB or Twitter. CK isn’t free like MailChimp (starts at $15/month), but it is SO much more versatile than MailChimp, which I’ve used for years. Like MailChimp, you can send out automatic email sequences, but CK also lets you create unique tags for each subscriber to target them for different types of marketing (different genres or email courses). It’s much more subscriber-centric. I’d like to hear what you think about CK.

  27. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I know there are authors who say “Don’t bother with social media!”, others who say “Don’t bother with a blog!” and yet more who think it’s all about paying for advertising.


    I firmly believe in actually building relationships with people, and social media can be a brilliant place to do that. I’ve met so many people on Twitter who I’ve had random chats with, and then I’ve suddenly seen them pop up on my mailing list. I’ve had an influx of people who’ve signed up after I started blogging about a particular topic that dovetails nicely with my fiction genres. These aren’t necessarily people I’d have snagged with a permafree on Amazon.

    I blog because I genuinely enjoy it (and I’m a copywriter anyway) but I find it’s a good shop window for my writing. I’ve written articles on a given topic, then included a piece of flash fiction inspired by that topic, then I’ve had people sign up for my free short story collection because they liked what was on my blog. And I’ve had far more sign ups through my blog than I did through Facebook Ads, or even my permafree.

    I’m going to be experimenting with permafrees again when I relaunch one of my series (as I need to get the rights back from the publisher first) and I have no doubt I’ll see better results on my mailing list, but for now I’m happy to be part of a community, and to find my potential readers there.

  28. Awesome post, Nick, I’ll make sure to share it around. “Focus on what works” sounds like an evidence, and yet it’s what most authors — and startups — really struggle with. If you haven’t read the Traction Book yet, make sure you get it. It’s geared more towards startups, but the principles can apply to any online business.
    It explains the biases that lead us to spend time on things that don’t work and offers a good framework to get out of that habit.

  29. Gregory says:

    I see you don’t monetize your website, there is one
    cool method to make extra income, it will work with your website perfectly, just search in google for: money making methods
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  30. Liana says:

    Hi Nick,
    Third book down, eight reviews in nearly four years :-(, struggling to start; but feeling hopeful in reading your posts and listening to your podcasts. Even the thought of reading through all of the policies etc to just to join MailChimp is overwhelming, and I know that that could be a stumbling block for me as I really don’t like pushing the signup link without reading ‘behind the scenes’. Your suggestions of focusing on the reader and not the pocket makes so much sense. Btw every snowflake is special :-).

  31. William Hare says:

    Hi Nick and your spot on comment reminds me of the result of my agent working his tail off to get my Middle East history book into legendary Foyles in London’s West End. He was finally informed that STRUGGLE FOR THE HOLY LAND had been ordered. A later follow-up indicated a 100 percent sellout. They ordered 2 copies and I sold out! The sellout was insufficient to get me a prime suite at the Carlyle of the Savoy.

    I have left this message recently elsewhere in your sphere of activity and I shall pose it now. I have a blog site and I have never succeeded in obtaining followers and email addresses, only a few spammers with nothing on their work schedules at that moment. I think I would probably be better in starting from scratch with a new site rather than trying to implement your suggested game plan strategy on a site at least as quiet as most morgues. So I would appreciate your input.



  32. Jo says:

    Hi Nick, Your advice is great but I am not an author. I created a website for a friend’s husband who had written his first novel, published on Amazon. I read his book and thought it was very good and naively thought I could help him sell his book with a website. He has now written a sequel equally as good so am trying again. He will not self-promote, and I am at a loss how to promote the book. I have nothing to offer for freebies, as I am not a writer, and can;t get a mailing list.
    I have created a Facebook Page for him and am making him an administrator in the hope that he will post something to start communicating.
    Keywords have been mentioned in the posts, and this is something I can improve on. Where is the video giving this information,

  33. K T Bowes says:

    I’ve spent too much time on Facebook ads and Twitter lately. I’ve set up a beta reading Facebook group and been surprised at how many readers have responded and asked to be included. We’ve forgotten the write, publish, repeat mantra amongst all the gnashing of teeth and wailing.

  34. I recently utilized a service that would “guarantee” 50 reviews for my latest book on Amazon. I got a total of 4 reviews, 2 of which got deleted. One of the reviews even asked “what purpose does this book serve literature?”. So, yeah, if your service is as effective as you claim it is, I could sure use it.

  35. Danie Botha says:

    ” …Authors still spend their time focusing on either (a) things that don’t get results, or (b) things they can’t control …”
    That’s what many of us do – including me.
    Took my first author website down end last year, started with fanfare with a brand new blogging site in January 2016. The essential problem was I didn’t have a book (s) to sell.
    Been rectifying that. Had one book ready in July, then came across the YF10kR course, delved into it in August and withheld the launch of # 1, and wrote a 25,000 novella (prequel) to # 1. Now preparing to launch both in late November. (Permaferee, Reader magnet, the works.)
    Have decreased the amount of time I spend on blogging, FB and twitter – since it didn’t “translate” into promoting my books or getting closer to reaching those goals.
    Thanks, Nick, for practical, actionable goals!

  36. Ovet Kabeza says:

    My colleagues needed to fill out a form recently and learned about a company that has a searchable forms database . If you require it too , here’s

  37. Arjun kacper says:

    Really iam making my debt novel of mystery and thriller .even iam scared of what you have said .any suggestions for Indian authora who thinks different because my script had a background of USA .does it help to aprroach to them.

  38. Cate Hogan says:

    Great article! I recently interviewed one of my writing clients about how she managed to achieve 2.1 million reads (and growing) for one of her books on the site. Wattpad has proven to be a great source of beta readers, and reader metrics. You can check the article out here:

  39. CJ Harter says:

    Hi Nick and fellow authors. Thank you all for sharing your experiences. So far, I have just the one published novel in literary fiction/psychological suspense. Can I implement your mailing list advice with just one book?
    Thanks, CJ

  40. Do you give personal advice? If so what (if any lol) are your fees? How long will it take me to get ROI in 4 figures?

  41. Jane Holmes says:

    I am extremely disillusioned with Amazon. I have my four books lists there and other vendors immediately post my books at a lesser cost. I don’t sell there because so many vendors are underselling me. That’s wrong. I am looking for another alternative and it looks like you have it, can’t wait to learn it. Thank you.

  42. Hi Nick, I have watched your first video and am very interested in seeing what you have to offer. I have published 1 memoir and 2 non-fiction books, as well as edited 2 anthologies. All of these are up on Amazon, both print and ebook. Right after the launch, each of these did okay, and by okay, I mean they sold a few hundred copies. Then nothing. I’ve been blogging since 2008, teach online classes in journaling and memoir writing, and offer editing services — all part time. I still work a day job and make very little as a writer/teacher/editor.

    I have managed to build up a list of 3,500. My problem is that I don’t really know what to do with that list. Other than my blog broadcast and occasional promotions, I don’t know how to engage my audience and turn them into fans. I don’t know how to get sales.

    I’ve offered free KDP promotions, which is great for getting readers and nets me a few paid sales, but I have no way of knowing who they are — I can’t capture their emails. Since I only have the 1 memoir (I’m working on a 2nd) and each of my books is on a different topic (I know, I know), I don’t really have a backlist to work with. I also need to learn how to launch my classes more effectively (I’m in the middle of changing platforms at the moment).

    In addition to my email list, I have a Facebook page with > 4k likes (which has sometimes brought in some sales) and >42K twitter followers (I pay someone to handle twitter for me a couple of hours per week).

    I hope you can help me learn how to leverage, engage, and grow my list, as well as convert those readers into buyers. Thanks.

  43. J. Rose says:

    Oh, what HAVEN’T I spent too much time on that hasn’t delivered results? Especially since I had too many bills and no budget for ads or Bookbubs, etc., I felt that I had to make up for it by spending loads of time setting up websites, blogging and sitting on social media…talking to crickets. I read Reader Magnets and tried that, but only got a few conversions. I know enough to know I’m not doing this right, but not enough to fix the problem.

  44. Anderson says:

    Writers can also get more customers by advertising about the books and in additional to advertising, they can also use the social media accounts to spread the news of the books. The social media platforms can also be used to make a huge difference in the book selling. If we do not utilize the social media accounts then the uses will not even notice the existence of the books.

  45. Joed Jackson says:

    Well shoot. I’ve tried everything you say doesn’t work. You were right, it doesn’t work. So it’s time to try what you say does work. Looking forward to moving forward. Thanks for taking the time to share your success with others.

  46. ThurmanMcdad says:

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  47. Eevi says:

    Oh my, I’ve been guilty of all of these, Nick! Thankfully I realized early on that trying to get random twitter followers or facebook likes did not increase any of my sales; so I quit using these time-wasting methods and concentrated on writing books. I know!!! Cranking out more books is one of the myths you busted already, but it certainly worked better than chasing after twitter followers 🙂 I’m currently going through your 3-part video series and can’t wait to see video nr 2! Thanks so much for all that you do, Nick!

  48. Already have down loaded your book several days ago and am following it to the best of my abilities! Takes time and work, but don’t all good things require effort your own? Started working for a living at the age of 12. Made enough that I had to pay social security income taxes from that year forward!
    Jeanette Hall

  49. I’ve done a lot of research lately into autoresponder programs. I’m currently with Benchmark which is free up to 2,000 subscribers. I’m getting close to the 2,000 limit. I’ll probably stay with them as their support is great, and their prices are reasonable. Mailer Lite looks good to, but I have heard there’s problems with deliverability. However this was told to me by an Internet Marketer, so maybe take this with a pinch of salt!
    If anyone use Aweber, always go in and cancel your un-subscribers. Otherwise they charge for them.

  50. Tim Seabrook says:

    I am at the beginning of writing, though reading through this sort of information reduces the fear of not having anyone read what I will publish. I like the ideas and the simplicity that goes with them that will make building a readership base. I’m looking forward to implementing these ideas.
    Thank you

  51. Pamela Van Cleave says:

    Having only been published since April of this year, I am very new at all this. I have been working tirelessly on the marketing, trying the Facebook approach, social media of all sorts, Goodreads giveaways, and KDP discounted sales. I spend so much time stressing over the marketing that it keeps me distracted from putting my full 100% into my writing. I came across your videos and very excited about it. I can see how this approach will work and am eager to get started building my email list and growing my audience of readers. Thank you for sharing this information.

  52. Ok Thanks.
    Let’s hear what I need to do.

  53. Wendy Owen says:

    Nick, I agree with your article. The only way these days is to build a mailing list. With this in mind, I started building my list about a year ago for my fiction pen name. I reached about 2,000 subscribers, and yes it did work, but being a fiction author, it was hard to know exactly what to say in my messages. I’ve now done a complete about face and returned to non fiction. Most of my sales are from my non-fiction books that I wrote back in 2014. This time though, I’m not relying on book royalties. My book will lead to a course that I can sell at a higher price. I’ll have to start again with a new mailing list, but this time, I can be much more focused.

  54. Monroe Todd says:

    Right now, I’m building my website and writing my books. That’s basically all I’m able to do now. I haven’t published anything yet, but I’m trying to learn how to do this properly without wasting too much time trying to figure things out on my own or making the same mistakes as others. There’s too much information out there — on the great wide internet — for lack of knowledge to be an excuse. But that does mean I probably spend too much time reading what others have do instead of getting my own work done.

  55. charles says:

    Great Post Nick. Just what i was looking for. However i subscribed for your free video training and got only one out of three videos without getting an exact date as to when the other videos would be released. This has kept me on suspense. Suspense is not good sometimes.

  56. Joe Moore says:

    I have a fair sized mailing list (+/- 1,000 emails) to start with that I am looking to grow rapidly. I am also in three genres, I have fantasy novels, children’s books, and horror/suspense with three, six, and one title, respectively. I also have a great short story that I believe will work great on the landing page and opt-in for the novels. I will admit I have been dancing around this for the last couple years because I thought no good could come from giving my books away free. But the most success I have had is attending arts and crafts shows, and while meeting my audience is wonderful. sales are anything but inspiring and comes at a high cost. I am now eager to join the ranks of the successful and give your program the effort it deserves. Will you be opening your course anytime soon, and how can I get info on that?

  57. Joe Moore says:

    I have a fair sized mailing list (+/- 1,000 emails) to start with that I am looking to grow rapidly. I am also in three genres, I have fantasy novels, children’s books, and horror/suspense with three, six, and one title, respectively. I also have a great short story that I believe will work great on the landing page and opt-in for the novels. I will admit I have been dancing around this for the last couple years because I thought no good could come from giving my books away free. But the most success I have had is attending arts and crafts shows, and while meeting my audience is wonderful. sales are anything but inspiring and comes at a high cost. I am now eager to join the ranks of the successful and give your program the effort it deserves. Will you be opening your course anytime soon, and how can I get info on that?

  58. Ian Welch says:

    A very informative video, only looked at the first. A question – I ‘ve heard before keywords are important. Is there a way to see what keywords top selling authors in your genre use? Or is it trial and error?

  59. Ian Welch says:

    A very informative video, only looked at the first. A question – I ‘ve heard before keywords are important. Is there a way to see what keywords top selling authors in your genre use? Or is it trial and error?

  60. Christopher Nooner says:

    I definitely spend too much time on FB and Instagram!

  61. Christopher Nooner says:

    I definitely spend too much time on FB and Instagram!

  62. Barbara says:

    Working on my first book! Looking forward to learning more about everything!
    Thank You, everyone for all of your interesting comments.

  63. John says:

    Hi Nick, I’m at the beginning of trying to form a good system for friends. I don’t have the bad habits yet, but some will come (counting on it).

  64. Angela Moody says:

    The question was: What’s holding me back? In a word, me. I’ve done the Facebook nonsense and the Twitter stuff for three years with a net gain of ZERO. I have one book published (indie) and I’m working on finishing #2. My goal this year is to actually reach people who would like to read my book instead of just clicking Like, all the time.

  65. I did not reject your book – I have already read it once, taken notes, and intend to read it again once I can relate it to what I have to offer. I am still assimilating all the information; so much good stuff. Especially the tip about how to get Kindle to sell your books at the price I want to charge.

  66. Mihai says:

    I enlisted my email to the video training.
    Thanks for all your work and the infos you bring us.
    Here’s to our writing!


  67. Ebdigest says:

    Awesome article, Nick! I have learned a lot of your story and I need to admit that your efforts were granted because you made smart steps. I hope my books will be selling more faster using your tips.

  68. J.F.Burgess says:

    Nick. I can’t thank you enough. I’ve been online as a marketer for a few years making a living with self-pub books about horse racing. However, I struggled to replicate that success with my first fiction book: that was untill I began to follow your advice! Your tutorials are absolutely superb! They are full of rock solid, actionable advice that really does work. I particularly like your anecdotes about FB and Twitter. I made the same mistakes on focusing on those. Have to say, they are both bloody useless when it comes to selling books (terrible results in terms of time and effort).
    Following your advice I now focus on building my list through bookfunnel, reader engagement and competitions. I’ve gone from 1 subscriber to 2000 in just two months and rarely waste time on other stuff.
    So huge thanks fella. You truly are an authors champion. J.F. Burgess.

  69. Wrote two books and self-published in 2011 and 2015. checked to find Amazon has deleted the positive customer reviews of the first, now showing zero, several of the second, now showing only 2. Hmmm. The first one still going steady, sale around 30$ per month all these years, the other is dismal. My latest edited manuscript of a novel is on my desk raising its eyebrows. Quo Vadis? I am retired, lost my wife, and am alone with all the time in (the rest of) my life. Vanity press and other prowlers everywhere. I feel like a tourist in an oriental bazaar. This is my situation right now. I appreciate your sincere advice and will go along at least with regard to one project (not out of mistrust, but to see if it works for me, with my limited knowledge). Of course, I’d rather stick to my desk and rather write.

  70. Walter says:

    “Focus on getting results.” I love it!

  71. Lawrence Hebb says:

    In many ways I’m right at the start here. After seven months running AMS ads in the UK I realised I was spending £120 a month for maybe £10 profit (if I was lucky!
    I’ve cut my AMS ads and experimented a little with FB. Been pleased but confused (happy confused) with the results.
    I advertise in the USA , but had sales/reads in five countries, three of which I’ve never advertised in!!
    My ad spend is way down, my revenue is down, but profits are up!
    I’m all for finding easier ways to do things.

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