Today I am going to discuss a business model that has been used very successfully by several people recently but the model itself is an old one. One which virtually died when new technology –– such as colour TVs became cheaper and more readily available –– destroyed its popularity with the masses.
It soon became outdated and was virtually unheard of again until now. The change in modern technology, the invention of the internet and the new phenomenon of the online self publishing system that Amazon Kindle and others have brought to the world has had a strange but interesting twist –– it has brought back the opportunity for people to make money from this old business method.
So what old business model am I talking about here? The business was known as ‘Pulp Fiction’ and it was named after the low grade paper that fiction stories were once printed on. The reason these stories were printed on low quality paper was that it was cheap and made them affordable.
The USA had just experienced the big depression and the economy was at a low as was morale, publishers wanted to cheer people up and give them some excitement and adventure to allow them to escape the humdrum life that so many of them were living. But because people had very little spare money they needed to make it affordable and so they came up with the concept of hiring writers to create short fiction stories which they printed on cheap paper and sold cheap to the public.
The writers who needed work were paid pennies which kept the costs down. They might not have liked how little they were being paid but they needed the work. The idea of the Pulp Fiction business was similar to the Woolworths principle of stack them high and sell them low.
Instead of a long novel type book they would produce a collection of short stories and sell them. Many people couldn’t face reading a big thick book, they prefered the thinner comic style magazines. The stories were often in a series and spread out over time just like how TV shows are made today. Each episode is a new mini episode within one big story.
Inside these Pulp Fiction magazines were crime and detective dramas, war stories, cowboy & westerns and science fiction stories based in outer space People loved them, people love to be entertained and that is what Mike Shreeve focused on when he made over $700,000 a year by starting his own Pulp Fiction empire.
Before starting his Pulp Fiction empire Mike spent several months studying the pulp fiction writers of the early twentieth century.
Mike along with many others has made good returns by writing short entertaining fiction stories which they have sold on sites like Amazon Kindle, Kobo, B&N and more. There are two ways to make this business work for you:
1 You can either write the short stories yourself which you self publish
2 Or you become a publisher and outsource the writing and then publish the stories under ‘pen names.’
Or there is a third option: do both!
Mike made a great point when he discussed the difference between his business model and other writers: Most writers want to become famous by having a bestseller on one of the popular lists such as the New York Times Bestseller list and those writers dream of that one bestselling book making a lot of money and changing their lives around. Mike on the other hand made his money from many books and not just one.
He said “It’s the myth of the bestseller…Authors are the only business people (and if you want to make money selling books you are in business… no two ways about it…) that I know of who think that they can make a year’s salary off the sales of a single product. It doesn’t make sense.”
It is a very valid point, why do authors think that they can change their lives with just one product? Yes it has happened before for many people but it is never guaranteed.
Mike didn’t just write one long bestseller. They can take ages because writers get so lost in the writing. The story they write constantly changes, it is forever growing, it evolves because as you write you think up new ideas to add to the book and also novels have roughly 90,000 words and so they can take ages to write and edit.
Mike along with others focused on writing shorter stories (called novelettes ) of 10,000 words more or less and they published them as a series. Any ideas that popped into their heads while they wrote they put into a list of ideas for future follow up stories.
This is what Mike had to say about it all: “Instead of trying to write one perfect book, write a higher quantity of your best books. It’s a slight difference, but so damn important. Do your best work 100% of the time, but don’t pretend you are going to write a bestseller. Instead, pretend that your life depends on finishing your writing for the day. Set higher goals. Get better. I never worry about whether my books will make a “list”. I only care that the books get finished.”
For every book that is finished it can be published and when it is published it has the potential to earn money. Mike had loads published which were bringing in money. In 2014 he published 36 books. If that sounds like a lot of writing to you then do not despair, he didn’t write most of them himself. He outsourced the writing.
David Lee Martin is another successful writer who self publishes short stories. David said that he generally pays between $100 and $130 for ghostwriters to write his short stories. He finds a target niche, creates a story outline with characters etc then sends the information to the writers who write the finished books. He may do some editing but his job mainly is to market the book. He creates the book covers himself because he loves playing around in Photoshop whereas Mike Shreeve prefers to outsource the covers.
So as you can see you do not need to write the books yourself but if you want to then you could. Mike published 36 books in 2014, that would be some going if you wrote the books yourself but I personally would say that –– if you were a discipline character –– you could write 25 great short stories in a year.
That means that you can write one book every two weeks. At 10,000 words per book, writing as little as 1000 words per day you should have a book done in ten days with four spare for editing. Now it sounds a little more achievable doesn’t it? I have tip that can help make writing 10,000 words a lot easier later on in the article.
The more stories you have published the more sales you can generate. Here is something that you should consider as a publisher or writer. When someone reads a story that they really enjoyed they want to read another. If they loved the characters they may want to read another story featuring those characters or if they loved your writing style then they may want more of that. What happens if you publish a book and have nothing else for the reader to buy? They can get bored and forget about you.
Both Mike and David wrote/published under different pen names unlike James Patterson –– who is famous for outsourcing his writing! –– so to make sure that people can access more of their work (under that pen name) they do something a lot of Novel Authors do not do: They write a series of separate short stories first and do not publish one until they have a few of the series ready and then publish several at the same time.
This means that each new book in the series can cross sell the others and that they will be shown by sites like Amazon in the By The Same Author… section. Instead of selling one they can sell several at the same time to the same people without the fear of losing them later. Those who write longer books which takes months or even years to write will be making their fans wait ages for another book which can be damaging to sales.
The price point for these shorter stories vary from between $0.99 to $2.99 –– or pounds if you are in the UK. What is important is that you create great books, they may be short and the turnover is fast but you cannot publish sub standard books. Remember; the Pulp Fiction business of the 1930s printed on sub standard paper but the stories and cover art was the best they could produce. The quality of the stories on those sub standard pages was the most important thing.
James Patterson is one of the biggest selling authors of all time, he writes novels and he can publish a lot of them in a year because he too outsources a lot of the writing to co-authors. He creates the book ideas and sets about creating the characters and story and then has others to flesh it out. I was recently reading one of his books and noticed that all of his books have a lot of chapters and that many of those chapters are just a few pages long. I wanted to know why and so I found out.
James Patterson likes to write a scene as a chapter, so for example, if he had two people talking in a kitchen about a murder, that would be a full chapter. If one of the people left and drove away leaving the other in the kitchen to mull over the discussion, that would be another chapter. So to help you write a short story I came up with a template.
The Short Story Template
When writing a short story of 10,000 words break it up into ten scenes which become ten chapters and each chapter should be around 1000 words each. This will help plan the story and if you prefer change the template to suit so if you prefer write 20 chapters of roughly 500 words and so on. This is not an exact science but a way to help set the story out. As James Patterson would tell you, it is easier to write a story when you have an outline or full plan to work to.
I would also say that the rule is to be flexible. If one chapter has 800 words and another 1057 then so be it. It is just a guide to help write 10,000 word stories. If you need more or less words/scenes and chapters then add them. Do what you need to do but remember, as Mike Shreeve said “I only care that the books get finished.” and so should you. Get them finished and get them published. That is the only true way to start making money from selling books on Amazon Kindle.
After the books are published to Amazon, Mike and David would then start to market them using Facebook adverts to send traffic to the sales page. They also build up email lists by giving away a free story and those email lists have made it possible for them to sell more books without using advertising meaning that they get more money and need to spend less on advertising.
But for now –– if this idea sounds good to you –– you better start writing or planning your stories otherwise you have nothing to market.
Oh and by the way, I have written just under 2000 words in the last few hours for this article so writing 1000 – 2000 words a day can be done 🙂