Subscribe to blog updates via email »

March 2021 Income Report

April 19 2021 – 04:20pm

An audio version of this income report is available to Patreon backers of certain levels »

March’s revenues were $6,782, up from February’s $5,255. Profits were $3,762, up from February’s $2,208.

A solid profit this month, ending a three-month decline in profits. Profit was helped along by an influx of crypto cash from sales of Steemit tokens, and a bi-yearly payment for Design for Hackers royalties.

Self-published profits stagnant

The graph for 12-month running profit for self-published books has been flat for the past five months. It rose sharply when I launched Mind Management, Not Time Management in October and November, but has stagnated since.

As I mentioned last month, much of this is probably due to the high price I have set for Mind Management, Not Time Management. I plan to do a pricing promotion soon, so hopefully that will improve this area.

Patreon membership drive

I mentioned in last month’s income report that I had been mulling over a Patreon membership drive. In the process of writing about that, I concluded I had probably mulled enough.

Special $9 “True Fan” level

So, I set up a special $9-a-month Patreon level called the “True Fan” level. At this level, patrons get everything they would normally get at the $15 “Creative Entrepreneur” level: early access to podcast episodes/articles, masterclass recordings with guests such as Noah Kagan, patron-only Q&A episodes, and audio versions of these income reports, all delivered to their own private RSS feed they can copy/paste into their favorite podcast apps.

So far, I’ve promoted this limited-time membership level here on, to my email list, to the Patreon backers themselves, and through a short “note” episode on the podcast.

True Fans are joining

As one would hope from a membership promotion, the “True Fan” level has increased my Patreon earnings. They’re not as high as the all-time high of $532 a month, but they’re climbing back up – currently at $293 a month. I do have more patrons than ever, at 48.

As of this writing, seven new members have joined the True Fan level. Two additional members have increased their monthly pledges to $9. None at higher levels have reduced their pledges.

Still a bit short of 1,000 True Fans, but it feels good to have these votes of confidence from readers.

Available through May 31st

When I initially announced this level, I said it was being offered “for a random amount of time,” as I didn’t know for how long I would offer it. But, I’ve now decided I’ll leave it available through May 31st. After that, I’ll unpublish it on Patreon. Backers will still get the benefits at the locked-in $9 price, but the level will no longer be available.

BookBub Featured Deal submitted and (partly) approved

As I mentioned last month, I have had Mind Management, Not Time Management priced at $14.99 for several months now, in preparation for a BookBub Featured Deal. As I write this, I’m on a flight back from the U.S, and so I’m ready to run a deal.

$2.99 or $1.99?

I ran some projections on the deal, trying to decide whether to run it at $1.99 or $2.99. At $2.99, I would get a little more than $2 per book in royalties – at $1.99, about 70¢. So, according to my projections, I would have a better chance of making a profit at $2.99 than at $1.99. However, I don’t think I’d have any chance to hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list with a $2.99 price.

I discussed it with my mastermind partner, and concluded I would set the offer at $2.99, and if the deal was rejected, on the next attempt I would try $1.99, then alternate until I was approved. I would go for profit instead of a bestseller list. But in case my first deal was rejected, there’d always be a chance to make a run for the WSJ list.

But, as I submitted the deal, I made a last-minute decision to submit for $1.99. I’m intensely curious about whether the book would have a shot at WSJ if I applied my learnings from my previous Featured Deal. I had been planning this deal for so long, setting this higher price to create a slingshot effect. I didn’t want to bail on that plan.

Approved for an international deal

I pretty quickly got an approval from BookBub – however, my deal was approved everywhere except the U.S. I’m invited to run a deal in the UK, Canada, Australia, and India, on Tuesday, April 27th ($1.99 or £1.99 in the respective currencies – 130 rupees in India). The deal will go to 250,000 subscribers, and cost $318. According to BookBub, the average copies sold is 460. If I sell the average number of copies, I’ll break even – or make $4 profit.

Poor previous international performance

I did an international deal for The Heart to Start, and that didn’t do well. However, I had botched my pricing and made myself ineligible for the promotion in the UK. So, I paid $318 to send to 140,000 subscribers in Australia and Canada (apparently they didn’t offer India at the time).

I was projected to sell about 300 copies, and that’s about what I sold. I made about $219 royalty, so that’s about $100 lost. There were also opportunity costs to the promotion, as I had to change from the 70% royalty plan to the 35% royalty plan, so I earned half what I would have normally. I estimated that opportunity cost at around $200. So, I lost around $300 doing that promotion.

Would it be different this time?

Would an international BookBub Featured Deal be different for Mind Management, Not Time Management than it was for The Heart to Start? I think so.

HTS hasn’t done well internationally. MMT has. Glancing at a 90-day KDP report, I see very few sales outside the U.S. for HTS – only a few across the UK, Germany, Mexico, and Australia. For MMT, I see sales in ten out of the twelve international markets. The only markets I don’t see sales are the Netherlands and Brazil. I even had a couple sales in Japan.

MMT did very well in its BookBub Featured New Release, which is contrary to the experiences I’ve heard from most authors. This international deal goes to almost 80% more readers than my previous international deal, at the same price. The deal also won’t have opportunity costs, as I’m already in the 35% royalty plan.

BookBub’s projections were accurate before. If they’re accurate again and I can break even on the promotion, it’s worth doing – aside from ongoing algorithmic and new-review effects.

What after this international deal?

I’m going to follow my own advice on how to land a BookBub Featured Deal, and accept this international deal. If it does well, I hope that will signal to BookBub that the book is worth promoting in the U.S. as well.

Since I decided to make it a priority to attempt to make the WSJ list, I’ll submit my next U.S. attempt at $1.99. Thereafter, I’ll alternate between $2.99 and $1.99, leaving the decision up to the BookBub gods.

Is the WSJ list that important?

This last-minute decision to follow through on a WSJ attempt has forced me to do some soul searching. Why is it important to me?

Not ready to lose $4,000 again

It felt pretty bad to lose $4,000 on my last attempt in my HTS Featured Deal. I like to tell myself I don’t care about validation from mainstream institutions, and losing money in the process of pursuing that validation made me feel like I had abandoned my indie principles.

The business case: Bestsellers become bestsellers

From a business standpoint, I can make the case for shooting for the WSJ list: Putting “Wall Street Journal bestseller” on the cover of my book and in my bio will add legitimacy. It will make everything easier, from attracting followers to landing podcast interviews, to – most importantly – selling the book. After reading about “pseudo-events” in Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Image, I have to accept what he said, paraphrasing O. H. Cheney, “one way to make a book a best seller is to call it one.” I already do call my books bestsellers, as they are certainly that on Amazon. But WSJ adds another layer of legitimacy.

Are there early adopters left?

Many readers don’t care about bestseller status, but those are the “early adopters.” At some point you have to “cross the chasm” to the mainstream. Maybe that’s premature for MMT, and there are plenty more people left in the “early adopter” market. Probably more important than hitting the WSJ list is finding more of those early adopters.

Learning the publishing business

Aside from the business case for shooting for WSJ is the case of learning the publishing business. Hitting the list would be an extension of What I’m Trying to Do Here: self publish traditional-publisher-quality books. Hitting a list for a big newspaper proves you have done just that.

How much does validation matter to me?

The reason I most fear would be that validation from a mainstream institution matters to me. This is definitely less true than it used to be, but in making a concerted attempt to hit the WSJ list, I’m almost sure this is a reason somewhere within me – and that makes me sick. I’ve made so much progress in having the courage to do things my way, instead of the way that will make me one of the “cool kids.” So the thought that I might be shooting for a list because I want that validation, and not because it’s The Right Business Decision, is unsettling to me.

I think “the line” where this becomes a problem is if I find myself stressing myself out over getting that validation. This is hard to avoid, because when you’re shooting for a list, it feels like you have to do anything and everything to get there. There’s no such thing as “too much.” You end up having a shitty week and having to recover and The Work suffers. And knowing you let yourself have a shitty week to get the approval of The Establishment makes you feel empty inside.

A step toward it “just happening”

So I don’t want to cross that line, and I want to view the experience as a step toward it “just happening.” You can hit a list because you killed yourself trying to get there, or you can hit a list because it just happened – because you built enough of a body of work that there are that many people into what you make. One day, it becomes easy, but part of the reason it’s easy is you made attempts before and you know what to expect.

The plan

The plan I’d like to follow, should I get a U.S. deal at $1.99, is this: See how it goes without draining the bank on ads. Do whatever free promotion I can. If it looks like I have a shot at the list, crank up the ads the last couple days. But don’t go more than $2,000 in the hole trying to do so. Take what I’ve learned, and move on to the next thing. If I hit that list and can later display that validation for the readers who need to see it, great. If not, that’s okay.

Zettelkasten “book” well underway

I continue to plug away at a Zettelkasten “book,” or short read. I was originally shooting for about 10,000 words, and I have about 9,000. However, I don’t think I’ll finish saying everything I want to say within the next 1,000 words. I currently estimate the book will be about 15,000 words.

Writing isn’t the only thing I need to do for this book. It also calls for some illustrations. I don’t have an estimated launch date for it. I’m just writing a little each day I get a chance.

$1,200 Steemit income

You’ll see about $1,200 in earnings for Steemit income this month. That isn’t representative of any recent work – I simply cashed out some of the coins in my wallet. It turned out to be a project to do so, as the process has changed since I wrote Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain. I had to open a Poloniex account, transfer my coins there, and convert them to Bitcoin. For simplicity, I didn’t connect a bank account to Poloniex. I instead transferred to Coinbase, then converted to USD.

Recovering lost STEEM tokens on Poloniex

I made a mistake in the process, and tried to send my STEEM coins to a Bitcoin address. It’s a really dumb mistake, is not the first time I’ve made it, and probably won’t be the last. But, my coins disappeared.

I thought my coins were gone forever, but it took me several days to realize that Poloniex definitely had my coins, as transfers to their exchange all go to the same username, and are only attributed to your account via the memo field. The transaction was in error, so it’s not like my coins ended up in a STEEM wallet that happened to have the same username as my Bitcoin address.

I contacted Poloniex, and they recovered my coins. I guess I did myself a favor with this error, as the value of my coins had risen from about $800 to $1,200 in those few days.

So, I’m glad I got my coins, but I still scratch my head, wondering why Poloniex doesn’t automatically return coins when someone makes this very common error. They’re probably in possession of a lot of coins that have been “lost.”

Design for Hackers royalty payment

Like every March, I received my bi-yearly royalty payment for Design for Hackers. This payment was for $760. The three previous payments were $591, $813, and $725. So, I continue to average a little over $100 a month for this book.

I’m proud to have written a “technology” book – which is supposed to have a short life – that still sells ten years later. It’s what Ryan Holiday would call a Perennial Seller.

In the back of my mind, I do nag myself a little that I should be writing a second edition. The tenth anniversary in September 20201 would have been a good time for that, but it’s too late now. It’s hard to get excited about that idea, as I’m enjoying working on my new projects. Apparently readers are still getting utility out of the book, anyway.

The Heart to Start to be translated to Vietnamese

I made my first DIY foreign-rights deal! If all goes well, The Heart to Start will be translated into Vietnamese. I’ve signed a contract with a Vietnamese publisher, and am waiting for the money to hit my bank account.

I had made previous attempts to sell foreign-language rights to The Heart to Start. I had an agent in China for a year, who was unable to sell the Chinese rights. The feedback I got was that the book was a little too short to make economic sense (25,000 word). They also said the Chinese market would still be confused by the idea of entrepreneurship as “art,” and still thinks of it in the paintings-and-sculpture sense of the word.

No self-translations

I’ve abandoned any idea I had of managing translation myself. The Spanish version of How to Write a Book has been slow to sell, which is a stark contrast to its performance in the English market, where it sells itself. I’ve also found that my Spanish knowledge has made marketing that book easier. If it’s still not selling, I’d be screwed if I were trying to market in a language with which I’m unfamiliar.

First DIY foreign-rights deal

This was my first time selling a translation deal myself (Design for Hackers is available in several languages). I’m still learning the proper terms to ask for in these deals, and in what areas of such deals to negotiate. What were the terms of the deal? I’ll share once I have money in the bank, so hopefully that will be in next month’s report.

This was my first foreign-rights deal for a self-published book, and I hope there will be much more. Since MMT does much better internationally than HTS, and since it’s a longer book, maybe its rights will sell better. Maybe that will, in turn, generate more foreign-rights interest for HTS.

$0 Digital Products sales

This is the first time in more than three years of doing these reports that I’ve had $0 in “Digital Product” sales. That’s online courses.

I’m inclined to feel bad about that, but I actually find that exciting. I’ve mentioned many times that I’m de-emphasizing online courses, and emphasizing book sales. The main reason being I personally almost never take an online course, and I really love books. It’s a good feeling to still make solid revenue without online course sales, because I’m also making a lot of revenue through book sales. $3,500 in a month from books is solid.

Reduced SendOwl spend

I’ve mentioned before that as I de-emphasize online courses, I’ve wanted to reduce my monthly SendOwl bill. In fact, I’d like to transition off SendOwl completely, and sell my courses through a service that simply takes a cut of each transaction.

To reduce my SendOwl bill, I needed to eliminate any subscription plans I had available. That took some time because – in addition to eliminating subscriptions from the landing pages – I had to wait for any customers with monthly payment plans to finish their plans. Now that those things are done, I was able to simplify my product offerings. Now, instead of paying $24 a month for SendOwl, I’m paying $9.

The next step would be to transition to a more simple payments platform – perhaps PayHip, since that’s what I use for selling books direct. This might not take much time to do, but since I’m only paying SendOwl $9 a month, it’s not a high priority.

A little extra Libsyn

Since three podcast episodes fall within April, I ran out of Libsyn storage space as those episodes were scheduled, in March. That’s why you’ll see $12 going to Libsyn, instead of the usual $7.

Solid ActiveCampaign earnings

I can’t take for granted the big chunk of revenue that comes from referrals to ActiveCampaign. $1,130 of passive income helps me focus on what I’m curious about.


Book Sales

Design for Hackers (all formats) $760
Mind Management, Not Time Management Kindle $913
Mind Management, Not Time Management Paperback (Amazon) $197
Mind Management, Not Time Management (non-Amazon) $69
Mind Management, Not Time Management Audiobook $158
The Heart to Start Kindle $739
The Heart to Start Paperback (Amazon) $84
The Heart to Start “Wide” (non-Amazon) $13
The Heart to Start Audiobook $289
How to Write a Book Kindle $128
How to Write a Book Paperback $129
How to Write a Book “Wide” (non-Amazon) $6
How to Write a Book Audiobook $22
How to Write a Book Spanish (all) $21
Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain (all) $3
Ten Passive Income Ideas $8
Total Book Sales $3,539

Digital Products

Total Digital Products $0

Affiliates / Advertising

Active Campaign $1,130
Amazon $164
Google Adsense $122
SendOwl $5
Total Affiliates $1,421

Love Your Work Podcast

Patreon $351
PayPal Donations $5
Total LYW Podcast $356


Clarity $101
Medium $174
Superpeer $0
Steemit $1,193
Total Services $1,468



Accounting $219
Outside Contractors $0
Podcast Editing / Publishing $80
Quickbooks $36
Total General $335


Amazon $2,128
BookBub $210
Product Samples $8
Total Advertising $2,347


ActiveCampaign $135
Bookfunnel $15
Drafts $2
Dropbox $10
Fathom Analtyics $14
Libsyn $12
Namecheap $25
SendOwl $9
Ulysses $7
WP Engine $96
Zapier $14
Total Hosting $339

Thinking of
writing a book?

How to Write a Book cover
Download your FREE copy of How to Write a Book »

(for a limited time)

This post is filed under Income Reports.