If you're not making the money you expected from your books, how can you pivot genres in order to write what you enjoy AND make a living? How can you change your mindset to one of creative abundance and productivity? Dan Padavona talks about these topics and more.
In the intro, publishing year in review [Kris Rusch]; how you can use ChatGPT with examples; Collaborative writing with AI [Andrew Mayne]; Open AI usage guidelines; Ethical AI usage for authors [ALLi].
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Dan Padavona is the best-selling and award-nominated author of thrillers and mysteries, including the Wolf Lake Thrillers and Logan and Scarlett Serial Killer thrillers.
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.
- How — and why — to pivot genres
- Combining what you want to write and what sells
- Creating a new audience when pivoting genres
- Are Facebook ads and AMS ads still worth it?
- Financial factors that influence the decision to become a full-time writer
- Revitalizing a series with Facebook ads
- The importance of a positive mindset and how to stay motivated for the long term
You can find Dan at DanPadavona.com
Dan has now started The Author's Mindset series.
Image generated by Joanna Penn on Midjourney.
Transcript of Interview with Dan Padavona
Joanna: Dan Padavona is the best-selling and award-nominated author of thrillers and mysteries, including the Wolf Lake Thrillers and Logan and Scarlett Serial Killer thrillers. So welcome to the show, Dan.
Dan: Thank you so much, Joanna. It's a pleasure to be here.
Joanna: Oh, I'm excited to talk to you.
But before we get into it –
Tell us a little bit more about you and how you got into writing and self-publishing.
Dan: Writing came to me very late in life. I did some writing as a child. I wrote a few short stories during high school, which ended up getting published in the school newspaper. It interested me back then, but I didn't really follow through on it.
Now, I do have a communications degree, which is somewhat angling towards that direction. But I ended up going into atmospheric sciences and meteorology eventually. And I think I became a writer because I love reading.
It was probably late 2013, early 2014, I read a fictional book, which absolutely blew me away, and I just knew right then and there, I needed to create something like this. Not that I could ever create something quite that brilliant, but I got into writing and I read everything that I could on the subject of writing. I began as a horror author in 2014, switched to thrillers in 2018, and that's pretty much where things took off for me.
Joanna: So we'll circle back on that.
But you said you came to writing late in life.
I didn't think you were that old, actually. Can you give us a sense of what time of your life you started?
Dan: I still get proofed if I buy wine, but I am actually 54 now. I started writing in 2014, so that would have made me 46 at the time.
Joanna: Okay. And then, like you said, things took off in 2018, so you were 50. And I think that's really great because so many people are like, “oh, I have missed the chance to become a writer.” And my mum wrote her first book at 72, so there's no need to think that. For people listening, it's never too late.
So you were in meteorology. That's like a weatherman?
Dan: That's right. I did that since 1994. I retired in September of 2021, so there was 27 years of that. I loved the job and I loved the people, but the shift work was killing me. It had really for 27 years, and that's what made my decision for me to make a move. Otherwise, I think I would still be doing it.
I was just so blessed by writing and the way my career took off, that I was making many times my income that I was working at my day job. So it was kind of like, well, I could do this for four hours a day and make a lot, or I could do that for eight or nine hours a day and make a little. So you know, easy choice.
Joanna: Oh, it is. And we're gonna dig into all of that. But you said you started out writing horror, and I think that's where I must have first seen you. Did you co-write something with J Thorn?
Dan: I did. Yeah.
Joanna: Like everyone has, clearly. I have.
Dan: That's right. He's like the Kevin Bacon of writing.
Joanna: He is.
Dan: There may be eight degrees of separation when it comes to J Thorn. And he's been a good friend ever since too. He pretty much is to everybody in the industry.
Joanna: Oh, absolutely.
You started out writing horror, so why did you decide to pivot into mysteries and thrillers?
Like I love reading horror and I write a little bit of horror, and mysteries and thrillers is a much more mainstream niche. But kind of talk us through why you decided to make that change.
Dan: There's two different reasons, I think. The first was financially, I just wasn't making money at writing horror.
And I felt that the genre itself had very voracious fans who read it, but there aren't that many of them. And they're shrinking too, which I just find mind boggling because I grew up loving horror. And when I was a kid, you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a Friday the 13th or Halloween movie, and that's what dominated Hollywood. These days, horror just seems to be kind of taking a backburner, and I'm not sure why that is.
But it wasn't purely for financial reasons, though. I hit a point too in my life where I think I'd become a more positive person. And I was writing some really dark horror, and putting myself in those places day after day was one of the reasons why I procrastinated about writing. I just couldn't bring myself to do it every day, and I needed to change.
Now, that doesn't change what I read. I still read plenty of horror. I'm a huge Jack Ketchum fan. I love Stephen King. Dean Koontz, obviously. He was probably more thriller than horror anyway. I still love those types of books, but writing them, to me, eventually became a little bit suffocating.
Joanna: Craft-wise, you said there that the horror readership is shrinking. I wonder if it's because what people used to call horror is now moved into all kinds of other genres. So for example, it used to be anything with a vampire in it was horror. And now you could say it's urban fantasy, or dark fantasy. So I almost feel like horror, just the word, used to cover so much.
Now there are so many granular subgenres that are not in horror, but yet, they really are what horror used to be.
Dan: Yeah, I think that that is an excellent point, and it has become a lot more fragmented. Vampires, you brought up vampires, that's probably the ultimate example. The first book I ever wrote was a book called Storberry, which was horribly titled and probably was the reason nobody ever found it. But it was essentially a love letter to Stephen King's Salem's Lot.
I wanted to return to the old school vampire horror that I found just absolutely wonderful growing up with, and it was haunting, and get it away from Twilight and all those other directions that vampire movies and TV shows were heading in. There's nothing wrong with Twilight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I just felt that there was no Salem's Lot anymore. There were no frightening vampires. And that's why I wanted to head in that direction.
Joanna: I think that's interesting. I mean, many people listening will be like, “oh, I don't write horror,” but they're actually writing some kind of it. But like post-apocalyptic, we both know Zach Bohannon as well, that's kind of horror, but post-apoc is its own thing. There's so many subgenres.
Then it's interesting, so you said you're a positive person and writing all that dark stuff was difficult, but you've got serial killer thrillers, and they're some of your bestsellers. And it's so funny, because I love reading horror, but I struggle reading serial killers, I find them more disturbing than reading horror.
So how did you identify serial killers as a genre? And how on earth is it not as dark as your other stuff?
Dan: That's probably going to be a multifaceted answer to that one. So to start with, serial killers I think are more frightening for most people, because — well, alright, I'm not gonna say the vampires don't exist. Some people do believe that they exist, I don't. But serial killers most definitely exist. And one could be living next door to you. That's a very frightening prospect.
As far as how did I happen upon them, I love Thomas Harris, I love all the Hannibal books and movies. With me, it's not just the horror, which is part of that, but it's also the hunt. It's also the mystery that surrounds it.
So when I was trying to decide, well, what am I going to write, in 2017-2018 —
I was actually really close to just stopping writing at all because writing is so difficult. It takes up all your time and all your mental energy.
And if you're not seeing any results from that, as far as great reviews, money, whatever, then it's hard to summon the strength to do it every day.
So I wanted to try something else –
And I kind of looked at writing and success as like separate Venn diagrams.
So in one circle you would have a list of things that you love to either read or write. And for me, that was fantasy, horror, some psychological thriller-type stuff. And then you had the stuff which actually sells in the other circle.
The overlap to me, and I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before, but was obviously dark thrillers and sometimes serial killer thrillers. And that, to me, just seemed like, oh, this is perfect. These books are very popular.
So then I went about reading what was out there, what was being published by indies and selling very well, just to see if I can I write in this genre and would I enjoy it. And the first two series which I read, I mean, I just like devoured them. I was enjoying them so much. And I was like, yeah, I can do this. And not only can I do this, I would love to do this. So yeah, I jumped on that immediately.
And to probably wrap it all up with a bow, I also incorporate into my stories the positivity that I talked about too. So like the Wolf Lake Thrillers, on the surface they are very dark mysteries, often with serial killers in the background.
Right now I'm writing one about a serial kidnapper who kills, and it's very dark from that standpoint. But below the surface, every Wolf Lake Thriller is actually about overcoming adversity, the powers of love and friendship and understanding each other. And these themes like pervade that entire series, and it just makes writing these characters such a joy.
If you love Dean Koontz, Dean Koontz has such a great knack for ending every single book making you feel so good and so positive about the future and optimistic. And that's something which I really wanted to do too. And even in my Logan and Scarlett Thrillers, which are also very dark serial killer thrillers, they often end on a very positive note. Not every time, but certainly with the Wolf Lake Thrillers they do.
Joanna: You mentioned Dean Koontz there. I love his Jane Hawk series, if you've read that.
Joanna: I love that. And it's so funny, I do find his work a bit hit or miss with me, as in sometimes I love the books, and sometimes I couldn't care less, really. And it's so interesting, but he's so prolific, it doesn't really matter.
But I want to stay on the craft elements, because Blake Crouch did this too. Did you take some inspiration from Blake Crouch? In that he was known in the horror genre, and then I believe he was like, I'm going to write thrillers and I'm going to make this a success.
Joanna: And I wonder if the element is the supernatural. And this is something I think about a lot because all my fiction is supernatural in some way. Here in the UK, the crime genre is huge, and I wrote some crime books but I just couldn't help putting some supernatural in, and then it suddenly falls off the edge of what is acceptable to the mass market in that genre.
So given that you wrote horror and vampires and stuff, have you got any supernatural in what you write now? And is that something you deliberately left out?
Dan: There isn't, just because most of them are like police procedurals and whatnot. There are some people who are definitely making it work, like LT Ryan incorporates a lot of supernatural into his books.
And they're pretty much either psychological or serial killer thrillers that kind of fall somewhere in there. He's made it work.
For me, I've tried to stick to the ‘yeah, that could happen' elements of the stories, and for whatever reason, it's resonated very well with my readers, and I don't want to mess that up. There are times where I feel very limited because supernatural is not a part of what I write, and I would love to be able to incorporate it. In fact, I hinted at it in the book that I'm writing right now, where it ends up just being a tease. There isn't actually any ghost in the story, but for a while there you are really wondering if there are.
So yeah, it's something I would love to incorporate, if I could find a way to do it properly. And it may just be something where I would do a separate series and see what the reaction is.
Joanna: You mentioned your readers there. So how's it going? You're using the same name, right?
You went from publishing horror to suddenly publishing the serial killers and thrillers and things. So how did that go? Like, have you had feedback saying, “hey, Dan, why aren't you writing this other type of book anymore?”
Have your audience crossed over? Or do you think you've found an entirely new audience?
Dan: I found an entirely new audience. I'll tell you a little bit about how that went down.
First of all, if I had it to do over again and I could go back, I would create a pen name for my thriller titles, just to better separate things. I do think that there is some confusion within the Amazon algorithm as to what exactly does he write here. But I think now that I sell so many more thrillers than I do horror, that it probably isn't much of a problem anymore.
Back in 2018, again, when I made the shift, I started writing these books called the Scarlett Bell Thrillers. I released the first book for 99 cents, and I had this great plan which was lined out. I was going to hold the first three books until they were all ready, and then I was going to rapid-release them once every two to three weeks, I think it was.
It just seemed like a foolproof plan. It was working really great for the people on like the 20Books forums, and when I tried this, it completely fell flat. I sent it out to my list, and I got no sales. And I remember thinking to myself, “well, I just sent these thrillers out to like 300 or 400 people who love horror, so why would they buy the book?”
So obviously I confused them and I wasn't doing myself any favors. So I started to try to find another way into locating readers. I had never had success with Facebook ads in the past, but I decided I'll give it a shot.
I quickly discovered that by getting read-through through the three books in my series, I was getting enough money and enough orders off my clicks that I was actually turning a small profit on these Facebook ads.
So then I started to think, well, there's more books coming in this series. I'm only up to three, and there's going to be ten, so this really has potential.
So I just kept writing and I kept those ads running, I knew that the ads eventually would probably start to fail, and they did. Facebook ads after usually two to four months, they start to get a little bit wonky, and you got to create something new.
In that amount of time, I was able to attract enough people to my Facebook page and attract enough people to sign up to my mailing list.
And I started an absolutely new mailing list too. I switched to Mailerlite and just made a clean break with the new signups. And I quickly had a list which was larger than my horror list, and it had only taken me a couple months to do it.
And these people were not just like on a list, they were buying the books. So that was a big change, too.
I think it became like a snowball at that point. Every new series I released brought more and more new readers into my world.
It greatly grew my Facebook following, my Instagram and Twitter, but especially the email list, and that's where the rubber really hits the road, I think, in writing.
Joanna: I think it's so interesting. So you've done some great blog posts, I'm gonna link to them in the show notes.
I guess that's when you decided to leave your job. So how did you make that decision?
Because obviously, there are up years and there are down years when things are difficult. So how did you make that decision? Because I know some authors want to do that, some authors don't. So yeah, how did you make that?
Dan: Well, that was a really tough choice. But fortunately, the earnings grew so quickly that it became an easy choice at the very end.
I had often joked with my wife, if my writing ever earned us enough money that it replaced my income at work, I would leave — haha. And neither of us ever thought that that would happen. And then things really took off. And by late 2020, early 2021, I had replaced my income.
But at that point, I felt as you did, as you just elucidated, that there are ups and downs and you can fail. So I felt at that point that just replacing my income, while that was a wonderful blessing, was not a safety net for me. I needed to make twice my income, and then we would really think about it. And so I talked to my wife about it, and then, again, we said, “if I ever made 2x my income — haha.”
Then that happened several months later. And that's where we both decided, yeah, I think it's time. Because I was really burning the candle at both ends. I'm working nine hours a day, there's another 45 minutes, probably, in my day of commuting. And then I've got to get in an hour and a half of writing in my free time, and then there's editing. It was just getting crazy.
I was keeping up with it, but I felt there was no reason to have to keep up with that anymore. And by the time that I put in my notice of leaving, my income had then grown to three times what I was making at work.
So it became such an easy decision. And actually at the end, I was like, “boy, I wish I had taken a date which was earlier than this.”
Joanna: It's good to be cautious.
Let's talk about marketing. So you've mentioned Facebook ads, and that you got into that. Tell us about what kind of marketing you're doing now, because Facebook ads have changed a lot in the last couple of years.
I mean, even since you left in 2021, this is only a year later, but we've had the Apple privacy changes. Some people are saying ads don't work anymore. Amazon ads have got more expensive.
So how are you running marketing at the moment?
Dan: Ads have definitely gotten more expensive. I believe that it's less to do with Apple, and it's more to do with authors simply realizing that there's money to be made here, and everybody's kind of piling in.
It's just a supply and demand thing, it's driving up clicks. So it's a lot more difficult to make a return on investment these days than it was two years ago when I was making a killing on these investments.
So Facebook ads, to me, I can't make, for instance, mailing list signups through Facebook Ads work financially for me anymore. I find that doing multi-author promos is far more cost efficient, and at least it keeps me in the black. So I've gotten away from those altogether. Every once in a while, I'll turn them on for a little bit just to see if I can build my list again at a profit, but I really can't. So that that's already gone away for me.
Writing in a long series and having all that extra read-through is such an advantage.
It allows me to have a lot more wiggle room on cost per click. So the idea being that if you have one book that you're selling for $4.99, even if you're making a 70% commission on that, the odds that you're going to turn a profit on that with an AMS ad or Facebook ad are pretty much slim and none.
However, if you have nine more books backing that up in the series and your read-through is pretty good, you're actually making a lot more than 70% of $4.99, you're making 70% of all those sales.
Plus, if you're part of Kindle Unlimited, you're making that on page-reads as well, and selling some paperbacks.
So, to me, it became a lot more easy to break away from the pack. And there are some words which I can — phrases, anyway — that I can bid on in AMS for ridiculous amounts, like $2 to $4 per click. And I'm not actually paying that much per click, I usually end up paying about like $0.75 to a $1.25 per click, but I'm dominating the top position, and I'm always getting those clicks whenever I want them.
And I can afford to do so because I know that every time I get a click or a buy, I'm going to make so much more money than I would if it was just one book.
I'm selling an entire series. So that's really important too.
I do agree it's getting more and more difficult to make money that way. And I think you always need to think outside the box. As you coined the term ‘author entrepreneurs', we need to think not like every other author in the genre and we need to take a larger view of things and just think like marketers.
So I read a lot of books on marketing, period. And there's always a trick that is out there which other authors aren't doing. So as long as you keep standing on the shoulders of giants, you're only going to get as tall as they allow you to get.
But if you are innovating and you're borrowing techniques which work in other industries, for instance, attracting people to your website. Most people have websites which are just there to show their ‘about author' page and have some buy links.
If you can actually attract people who are looking for your types of books to your website, then you completely bypass the need for ads. You don't have to pay for anything, it's just work. You need to do some due diligence and writing articles and whatnot. But if you're a writer, that should be pretty easy to switch to.
Joanna: Obviously, I've built this business — for the nonfiction side — on content marketing. And I pretty much have never advertised The Creative Penn, and certainly not the podcast. So I've built a business on that, but it takes a lot longer for sure.
And it was funny as you were talking there, I read a lot of business books and marketing books, too, and I was just thinking like, “where's the blue water right now?”
And as we record this, Elon Musk recently bought Twitter, and a whole load of people are leaving Twitter and going on to this thing called Mastodon. Now, I haven't looked at this, but I was just thinking, I bet you there's some marketing possibilities on Mastodon, whatever the hell, or it might just go the way of the dinosaurs, which is what I thought as soon as I heard the name.
But it's interesting, isn't it? I mean, I also have seen people pouring back into LinkedIn. Which I mean, it's not really a fiction platform. But it's not always the same thing, isn't it, as you said.
I did want to ask you, you have another great blog post about revitalizing a series with Facebook ads. And I think this is so important.
When is it worth spending money on an old series? Or when should we just write another series?
And I guess a sub-question is: would you ever use these tactics back on your horror books? Or have you just left them behind?
Dan: So it wouldn't work on the horror books anymore, for basically the same reasons that it didn't didn't work on my horror books three to five years ago, and that is that I was writing stand alones. I just cannot come up with a way to sell those stand alones at a profit.
I couldn't find a way to do it back then because cost per click had gone up by so much. Now that the cost per clicks are dwarfing what they were just a few years ago, there's just absolutely no chance.
Now I do run some AMS ads, like evergreen ads, that target the usual, the Dean Koontz's, the Jack Ketchum's, the Stephen King's. And yeah sure, I'll get maybe a sale here, a sale there, but it's not enough to move the needle. And I just kind of do it because I know that they'll make money over time, even if it's just a few bucks a month. There's no reason not to do them, but they're not worth spending time or mental energy on.
If I had written series back then, I probably could have pulled it off. The only thing which comes close is my Dark Vanishing series, which is post-apocalyptic.
And I have had some success running Facebook ads for those and making that work. I'm a little bit less successful, for whatever reason, with AMS ads. I think because with AMS ads, it's so much more granular, and I haven't zeroed in on exactly who I should be targeting. But I've tried for about three or four years to zero in on who that should be, and I still haven't found it yet.
Joanna: And then, let's just take AMS ads. Do you target traditionally published authors? Like I don't know, someone like Karin Slaughter, for example, I believe has some serial killer books.
Do you target traditionally published authors or only indies?
Dan: Oh, sure. I've targeted not only through AMS, but Facebook ads, I've targeted Karen Slaughter in the past. And I've also targeted Lisa Gardner, who I seem to do better with for whatever reason. That seems to be a better match, at least in my readers' opinions. Dean Koontz was a great target for me through Facebook ads for about four months until the ads started to dry up.
Ads are really weird in that it is based on the audience size that that writer has. And for whatever reason, according to Facebook anyway, Dean Koontz only has like 200,000 people reading him, which is about what they say for Lisa Gardner too. Whereas some other writers who are much smaller than him may have millions.
And so I don't really get it. I don't understand what the algorithm is considering a Dean Koontz reader. But either way, it's not nearly tapping all the readers which he has. So that's why I think Facebook ads for Dean Koontz worked well for me for a few months, and then I just dried up the supply, I couldn't use it anymore.
AMS ads to Dean Koontz are very up and down for me. They don't work so well in the US, but for whatever reason, they work great in the UK and they weren't great in Australia. So I don't quite understand that. But I just follow the numbers. If it works, it works, and if it doesn't, I turn it off.
Joanna: And the other question –
You mentioned that you work four hours a day now.
You said that, right? I mean, is that just your writing, or is that the writing and the marketing?
Dan: It's the writing and the whole business itself. So actually, I probably do a lot more than four hours, in terms of getting myself prepared for writing. But I say it's about four hours in terms of like there's an hour and a half of writing, there's another 45 minutes or so of editing and reading over my manuscript.
By the way, that's a Dean Koontz trick as well. I read that trick in an interview that he wrote, where he likes to rework his prose on the same day that he writes, so that when he's done at the end of the day, that chapter is done, it's ready for his editor.
Now, I don't send it to my editor, but there's a power in finishing the day knowing that up until that point in my book, my book is done. I don't need to deal with it again. So you know, people slog through second, third, fourth drafts after the fact. I never do. It's just done. So that's another 45 minutes.
Well, I'll just get in my daily routine. Now this starts to get a little bit above the fold here, but I think it's really important. You know, everybody asks me about advertising and if that's the secret to my success. Is it rapid release, because I'm releasing a book every few months, and I'm about to release them even more frequently. And the answers are kind of and kind of, but there's a lot more that I do.
So much of this is mindset, Joanna. It really is.
I mean, anybody can change their mindset with a snap of the finger if they really want to. It's a lot of just forming better habits and finding what works with you.
I came from a broken home. My father left our family when I was four years old, and that probably is one of my earliest memories is my father sitting me down at the kitchen table and saying, “I'm moving in with grandma and grandpa.” And after that, my father became a rather famous person in performing arts, and I almost never saw him again after that.
It was a very frustrating life growing up. My mother had her own demons. We lived with a man who became physically abusive to us. And those were things which I ended up dealing with growing up my entire life. And I bottled them up and I hid them from people and I didn't tell anybody about what my issues were, and it just exploded on me.
Finally, when I got into college, I basically had — I wouldn't call it quite a mental breakdown — but all of a sudden I had all this social anxiety. I couldn't go out without feeling sick to my stomach. I was just hiding from people in general. And I needed therapy. And once I started getting therapy, I started to get better.
But once I moved out of my mother's house, and I started to do things on my own, and I'm not saying my mother was toxic, I was just saying that I needed to start doing things for myself in building that confidence.
And that's probably the first time in my life where I felt this super energy kind of pulsing through me. I wouldn't tap it for years and years later, but it was the first sign that I could break out of this on my own. It was just a matter of changing my mindset.
So I meet writers all the time, who tell me, “I can't. I just can't keep up with the writing because I have a job.” And then I have to explain to them that I did this from 2014 to 2021, writing an hour or more per day while holding up a full time job.
“Well, yeah, but I have kids.” Well, so did I. “Well, yeah, but I wanted to go to the gym.” Well, yes, so did I, and I did all these things too. You can fit it into your life if you really want to, if it really means that much to you.
So now my life is a lot more high energy because of the way that I treat my body, by feeding it proper nutrition, by exercising every day, or almost every day, and some of that exercise is pretty strenuous.
So I'm always feeding my mind, I'm making it ready to write.
And also, because writing is so difficult, every author knows how facing that blank page every day can be so challenging. So you have to have this positive mindset, you have to have high energy.
There are all sorts of tips which the self-help industry, the self-development gurus, will espouse. Things like manifesting, all that different stuff.
And you know what, it all works, but it all works for different reasons, depending on what you believe. Some people believe that manifesting works because they believe in a higher power, they believe in God, and they think that they're talking to God and God is helping them.
Other people are spiritual in the sense that they think the universe is giving it to them. Other people look at it as this is the subconscious mind that you're feeding positive thoughts to.
So here's something which a lot of people don't realize –
Your subconscious mind doesn't know the difference between a truth statement and a lie.
Whatever you tell your subconscious mind, if you tell it enough times, it will believe it. So if you tell yourself over and over again that you are a great writer and that you're going to make X amount of money from it, you can become that, or at least your subconscious mind will certainly believe it.
Now, where does it go from there? So okay, so you've planted the thoughts in your subconscious mind. Let's say that you want to buy a bungalow house, how does it end up actually manifesting to the point where you can buy a bungalow house? Well, once you have decided you want to buy a bungalow house, every time you go out and drive around, you're going to recognize bungalows which are off to the side of the road until you finally see one which is for sale. Or you're going to be checking online or somebody's going to be talking about, “hey, I just saw this great bungalow go up for sale.” And immediately you're going to be like, “oh, yeah, yeah.”
So what you're actually doing is you're priming your subconscious to look for these opportunities. And so that's what I'm doing every day is I'm trying to prime my mind to look for opportunities to write well, to find new ways to promote myself, to make a larger profit or a larger revenue stream.
And how do I set my energy to high every day?
What I do is probably going to be different than what you would do or anybody who's listening will do. But you need to find the things that put you in a positive mindset.
For me, I wake up in the morning, and before I do anything, I open up a book, which is something which is really positive. And so it's not a Jack Ketchum book, I'll read that a little bit later in the day. It's probably something like a self development book, maybe some Tony Robbins, or some Brendon Burchard, or somebody like that. And I'll just read it for about five to seven minutes.
So, all right, now I've got a better mindset. So I'll take care of tasks before I do anything, before I write, before I get on with my day. Then I will sit down and I will spend at least five to 10 minutes on goal planning. So what are my long-term goals? What am I trying to do to get to a point where I want to be in 12 months from now?
So right now I'm working on some goals which are financials, some goals which are writing-based, and some goals which are just for me, personally, and who I want to be as a person.
But then I also learned about these monthly goals, and this was a Brendon Burchard trick, where you can't always be looking long-term. How about giving yourself some near-term victories, so that you have something to charge yourself up with every single day. So that is where we came up with the concept of monthly goals.
So now I have this monthly revenue goal which I'm trying to hit in KDP. And I'm hoping that I will get there, but more than hoping, I'm coming up with a plan.
And whether I do or don't, I'm really focused on it. But here's where it works, and where thinking about it kind of manifests the reality. So here I am trying to come up with this monthly revenue goal and I'm trying to figure out, well, I don't have a release again until the beginning of December. So it's not going to come from a release. Don't I already have enough ads running out there? What am I going to do?
So just for the heck of it, I'm going through my ads this morning, and I look far less commonly at my Australian ads and my Canadian ads than I do my American ones because it makes so much money in America.
And I'm looking at my Australian AMS dashboard, and I'm seeing that, my goodness, I'm making money hand over fist over there. Every target which I put up just seems to work. My ACOS is so low, and my CPC is just so low compared to the amount of books which I'm selling over there.
So now all of a sudden, it just hits me that if I just spend a day and come up with more keywords and more targets in that country, I'm going to suddenly sell a lot more books there. And this may be the path, or at least is going to get me a lot closer to the goal which I'm trying to set for me this month.
So always keep these things in mind. Whatever it is that you want to do, write it down, even if you write it down digitally like in a Google Doc. Write it down, look at it frequently, brainstorm ways to come up with the answer, and you'll find a lot of times it just it just happens. It just comes to you.
Joanna: Wow, great talk there. Great pep talk for everyone. I love that. And I know you've got stuff on your blog about mindset as well.
But it's interesting because you had a good mindset back when you wrote horror. But what you then did was take action on ‘this isn't working', which is what I admire very much about you and people who make this pivot.
I think it's a strong move because it's difficult to let go of some of those old series. I mean, I feel this very much, but I have multiple streams of income in other ways. But I am often thinking about this, like, maybe I should write something else. But you do have to do the research, and as you say, the mindset.
So just returning to the four hours a day, I don't think people are believing you because you're basically saying that you do 90 minutes writing, 45 minutes editing, like you mentioned some mindset stuff you do in the preparing.
So realistically, you're saying you really only spend an hour a day on marketing?
Dan: I mean, there's marketing and there's also like just coming up with very simple things, like making sure that I have a social media post every single day, something that will at least either make my Facebook and Instagram readers laugh, or I'm trying to promote a book or something.
And I have like a ratio in the back of my mind that I always keep too, that I try to entertain my followers a lot more than I sell to them. But every month though, at least once, hitting them saying, “hey, sign up for my mailing list,” or “hey, I've got this new book coming up.” So yeah, that's part of the planning.
But yeah, I'll do a lot more with marketing — marketing and goal setting kind of, for me anyway, goes hand in hand. So like, I'll be working on goal setting, and then I'll be like, oh, yeah, that idea about Australia, I'm gonna go work on that. And so now, instead of like spending 15 minutes on marketing and just kind of tweaking the CPCs on my bids, now I'm like coming up with all these new ideas, and I'm into it all day.
But yeah, it ends up being about four hours. Once I've done marketing, and social media, writing and editing. And also there is another 15 or 20 minutes which is added into that as well, which is planning.
I'm always planning story beats for my next book, so that as soon as I finish this book, the story beats are set to go for the next book, and I don't have to lose a day. I don't have to lose a week coming up with a new story. Boom, I can just go again.
So a lot of that is efficiency too. I'm planning my day to make sure that I'm always writing every day. I'm always coming up with a new book. And my goal is to release a new book every four to five weeks in the year 2023. And right now, at least on my writing anyway, I'm on pace to do that.
But I need to do it for another seven, eight months to bring it to fruition. Again, it's part of my work day, in always thinking of new ways to get ahead and stay ahead, and planning for the inevitable setbacks. There's always going to be a setback, so I try to stay ahead of the game.
Joanna: Fantastic. Oh, you've shared so much. And I mean, obviously people listening, some of them might be interested in your fiction, but I think a lot more of them are interested in more of your tips.
And you do have some blog posts, but you also share quite a lot in the 20BooksTo50K group. Is that right?
Dan: Yeah, I do. Not as much as I used to, just because I've found social media to be just such a time suck, and it can be kind of soul-draining at times.
To be honest with you, the worst place on Earth, I think, is Twitter. There's just so many hateful things that get said on Twitter. But for me, it's the best place on earth, because it's the one that you can aggregate. If you just follow the people, or you just create lists out of the people that you want to read.
So for instance, you know, I have a list of writers and entrepreneurs who I absolutely adore, and I treasure their opinions. You know, you're one of them. I have you on a list and other people on that list, and that's what I see when I bring up a third party app like TweetDeck, I just see that feed.
And then I have a feed of people who are our motivational types like Eric Thomas, and Tony Robbins, and Brendon Burchard and people like that. So I always have this positivity heading at me. And if anybody were too — nobody on that list would — but if anybody on that list were to say something hateful, then I would just take them off the list.
So all that bullying or racism or sexism that you hear about going on on Twitter, I never see it. And it's wonderful. But on Facebook, I do see it. I see it a lot. And I just find it to be very soul-draining. And it makes me want to like fight back and say, “no, no, don't say this.” But you know, that's a waste of my time because you can't change anybody's opinion on social media anyway. But I just don't want to see it.
So with Facebook, I'm almost never in my public profile anymore. I'm almost always in my author profile, and just like talking to my readers and making sure that they know what's coming up and just keeping them entertained. Otherwise, I'm hardly ever on Facebook at all. Same thing with Instagram, I'll show up and I'll make a post, and then I'll talk to the readers who I have on Instagram and respond to them.
But otherwise, I'm not like scrolling through Instagram and seeing what other people are doing because I always run into something which is hateful, eventually, if I keep scrolling or just something which is just going to waste my time. And if you want to be serious about any business endeavor, and certainly in writing, you have to say no to things. And it doesn't have to be social media for you, but it is for me.
So where can people find you and your books online?
Dan: So I recommend that people go to my website at DanPadavona.com. You'll not only find my books, but you will also find some advice for reader articles, which I'm almost always adding to.
And I'm throwing around the idea, you know, I'd really love to do a podcast to help other writers and just something quick that I can put out like once every week or two and just kind of help people with little tips like I shared here today. And so be looking for that too. I'll make an announcement when I have a launch date in sight.
[Dan has now started The Author's Mindset series.]
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, yeah, definitely let me know because I'm interested for sure. So thanks so much for your time, Dan. That was great.
Dan: Wonderful, Joanna. Thank you very much.