Michael is doing a PhD in Ottoman history and is living in Turkey, he was working a part time job teaching English, trading hours for dollars and wanted to move away from that and create a product that people would purchase. We talk about how to become a writer even if you have little practical experience of writing books before starting.
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Internet Business Mastery – Excellent podcast for developing a business mindset around your writing.
Fiverr – Where Michael gets his book covers done (and they look good!).
Content Reserve – getting digital books into US libraries.
Falling into Writing
Michael originally wanted to create a business based around “5 minute courses” and when that didn’t take off he wanted to do something else with the content, so decided to repurpose it into the ebook form. Sometimes learning how to become a writer happens my accident as it did in Michael’s case.
What Titles Work
Michael found that finding out what the audience wants is super important. At the start he created some books that did really well, and others that didn’t. After making the mistake of just relying on what he thought people would find interesting, he started reaching out to his audience and asking them what they wanted. (This has come up in previous non-fiction author interviews). Michael had an email list which he had built by having it on his author website which was linked to in his books.
These days he would recommend that a non-fiction author doesn’t even worry about that book at first, but instead builds an audience and from there simply asks them what they want, and then creates that. This is talked about often the Internet Business Mastery podcast.
Michael gets his covers done on Fiverr.com and finds them to be effective. He found a designer he likes and stuck with them, generally sending them a cover he finds to be good and telling them to make something similar.
Michael saw a lot of success with his first book after it was linked over to by a popular political blogger (he had submitted the book to them). This was great for a couple of months but then sales started to slide significantly and he realised that a writing career wasn’t a one book thing. He started increasing his catalogue by writing more books, but also doing translations.
For his translations he would hire several people for 500-1000 words and then get someone who knows the language to say which one was best. For a 50,000 word book he paid $700, which is very reasonable because the translator was just breaking into the market. He saw a return pretty much immediately in the German Amazon store, but not in the Spanish one.
He has also done audiobooks and puts his books into libraries (in the digital format). He is basically just looking for ways to get as much content out there in as many places as possible. The libraries purchase a number of copies from you if they are interested in you.
Michael is a podcast and host of the “History in 5 Minutes” podcast. He got a lot of listeners to this simply through exposure in podcasting platforms like iTunes and Stitcher, he now uses is as a way to find out what his audience wants (through a mailing list) and also as a marketing tool (he gives away a free book when people go to his website).
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