Episode # 37 – Self Publishing to Survive

In Uncategorized by Julius S27 Comments

Michael Coorlim cover

Michael emailed me a few weeks ago and something in that email struck me, he wrote “self publishing saved my life.” Michael went from being long-term unemployed to making enough money from self publishing to live off in under a year. It was a period of long days and dedicated work, but in the end he came out on top. This episode not only tells his story but it also looks at how you can launch a book even if you have no budget at all.

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Great follow up article written by Elizabeth Barone – Fantastic write up of some of the key points covered in this article.

Mentions:

Fringe and Warehouse 13 – television shows.

Spellchecker – set his book in Victorian England so switched his spellchecker to English (UK).

Reddit – a thread about self publishing that started it all

Mailchimp – the email service that Michael uses to build his subscriber base.

Rocking Book Covers – Adrijus’ book cover site. Great covers for self published authors.

Show notes:

Background

Was looking for a job in a terrible economy and found it hard to find another professional job after leaving his last. Was looking for work and failing to find a permanent position and the job interviews started drying up. At that point he turned to writing out of a desperation to make some form of income, he wrote some pieces and sent them off to magazines. He was rejected for the magazine (but got a personal rejection letter!) and then heard about self publishing from a thread on Reddit.

The Idea

A user on Reddit said that he was making $1000 a day from self publishing. He had several pen names and would write many books under each name, then he would cross promote the names with each other. He would be putting information in the different books about the other author pen names.

The books were very short and priced at 99 cents a piece.

This is how Michael started and he used the strategies that he had read about, unfortunately by this point these self publishing strategies were largely out of date and not working for him. In his first month he made $10 on the four self published short stories that he had written.

He reworked the strategies and updated them, put some more work out and in the second month made $250. He was putting out a huge amount of work and got a lot of books out under a lot of different names (60 short 5-10k word stories) and in six months he broke $1000 a month and got an apartment two months later when the Amazon check came through.

Today he regrets using so many pen names because it is hard to maintain so many different author brands. He intends to bring them all under one name in the future.

Marketing

Michael wasn’t doing much marketing beyond building an email newsletter and putting links in the back of his books. He says that it is a better time investment to write another book. However he says that as someone who is self publishing you must develop your author brand and email list – Michael puts a link to his at the end of his books.

Budget

Michael started with zero money in the bank to spend. He had a design background and did the covers himself, and he admits it was done badly, but he has improved. He says that if you are going to spend money self publishing it should be your cover. The performance of his books where he has had a cover commissioned is significantly better, if you can afford it, do it.

If you can barter your services for someone else’s then you should. If you can write some copy for someone in exchange for a cover or some editing then do it. Plenty of barter trading goes on in the self publishing community, so be on the look out for an opportunity.

Kickstarter

Michael had written a book and then used Kickstarter to find a cover and hire an editor for it. He primarily uses beta readers to catch the mistakes but also uses an editor. If you are strapped for cash, using several good beta readers can be a great way to get a book cleaned up on the cheap.

Burnout

Michael slowed down a bit once he started to bring in better money. He realised he was becoming a workaholic and didn’t want to burn out in the future. He was working hard initially out of desperation to make some money, but when that money started coming in he could afford to slow down a little and start self publishing at a more manageable pace.

It is a Job

Importantly Michael treats self publishing as a full time job. He does 40 hours a week minimum on his writing – that is what he would work for someone else, and that is what he does for himself and his writing. At the start he worked much harder to get the early body of work out and see what was working.

Quotes:

“I have people on my list and I don’t know why they are on my list!”

Untitled-1

Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Julius SEpisode # 37 – Self Publishing to Survive
  • Michael Coorlim

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story and what little wisdom I’ve managed to glean from this self-publishing adventure.

    • SimonRSP

      You are welcome Michael, it was great to have you. Thanks for taking the time to come and share your story, I know it will be valuable and inspiring for the listeners :).

  • Pingback: Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast with Michael Corlim | John L. Monk()

  • Another great show. Thanks to you both for all the info and a very entertaining & informative interview.

    • SimonRSP

      Sure thing William, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    • Michael Coorlim

      You’re welcome, William.

  • R.M. Prioleau

    What an amazing interview! Michael’s story is absolutely inspiring! I’m sure it will help a lot of people out there who are unsure of what to do next in their writing journey. The common pattern I’ve seen from many of the successful people who have been interviewed is that they have written a LOT of books. So I guess the simple secret to success is to keep writing more books 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      Agreed. I found it particularly interesting how measured the process was, testing the market with smaller projects, then expanding on the ones that there was a response to. I know a lot of authors will write a full book before knowing whether there is demand for it, there’s a lot to be said about the way Michael chose to do things if you want to see a financial return faster. Of course, you might not end up writing your favorite story, but that’s a whole other debate!

      • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

        I did that. Because of Amanda Hocking being the very first Indie author I EVER heard of anf because she had all this success with first drafts, I didn’t take Indie publishing seriously back in 2011 so I put these 2 novellas out there as a test and got the usual “loved it but needs more developement” critque, so spent this past year expanding them into novels.

        I also see on his pages how people complain about short stories on Kindle, I don’t know what they expect–Michael writes like a demon but nobody can keep that up. What’s wrong with short stories anyway?

  • Eva Hudson

    Hi Simon
    Had a thought about your transcription overhead. I’ve not tried this myself and it might be a big old pain in the bum, but have you considered the auto transcript option on YouTube? Although the text it produces has mistakes, if your diction is good (and frankly – yours is!) then there might not be too many to correct. You can download the text straight from YouTube and start tweaking. Although it’s a timesink, as you’re proofing the stuff you get back from the transcriber anyway, it might not be that much more work.

    Thought it was worth mentioning. If you need more info, I’m more than happy to give you a step by step guide.

    Thanks for the podcasts – they’re addictive! Not got beyond the intro of this week’s yet, but thought I should drop you a line re the transcript ‘issue’.

    All the best

    Eva

    • SimonRSP

      Hi Eva,

      This was actually one of the reasons I uploaded all the past RSP episodes to YouTube ;). I’ve been working through the first episode and while it is time consuming the YT captioning is surprisingly good (especially for my side of the interview).

      The down side is zero punctuation, not distinguishing the voices (so it’s just one big block of text), and lots of easy to miss errors. I’m working out the time commitment per episode and from their deciding if I should be doing it.

      Anyway, I really appreciate that you reached out with the idea.

      Best,

      Simon

  • Pingback: Interview over at Rocking Self Publishing Podcast - Michael Coorlim()

  • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

    Being on a low budget, I found this very inspiring. I wonder if I should quit my much hated job and couch surf for a while as well but I can’t imagine anyone putting up with me for long… I jest! I’m really just jealous because I’m not as discplined as I should be. I shall listen to this or at least come by and look at it to remind myself to write more pages.
    As always!
    Alyne de Winter
    Fang you

    • SimonRSP

      Hey Alyne. Agreed, I mean, I wouldn’t go and place yourself purposefully in the position Michael was in, but I can see why it really makes you disciplined (write to eat and all). I think extrinsic motivation can be a real driver to get things done, but mastering that intrinsic motivation to write (when you really done have to), is much harder.

      S

      • Michael Coorlim

        Yes, definitely take advantage of the assets you have. I wish I had had a safety net, but developing the discipline to write regularly was the most important skill I learned.

  • Jun Han

    Hi Simon,
    I love your show. Since I am about to launch ebook for the for first time.
    It really helped a lot in many ways.
    Looking forward to hearing more from you on upcoming episodes.

    Cheers,

    Jun from Korea

    • SimonRSP

      Hi Jun! Congratulations on finishing the book and good luck with the launch :).

  • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

    Michael’s books covers rock!

    • Michael Coorlim

      Thanks! I’m glad you think so.

  • I love it. “Eight hours a day in the word mines!” The picture in my head appeals. I’m enjoying your podcasts very much.

    • SimonRSP

      Haha, thanks Toni :).

    • Michael Coorlim

      That’s how it feels, sometimes. Other days it feels like I’m simply pandering out my talent.

  • Alexis Ayres

    Really helpful. Thank you.

    • Michael Coorlim

      Glad you found it helpful!

  • Deborah A Rogers

    I was just made redundant on Tuesday so it was great to listen to this uplifting podcast of Michael’s story. I’m approaching my impending redundancy as an opportunity. Luckily I have a 15 month lead in until they shut my office down, so I’m going to save as such as I can then take a year off from working for the man and focus on my writing. Who needs the real world anyway.

    • SimonRSP

      Hi Deborah, sorry to hear that, but I agree it can be a blessing in disguise, and having that 15 months to prepare sounds like a great chance to build up a bit of “runway.”

      >>Who needs the real world anyway.

      Right!? 🙂

  • Hi Simon,
    Great story with some really good advice to action in my life right now. Great introduction to rocking self publishing – thanks bren