Bestselling author Adam Houge has sold over 2 million books in Christian Non-Fiction, as well as genre fiction under pen names, and he just started publishing in 2013! This week I chat with Adam about how he got into self-publishing, how he was able to create such extraordinary success in such a short amount of time, and how he’s been able to write more than 100 books in the past three years.
After having traveled extensively as a minister, Adam Houge and his wife settled in Virginia in 2012. Soon after, however, his stressful job led to a series of medical problems and a stack of medical bills, forcing his wife to become the breadwinner. With nothing else to do but convalesce, he started writing.
That opened a doorway to what he was most passionate about. Adam started writing Christian Non-Fiction, started getting ideas for different pen names, and realized there was a lot of potential in book-writing.
At first, money wasn’t his goal. He was just writing what he’s passionate about. He didn’t expect any good results; just wanted to find an audience for his book. He was a big believer in writing, publishing, and repeating, and began to see some results financially and realized writing books just might be a viable source of income. He began to hope that maybe he could match his wife’s income.
Just six months into his publishing efforts, he made $1,600-$1,800 that month. That’s when he realized how the Amazon algorithms worked, how to match his books to what people were searching for, and how to connect better with his fanbase.
His 7th month, he made $14,000. The 8th month, he made $30,000. By the end of his year, he was making $40,000 a month!
Marketing Before Writing
“You have to start your marketing before the pen hits the page.”
Before he even starts writing a new book, Adam already knows what bestseller list he’ll be targeting, how many reviews he thinks he can get at launch using his email list and ARCs, how saturated relevant keywords might be, etc. In short, after writing and launching 100+ books, he knows if an idea will do well or just okay.
“Write the story that you love,” Adam says, “but just, you know, kind of steer it just a little bit to that one type that people are looking for, and you’re going to find that you’re writing what you love, and you’re going to succeed, and it’s just — it’ll be beautiful. It’ll be awesome.”
How to Launch Bestseller After Bestseller
Adam launches his books for free at first, using his five free days through KU and boosting their visibility through book promotion sites like Bargainbooksy and Kindle Nation Daily, as well as hitting up his email list in waves and utilizing Facebook ads.
It used to be that huge spikes in sales and reviews did a book good; however, nowadays, it’s better to avoid such spikes, Adam says. The algorithms favor a more steady stream of sales and reviews now. And something to keep in mind: one-star reviews are weighted more heavily than five-star reviews.…
“Amazon is a very Darwinian environment, and you have to evolve with it. And as you do so, you will succeed with it.”
Building a Fanbase
“Each book is a new opportunity to build your fanbase.”
It’s important for authors to understand the need to grow an audience and connect with it, and there are two ways to do that: having your own source of traffic you can control, and being able to convert that traffic into sales. Once an author understands how those two things fit in with their books/products, they will start to automatically create income.
The way you control traffic is through your email list, whatever social media platform you’re most successful on, Facebook, Facebook ads, and book promo sites. It’s important to keep Pareto’s Principle in mind, Adam says; 20 percent of your effort should yield 80% of your results.
The way you convert traffic into sales is by putting in front of readers the book they’re looking for. Make sure your title speaks to them while containing relevant keywords that readers are searching for. Secondly, make sure your cover pops and stands out of the crowd of other similar books. Finally, make sure your description tells readers exactly what the book is going to deliver and gets them excited for it.
Over 100 books and counting! How?!
“When you do what you’re passionate about, you end up doing a whole lot more of it.”
Because Adam is so passionate about what he writes and the freedoms and life his writing has given him, he finds it an absolute joy to sit down every day and knock out 5,000 words. “I have found my true passion in writing.”
Advice to New Authors
Find a balance between writing what you love and writing what the readers would love to read from you.
“You’ve gotta love it, or you’re going to hate it.”
Action Steps For Building a Loyal Fanbase:
Adam stresses the importance of creating a book that people are searching for. To that end, it’s important that you have a banging title that speaks to them, a compelling cover that stands out, and a description that convinces them they need your book. Here are some tips from Adam on how to create a book that readers have to have:
- Title. Ask yourself if your title connects with the reader. The title should convey to your audience that this book is the one they’re looking for. Including keywords can be extremely helpful in alerting an audience of the type of book you’re selling. And while there are situations where keywords can be inartfully inserted in a title effectively, it’s better to craft a keyword into a title in a way that makes sense and is compelling.
- Cover. Go to the bestseller list you expect to see your book on and take a look at the current bestsellers. What kind of covers do they have? What are the audience’s expectations in terms of covers? Then, a little trick that Adam likes to do, is to take his almost-finished cover from his book designer and see what it looks like among its peers, then figure out how to make it pop or contrast. Oftentimes, he’ll simply tweak the color to ensure that the cover stands out from the rest.
- Description. A lot of authors mistakenly think the product description is where you describe your book, but in actuality, the description is where you sell your book. You want to include a compelling hook both at the beginning and end of a description. Raise the question that the reader wants answered so badly that they will click “buy.”
- Include a link at the beginning of your book. It’s fine to include your lead magnet link at the back of your book, but Adam points out that if your book happens to be long, it may be a while before a reader reaches that link. By including the link at the beginning of the book, not only do you increase your chances of adding to your subscriber list, but the link is also visible and clickable from the “Look Inside!” preview on the book’s sales page, allowing readers an opportunity to sample your wares and enter your sales funnel before they’re even convinced to buy.
For more tips and strategies from Adam, check out his website TheFanBaseFormula.com.
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