David VanDyke – The $200K per year independent author!

David VanDyke is the independent author equivalent of the Six Million Dollar Man.   Many authors of the Oro Valley Writers’ Motivational Workshop have expressed great interest in how David is able to turn his words in to gold, but were unable to attend his presentation.  I was fortunate to attend David’s presentation at the Tucson Self Publishing Expo last Saturday.  David is a very dynamic and entertaining speaker, and it was a pleasure to listen to him share his hard-earned knowledge and wisdom.

In short, David said that good writing content is required, but by itself will not earn a lot of money.  David puts 25% of his earnings back in to advertising, editing, re-editing of old works, covers, new covers for old works and even translation to different languages (although translations are quite expensive).

When first starting, he recommends having 3 to 5 books in a series already written. You soft-launch (no ads or promos) a paperback of your book to create a page to gain ARC reader reviews, then launch the ebook version of Book 1 when you have several good reviews up.

EBook 1 launches at a reasonable retail price such as $2.99-$3.99, possibly with some advertising support from social media posts and paid ads. EBook 2 is set to pre-order 28 days later, and EBook 3, 28 days after that and, if you have further books, the same. When book 3 is live, that is the time to offer Book 1 at a discount to 99c or free, and promote it with book promo sites to gain wide interest in your series. While those who got Book 1 at a discount are still hungry for more, later books in the series are immediately available to purchase at normal prices, and some may also be in pre-order to show your commitment to the series. The key to remember is, the series is your product, not EBook 1. You can take a loss or make no money on EBook 1 in order to get large numbers of readers to pay for the rest of the series.

Several things that David strongly believes are not a good ROI (return on time investment) are presented below. David would rather spend his time writing a new book or doing direct, effective marketing than:

  • Blog on his own website
  • Guest blog
  • Create book trailers
  • Have press releases
  • Spend time on social media (except for buying ads)
  • Hustle to get his books reviewed (except for Advance Review Copies and launches)
  • Have book signings
  • Try for little known awards, especially from contests with entry fees

It’s the old saying “In order to make money you have to spend money”.  David didn’t want to discourage authors from performing some of these activities, especially if they enjoy them.  He also said there are exceptions to every rule.  Your mileage may vary.

David has much more advice to give, and I highly recommend you seek an opportunity to hear him speak directly.  David was also kind enough to review this blog  post and give me some recommended corrections which I have already incorporated.  It greatly improved the content of this post.

Tucson Self Publishing Expo 2017

Last Saturday I attended the Expo with several authors from the Oro Valley Writers’ Motivational Workshop, as well as 250+ attendees.  The Expo was hosted by the Society of Southwestern Authors.  On their website you can find a link to their writing contest with three separate categories.  Entries must be 2,500 words or less and are due by September 30, 2017.

Mark Coker

Mark Coker (who founded Smashwords) started off and gave several great presentations.  He did give me permission to post his slides, but I have not received them yet.  I will obtain and post them soon.

Update: Slides now available by clicking Mark Coker Tucson Expo Slides.  It’s a somewhat large download, so I recommend saving to your computer after opening rather than clicking the link multiple times or opening with your smartphone.

Smashwords seems to be a very easy way to self publish, but only does ebooks (no hard copies).  It’s free if you do it yourself, but it’s highly recommended to have your work edited first.  You should also hire a pro to do your cover.  Smashwords does take a 10% cut of the price of your ebook, and I recall the cut fades lower as more books are sold.

Mark warned of Amazon’s market domination (and CreateSpace is owned by Amazon).  He spoke of Amazon exploiting the glut of indie authors works.  Now readers can cheaply rent books through Kindle Unlimited.  But authors effectively give away the first twenty pages of their book, and thereafter earn half a penny per page read by a reader (rather than perhaps receiving $2.50 per ebook).

Robin Cutler

Robin Cutler of of IngramSpark gave a data rich presentation.  She promised to provide slides to the SSA, but to date I have not received a copy from the SSA despite my request.  But it’s still early.  I plan to post them (after I receive permission).

Robin also shared a code to waive the $50 fee for startup costs.  I’ll provide that if you ask me, but won’t post it here.  This fee is also refundable after 60 hardcopies are ordered even without the code.  IngramSpark distributes both ebooks and hardcopies.

They have inroads to many retailers that CreateSpace does not have (too many retailers compete directly with CreateSpace and refuse to order from them).

One could easily self-publish with both Smashwords and IngramSpark, but if doing so it’s best to obtain your own ISBN number rather than the free one from Smashwords.  Mark did say there are inexpensive ways to do this.



David VanDyke

David shared the secrets to his success of making $200K per year by self-publishing.  He did provide me a softcopy of his slides, but understandably doesn’t want them published online.  In my next blog post I’ll share a bit of his advice at a very high level from my own notes.

It took David years to get to this level and still takes much hard work to maintain this income, which can greatly fluctuate from month to month.

Overall Impressions

The event was highly informative, and I was very glad I attended.  However, there were few breaks during the presentations and I overheard complaints (since people didn’t want to miss any part of the presentation).  But it was challenge to present all the material in the planned time frame, especially with many questions from the audience.

Water was available and coffee sometimes, but no snacks except at breakfast (another overheard complaint).  Attendees drifted out over the course of the afternoon and I was the only one from our Oro Valley group that stayed until the end of the day.

My thanks go out to the Society of Southwestern Authors for organizing this event.  It was a tremendous success and took a lot of hard work and dedication.  I very much hope they will organize another event next year.

What’s Next?

I plan to blog more about the Expo as time permits.  There was simply too much material to post all at once.  I welcome your comments here on my blog about the impressions you had of the Expo.