I was scrolling through Facebook groups between writing and reading, as I am one to do, and came across a great learning opportunity I wanted to share with you.
Someone asked if anyone was making a living off self publishing, because they hadn’t seen it happen yet. Shawn Inmon answered with a yes and said he’d been self employed through writing fiction on Kindle so I wanted to talk to him to see what I could learn.
Shawn Inmon writes across multiple genres. I have a link to his books here and I encourage you to check them out.
Below is out brief conversation, which is packed full of helpful information for new authors.
So how long did it take you to transition from writing part time / as a hobby to doing it full time?
Four years. I published my first book in September of 2012 and quit my job to write in September of 2016.
What activities do you attribute to your success? Things you do daily or weekly, personally and in advertising/marketing?
Mostly writing good books. So, reading other writers, thinking and studying what they do, and how they do it, then applying the same techniques to my books.
It’s also important to assemble a good team of professionals that you work with time and again.
I have only worked with two editors, two cover artists, and one proofreader for all nine of my books.
Writing and publishing regularly is very important.
It was easier to succeed with fewer books in 2012. Now, volume and writing in a series is important.
I’ll publish five books this year, and I have six planned for 2018, but I have a number of friends who publish a book every month.
Being able to pivot and pursue new promotional activities is also important.
Five years ago, massive free runs were paramount. Then, .99 sales. FB ads, newsletter swaps, and AMS ads all have their place. You have to be nimble.
So it sort of becomes a big marketing spiderweb?
Yes. I pay attention to a lot of fronts: My mailing list, my FB page, my AMS ads, my FB ads, etc.
But that is all secondary to writing a great book with an easy to promote hook that has a powerful, genre-appropriate cover and a strong blurb. Without all those things, advertising doesn’t help much.
It’s important to build your platform of loyal readers – people that will automatically One Click anything you publish.
So after a while you almost know whats going to sell and how many copies? It’s a lot of research and trial and error?
It’s just about building a loyal fan base and then expanding it with each new book.
The smartest thing to do is pick a genre, sub-genre, and stick with it. I haven’t done that.
I have written memoirs, travel books, romances, time travel books, fantasy, etc.
I’ve seen that a lot, sticking to one genre. It makes sense. Especially if it’s becoming more advantageous to create series
With a series, you only have to reach a reader one time, and if they are hooked, they will read all the way through. With standalone books, you have to start over each time. It’s easy to see the advantage.
That’s why I’m writing my time travel series. My second book in the series came out last week and the third one in December. The fourth will be out in March.
Awesome. It sounds like you are writing books a lot faster now, getting closer to one book a month yourself?
I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. I’m just not that fast. It takes me a week or two between projects to really settle into the world I am going to write. I have to inhabit the world and the characters before I can write it. Once I start, though, I can usually write the book in 4-6 weeks.
Also, how do you feel about the length of books. I’ve been looking around and although many people seem to say that you should write 90,000 words, I’ve seen 99 cent books do well at 115 pages on rankings right next to books that are 300 pages long.
I tend to skew toward writing shorter books. My two time travel books are 74,000 words and 60,000 words. I charge 3.99 for both of them, but I am thinking of bumping them to 4.99. As long as a book is dense and compelling, with a real ending, I never have readers complain about the length. That’s what I believe. To me, a great 60K book is much preferred to a less than stellar 120K book.
I try to leave out all the parts that people skip.
This was a very insightful conversation that I had with Shawn. I greatly appreciate him sharing his experience with me. It’s given me more perspective on what I need to do to find success.
I encourage everyone else to reach out to authors on social media and ask questions when it feels appropriate. If you have a conversation with someone who is doing better than you at ANYTHING you should be asking how they are doing it and what you can do to get to their level. Then you help others get to your level while finding out how to get to the level beyond that.
You can find Shawn’s work here.