Hey all and welcome to the first of my author interviews on writing for Kindle and CreateSpace. Our first interviewee is somebody you have all likely heard of if you read any kind of “make money online” books from Amazon.
To me, he comes across kinda like the “Rich Jerk” of Kindle publishing, but without being a jerk! He has a style all of his own, and in my honest opinion, is one of the most entertaining writers in the MMO/self-publishing niches.
Yes… You guessed it… It’s… Erm… Well I don’t actually know who it is but he writes under the pseudonym “Von Money.”
Let’s get down to the 20 questions which I’m sure you will find both educational, and entertaining:
20 Questions with Von Money
Who has been the biggest influence on you with regards to self-publishing?
I would say his name, but it’d be like a passive aggressive verbal slap in the face. What happened was I read some of the best selling authors and thought to myself, this is it? I can beat this even on the days the waitress spits in my lemonade.
I would have self-published anyways, but when I saw the products people were making a ton of money with, I knew I had to hurry up and figure out how to get a book on Amazon.
What is the single most important tip you would give to anybody thinking of self-publishing?
The formatting and submission part is surprisingly easy. That’ll take care of itself within a day if you really apply yourself – even if you’re starting from 0. So, the precursor to my answer is not to worry about all the techno babble. It’s very figureoutable. If not, pay someone $5-$20 on Fiverr and they’ll do everything.
So once that lion is slayed, the most important tip is to write how you want to write and not give a flying FAQ what people might say. I guarantee you 10% of people will bitch about your book just because at least 10% of people will always complain about something. Forget about them, they don’t matter. Just attack your keyboard and write the book you were born to write.
If you could go back in time and speak to yourself shortly before publishing your first book, what would you tell yourself to do differently?
Wow. Great question. First, hire someone to do a book cover. Second, write more books in non-Internet marketing, less popular niches. Third, churn out books like Mexican candy on a conveyor belt. Fourth, write under my real name and market that brand hard.
Let me explain.
Book cover. A book cover can almost literally make your book (I’m a little ashamed of the “almost literally”, but not enough to think of something else). A great book cover is inviting and makes you want to open your wallet. It gives you a good feeling when you’re ready to buy. It makes you brush off those 1 star reviews.
I’d say my Von Money book covers are average. I keep trying to do them myself and it’s been a mild failure in both terms of time spent and earnings lost. My non-Von Money books look like a million bucks.
I write about a lot of “make money” stuff because that’s what’s interesting to me. Problem is every other male between 20 and 45 thinks the same exact way so it’s a high hanging fruit type of a deal. That’s no Bueno. You publish books in other arenas and there’s less competition and it’s easier to make money.
I’d still write some of these books later on, but it hurts to know how much money some of the weight loss ebooks (and other niches) were making early on. I completely missed the bus with a lot of outside niches.
You gotta get in while the gettin’s good. Some people were made early on because they did just that. I came in at the tail end of an era where a few books were all you saw when you searched Amazon. Those early authors who solidified themselves in the frontier land absolutely banked their ass off.
The problem with multiple pen names is they fragment your efforts and make it harder to exponentially grow. It’s easier to take off with 10 books than it is 5 in two accounts if you know what I mean.
I choose a pen name so I could write however crazy I wanted to without thinking twice about it. That’s good in a way, but bad because I found myself attempting to grow two brands rather than one.
I wish I would have just wrote everything under my real name because not only am I fragmented, but now I keep up this stupid ass charade where I try to keep everything all cloak and dagger. That’s why I make my own book covers.
What is the biggest mistake you have made on your self-publishing journey?
The biggest mistake was the pen name. Another huge mistake is I thought people would care about my life advice about happiness and success and they do not. I put so much effort into Big Pig Success and it sold like 2 copies total. I’m exaggerating, but yeah, that one sold like a logical version of the National Inquirer.
Another good/bad thing that happened to me early on was success. I was super successful out of the gates. My first non-Von Money book made me a killing. Within a few months I was doing $700+ in sales from a 40 Kindle page book. “Price Rich” and a few others went over extremely really well in the beginning.
This made me think my ink was smoother than everyone else’s and I would just lunge off into a golden rainbow, printing money when I decided to publish. Didn’t work out that way.
Oh, and I feel like I bungled my email lists. I send out stuff to them, but get very little reaction. I think I sent too many mixed messages. Everyone was signed up for Von Money, but I’m a jungle monkey, swinging from one money tree to the next. Not everybody that likes Kindle publishing wants to know about SEO.
I’ve made a lot, a lot of mistakes. Let’s see… buying domain names for each book, setting up my blog on Blogger, not getting “vonmoney” somewhere in my Twitter name (it was taken), my site loads slow because of my webhost, I’ve put up meager book covers, I’ve priced my books too high.
This is like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It boring as hell and it just drags on. Let’s just leave it as I continually fudge up things as I figure them out.
Are there any tools you use to help with book publishing that you would recommend to others, or are they the work of Satan?
I tried Scrivener and I’d use it if it were free, but to me I just felt like I was using a program to use it. It was a marginally nice Word Processor, but I just didn’t get $40 of extra benefit from it.
I think part of the problem is I don’t need all the organizational stuff. I can just write from my head most of the time. I don’t need to see my chapter outlines and the topics subdivided for each.
There was an auto formatter out there that looked promising, but the creator fled the scene and left everyone holding an empty bag of support questions. I know Scrivener was supposed to have this, but it wasn’t stupid-easy so I gave up on it.
If someone came up with an exhaustive auto formatter that actually worked, that would be sweet and I’d use it.
There was a cover creator software I was promoting – and I still use it – but it’s not anywhere close to the beautiful, custom designs you can get on Fiverr if you just look around. The work those people do for $4 (Fiverr takes 20%) is amazing.
So other than Fiverr and a formatter that – to my knowledge – doesn’t exist, no.
If a really awesome cover creator came out that could make me look like a superstar designer, I’d definitely look into it.
Any book’s cover is of course important, this we all know. What recommendations do you make with regards to creating, or outsourcing cover creation?
Fiverr truly is the best source. It’s cheap as hell and the quality of some designers is unreal.
Search the different gigs and find someone who creates book covers that you identify with. Tell them exactly what you want and give them a few image examples of the style. They’re really good at conceptualizing, but you’ll be a lot better off if you give them a baseline to work from.
Don’t be afraid to ask for revisions. Don’t be afraid to buy multiple gigs to get the job done exactly right.
If you spend $15 on the Cinderella perfect book cover, so what?
You’ll know the book cover is right when you have no hint of the puppy head tilt in your reaction.
How should you approach writing your book’s description, and why?
Go back and read the book descriptions of the books that sold you with their description. What about their words hooked you?
With that in mind, write exactly how you will improve the life of someone that might read your book. Tell people a story that incorporates the info in your book. Tell them specific benefits. People want to know what happened to you.
If you have great reviews, include some.
With a fiction book, you’ve got to make the reader connect with the story. Make it come alive to them.
Don’t tell people about your book. Don’t pitch your book to them. Make that book become a part of their lives. Write so that you’re talking to people, not lecturing them.
Never, ever be boring. Stay colorful.
There are so many tips to writing a great book description. Mine are never ever perfect when I first publish. I spend about 20-30 minutes, fill up as much of the page as I can, and press go.
Then, I go and improve my descriptions when I can. I’ve read a lot about copywriting and there’s some great info. I hope it’s seeped into my brain enough so that I weave some of the tricks while I go, but the most important part is getting the book out there so I do the best I can in about 30 minutes, launch, and correct all my mistakes when I get a chance.
What other areas of your authors central account should you concentrate on and why?
A great bio really helps people that are on the fence. I love the Twitter and blog feed options because it keeps your feed fresh no matter what.
Oh, and I obviously don’t use it for my Von Money stuff, but the more pictures of you, the better. It usually doesn’t matter if you’re ugly or fat or whatever. People like seeing other people because they connect better.
The only way I can see this backfiring is if you built up some super image and it came crumbling apart. Like right now people see me as some Chris Hemsworth, Thor, figure. If I put a picture of me not being able to meet the roller coaster “you must be this tall” requirements, it might hurt sales. Or it could spike them, who the hell knows.
Do you have any tips to share with us about pricing books?
Now that the beta pricer is out, I’d definitely give that a whirl and test if it’s right.
I think the best price point for maximizing value for a heftier book is $4.99. $4.99 seems to be the wallet buster price point where people give up and pay.
Other than that, I always try to fall onto the $2.99 finish line for most of my books.
With intro books or smaller “guides”, I’m looking into taking them off KDP and putting them on SmashWords and other market places for free so I can do price match and give them away for free on Amazon.
With these feeler type of books, while I like 35 cents a lot, it’s more to your advantage to give a great “quickie” book of about 5,000-7,500 words for free and have it promote your other books/products.
99 cents is cheap, but it even makes more financial sense to me to save my buyers $1 (vs 35 cents for me).
For you, is self-publishing the easiest way to make money online at the moment, or is there something easier?
Hmmm… You made me narrow my eyes with this question.
I’d say yes with the caveat that there’s pretty easy money to be made if you can figure out certain stuff. It’s like once you climb the hill, and get over that hump, it’s pretty clear sailing going down.
But for people starting out, Kindle publishing is a tremendous opportunity. But you gotta put out good stuff.
If you have the capital, researching lucrative niches and hiring specialty ghost writers can be a great investment. I just commissioned my first ghost writer. Be warned: finding the talent at a fair price is not easy.
PS The ghost writer is not for Von Money. I’ll always be the person behind VM.
What was the first book you ever published, and was it a success?
First book I published was a non-Von and yes, it was a huge success (still doing pretty damn good). Probably one of the best financial moves of my life was writing that damn book.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
How can people get started building income on the back end of Kindle books?
First thing that goes through my mind is setting up a site with natural affiliate products on the back end. So, for example, you have a “How to get started juicing for beginners” book and then at the end refer people to your website or webpage with the best juicers. And since you already know they’re trying to get healthy, maybe something supplemental, you may be interested in… weights, an exercise bike, whatever.
You never know what some people will buy. It only takes one huge Amazon sale to make $300. I get a multi-thousand dollar sale every few months so it does happen.
If not affiliate sales, sell your own services or products. If people really like/trust you, they’ll buy you. Just yesterday, someone paid me $95 for phone consultation.
If you don’t offer it, people can’t buy it.
Be creative or at least open ended. Put a feeler offer if someone would like to hire you to blog for them, etc.
Affiliate links inside Kindle books, yes or no? Why do you take that stance?
No on Amazon affiliate links. Yes, on others.
I used to say none whatsoever, but it looks like everyone else is doing it so I don’t see how you’d all of a sudden get banished for it. Last I looked – and I haven’t for awhile now – but last I looked, it was one of those things that isn’t really addressed directly.
Are there any “myths” or misconceptions about self-publishing (Kindle or in general) which you can dispel?
I always hated when the early pioneers would assume you had 1,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers and just tell you to promote your book that way. Facebook and Twitter work only if people care what you’re doing. If not, you’ll get a big fat nothing burger. No telling how many hours have been wasted trying to generate social interest that was never there.
You don’t sign up for social accounts and then hold your hands up and say, “Hey everyone, I’m here!” and they run to follow you. Doesn’t happen like that.
Also, writing 2,000 words a day is not easy. There are some books that say something like, “just write 2,000 words a day, you’ll be done in a week.” That’s a lot easier said than done.
I’ve had books were I wrote way faster than that, but that’s lightening in a bottle. Not only can I not keep up with that pace, but I’ve got about 5 million other things to do.
If you can churn out one solid, $2.99 book with 12,000+ words per month, then you are doing really well.
How realistic do you think it is for the average author to make a full-time living on Kindle?
I know what type of answer you’re looking for on this, but there’s a lot of variables here. First, I don’t know the stats for an average author. How much time do they have? Is this their only job? How fast can they write 12,000 words? Do they have enough money to last for 6 months while they write? Second, what’s a full-time living? Is that $2,500 a month? Third, what types of books are they writing?
Really difficult to give you an exact answer because of these variables. But, one aims to please so here is my general answer.
The vast majority of published Kindle authors (meaning those with at least 1 book published) will not earn a full-time income. I’d guess 98%. Not because they can’t, but because you have to invest major time to write high-quality books. It’s a commitment and most people have crying kids, bitchy bosses, or any number of other time commitments. Some people just aren’t driven enough to churn out a collection of high quality books. And it’s not like one book couldn’t make you, but that’s very improbable, so you likely need a stable of solid income producers.
Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to spend a month pounding away on your next masterpiece, press print, and viola, you sell 4 copies with a refund for the month.
Also, most book sales dwindle as time passes for so you’ve got to produce more as you go to keep bumping up those royalties.
Kindle publishing is a great way to make money – especially if you’re a fanatic about something niche and can produce a great quality book. But earning a full-time income with Kindle alone takes dedication.
It definitely can be done though.
What are your minimum criteria for you to consider one of your books “successful?” (A certain amount of units sold per month? A certain amount of revenue per month? Well received and reviewed by the public?)
I’m a money guy so it’s revenue. If I can write a book in 20-30 hours and have it make me $50/month in perpetuity, I’m very happy with that.
Of course, I want to make $500/month or more from every book, but some books I write, knowing going in that there’s not enough interest for even $100.
But you know what, sometimes, I just want to write about a particular topic or something I’m excited about, and so I do it anyways.
Other times I take a shot with a book – the ol’ throw mud approach.
In a nutshell, I always want to make more money, but at the same time, I do what I want when I want to do it. If I’m excited about taking apart my computer and putting it back together one day and I want to write a book about it, then by damnit, I’m going to do it. That’s just me.
On making the world better, I really do like helping people out. I always try to keep connections with people that email me and help them if I can. This always works in my favor anyways because some of them wind up giving me great info or tips.
The other day a badass CPA gave me amazing free tax tips and told me to let her know if I needed anything else. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
How long did it take to get a big break, and what was the tipping point for you? Advertising? Someone of influence recommending? Or did you just go from “shit” to “hit” over night?
I was stupidly successful out of the gates which blinds you in a sense from reality. With Kindle books, I’m a name, but guys like Steve Scott make way more than I do.
I think what’s made me a success is that people like my writing. I get to the point. I don’t waste time. No fluff. I’m random in an entertaining way. And, if you read my books, you can seriously apply that information to make yourself money.
All of my singles are under 15,000 words, but I’ll be damned if they don’t slam you with an infolanche. They’re never perfect, but they provide great value.
How soon after seeing a book published do you expect it to start a regular sales pattern? (If you see patterns?)
Usually within 3 weeks unless something dramatic changes (price, book cover, rankings change, etc.) or it’s seasonal or “trendyish” in nature.
Would you like to tell us about your latest projects and/or new releases?
My to-do list is gargantuan and my girlfriend doesn’t like vying the computer for my attention so it’s one of those things where I’m going to have to make time, but there’s a new book on web assets that I can’t wait to write.
It’ll be about gathering income producing properties like Kindle books, traffic domains, etc. and using those types of things to produce ongoing money for as far as the eye can see.
I’m super excited about it.
Is there anything I haven’t asked about, that you think aspiring authors should know?
There’s so many things. If anyone has a specific question, please feel free to email me or Tweet me.
For parting advice, I’d say go with your instincts and just try to continually move in the right direction.
Don’t put a lot of time into stuff that doesn’t go anywhere. Put your time into stuff that results in something accomplished.
For example, don’t spend 3 hours trying to create a book cover. That’s too much time and should tell you you have no business creating your own book cover.
Spend your time where your best talents lay; where you end up getting the most stuff produced. Source stuff like web design or book covers to those that eat them like cake. Also, don’t be a jackass. Don’t write a book telling everybody you’re a book selling bad ass when you paid for all your reviews. That still pisses me off.
Write great info if you’re non-fiction or entertaining info if you’re fiction and treat people right.
I still think Kindle publishing is a solid outlet for strong writers. Just know that it’s not stupid easy anymore. You can’t just show up to the prom, fat and overweight without a date and expect the girls to run at you like Elvis. Now you’ve got to get in shape, comb your hair, and make a good presentation before asking the girl in your chemistry class if you go with you. And she still might say no!
Last, don’t let yourself get cornered by what other people (friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers) tell you. There are many paths to success.
I’ll leave you with this: As we get older, we start narrowing down truths to what we’ve learned from experience and what we’ve been told. This can be a very good thing in some regards. For example, we learn that shaking someone’s hand is a custom that shows respect.
But this narrowing down is also a bad thing because we shut down a lot of possibilities to ourselves simply because we learned to shut them down, not because they weren’t there.
Well, that’s your lot folks! Both Von Money and myself hope you found these 20 questions and answers helpful.
If you would like to know more about Von Money and his books or even interact personally, you can find him in the following locations: