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April 2023 Income Report
To listen to an audio version of this report, join the Patreon »
April’s income was $10,063, up from March’s $8,960. Profits were $6,211, up from March’s $4,750.
This impressive-looking $10k+ month is more or less ordinary by recent standards. Nearly $3,000 of that revenue is from an unusually large payment from ActiveCampaign.
100-Word Writing Habit a flop?
It’s beginning to look like the 100-Word Writing Habit short read is a flop. I’ve spent $5,471 on a designer, advertising, and social media promotions. My income so far is $1,765 on fewer than 400 books (these numbers just went up – more in a bit). This is better than In Defense of Papyrus, which has sold fewer than 100 copies in nearly four years, but at least I didn’t spend enough to buy a used Kia on that book.
Why is it not selling? Some theories:
- Not a book-level value proposition? While the prospect of a 100-word writing habit is compelling enough to motivate people to sign up for an email course, maybe it doesn’t seem juicy enough to justify a book? While it’s a turnkey title, meaning you learn something just reading the title, maybe the title doesn’t bring up enough questions.
- Doesn’t pass the cocktail party test? You might mention to a friend at a cocktail party you’ve built a 100-word writing habit, but maybe not that you’ve bought and are reading a book by that title.
- No ebook version? I didn’t create an ebook version, because I wanted to experiment with creating a book with more focus on the layout. Certainly many people prefer ebooks – myself included. Also, the lack of Kindle version is limiting the paperback’s ability to get a boost from the Amazon algorithm, and severely limiting the number of Amazon ratings I get.
- Not marketing enough? I sent out some emails, ran some ads, and did a couple social media campaigns. I could do more. Then again, I’m not motivated to, since what I’ve done so far has had lukewarm results.
- It’s not a hit “yet”? There’s still forever for the book to catch on. It espouses doing a thing, which can give the idea memetic elements. It takes time for readers to build and experience the benefits of building a 100-word writing habit, before they tell their friends.
- It’s not a flop? Maybe I’m misinterpreting my data. The discrepancy between Amazon stocking and Ingram sales is fooling me.
I’ll expound on each of these points in the next Coffee w/ Kadavy episode, on the Patreon.
If you never have a flop you’re doing it wrong.
Of course, I should expect to have a flop once in a while. I’m playing the barbell strategy with sure bets and wildcards. This book was a wildcard that I spent more resources on than my typical wildcard.
But I didn’t think it was a total wildcard, going in. I was hoping it was a “gray swan.” I thought since the email course continues to do well, the book would do better than it has. However, according to my PredictionBook prediction, I didn’t expect it to do too much better than it has, and it’s not like the email course has been that explosive. So that suggests much of the slow sales have to do with no ebook version.
Make a Kindle version?
The question then is, do I want to do a Kindle version? If I want to make the layout do justice to the paperback version, that would cost probably another couple thousand dollars, or a big chunk of my time. Or, I could do a simple-layout Kindle version, and see if that drives more sales.
Shades of success
Also, the book is still a success as an artifact of an idea with legs. People commonly share the email course on Twitter, and when I talked to David Perell, the first thing he mentioned was the 100-word writing habit course. My Amazon ratings are severely limited due to no version for Kindle – which prompts for ratings when a book is finished – but what few ratings and reviews I have so far are positive.
The book is also a success in terms of teaching me how to hire and work with a designer, develop a book with non-standard dimensions, and figure out how to keep a book in stock on Amazon when it’s only fulfilled through IngramSpark.
The sales were stuck around 380 in the IngramSpark dashboard for a couple months, and they just rose to 478. Amazon must have ordered a bunch of copies when they finally stocked the book, and even the promotions since then haven’t been enough to sell out those copies.
Ironically, it’s the #1 book in all of IngramSpark’s Self-Help/Creativity category.
The sales rank of late indicates copies are being sold, yet Amazon doesn’t indicate any lack of stock on the sales page.
It currently ranks around 90,000, which according to calculators online amounts to about fifty sales a month. Maybe that will add up over time?
Better to flop on small bets
This experience does have me feeling trigger-shy when it comes to working on my next big book, tentatively titled Finish What Matters. This book fortunately was just a few months work. My big books have all thankfully sold well up to this point, but to spend years on a book and sell fewer than 500 copies early on would be devastating in more ways than one. As I write it, I feel confident what I’m writing is worthy of selling a couple tens-of-thousands of copies, but I could be fooling myself. I haven’t made any predictions just yet.
Loading up the Patreon!
I’m continuing to add bonus content to the Patreon that allows me to share more of my thought process as a full-time author, and connect more with my most avid readers.
Some of what you’ll find on Patreon:
- Coffee w/ Kadavy: A casual half-hour podcast discussion about projects, books, and cool things, now with seven episodes!
- Book Previews: I’m sharing audiobook drafts of my next book, as I finish them. Two chapters are live!
- Media Mechanic: This is an experiment with one episode in which I, possibly against my better judgement, re-write the intro to James Clear’s Atomic Habits.
- Browse my Brain: I’ve published dozens of literature notes from my Zettelkasten, exclusively for patrons. Get the most important points of many books, articles, and podcast episodes, and see how I process such things towards writing my own books, articles, and podcast episodes.
If there’s something more you’d like to see on the Patreon, let me know. For now, join the Patreon!
More fiction writing
In the process of writing my next book, about finishing, I’ve been thinking, To what degree is writing about creative procrastination a means of creative procrastination? Add that with having recently turned yet another year older, and I want to get my butt in gear on some of the other ideas I have.
So, I’ve been working slightly more earnestly than before on fiction writing. I’ve written a handful of short stories, under a pen name, and have been experimenting with publishing in various places. I talk a bit more about my strategy in Coffee w/ Kadavy #6. Though, I still haven’t yet revealed my pen name, or provided many clues on where I’m publishing.
I’m enjoying the challenge of trying to get some readers as a complete unknown in a new genre. It’s not clear at this point that there’s a big market for the kind of writing I want to do. There’s definitely some water in my creative well for that kind of writing, but I don’t yet know how deep that well is. I will keep moving forward, trying to reconcile what I want to write about with what I can find a market for, and hope there’s some overlap.
Facebook ad lead generation
You’ll see $178 in expenses on Facebook Ads this month. As I ask myself every Friday,What can I do with what I already have? I’ve been making efforts to grow my email list. I’ve been experimenting with running ads to attract more email subscribers.
Through Facebook Lead Ads, I’m able to get new U.S. email subscribers at well under $1 apiece. But, it’s still not clear to what percentage of those leads will remain active. A decent percentage don’t appear to interact with the emails they get, though new developments in privacy make it hard to know for sure. On the Love Mondays list, I now have more subscribers, but I’m not breaking records in terms of opens recorded.
I know from past experience Facebook is good at finding people who will do whatever action you want. If you want clicks, they can get you clicks. If you want emails, they can get you emails. It doesn’t mean those will lead to anything else.
So, I’m experimenting with different welcome sequences and ways of gauging whether subscribers are active before adding them to my permanent lists and risking my sender reputation.
I think Love Mondays is the best thing I have going right now in terms of effort vs. long-term outcome. I would love to be able to spend, say, $1,000 and get 1,000 authentic new subscribers each month. Maybe as I get more skilled in direct sales of my books I can build my list by advertising for paying customers.
I talk more about my email list-building efforts and experiments with Facebook Lead Ads, with exact numbers, in Coffee w/ Kadavy #5, on the Patreon.
Writing Finish What Matters
I’m chipping away at Finish What Matters. I got about 80% done with a doozy of a third chapter before realizing it should be chapter four, so I’ve started working on chapter three. So far, the new chapter three is much easier.
Once I finish the draft of chapter three, I think I’ll be able to finish the draft of chapter four. This is how book-writing goes sometimes. It’s not a linear process. It’s more like kneading dough.
I’ve also been interviewing a lot of my friends about their thoughts on finishing projects. In particular, I’m talking to the ones who have done a lot of different types of projects, but have followed through on many. I’m not interested in people who are simply good at executing within one area.
But, I’m in a sort of – don’t know what to call it – trough of despair? My last hit book was two years ago (Digital Zettelkasten), my monthly book sales have leveled off, income from my latest short read is short of expectations, and AI mania has swallowed the attention of seemingly everyone and is calling into question the value of writing, books, and even knowledge. Plus it seems unlikely I’ll get this one out before a year from now. As I experiment with other things, including AI, I need to constantly check in with myself to be sure I’m not just looking for a dopamine hit because I’m so far from getting one with this book. Or, I need to find more ways to get dopamine hits from the process of writing this book.
Speaking of dopamine hits, shipping something is a good source of those. There are now two draft audiobook chapters of Finish What Matters patrons can listen to right now on Patreon!
TikTok: non-fiction booktok
My publishing cadence has slowed on TikTok, but hasn’t stopped. After some experimentation, I’m focusing on making my reels about non-fiction books.
Non-fiction book recommendations are what my friend, Joe Avella from Food Wars, would call “low lift.” I’ve already read a lot of weird non-fiction books on a variety of subjects, and it’s pretty easy to make a video about a book. Plus, people love books, and I sell books. So presumably people who are interested in books might be interested in my books.
Finally, I find the demographic chart on my book-recommendation posts skew toward the 25–34 age group, which is a nice change from most TikTok videos, which skew heavily toward 18–24, which I take to mean 13-year-olds who lied about their ages.
Hat-tip to Nat Eliason, who generously shared with me his experiences publishing book recommendations on TikTok.
I love my new camera and lighting setup, and enjoy producing videos, but it’s a big mental shift that can distract me from my writing, so I don’t want to get too heavily into it right now.
$3,000 payment from ActiveCampaign
As I mentioned in the beginning, this $10k+ month is brought to you courtesy of ActiveCampaign. My affiliate income from them is very up-and-down, and this month a commission came through for a big account, so it was up!
Preparing for Italy
I’ve been planning and preparing for a trip to Italy in June. I’ll be doing research for that doozy of a chapter four (formerly chapter three). I’ll be visiting various points of interest related to Leonardo and Raphael in Rome, Florence, Milan, and other places. Sadly, I cannot eat pasta nor gelato.
|Mind Management, Not Time Management Kindle||$1,546|
|Mind Management, Not Time Management Paperback (Amazon)||$1,311|
|Mind Management, Not Time Management (non-Amazon)||$860|
|Mind Management, Not Time Management Audiobook||$1,136|
|100-Word Writing Habit||$36|
|Digital Zettelkasten Kindle||$338|
|Digital Zettelkasten Wide (non-Kindle)||$221|
|Digital Zettelkasten Audiobook||$47|
|The Heart to Start Kindle||$440|
|The Heart to Start Paperback (Amazon)||$131|
|The Heart to Start “Wide” (non-Amazon)||$100|
|The Heart to Start Audiobook||$40|
|How to Write a Book Kindle||$50|
|How to Write a Book Paperback||$51|
|How to Write a Book “Wide” (non-Amazon)||$6|
|How to Write a Book Audiobook||$12|
|How to Write a Book Spanish (all)||$10|
|Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain (all)||$5|
|Ten Passive Income Ideas||$5|
|Total Book Sales||$6,345|
|Summer of Design||$9|
|Total Digital Products||$9|
Affiliates / Advertising
|Alliance of Independent Authors||$431|
Love Your Work Podcast
|Total LYW Podcast||$195|
|Podcast Editing / Publishing||$123|
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