Byron: Welcome back everyone, I’m here with Steve. Steve, welcome.
Steve Scott: Hey, thanks for having me.
Byron: You are the author of Writing Habit Mastery, which published in 2014. Thanks so much for helping us master this art of writing. I’m excited to ask you lots of questions.
Steve Scott: I’m looking forward to it.
Byron: Right on. Tell me just a little bit about the book itself and why you chose to take on this challenge and dive into this deep, dark tunnel of mastering the art of writing, difficult topic here?
Steve Scott: I’ll give you the kind of the real, quick version of the story. I got into self-publishing in 2012 and middle to latter part 2013, I decided I really want to focus in on the habits market because that's just something I’m always personally interested in. I’m just constantly trying to improve my own habits. Writing Habit Mastery came out of my own experience of building up the habit over the previous couple of years and I just tried to [0:01:08 inaudible] there. Pretty much since then, I’ve been definitely refining my own craft, even though that focus wasn’t there about a year and a half ago, I definitely improved on my process ever since then.
Byron: You sort have developed as a strategy if you will for almost a step-by-step strategy if you will that you feel writers can implement. Tell us a little bit about the type of writing that we’re going to be talking about today; eBooks, blog post, White Papers, Workbooks, we do it all here at WriterAccess. What is your focus when you talk about mastering the art of writing?
Steve Scott: For me, it’s really just online content. Specifically, it takes a form of eBooks so I try to keep eBooks fairly short in the range of 15,000 words to 25,000, which is kind of my sweet spot. I have done blogging in the past so I kind of mostly just focused on the eBook market. Really kind of short actual content to the non-fiction crowd.
Byron: Got it. You tend to work with one client at a time when you’re creating books for people? You of course created your own eBook and self-published yourself and I know you published 10 plus books, you published a lot of books, but have you done ghost writing or are these books all for yourself? Tell me a little bit about that.
Steve Scott: These are 100% for myself. I actually don’t really have clients. I just tend to kind of basically I like to describe my business is there are content platforms like the podcast like you have. There’s blogging, there’s writing on the YouTube channel, so my kind of content platform which is just basically publishing books through the backend of the books themselves--
Byron: Got it.
Steve Scott: And serve them in email lists and that’s kind of the way I built my brand and authority.
Byron: Got it. Do you another job other than this or are you literally a professional eBook publisher and promoter?
Steve Scott: This is kind of sinister, but I actually am. But yeah, this has been my full-time since 2012 and I’ve been kind of doing online stuff since 2004. Pretty much since 2004, I supported myself.
Byron: Congratulations for that by the way, truly the dream job for a whole lot of writers, to continue making a living doing what you want to do, when you want to do it and then writing about what you want about, will write about. That’s just amazing. Sign me up for your job when you get a chance. In any way, tell us about how much of your time is spent marketing your books versus actually creating the content for the books?
Steve Scott: I would say early on for – my situation I don’t really do too much of marketing, but early on when you’re first getting part of the self-publishing, it’s a lot of time spent on marketing. I would say early on, you want to spend about 50% writing and 50% marketing. I’m at the kind of a point now where I have my content level, I have my email lists and I know the free book site actually do really good, to put it on print mode and podcast, so I do really good. This is also on the writing process. Do really well to sell books so, I would say maybe 20% of my time is on marketing, but I’m actually really getting focusing on stuff not related to writing in the last, I would say six months. I would say, really now my time is about 20% writing, 80% other things.
Byron: Got it. I want to learn what those other things are later, but let me ask you this first, who is your target audience and how did you get to know what they want and need?
Steve Scott: It’s really just been very much an iterative process. Originally, my target audience was people or people that were interested in productivity and just how to get more out of your day, so that was just kind of the original audience. I kind of branched out and people were just kind of into the self-improvement kind of fixation like myself or I’m always starting a new habit, always trying to improve my life in some way. I guess the upside to this is you can write a lot of books on various topics that aren’t always related to one another, but also the downside is sometimes I’m not 100% certain what my target audience is. The one thing I do have is an email list and whenever I have a book topic idea, I’ll email my lists and just typically say, “All right, here’s what I’m writing about. What is your number challenge with this particular topic?” I'll get back about 20,000 or 30,000 words of people describing their problems and what they’re doing on a regular basis so I just read through all their response and that kind of leads the foundation of how I want to approach that particular book.
Byron: How did you build your list of prospect buyers of your books and develop a fan base?
Steve Scott: It started when I was really blogging pretty heavily from 2010 to 2012. I just built up a list of people that were mostly at the time interested in internet business and then from there I wrote a series of books about that, but when I transitioned over into habits, some of those people kind of came with me and when I wrote about productivity, they would buy those books. But I signed just by the take on of the repeated process of publishing. I do have an email offer in the front and back of my books. I do have a series of email offers on my blog itself so, I just find it I can build…building it mostly just by continuously publishing content.
Byron: What percentage of your work and your content are you harboring to buy versus doling out for leads and generally attracting people to your world, to your site where they can make purchases?
Steve Scott: Right now it’s very little, it’s about maybe 10% to 20%. One of the limitations of what I do is I publish primarily through Amazon on KDP selection and that’s email direct publishing and they have a rule that you can’t take more than 10% of your books and publish it elsewhere. So, they pretty much say you have to be in the program, the KDP Select program and you can’t really do a lot with it. If I really sat down and rewrote the whole thing, I’m sure I could kind of break that rule because it’s not necessarily the same content, but I try to be as compliant as possible. So, I really say only a maximum of that 10%. There are ways that you can repurpose the content into social media updates or – I’m trying to think of what else I’ve done [0:07:21 inaudible] podcast episode. I do try to find other ways to reuse the content in attracting people.
Byron: Tell us about the application process of that Amazon program when you went through it probably several years ago, mind you. How hard is it to get in that program and then can you give us pupils some advice on how to do it?
Steve Scott: It’s really simple. If you just go to – let me look on the website. It’s KDP.Amazon.com and it’s pretty straightforward. I think they have a minimum word count, I think the minimum word count is around 5,000 to 7,000 words, but I’m not 100% certain about that. You can simply upload any type of document, obviously my recommendation would be you want to format it for the KDP platform so you can find someone on upwork.com or even fiverr.com to actually format the book for you. You need that, you need a cover image. I would recommend getting a solid cover image and also having an editor go over your works for it. Those in my opinion are kind of the bare necessities, but the actual technical aspect of amazon is really straightforward. You upload a file, enter common keywords, enter description and you hit the publish button. It takes 24 hours and it’s live on Amazon.
Byron: Is the Amazon helping you promote the book and in any way, shape or form or are you really, particularly a new writer that chooses to publish something over there? Are they really expected to do the legwork to attract customers to the location and then make the book sales and track of the law?
Steve Scott: Yeah. The way I look at it is it’s kind of 80% at first to you. As the author, you really have to push the book, you really have to market the heck out of it and then after a while, prove that early on that you do 80% of the work Amazon, but there’s a little bit of a 20% of the work where they’ll promote it on their different channels, but if your book does well, if it starts to get a lot of downloads, a lot of sales in a short amount of time, Amazon will do a lot of promotion for you.
So, your book will end up on the customer’s also bought, which is kind of that, when you browse on Amazon, you look at a product you look down it says there, if you're interested in this, so these are a bunch of things that are similar to that kind of book or to show on similar books. They’ll do email campaigns for you, they’ll promote kind of their top 100 lists. If you do a good enough job with your launch, Amazon will do a lot of marketing for you, but you kind of have to grease the engine a little bit. Really my whole strategy is just getting a lot of people to go from my email list and for my blog and for my Facebook page to go not only download the book, but also leave reviews. There’s a little bit of a technique to market on Amazon.
Byron: How many books have you sold? Can you disclose any information?
Steve Scott: Honestly, I would say it’s probably in the 400,000 to 500,000 range.
Steve Scott: I don’t actually have a natural number, but it’s a lot and these are short books or these are books around the, I’d say 15K to 25K range of word count. A lot of times I’m selling them anywhere form 99 cents to $3.99. It sounds different, but it’s not quite as traumatic as previously published author who’s selling the book for $10 to $15.
Byron: Right and you’re of course paying some fees on all of those sales as well right?
Steve Scott: Yeah, for the most part the Amazon takes about a 30% of royalty or anything that’s sold on their platform.
Byron: Yeah, all right. Got it. Let’s dive into some of the habits that you’re seeing in Writing Habit Mastery, as your book is cleverly called and what sort of habits, I know you have for example a 30-day habit challenge and then trying to acclimate people to helping them write more effectively and efficiently and actually develop a product which is the key in the end to develop an asset that’s something that’s potentially sellable. Tell us about that habit change or that you’re bringing to the table.
Steve Scott: Would you want me to talk specifically about the writing habit or just habit in general?
Byron: Well, both really. Tell us a little bit about the habit challenge does sound quite interesting. I’m interested to learn about that sort of a transformation process.
Steve Scott: To be honest, I did that a lot early on, but now I find it’s better just to focus on a few core habits and I do [0:11:37 crosstalk] kind of smaller ones that are just not really all that special. The one thing I’ve learned really as far as habit development is really the idea that you can only make one change in your life at a time. This kind of goes back to New Year’s resolution, the thing that you see people do where they'll start January 1st and they’ll say, “All right, I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to write a book this year. I’m going to –“ I’m trying to think of other things. “I’m going to spend more time with my family. I’m going to call my mom every day.” It’s like you’re trying to add 20 different things and you’re doing things fall apart after day three or day four.
What I find to work for me, it’s just really kind of short, progressive, incremental improvements. I’m not trying to set out to write 2,000 words of those, it’s more important for me just kind of build that muscle memory of doing it on a daily basis and never break the chain. That’s kind of what helped me build the writing habits as far as it’s kind of a working habit on a consistent basis. I’ll let you jump in if you have any questions, so I can elaborate on this.
Byron: Do you have goals with your own writing strategy? Words to hit per day, and then how many if so or what about, rewriting and how you rewrite things versus initially craft them?
Steve Scott: Sure. It really depends on the kind of season of my life. I used to be very much, write 2,000 words a day, but that was back when really all I was doing was just writing these books. Now I kind of have to be little bit more flexible with my time. As an example, I really haven’t written anything in the past month because I just launched a video course. So, I took that scene, work at something every single day and apply that to recording videos instead of writing, but starting pretty much this Monday, I’m going to get back to writing on a daily basis, and kind of like any new habit, I have to almost relearn what I had to do before so. Earlier on probably my goals would be very modest.
I’ll probably start off with a goal of writing 500 words a day and then try to ramp that up to about 3,000, but one thing that’s really helped me is actually obsessively tracking my word count. I will create an excel spreadsheet and I’ll put down the period of times that I’m writing. I'll [0:13:40 inaudible] four solid writing blocks, I’ll actually calculate that in the excel spreadsheet and the technique I use is the polydora technique. Twenty-five minutes on, five minutes off and that five minutes off is get up and kind of wander around and just clear my head a little bit before I sit back down and write.
Byron: When you’re writing, do your writing projects tend to be more researched driven, do you gather and hunt for ideas and data and surf the contextual world and then formulate your own ideas, or is it just a bubbling brook for you where you just sit down and writing and diving into a topic that you’re obviously focused on creating a piece about?
Steve Scott: What I usually do is I’ll come up with an idea for a book. Pretty much two to three weeks before I ever plan on writing it. I find that I use the Evernote app a lot, so I’m just constantly putting ideas into my Evernote app. It comes…Stuff just comes to me at random times, so when I’m running, or I’m walking or if I’m in the shower, something pops in my head, I’ll just run over Evernote, pop it in there, but I definitely spend a lot of time researching that particular topic. If I’m talking about habit I at least want to incorporate a lot of the other…further research has done in habit development. I always try to conclude kind of similar to researchers.
Obviously I want to include personal anecdotes, so really two to three week before I ever sit down and write, that’s what I want and my good ideas come from and then from there, I put all these into an outline format. And the outline kind of forms the backbone of the book. I definitely feel I try my best to – when I’m writing my first draft, I have to wonder, “All right, what am I going to write about?” Because I have all this stuff already done for me and kind of the research and the outline phase.
Byron: During that research stage, are you doing any writing at all or is it really all a research and wondering and beginning to just really research I’m guessing, right? Cut two to three weeks of research?
Steve Scott: This might be a little too intense for people. Actually, I tend to have three book projects going on at the same time.
Steve Scott: So there’s a research phase that will be whenever stuff pops in my head or whenever I get bored of writing, I’ll do research, but then there’s the actual project that I’m writing so that’s getting up every single morning, writing for an hour or two and I’m just focused on writing that. The third book is in post-production, so that in the editor’s hand or the proofreader or the formatter or it’s a book I’m about to launch. I try to always have something that I’m writing. Obviously in the past month or so is an adoration, but before that I just try to make sure I was writing on a daily basis.
Byron: What failure percentage do you have for these books and how do you view a failure of a book?
Steve Scott: I would say it’s a good solid 20% to 30% where I think it’s an awesome book idea and it just goes nowhere. Actually two books ago it was all about accountability and masterminding. I thought it was a great topic because people want to prove themselves, that book just went nowhere. Obviously I definitely have a lot of times where I think something’s good and the selling just doesn’t. Even when I literally give it away to people, people wasn’t still interested. I want to have those conquers.
Byron: Are you using keyword research, search popularity? Are you reverse engineering the success and trying to determine what topics are the most potentially lucrative from your perspective using any tools?
Steve Scott: Yes, I did that a lot at first. I've kind of gotten away from that, but seeing as how the last two books ago, that went nowhere, maybe I should get back to [0:17:23 inaudible]. The tools I used are very basic free tools. I definitely look on Amazon, I see if a book is doing well. One of the witness test that I do is I’ll type in keywords into Amazon, I’ll see what books are written about that subject then I’ll scroll down and there’s something called “The Amazon’s Bestseller’s Rank” and that just simply is an algorithm ranking of all the books that are selling now. The number one would be the most famous book at that time it’s probably selling thousands if not tens of thousands of copies a day all the way up to the hundreds of thousands.
The kind of line I like to see is the number 30,000 which is in the area of five to 10 sales a day. For me, if I hear anything under 30,000, I know that’s probably a pretty good book idea. I try [0:18:10 inaudible] a couple of book ideas or something similar to that, something that people are buying and that’s just how I like to reach and see if something will fly or not.
Byron: In your research, what have you found to be the most lucrative areas to consider publishing a book again?
Steve Scott: I would say anything kind of under the big four umbrellas; so that’s health, wealth, relationships and personal passions. Obviously with wealth there’s saving money, there’s debt reduction; making money, that would be a good example of wealth. Health would be types of diets, exercise programs. Those are kind of the broad macro of things, but I would say there’s probably dozens of micro topics underneath each one.
Byron: I notice that business wasn’t really one of those per se.
Steve Scott: I would consider that under wealth because that can be related to career. I was trying to build up the career skills or as far, I'd say a couple of places that…It could be a combination of a couple of categories. I definitely find business does pretty well. I’ve written a lot of books in business category that definitely does well.
Byron: Got it. What are the biggest loser areas where people can waste a lot of time?
Steve Scott: I would say the kind of example I’ve given in the past it’s the warm, sunny and Argentina type of books. It’s really kind of esoteric books that I know those are the big talks where people have a lot of varied interests, but it's always like really kind of small niche-type of books that they don’t really seem to do well on Amazon. What they would do well maybe a larger content platforms. If you created a video for us and you charged a higher ticket price for that. I’m sure it’s easier to build a [0:19:57 inaudible] about that, but trying to sell a $2.99 book about warm farming is going to be a really tough, uphill battle.
Byron: You’re not really working with anyone else per se, the books you’re publishing, not working with a publisher of course. Is it lonely? What do you do for social interaction? Do you ever feel like you’re on an island just cranking out content and using the tapping of the brain power and do you have a community for example, any community sites or forums that you join and connect with and collaborate with fellow colleagues?
Steve Scott: Oh yes, definitely. Actually I would say that first off I definitely have a team around my books. As soon as I’m done with my book, it’s in my editor’s hands or my proofreader or formatter and there’s a cover designer. I definitely work with a lot of people, but usually direct this is over email, so a lot of times it does get lonely. I am a member of a couple of Facebook groups and also I do actually run a Facebook group myself as far as self-publishing. But I actually twice a week, I talk to people over Skype. I talk to one person who is like my accountability partner and we’ve known each other for a couple of years. I’m also a mastermind group where we kind of sit down and we talk every other week just in person about our business. I do try to go to a lot of conferences and the actual course I just launched recently, I actually have two partners on that and we’re constantly talking, but you’re actually right. if you’re just focusing on the books, it can get very lonely very quickly, so that’s something that I try to get better at in the latter part of 2013, really for 2016 I’m trying to come out of my shell a little bit more and start to talk to people on the more frequent basis.
Byron: Yes, well it certainly appears that way, the way you are conversing with us. You’re very polished on the communication end. What’s changing with the self-publishing world? Is it getting more and more complicated and challenging and difficult to bring even a single eBook to market? Tell us about the competitive landscape.
Steve Scott: Honestly, it’s become very competitive. I know a lot of times the self-publishing industry was promoted often as kind of a get rich quick scheme, you can just outsource a bunch of content, you don’t have to write yourself and then just all your millions will visit, build your business and you can go sip off mai tais on the beach. It’s really not like that at all, but that’s how it is portrayed in a lot of the circles. I just think that this is created a glut in the marketplace and at the end of the day, really what you have to do to compete is actually write good quality content, which I’m sure is something that people have recommended frequent throughout your podcast. You just have to make sure you’re providing value to the reader and building a leadership so you don’t want to just have someone buy one book, but you want to actually build a loyal fan that will go on to buy two, three, five even ten of your books down the road.
Byron: How many of your customers are buying second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth books from you? Do you have loyal followers and literally a chart that shows how many books you’ve sold to your customer base?
Steve Scott: That’s the one downside of Amazon, they’re very secretive with their backend stuff so you don’t know if someone’s a single book reader or a 10th book reader. The only really way to find this out it just through email interactions. I’m just constantly emailing my list and I’m trying to get better about building up my Facebook page, but I do have a lot of people emailing me saying, “I’ve read every one of your books.” There are some definitely repeat buyers there and every time I promote a new book to my list, I just email generated to 700 book downloads in one day, so I know that’s my list. I don’t have really actual exact percentages, I just have kind of a gut feeling that a substantial part of my early sales come from my following.
Byron: Do you sell any other books outside of the Amazon platform, curious?
Steve Scott: I've tried other platforms, I’ve tried Nook, I’ve tried Kobo, I drafted to Digital and there are a lot of other self-publishing authors. I would say they would probably write, do they really well in other platforms and really the best long term strategy is not to rely on Amazon, but I kind of figured out Amazon, I feel like I can sell more just by focusing on Amazon than other eBook platforms, but if you talk to a bunch of other authors, they would say it’s better to branch out and I probably would agree with them long term that that’s the best strategy. Just for me right now, this is what’s working for my business, but beyond that I do have print books I sell and I turn a lot of my books into audio books. At least I’m branching out a little bit from not just selling just digital books.
Steve Scott: You own the rights to all these books. You’re not locked into Amazon, quickly if you take a book on an audio level for example, do you have to continue to sell that to Amazon? You don’t, do you? You own the rights, right?
Steve Scott: Yeah, I own the rights completely. I talk about how I’m branching out but they are owned by Amazon so technically I’m not branching out, but I do sell audiobooks on Audible.com. The audiobooks are kind of locked into their agreement for a couple of years, but with Amazon KDP select, you’re only locked in for 90 days if you want to just be exclusive to them. I actually like that the programs so that if you decide down the road you want to try something else, you can pull a single book out, try it somewhere else and then put it back in. It’s pretty reasonable, it’s not like a traditionally published where you find the rights to the books for five years and you can’t do anything with them. You do have a lot of control.
Byron: With the audible books, are you having other people record them for you? Are you outsourcing that or are you recording it yourself?
Steve Scott: I’m not really comfortable with reading stuff that I’ve written. I tend to just stumble over my words, so I definitely have someone I take to do the audio.
Byron: What does something like that cost? I have absolutely no idea.
Steve Scott: It’s fairly inexpensive, if you want to do just kind of a Barebones type of a production. I think it’s in the range anywhere from $600 to about $1000. It’s a little bit of money, but it’s not – I’ve heard some rates quoted in the $5000 to $10,000 range, so it’s not like that. There are a couple of companies that I use that’s actually pretty inexpensive and they handle it pretty much from beginning to end.
Byron: Do they do it all? Is it an online company? Actually I’ve seen a few of those out there; voice over sort of companies.
Steve Scott: It’s actually the Word Archangel and its ink. So, it’s Archangel Ink, that’s spelled I-N-K, like the ink in a pen. They do pretty much a lot of stuff in my business. They do formatting, editing, proofreading, book formatting and also audio book productions. They do a lot for my business. I just send them a file and they do a lot of things on the backend to kind of put in to production.
Byron: Wow, very cool. Archangel Ink.
Steve Scott: Yes.
Byron: I’ll check them out. Yeah, cool. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the plug as well, maybe some writers listening in will check them out. I asked you what’s changing in the industry, but do you see anything big and grave and/or exciting coming down the road for self-publishing entrepreneurs like you?
Steve Scott: I think it’s very exciting. I think there’s just so many opportunities to have to reach an audience. I know even a couple of years ago it was very much a tough slog where we had to essentially build a content, we had to build a following, I just think there’s a lot of shortcuts. Kind of for me what’s exciting is all this page traffic stuff that if you create good content, you can now run Facebook ads, build up a readership just by presenting them with good content and then on the backend people present them with an offer. I know this is something I wish for pretty much any industry. It’s not necessarily applicable to self-publishing, but I think just the ability to reach an audience is just getting better and better.
Byron: And just target that audience based upon their interest and keywords and all kinds of fun stuff.
Steve Scott: Yeah.
Byron: Are you driving through say, Facebook advertising, are you able to drive people successfully directly to a buy page or is Facebook making you sort of go to a legend page where you’re trying to push more of your blog content or something and then bring them in to a purchase at a later stage? Is it a one-tiered approach or two tier or three tier?
Steve Scott: For Amazon altered, it’s a little difficult because the actual ROI on getting people to click on an ad and go buy a book, it’s hard to break even. There’s a guy named Mark Dawson, he runs a website Self-PublishingFormula.com, he’s more of a fictional author, but he’s kind of got the Facebook ads, email down. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I think he’s got a better strategy. But for most authors, they really just send people directly to Amazon. It’s just a simple matter of being very specific with your targeting.
The best example I heard, if you have a throw word here. I’m trying to think, [0:29:01 Reach Out] could be a give you a good example. You know that your book is similar to Reach Out you just want to target just the people who read Reach Out and 10 people directly to your book and that would be the way to kind drum up interest and drum up sales.
Steve Scott: I think a long time, I decided to be just kind of a build up a fan page and simply just present people that have a particular interest in a similar book. Send them a free offer to one of my email lists and from my emails try to build up that readership.
Byron: Very cool. I want to thank you for being with us today, this has been really exciting. I have a couple of final questions for you. How can people get ahold if they were to send maybe some follow-up questions and who would you like to hear from?
Steve Scott: I would say probably the two best ways to get ahold of me is just by – I do a podcast if you want to check out Authority Self-Publishing just look on Stitcher and iTunes and that’s my podcast. Also, I do have a budding content site about self-publishing, you can find that at AuthoritySelf-Publishing.com and that just redirects to my podcast page and we’re trying to build up on content there. I would say as far as anyone that’s interested in contacting me, anyone that’s interested in either writing a book, writing your first book or just trying to [0:30:14 inaudible] and just get more leverage and more tract with them, so really probably be my ideal person that I would love to have you reach out and talk to me.
Byron: Terrific. Once again, thanks to you for being with us today. I really enjoyed it.
Steve Scott: Thanks Byron, this has been great.
Byron: Super. Thanks for tuning in everyone, we’ll see you next week on the WriterAccess Podcast, look forward to it. Another great guest and thanks to Steve for his wisdom and self-publishing and helping us take our writing to the next level. Thanks so much everybody, see you next week.