Repost: Holy Cow!! Thanks, KDP Select! How I became an overnight (okay 30 year) success.

This is a post from author Wayne Stinnett from kboards. I found it very inspirational for new authors, aspiring authors and just about anyone else that is trying something new. I hope you enjoy.

profile_2-221x287KDP Select is getting sneaky. They’ve noticed the slight drop in enrolled authors and are trying to keep the ones who are selling well.

I just got an email from KDP saying I was chosen to receive a “KDP Select All-Star Bonus” for the month of August. My author ranking, they say, qualifies me for a $2500 bonus and Fallen Out ranked well enough in August for an additional $500 bonus. Icing on an already really sweet cake for August sales. That’s a 14% bonus! Never got that big a bonus as a truck driver.

For all you new folks wondering if your dream can ever come true. Yes, it can! But, dreaming about it won’t do it. You must act. Ben Franklin once said, “Failing to prepare is the same as preparing to fail.” He was of course, talking about preparing for war with the British once the Declaration of Independence was signed. But, I’ve come to realize all those old guys from years ago were probably the most intelligent group to ever live at one time, in one place. Much of the things they wrote can be taken myriad number of ways.

Did I dream about making a better living for me and my family with my story telling? Yeah, for many years. Since before most of you on here were born. But, I was target fixated. That’s when a fighter pilot concentrates so hard on the tango he’s trying to shoot down, he completely misses the other one coming up behind him. My target for nearly three decades was getting on the bookstore shelves. I’d never heard of an ebook. Then, our oldest daughter and her husband (the one who is one of Amazon’s lower level execs) gave me a Kindle for Christmas two years ago. At the time, I didn’t even know he worked for Amazon. He was good to her and provided for her and that’s all that mattered. When I mentioned once that I’d been reading a lot of authors I’d never heard of on it, he told me they were probably self published. When I mentioned I’d been trying to get published since the eighties, he explained and showed me on my laptop how to do it. That was in June, 2013, one year and three months ago.

A month later, I took out those dusty short stories from 1987 and began writing my first novel based on them. I was determined to do it. My goal was to compile and lengthen those three shorts into two novels and with any luck, I could make enough to buy tools for a wood working shop. I wanted to get off the road and work for myself, building furniture, cabinets and most of all, boats.

I cranked out my first book, with little or no guidance, in three months and published it last October. I put it out of my mind completely and started on the second one. Though it was 20K words longer, I cranked it out in 2-1/2 months. Mind you, I was working upwards of 70 hours a week as an over the road truck driver and writing in the sleeper of the truck. My first goal was getting both books published before Christmas and that’s just what I did, 178K words in less than six months, publishing my second book on 10/23. January sales were over $2500, more than enough for all the tools I wanted.

That’s when it hit me. I could make a living at this. Something else hit me at about the same time. The numbers. I realized I’d written 178,000 of my own words in two stories, in 178 days. One thousand words a day. And those two stories earned me $2500. It wasn’t hard to calculate that two more stories in six months would double that income. I hadn’t yet learned about ranking and exposure caused exponential sales of multiple works. I knew nothing about book marketing, or even proper editing, cover design and formatting. I was wet behind the ears at 55.

That’s about the time I found these boards and what a blessing that was. I spent a month learning everything I could, soaking in the vast expanse of accumulated creative and marketing knowledge that are right here on these boards. I learned what worked and more importantly, I learned what didn’t work. Armed with better weaponry, I attacked my first two books with a vengeance and rereleased them as second editions with much better covers, formatting and marketing plan. Sales climbed slightly and I started on a third book, but without the guidance of those short stories.

I wanted to write about something that I was emotionally too close to, so I sought the help of a young Marine who’d recently left the Corps after three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Infantryman. He’s the son of a friend and suffered post traumatic stress. At first he was reluctant, until I told him about my own demons from Beirut. It took us a while, but I like to think we put together a fictional story that might help others to seek out someone to talk to. I published Fallen Pride in early April, 2014. Sales that month were equal to my best month as a truck driver. I was almost there.

From these boards, I learned a “feeder” was needed, but I was reluctant to reduce the price of my first book, or EGAD, make it permafree. So in just six weeks, I cranked out a 53K page prequel to the others and knowing that my dream was doable and already having a good emergency savings and retirement in place, I QUIT MY JOB half way through writing it. Fallen Out was published on May 30, two weeks before the one year anniversary of the first time I ever heard about self publishing. Since day one, it’s been my sales leader, drawing in more and more readers. I intentionally made it a little jerky, to more closely match the pace of my first book.

Last month, I earned more than four times my best trucking month and now KDP wants to reward that hard work by slapping on another three grand? Yes, my friends, dreams really can come true. But, not without sacrifice and hard work. Oh, and planning to succeed. In the Corps, I had a Platoon leader who always reminded us of the “Seven P’s”, “Proper prior planning prevents p!ss poor performance”.

Dream big. My wife and I did this together and then we laid out a detailed plan, in writing, exactly what we need to do to make that dream become a reality.

Learn. I was shooting emails back and forth last night with one of my favorite writers, who is now a close friend. Although I didn’t discover his work until after I’d started writing my second book and his were years old, we both agreed that our works were eerily similar. We both chalked it up to being kindred spirits. He said, “There are no original thoughts, Wayne. Only reorganized ones.” There’s nothing you can think of doing that hasn’t already been done. My dad always told me, “A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of other men.” These boards are full of successes and failures. Fortunately, you’ve stumbled onto a place where people don’t mind sharing both. If something didn’t work for other people, why would you try it? Some ideas on here, you can tweak and “rearrange the thoughts” to make it better. It’s all here, though. Learn it.

Work hard. One thousand words a day, by habit, will create four 80K-90K word novels a year. You won’t make squat with the first one, so hammer out something that’ll lure and hook readers. When you have withdrawals because you’re not writing that thousand words a day, you’ll start to see some success. In some genres, that might happen fast. In others, slower. You might well be a talentless hack. That’s okay. Do you honestly think Tiger Woods first game was three under par? Learn and work hard to gain that talent. It’s not a sprint. My feeble success was thirty years in the making. That’s an ultra-marathon. Sure, there are the very rare few that hit exactly the pacing and many readers happy button and hit it out of the park very early in their career. Odds are you’re not going to be one of them. Work toward the future.

Set your prices high. Don’t let the market dictate that you should be giving your stuff away cheap. Get that second book out in less than three months. Do a little marketing, so you’re part time gig can make enough to pay for itself. That’ll keep your significant other from screaming that you’re squandering the savings.

Keep writing. Hone your craft. Don’t be afraid to experiment, there’s always a delete button. If you don’t like it and you’re writing in the genre you like to read, others probably won’t either. But, don’t let that be your limiting factor. Play around and have fun.

Write what you know. Don’t try to write about how beautiful the ocean is if you live in Nebraska and have never seen it. It will show. I’m fortunate. I’m old and have seen a lot more than most. From the islands of the Caribbean to the Columbia River, from the foggy cliffs of Maine, to Rodeo Drive and everywhere in between. I’ve visited and lived in more foreign countries than most people have visited cities. Write in the genre you most like to read, you already know the pacing of what you like. As a reader, my books are exactly what I love to read.

It’s not a dream for the faint of heart. People will call you out in reviews. Friends will tell you it’s not possible. I spoke to a guy I used to work with the other day and he asked who I was now driving for. I told him I was still working for myself as a writer, four months after quitting my job. “Ah, unemployment, huh? That won’t last forever.” I didn’t tell him I’d already made way more since quitting, than I did all of last year. An easily discouraged person without a plan will sell one copy a month of their one and only book for many years. If a $2 a month pension is okay with you, by all means stop right there. If you want an income stream you can leave to your kids, ignore the nay sayers, think positive, make a plan to achieve your dream and work hard to get there.

But, it all starts with a plan. A dream without a plan is just a wish. And their ain’t no dang genies.

What do you think? Did you enjoy? Besides leaving me comment below, please take a moment and go to Wayne’s website and let him know you appreciate his story.

Until next time…


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