This is a follow up story for Conundrum Publishing. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Nick Thacker, and I’m a full-time thriller writer. I write action-adventure fiction for armchair adventurers, and my books have been insultingly referred to as “airport books,” a descriptor I absolutely adore and use as often as possible.
I started like any author — making no money, and begging for people to read my stuff. Now I generate about $10-14k/month in revenue, between writing, business, and related projects.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
A lot has changed, mostly in my personal life — my family and I sold everything we own and moved to Hawaii, which isn’t the cheapest place to live, but it’s probably the best! We absolutely love our brand-new home and have enjoyed learning the island ways and exploring.
Naturally, a move like that puts a dent in anyone’s work schedule, and I haven’t been able to put as much time into growing the business. I’m getting back in the groove of things, but my income hasn’t increased a ton from where it was at this point last year.
Ideas are nothing without execution, but even a poorly executed idea has value — go bring value to the world.
There is a lot I can attribute that to. First, it’s 2020. Enough said.
Second, I accepted a three-book publishing deal late last year, and it’s been a grueling schedule for writing and editing — for a few months, it was the only writing project I could really focus on. The deal came through serendipity — the acquisitions editor found my Harvey Bennett titles and loved them, then pitched the offer! It was something I’d always wanted to do (work with a traditional publisher), but it’s not a terribly lucrative arrangement. Since I love data, I’m currently testing launch strategies to determine if it's worthwhile to seek out further arrangements like this or just stay the course with my own publishing company and titles. I’m leaning toward the latter.
Finally, I have been building an author-services company with a good friend for about five years, and earlier this year we sold it to a larger author-centric firm. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience in a good way, and I am still working with them to continue building the product and grow the user base.
That said, with the state of the world in 2020, moving to a new house after selling everything I own, selling a side business, and working on a three-book publishing deal that has taken a lot of writing time, I’m thrilled that my income hasn’t decreased.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
There are only 24 hours in a day. I’m a huge fan of sleep (I firmly believe that even folks who understand how important sleep is don’t fully understand how important sleep is), and I’m a huge fan of being a great husband and father, so I have some pretty hard limits on my work hours. I do work “in the gaps” (nights, weekends, early morning, etc.), but only as needed and only when it’s convenient for the rest of the family.
I have to be extremely diligent about what I can produce, and how quickly I can produce it. The numbers: I know that I can generate about $3-4,000 in a two-month period from a book launch with a 100% tail (another $3-4,000) over the next six months, and know that even my worst-selling book will generate some money every year, forever.
I also know it takes me about 3-4 months to write a high-quality book. It’s not hard to do the math to see that producing more books, more often, is a recipe for a decent income stream.
And all of that means I want to produce a lot of high-quality books. They tend to have longer tails the better the books are, so it’s important to have a balance between “quality” and “speed,” and neither is inherently better than the other (a “perfect” book doesn’t exist, and paying for edits over and over again just digs the expense hole deeper. If it takes me ten years to produce it, that’s a lot of income that title needs to generate to break even).
With 24 hours in a day, even working 7 days a week, writing a lot more than I’m currently writing isn’t possible without a few hacks. One of those “hacks” is dictation — literally speaking the words into my computer. It takes a bit of cleanup and revision on the other side, but overall I can increase my words-per-hour rate from about 1,500 to nearly 5,000.
That’s a great way to write faster without sacrificing quality.
Another thing worth mentioning is that I’m experiencing firsthand how “recession-proof” reading and cheap forms of entertainment can be. I write books that entertain (hopefully!), and it seems we all need a bit of lighthearted entertainment these days. It’s expensive to produce movies, and theaters have been closed. People are turning to books more and more, and while I’ve noticed that some people are losing their income streams from lost work, they’re still buying books and keeping up with their Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. That means I’m not necessarily gaining new readers, or increasing my income much, but it’s not decreasing, which is great in a year like this!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I’ve had a lot of success working with co-writers, but I’ve also had a lot of fun. It’s a way to stay social, keep up with friends, and get a digital “office” vibe with people I enjoy being around.
I’m hoping to expand what I’m doing with co-writers in the next five years, starting with the launch of a publishing company that’s going to be focused on readers first, cutting out the middleman. There are some really cool things in the works, but I can’t talk about them yet.
I’d love to get my writing income alone to the $20k/month mark, but that’s an arbitrary number. I never thought it would be possible to make $10k/month, so the fact that I’m writing this is just nuts. $20k/month seems like the next logical step.
After that? $50k/month? $100k? Who knows?
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Kidding. Yes, absolutely. I’m probably Ernest Dempsey’s and Kevin Tumlinson’s biggest fan (they don’t even pay me to say that!), but I also devour James Rollins, A.G. Riddle, David Wood, and a bunch of other action-adventure writers.
On the nonfiction front, I’m currently loving Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Josh Gates, who’s my best friend who just hasn’t met me yet.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Hustle. There aren’t any shortcuts. I wish there were, mainly because it gets exhausting to hear “there aren’t any shortcuts.” However, it’s true — more true now than ever before, when you’ve got people who can do anything (and usually better than you) online and ready to go, at all hours of the day.
Stop thinking Facebook is valuable for anything, and stop dreaming about the day you can spend your Instagram likes for food to put on the table. Stop wasting time perfecting the idea; just build it. Microsoft still sucks and I can’t log in to their website half the time, but they’re doing okay — just launch something, and perfect it from there.
The world is full of great ideas that are worth nothing but the paper they’re written on (hint: most aren’t even written on paper). Ideas are nothing without execution, but even a poorly executed idea has value — go bring value to the world.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website - sign up for my mailing list!
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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