This week I have the pleasure of introducing Steve Scott, bestselling indie author of over 50 books, internet entrepreneur, and podcaster. Steve published his first Kindle book in February 2012, and since December 2013, has consistently made five figures a month from his ebook business. In this interview, we find out how he built his online book business and how he continues to grow and manage it.
Self-Publishing Questions – Steve’s new podcast for self-publishers.
The Writer’s Circle – Private forum/mastermind community from RSP.
Steve Scott started out with an internet marketing background and has been running online businesses on the Web since 2004. He started a blog in 2010, but soon found that his passive affiliate income provided up to 89% of his income, while blogging, which took most of his time and effort, yielded much less. So he decided to start putting his content into short book form and published his first book, “55 Ways to Make Money Online” — now titled “Make Money Online – 55 Ways to Make Extra Money Fast Using Your Computer” — in February of 2012.
After a year of “moderate success” publishing internet business books, Steve started a new line of children’s books in February 2013, but soon abandoned that due to problems with copycat authors and a lack of commitment to take the brand “to the next level.”
A few months later, in May 2013, he launched another line of books targeted at the habits market. Steve felt that the habits market had a much broader audience, and based on his own experience, he felt much more passionate about the topic.
By September 2013, he decided to completely focus on his habits books, a strategy that has served him well. In May of 2014, Steve enjoyed his highest-grossing month, making $65,643.53 from all income streams; $56,639.35 of that income was generated just from his habits books. Although his income has dropped since that month, according to Steve’s openly shared income report, he still averaged around $30,000 a month during the last quarter of 2014.
Work Habits for Success
What are the most important habits of a bestselling author on books about habits?
- Steve likes to use the Pomodoro Technique, wherein you work for 25-minute segments or blocks, take a 5-minute break, then dive back in for another 25-minute block. This helps him reach his daily word count goal.
- He tries to accomplish two or three major goals a day (one of which is to meet his daily word count goal).
- Steve stresses that it’s also important to make sure you have a system for capturing ideas in a consistent, systematic approach. He likes to use Evernote’s “record” feature for when ideas show up when he’s out and about.
- Steve also tries to systematize any aspect of his business that he can. For the past year, he has been working with a VA (Virtual Assistant) very successfully, utilizing her skills to filter and maintain his email, research various topics, and manage the workflow of his podcast. The idea behind this habit, Steve says, is to simply figure out the stuff that can distract you from writing, and then figure out a system to deal with it.
Lifestyle and Travel
In an industry where authors feel pressured to release a book every 30, 60, or 90 days to keep in the good graces of Amazon’s algorithms, Steve has made it a point to take one or two major trips a year. In fact, while I was emailing back and forth with his VA to arrange for this interview, Steve was off climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
So how does he manage it?
Steve admits that his travels negatively impact his business, that he probably would have done much better if maybe he didn’t take the time off…but ultimately, how much money do you need? Although he doesn’t have the “eye-popping income reports” from before, he feels he enjoys a better quality of life being able to pursue travel and cross off items from his bucket list. He doesn’t work or write on his vacations. Most of the business management is conducted by his trusty VA while he’s away.
In short, he’s put in place the systems necessary to keep the business running in his absence, and then focuses his attention on his vacation.
Self-Publishing Questions Podcast
Steve officially launched his Self-Publishing Questions podcast in January 2015, as a way to provide specific detailed content in response to questions he receives from indie authors. While the podcast’s primary purpose is to increase his internet presence and provide excellent content to his listeners, it also provides the happy benefit of allowing him to answer frequently asked questions he receives in emails by pointing folks to the podcast episode that answers that question in detail.
Already, he has recorded 55 episodes answering questions dealing with topics as varied as dealing with copycat authors to whether or not you should outsource the narration of your audiobook. If you have a self-publishing question, ask Scott at Self-Publishing Questions, and he might just make an episode out of it…if he hasn’t already.
The All-Important Mailing List
Steve has been banging the drum about the importance of authors building their own mailing lists for years now. Why is it so important? As Mark Dawson put it, it’s like having your own BookBub list. The best part? All the email subscribers are signed up for one option: You.
Steve has himself built a massive email list — two, to be exact. His habits email list boasts 23,000 subscribers, and his internet business email list has 15,000 subscribers. Case in point, he has been able to launch a number of books into the Top 100 Paid Kindle list on Amazon using just his email lists.
How do you build an awesome email list?
Steve likes to create content and resources that interests his target audience, offering these “lead magnets” for free in exchange for an email. He pays close attention to his analytics, mostly using Amazon affiliate links to gauge which books are doing better, which would benefit from free lead-in content, and so on.
Paid vs. Free Promotions
Steve is a big fan of paid promotions, offering his books at $.99 instead of for free. Because he has such a large following already established, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to offer his books for free.
However, he acknowledges that there are great benefits that can come with a free title. Primarily, if an author can get a large number of downloads, that can be leveraged into growing an email list or gaining crucial reader reviews or even lead readers to your other books.
(Under the “Mentions” section near the top of these show notes, you can find links to several detailed articles on this very topic, as mentioned by Steve in the interview.)
Translations and Foreign Markets
Steve’s foray into translation and foreign markets has largely been an exercise in experimentation. He says he was inspired by Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn, to give the market a go, and has since had five books translated into German and Portuguese. One of his translated books made over $2,000 in February 2015, in the Brazilian Portuguese market. He’s also sold foreign rights to publishers in countries where he feels the market is beyond his knowledge or ease of access (say, like Chinese translations), and that he doesn’t have plans or the knowledge to leverage those particular foreign markets.
Surprisingly, Steve reports doing better with his shorter works of non-fiction on the Audible platform than with his longer works. Steve surmises that this could be due to readers comparing the prices of the digital books and concluding that the Audible version is a lesser risk for the money, but he admits it could be something entirely different.
Whatever the reason, Steve does very well on Audible, typically generating four figures a month, and he plans to do more.
What’s Next for Steve?
More books, of course! Steven plans to focus on writing more short form non-fiction this year, as well as work on optimizing his existing books with free content and resources to continue to build up his email list.
He is also focused on systemizing as much of his business as he can by looking for and analyzing “time leaks,” and also has plans to eventually introduce video tutorials to his podcast website.
On top of all of that, he has set out to run a marathon in all 50 states. 15 down, 35 left to go!
- Track your writing stats. Keep track of where, when, and how many words you write in a day. Look for patterns and structure your writing time around your high-energy, high-leverage times. Also, knowing how many words you can produce within a certain time frame allows you to plan your production process more accurately and help you meet your deadlines.
- Make idea capture a habit. Use Evernote to record ideas that come to you throughout the day, or always keep a notepad or digital recorder with you. Whatever your method, it’s important that you get your ideas out of your head and into a reliable place where you can find and use those ideas.
- Despite the incredibly long to-do lists we all seem to carry, set out to accomplish just three major things each day. Make one of them be meeting your word count goal.
- Track your analytics and use that information to inform your marketing strategy. This will help you see where you’re finding the most success, and where you can improve existing income streams.
- Don’t forget to enjoy your life. Steve has got it right about vacation. What’s the point of going on vacation if you’re going to be obsessed about work? There’s so much talk these days about “living in the moment” and the benefits of “mono-tasking,” but it’s difficult in an age where we are hyper-connected and trying to do so much. So whether you’re out for an afternoon run or climbing bucket-list mountain peaks, make sure you’re paying attention to it and enjoying it. And when you return to your writing desk…well, make sure you’re paying attention to it and enjoying it.
What is the most valuable habit that you have developed as a writer? What is the habit you are currently working on as a writer? And what is the habit you wish most to develop?
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