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August 2020 Income Report
An audio version of this income report is available to Patreon backers of certain levels »
August’s revenues were $4,519, down from July’s $4,963. Profits were $2,024, down from July’s $2,777.
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Mind Management, Not Time Management is almost ready to publish
August was an ordinary month in terms of revenue. But it feels like the calm before the storm. I’m no longer getting revenue for the Mind Management, Not Time Management Preview Edition, but the First Edition is almost ready to publish.
I’ve picked up edits from my beta and Preview Edition readers, I’ve written an additional closing “Epilogue” chapter, and I have all of my text in a final Google Doc manuscript.
Meanwhile, I’m preparing my workflow for the paperback interior layout, and re-drawing interior illustrations. It’s a nice feeling to have a crisp layout printed out.
I’m almost finished with the interior layout of the book. Printed it out to go over details. This is a thick one – check out the size of that binder clip! pic.twitter.com/uDzdh9BuYM
— ? David Kadavy (@kadavy) September 22, 2020
Learning Affinity Publisher for Mind Management, Not Time Management interior
I’ve been slowly weaning myself off Adobe applications for the past couple of years. They make great software, but I can’t justify paying a monthly fee for software that I use only occasionally.
I have the CS5 versions I paid for up-front years ago. I haven’t updated Mac OS from Mojave to Catalina because then I would have to switch to Creative Cloud – which would require paying a monthly fee. I’m trying to make the transition before I have no choice but to upgrade my OS.
It started with using Affinity Photo as a Photoshop alternative, and Affinity Designer as an Illustrator alternative.
With this new book, I’m getting acquainted with Affinity Publisher as an Adobe InDesign alternative. You may recall that I’ve considered simply using Vellum for layout, but as a designer, I can’t resist the extra control – even though laying out a book is a lot of work.
It looks like I’ll be able to use Affinity Publisher for the layout.
After some experimenting, it's looking possible to design the interior layout Mind Management, Not Time Management in Affinity Publisher. One step closer to escaping Adobe completely! pic.twitter.com/XPYHFy7vMD
— ? David Kadavy (@kadavy) September 3, 2020
There were some moments where I doubted this possibility, such as when I discovered that Publisher doesn’t support an XML import. With InDesign, I had a workflow where I would convert the Google Doc to HTML, make some changes to the HTML file so that it was an XML file, then import it. The proper styles would automatically be applied to most of the corresponding XML tags.
I won’t be able to do that with Publisher. I will instead export from Google Doc to .docx. I will then import into Publisher, then run a find/replace to apply the proper styles. As I work on the manuscript, I’m running little experiments and documenting the steps I would take on final import in a Sloppy Operating Procedure file.
Even if this transition does work out, I still have The Heart to Start and How to Write a Book laid out in Adobe InDesign. But I’m not likely to make substantial changes to them in the future, anyway. The one place I will want to change them is the “Also by David Kadavy” page at the beginning of the books. I could always switch out that page in the PDF.
Other options I’ve considered for working with legacy files include running an old OS on Parallels, or simply hiring a contractor to make any changes.
Re-drawing Mind Management, Not Time Management illustrations
With my decision to go all-out on the interior layout of Mind Management, Not Time Management, I’m also sprucing up the rough illustrations I had in the Preview Edition. I’m redrawing them – and any additional illustrations I think are necessary – in Affinity Designer.
I'm doing all illustrations for Mind Management, Not Time Management in Infinity Designer (not Adobe Illustrator). They're coming along nicely! pic.twitter.com/7jbMIAkibK
— ? David Kadavy (@kadavy) September 11, 2020
Affinity Designer is again not without its quirks or shortcomings relative to Adobe Illustrator. But with the low price tag, it feels worth it. I do have to budget more energy to learn new things each time I hit a snag, but once I do, I make a note so I can have a quick refresher the next time I use Designer.
As I mentioned in last month’s income report, I have sent out galleys to early reviewers. (Read my post on the best places to order advance reader copies.) However, after sending out several, I’ve lost steam on that front.
It pains me to send out galleys that aren’t laid out how the final book will be laid out, and that are otherwise a little different from the First Edition. I don’t think that’s a great reason to not be sending out galleys.
Another reason I’m not sending out many galleys is that – with printing delays – it feels futile. One person to whom I had sent a galley contacted me to let me know they still hadn’t received it. When I looked in my Ingram Spark dashboard, I realized it hadn’t even shipped yet – and it had been almost a month to the day since I had ordered it!
I checked with Ingram, and they confirmed that they have printing delays due to the impact of COVID. We can expect a book to take 22 business days just to print!
In the case of this early reader, it had been about 22 business days, and sure enough it printed soon after my email with Ingram. So, a bunch of the books that I sent out in late July or early August are just now shipping, in mid-September.
Even with these delays and this loss of steam, you can see I spent over $250 on product samples this month.
Obviously I can send out electronic galleys – and some readers actually prefer this. But mainly I’m trying to remind myself that it’s okay to have a slow-motion launch.
Traditional publishing book launches are “perfect storms”
Traditional publishers have aggressive launches, where they try to create a “wall of sound” of media appearances, coordinated with release of all formats of the book, around the world.
This marketing approach isn’t without its merits, but it is at least partly motivated by the economics of traditional publishing: The publisher needs to dedicate resources to that book – such as a publicist – for the launch week. It the book launches well, they can then dedicate more resources. If the book does poorly, they ignore it and those resources move on to the next book.
I do it all – when I get around to it
Since I am a self-publisher in almost the most literal sense possible – I write the book, design the cover, design the interior, do the marketing, perform the audiobook voiceover, and edit with the help of my readers – it is bordering on impossible to coordinate all those things to strike at once.
I recognize part of this is a less-than-ideal need for a sense of control. I could probably work on that, but I also think it’s okay.
I’m pretty good at some of those things, and I’m not to modest to say that I’m really good at others. It’s not that nobody could do those things as well as me, it’s that if I wanted someone else to do those things as well as me, it would cost a lot of money, and managing the process would drain my energy.
As you can see from these income reports, I don’t have that money. Maybe that’s because I’m too stubborn to invite others to work on the project with me. Or, maybe that’s because success in the form I’m trying to have takes a long time.
In any case, I like working by myself, and I like having to think neither about how all of these moving parts will one day align for a perfect storm, nor about a bunch of deadlines some project manager has assigned to me.
What will be ready on “launch day?”
The pace that things are going, I feel comfortable that by “launch day” of October 27th, the paperback will be ready, with a nice layout and cover, and so will the ebook. It’s looking unlikely that the audiobook will be ready at that moment.
And with galleys taking so long to get out there, it’s looking unlikely that I’ll have a ton of blurbs from famous authors at that point.
This is another thing you see in traditional publishing: By launch day, the book is packed with glowing blurbs from people you know. (If you know the business, you can see the connections: Each author with a blurb has the same agent and/or publisher as the author of the book itself.)
I’m not in a big hurry to get blurbs. The Heart to Start had been out for nine months before Seth Godin “blurbed” it. Since I’m nimble, I can add blurbs to the book, and the sales page, as they come in.
I also won’t have a perfectly-coordinated “wall of sound” of media coverage. However, I will have a few podcast episodes, which I’ve already lined up. I’m developing a couple of guest posts, which will be ready when launch comes around.
“Invest in the book, or invest in the launch?”
When I look at what I need to/want to do before the book is ready to launch, and when I compare that to what I “should” do to have a successful launch, I can’t help but ask myself, “Invest in the book, or invest in the launch?”
The book has a launch date. After that date, the book will essentially not change – other than corrected errata, any changes I make to the cover, and other minor details. I only get one chance to put this book into the world.
Given that almost ten years after Design for Hackers, people are still reading the book, I feel confident that people will still be reading Mind Management, Not Time Management at least ten years after it comes out.
One chance to get right this thing that will be read for decades.
Contrast that with the launch. It’s true, I only get one chance to “launch.” But so what? I’m not shooting for a best-seller list. If people really love the book, there’s no reason it couldn’t hit a best-seller list later, anyway.
So when I look at a unit of my mental energy, and I ask myself, “Invest in the book, or invest in the launch,” my answer is always “Invest in the book.”
The Heart to Start chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal!
I mentioned in June that The Heart to Start was on Amazon’s radar again for a Kindle Deal. They finally came through with a date. HTS was on a Kindle Daily Deal over the weekend.
On Sunday, September 20th, Amazon marked HTS down to $1.99, and emailed their readers. I subscribed to Amazon’s email updates, but didn’t get the email in my inbox. I was able to find the book listed on Amazon’s Today’s Deals page by digging into the Arts & Photography category.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from my Kindle Daily Deal. Some reports predicted a sales boost of 400–2,600%, which actually didn’t sound that impressive. If I was selling 5 books a day, that would mean instead selling 50 or 100 – at $1.99 – or 67¢ royalty – apiece.
I ended up selling 422 copies, which was a 14,000% increase over the previous day. To my surprise, the $1.99 price point did not bump me into the 35% royalty rate. I stayed at the 70% royalty rate for almost all of the sales. I guess I misunderstood the clause that said, “3. Royalties will be calculated based on the promotional price (not your list price).” The royalties were calculated based upon the promotional price. The royalty rate stayed the same.
That amounts to about a $575 profit windfall, straight from Amazon. Thank you, Amazon!
A couple of days after the deal, you can see it hasn’t had a big lasting impact on sales. However, The Heart to Start did make it up to #352 overall on the Kindle store. Not bad compared to the #136 peak during the BookBub Featured Deal.
Not incredible, but it’s another organic boost that should help my Lockscreen Ads run at cheaper bids for a little while, and drive some sales. Kind of like the BookBub Featured Deal, only this time instead of ending up $4,000 in the red, I’m nearly $600 in the green.
Tweaking email marketing
As you saw in last month’s income report, I’m thinking about email marketing. I made some new adjustments to the Love Mondays emails for the next month. I’m continuing to tweak that process to make it the best newsletter for making it as a creator.
Another adjustment I made was to start sending out all kadavy.net posts via email. Previously, this email list only sent out new podcast episodes. I changed that so that it sends out every new RSS item (sign up over here).
Last month’s income report was the first such post to go out to the list. People loved it! I got some encouraging messages, and two new Patreon patrons at the $15 level at which you get access to the audio income reports.
Tweaking the website
I’m also tweaking kadavy.net itself. I’ve been meaning to do a redesign for a couple of years now, but when I thought about it more, a redesign didn’t seem necessary. It’s much better to improve what I have bit-by-bit.
Also, why redesign when I don’t have a good business reason to do it? One way to have a good business reason for a redesign would be to have enough traffic to justify it, and to have goals for that traffic that create a business case for a redesign. In other words, get more traffic, first!
I had long put off doing something about Disqus comments. Disqus comments are awesome, but they started filling my site with sleazy ads, without warning. I hated it, but I couldn’t justify the cost of “removing” the ads – by subscribing.
It also wasn’t a priority to migrate back to WordPress comments, and I feared that could be unexpectedly complicated.
Then, I remembered what I’ve been writing about complexity creep. Having comments on the blog at all introduces a lot of complexity into my life and business. I have to moderate the comments. The majority are spam.
So, I simply removed comments. In the process, I hid a lot of very valuable comments, but most of those are on posts that are not core to my offering.
I hate to miss out on other valuable comments I sometimes get. But, this is the sad state of the internet. Bad apples are why we can’t have nice things. I’m sure I’ll still get useful emails and Twitter comments anyway.
Speeding up the website
Removing comments also got me thinking about speeding up the website. I’m mindful that this is mostly not worth thinking about at all, given the amount of traffic I have. But I spent a couple of hours seeing what quick wins I could find.
I removed Disqus comments, my sharing and email-popover plugin (sorry Noah), and any Google Fonts. That’s right, I went back to Georgia. Funny, with the proliferation of Google Fonts over the years, the old web fonts look fresh again.
With these changes, my site went from a score of 26 on Google’s Page Speed to 93. Ironically, ditching Google Fonts brought a big boost in speed.
Ditching Google Fonts brought my Google PageSpeed Insights mobile score from 75 to 90. That fits the definition of "ironic" better than rain on your wedding day. pic.twitter.com/O1hbs3TLOI
— ? David Kadavy (@kadavy) September 3, 2020
Thinking about SEO again
Like I said, it’s probably not worth thinking about the speed of my website, given my traffic. Even a page from JamesClear.com, which gets a ton of traffic, had a Page Speed of 12 when I checked. Clearly, a few extra seconds of load time hasn’t prevented James from selling millions of books.
There’s no point in thinking about the speed of my website, but I thought about it anyway, which then prompted me to think of a way to make it matter how fast my website is: more traffic.
Diverting from the diversion
SEO has been important to this site since I started kadavy.net in 2004. But the past few years, I’ve done very little to intentionally bring in traffic through SEO.
Instead, I’ve been focused on sharing my own ideas, and finding my voice and process as a writer.
I think that has been a worthy diversion, and I will continue with those efforts. But it’s not bringing in traffic.
Back to the SEO roots
So, I’m thinking about how to start bringing in search traffic again. I won’t turn into a content farm, but I should be putting some portion of my efforts towards things I know that people will search for, and that are relevant to the books I sell.
It’s even better if these are topics that I benefit from writing about, myself. That’s true of these income reports, but these income reports bring in almost no search traffic.
Here are some areas I’m thinking about publishing some searchable content:
- Self publishing: I could be sharing specific things I’ve learned while self publishing, such as how to publish a book on Amazon.com, how to publish a hardcover book on Ingram Spark, or details on my BookBub Featured Deal.
- Mental models: I could be writing articles about some of the mental models and biases that I think about as I navigate the waters of making it as a creator. Things like the “sunk-cost fallacy,” “hyperbolic discounting,” or the “base-rate fallacy.” Okay, those are all biases, but you get the idea.
- Best books lists: I had good luck writing about best web design books on the D4H blog, but I haven’t tried to replicate that here on kadavy.net. I already quickly set up some pages with best creativity books and best productivity books.
- Book summaries: Since I’m already being more deliberate with documenting my knowledge, I may as well share some summaries for my favorite books.
I don’t want to approach this haphazardly. I was very deliberate in writing posts such as my ActiveCampaign Review, and that has paid off in the form of a passive income stream that funds my writing. I want to be just as deliberate in choosing what I could write about that would have the effect I desire, determining what level of detail will make a great post, and executing on that.
This will take a lot of energy, and I don’t have a lot left over. So, I’m going to experiment with allocating some of my podcast essays to cover these topics. I already had success with my Body by Science summary – it’s one of my most popular episodes, and consistently brings in traffic from its high ranking. Maybe this will also bring in some podcast listeners.
I’ll still be sharing my own ideas, but I think it’s time to be strategic in bringing in some more traffic. I already have a Getting Things Done book summary that I’m excited to share in October.
Trying cookie-free website analytics
Do I even use all of this data that Google Analytics collects? No. I don’t care who is visiting my website. I just want to know how many people are visiting certain pages.
Collecting all of this data is another case of complexity creep that I want to mitigate. I think it’s only a matter of time before the guidelines behind Europe’s GDPR or California’s Consumer Privacy Act are standard everywhere.
Privacy online is a good thing, but these stringent guidelines weigh down small businesses like mine. The more complex these guidelines get, the heavier that weight.
Trying Fathom Analytics
So, why not simplify? I’m doing a trial of Paul Jarvis’s Fathom Analytics, which is completely cookie-free. I like it so far.
It’s hard to justify the extra $14 a month for something I get free. I’m not using that as a reason to not pay for a cookie-free analytics solution. I’m using it as motivation to try to have this site bring in enough money to make that extra investment worthwhile.
At what point would it be worthwhile? I’m making a couple thousand bucks a month, has it already crossed that threshold? Maybe it has. Also, I’m scared…
How much data do I “need” about my customers
I have meant to do retargeting, as it’s apparently a worthwhile investment. But, that’s extra complexity. I also don’t like giving Facebook money.
However, having the data with which to run retargeting ads is a defense against Amazon. The more I have a chance to reach my customers, the less-reliant I am upon Amazon to sell books.
People are increasingly ignoring their email inboxes, and spending their attention on social media platforms. How bad will that get? Do I run the risk of getting cut off from my own customers, for want of some way to reach them?
The medium is the message (what that actually means)
I had heard the Marshall McLuhan quote, “the medium is the message.” It wasn’t until I started reading his book, Understanding Media that I understood what that meant.
“The medium is the message” is everywhere. It means that the characteristics of the medium shape the messages that win on that medium. It’s why Facebook was full of click-bait, and why people get into arguments on Twitter. “The medium is the message” explains why politicians win elections – they’re the “right” politician for the media at the time.
The medium is the (marketing) message
And the medium is the marketing message, too. Marketers design their marketing around the medium. The part of that medium that is important to marketers is tracking. Tracking helps marketers determine whether their efforts are effective or not.
But if everyone is tracking the same thing, everyone’s work will be the same. Remember, the medium is the message. If every email is trying to get opens and clicks, that shapes what you’ll see in the email. If every blog post is trying to get search traffic, that shapes that blog post.
Different medium = different message
So if you decide not to use the same medium as everyone, you’ll have a different message. If you don’t track opens and clicks, you have to measure success in some other way.
That sounds cool and all, but that is also known as stabbing in the dark. When you’re running a business, you can’t be stabbing in the dark.
So when I think about ditching Google Analytics, and committing to not do retargeting ads at some point in the future, that would be a commitment to a different medium, and thus a different message.
Doing things that don’t make sense, for success in the dark
And isn’t that why you’re reading this income report? From any measurable metric I have, it makes no fucking sense at all for me to publish several-thousand-words-long blog posts, on a variety of topics within my business, and willingly publish my private financial information on the internet, for free.
I really can’t justify it, but I do know that there are a small number of people who really like these reports. Not enough that they are shared far and wide, but they do like these reports. They’re different, aren’t they?
Rejecting the status-quo metrics of the medium would be a form of burning my boats. I know that when I do things that make no sense to the metrics of the medium, in some dark and un-trackable way, there’s a freshness to that. Somewhere in there is a way of leveraging hidden complexity to my advantage.
I just don’t know what that is. I’d like to find a way other than stabbing in the dark. But maybe that’s what burning one’s boats is all about.
BookBub Featured Deal long-term impact?
So far there’s no clear long-term impact from the BookBub Featured Deal I did in June. I’ve experimented with ramping up Amazon Ad spend, but that is turning out to be any more profitable than it was before.
But it is progress. I currently have 75 more Amazon ratings than when I held the promotion.
The Heart to Start Hardcover Sales
Possibly thanks to the BookBub Featured Deal, I had a record month in Ingram Spark sales of The Heart to Start, with 22 copies sold at a profit of $167.
15 of those sales were hardcovers! After having trouble with the Amazon in-stock status of the hardcover, it has lately shown up as available via Amazon Prime shipping.
That has probably contributed, but I suspect that jump in sales is also from some of the 2,500 people who bought the ebook during the BookBub Featured Deal deciding they liked the book well enough that they wanted a more tangible reminder on their shelves.
ActiveCampaign referrals recovering
I reported in a previous income report that an ActiveCampaign account for which I was earning $440 a month had apparently cancelled. Turns out it didn’t cancel – they must have simply not paid their bill for a few months, maybe due to COVID cost-cutting.
That account is showing up again in my reports, along with an even bigger account! I’ve seen an $824 credit show up a couple of times for an Enterprise account. Between those two accounts, that would be nearly $1,300 a month in passive revenue. I may consistently be averaging $2,000 a month in ActiveCampaign referrals. It is really great to have that passive income coming in.
All that said, you’ll only see $741 from ActiveCampaign this month, as there’s a two-month delay in receiving payments. But, that number should climb back up soon.
|White Hot Course||$138|
|Summer of Design||$38|
|Total Digital Products||$234|
Affiliates / Advertising
Love Your Work Podcast
|Total LYW Podcast||$345|
|Podcast Editing / Publishing||$80|
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