Writing deep in a genre you love is a great way to make a living with your writing. In today’s show, Iain Rob Wright shares his tips on writing horror and also becoming a successful full-time indie author.
In the intro, I mention the ‘future of digital journalism in question’ [The Guardian], even as Spotify buys Gimlet Media and Anchor. Is the future audio-first? [Recode] Google has also announced Live Transcribe, an app that takes real-world speech and turns it into real-time captions using just the phone’s microphone [Google Blog].
Vellum now has Large Print, mass market and international print sizing. Click here for my Vellum tutorial. Plus, my first fiction self-narrated audiobook is out now, A Thousand Fiendish Angels [Audible US | Audible UK | Google Play | Other stores]
Join me and ConvertKit for a free webinar: How to Sell More Books with Email. The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Authors. Tues 19 Feb at 3pm US Eastern / 8pm UK. Click here to register for your free place.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
- Writing horror that’s based in hope
- Tropes in horror and cliches to avoid
- Success through subverting tropes and doing things first
- On the wide variety of opportunities available to authors with streaming services
- On choosing to go deep or wide with an author business
- Financial security when sticking with one genre
- Persistence with advertising and seeing returns on investment
You can find Iain Rob Wright at IainRobWright.com and on Twitter @iain_rob_wright
Transcript of Interview with Iain Rob Wright
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I’m here with Iain Rob Wright. Hi, Iain.
Iain: Hi, Joanna. Thanks for having me on the show.
Joanna: Oh, it’s great for you to be here. So just a little introduction.
Iain is the bestselling British author of over 20 horror novels in a number of subgenres, including the apocalyptic novels ‘The Final Winter’ and ‘The Gates.’ And we went full-time as Indies around the same time. Although we’ve never met, which is kind of crazy, in person.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Iain: I’ve always sort of enjoyed writing. I think that’s true of most authors or hobbyists or whatever, we enjoy the act of writing. So, even as a child at school, I always enjoyed English and writing little stories or something.
I always had that desire in me. As far as how I got into being an actual author, I went almost completely the Indie route. And that was basically out of desperation to start earning money from my work, because I’d been doing sales for five or six years in the phone industry.
I was really unhappy and getting worse and worse, not enjoying the job. And eventually, one day, I’d just enough and I walked out on a job. I was working for the Three Network at the time.
So just completely walked out, but I had this book I’d been writing in my spare time just as a hobby. And, I had the same dream, you know, one day, I’m going to get an agent, and be published like everybody did back then.
But I also knew it’s a bit of a lottery win. It isn’t an easy thing. And, it was in a time when you’d say, ‘Oh, I want to be a writer one day,’ and people just go, ‘Yeah, okay. Good luck with that.’
But I was desperate. So, my partner at the time who now is my wife, she wasn’t very happy. I had just walked out on my job, but I promised her, ‘I’ve got this book, and I’m going to get an agent,’ and all this.
I started researching agents, and somehow, I must have stumbled across KDP, and this is in 2011. It was in May. So, I thought, oh, you know, I’m going to do this. I’m going to be a great success. Winter, fall, this is all I need. I’ll never have to go back to work in vain.
I completely deluded myself at the time. But I published it and it started to make a little bit of money. And, I was like, oh, that’s nice. So, my partner said, ‘Look, I’ll give you six months. If you can replace the income you were making in sales, then that’s great. Stay at home.’
And at the time, I was half paying my way by being an at-home guy doing all the washing and the cleaning to try and make myself useful, and just banking on this book. And in month six exactly, which was the deadline, it made the exact same amount I’d been making in sales in month six. So it did exactly what I’d hope it would do.
But it was like winning the lottery because I didn’t do anything proactive. I put it out there, went on Facebook. I didn’t even have a Facebook up until that point. Just shouted about it a bit, and it took off and I was earning thousands of pounds a month from this one book. That was in 2011.
I think in hindsight now, I was so lucky that it was that point in time that I needed that break because if I was in that situation now and had one book and just wanted to break into the industry and make a living, it’s just so difficult now, and there’s so many millions of ebooks that just weren’t there in 2011. So I’m so blessed for the timing.
It is really difficult now to have that same amount of success, but it is still possible, but it’s much more of a long-term sort of business now that you need to set up to make in self-publishing. Whereas there, to be honest, I was blessed and really lucky.
As I’m sure you found the earlier days were a little bit easier. You go in, and you didn’t have to swim quite so hard to stay afloat.
Joanna: Maybe that’s true in any industry. We don’t want to make anyone listening feel bad if they’re just starting. There’s opportunity at any point.
Whenever you’re starting something new, you’ve also got energy that you don’t necessarily have later.
Iain: There’s so many different things I have to do now. Whereas in 2011, it was just, ‘I’ve written a book and I want to sell it.’ Now, it’s so many other things.
There’s still guys that I see kind of getting success really fast, but there’s no easy wins now, I think. I like the fact that self-publishing has become a little bit more mature and serious and that the people that are going making it are the ones that deserve it and work hard and work smart.
Some of the ones that were kind of chancers or had some success and didn’t necessarily deserve it, they’ve kind of fallen by the wayside a bit now. So, I suppose it’s matured like any other business that the success is going to go to those who work hard and work smart.
Joanna: Which is good news from everyone, because those people are listening to this show.
We’re going to circle back to what you’re doing to be continually successful. But let’s just wind it back to horror. Because I also think that you perhaps were more visible in 2011 because the horror niche was not so busy as it is now.
Horror has really taken off. A lot of people put horror in the kind of slasher, gore category, and forget that it’s a very broad niche.
Give us an idea about what goes into horror at this point in time, and what type of subgenres do you personally write in?
Iain: I never really go into a horror novel with horrific thoughts. It’s more of hope.
It’s very much like, I’ve got these characters in a really desperate situation and I think about how they’re going to come out at the end of it stronger.
I think a lot of people kinda look down on horror as exploitive, and a little bit low brow. But I think horror is one of the most hopeful genres because it’s all about burying your characters in insurmountable odds and the human condition, the endeavor of your characters gets them through to the end and they come out of it stronger.
Whether it’s they defeat some natural crisis, mother nature turning on them and the world ending, or whether it’s a killer in the woods, it’s all about finding the inner strength of humanity. And I think that puts hope and strength onto the reader by showing them what people can achieve.
I think horror is one of the most ancient genres. And I think it should get more respect than it does. Because I think it’s very much the closest genre to what it is to be human. And, whenever I write a horror novel, it’s always the characters that are strongest in my mind rather than the villain or seeing the horror. It’s all about what I want to bring out of these characters and the adversity they face.
So I find it a really uplifting genre to write. I’m wearing black. But usually I’m the happy person. My favorite place in the world is Disney World. I love being around my kids. My office is covered in Disney. There’s no Freddy Kruger on the wall or anything like that.
I’m not a depressing person. It’s all because I find horror is a really nice place to kind of exist because it’s all about triumph and hope and strength. It’s not about any of the bad things in humanity.
Joanna: I’m definitely with you there. And it’s funny, I love reading horror. I read a lot of horror. And, I feel that it’s about, eventually, something good will triumph over evil, in most of the kind of genre. Not all of them, but generally.
Jonathan Maberry, a great horror writer who I love says, ‘It’s not about the monsters, it’s about the people who win over the monsters in the end.’
Iain: Definitely. And I think that’s what Stephen King is so successful because he’s very character driven.
My favorite horror novels are the ones where the characters stood out to me so much. Like, one of my favorite horror novels is ‘World War Z,’ and that’s almost because the zombies could be any sort of natural disaster, and it’s all about the survivors and their tales and humanity getting through just a disaster that happens to be zombies. But, the horror is at its strongest when it’s character driven.
Joanna: I love that book too, and I saw you said that in another interview, and I think that’s the book that got me into zombies. Because I was like, oh, I’m not going to read zombie stuff. And actually, that book, I would say is literature in that it’s actually the book is so not the film. Right?
The film is whatever, but the book, it’s basically alternate history, I would say. So the fact that it has zombies in it, but it’s more speculative fiction.
This is what I want to circle back to. Does horror always have to have something supernatural in it? And where does it move into crime? Where a serial killer book is often a crime book.
Where do the boundaries between horror and crime and thriller and paranormal go?
Iain: I think in the Venn diagram, the crossover for crime and horror is definitely the serial killer. You’ve got also end of the world, because of global warming and stuff, can sort of be horror as well, and then you’ve got the sci-fi spectrum.
So I think a lot of genres are interlinked. I think the only pure horror, probably, is supernatural, because that really only exists in horror or possibly fantasy, but all other types are horror.
They’re just drawn from the scariness of humanity or mother nature. And I think horror is a pretty wide net, to be honest, and I think that’s why there’s so many subgenres in horror.
I mean, if you take crime you’ve got cozy mysteries and things. I don’t think there’s as many subgenres as there with horror, because it goes into post-apocalypse and joins with sci-fi, and it goes into serial killers and joins with crime.
So I think it’s the center of the universe idea, horror, and I think all the other genres gravitate around horror because it links with all of them.
Joanna: I love that. That’s brilliant. I’m going to go with that, horror is the center of the universe.
I like also what you said about being a happy person, because I’m a happy person, and I read a lot of horror, I know a lot of horror writers. And I find horror writers some of the nicest people. I’ve said this before on this show.
Everyone has a dark side, dark things in their head, and horror writers can get it out on the page, and thus it’s not in their head anymore. Whereas, if you write rainbows and unicorns, all the dark stuff stays in your brain.
Iain: Exactly, yeah. No, yeah, definitely, I’ve met a lot of horror authors, and they’re all great people, they’re all lovely. They’ve all great sense of humors.
Joanna: Just staying with writing horror. If people are interested in writing horror, I imagine they’re reading a lot of horror, but there are some horror tropes that a reader would necessarily need to have, and also some that might have turned into clichés.
What are some of those necessary horror tropes and clichés?
Iain: I always try to think fear comes from our human needs being taken from us. So, we don’t like being trapped or confined, because we worry about suffocating. The end of the world situations with zombies and things, we fear about getting food, and shelter and water.
We don’t want to be attacked and things. So, you have to think about human needs you’re going to take away from your survivors because that’s where the fear comes from. So being stalked in the dark woods by a slasher, you’re losing your sight because you’re in the dark, and you’re out in the woods. So you’re taking the sight from the character.
I think a lot of the tropes that are fundamental tends to be things about putting people in a situation where they can’t fully focus on their comforts, the things that would usually keep them safe.
I suppose you revert their little patch of civilization back down in the caveman era, and you bring out the inner caveman fears and things. So, being chased, that brings out our caveman that we need to get away as quickly as possible. Being trapped is a primal fear.
The tropes that always tend to be necessary to bring out that fear in the reader, they need to be very primal deep fears that we have. Like spiders terrify people because we have a primal fear of being bitten and poisoned and things. So the tropes tend to be very much around primal fears, I feel.
Joanna: I read in one of your interviews you said, ‘One of the clichés to be avoided is the young, blond woman running and then tripping over a log,’ or something. I’d actually put, in general, the kind of young, beautiful person being murdered is a trope. It really is repeated.
I think gender tropes in horror are quite important to challenge.
So anything else people should be kind of avoiding and or being aware of?
Iain: Absolutely. With my own work, people quite often praise the fact that my characters are normal people. They don’t have any guns or training, they’re not soldiers or police officers usually.
I’ve got salesmen that get into horrible situations and things. And there’s a website called tropes.org, I think. I read that for every film or book I enjoy, and it’ll list out all the tropes and whether they’ve been subverted.
Whenever you can identify a trope, it’s really fun to try and do the opposite. I think ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ did it in the first scene of the series where they had a blonde girl running and being chased by a lad, and then she suddenly turns into a vampire and kills him, and that was subverting the trope that, at that point, had been pretty steadfast with the slasher movies of the ’80s and ’90s. Josh Whedon subverted that trope there.
I think you should look at whatever the trope is today, what’s happening today, and try and subvert that, and that can be really successful. I know for a long time, zombies kind of outstayed their welcome.
The more popular ones are the ones like Jonathan Maberry, he had ‘Patient Zero’ that did the zombies, but it was very scientific rather than the dead are rising and nobody knows why.
He went the opposite direction. The dead are rising and this is why, it’s scientific and someone’s doing it, a terrorist. And he subverted the tropes there. And I think at the moment we’ve got, ‘Bird Box’ and then one where they couldn’t make a noise.
Joanna: Oh, yeah,’The Quiet Place.’
Iain: Those are obviously the tropes at the moment. So, if you can think of some cool ways to subvert that, you’d kinda be tapping into what today’s audience is looking for and then surprising them. But, the tropes change all the time, of every generation I suppose.
Joanna: I was thinking about the zombies. Because, now, I read quite a lot of zombie fiction, but I didn’t used to. Again, Jonathan Maberry really got me into it. And he has the ‘Rot & Ruin’ series which is YA kind of crossover, which is in that.
‘Game of Thrones’ had zombies in; the Whites and the Army of the Dead, they are zombies. But because they don’t get called that, people almost forget that they’re watching a zombie horror.
Iain: And that’s what you’ve got to do because if you’re just following the same old path, then people just roll their eyes. Because, you’ll get the most success when you do something first.
And that’s true in any life, because you look at Mark Dawson, he got the most success from Facebook ads because he’s the guy that tripped on it first and it’s the same for writing within a genre. If you have the idea first, it’s completely fresh and original.
There’s a book called ‘Hex’ and I forget the guy’s name because it’s hard to pronounce, but he wrote a story about a witch that’s nothing like anything I’ve ever, ever read and it stuck in my mind so much. It can get lost within my head because it stands on its own. It’s this unique story that there’s nothing else like. So I can’t help but think about that.
Whereas with zombie films and books, they become quite interchangeable unless they have something really specific. So, any horror writer out there…well, I think we all have the same kind of desire that, ‘Oh, I want to write a zombie book, I want to write a haunted house book, I want to write a vampire book,’ because we’re fans of the genre we want to do these things that we’ve enjoyed so much ourselves.
I want to write a vampire novel at some point, and what’s putting me off is when I do, I want it to be completely different. And I love the ‘The Strain’ series of books because they’re so different.
Joanna: Me too, yeah.
Iain: So and I’ll top that, when I did tackle zombies, I made sure I did some things different and that’s why I’m not going to write a vampire book until I have that idea.
I think one of the worst things, especially a horror author can do, is just go, ‘I love zombies. I’m going to write a zombie book.’ Because there’s so many.
So you’ve got to think, ‘I’m going to write a zombie book, but this is how it’s completely different from every other zombie book.’ And there are so many books available, you need to have that unique selling point. If you’re looking at making money and a living, you need to have that.
Joanna: You mentioned ‘Bird Box’ which has been on Netflix, the adaptation, and many of us read the book by Josh Malerman a couple of years ago when it came out. Given ‘Stranger Things,’ again Netflix, a lot of Amazon stuff coming out in films, horror stuff just being more mainstream:
Do you think even writing screenplays or trying to do adaptations or looking at other forms of media is a good way forward for horror? What are your thoughts around this for yourself?
Iain: I think there’s going to be a bit of a Renaissance with these streaming platforms. Kindle gave us unprecedented ability to publish our books. You can contact Netflix and they’ll get back to you. You can’t contact MGM and hope to have someone get back to you.
I’ve got a friend, Matt Shore, who’s been dealing with Netflix about a small indie film he made. I know they’re receptive to it. And, with Amazon, because you’ve got Thomas & Mercer there’s a good route now where you can start out on publishing your own books on Kindle and try and kill it with sales, so much so that Amazon will take notice, and then get you onto one of their imprints, and if that does really well, they’re already set up to do an Amazon Prime show based on one of the books there.
So there’s a direct route now for Joe Blogs to write a book and someday get onto Amazon Prime or Netflix. Because it’s all being streamlined. It’s very much between the viewer and the creator with a lot less in the middle, which is great.
Booksellers would say the opposite that it’s not great, and agents and all that would say it’s not great. But for us, the creators, it is because there’s less resistance now to get to that endpoint.
I wrote a horror script for Audible to make a standalone horror play. And, I wrote that, they paid me for it and I haven’t heard anything since. But it happened. They got in touch with me. I’m not with an agent or a big publishing deal. But, Audible came to me and said, ‘Look, you know, I’d really like you to write some horror for our platform exclusively.’
If you concentrate now on just selling your book, everything else falls in around you, and that’s great because there’s less to worry about. And you can focus on what you can do.
You don’t have to worry about trying to get an agent, and trying to win the lottery of getting that. There’s a lot less just hoping on this happening, and hoping on that happening. You write your books, you try and sell them as good as you can, and that success will breed your success.
Look at Mark Dawson, I know he’s got all sorts of things in the pipeline, but it all began with him finding out how to sell his own books.
So, my advice for authors is always concentrate on that, and the rest will come. The best way to get a film deal or a book deal is to sell a million ebooks. You have control of that. You can change that.
But you can’t make a Hollywood executive take note of you. That’s not something that you can just go out and do.
Joanna: I’ve looked at the way you’re doing things, and I admire you very much. And actually, similar to Mark Dawson, you’re very focused which is fantastic.
I have a different brain, which is kind of, I’m interested in so many things and I do so many different things, and I don’t focus.
Now, some people would say that is just a fundamental difference in personality. And I like having a wide base because it feels more stable to me. But, how you’re doing things…obviously, you’re very successful.
You never went back to the day job, right?
Iain: No, seven years now, going on eight years, I haven’t worked for anyone else. It’s nice.
Joanna: Similar time to me. Tell us how are you running things right now?
How are you managing to make a good full-time living, supporting your family in the beginning of 2019 as we record this?
Iain: I’ll tell you one of the reasons I am so focused. I suppose when I think of things as a business, this is actually something that happens to a lot of businesses that start getting success, I suddenly branched out in a hundred directions thinking that was what I needed to do.
Diversified, didn’t get all my income from Amazon. So I set up an online course, I was going to try and sell projects and T-shirts. And I started to do all that, and they were all making little bits of income, but slowly, my sanity started slipping.
I was depressed and I had the online course, but I didn’t feel trying to get hundreds of pounds out of fellow authors because I kind have an overactive cringe gland, and what I really love about selling books is that it’s so passive. Suddenly, I was in this direct sales atmosphere, and that was making me feel really depressed.
And I felt guilty like I was charging people for something that wasn’t worth the money and all those things. And I’m a pretty anxious person and a deep thinker. And it wasn’t making me happy.
So I decided I’m going to draw it back down to books. I’m going to focus on the one thing that I am good at and I enjoy. And my wife just recently left her job. She was an MD of a company. But she was working every hour God sent, and missing out on our kids.
I was becoming a main breadwinner/at-home daddy as well. So I was getting stressed, in other words. So, my wife now has come home, and we’re going to try and build the business together now and do some of the things that I wanted to do, but I was a bit overwhelmed.
She’s very much a stronger person than me, emotionally, that you can put the weight of the world on her and she’ll come out smelling of roses. Whereas I will crumple. So it’s really good to now have her at home with me to deal with those things.
But, what I do personally to stay afloat and do well, the first thing is I haven’t panicked over the last seven years. And the first time Kindle Unlimited came along and used to pay you per download rather than lend and things like that, destroyed me. Wiped out half my sales almost overnight.
Suddenly, there’s was these guys with a hundred short stories were making more than me who’d written 15 full-length novels, that I try to take very seriously.
So that almost ruined me and made me panic a bit, ‘Oh my god. What am I going to do?’ So, I reacted to the environment. I wrote a lot of short stories, and put them together in a compendium, released them separately. Started to take advantage of the new model.
That got my earnings up a bit more. But I concentrated on doing the right thing. So I kept concentrating on keeping getting people onto my mailing list, and just steadying the ship a bit.
I didn’t think short term. I just kept going and doing the right things, and those people that suddenly had this boom with Kindle Unlimited taken advantage of it, they’re getting day jobs again now.
I feel really bad for them, but there are quite a few of my colleagues who started in 2011 or thereabouts, that did really well. They spent all their money, posted it all on Facebook, they’re doing all this, that and the other. They just kept writing books and not thinking about anything else, just thinking it’ll always be this way, and it won’t.
It’s going to get harder. It’s going to get easier. Wages go up, wages go down. And that’s business. I’m always reading things you’ve written, David Goghren’s written, Mark Dawson’s written, I take online courses.
I always make sure I know what’s declining and what’s on the rise. And I try to dabble in them all to see what’s helping. I never stay static and you can’t.
If I just sat and wrote books and kept releasing them like I did in 2011, I’d be back at a day job because it takes a lot more than that now. And I think to give a few tips people can take away, you’ve got to have that reader magnet on your website and people signing up to your mailing list. It’s just fundamental. And that’s what gives you the stability.
If Amazon stops selling books tomorrow, and now I’ve got 20,000 people I can try and migrate somewhere else, you’ve got to have that little bit of control.
Because that gives you the stability for when times are down so that you can make hay sometimes when things are good, but you need a cushion to keep a baseline. And that’s what a mailing list will do for you. It’ll keep you at that level of never being completely out of ideas and never having zero sales. So that’s fundamental.
As soon as you’ve got two books, start giving away book one for free and selling them book two. I give away five free books because I’m in a position I can do that. But it pays for itself, and it always will do.
Although I hate to say it, at the moment, advertising, it’s just the difference maker. I was doing pretty well. I was earning between three and five grand a month in pounds, which is a good living.
Once I started getting the ads working for me, I’m 20 grand in sales some months in things. It completely took me from plodding along to, wow, this has changed my life on a whole new level.
To get established and to stay afloat, the mailing lists will probably be enough if you’re doing everything right and you’re writing good books and you’re writing them quick enough and you’re releasing them to a mailing list, you can probably plod along like that.
But if you really want to make a name for yourself, even at a low level, you need to dabble with the ads things. Because it’s the way the industry’s going. And it’s because it’s becoming like any other business, you’ve got to fight for that visibility.
Joanna: Absolutely. I agree with all of that.
Have you focused down on specific subgenres and you’re kind of writing to an audience?
Iain: Again, financial security does come from sticking in the same genre. I wrote probably a dozen horror novels and then I released an action thriller and it just died a death, no one was interested and it was like starting again.
So it is easier if you stick to one genre because you can keep building within that genre. But then, as an author, we are, I suppose, artists and we do need to flex our muscles sometimes and write something different.
You can do that, just be prepared that it’s almost like starting again. Make sure you’re in a position where, okay, money’s quite good, sales are quite good, I can probably afford to take a hit for a few months by building up some new books.
My thrillers languished for a long time, doing absolutely nothing until I started advertising and now they make a lot of money. And that completely changed from no sales whatsoever to being really popular.
That was 100% advertising because it just wasn’t happening without the Facebook ads. But with my horror novels, I can sell them without ads because I’ve got 20,000 horror fans on my mailing list.
If I try to sell them a romance book, not a single one would buy it. So, if you are going to go multi-genre, you need to almost run separate businesses. You can’t have a mailing list that’s going to do every genre.
You’d have to set up, history, fiction, and romance, and horror, and for each one, run it as a separate business. Maybe have a different pen name. Because you can’t just flog everything to the same audience. You need to sell them what they want from you.
Joanna: That’s why I have two. Although, with J.F. Penn, I do write a number of subgenres. So it’s kind of difficult. I might end up having different lists with different subgenres.
You’ve mentioned Facebook ads and Amazon ads. Are you using both right now or either?
Iain: Facebook ads since 12 months ago. Last January, I started again. I tried originally, when Mark first released his course, I took it. And the sign ups to my mailing list worked straight away. And they always have done.
I can add subscribers, between 30 and 50 pence and with a catalogue of 20-odd books that is worth doing. It makes me money. So that worked from day one.
But I could not get any traction on paid sales. If I advertised a boxed set and tried to sell it then, then it was losing me money. So I gave that up for probably 18 months, I just did it touch it.
And then, for some reason, I can’t even remember what it was now, I think sales were a bit down. I knew my wife was unhappy in her job, so she didn’t want to be there anymore. And that was a big wage, she wanted to give up.
So maybe I got a bit desperate again. And I think a lot of my success comes when I’m really desperate and down. That’s when I come out of the gates fighting.
I spent a load of money on Facebook ads. But this time, I targeted people with a caveat around the Kindle. So, I targeted Stephen King fans, but now it’s only Kindle owners.
That went nowhere. And the previous month, I did about three and a half. It had been a pretty bad month, three and a half is a lot of money for most people that want to write. But for me, but that was kind of at the low end of what I was earning.
So that wasn’t great. And then suddenly, I did about 10 grand worth of sales. And most of that was profit. I had only spent about two grand to get that boost. I was like, ‘Whoa. What just happened there?’
Then, the next month, I ran even more ads, and I went over 20 grand in sales, and I kept doing that. I made stupid amounts. I made more in the last 12 months than I ever have in the last seven.
And that was because for me, the Facebook ads just suddenly clicked and I spent all the money I had on my business credit card and things. Just spent whatever capital I had. And that was what stopped me from spending more. I had no more money to spend. And I got all that back plus a return on investment. And then things started to die down a bit.
What I learned is you can’t get those gains forever. You can definitely do that for a bit, but I can’t keep doing 20 grand for months, unfortunately.
But, I’ve now got to a point where I am boosting my sales to a really good level and keeping them there. And I think that’s what advertising will do for you, you slip away in security. So, I’m spending probably 5 or 6 grand a month on Facebook at the moment, and making about 15 to 20 in sales. So it’s a really good living.
Amazon ads, I’m really struggling with. I’ve had a recommendation of an agency from a pretty big author who’s doing really well. And they’re going to start managing my AMS ads in April and doing it all for me for a fee.
I’m going to test that for a few months to see whether they manage to pay for themselves.
I don’t usually outsource things. I usually like to do them myself, but I just can’t seem to get anything to happen with AMS, so I’m going to outsource that.
But Facebook ads, the better you can get at that, the better. Because even if you’re only spending $5 a day, you can make a profit on that, and then just scale up. So there’s a pretty low entry point to get into it, and then if you do get better at it, because of the returns you’re making, you can scale it up.
It pays for itself to scale up, if you’re doing it right. But it’s just hard to get that initial success. It took me 18 months to finally get that working, so it’s a skill in itself.
Joanna: Just for everyone listening, just because Facebook ads work for you, doesn’t mean they’re gonna work for someone else and vice versa.
And also, Amazon ads work for some people, don’t work for other people. It’s so interesting.
And I think, again, you mentioned there, it’s almost like something changes in your life, like your sales drop or you have a family situation and then you really push. And you’re like pushing and then you’re like, ‘What’s the latest thing?’
And you’re getting into that and then you realize that that’s going to drop off. And this is so important and this is why you’re in it for the long term and you have a mature business like me. So, this works now. Let’s take advantage of it. Oh, it stopped working. Maybe do something else.
Nothing ever continues to work in the same way. Right?
Iain: Absolutely. There’s a few things that I suppose you’d call them evergreen, and that’s things like your mailing list, writing good books, having good covers, good blurbs. Those things don’t change.
So be good at those. Don’t skip on editing and artwork and things.
But yeah, there’s always fads that are working. And that’s where, if you were investing in stocks in London, you’d be reading the ‘Financial Times’ and the ‘Broadsheets’ and things, and you’d be constantly immersing yourself in that world.
That’s what you have to do to take it beyond a hobby. You can’t just write books and put them on KDP. You need to know what Mark Dawson’s doing, Hugh Howey, all the guys who are really good at learning this stuff. And you also need to try and find the things yourself as well by doing your own little testing.
But you can’t be static. You need to know where the market is, where it’s going and try new things. Because if you can tweak on something first, you’ll get the biggest gains, like Mark Dawson and some of the early self-publishers that found the success when ebooks when first a thing.
So always try new things yourself as well. But you want to look at that juggernauts and see what’s working for them because it will usually work for you if you get in there early enough.
Joanna: Tell people where they can find you and your books online. And also, you have a non-fiction too so mention that as well.
Iain: I’ve just written my first non-fiction book and it’s all about my experiences of having my first child, Jack. And it’s tongue-in-cheek comedy, it’s a bit sort of Dave Gorman-esque in its tone. So that was really fun.
It didn’t sell a lot of copies. I didn’t think it would. It was more for me. And that’s again, another great gift of what I do. Is that I’ve written so many, that when I’m dead and buried, my son will have this book that tells him all about how I felt about him, and there’s so many parts of this job that aren’t to do with money. And you couldn’t ask for a better family job.
I was the only bloke there today at Slimming World when I went with my wife, because we’re losing weight. And all the other blokes were at work, and I’m with my wife, and I’ve dropped my kids off this morning. And it’s wonderful.
If you do want to buy my books, I’d say probably start with ‘The Gates,’ which is my most popular series. There’s four books in that as the moment.
Search Iain Rob Wright on Amazon, and I’m generally exclusive to Amazon, unfortunately. But if you go on my website, iainrobwright.com, you can get five of my books for free and that’s on any device.
If you are on iTunes usually for your books and things, you can put them on there. Oh, and here’s my first non-fiction book. It’s a draft copy, so there’s a band across the top. Ignore that. That’s me and my son Jack. It’s a funny read, hopefully, anyway. And it’s probably the book I’ve had the most enjoyment writing. And again, what other job gives you the opportunity to just try something completely different for a bit of fun?
Joanna: Yeah, brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time here, and that was great.
Iain: Thanks, Joanna.