Saturday, December 15, 2012

November Was Great; December's Even Better!

It looks as if what I once perceived to be a long shot has finally come true. In November, my passive income reached the four figure mark, almost exactly.

I made $1,000.37.

The sudden jump is all because of two new books I put out that did incredibly well. I also opened two new streams of income (Amazon Affiliate program and Kobo Books). Two weeks into December, with one additional title published, I have already made over $1,000. With the holidays, I'm confident that that will reach $2,000 by month's end.

All it took was persistence, good market research, a basic understanding of SEO, and some writing skills. I really cannot stress enough the importance of making sure that your product will sell before you launch it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

eBooks Are Awesome

Holy Cannoli.

I've released two books in my new series, in my new niche, and I've never had any ebook sell this well before. These two books have made me over $100 so far. One of them, priced at $0.99 (35% royalty), has been out for nine days and has made me $76. The second, priced at $2.99 (70% royalty), was released this morning and has already made me $46. I had my best sales day ever, making a total of $70 across 10 ebooks. $57 of that came from these two new books.

With a week to go in the month, I've already exceeded my best month on Amazon by $37. I am confident that next month will easily become my first four-figure month. There is a small chance that this month will end up being my first (I've got all these nifty numbers because I started keeping a more detailed daily sales spreadsheet halfway through this month).

I'm releasing three more books in the next three weeks, all a part of the same series. My mailing list is growing every day and I have a reliable system of promotion in place to get the initial sales I need to push my books up the Amazon ranks.

The biggest news of all is:

In pretty much any scenario that plays out at this point, I am going to be able to quit my job in February 2013 and write full-time! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Learning from Mistakes

Jaana over at Passive Income Stream Creator has hinted that I should write a post about the mistakes I've made over the past few months and what I've learned from them. I thought that was a fantastic idea, so here we are!

A little bit of backstory: The first five ebooks I wrote did very well and continue to make me money five months after their release. Instead of leaving 'well enough' alone and moving on to the next project, I instead decided to build a website to generate more sales of my ebooks, which ended up being a waste of time because i didn't do the math beforehand. Oh well, lesson learned.

After that, I juggled through several ideas and ended up releasing two more ebooks - not a lot. In between those two releases were a few more ebooks that I started, but decided not to finish after realizing that they weren't going to make me any money. The two that I did release didn't really make me any money anyway.

To date, one has sold 0 copies after being live for over a month. A lot of effort and research went into that book, and I was really disappointed. I learned a lot writing that book, though. It was a lot longer than any of my other books and required much more intense and detailed research. It was a large undertaking and I stalled on it quite a bit, but finishing it proved to me that I am capable of undertaking larger scale projects - very important for my new niche of focus.

The other book I wrote during this time sells 2-5 copies a month, which I won't turn down since it cost me absolutely zero dollars to produce and costs zero more to keep on sale. I won't turn down an extra ten bucks a month, but if I keep writing books that only sell that amount, it's going to be a long road to creating a livable passive income. That's out of the question when there are so many better options.

I hit on something right with my first books when I discovered a topic that was:

  1. Popular
  2. Selling Well
  3. Not saturated/had a gap in niche coverage
But for some reason, with my next few books I decided that I would only focus on number 3, and ended up writing books for which there was no market. Silly me!

I'm willing to write whatever sells, so I've finally gotten back on track by jumping into a flaming hot niche that meets all three criteria. I just released my first book in this new niche and it has already moved nine copies in less than 24 hours (having gone live on only two sites and with no promotion) - a good sign that I've hit all three criteria. Here's hoping. Now, to get back to the business of writing...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Net Worth: It's (still) Less than Zero (but...)'s way closer to 'zero' than it was the last time I checked. It now stands at $-547, up from a roughly calculated $-3,140. I attribute this huge jump mostly to more accurate calculation, but also to:
  • Getting current on my debts (+450)
  • Continuing to pay down those pesky student loans (+84)
  • Putting my first small bit of money in savings (+200)
If all goes well, I could get to 0 by the end of the year, then start actually building wealth! I'm really excited. It's a big mental shift for me. It feels good to struggle less.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opening a Savings Account

I'm really excited because I came a step further along in my plan today. I opened a savings account and made my first deposit. I'm now current on all of my debts and have moved on to the next phase of the plan: saving up money. (for a combined 'emergency/buy a car/move to LA' fund).

I am roughly following Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan, but I've modified it to meet my needs and circumstances - namely, my impending move to LA. Instead of throwing all of my extra income at my debt after I fund my baby emergency fund, I'm instead going to continue saving for the many components of my moving plan. My reasoning:

  • My student loan debt (the only debt I carry) is small (less than $5,500 total)
  • The interest rates are very low on these small debts.
  • My total minimum monthly payment is currently only $84, and that's the highest it's going to get.
  • One of my three loans will be paid off in six more months.
  • I am not sure how much my income will increase. The additional $5.5k could potentially delay my move by a year.
I will compromise by continuing to implement the 'debt snowball'. Once this smallest loan is paid off, I'll reallocate the $40/month from that loan to the other two, in order to pay them off faster.

My combined fund contains the following components:
  • Emergency fund + cushion: $3,000
  • Used car: $5,000
  • Car Insurance (6 mos): $800
  • Plane ticket to parents' (to buy car and pick up belongings): $300
  • Shipping current belongings home: $200
  • Moving expenses: $1,000
  • Sublet/lease rent+deposits : $1,800
  • Total: $12,100
This is an extremely safe estimate. I anticipate receiving a little help with the car and having a temporary place to stay in LA, but I'm budgeting as if neither of those are a certainty. I also won't move until I have at least $2,000 a month in passive income.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

October Earnings Snapshot: $689.30

I wonder if this is lower than expected because I haven't reached the payment threshold for foreign currencies?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I finally got the first eBook of this new series done. It was significantly longer than the last ones, which is part of why it took so long - not because it was a lot of work, but because I found myself quite overwhelmed at several points. When all was said and done, however, it wasn't nearly as much work as I expected it to be. Now I can go into writing the remaining books with realistic expectations of how long it's going to take.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Finally Getting Back into the Swing

I've been struggling with discipline/motivation/something. That's partly the way I seem to work: I get super jazzed about something for a stretch of time, then drop it for a stretch of time, then come back to it. I was really intrigued by this method of working outlined by Steve Pavlina, where you work overtime for one week and then take a one week vacation, alternating every week. I think in order for me to execute it effectively, I'd have to add a little structure to it. If I could condition myself to work really intensely for one week and then break really intensely for one week, that would be great...but I'd have to keep it at a strict interval.

But that's a solution for a little further down the road. Right now, I want to be putting in a few hours on this project every day.

I was really hesitant and reluctant to work for a few weeks and ended up procrastinating a great deal. Procrastination usually ends up being a vicious cycle for me. I start to feel really bad about the fact that I'm procrastinating so badly, then get really down on myself and procrastinate more as a result. This cycle can go on for weeks at a time - what just happened to me.

I got out of it this time by taking a good, hard look at why I was procrastinating. I evaluated many possible reasons, but the one that made the most sense was an embedded fear of success.

I've accepted that I am capable of changing my life. I'm also blessed in that I have a pretty good idea of how I'm going to do it. But I am also very afraid of changing my life. I've grown comfortable in my situation, even if it's less than ideal. Things that change after I accomplish my goals include:

  • My living situation - moving across the country and setting up a new, comfortable home. That's stressful, complicated, a lot of work, and expen$ive!
  • My schedule - am I possibly trading my current existence for one in which I am constantly working? Does having all this money to do all of these cool things and take all these cool vacations interfere with my long-established penchant for lazing around on my couch and playing video games/aimlessly surfing the internet?
  • My relationship - how will it change? Will we grow and change together? Will my success put him off? Will his staying the same put me off? Will we no longer be compatible?
Etc, etc, etc. I came up with a few more reasons, but those are the big ones and they are not small things to consider. Changing my life means actually changing it, and that has consequences. Subconsciously, leaving my comfort zone is a scary thought. After listing my fears, I thought about each one and decided that most of these fears were me putting a negative spin on a positive thing - even my relationship, though I'm still a little scared about that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Showing Up

"Ninety percent of life is just showing up" - Woody Allen 

Imposing rules, quotas, and expectations on myself is counterproductive. It may not be so for everybody, but it's certainly the way I work.

The best I can do is to ask myself to show up every day and take one step in the direction I want to go. How big of a step that one step is varies from day to day, but what really matters is just showing up every day.

When I set crazy expectations for myself (e.g. 'write 25 percent of this book in one sitting'), I am less likely to show up. When I show up and take that first step, work gets done. That's better than nothing.

I have the complete power to strip away those rules and expectations I impose on myself. When I do, it's immediately easier to get back to business. That makes me feel unstoppable.

Now, if only these books would write themselves!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

Under-Promise. Over-Deliver. And Your Brand's Fans Will Talk (via FastCompany)

I've begun working on my new series. I made a few mistakes with the last one that i'd like to correct this time around.
  • Implement uniform formatting across all versions. Although Smashwords offers distribution to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I submit to these two retailers separately from the others. This time around, I am not going to modify the formatting for any e-reader. My biggest specific mistake was inserting page breaks into my final drafts. This doesn't matter on an e-reader. The font is adjustable.
  • Write about a timeless topic. My first topic has a definite expiration date, and I don't anticipate it bringing me any money four years from now (then again, who knows?). This time I'm going to write about a subject that never falls in or out of style or becomes obsolete.
  • Improve the quality of my writing. Although my refund rate for my current series is average and I have been getting positive reviews, I still personally feel that I could have done a better and more thorough job and delivered my readers more content for their money. I've identified a need in this niche for an inexpensive, comprehensive book in plain English. The title itself will tell people exactly what to expect, but I will pack this book with more information than advertised.
  • Have confidence and pride in my product. This ties in with the above point. I'm much more likely to aggressively market and seek reviews and promotion for a product that I know is great.
Create great products. Exceed people's expectations. Get them talking. Get positive reviews. Boost visibility. Sell more. Right?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Product Price is Important

While out of town this weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about this new sales page that I wrote up for my first eBook series.

This would be a great scenario to achieve:

  • 10,000 monthly visitors
  • 1 percent conversion
  • 100 extra sales/month
The problem with this scenario - in my case - is that this will only bring me an extra $200 a month the way things are currently set up.

This sales page would be a lot more worthy of the time and effort I've put in if I had a higher-priced product to pitch. Accordingly, I've bundled together the eBook series into a complete collection. I will make even more money if I sell it directly from the website, upsell it on the individual pages, spend money to set up a Clickbank or E-junkie cart, etc - and take the retailers out of the picture.

My next bundle product will sell at a much higher, affiliate-friendly price point. Lesson learned! When you're selling a more expensive product, volume and conversions don't matter as much.

I also am figuring out that there is a point at which I have to stop with this project, accept that I've put enough effort into it, and move on to the next one. Do I really want to go this far and put this much work into this project? Will it be worth it?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August Results and September's Goal

It looks like I pulled in just under $750 in sales this month. I was actually closer to my original estimate of $800 than my revised estimate of $600 that I guessed after sales started out slow. Needless to say, I'm thrilled.

September's Plan

This month is going to be even bigger. I've got a few projects that I'm both wrapping up and starting.

  • I'm going to deploy the promotion plan for the eBook series I've already written. This primarily consists of targeted linkbuilding via blogs, forums, and social networks.
  • I'm going to begin working on my second eBook series, which will contain at least eight books. This is a large-scale project that I've designed to generate income as I continue to work on it. The final goal is to package the series together with some bonus content and release it as its own product on an independent website, then sell it via affiliates. However, versions of each eBook will be posted individually on retailer websites as they are completed, thus earning me some income as I continue working. These books will be longer and more detailed than my first books, so they'll probably take 1-2 weeks each to write instead of one day each (like the first series).
I've also decided to begin setting aside 10 percent of my passive income (starting with August's) for reinvesting in new projects. So far I've done everything myself with almost zero expenses. As my financial situation continues to improve, I fully intend to scale up and outsource work.

September's Goal

With my first eBook series now fully distributed via Smashwords and at least one new book being published sometime during the month, I think it will be easy to generate $1,000 in September. This goal is a significant milestone because it means I'm generating both four figures and a survivable income (my living expenses are very low and I split them with my boyfriend) passively. I still work about 15 hours a week as a music teacher, so my total income will be about twice that! I'm almost back to the money I was making at my most lucrative 'job' job, without the 40-hour weeks sitting at a desk, covering up my tattoos, wearing high heels, and spending hours on hold with UnitedHealth. But I will far surpass that income soon enough.

Friday, August 31, 2012

First Passive Income Payment

There it is! My first passive income payment ever, from my very first eBook sales in the last week of June, reflected in my bank account. This is awesome.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Net Worth (It's Less Than Zero)

I just calculated my net worth and discovered that it currently stands at -$3,140. It's negative because I have approximately $6,000 in student loan debt and only a few current assets, mostly jewelry and music gear.

The good news: this is changing!

In addition to making more money, I'm also re-implementing my plan to save money. I'm more or less following the principles of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, which appeals to me because it espouses a credit card-free, debt-free lifestyle. My desire to be debt free is not rooted in religion or morals. I just think debt's really dumb.

"...but shouldn't you buy it before you have the money?"

Ramsey's six-step plan in a nutshell

  1. Save up a starter emergency fund of $1000
  2. Pay off all of your debts, smallest to largest, but do not reallocate the money freed by paying off the first debt. Put it toward the next debt and pay it off faster
  3. Fully fund your emergency fund with three to six months of living expenses
  4. Invest 15% of income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  5. College funding for kids if you got 'em (I don't, and don't plan to any time in the next ten years)
  6. Pay off mortgage early
  7. Build wealth and give
Step 0, if you are not current on your debt payments, is to get current.

My 'year of broke' is coming to an end

I've written out a budget for the next two months. My income is increasing 250 percent over that period. I'll be getting current on my payments this coming month and re-starting my emergency fund the next (I had it about a year ago, and had also managed to throw $1,200 at my student loans before choosing to travel with the money I'd saved instead of holding on to it. It was fun and I certainly don't regret my awesome month in Southern California or the financial consequences it incurred, but 'lesson learned'). I can't believe that I'm only $3,000 away from establishing a positive net worth.

I'm very lucky because I graduated college with a relatively small debt load (about $8,000). I've never owned a credit card and have never had the chance to get into any kind of credit card debt. My situation got bad, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Anyway, having a positive net worth has a strong psychological association for me. It's something that I've never really cared much about, but climbing out of the hole symbolizes the the beginning of building real wealth. I should get used to saying that word: 'wealth'. After all, I won't be saying 'broke' much anymore.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Buying Internet Marketing Courses

I'm gonna be straight with you.

I am broke right now. I'm doing great with passive income and am wildly exceeding my goals, but the money that I've earned for that comes on a two month delay, which reminds me...

DIVERSION: Today (actually, yesterday - it's 1:30am currently) I received my first royalty payments from Amazon and B&N - a whopping $23.45 for copies sold in the last week of June - directly into my bank account. That small sum - the first fruits of my labor - gave me so much motivation to work today. I've been churning away at my sales page all day and am now almost done!

...Okay, back to the topic at hand.

My passive income journey started after I was laid off from my last job at a tech startup. I was quite sad about it because it was one of the few jobs I've had that I actually liked, and a much welcome relief after several months of dire brokeness due to poor planning on my part.

My savings were running out and I was beginning to get desperate. I was Google surfing one night, as I remembered having recently stumbled upon a video showing how to set up a quick affiliate marketing/AdSense-based website. My search brought me to Matt Carter's Marketing Blog, where I signed up for his list and immediately received an email that set me off on my path to learn.

The Bug Is Planted

I was so impressed by Lisa Parmley's webinar for Matt - which I received through the email list - that I set aside some of my savings to buy her Authority Site Model course (which is easily worth the price. She continually updates with valuable content and excellent bonuses). I built a site according to her model and launched it after about a month of work.

Shortly before I was to dive into the 'promotion' phase of the site launch, Steve Pavlina began writing his Passive Income Series and recommended Vic Johnson's Getting Rich with eBooks 3.0 course. Intrigued, I clicked and watched the sales video. I found it very inspiring, but I ultimately convinced myself not to buy it, not even to spend my money on the $12 trial (biggest reason: I couldn't afford it).

Writing an eBook appealed to me a lot more than running a website, as I had just learned to do. I stalled and stalled on promoting this site in favor of doing a little bootstrapping and writing my first eBook. Lisa's course (which had nothing to do with eBooks, btw) had taught me enough about keyword and market research to figure out a niche that would sell well. Within a day or two of posting my first eBook to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I made my first sale.

Still Waiting For My Money - But Still Learning

I've been in the eBook game for a little over two months. So far, I've made almost $1,200 with zero expenses. I've yet to see most of it because, again, royalty payouts are on a two-month lag. I have larger plans that grow as I learn more and make money to invest in future projects. In the future, I would like to use a paid distribution service, outsource the design of my eBook covers, and probably outsource as much as I can to make myself more efficient - but I enjoy the challenge of being a one-woman show for now.

I'm on the fence about whether or not to spend future earnings on more courses. I find it quite helpful and educational to keep watching the webinars from Matt Carter's email list. I watched one today that helped me take my eBook master plan to another plane of potential, gave me a ton of great ideas, and got me really excited. I'm sure there are other great sources for free IM webinars, but Matt's is just what I know. They're free and contain enough information to be helpful, but I feel that my knowledge of IM is strong enough now to be able to piece the rest of the info (contained in the courses these presenters are hard-selling in the latter half of their webinars) together on my own. IM is not rocket science, and sound fundamentals are like literacy: you need to know the building blocks (ABCs) and how to put them together (spelling, phonics, pronunciation, grammar), but once you know the fundamentals, you can use what you know to figure the hard stuff out. After reading predominantly negative reviews for Getting Rich With eBooks 3.0, which I seriously considered buying, I'm feeling pretty comfortable with this way of doing things.

Share your favorite free IM info sources (I'm partial to long-format presentations myself) in the comments below.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sales Page Is Underway

I finally got the momentum going to do some serious work on writing my sales page. Small wonder that the bulk of the hard stuff is done now - half of the difficulty was in starting the work.

I know a fair amount about site building basics, but there are still a few things that throw me for a loop. I'm using a WYSIWYG editor to build the site, and learning that is a whole task in itself. Getting things to line up and look good is frustrating. I've been driving myself crazy with Photoshop tutorials to create decent graphics for the site, but managed to make acceptable-looking items with my rudimentary knowledge.

(You may suggest that I hire out the confusing work to other people. I totally would if I could! Let's hope this site is successful so that I can contract out work on my next project, which I already have a seed idea for)

I may just need to bite the bullet and sign up for AWeber now. Okay, enough talking. Back to work.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making a Sales Page Seems Really Hard

There's something about writing a sales page that I'm finding quite daunting. The whole idea of rolling out a website is really intimidating me and causing me to stall. In this post, I'm going to outline the reasons why I am hesitating.

What are the benefits of a good sales page?

  • Potential for a strong increase in income via SEO and targeted promotion.
  • I only need to do it once!
  • Need I say more?

Why I'm Hesitating

  • Daunting - something I've never done before and have to learn to do from scratch. Sales copy, web design, planning - yikes! In a perfect world, I'd have someone design the sales page for me, but at this stage in the business it's not really possible.
  • Perfectionism - I'm a perfectionist and am terrified of not building my sales page the 'right way'.
  • Wrist Pain - I've got some serious problems with my wrists that have lately kept me from spending too much time typing, which is the biggest trigger for my pain. Fortunately, it's been getting a lot better in recent weeks as I've undertaken a new regimen and taken new precautions to alleviate some of my symptoms. In a perfect world, I'd also have someone do this for me.
  • Overcoming Laziness - I don't know how lazy I am objectively, but I certainly beat myself up over it an awful lot. This is counterproductive.

What Is the Next Step?

I've spent the last few weeks sporadically studying what goes into a good ebook sales page. I've also downloaded a few templates. I'm going to write out a step-by-step list by hand, from drafting the sales copy to my promotion strategy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

July 2012: $473

The month's results are in!

In July, my first full month selling ebooks, I vastly exceeded my goal of $200 and pulled in $473.

This month, it looks as though I'll make more, but probably only an additional $125 dollars. This month I'm rolling out a sales page, upgrading my copy on the existing listings, and deploying a promotion plan. I really think that I could leverage these books far more - I see other people who've vigilantly promoted similar books doing much, much better than me (albeit on broader topics). I'm satsfied with my results with the very little promomtion I have done, but once I have an actual optimized web page to link back to, I think the results will be quite incredible.

Monday, July 30, 2012

About My Goal

(As stated in the sidebar -->)

I'm not really great at looking more than five or so steps ahead in climbing toward a goal (maybe that's something I need to change?), so I generally like to create a medium-term set of goals and work off of that. I always keep the larger goal in mind, but I don't have a meticulously planned, start-to-finish trajectory. I don't know what Step 32 is in the trajectory, but I'm confident I'll know what Step 32 is at Step 27 or so.

So what's the next step?

Right now, the next clear step is to build a website for the ebooks I launched this month and last month. The sales have been way better than I expected, and right now I'm only live on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. All of my books have been accepted into distribution at Smashwords, but I won't begin to see money from those sales (or up-to-date reports) for a few months.

Distribution will get me significantly more exposure, but I want to follow the SEO principles of driving targeted traffic to my ebooks and really cranking up those sales. As I plan to put out more ebooks in the very near future, I would also like to begin building a list to retain paying customers. With a website, I could also earn a larger royalty cut by providing affiliate links to my books at the respective retailers (around 5 percent - no small number when you're dealing with volume).

I have considered offering the ebooks for sale directly through my website in order to retain 100 percent of the sales, but I'm leaning against that at the moment because I'd need to set up an enormous infrastructure to make it happen. That would be less of an issue if I only sold PDF, but that doesn't seem like a particularly wise decision. I'm still at a point where I'm doing everything on my own. Maybe further down the line when I begin outsourcing some of the work to others.

The one downside to ebooks, particularly when you're selling them through a retailer, is that the lag time before you get paid is at least two months. Smashwords only pays quarterly, and their pay schedule is on a lag as well! Rome wasn't built in a day, I guess.

- Cindy