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Success Stories - Taking Action

How to beat the overwhelm and sell more books

by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

Book promotion, building an email list, selling books, advertising, promotion, getting your butt in your chair and actually writing that first draft… these are just a handful of the daily tasks that any successful author needs to master (whether you’re traditionally published or self-published – doesn’t matter).

The problem is – and always has been – when your primary skill is “writing”, how do you juggle all the other aspects of business that you need to consider without suffering from Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS – totally a thing).

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s normal. Everyone goes through it. But what separates the successful authors from everyone else is how they deal with it. 

The path to business growth is never a straight line upwards:

Book Promotion + Business Growth Reality

You will absolutely hit road blocks. You will get stressed. You will have days when you wonder why the world is out to get you.

The real work comes when you learn how to dig yourself out and get your business back on track. At first, it can seem like a mountain of work – and it is – but with the right approach, you can break down the work into actionable chunks and focus on activities that actually move the needle (instead of trying to feel “busy”).

Today, I want to share some experiences from Romance author Tracey Pedersen. Tracey pushed through her own stress, buckled down, and built a new life for herself and her family – fueled by her writing (and a local McDonald’s restaurant).

In the space of one year, Tracey:

  • Grew her email list from a few hundred readers to over 10,000 subscribers
  • Developed a consistent word-count of 3,000 words per day
  • Designed a consistent book promotion schedule
  • Wrote and published 16 books
  • Gained hundreds of great Amazon reviews
  • Built and grew full-time writing career

If you want to find out how she did all that – read on…

Take Action, Follow Through, Go Far!

By Tracey Pedersen

Are you a brand-new author? Maybe you’ve been around for a while? Perhaps you published your book/s years ago and just can’t seem to get a foothold with an audience? No matter where you are in your publishing journey, if you’d like to know one of the secrets to be more successful, read on.

I wasn’t always a romance author. My first foray onto the internet was with a travel blog.

In 2012 I talked my husband into a huge adventure. We’d quit our jobs, sell all our belongings, and pull our youngest kids out of school to set off on a twelve-month trip around the world! We thought it would be fun to document this adventure, and our travel blog was born. I loved that blog and put a lot of effort into learning all there was to know about blogging.

I joined lots of groups about travel, and blogging, and at one point even had a plan to start an online business, so I started to hang out with a lot of online entrepreneurs. Over time I noticed there seemed to be one easy sign that indicated which people would achieve their goals and which ones would struggle.

I see the exact same signs in the self-publishing world and I’ve made it my mission to spread the message far and wide ever since I worked it out.

So, what do successful people do that others do not? No, it’s not luck!


Successful people take action. They follow through.

When successful people say they’ll do something, you can rely on them to do it. Their results, when they consistently follow through, are far above those who don’t.

The successful people always seem to be moving forward, even if it is in baby steps. They get book deals. Their books release and have a low rank on the first day. Because they do things in small bites and never in a flurry of last-minute activity, they make their success look effortless. They continually operate at a high level and their output is top quality. Often, the rest of us are in awe of their achievements. We want a fraction of that success for ourselves.

Sounds familiar, right? If you can make taking action part of your psyche, i.e. who you are, you’ll be on the road to success, too. Be honest with yourself and analyse if you truly put in the effort required. Many people don’t and then defend the position that a service or a system doesn’t work for them.

Have you ever seen a post from someone asserting that there’s no money to be made in Amazon ads? Or that they are saturated? Lately I’ve seen plenty. When I asked what they’ve tried so far, in most cases those people haven’t studied what to do, have run a handful of ads and then turned them off when they spent a bit of money. With a lot more effort those same people might have discovered that the ads do work, after all. It fascinates me that very often when you try to help someone move forward they offer many reasons why they can never achieve the same results. It concerns me that newer author read those opinions and take them as fact.

How many times have you listened to a Podcast episode in the car and known in your gut that the information you were hearing was career-changing? How many times have you gone home and listened again, with a notepad, and then put those tips into practice? Or even pulled the car over and made notes immediately? I have! Listening to new information won’t change your life. Implementing what you learn is the key to seeing a difference.

Who’s planned to update the keywords on their Amazon book? You get all enthused, you buy the recommended software and do two or three searches on the first day. Then you work out that it takes a bit of effort. Maybe it’s confusing and you need to watch a video again, or try to understand what the person is talking about. So, you put it aside and plan to attack it again tomorrow night. But tomorrow comes and you feel like writing, so you do that.

Then it’s the weekend and you have family commitments. Before you know it, three months have passed and you haven’t updated a single keyword. You don’t want to bother now because the searches you did are probably out of date and you have to start from scratch. Plus, you’ve forgotten how to do the searches anyway and would have to learn it all over again. Six months later you find yourself commenting in a Facebook group that keywords have never been that successful for you.

I’m not judging how anyone runs their business. I just want to emphasise that if you take action, your chances of succeeding are much, much higher than if you don’t. Let me share some specific examples from my own author and book promotion experience where taking action led to great outcomes.



I’m as guilty as the next person of buying the latest, greatest course, downloading the info to my hard drive or filing away the login details in an email folder, and never getting around to viewing the information. Shiny object syndrome is real people! A well-written sales page can make you feel like the course you just discovered will be the answer to all your problems. I honestly believe that most will be, too. If you just do the work.

When I purchased the Your First 10,000 Readers training course, I promised myself that I’d make sure I did every single step to the best of my ability. I was ready for my books to find their audience.

I’m one of those people who need to stay focused on a plan, or I forget about it in a couple of days! To make sure this didn’t happen, I made myself a plan to watch at least one video each week. I wrote it in my planner and added it to my to do list. Then I followed through and did it.

As I worked through the course, I took notes and made time to implement what I’d learned. I updated my Mailchimp account, planned a week off work to write a magnet to give away to my subscribers, and I joined the first group romance author promotion I came across. I updated the back matter of my books and put a reminder in my phone for every quarter to do it again. I also made sure I participated in the Facebook group attached to the course.

As a result of all this activity, in my first year I grew my mailing list from a few hundred, to just over ten thousand. In the second year my list had grown to just over sixteen thousand when I checked my numbers on New Year’s Eve. (Yes, it’s exciting at my house each New Year’s! Party central!)

One of the greatest outcomes was a special group of author friends I made. We’ve formed a tight little group who support and encourage each other to keep going. Some days the only Facebook group I visit is the 10K Angels. If I hadn’t been active in the course, this never would have happened.

Through the connections I made I was also invited to participate in a group book promotion (a boxed set for Christmas), which helped me find new fans as well as meeting some other fun authors. I was finally getting a foothold and starting to make money.

Since I started writing full time there are no courses that I’ve purchased and not made full use of. I’ve watched every video, completed every action plan and watched the benefits follow.



Writing is the part of this whole self-publishing business that I find easiest. I imagined it would be the hard part, but for me, it’s a nice escape. When I wrote my first and second books I was still working a full-time job as a warehouse manager. I had decent hours at work, but my round trip commute was over an hour and a half, plus I brought work home every night. If I was going to get a book written, I needed to use my time wisely.

Instead of moaning about having no writing time I took action to make sure I could get it done. I started getting up an hour earlier and driving to work in the dark. I took up residence in a local McDonalds a few mornings a week and wrote before work. This actually gave me more than an hour to write because I missed the peak hour traffic by leaving so early. So, my extra hour became an hour and twenty minutes.

For me that was fifteen hundred words every morning. To up my productivity I repeated the process in the afternoons. Instead of driving home in peak hour, I drove to a point where the traffic normally backed up and then pulled into either a McDonalds or a KFC and wrote for another hour. When it was time to head home, I’d skipped the end of day traffic too.

At the time, I thought I was very clever and I didn’t even realise what I was doing. In hindsight, I made small changes and they gave me huge rewards. Most days I added three thousand words to my book without even switching on my computer at home. These good habits, combined with quitting my job, resulted in me publishing sixteen books in just 12 months. I’m still amazed at that number!


Social Media

Have you ever visited a Facebook page and decided the person or business can’t be that great because they only had 89 page likes? I have. Do you look at your own social media numbers and despair that they’ll ever grow? Taking baby steps and doing something instead of nothing will change this for you.

We all start at zero and with a little effort can quickly move into the thousands. I decided to work on my following in the middle of 2016 after another author challenged me to keep track of my numbers. I set myself a goal for the end of the year and set about achieving it.

First, I joined a book promotion giveaway with other romance authors at the time that had a Facebook like as part of the entry conditions. I quickly added a few hundred followers to my page. Then I added my social media to the bottom of my newsletter template. The next time I emailed the newsletter I asked them all to follow me. I was shocked when a few more hundred followers were added.

We all assume that because people are on our list that they’ll already be following us on other channels. It’s not true and it’s our job to help our readers keep track of us on all the platforms they use. The same applies if you want to increase Bookbub follows, Amazon follows or Twitter followers. Ask people to follow you, make those places interesting to readers and keep promoting them every month. Over a year those few people who join you here and there will add up.

Right now, my Facebook likes are a touch over 2500 people so I’m sure that’s more than just my mum and the family cat! I know when a new reader does manage to find me, through all the changes Facebook likes to implement, that they’ll glance at that number and know they’re in good company. I can’t wait until it shows over 10,000. I may have a heart attack that day!



Urgghh, I can hear you groan! Do you feel like you will never get the hang of Amazon ads or Facebook advertising? Have you dipped your toes in the water and then run screaming to bed because it’s three in the morning, again, and you still don’t know what you’re doing? I hear you! Once again, though, you just need to break up this task and attack it, one bite at a time.

I made some Amazon ads early on. I spent a lot of money and didn’t see spectacular returns. I did see returns, though. After a few months of turning the ads off every time I’d had enough, or every time my credit card declined, I remembered my new habit of always taking action and I resolved to master those suckers.

What did I do?

I found someone to follow who was having success with book promotion through advertising. I bought their book because they didn’t have a course. I made notes from that book and then set about implementing them. I experienced more success than I’d been having, but it still wasn’t as successful as I’d heard they can be. I began analyzing the ad data every day for thirty minutes or so. Then I was brave and I messaged someone I knew was succeeding and asked them to help me (thank you Jean Grainger!) A few weeks later I can happily report that the sales of the book I’m experimenting with have doubled.

Book promotion - boxed set

One morning I woke up and my book was ranked less than twelve thousand in the Amazon store, down from two hundred thousand several weeks ago. That’s a decent improvement for following through and taking the baby steps to be successful. If I’d given up after the first few tries, there’d have been no chance of success.

So, that’s what I’ve managed to achieve, but what should you do if you want to take action?

First, don’t discount how far you can go or how brave you can be. I’ve had people tell me they can’t approach others to do joint promos because they’re not a ‘go getter’ type of person. Some have refused to send follow up emails when they don’t receive a reply to an enquiry because they don’t want to be pushy.

Once a Facebook conversation went on for days with one person defending their stance that you can’t write a 50K novella in a month, and that they especially didn’t have time. I was tempted to copy and paste their words and give them a count of how many they’d written just prolonging this argument, but I behaved myself. If that same person put the effort into writing their book, they’d have had a quarter of it done!


There’s no one way to take action.

If you’re not a fast writer, then your activity might focus on marketing the books you have while you work on the next one. If you write quickly, you might choose to put your efforts into the writing process and find you have less time available to be active in promoting. We’re all different. All our books are different. One of the fascinating things about self-publishing is that you really do need to test what works for your books. That means being active.

If you want to start taking action more often, I want to help you start today. Let me share the steps that I use to make sure I follow through. It’s a simple list and these steps can be applied to anyone, not just to authors.

  1. Make a plan. I write my goals down so I know what I’m aiming for. I also give every goal a date. I use a 3-monthly planner (or a 100-day period – thank you John Lee Dumas!)
  2. Break up the tasks. Want to write a 50K novel this month? Break it up into 1667 words a day. That doesn’t mean you must write every day, but if you know your goal and what you’ve done so far, you can tell at a glance whether you’re ahead or behind. I know that I can write 1200 words an hour if I use sprints. That makes it easy to break up my writing goals. I won’t be overwhelmed if I know I only need an hour and a half a day to complete my book by the end of the month.
  3. Write it down. Buy a whiteboard. Keep a written list on the fridge. Stick pink and blue sticky notes to the mirror in your bathroom, or put a new screensaver on your laptop. Whatever it is for you, write down what you want to achieve and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day. I have a to-do list which I update every Sunday, as well as a planner made specifically for writers. I also keep a list on my phone and in the new year I invested in a whiteboard and pin board. No matter where I am, at some point every single day I’ll see the list of things I want to get completed.
  4. Limit your input: If you’re new to publishing and even remotely connected online, you’re most likely being bombarded with so much information you can hardly breathe. There are dozens of new blog posts every day and hundreds of posts in various Facebook groups sharing information and opinions on new and old publishing strategies. Some of this information is excellent, some of it is more opinion than fact. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with so much information, that you give up.
  5. Keep a ‘done’ journal, or a success list: Or maybe one of those big jars where you write your successes down on a slip of paper. Should you get to the end of the month and you haven’t finished your book, or got all the formatting done of old titles, scheduled a book promotion, or whatever it is you wanted to achieve, you’ll still have a list of everything you did do. I personally love to see a list that shows on any given day I completed three or four tasks that I would forget about over a year. Writing a blog post or updating the back matter of a book that’s a year old might seem insignificant, but if those things bring you new subscribers, book sales, or new fans, they were important and should be celebrated.
  6. Learn on the go: The best way to ensure you take action is to learn new things only as you need to implement them. Does a doctor learn how to do brain surgery in his third month of medical school? Do builders learn the intricate details of laying a house slab on their first day? Nope. There’s a structure to their learning and self-publishing is the same.
  7. Trick yourself into taking action: I learnt this years ago from a housekeeping website, would you believe! Flylady says if you get up and get dressed and put your shoes on, you’re more likely to feel motivated to do what you need to do than if you sit around in your pyjamas half the day. I implemented her advice and it turns out, she was right. Every weekday I get up and drive my sixteen-year-old to school. He doesn’t need a lift since we live super close, but it gets me up and dressed. It means I have my shoes on and I’ve been outside in the fresh air for the thirty-minute round trip. When I get home, I’m awake and ready to work and it’s only nine o’clock. When he’s on holiday I’m lucky to get out of bed before eleven. Taking him to school is my way of tricking myself into taking action.
  8. Celebrate your success: I plan rewards for myself. They’re nothing spectacular but they are specifically things that I wouldn’t usually do because I’d feel that I was taking time away from my author work. One reward is going to the movies on a weekday. If I meet my writing goal for the month, I take myself to a movie the next week on my own. If I meet my writing goal more than five days early for the month, I book myself a massage. These rewards are in the back of my mind when I consider peeking at my social media accounts instead of working on my latest book. Let me just say, I see a lot of movies, while I only manage a couple of massages a year!

I hope I’ve inspired you to consider your own activity levels so far in your author business. This has turned into quite a long article but the most important thing you can take away is that you can be successful. You can have the same results as others. With a plan, concerted effort, and a never-give-up attitude your baby steps can propel you further than you imagined when you started this whole adventure.

You just have to take action.


Tracey Pedersen is an Australian author who’s finally accepted that she is meant to write, write, write! In 2016 she released her first eight romance novels as well as three non-fiction titles and six books under a separate pen name. Now writing full time, and fighting the urge to write every second of the day, she loves travel, crocheting, scrapbooking, replying to reader emails and spending WAY too much time on Facebook!




One theme that comes up again and again in Tracey’s story – and one that I like to highlight whenever I can – is taking action.

It’s easy to “plan” for success, but quite another thing to sit down and put the work in. You’ll also notice Tracey doesn’t talk about “hacks” or “tricks” – or “one weird strategy that yada yada yada…”.

The reality of growing a business as an author and publisher isn’t sexy. It’s hard work, but it’s worthwhile work. But once you’ve built a foundation to your business (eg – a way to generate traffic, turn traffic into fans, and sell using automated tools) you can focus on activities that make a huge difference to both your business and your lifestyle.

If you’d like to learn more about the book promotion strategies Tracey used to grow her email list to 10,000+ readers in a year (and get her books onto multiple bestseller lists) you can register for one of our online workshops – The Three Step Formula to Find Your First 10,000 Readers right here (at a time that suits you).


In the meantime, I want to hear from you in the comments. Tell me – what strategies have you tried to cut through the noise and actually get some work done? Do you have a local McDonald’s (or similar) to hide out in? How do you get your Butt in Chair hours for the day?

Leave a comment below!




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