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How to Self-Publish - One Author's (Unusual) Journey

The Road to Success is Never a Straight Line

 

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When people ask “How do I self-publish a book?” often they’re getting all caught up in the tactical stuff like getting an editor, cover design, formatting, uploading, and all the various “moving pieces” required to get your words on the digital shelves.

But I’ve always believed the answer to that question runs a LOT deeper. After all, 80% of Americans say they “want to write a book” but how many follow through?

The truth is, a lot has to happen before you even start trying to string (coherent) sentences together. And while a lot of other author sites out there love to focus on “The Top 10 Twitter Memes to Help Get More Likes!”, we prefer to dig a little into what actually makes an author.

As you can probably guess, most people don’t wake up one day and suddenly become authors. My inbox is stuffed full of stories from people who tried for years to start writing a book, only for it to languish at the bottom of a drawer somewhere and never get finished (let alone published).

Life gets in the way, more often than not.

So the real question, for me, has always been: “What sets authors apart from other people?”.

In my experience, it’s a mix of many things. Not least of which is a passion to keep trying to follow their calling, and not let anything get in the way.

And to illustrate this, today we’re hearing from Gary Collins – who worked in Military Intelligence, is a Forensic Science expert, and now writes books and creates products to help people with life simplification, primal health, and off the grid living.

As you can imagine, Gary’s road to becoming an author was hardly a straight line…

Take it away, Gary

 

 

My Story of Becoming an Author – Not a Quick Road to Riches, But a Test of Patience

Gary Collins – Creator of the Primal Power Method

Before I start my story below I think it is important to point out, I do not think my story is unique as an indie writer. After spending the last eight years pounding away on my laptop, and meeting numerous indie writers I found most of us think we are not worthy to be considered serious writers.

Many of us have no background in creative writing or anything even close in most cases. What makes us unique, is we put all that aside and get after it, we make it happen. We put ourselves out there for the world to see, and sometimes get a lot of crappy reviews and criticism along the way. With the indie movement of today and advances in technology, everyone has the ability to tell their story no matter how whacky or crazy it may seem.

While growing up I remember five main genres

  1. Science Fiction
  2. Fantasy
  3. Westerns
  4. Romance
  5. Autobiographies

That was pretty much it, I know there were some sub-genres and other categories, but for the most part that was it. Today, a new genre is coming to the surface all the time. If you have a nutty book idea today as an indie author there is probably a genre for you. If not, you can just create your own.

 

 

Now to my story…

Even as a young lad I felt I had a couple books to be written inside me, heck people even told me so! One major problem; I was good at math and science, but absolutely terrible at English, especially in the grammar and spelling categories. Even though I gutted out all my college level English and writing courses, and improved, I still felt I was nowhere near future published author material.

Another problem – my college education over the years has focused on, to include my eventual degrees, in Criminal Justice, Forensic Science and Exercise Science. Yep, you got it definitely no major or job in the writing realm. Needless to say with my educational background, I shelved my being a writer idea, matter of fact I think I put it on the shelf next to that great abs in 15 minutes machine!

Unfortunately, I graduated from college in the early 1990’s, smack in the middle of a recession in the United States. At this time I only had my Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration. Not exactly a degree I would recommend to be the most marketable in the job market. This was a valuable lesson I learned:

If you are going to go and get a college education make sure to get your primary degree in something that gives you the ability to excel in the current job market, and then minor in something you are passionate about. Matter of fact I will be covering the mistakes most people make when getting a college education in a future book in my “Life Simplification” series, as I have learned even life mistakes can make for a great book idea!

So where do you end up in life with an education like mine? Well, during a recession and a very limited degree… manual labor of course. As any of you know manual labor for a bad wage just flat out sucks, no candy coating it.

Knowing that the above was not for me, and in order to gain some more life experience, get more money for a possible Master’s Degree, and serve my country I then joined the United States Navy and entered the world of military intelligence. It sure did sound sexy at the recruiter’s office, but to be honest in the end it was nothing like those Tom Clancy novels I enjoyed so much.

 

 

I was fortunate enough…

To get a Master’s Degree in Forensic Science while in the military, and a lot of life lessons were learned. Probably the most valuable part of getting my Master’s Degree was I had to write a thesis, which definitely helped improve my writing skills.

All during this time, I was still thinking about those books I wanted to write. And you know what I did? Absolutely nothing! I think I may have bought a book on how to write screenplays, but never even opened it.

Here is another big mistake, I should have been writing something… anything, and taking some writing courses. Basically I was just like one of those 80% of American’s who say they want to write a book, but do nothing in order to accomplish that goal.

Life moves on and so did I, after leaving the military I accomplished one of my major life goals and became a U.S. Federal Agent. What does a U.S. Federal Agent do you may ask? Without going into the weeds, trust me it is not that interesting, I was a criminal investigator who investigated people and entities that may have violated federal law. If you have watched the popular show 24, it was nothing like that. I spent a lot of time dealing with bureaucracies, and writing dreadful, and sometimes painful reports. Matter of fact I wrote a lot of reports, thousands of pages. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it was actually giving me some skills for my future, at this time unforeseen carrier, as an author.

It didn’t improve my writing skills very much, because criminal investigative reports are pretty dry and have their own special type of writing and language, which has no real use anywhere else. But what it did teach me:

  • Being able to organize information into sizeable bites.
  • Having to sit down and pound out a written document for long periods of time.

Not realizing it the at the time, but these are two pretty critical skills to have in order to be an author.

After spending half my life in the government I decided it was time for a change, which spawned part two of my life. Now you are saying yeah Gary becomes a writer… nope!

After spending a large part of my life in athletics, trying to be healthier, and part of my career in the government doing healthcare related investigations I decided to take a stab at being an entrepreneur in the physical training and consulting business. It didn’t take me long to notice I kept saying the same things over and over to clients, and they never seemed to retain what I was teaching them during our sessions.

I decided it would be a good idea to draft something in written form for them to take home and use as a reference. At first it was a 50 page printed word document, outlining my basic principles for them to follow. Well, being a type A individual this eventually morphed into a 450-page health and wellness manifesto. I didn’t know it, but this was my first step towards being an actual author. To be honest it was terrible – poorly organized, badly written, basically a hot disaster of poo!

Because I had never taken a writing course, or tried to better myself to be a future writer I was absolutely clueless. I think this is where most of us make a huge mistake for following our passions as a writer – we do nothing to figure out the process, we just think we can write a best seller by winging it. It just doesn’t happen that way.

This just doesn’t come from my own experience, but I have spoken to, and helped when I can, with many “want to be” future writers, and their story is pretty much the same. I know from experience and from talking to numerous authors; probably the most helpful and time best spent achieving your goal to be a writer is to take a “how to be” an author course.

People like Nick Stephenson and others are gold for people wanting to be authors. They have already been there, and will save you a ton of time. No this isn’t an advertisement, I didn’t realize my potential and what the heck I was doing until I started following them, and signed up for a couple courses. In short I wasted years floundering around.

 

 

I decided my 450-page gobbly –gook was absolute gold…

And I needed to get this thing published. Again, being clueless I had no idea where to start. So I decided I would just email some well-known authors and ask. Remember this was about 7-8 years ago, so some of the big authors were somewhat accessible.

I got two responses from New York Times best sellers, Gary Taubes and Stephen Pressfield. Please don’t go and e-mail them and mention me, that is not the point. Both were incredibly gracious with their time and gave some really good advice.

It boiled down to: do it on your own if you can (be an independent published author) and just keep at it, this writing thing aint easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I reached out to some publishing companies thinking I was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and pretty much heard nothing but crickets.

I was also advised I needed a good editor(s), and would have to start my own publishing company. I had a property investment company on the side while in the government for about 10 years, so I was familiar to how to start a basic Limited Liability Company (LLC), and that was what I did.

There are many articles on how to start your own publishing company, but here are some of the basics, and I still use my original publishing company to this day.

Your publishing company should be a sole proprietorship or LLC, and you should have a domain for it, email address, and physical address. You got it, that is pretty much it and you are ready to roll. Just need to write your version of War and Peace!

Then next thing I did was look for an editor, and I made a huge mistake in this category. Instead of being patient and doing my due diligence, I went straight to the dummy net. I found a short list of 4-5 local people calling themselves editor/publishers. Only one got back to me and should have been my first red flag. After talking with her about my goals, she said we should meet up and talk in person. Red flag number two – we met up at a public library with a free conference room, not an actual office, well because she didn’t have one.

 

 

Now, at this time…

I had decided my 450-page paperweight would be a three-part exercise program containing exercise DVD’s. Had I done any research on what the market was looking for, how I would promote and sell this product, was there a desire or want for such a product… nope!

I was completely flying by the seat of my pants thinking just publish it and they will come. Another big trap new or want to be authors fall into, all you need to do is put it out there and it will sell. Now a few unicorns in the indie publishing world have done this, but this is not the way to go and I know Nick talks about this a lot.

Here is another good piece of advice: the publishing world is like the music industry of the 70’s. It is filled with vultures preying upon new authors. You have to be incredibly careful when selecting the courses and eventual people who will work on your project.

Of course you can do it all on your own, I have tried that route, and as people have done it know it is really difficult to put out a quality product this way. More in likely you will need to hire some people throughout your writing and publishing process.

So after we had our meeting she encouraged me to join her Publishing group, that wasn’t free you had to pay, red flag number three. Soon after our meeting I received a quote for her services to edit my book. I believe it contained some layout and design work in addition to editing, but I can’t remember for sure. I do remember the price… $13,000!

You would think I would have ran away like my butt was on fire, but no I said that sounds reasonable. Of course, I thought once my exercise program was out in the cyber world I would be an instant millionaire. Boy was I naïve. So I cut a down payment check for $3,000, and probably skipped away dreaming of my future Ferrari.

It didn’t take long to realize I was in the midst of a con artist. When I attended her first publishing group meeting one thing was obvious – I was the youngest person there and I was 40! Most people were easily in their 70s and 80s.

Also every guest speaker was pitching some product to us instead of actually teaching us anything. Being a trooper I stuck it out for a couple months, and received a few comments on my manuscript and zero editing.

Now I new it I was in trouble, big trouble. Luckily with my background in law enforcement, and some serious persistence I was able to get my money back. I guarantee I’m one of the few this has happened to in this publishing black widow’s lair.

A funny side note to the above, ok maybe not so funny. About two months after I received my down payment back I witnessed one of her scammers at a Starbucks from her publishing group receiving a check for a couple grand from a little old lady, with the promise of getting her book published. A sucker is born every minute and I was almost one of them.

 

 

To help reduce the massive dent in my pride…

I will say being an indie author was pretty new back then and people like Nick and others were not around. Today there are so many resources for indie authors I think it is almost impossible to not write and publish a book today if you want to. Now selling them is a different story, and again that is where Nick’s and others’ experience kicks in.

Back to the drawing board I went, surprisingly now that I look back, I can’t figure out why I didn’t give up. I went to the business of a local person who I knew about in the health world who was very successful in the self-publishing and asked if they knew of or could recommend a good editor with experience in health.

Luckily they were incredibly nice and recommended a person they had used in the past. Here is a key point: you should definitely try to find an editor who is familiar with your genre it will be a big, big help and make your end product much better.

Ok so the magic question how long and how much did it cost me to get my health and exercise program published?

It ended up being around $25,000, yes no misplaced comma. I had cashed out my 401k in order to help pay for it… dumb, dumb, dumb!

Not only did it cost me a small fortune to publish, but I had no market to really sell it. It was a three piece, spiral bound set of material that included two exercise DVD’s that had to be sold as a complete set. In my infinite wisdom, I had cut out one of the main places to sell for indie authors… Amazon.

Oh, I tried selling it on Amazon, but they couldn’t figure out that is was a three piece set, and kept breaking it up and sending only one piece to the customer. It was an absolute disaster! Createspace was around, but the printing cost was pretty high, and again I was clueless.

So, the next move hire a marketing guy, and try and schedule workshops at gyms and health and wellness related businesses. It worked kind of, but was a ton of work and my marketing guy ended up knowing almost nothing about marketing. Again failure, but I did manage to sell some copies and was now selling them for $295, per his advice.

 

 

Using the same marketing guy…

We decided it would be better to take the material and condense it into a shorter book for Amazon. Wow, now were talking I can smell that Ferrari again. Unfortunately he had no idea what it took to publish a book, so the first version was junk – bad cover, bad title etc.

What I did start doing was blogging, and doing interviews, all my work though, marketing guy again useless. Crazy enough I sold some copies, not a lot, but more than I expected. Here is what saved me, and in my future three health books that came from this first book geared towards the general consumer disaster – the content was good just poorly packaged and marketed.

Realizing that my marketing guy was not as advertised, I fired him and went back to the drawing board yet again. Another important point, I was making a living with my health supplement line, consulting, doing workshops, and random jobs.

I didn’t even consider myself an author, mistake number, oh I’ve lost count. Not until I took writing seriously did my writing and product improve. I was still treating it as a hobby. To become a real author you have to treat as a professional and as a business. I was using my books as a supplemental to my training, consultant and product line.

The thing is I got lucky. I was discovered by a popular self-reliance podcaster from one of my blog posts. He liked what I had to say in the blog post and invited me on to be a guest. Strange enough people liked what I had to say, which sold a decent amount of books, and they requested that I be on more as a guest.

That made me realize, my books were pretty decent even though I had mad a lot of mistakes, and that my strength was being interviewed. This was good and bad, because instead of working on my weak points in my books, I tried to overcome them by doing as many interviews as possible. I eventually realized this was a foolish way to go.

 

 

Dumb luck struck again…

While being interviewed on the above podcast about a year or two after my initial interview, the host asked me what were some of my future projects. I said I had just bought 20 acres in Washington State and was building a house off the grid.

The off the grid movement, especially television shows, was just starting to take off. I received a tremendous response, especially in the area of how I was doing it. I had no plan to write a book about my project it was just something in my life I wanted to do.

Not anymore, my next book idea smacked me straight in the face. From there on I started documenting the process and writing down notes to be used for the book.

At this point, I had actually started subscribing to a couple writing and marketing for author’s newsletters and free webinars. Wow, what an eye opener, all the information I needed to be more successful was right in front of me. I knew this time around I needed to do things differently. My two main problems were almost no marketing, well upload and pray isn’t a real marketing technique, and not having a polished professional looking product.

I knew from what Nick and people like him were saying you need to have a good cover, and clean product on the inside not riddled with typos. With this information I hired a small professional publishing company to do the cover and layout. It was night and day compared to my previous three books.

Not only that, but my writing had become much better very little editing was required, and not one paragraph or chapter was moved. My editor said it was organized perfect just needed cleanup. Oh boy I may be actually starting to figure this writing thing out!

 

 

I was just getting through the authors marketing course I was enrolled in when I released my latest book “Going Off The Grid.” I now had a better grasp, of marketing using Facebook Ads, saw the potential of using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), the importance of getting my book listed in Goodreads and BookBub, figuring out the best keywords for KDP, and finally trying out an aggregator for my digital formatted books.

So what major changes have I made with this new-found information from various author marketing, writing newsletters, blogs and courses?

  1. All of my books are now listed on Goodread and BookBub.
  2. Using Facebook and AMS ads.
  3. Trying out Draft2Digital for wide distribution for my e-books and saves me time and hassle.
  4. Continuing to hit the interview trail, but trying to step up a level on the audience size and exposure.
  5. Re-tooling my e-mail subscription funnels, and trying Author Reach for my e-mail marketing services.
  6. Using Dave Chesson’s KDP Rocket software for keywords on AMS.
  7. Belonging to Facebook indie author groups.

Blah, blah, blah Gary… give us the results!

I’ve only been using the above techniques for the last six months, and I have more to do and change, but the results have even surprised me.

Even with just a partial year of using my new found strategies my main results are:

  1. My latest book hit number #1 in two Amazon categories in November. Before you ask I changed nothing I just applied the new marketing techniques, no freebies or discounts.
  2. Tripled my book sales from last year.
  3. All my AMS ads are at 50% or better in ACoS
  4. E-mail subscribers are ticking up
  5. More reviews on recent book
  6. Getting contacted for bigger and better interviews
  7. Contacted by and working with docu-series production company to pitch off the grid living show to major TV networks

As you can see I’m making huge strides, and if everything continues the way it is going in the next couple years I will be able to making a good living off my books alone.

The next book about mobile and RV living is already in editing, and I’m chomping at the bit to see how it will do with the additional knowledge I have gained.

Matter of fact I have probably my next 10 books planned and some are already partially written.

Thank you Nick and keep it up!

Gary Collins, MS was raised in the High Desert at the basin of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in a rural part of California. 

Collins’ background is very unique and brings a much-needed perspective to today’s areas of health, nutrition, entrepreneurship, self-help and being more self-reliant. He holds an AS degree in Exercise Science, a BS in Criminal Justice and a MS in Forensic Science.

In addition to being a best selling author, he has taught at the University College level, consulted and trained college level athletes, and been interviewed for his expertise on various subjects by CBS Sports, Coast to Coast AM, The RT Network, and FOX News to name a few.

His Primal Power Method website and book series (his total lifestyle reboot), blows the lid off of conventional life and wellness expectations, and is considered essential for every person seeking a simpler and better life.

Get 5 Free Gifts to help you with life simplification, primal health, and off the grid living when you sign up to Gary’s readers’ group right here

And now we want to hear from you! What obstacles have tried to get in the way of you becoming an author? How did you deal with them? Let us know in the comments:

17 Comments
  1. Amy Waeschle says:

    This is so inspirational! My hat goes off to you, Gary, for persevering, holy cow.

    My obstacles pale in comparison, but the biggest one was just not taking it seriously. Not scheduling time to write, even a little bit, every day. Not learning the business side before publishing (I’m working on it now though!) I took several years off of my writing to be a parent, and while I don’t regret this hiatus, I could have set aside 30 min a day to write. By now I’d have at least 3-4 more books and be ahead on the learning curve.

    I overcame mine because I just couldn’t hold back my book any more. It had been stewing inside me for 10 years! So I wrote it, rewrote it, and rewrote it again until I knew it was the best it could be. That passion drove me forward to publish, to start taking it seriously. Once I had the finished product it really changed me–I felt like an author for real. Another thing I’ve learned is something Gary experienced too: the sharks that prey on self-published authors who don’t know who to trust. I paid into a program that was really more for non-fiction (it uses the book as a platform to become a speaker/coach). He said it could work for fiction, that I should “forget about Amazon”, never pay for advertising, and other things that I’ve since learned is total crap. Fiction authors can and do make a good living as self-pubbers, but only by embracing all of those things he said didn’t matter or were a waste of time. I’m overcoming this setback by learning from people like Nick here, and others, paying for a course here and there when I can afford it, applying what I learn and seeing how it pays off. Of course I wish I’d done all this learning before I launched my book last May, but I’ll get there, one book at a time!

    1. Gary Collins says:

      Hey Amy,
      I’m glad you enjoyed my painful, yet somewhat entertaining path… which is still ongoing. I agree until you get that first book out there you don’t know what to expect, and even then you only have one book, so it is hard to decipher what direction you are going – good or bad. As an indie author you are a business person and artist all wrapped into one, and both have to be important. You put too much in one or the other and it usually just doesn’t work. Congrats on getting that first book out and sticking with it 🙂

  2. Ann Marie Thomas says:

    Wow what a story! When I produced my first book, a slim volume of local history, a kind publisher sat me down and explained why no one would publish it – too small a market. So began my adventures in indie publishing. I’m lucky that I’m retired and don’t need an income, so I have had time to learn the lessons without pressure, but I wish I knew then what I know now. My tip is to learn as much as possible from those who are generous enough to share, like Nick, and don’t rush into it. Thanks for the good advice.
    Ann Marie

    1. Gary Collins says:

      I agree, taking your time and at least getting some of it figured out before you jump in would be the smart move. I’m just thankful there are courses now, when I first started it was wacky land in the indie publishing world, a lot of really slimy marketing and tactics I wasn’t willing to do. I would rather take the long haul and do it right then cross that ethical line to get quick results. Once you cross that line you can never go back.

  3. Dolly Kyle says:

    Congratulations, Gary! There’s a lot to be said for perseverance! My first novel evolved from a hand-written therapeutic journal and became a fictionalized autobiographical story that caused all hell to break loose. The POTUS and his minions tried to suppress it, and I filed a federal RICO lawsuit in response. It didn’t get much better for the next 20 years, but my non-fiction book in 2016 went to #1 on Amazon, and I wrote three more semi-autobiographical novels in 2017. I’ll be releasing six novels in sequence in 2018. Could get interesting.

    1. Gary Collins says:

      Dolly,
      Wow, that sound like not a lot of fun haha. After over half my life in the government I can only imagine what you had to go through. That is why I decided to stay away from the conspiracy and government tell all side of things. I had offers when I first left, but decided I would just write about things I enjoy. Good on you though for fighting the good fight, and it sounds like you were able to smack them in the mouth to get your book out. Congrats on the 2016 book going #1 on Amazon, that is the stuff that keeps me going.

  4. Barbara Mealer says:

    My obstacle was thinking my writing wasn’t good enough. When I finally did write something and showed it to another author, their comment was that I had this wonderful ‘voice’ which they had to work really hard to get. That was my first obstacle. The second was to include everything a book needs to make it enjoyable to read. The next one, I’m still working on is publishing and marketing.
    I got drawn into the vanity press, thinking it would be easy, but they don’t include the most important things you need for marketing. I did get the editing done for a reasonable price which made my cost worth it but it still didn’t help me a lot in getting my books out and noticed.
    Things like your story make me realize I can do this since I learn from others mistakes. Since I’m doing the rest of my books on a shoestring until I get the marketing aspect down, I’ll keep plugging away until I make it.

  5. Gary Collins says:

    Barbara,
    Funny thing, my first editor said the same thing… that my writing voice was very easy to read and engaging. Who would of figured that haha. My readers say they feel like I’m standing right next to them talking to them when the read my books. I guess that is a good thing 🙂
    I’m glad I could help and keep you motivated, because I have made a lot of mistakes that is for sure. The interesting part is my books are a lot about the mistakes I have made, how I corrected them, and then try to help other people with what I have learned. I have found there is a lot of writing material in mistakes we make in our lives.

  6. Jane Ann McLachlan says:

    How did you get your AMS ads to 50% or better? That’s what I’m struggling with now.

    1. Gary Collins says:

      Oh the monster of Amazon, AMS has been a definite learning curve. I have never had good luck with Facebook advertising, plus I hate social media in general. I’m actually hardly using social media anymore, it just changes too quickly and it goes against everything I believe in and try to teach in my non-fiction books.

      I have been doing AMS ads for over a year now, and until I bought KDP Rocket, it was pretty fruitless. KDP Rocket makes finding key words much, much easier. I watched Dave Chesson’s (creator) video on how to set up your first ads and followed it to the T. I had good results out of the gate and it helped figure AMS out a little better. I let those ads run for 6 months and never touched them, then something went wonky in AMS and the died. Matter of fact they died shortly after I submitted my story to Nick. Since then I have had to restart and I’m experimenting with different methods.

      I would love to give you the magic bullet and say do this and do that and wham your ads work, but it just doesn’t work that way. The best advice I can give any author using AMS is buy KDP Rocket. No, I don’t make a dime off recommending it I know Dave he is a really good guy and I use his software a lot. It takes a bit to figure out, but when it comes to software it is pretty easy to figure out.

    2. Gary Collins says:

      Jane I forgot one really important thing that I recently learned. The ACoS in AMS is pure crap. I do it a little different than the AMS gurus I compare my royalty total for the month against my AMS billing total in my KDP dashboard. I do this daily it takes about a minute. If you want to keep track of your individual ad performance that is a little trickier and time consuming. For that you need to download your ads data into Excel and then compare against the previous date you checked. The gurus do this daily I do it when I think an ad is slowing up or I think has died.

      1. Jane Ann McLachlan says:

        Thanks for the response Gary. I do own KDP rocket, and I’ve looked at most of Dave’s videos, but I have to make the time to sit down and learn to use the rocket and apply his teaching. Lol. I’m one of those people who buys something and is then afraid to use it. There is always something else that requires my time first. I will do that this month. AMS ads have increased my sales tremendously, but it’s about a break even between sales and ad costs. However, the KENP is solid profit and has quadrupled my monthly income thanks to the ads.
        Like you, I compare my monthly income against my monthly ad cost. Lets me know ads are generally very productive, but not WHICH ads are working best. I’ve tried the screenshots, but it’s just too time-consuming.
        Thanks for a great article. Best of luck in your writing.
        Cheers,
        Jane Ann

  7. Craig W. Hedge says:

    That is an inspirational story Gary. I like the way you made the connection that your mistakes were in fact content for your books.
    That dumb luck you spoke about, might also be called perseverance, as you stayed with the program and kept moving towards your goals.
    I can relate to your comments about becoming a better writer with all of those reports, I had a similar situation as a long time public servant with a compliance background – the challenge for me was to add a bit of humanity to the reports…I certainly added a bit more colour and life to some of them!
    Agree with your comments about the Kindlepreneur, whilst I have not bought his software, I certainly like his approach and the content he provides – the ‘book description tool’ (HTML) being a good resource for authors for those who may not know about it.
    I have not used Amazon ads yet, based as much on the stage my self development books are at, as mine have only been on the market for little more than 4 months. My primary focus into 2018, once I get some more social proof with my books will be the Amazon ads.
    Did you start Amazon ads with ‘x’ amount of reviews as a starting point, or did you jump right in?
    And on that note, how have you fared with book reviews? Your experience/advice?
    My research indicates the best way forward is to wait for some reviews then start an ads/paid campaign.
    Thanks for sharing your story and your ideas.

  8. Gary Collins says:

    Hey Craig,
    I like to say “nothing comes easy” for me haha I’m a grinder 🙂 But when I started the indie world was really new, and I just didn’t have a clue how being an author and book industry worked. Trust me, more than once I thought about throwing in the towel, but I also realized I couldn’t go back to the “grind you until you die” job market either. It definitely also took a bit to get out of the criminal investigative report mode, but I figured it out with time. I was the same, my investigative reports were readable and understandable, I would read other co-workers and had no idea what they were saying haha.
    I have played around with various advertising platforms over the years – Facebook, Youtube, Google ads, Twitter, Pinterest… etc. They are good at one thing, spending my money! I also have to admit I never had the kind of content or cheesy marketing strategy to work in those platforms. With AMS I just jumped in with very small amounts of money and played with it, as I released my Going Off The Grid book. Around that time I was in my first indie author ads/marketing class. That is where I heard about KDP Rocket, and I also had Dave Chesson come on a podcast I was doing with a friend at the time. Dave is veteran like myself, so was my co-host so it was an interesting interview. The method Dave outlines in his training video is pretty extensive, but I’ll tell you it worked. I’m now playing around with various types of ads, outside of the principles Dave shows. I’m testing some of the things Brian Meeks talks about with some of my ideas. As with any ads platform things change all the time, so you are always tweaking. Without KDP Rocket though it would take far more time to do.
    Reviews are a funny thing, without sales you are not going to get them. I’m a “knowledge is power” guy, matter of fact it is one of my five principles for what I teach in my books 🙂 I would read Brian Meeks book, watch ALL of Dave Chesson’s videos and then run a couple ads. Like I said to Jane above there is no magic bullet, what works for me may not work for you in AMS due to different genre, competition, keywords etc. But the principles should be pretty close. Two pieces of advice keep your keyword CPC bid below at or below .15 cents, for an e-book priced at $4.99, I personally don’t think you can make money using AMS with ebooks below this price point, and it is very difficult to break even at $3.99 I have found. Also have your daily spend at $10 or below for each ad in the beginning.
    I know this goes against what a lot of the indie experts say… you know .99 cent and free books for exposure, but I don’t see how you can not lose a ton of money doing that. Now if you have a series and the first one is free or discounted to bring people in that makes sense, but what I have found people who grab free books or buy them for .99 cents usually never read them or they are just bargain hunters and will leave bad
    reviews. These are not the fans I want.
    My attitude is there is no easy way, it takes time. It took Stephen Pressfield decades to make it along with a lot of other writers. I’m just not a fan of throwing a lot of cheap or free ebooks out that are poorly written and rely on slick ads to get things done. I know a lot have done that, but that is not me. I would rather have less fans and followers of what I do, and have them be high quality and believe in what I’m doing 🙂
    Good luck, and I hope this info helps.

    1. Gary Collins says:

      Man, I just realized the last part of my comment to Craig came off a little snarky I blame the third cup of coffee that morning 🙂 What I meant to say – the free and discounted book route has never worked for me. I think that type of marketing works better on the fiction side I’m purely non-fiction, so in my opinion that tactic doesn’t work as well on the non-fiction side… but I could be wrong, I have been before just read my story above haha. I think it just depends on your genre, what you are trying to accomplish. As Nick preaches though if you can push books out quickly, which I have nothing against, they still have to be a quality product. For me I can’t seem to keep my quality up when I rush it turns out pretty bad, but I’m getting better.

  9. Maria says:

    .You are one plucky guy Gary! A less-talented and less-determined writer would have given in. I wish you well, very well. You deserve every bit of success.
    It would seem to me, that your own tenacity and determination has paid off, and that you have now learned a few of the tricks of the trade which I haven’t, as yet, (though my husband has done the Mark Dawson ‘Ads for Authors’ course. That was a bit of a trade-off – my creativity and his background in IT we thought might work to our advantage).
    It seems to me thought I could be wrong, that you have to throw a lot of money at advertising to be successful…but one also has to have a lot of money for books covers and so on. We’re doing much of this on a shoe-string budget!
    You talk about sharks (no names mentioned here!), and recently I’m pretty sure I met a well-known one! He sent me a link to a writer’s book…somebody I presume he had worked with. The book had five 5-star reviews, so I thought I’d check it out on Amazon. It was about the author’s life as a nun, (riveting stuff!).
    Now, I was a teacher by profession and I know many young students whose first drafts would have been better than this woman’s. I guess what I am saying here is that part of the ‘deal’ of his working with this woman was that she would receive these five ratings for her book. What a recipe for disaster. I hate to think what she paid him.
    But thank goodness for the karma bus! These sharks have a habit of self-destructing.

  10. Gary Collins says:

    Hey Maria,
    Thanks for the kind words, since this I actually relaunched my company, and started a new book series called “The Simple Life.” So far it has been all positive, so I believe I’m going in the right direction. I have been at this for over 8 years now, and the lessons learned have been many 🙂 No matter what my books are about helping people find happiness and freedom, through my experiences, which includes all my failures as well. I firmly believe you learn a heck of a lot more failing then you do in success, how you handle success once you get there is also important.
    The main take away I have found is if you work really hard at your craft, and put together a couple of solid marketing techniques you will more in likely find success. You and your husband will get it figured out, I can tell you are both smart and passionate people, but with all things it comes with time.
    I find it amazing how the publishing world can be pretty sketchy, but I have learned as a former investigator if you look hard enough you will almost find it everywhere today. I agree from my experience the people who cut corners and play the dirty game eventually pay for it in the end. I pride myself in having happy readers and customers. I sleep like a baby, and never have to look over my shoulder. Sure doing it the right way is always harder and takes longer, but it is the most rewarding way as well. There is nothing better than getting that flattering real 5 star review, or note from someone who you have helped change their life for the better.

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