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The life of a full-time independent author involves wearing many hats. You have to balance your time between learning your craft and pleasing readers with great books, as well as publishing, book marketing, and building a business that will support you for the long-term.
In today's interview, Nick Thacker talks about the key aspects of action-adventure thrillers as well as how he runs his publishing company and thoughts on pricing, email list building, and creating systems to avoid overwhelm.
In the intro, The Hotsheet reports on the All about Audio conference, publishers start Storyglass, a new podcasting business [The Bookseller], The New York Times acquires a podcast production company [The Verge]; and Amazon Ad reports now incorporate page reads.
In the futurist segment, GPT3 takes natural language generation to a new level — what does this mean for writers? [Towards Data Science; Wired; The Independent] and more at TheCreativePenn.com/future. I also recommend The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly and his blog post, 1000 True Fans, and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.
Today's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.
Nick Thacker is the USA Today bestselling author of action-adventure thrillers. His non-fiction books for authors include Platform Mastery and BookBub Mastery.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- What draws readers to action-adventure novels?
- The renaissance of action-adventure
- Nick’s current indie publishing model and how it has changed over time
- Co-writing with other authors
- On different pricing models and why testing matters
- Signing a trad publishing deal and what that means for Nick’s career
- Building a large email list
- Systems that underpin success
You can find Nick Thacker at NickThacker.com and on Twitter @NickThacker
Transcript of Interview with Nick Thacker
Joanna: Nick Thacker is the ‘USA Today' bestselling author of action-adventure thrillers. His nonfiction books for authors include Platform Mastery and BookBub Mastery.
Nick: Thank you. It's good to be here, it's good to be talking to you again.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show.
First up, tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing?
Nick: I was late to get to writing. I grew up reading a lot and never really liked writing. And so when I finally decided to write a book, I think it was 2014, Long story short, I wrote a book because my grandfather had passed away and I wanted to give a gift to my dad that Christmas of a book that I'd written.
And so, you know, I like most of us, I thought, ‘Well, how hard can this be? This seems pretty simple. Just write a book and publish it and we're good to go.' And, of course, I was super naive and very wrong about how easy it was. But it was a fun process. I really enjoyed it. And in writing that first book, I had other ideas for books. And so I continued doing it until I realized that the indie publishing community and people like you that I was starting to latch onto and read about had figured out a way to actually make some money in this whole thing.
I did some of that stuff and tried to make my way at it. And gosh, lo and behold, here we are 20 something books later, and it seems to be working out okay.
Joanna: You're being very humble there. It worked out very well. I believe you have left your job, haven't you?
You are a full-time writer now?
Nick: I am a full-time writer. I'm sitting in my basement bunker right now staring at my computer screen where I do all my writing.
Joanna: And we will come back to some of your publishing stuff in a bit.
You recently ran a great online summit for action-adventure writers, and I was on a couple of panels and it was really fun. You really did a great job in this time of craziness, and you sat across the whole thing, which was a long session. And you write action-adventure thrillers obviously, and you listen to a whole load of people.
What were the key aspects that kept coming up over again that function as top tips?
Nick: Thanks for saying that about the summit. I can only take a little bit of the credit for doing some of the tech stuff, but that was all Dave Wood, a friend of mine, a friend of yours. That was his idea to do this.
It was just really cool to sit in and talk to people whose books I've read over the years and not connected with, or people like you whose books I've read and know a little more about. But these people have never talked about the craft of adventure writing before. At least not in a large combined session like that.
A lot of people these days are talking about marketing, which is obviously important, but that was one of the key things Dave wanted to do, was, ‘What is it about action writing that makes it adventure writing or action-adventure writing?'
It seems like what I was picking up on most was that people go to these types of books and movies for the ability to not quite go to a completely fantastical world, this isn't fantasy adventure, but to go into a different place of the world that they know, I guess.
We got into a long discussion in one of the sessions that I was on about how to write different settings that you may not have been to before.
And I was on a panel with Joe Nassisse and he and I went back and forth about how accurate we need to be with details and things like that. And it just seems like a lot of readers are going to our work, books like these, because they want to escape to another place that they may not have been or somewhere that they've been but have not discovered enough.
Being able to escape into a world that we believe exists already in some senses.
Joanna: I agree with you. I was thinking about it then from a reader perspective. The reason I write the books I do, and I presume you do too, is because these are the books we like to read.
When I was an IT consultant and miserable in my job, every lunchtime, I would go to the bookstore and I would buy another thriller. James Rollins who obviously you know, and Clive Cussler, people whose writing, as you say, is set in our world but it is an action-adventure version of our world.
I love the Lara Croft movies and ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith' and kick-ass female protagonists and James Bond. So these are the types of things that are thrillers, but also have that adventure aspect that I think takes people out of their day to day life. So as you say it's taking you to another ‘place' but it's not space or anything like that. It really is set on earth.
Do you get that sense from your readers that that setting and place and adventure is why they're coming to you?
Nick: I do. I've got a few beta team readers, beta readers on my street team is what I call it, who actually will do some of the research for me. And, of course, it's unprovoked. I'm not asking them to do free work but they love doing that research.
They love sending me, ‘Hey, you know, you wrote this, it's set in Switzerland. I've been to Grindelwald, it's a really beautiful town, you know, maybe put the shop on this side of the street instead of this because I've been there.'
I love that kind of stuff because that saves me the time of having to research something else, but it's those little details that I think really capture the realism of a setting. We're writing fiction obviously, but since it is set in a world that people know, it's important to get that stuff right.
I've got another a reader who has been to all of the places in Alaska where I set my main character's cabin. And so I described that area a lot. Of course, I've never been there and so I tried to choose a place that was off the beaten path, so it wouldn't have been highly visited, so people can call me out on things that are wrong about it.
But he's come through more than once, ‘Hey, you got a car chase scene in this book on this highway, there are cliffs actually on the other side, so if he's going south it would be on the left.' And so things like that are just really helpful for me.
But just to rewind and answer your question, from my perspective as an author, when I started writing this stuff and really nailed down my brand, what I wanted to do… I have what I call a formula and I'm putting finger quotes because I know formula is a bad word to a lot of writers.
My formula, if you will, is essentially taking some prototypical technology and giving it to a really bad person or organization and then dropping the whole thing or the lair, whatever it's called, into an exotic location and the good guys have to go find the bad guys.
And that's really it. All of my books are essentially that. I try to put in the history, some of the cyber tech thriller type stuff, the elements of those books that I know like Dan Brown's, and Clive Cussler, and as you've mentioned, James Rollins. And so it's that combination of it all, but the setting is really key. I try to put the book somewhere that I've never been or that I would want to go, that I think my readers would also enjoy experiencing.
Joanna: That's the difference between us. I tend to go and visit and research. That's part of what I love about my job, is actually doing the research.
Nick: Absolutely. I love the research and by visiting. That's definitely on the docket for my future plans. I would love to be able to afford to do that with all of my settings. But when you put things like Antarctica…
Joanna: I haven't been there to be fair.
Nick: It's a little trickier to get there, but, yeah, of course, it's not hard to go to Switzerland, it's not hard to go… I put one in Philadelphia. Obviously, these are places that are certainly within reach.
Joanna: And it's interesting. So you use the technology angle and I use the historical/religious object as a MacGuffin.
There was a discussion on the MacGuffin, wasn't there?
The thing the goodies and the baddies are trying to get and destroy and all of this type of thing. So I love that.
I wanted to ask you, action-adventure often feels like an older genre, like a lot of old white guys, you know, Clive Cussler, bless him now dead obviously, but Wilbur Smith. Movies like ‘Indiana Jones,' there was a whole panel on, ‘Indiana Jones' which is what? I want to say 35 years old. Something like that for maybe like still in our lifetime but really old.
I just saw that National Treasure 3 is in the works and I feel like ‘National Treasure 3' is another brand that brings back action-adventure. And there are lots of newer younger writers now in the genre, certainly within KU as well. So do you think there is a change?
Do you think there's a renaissance in action-adventure?
Nick: Gosh, I hope so. This is actually a question I was going to ask you if we were on a panel together because I think you are a modern master of this exact genre that we're talking about. I hope to be that for some readers.
But I think the problem really isn't that it's old. I think it's just not well defined by the stores or the booksellers or anyone who's putting this stuff in front of readers. I think it's just not well defined enough. What I mean is if you go to the BookBub's or the different book sites that are giving away or selling or discounting books, they've got categories for action-adventure. And Amazon's the same way. They've got categories for action-adventure, but they're not quite this exactly. Do you know what I mean?
Our books are certainly in those categories, but then if you look up action-adventure, you'll come across Harry Potter, which is, I guess can be described as action-adventure but it's not quite what we're talking about, right?
And so there's this sort of disconnect I think between what we're talking about, this archeological, historical-based action-adventure thriller. That doesn't fit into a name and into a title, so they have to just call it action-adventure.
Then we get lumped in with all these other books that like ‘Star Wars' or something else that may be action-adventure-y, but not really exactly that. So I think there's definitely, I hope, a renaissance coming of people finding that they'd love this sort of stuff.
But I think the big problem right now is it's just hard to find. It's too hard to find. It's not impossible. I love reading Dan Brown's books. Those are just about always categorized in thriller or even mystery. There's not really an action-adventure genre that I can go search and, of course, you can't go to Barnes & Noble now. I think there's just a missing category here that we're all writing books in.
Joanna: It's so funny because over the last decade or something since I've been putting mine out and my ARKANE series, it really is so difficult because on the one hand, sometimes I think they have aspects of what you might call supernatural but it doesn't have vampires in and stuff like that. It's got a sort of a religious angle but it's not Christian. It's got mystery but it's not like a whodunnit.
And so I totally agree with you. I've also been with the horror genre at times and I keep coming back to thrillers. I feel happiest at the ITW ThrillerFest and I know that is my true home. But it's funny because I've been put on panels at ThrillerFest with…and I'll be sitting next to someone who writes about the fairies. And I'm like, ‘This is the wrong panel for me.'
Nick: I know. That's exactly right. Of course, these are all thrillers. And, on a side note, I don't know that anybody has ever defined thriller the same way as anyone else. That's such a broad descriptor, right? It's just such a vague almost definition. I think it comes down to a pacing, tone, more than it does actual content. Or one way to put it may be the difference between mystery and thriller is that in a thriller, we know who the bad guy is upfront, whereas a mystery, we're trying to figure it out.
But even then, that's like there are too many books that don't fit that perfect description so that I can't just use that as a broad-brush just to say, ‘This is what thriller is.'
So you're exactly right. Like those fey novels that can certainly be thrillers, but they're probably also fantasy, which isn't something that you and I are writing. And there's this broad category called thrillers that we're probably mostly in, but there's just this lack of… I can't really drill down into… I want to find Joanna Penn books or J. F. Penn's books, I want to find my books, I want to find David Wood, I want to find all of us in one category in Amazon. That just doesn't exist yet?
Joanna: Hopefully, other people will join us.
Nick: Hope so.
Joanna: I mean there are people who are doing this and we'll just have to make it. I think that's the plan. But if people listening are thinking, ‘That sounds like a terrible genre to write in because there's no way that you fit.' No.
It's a brilliant genre to write it in.
Nick: Exactly. It is because the other side of the coin is we can advertise in all of those genres we've talked about. Somebody who loves historical fiction will most likely like our books as well. It's not going to be set somewhere in a previous time necessarily, but I think there are enough elements of history that people will enjoy mine or enough elements of, like you said, supernatural that they'll enjoy yours.
Joanna: Definitely. Right. Well, let's move into the publishing side.
You mentioned there that you nailed down your brand, which many authors my ears pricked up. I'm like, ‘What?' That sounds like the Holy grail. I did go to your first book and it did say published in 2014, but maybe that was a rerelease. But you have several series, you have several co-writers.
What does your indie publishing model look like now and how has it changed over time?
Nick: I will say this, I have a 100-year plan. And that sounds like crazy and insane and it's impossible to actually nail that down, which is all true. But basically that just is what the legacy is that I want to leave.
Let me back up a little bit. My brand has sort of shifted a little bit over the years and as I've learned more about who I am as a writer and what I want to do. But all of that comes down to where I want to be in 10 or 15 years, or like I said 100 years.
I think one of the things that makes my brand, I don't want to say flexible, but in some sense it's… I'd said this, ‘Hey, my formula is this and that's how I write my books.' But I always thought of my brand, Nick Thacker, as an author, is someone who is an entertainer first.
I want to put books in front of people that are fun to read. And I hopefully can get people to think a little bit, or that there's history or there's a puzzle to solve, that kind of stuff, it's engaging. So when I say that is my brand, then all of a sudden it's very broad. I can do just about anything and kind of I'll say, ‘Oh, this fits my brand.' There's always room to improve.
Joanna: Both of us started out with one novel and then maybe we decided we're going to write in a series, so we write some more in a series. But when I had to look at your website, which is actually great, it's pared-down compared to someone like me. I just have way too much stuff on my websites, but your model now seems to be co-writing. Are you now managing other writers? Because a lot of successful indies are moving that way.
Are you going to publish other people? Or are you still focusing primarily on your own books?
Nick: I do a lot of co-writing. I also still focus on my own solo books. And the reason for that was, essentially, I reached a ceiling very quickly of how many books I could write and write them well per year. And I wanted to do more and I just simply couldn't if I wanted to maintain the quality.
I'm just not a fast writer, or fast enough I think. And so co-writing was the answer to that. I could work with people that I enjoyed working with, we could put our heads together on something that we both wanted to see happen, we both wanted to see come into the world.
And at the time, I was starting to do all this, I had a slightly larger platform than they did. And so it was a good marriage because they would help me write faster, I would help them with the marketing, and we tried to split the workload as much as possible 50/50, so things were fair and all that.
And that's worked really well. Working with other people has been great. Not all of the books have been instant bestsellers, of course. But as we go, just like everything else in indie publishing, it's iterative. We're just trying to figure out what we want to do differently next time to make things better.
‘Do we want a rapid release or do we want to release them as we write them?' That kind of thing. But it's been working really well generally so far because it's allowed me to, like I said, broaden my brand to now I'm able to entertain more because I have more products out essentially.
Joanna: I know I have done that several times, but I've not found it to take so well. And you've started these other series with co-writers, so it's just something I'm really interested in. But I wanted to ask about pricing, because you price your eBooks high. So your eBooks are at $6.99, but you're also in KU.
I wondered if you could explain your pricing model and whether you think it works for wide authors like me.
Nick: I'm probably not the best person to ask because I've never really been wide. I mean I say never really because I've had one or two books that I've tested, but I've never just totally gone wide. So I don't have the experience that someone like you has in being wide and being able to really know what price does.
That said, the reason I chose $6.99 was, from the beginning…and admittedly, this was just part of my naivety in the whole thing. I didn't really know what I was doing, I think most of us don't when we get started and there's nothing wrong with that. I didn't know what I was doing, and so I never really wanted to come across as an indie author.
At the time and there was that kind of taboo around it. And you know more than anyone because you were doing this before I was. And so there was definitely that stigma of, ‘Well, this isn't a real book, this is a self-published book,' which somehow means it's worthless or valued less.
I didn't want that classification on my books. I wanted to be seen as a James Rollins or a Clive Cussler, all the people we've talked about.
Those eBooks were always priced absurdly high, like $14.99 for pieces of digital bits, right? There's literally no reason it should be that high unless you're in the business of printing on dead trees, which traditional publishers are. They don't want to sell books, they want to sell paper.
If you price the book that high, you're basically telling all your readers to go buy the paperback book. Well, the point is all of these books were priced a lot higher than mine and so I thought, ‘Well, hey, if I can seem like a deal compared to those guys, maybe people will buy my books.'
That's worked well since then. But I do have books that are priced a lot higher than most other indie authors. And as things are sort of shifting, the landscape shifts to where more readers are totally fine buying a book published by… It doesn't matter who it's published by. They'll read anything that looks good.
I might start testing lower prices just to see if I can now compete better with some of the indies in my genre since I've got a little bit more of a track record now.
Long story short, I test all the time with this stuff. I don't really do much with prices these days but I have, in the past, tested, you know, 2.99, $4.99, $5.99 just to see if there's a better… ‘Is this selling better, worse? Am I making more money?'
And then I will say, this is sort of just a little tidbit that I told other authors before. I believe when you're getting started and you're trying to get your name out there, I think it's more valuable to worry about obscurity. You're fighting obscurity rather than making money. Meaning you just need to get your books into people's hands or in front of their faces. So give them away if you need to or put them for 99 cents.
And then once you've developed a good amount of readers… I have 70,000 people on a mailing list and so I know that I can launch a book at just about any price and some people will buy it. And so I can start to make calculations based on it. I know estimates of how much I'll make.
When we get started we don't know that stuff. We don't have that list and so we're fighting the obscurity. So I'm at a point now in my career where I'm not really worried as much about the obscurity. Yes, of course, I'll always want to find new readers and get my books in front of more people, but this is my career. So at some point, I had to flip between, ‘Okay, well now I gotta start making money with this stuff.'
So pricing the book high is like a psychological trigger for getting people to realize, ‘Well, hey, if I'm in Kindle Unlimited I can get the book for free or equivalent, essentially free. And it's $6.99, so I guess I'll just get it in Kindle Unlimited.'
And, of course, we get paid for the page reads of that. So that's worked really well too. Being in KU pricing the book for non-KU people $6.99 seems to be a good match, I guess a good equation for me right now. All that said, who knows, 100-year plan, things are going to change.
Joanna: Maybe this is just a sort of UK perspective because I've been in this for so long. For me, no big traditionally published authors are in KU. So to me, the banner of KU separates us from traditionally published authors. Again, that might change. Publishers might start putting big-name authors into KU. But it's interesting that you think it's pricing that separates it, which is just a different angle that I hadn't really considered. And again, people listening, now I'm wide and I'm committed to that and you're in KU.
And the point is everyone gets to choose so neither of us is saying either way is better. It's just you choose your route. So I think that's important.
You've signed a deal with a traditional publisher, Bookouture, which actually a UK imprint.
Why take the hybrid approach, and how are you going to combine the traditional deal with indie work?
Nick: I took that deal because it made sense for my career. It was moving closer to the mountain, and the mountain for me is, ‘Entertain more and produce more.' This was another way to do that. It was just another avenue to get out there more.
So this is finding readers and, hopefully, the sales will go well. But it's about trying something different, trying something new. I never set out to say, ‘I'm going to only self-publish.'
It was very clear, once I started making money at this, that I could make more money self-publishing then if I were to try to start over and get a traditional deal that maybe gave me $5,000 upfront and paid me some pennies on the dollar after that. That wouldn't make sense for me.
The Bookouture deal is structured differently than like a traditional deal with an upfront advance and all this kind of stuff. It made sense for me to say, ‘Sure. Let's give it three books and see what happens.'
Worst case, I have three more books out there and if they're not selling well at some point they'll revert back to me and I can self publish them and that's great. But even then, I don't think that would be a waste of my time. I think it's just a really fun way to explore new avenues. And that's the keyword for me, right? It's fun.
I do the co-writing with people I think it's fun to work with. I wouldn't do co-writing with people who I don't have fun working with. Sometimes you don't know upfront, right? It could be miserable the whole time, but we build in ways to get out of those deals. But with the Bookouture thing, they're fun. They're great people. It's really enjoyable to work with them, and they seem to really know what they're doing. And so I'm like, ‘Hey, this is a great way for me to reach people I might not be able to reach.'
Joanna: Are you going to do them within your main series or completely separate?
Nick: They asked for a completely separate series.
Joanna: That's good.
Nick: They want something to do. And that was the way I was leaning anyway was I've got Harvey Bennett and he's mine. So far haven't let anyone… I said let as if I'm a better writer than anyone. I'm not. I haven't worked with a co-writer on a main Harvey Bennett series novel yet. So that's my solo line. I don't know if it always will be, but we'll see.
I'm writing book 10 right now. And so I knew that that was going to be… I'm not going to do a Harvey Bennett book with them anyway. But then they came back and just asked, ‘We want somebody brand new. We like Harvey Bennett…' That was actually how they found me, they read ‘The Enigma Strain' and decided, ‘Hey, let's ask this guy if he wants to work with us.'
And so, yeah, they asked for a new… What is it? I'm trying to think of the way they pitched it. It was like… They used some… Oh, Jack Reacher. They were like, ‘Hey, we want kind of a Jack Reacher type.' I'm like, ‘Yeah, of course. You're right. Do I have to name him Jack also? Jack Ryan.'
Joanna: Or, do you have to change your name to Mark Dawson?!
Nick: Exactly. Right. Precisely. It was pretty funny. It was like, ‘Okay, I know exactly what they're asking for. They want a Jack Reacher type person to go solve crimes.'
Joanna: They want vigilante justice basically, which does have a really good, clear subcategory.
Nick: Yes. And that was the other thing too, is they took out some of the action-adventure aspects, which I'm okay with because this, again, is a new sort of a new avenue for me. I've done a little bit of crime, I've done a little bit of just general espionage type thriller, and so this kind of falls more into those categories. But I haven't really explored that a lot. I've always stuck to action-adventure with puzzles to solve and things like that.
And so anyway, long story short, it's going to be a fun project. I just turned in the first book and they came back. They had two editors look at it and gave me a lot of really, really great feedback.
Joanna: We'll look forward to seeing how that goes. I want to circle back to marketing because one of your throwaway comments was, ‘My list is 70,000 people, my email list.' And I know the whole audience was like, ‘What? How do you do that?'
How did you build that big email list?
Nick: The majority of that list was initially built through Facebook Ads. This was 4, 5 years ago when I started doing that. Like you said, 2014 was when that book was published, so it was right around that time.
I came at this whole thing from a marketing background, not from a literary background. And so I knew from day one, mailing list, I need people on a list because if I can own that list, I can email them whenever I want. If Facebook goes down someday or Amazon decides to kick me off, I could still have that list that I can market to.
From day one, I was very, very avid about building people on a list.
I released my first book that's exclusive to Amazon and that was also the freebie that I gave away to sign up for my mailing list. Only had one book, but I gave it away. Like I said, I was fighting obscurity at the time. And I also ran a bunch of Facebook ads. You can still do it. It still works really well, it's just more expensive now.
But I was somewhere in the realm of about a quarter per subscriber, about 25 cents per subscriber. Now I think it's like 25 cents a click and maybe one out of four or five of those will end up on my list. So it's basically quadrupled in price but it still works, the tactic.
Then when I came up with my second book, I had two books and I gave both of them away as freebies and then same thing with my third book The Enigma Strain. Those became my freebies. And to this day, if you go to my website and sign up, you'll see you get three full-length thrillers just for signing up.
So I guess that my strategy was a combination of paying for people to sign up to my mailing list through Facebook Ads and then just giving away the farm, just giving it all away and saying, ‘Hey, sign up, you'll get all this stuff for free.' I guess at the time they didn't realize that those were the only books I had so they got those for free and then they were on my mailing list.
That was basically it. I know that sounds very simplified and oversimplified and potentially it is. But truthfully that's really it, that it was just giving away a lot of stuff and just being very, very open to adding value in any way I could and just trying to get in front of people.
And then the mailing list was always the call to action, no matter what I did early on. ‘I'd rather have you get on my mailing list than buy a book,' was sort of my mindset because I knew that if I got you on my mailing list, there was a great chance if you stayed there, that I could sell you a book later, and then again, and again, and again.
Joanna: Absolutely. And I guess we'd say that spending money on building your list can be hard when you're just starting out, and you are obviously investing in marketing really early on. And I guess I'd encourage people, if you have more books, it can be a more profitable thing at the beginning. I don't want to encourage people who only have one book to necessarily spend a lot of money on ads, but because as you say, things have really changed.
I still grow my list with Facebook Ads as well for both fiction and nonfiction. So I think they're really useful.
Nick: I think so too. And like I said, all this is sort of tongue-in-cheek because I didn't know what I was doing back then. You're exactly right.
If you are just getting started, I don't think it's probably wise to spend a bunch of money trying to learn Facebook Ads because there's not really a good enough way to measure it because you don't have enough books out. And you're just going to be throwing good money after bad.
That said, if you do have kind of a knack for marketing and you enjoy that sort of thing and you have some money to blow, yeah, sure, you can build a list that way. I'm not saying to go buy a list, right? We're not saying that. Don't do that, that's bad.
Joanna: Absolutely. So we're running out of time, but I did also want to ask you, in your nonfiction book Platform Mastery, you say, ‘Having systems is the fastest way to reach success.' So you've talked there a bit about your ad building, you talked about your ‘formula' for writing.
Are there any other systems that you have in place either for writing or marketing that underpin your success?
Nick: That's a great question. I do. I try to build systems around anything that I do more than once. Again, that sounds a little tongue-in-cheek, but really it comes down to… There was a book… I'm trying to see if I have it here. I think the guy that wrote the ‘Dilbert' comic strip, if you're familiar with that?
Joanna: Scott Adams.
Nick: Scott Adams. He wrote a book called How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big, I think was the title.
Joanna: I've read that too.
Nick: It's a great book. In that book, he gave the idea that goals are for losers. And what it really comes down to is that, ‘You can set a goal and that's great. Fine. But if you don't have a system in place to achieve that goal, you're basically living in a state of perpetual failure,' I think is what he says.
I love that because he's a little hardcore about it. But when it comes down to, essentially for me is if I have a goal of writing six books a year, that's great. But there's really nothing underneath that goal that can hold it up. And so he's arguing to put a system in place to do that.
All that comes down to is, ‘If I can have a system of writing every day…' Right now in my life, I've got a five and a three-year-old. So my goal is actually a system to write a certain amount of words a week instead of per day.
Because if I had a goal of writing per day and that just doesn't happen, then I feel like I failed. So a system for me would be figure out how to write X amount of words a week or a month or whatever, or figure out how to find three new potential co-writing authors in a month. Or whatever I think the goal needs to be, I build a system for that goal.
Joanna: I think that's right. I think so often we just kind of scattergun with what we do. It's like, ‘Oh, this is good, I'll go do that.'
I'm sure some people listening have gone, ‘Oh, right. Quick. I must do Facebook Ads to build my list.' But I think the answer here is the planning. It's almost like you're taking a step back and like you said, you have this 100-year plan.
Does that mean you're evaluating these systems and what your goals are against that plan and saying, ‘No, that's too short term, I'm not going to do that'?
Nick: Yes. So within that plan, obviously it's not everything is measured against a 100 years later but the big things are. And then what I've basically done is said, ‘100 years just means the future. That's just generally, ‘Here's the legacy I want to leave.'
But then breaking that down, the 10-year plan might include something like, ‘Well, hey, I actually want to have… I want to write a movie or I want to do something with video games. How do I do that? How do I get to that more? What's the system I need to put in place now so that I've got a network where I can start doing that in 5 years when I want to start on that route, start down that path?'
When I measure what I want to do today against a plan that I have for the future, it's exactly what you said. It's a system that I can put in place now and say, ‘Well, does this really move me toward that eventual goal?' Or, ‘Can I see a way that this can move me toward that, or is this really moving me further away and I need to sort of refocus on either the system I'm building now or the thing I want to do now, or adjust the plan for 10 years from now?'
Joanna: But let's tell people where they can find you and your books and everything you do online.
Nick: Well, as you mentioned, my website is pretty much fiction only, slowly changing… The problem is that I know how to build websites. And so when I have an idea, instead of putting it on my own website at nickthacker.com, I'll go build a completely different website for it. So like my indie author mastery, the two books you mentioned, those are at indiemastery.com.
Joanna: I've been through that phase as well.
Nick: I know. Part of it, it's a fresh new start every time. I don't know.
Anyway, the main place to find me is at nickthacker.com. You can send me an email there, sign up for my mailing list, you'll get three free books, remember? And send me an email if you want to connect and that just at email@example.com, very easy.
I am on Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff but I tend to use my email and personal online website platform, whatever you want to call it as my home base.
Joanna: Right. Well, thanks so much for your time, Nick. That was brilliant.
Nick: Well, thanks for having me. It's always a pleasure and I hope to do it again soon.
J.C. Pater says
This is the second time in less than a month when I read a comment about white male protagonists dominating the action-adventure genre. Is this because we are sticking to this model and afraid of trying something new? Or because white males are the majority of action-adventure readers and identify with this type of a protagonist? A lot of good advice in this interview, although building that email list is still tricky. Yes, self-publishing is 25% writing and 75% marketing which is definitely less fun than writing, although unavoidable.