About three weeks ago I came across this thread on reddit by a poster called throwaway_writer.
He claimed to have 80 titles up on Amazon (and Nook/Smashwords etc) and had (at the time of that post) just reached the $1,000 a day milestone.
Of course this peaked my interest and I’ve become obsessed with trying to figure out his method and then, if possible, duplicate it.
For those that haven’t read it, here are the basic highlights:
- Had 80+ titles up at the time (I think he’s well over 100 now).
- Mostly they are short stories and then collections of those shorts
- It took him 8 months to reach this level
- He uses a variety of pen names to establish genres
- He prices the shorts at between 0.99 and 2.99 (depending on genre) and collections 2.99 – 5.99 (again depending on genre). He also has a novella or two if I read correctly.
- As far as I can tell his four main genres are children’s books, erotica, fun sci-fi stories and business books.
- He has a unique linking method for each ‘series’ of books (I’ll discuss this in further detail below).
Now I’m not going to get into a discussion on whether I think he’s legit or not (unlike many other writers who think he’s full of shit) because personally I think the strategy sounds quite achievable with that many books available for sale.
Instead I’m much more interested if the throwaway writer method can be duplicated by anyone else (and by that I mean me).
So starts the case study …
He credits his success to the following criteria: cover, titles, description (blurb), ranking and reference.
Notice he doesn’t mention the book’s content – which while important to write a good story – is NOT the most critical factor here. He thinks lots of good enough stories that people will enjoy is more important than one excellent story that you’ve spent months on.
Anyway let’s dissect what he means by these criteria:
Cover – Clear image that conveys what the book is about (no abstract or ‘clever’ images). And you want it to look somewhat professional, not like your twelve year old cousin did it. He does the covers himself using stock photos.
Title – Clear title that says what the story is about. I would also think that he puts keywords in his title too so they are extra searchable in Amazon.
Description – A good description is super important to get people to buy your book. Think of it like a sales page that would intice someone to want to read more.
Ranking – The higher you rank in Amazon the more often you are recommended on other book searches and even the Amazon recommendation emails. His linking strategy helps to increase your rank.
Reference – By this he means the category and the tag keywords you use for your story. He tries to target a broad range of categories with his books so that at least one in the series covers all possible categories and subcategories that your story could fit into. He tends also to favor those categories that are under represented with good stories so he isn’t competing in the super competitive categories. Also by tagging your book with lots of searchable keywords can help visibility as well.
So as a result I’ve been writing short stories. So far I’ve got four up (fifth one finished – in editing).
The majority of his stories are 4,000 – 5,000 words, so I’ve made mine this length as well.
My aim is to get one short out per week which seems doable for me and then when I have seven in that genre or series then bundle them as a collection.
Editing the stories:
He does first draft, first edit, gives to his wife to read, last edit (read aloud) and then ship.
I’ve been doing the same thing. Write it. 1st Edit. Give to hubby to read and he tells me where things are unclear, plot holes, etc etc, last edit reading aloud and then publish (once cover is finished).
Now to the linking strategy …
From what I understand each ‘series’ is around six or seven books (shorts) which are then put into a collection.
He uses a unique strategy in that every book in a ‘series’ points to ONE book. Let’s call it the ‘HUB’ book.
The HUB book then points out to all the other titles in that ‘series’.
So which book becomes the HUB book?
- If you are writing an actual series then it’s the first one that kicks the stories off.
- If your books are a similar genre but not really linked as a series then it’s the one that sells the best.
- If you’ve written all seven then you link to the collection instead.
If you think about it, this makes good financial sense since you’d rather people buy your collection at $4.99 (you earn $3.45 at 70%) than all seven shorts @ 0.99 cents where you would earn only $2.45 (7 x 0.35 cents) assuming even that customers bought the entire seven shorts as singles.
Ok so it sounds good so far.
But will the throwaway writer method work for me?
I’ve tried to keep my covers simple that convey exactly what the story is about and the titles clear about what the story is. Like I already mentioned above, I’ve only got four stories up at the moment, one more will go up next week.
Also I’ve haven’t put the linking strategy into place yet (I need a few more books first).
So how my are sales doing so far?
Meh! Let’s just say I’ve got a LOOOONG way to go before I even look like this is a worthwhile financial strategy.
Plus I’m pretty new to fiction. So I probably need to get a few more under my belt before they are really good stories. (I do feel I’m getting better and I am trying my best to write cool stories though – I’m not half assing it – but just wanted to put that out there in case you were thinking you were getting Suzanne Collins or something).
Oh and it’s actually really fun. Making stuff up is much more enjoyable than writing about the stock market. Just sayin’.
But it’s far too early to see any financial reward yet (I think I’ll be able to afford a coffee this month and that’s about it). So I’ve got to get 80 of these suckers up before the end of the year (or at least 52 if I can do one per week – 😉 )
Only then will I be able to let you know whether it’s a worthwhile strategy or not.