Steve Scott started out as a regular guy who just wanted to stay home with his family and work from home. He started his blog several years ago and was supporting his family on the income from his site with affiliate marketing and ads.
A few years ago, Steve figured out how to self-publish his own books on Kindle, and he’s now published more than 16 books in his own name and dozens more under pen names. Steve has become one of the Top 100 Business & Investing authors on Amazon (appearing at #1 in all of Kindle for Business & Investing Authors numerous times) and he’s also commonly listed as a Top 100 Self-Help author on Amazon Kindle as well.
In today’s show, Steve shares his story along with tips for how authors like you can successfully self-publish and become a bestselling author. I think you’ll love Steve’s incredibly humble attitude and clear, concise, and insightful advice.
Two Factors in Steve Scott’s Rapid Success
Steve self-published his first book in 2013. He published his second book shortly thereafter and promoted it heavily using the KDP Select program. He got his books to the point where they were making him $10 a day. A lightbulb went off for Steve when he realized that. His next thought was:
“I wonder what would happen if I applied myself and released a book every 3 to 4 weeks.”
Releasing 16 books from 2013 to 2014 is the biggest reason Steve has achieved such tremendous success.
Two months after Steve published his third book, he started seeing revenue of about $2,000 a month. He’s tried replicating that in other markets but hasn’t quite seen those numbers.
Steve thinks a big factor in his rapid rise through the ranks at Amazon is the built-in audience he had for his books, because of the blog that he’d been writing for years before that.
Moving forward, as Amazon begins to fine-tune its sales algorithm and diminish the power of KDP Select, it will be more important to have your own audience through a blog or social media channels so that you can push traffic to Amazon to sell your books.
Steve’s blog gets 15,000 visitors a month, and his email list has an average of 2,000 people on it at any given time.
Steve started out by just letting his email list know that he was releasing a book on Amazon. Through KDP Select he was able to make that book free on Amazon for five days, and the people on his email list who downloaded the book for free helped to push his book higher in the rankings.
That exact strategy doesn’t work quite as well today and Steve’s sales strategies have evolved somewhat.
Check out episode 127: How Amazon Science Can Help You Sell More Books with Chris Fox to learn the strategies that are working in 2017.
A Simple List Building Strategy
You should have a free lead magnet in every book you sell. A lead magnet is something you give away for free to people who give you their email address.
Having your own email list is very important. It allows you to have direct contact with your best customers, irrespective of what happens to the platforms you currently sell your books on.
You should have a channel that you devote to giving out free content to your audience that’s not Kindle related.
This can be:
- A blog
- A podcast
- A YouTube channel
The “Secret ” to Being an Expert
The secret to being an expert in anything is simply learn as much as you can about it.
Steve never considered himself an expert. But he’s been making a full-time income from affiliate marketing since 2005. So when he started writing Kindle books, he was confident that he knew enough about affiliate marketing to add real value for people who are interested in learning about it.
You can decide to become an expert and begin studying a topic. But the truth is, you’re already an expert in a number of areas.
You’ve lived a life. You are interested in certain things.
- What types of things are you interested in?
- What do your friends and family ask you questions about?
- What types of things do you already know quite a bit about?
- What are you passionate about? (If you don’t know the answer to this question, ask your friends and family. They’ll be able to tell you what you’re passionate about.)
The Importance of Being “Authentic”
It’s important to be authentic, genuine, and real with your readers. People respond better to honesty and vulnerability than they do to authors trying to tell them how awesome they are.
How to Come up with Book Ideas that Sell
Start with what you’re passionate about. Why did you want to become an author in the first place? What books do you want to write?
The next step is to do the appropriate market research to make sure there are enough people interested in your topic to make it worth your time to write a book about it.
Listen to Episode 142: Six Simple Steps to Effective Book Market Research to hear me explain my systematic approach to market research.
Steve’s Process for Creating Bestselling Nonfiction Books
There’s a way to structure your nonfiction book so it has the best chance of selling. Steve creates a book like this:
- He decides on a topic based on what he wants to write about, what he thinks people should know, and the market research he’s done.
- He takes that topic and writes it at the top of a blank piece of paper.
- He’ll brainstorm for about two hours, writing down everything he wants to talk about related to the topic of his book.
- Then he gets a bunch of index cards and writes one topic per index card.
- He looks through the stack of ideas related to the topic of his book. He organizes them in a logical order and uses that stack of index cards as a rough outline.
- Then he writes a stream-of-consciousness draft using the cards to prompt him about what comes next.
- Steve goes through that draft until he has a finished product.
Steve usually ends up writing eight to 10 chapters. His books generally end up being between 10,000 and 20,000 words in length. But if they end up being longer or shorter, Steve doesn’t mind.
For books between 10,000 and 20,000 words, Steve sets the price at $2.99 and up. For books under 10,000 words, Steve sets the price at $0.99.
“I try not to answer every single question about internet marketing. I try to find one problem and then try to solve that one specific problem.”
– Steve Scott
How to Build a Team of Freelancers
It’s important to build your team one freelancer at a time. Make sure each person you hire is someone you can easily communicate with.
- Post a project on upwork.com
- Make sure to make your description detailed and specific.
- Include examples of the type of results you want. For instance, if you’re looking for a cover designer, include in your project examples of covers you like or what you want your cover to look like. Make your expectations clear in your project description.
- Talk to as many people as you need to. Don’t feel like you have to hire the first person who’s interested in your job.
- When considering hiring a freelancer, look at examples of previous work and reviews before deciding to work with them.
- Whenever possible, try working with a few finalists before you decide who to hire long-term. Steve tested out three editors on one book before deciding to go with his current editor.
The Key to Long-Term Success
How do you achieve long-term success?
Put the reader’s best interest at heart. If you are at the point where you’re publishing something just to make money, you know you’re on the wrong track. You want to give your readers the best information that you can.
The most successful authors have other interests that are important to them.
Being a successful nonfiction author is about explaining to the people behind you on the journey how you got to where you are.
Steve wrote 33 books in one year by committing to write 2 to 3 hours a day, five days a week. You can get a lot done when you commit to setting aside the time and doing the work.
The real benefit of making money online (and with Kindle sales) is that it allows you the freedom to live exactly the kind of life that you want.
Steve is using the money he makes with Kindle sales and internet marketing to support his lifestyle and save up for a house. He recently spent a month in Greece. He didn’t work for that entire month, and the vacation was paid for by one month’s worth of sales across all Steve’s books on Amazon.
How to Maximize Your Productivity with Chunking
Steve uses the Pomodoro technique to maximize his productivity.
For those who don’t know, the Pomodoro Technique is where you use a timer and you commit to focusing on whatever task you’re doing for 25 minutes. At the end of 25 minutes, you take a five-minute break. You repeat this cycle of 25 minutes on, five minutes off until your project is complete.
Another element Steve finds essential for his continued success is having an accountability partner who holds him accountable for achieving his weekly goals. Achieving smaller goals that lead to big long-term wins is the most effective way to make sure that you will achieve your dreams and ensure you’re not straying off course.
Psychology is the most important factor when it comes to being successful.
Consistency is the key when it comes to being successful as an author. It’s better to write for an hour a day every day than to write eight hours a day for a month and then stop writing.
When you commit to writing every day, you’re rewiring your brain to develop the skill of writing. Also, you think about what you have written every day and your book becomes better as a result, because you spend more time mulling over, rearranging, and organizing your thoughts for the next day of writing.
Steve also exercises one hour a day, and during that hour of exercise he’s always thinking about what he wants to write next. After his exercise session, Steve makes sure to write down his ideas for future books in a place where he will be able to look at and prioritize them later.
You never want to start with just a blank piece of paper. You always want to start with an idea to jump off of. It makes the writing process a lot easier.
You never want to try and draft the book without an outline to write from. You never want to wonder what to write next. Steve spends at least five hours planning his project before he ever opens a Word document to write his first draft.
Steve prices most of his books at $2.99. He wants to make multiple sales to one person rather than making one sale and then having to find a new customer. He feels that by pricing his books as low as possible, while at the same time getting a 70% royalty on every sale, it maximizes his chances of getting multiple sales from one customer.
He has found success by releasing multiple quality books at a low price. That way, people who want to buy every book he publishes can do so without breaking the bank.
“You don’t have to rip someone off to make a decent living.”
– Steve Scott
Don’t Let Negative Feedback Affect Your Confidence
There are two types of negative feedback.
- Constructive negative feedback designed to make your books better in the future. This kind of negative feedback offers very specific examples of what’s wrong with your book and how you can make your next book better.
- Destructive negative feedback designed to assassinate your character.
This kind of negative feedback offers no constructive help for improving your writing. This feedback only tells you that your book is horrible and you’re horrible for writing it.
One of Steve’s biggest challenges is not to allow destructive negative feedback to affect his confidence. No matter what you do, someone in the world isn’t going to like it. Destructive negative feedback is just part of the author journey. All you can do is the best you can do for each project.
Each project is going to make you a better writer. In some sense, every book you write is at once the worst book you’ve ever written and the best book you can write. Don’t allow negative feedback to stop you from publishing and improving your skill set.
How to Handle Negative Feedback
If Steve gets negative feedback that’s actionable, he will do one of two things:
- If the feedback is a small issue related to a specific book, he may revise and update the book.
- If the feedback suggests a book idea, he’ll write the book suggested by the feedback and send free copies of the new book to the people who helped him come up with the idea.
If the negative feedback isn’t constructive in any way, Steve just ignores it.
How Much Should You Research?
Steve generally doesn’t do a lot of research for his books. That’s because he writes what he already knows about. He does research alternate information sources so he can provide links to websites that are not his own in his books.
When Steve doesn’t know a topic very well, he will research the topic until he’s comfortable enough to write about it. The truth is, even if you aren’t an expert on a topic, you do know something about the topic or you wouldn’t be trying to write a book about it.
Start by writing what you know from your own experience. Make note of the gaps that you see in your knowledge and then do research to fill in the gaps.
The key to being successful as a nonfiction author is to write on a topic that you know something about, or that you’re at least interested in.
The Difference between an Authority Site and a Niche Site
A niche website is a website built around one keyword that’s designed to leverage traffic from Google in order to make an income.
A niche website relies on Google as its primary source of traffic. This can be frustrating because Google changes their search engine algorithm on a regular basis, and their changes are never in favor of the solo entrepreneur.
An authority website leverages several different traffic sources, including Kindle books, podcasts, and other social media channels to build your tribe of 1,000 true fans so you can make a living online.
Building an authority website is a much better investment in terms of creating long-term income potential because you’re building an audience of people who are interested in a specific subject, and will want to learn from you over the long term.
If you want to be successful building an authority site or publishing Kindle books, take a broad topic and solve specific problems within the topic.
Problems You Can Solve for Runners
Here are several specific examples of topics that you can write a book about within the umbrella topic of running.
- How to train for a 10K.
- How to train for a 5K.
- How to stretch.
- How to train for a marathon.
- How to avoid injury.
Each of these topics addresses a specific problem that runners have. That is the secret to writing a series of books that solve specific problems within a broad topic.
Steve is going to build an authority site over the next 18 months so that he can show people how he built one from nothing.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
https://fizzle.co/ — a website founded by Corbett Barr dedicated to helping you earn a living independently doing something you care about.
https://www.upwork.com/ — formerly elance.com, this is one of the largest marketplaces to find freelancers.
http://leavingworkbehind.com/ — Tom Ewer’s blog about how to be successful as an online entrepreneur.