As I announced in December, once a month, I’ll be sharing a Featured Author post. Through author interviews, I’ll be uncovering ideas from established authors that will help you learn from those who have gone before. As Jim Stovall pointed out in his book, The Millionaire Map, ”Never accept a map from someone who hasn’t been where you want to go.”
Today’s post features John Suscovich, a resourceful young farmer, husband and father, who has created the perfect blend between “the old ways” (organic and sustainable agriculture) and “the modern world” (using the internet to grow his business and support his family).
John is the Founder and Creative Director of FoodCyclist.com and FarmMarketingSolutions.com. His passion lies in the combination of cutting-edge technology and old-school techniques. This is best exemplified in his marriage of sustainable agriculture and internet marketing. When he is not out weeding, seeding or chasing chickens, he is on the web sharing the pursuit of his passions.
When John told me about his first eBook, Stress Free Chicken Tractor Plans, which was released in October 2013, all I could think was “now that’s a niche topic if I ever heard of one!”
Despite what you and I might consider limited appeal for his book, he’s earning enough from this one income source to cover his car payments. For any writer, that’s a great thing to achieve! So, I thought you might enjoy learning about how he’s doing it.
Tara: What motivated you to write a book?
John: My audience motivated me to write a book. Well, that’s not entirely true. I always wanted to write a book, and in fact I have plans to write more, but I did not know what to write about. Being that I am a farmer that specializes in pastured poultry, that is what I talk about a lot on my blog, on my social media, and in my e-mail newsletters. As my following grew, I began to get asked more questions about pastured poultry and specifically about my chicken tractors. Chicken tractors are mobile chicken houses specifically designed for chickens raised for meat. After enough people asked me for the plans, the light bulb finally went off in my head that it was time to find a way to answer everyone’s questions without crafting the same e-mail 100 times. Thus Stress Free Chicken Tractor Plans was born.
Tara: What publishing options did you consider?
John: I knew right out of the gate that I was to self-publish. I didn’t have the time to deal with a traditional publisher (which means I fear rejection) and I was already getting traffic through my website for the topic of the book I wanted to publish. I also like self-publishing because my margins are better. Creating the book was just as hard, but now that I have the book created, I set up a sales system on my website and I net an average of $15(ish) dollars per book. That means I have to sell fewer books to make the same profit I would with a traditional publisher. I have a few book ideas that I would want to have published though a publishing house in the future, but for this book I found self-publishing an eBook to be my best option.
Tara: Why did you settle on the option you chose?
John: Since the birth of my daughter in July of 2013 everything I do has become about her. Every choice I make now in some way reflects her and my role as a father and provider. With the new addition to the family I knew I needed some extra income. Self-publishing fast-tracked the process and with better final margins so I was able to alleviate some of the financial burden quicker. Not to say it was like winning the lottery, but my book makes my car payments now.
Tara: How easy was it to get your book done?
John: My eBook is about 45 pages. I am a farmer and my time is limited in the best of circumstances. When I get an idea for something I think about it for a little while, then I strike hard and fast. I got the idea initially in April or May. I was also heading into the busy season on the farm so I just sat on the idea while I ran around literally chasing chickens. I decided to hunker down after Mabel was born on July 15th. I had a couple weeks of transitioning into fatherhood and August 1st I decided I would publish the book by October 1st. That means I had to write it in the month of August and have someone build the graphics (it’s a how-to book) and edit and do the layout during the month of September. I needed a week before October 1st to create the automated sales stream online. It all came down to the wire, but I got it done.
A friend of mine, Chad, helped me with the drafting. He’s a professional draftsman and did a great job. Kelli from Fat City Printing in New Milford, CT, did the layout for me and created the PDF. She did a really amazing job and worked great within my timeline. I could not have pulled it off without those two.
Tara: How did you distribute the book after publication?
John: My eBook is available for sale through my website FoodCyclist.com. I use e-Junkie.com to host the file and do the fulfillment, and I use PayPal.com to process the payments. I also captured the e-mail addresses of anyone who buys a book by linking the payment process to my account at Aweber.com so that I can keep in touch with my customers. This is important to me because not only do I value the feedback, but I have a growing list of people who have bought from me once, and might be willing to buy from me again.
Tara: How are you marketing and promoting your book?
John: I have several ways that I am marketing and promoting my book. I am doing on page and off page SEO on my website to drive traffic related to my topic. That sounds fancy, but really I just talk about chickens a lot on my website and try and provide a lot of value. Google likes that.
I created an affiliate network where affiliates who sell my book earn a 50% commission on all sales tracked through their websites. Since my book is centered on the topic of chickens, I reached out to other chicken-related websites that were already selling chicken products and asked if they wanted to sell the book. That has worked out great as it is another channel for sales, I still earn a decent net profit per book, and there’s more exposure to what I am doing as I build my list.
Tara: What’s working best for you to generate sales?
John: Honesty. Honesty is working best for me to generate sales. I do not do any gimmicks, I am not selling theory. I am selling a set of plans for something that I created and use myself. It you don’t use it yourself, don’t talk about it just because you can potentially make money off it. I share my story at every turn and people are buying into that as much as they are buying into my eBook. I saw a need in the market and was able to fill it with a high value product that I knew people were looking for.
Other than that, being everywhere on the internet, just a little, has helped drive sales. I have a podcast, Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel. They are all linked and I usually only update one or two on the more frequent side. But I do have some presence everywhere. People digest and search for information differently. If you are selling something online, you are doing yourself a disservice not putting yourself, even just a little, on all these free networks. Start small, dream big.
Tara: If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a book, what would it be?
John: Take action and give yourself a deadline. I knew I needed to get the book done in a certain amount of time, so I did it. I set the deadline, but I needed it. Tasks expand to the time you allow for them. For two months my wife Kate and my daughter Mabel would nurse, go to bed for about 1-2 hours, then wake up to nurse again (yay infants!). In that time, every night I wrote like a madman to get my book done. I was focused, I took action, and then I went to bed. It wasn’t easy, but when you make that first sale, oh man is it rewarding!
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