Sunday, January 15, 2017

Learn from a Cartoonist?

Scott Adams, successful author and entrepreneur, is best known for his highly popular daily cartoon strip, Dilbert, chronicling the workplace ups and downs of this nicely nerdy engineer and his odd workfellows, which include a pointy-haired boss and colleagues who make an art of work-shirking. 

Adams has written a valuable, enthusiastically reviewed book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. “This is the story of one person’s unlikely success within the context of scores of embarrassing failures,” encouragement for those of us who feel on the edge of success but not yet ensconced there. Rather contrarian, it serves as an “on the other hand” for the advice we often receive.

It’s Mostly Luck

Who, where, and what you are is largely a matter of chance Adams argues.

Even so, you can improve your chances. Adding a skill, even at a modest level, “doubles” your chances for success: public speaking, psychology, conversation, grammar, persuasion, a second language, business writing, basic accounting, the Internet, even design basics. He lists about a dozen useful skills. These skills become part of your “stack of talents.” The more of them, like tickets to a lottery, the more likely you are to capitalize on an opportunity and win.

Passion Is B.S.

Adams learned this from a commercial loan officer who shied away from lending to entrepreneurs who were long on passion: “…the best loan customer is one who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet.” Finance trumps fervor.

Goals Are Not Golden, Not Enough

Yes, without goals, we are adrift; specific goals can keep us motivated and on course. And yet…a goal we repeatedly fail to reach is discouraging, sapping our energy. Better, Adams argues, is to have a system, a method we stick to and regularly reward ourselves for doing so.

Lose 20 pounds? Nice idea for some, but if progress is slow, the diet is dropped. Instead, we must change our eating habits, adopt a new system. Every day we stick to the new regime is a victory. I did this myself this year, dropping 10% of my weight by greatly restricting carbs and replacing them with salads and proteins. The daily “victories” helped me maintain my new weight. I confess I did keep track of both what I was eating and how much I lost.

Failure Is the Raw Material for Success

Adams describes numerous failures on his way to success as an author, entrepreneur, and cartoonist. “If success were easy, everyone would do it. It takes effort.”

Somewhere in the mound of your unsuccessful efforts is likely to be a success. “The trick is to get the good stuff out.”

First, you generate the mound. Adams amusingly describes his own pile of trial-and-error. From failure comes knowledge…if the failure is faced squarely, and if it doesn’t kill you. Next comes success.

Conservation of Energy Is not Limited to Physics

While we can increase our personal energy---sleep enough, eat well, keep active daily---we have to note what drains our energy, too; avoid the negativity of much of the news of the day and the people who are pessimists rather than optimists. Pay attention to how you feel; recognize uppers and downers.

Affirmations: Effective or Just Seem To Be So?

“I, Jane Dough, am going to be a best-selling writer.” That’s an affirmation. Repeat it often, and it appears to improve your chances of reaching this goal.

Scott Adams gives specific, rather spooky, examples from his own life of his affirmations that came true. He gives the arguments on both sides of the question of whether an affirmation really changes your chances or only seems to. He concludes it costs you nothing and may well be of benefit.

The Best Advice on Success

“If you want something, figure out the price, then pay it.” You have to decide rather than merely want.

Seeking to be successful, and paying the price for it, may seem excessively selfish, but doing so can allow you to enjoy your life, help others, and not be a burden on anyone.

Adams estimates he will consume about a tenth of the wealth he has gained, with the rest going to “taxes, future generations, start-up investments[D1]  and stimulating the economy.” Failed enterprises do not long support their owners, their employees, or their communities.

Doubt the Experts

Some truths are self-evident; some are simply expert opinion. Though experts have a better record than non-experts, they also make serious mistakes. Advice must be taken with skepticism.

“If your gut feeling (intuition) disagrees with the experts, take that seriously.” Going against expert opinion may lead to ideas that open opportunities for you that others have overlooked.

Although sometimes you should doubt even popular cartoonists.
What are you doing to add to your skill set? What have you done to improve your “luck”?
Please join the conversation.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his business website, His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.


Published in a slightly different form at


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Selling Your First 1000 Copies

Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book is Tim Grahl’s contribution to the art or science of marketing your book. His method relies on a strong email list, applying a system of:

Permission: “Without permission, your communication efforts risk being ignored, deleted or otherwise tuned out.” Grahl’s key: a mailing list of willing recipients. “Earning such permission is the art of motivating website visitors to grant permission to stay connected.” In other words, letting you add to the clutter of their email. “Having a direct connection to an individual’s inbox gives authors a way to communicate to their readers where they regularly spend their time.”
You get their permission by attracting them to a website with an offer, exchanging the offer for something you value, their email address. People pay more attention to most items in their email inbox, nearly 100%, than they do to items on Twitter or Facebook, more like 1%. You want them to get to know you and vice-versa. “…your #1 goal as an author should be to grow your email list as much as possible.” Look into MailChimp, Aweber, and 
Constant Contact.
 “…two overarching rules: (1) make a specific, compelling offer and (2) expose them to the offer multiple times.”

Content: Use their permission; deliver to them valuable content regularly, and share it freely and publicly, giving it a chance to go viral. Share more than you feel comfortable sharing. Grahl (2013) gives many examples of success by sharing, as your following grows faster, your connections increase and improve, and your reputation soars. Consider bonus offerings besides the book. “Fans want more.”

Outreach: Expanding and deepening your connections, outreach, starts with empathy, identifying with the feelings and thoughts of another. Help others. Zig Zigler is quoted, “You can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people to get what they want in life.” Grahl claims the investment is worth it: “Long-term career plans require long-term thinking.” Over time, you will have connections to both fans and influencers, the latter being more lucrative. Fans you give one-to-many communication. Influencers you give one-to-one interaction.
For recruiting readers, Grahl recommends:
1.   Profile your readers.
2.   Identify where they spend their time.
3.   Create an introduction approach to their platform(s).

Selling: This is the goal of the system. Boost yourself. Ask others to buy, having stimulated their appetites. “Leave them wanting more.” Tell stories that help you connect emotionally with your readers. “Enthusiasm sells. Let it out.” Make it easy to buy and ask them to.        

Building the system:  Mass marketing especially depends on building a system to manage the multitudinous contacts. Do it.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of work I like to do; My email list is paltry and filled with friends rather than potential customers. Your talents, taste, and experience may be quite different.


Excerpted from my book, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available from OP and from online booksellers like and

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Mark Allen sold his SELL MORE BOOKS: Self-Publisher’s Guide to Getting a Top Selling Book, charging only $0.99 at, for its 40 pages of material. I could not find it again in January 2017, however. 
     Top Selling Book is all about how to market a self-published book….based on the following basic ideas:
·      Book Expansion
·      Social Media
·      YouTube
·      Blogging
·      Other Media (podcasts, radio TV)

Each idea is meant to market and expand awareness of your book.”
Each element helps support the other.      

Book Expansion
         His first idea: work hard to get your book on the first page of searches by giving it away or selling it cheaply at the start.
This will help with his second recommendation: get reviews. The more readers, the more reviews. Top reviewers at amazon display their email addresses, and you are urged to contact them. Put the link to Amazon’s review page for the book at the end of your book, where those who read it to the end will find it conveniently.
“Your book should be offered to all major ebook vendors. At the end of this book, I have a large list with links to eBook sites.”
Consider turning your ebook into a physical book, using for example, Create Space. You can buy them cut-rate and sell them in person.
Offer your book as an app.
Do an audio book, perhaps getting a voice-over from someone on

Social Media

     “…it can generate as much as 60 of your monthly sales.”
He lists the top ten sites and their unique monthly visitors.
     “Social media is global word of mouth. Books get sold on word of mouth.” “Don’t get discouraged. Growing an audience is slow.” “Don’t spam shameless plugs for your book.”

    “YouTube marketing is effective for nonfiction and fiction books alike. Especially ‘how to’ type YouTube videos.” The videos have a long shelf life. Consider using a pro from fiverr, although audiences may prefer the author.


         “For fiction and nonfiction alike, an author blog is a must have.” The free blogs are probably adequate. You want to catch the attention of people. “You attract people with your information and direct them in one way of another to your book and branding.” You have to use other social media to call attention to your blog. Search for related blogs and contribute there.


         “The more you give to people, the more sales you will get.”

Stay Global

         Time spent marketing broadly is a better investment than marketing locally. Think: Pareto’s 80/20 rule, 80% of the value in 20% of the items/activities.

List of eBook Sites

         About 80 sites are listed, and their links are active, using the Kindle.


Excerpted from my Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available online from OP and and among others. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

9 Mistakes Most Authors Make

On January 16, 2015, I listened to a fine webinar by marketing and publicity expert Steve Harrison (@PublicityGuy on Twitter, head of Bradley Communications Corp.) on nine common errors, to which he added a tenth. He emphasized that your book represents you, so make it as good as you can.
The errors:
1.  WRONG STRUCTURE: Don’t deviate from the tried and true, such classics as Covey’s itemized 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Blanchard’s parables in the One-Minute Manager, or the classic How To…. Imitate what has succeeded in the past.
2.  WRONG PUBLISHING OPTION: Your choices include self-publishing, co-publishing with a subsidy press, getting an agent and a conventional publisher. Then, too, there are print and digital. Each has its plusses and minuses.
3.  WRONG TITLE: Keep it short. Make it intriguing. Make a promise. Bust a myth. Quantify, such as Tim Ferriss did in The 4-Hour Work Week. Get advice from others; even run a focus group.
4.  NOT MEDIA-GENIC: Need a hook to get attention: Fame. Celebrity. Current event. How to. Myth busting. Controversy.
5.  WAIT UNTIL PUBLISHED TO START CASHING-IN: No, start as soon as you have a good title and some work done on the book. Pre-sell, if you can. Lecture. Do interviews.
6.  TRYING TO SAY EVERYTHING IN ONE BOOK: Pick your best, save the rest. A few key ideas you can explain clearly, forcefully.
7.  NOT IDENTIFYING A “CHOIR” TO PREACH TO THAT WILL SING YOUR PRAISES: Need a tribe to help promote you. Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life advanced by congregations he contacted. Robert Kiyosaki (2000) pushed Rich Dad, Poor Dad with help from multi-level marketing contacts.
8.  NOT DESIGNING YOUR BOOK TO FACILITATE FOLLOW-UPS: Make it easy to know how to reach you. Solicit email addresses from fans. Much money from books comes from follow-up activities, like speeches.
9.  NOT HAVING A TEAM: Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor single-handedly. Others help with ideas and actions, serve as “multipliers.”
PERFECTIONISM: Promising nine items, Harrison delivered one more: the French say, “the best is the enemy of the good.” Nothing man-made is perfect, and if you wait to reach perfection, you will not publish. 
Excerpted from my book, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press in 2016 and available from OP and other online booksellers, including and See also my site,

Monday, December 26, 2016

Selling Books on Amazon

In May 2015, Ty Cohen, highly successful author of books sold as paperbacks primarily on and as ebooks sold through its Kindle Direct Publishing Program (KDP), presented a generously detailed webinar on writing and publishing his way, followed with a short pitch for his program that you can see at

He has been dubbed “King of Amazon Kindle Publishing” and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his works.

I summarize his talk:

What’s Your Problem?

New authors typically have one of the following three problems:
1. Being a procrastinating perfectionist. The writer finds his work is never perfect, so he never publishes it.
2. Not knowing what the audience wants.
3. Needing a way to get in front of the right audience.
These new authors have other problems, as well, with decisions that need to be made about: attracting readers, setting prices, choosing covers, selecting genres, and getting started rapidly.

Prospects for Publishing

Publishing is undergoing a radical transformation from the publishing of physical books to the publishing of digital books:
1. The book 50 Shades of Grey got its initial success on Amazon’s Kindle.
2. Amanda Hocking made $3 million in her first 18 months; she was self-published.
3. Stephen Leather sells 2000 ebooks per day containing his novellas.
4. Novelist John Locke sold $1 million in ebooks in his first year, under nine different titles.

Clearly there is money, distribution, even fame to be obtained through the use of self-publishing in digital media.

Keys to the Kingdom and Its Treasury

Ty Cohen’s keys to success on Amazon:      
   1.   Discover what readers want.
   2.   Determined which price points are optimal.
   3.   Build a huge, loyal fan base.
   4.   Generate large sales so readers and publishers seek you out.

Amazon’s royalties dwarf those of traditional publishing houses. Often Amazon gives authors 70% of the price of their ebook. Conventional publishers typically give 5 to 10% royalty for a printed book.

Not only are there 7 billion devices worldwide that can receive ebook content, but Amazon itself has 700 million credit card numbers already on file, simplifying the purchasing process for its customers.

Use Amazon for Research

Authors can use Amazon’s sales information and review information to determine what the public is interested in having them write about.

Go to and type in the genre you want to investigate. Sort by the number of reviews that the books have received or more specifically five-star and four-star reviews. Amazon makes it easy to sort by other characteristics as well.

Look at the most popular books and determine their strengths and weaknesses by reading the very favorable and the very unfavorable reviews. This will help you understand what the readers want and don‘t want.

In general, the book’s title is the first thing that captures a potential reader’s attention. Next is the cover. Finally, those still interested will read the description of the book.

Give Them What They Want

You are trying to seduce your reader into going past page 20. The title beckons. The first few pages continue to entice. You must continue to battle for attention.

Price Wisely

Although a high price will give you more money per book, it can easily become too high and cut your total revenue. Amazon gives 70% for ebooks priced at $2.99 and above, and this $2.99 price Cohen has found to be optimal. Books over $10 sell at 1/6th the rate of those at $2.99. Not only does this $2.99 price get your more money up front, it gets more readers to swell your fan base, valuable for sales of follow-on publications and other uses.

In pricing the paperback edition of my WYBWM, I chose to make it roughly a dollar more than the minimum allowed by its publisher.  Gaining wider distribution trumped profit-making. If I make it a Kindle book, I will probably charge $2.99, as lower prices produce much less income, and very inexpensive books are often not given much respect. Besides, 70% of $2.99 nets the author $2.07, and 35% of $0.99 nets $0.35, one-sixth.

Get Many Honest Positive Reviews

The number of reviews the book has and how enthusiastic they are keys to successful sales. Even if you are giving the book away, people will be reluctant to spend the time to read them without some reasonable assurance that they are likely to find that effort worthwhile. Favorable reviews give that reassurance.

How to obtain such reviews?
  1.   Write a good book.  
  2.   Contact people who have already written reviews on Amazon. 
      Unfortunately, Cohen does not indicate how to do this.
  3.   Having contacted them, ask if they would like a copy, and gently request that they review it. Those who do agree to accept a copy of the book will usually end up giving favorable reviews, partly because they are predisposed to liking such books and partly due to feeling that a gift should be reciprocated.

Use Translations to Speak to Reader in Own Language

Second to English is Spanish for world-wide use, and English books can be translated to Spanish readily using or hiring a translator from or

Create Your Own Amazon KDP Account

Amazon provides some free instructions or one can pay for more detailed help from Ty Cohen’s site at


Excerpted from my WRITE YOUR BOOK WITH ME, published by Outskirts Press in 2016 and available online from OP and from and, among others.