This week, I spoke with Joshua Dalzelle, a USA Today bestselling author and an Amazon Top Ten science fiction author, to find out how he reached bestsellerdom in less than two years and without a website!
Although Josh started writing stories at a very young age, his first career was in the Air Force as an electronic warfare specialist on B-1B bombers. After his service with the Air Force, he earned a Masters of Aeronautical Science, eventually working as an engineer for an avionics company focusing on test systems for parts, before going on to pursue a full-time writing career.
Christmas of 2011, Josh received a Kindle from his fiancée and, to his delight, discovered many great new authors. In mid-2012, he heard a self-published author on The Adam Carrolla Show talking about self-publishing and KDP. By then, Josh had already accumulated the requisite collection of rejection letters from traditional publishers, and so he determined to make a go of it on his own.
At the time, he was struggling with a long and complicated science fiction novel, and so decided to try something light and fun, “empty calories,” just to give himself a break. Thanks to a rough writing night with a television marathon of “Knight Rider” and “The A-Team” running on the background, he came up with the concept of the Omega Force series, “the adventures of Jason Burke, a lone human in space who has linked up with five other aliens to try their luck as hired guns. Their mandate: to help those who don’t have the means to help themselves and never accept a job that would compromise the honor code they live by.”
Josh published his first book, “Omega Rising,” on 2/27/13, barely two years ago, a mere seven or eight months after learning about self-publishing. Since then, he’s published SIX more books, plus an omnibus containing Books 1-3 of his Omega Force series. “Omega Rising” is also part of a bestselling multi-author box set. Incredibly, ALL of his titles, including the omnibus and box set, are in the top 100 of their categories, and ALL have 100+ reviews.
His books and publication dates are as follows:
- 2/27/13 – “Omega Rising”
- 5/3/13 – “Omega Force: Soldiers of Fortune”
- 9/20/13 – “Omega Force: Savage Homecoming”
- 2/9/14 – “Omega Force: The Enemy Within”
- 7/7/14 – “Omega Force: Return of the Archon”
- 9/16/14 – “Stars and Empire: 10 Galactic Tales” (multi-author box set)
- 10/6/14 – “Omega Force: Secret of the Phoenix”
- 1/20/14 – “Omega Force Series Omnibus (Books 1 – 3)”
- 1/13/15 – “Warship” – Book 1 of the Black Fleet Trilogy
Josh attributes his getting a jump-start on sales thanks to a glowing review by author Brian Keene early on, but no doubt a huge part of his success comes from his frequent and consistent releases. In a September 2013 text interview with Fiona Mcvie, just after the release of his third book, he wrote, “In an environment where people forget about you very quickly, I don’t have the luxury of taking eighteen-plus months to release another book.”
His diligence has paid off, resulting in seven new releases just shy of two years. With each new release, his Amazon sales rank has climbed higher and higher, starting from a very decent #5,000 with his first book, to #900 with his second, to #400 with his third, to now the top 100 across his catalog in their respective sub-categories.
Josh has kept his marketing strategies simple and straightforward. He noticed that Amazon’s algorithms tend to favor consistent sales over a week’s time versus a quick burst of sales over a day or two; therefore, he likes to schedule promotions through places like askDavid.com and bknights on Fiverr.com over the course of a launch week in order to increase discoverability. He also includes a call to action (CTA) at the back of each book, cross-promoting his various titles.
Josh’s success is quite remarkable considering that he has no website. His author platform consists mainly of a healthy Twitter following, a Facebook page, and more recently, a mailing list. His lack of website isn’t due to some sort of marketing strategy, however; Josh chalks it up to procrastination due to a focus on writing.
The Best Marketing Strategy of All
Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that Josh has succeeded without a website or other typical trappings of the modern-day writer. No doubt he is a talented writer, but his greatest asset is his work ethic. From Day 1, his focus has been on working towards becoming a better writer than the day before, and he has concentrated his energy and effort into the storytelling process, working with a professional editor and sticking to his daily word count goals. His story is a perfect example of the best kind of marketing strategy: write good books, publish them, and then write some more.
What’s Next for Josh?
Josh has since quit his job as an engineer to pursue his writing full-time. Last month, he released “Warship,” the first book in his new “Black Fleet” trilogy, and he has plans for future cross-genre titles. He also hopes to get a website set up eventually. 🙂
- Focus on developing your skill as a writer. Try writing different things to stretch yourself and avoid boredom. Working with a skilled editor, as Josh mentioned, will also help improve your abilities as an effective storyteller.
- Set a daily word count goals and make that goal each day before focusing on other things in your writing business. Josh’s daily goal? 1,500 words.
- Consider a change of scenery to avoid the distractions of writing at home. Josh likes to write sometimes at coffee shops and bars.
- Ask yourself what’s your motivation? One of the biggest thrills as a self-published author for Josh is knowing that when he finishes a book, it goes directly to an audience instead of through a long, no-guarantees process of submitting to traditional publishers. It’s the excitement of getting it in front of readers that motivates him.
- Although having your own self-hosted website is considered the gold standard for today’s modern author, as Josh has proven, there is no one right way to build your audience. Just make sure that your readers can find you — and your books! — online, whether that be a personal website, Twitter, Facebook, or a solid Amazon author page.
What percentage of time do you spend writing versus being a publisher?
How important is an author’s website to you as a reader?
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