$450,000 in a year as a self-published author

Building an audience who loves your product — whether it’s for a book, an app, a game, or a widget — is tough, time-consuming and expensive. Once you’ve got them hooked, give them something else to buy from you. As you choose your next project to work on, make sure it’s something that will appeal to your existing audience.

That’s just one of the lessons from Mark Dawson. This is a fascinating story on an author that’s crushing it by self publishing on Amazon.

I have to admit, just reading about his success makes me want to read his books.

Recycling the family business

One man’s junkyard is the next generation’s modern recycling center.

This is a good story on The Distance about running a family business in a less-than-sexy industry: automative recycling.

With a new generation, they are adapting to a new environment.

“It’s not a sexy business,” Kyle says. “And what we’ve been finding over the years…is that as the older generation either wants to retire or dies off, the younger generation does not want to get into it. More and more yards are being sold.…When I got involved in the business 25 years ago, there were something like 20,000 automotive-recycling yards or junkyards in the United States. And now that number is closer to 8,000. [But] it’s a great business. If any of you guys are listening, it’s a great business. Don’t go into the technology field. Believe me, you’ll like this business.”

I love good longform stories like this. Thanks to Ryan Sullivan for putting me onto The Distance.

News newsletters worth subscribing to, and why they are so good

I write a daily paid newsletter for WordPress. It’s the bread and butter of Post Status memberships, and it’s relatively hard work. I’m always seeking quality information that’s worthy for my readers’ eyes.

After all, they are paying me to be their filter. I only include what I think will be interesting to a large percentage of readers, and I also try to mix it up between business, technical, and other topics that I think suit the readership.

Therefore, I tend to appreciate other high quality newsletters. I get most of my daily news from a small handful of emails. These are the ones I like the most:

NextDraft

Dave Pell is simply a superb curator. Based in San Francisco, he typically grabs the most important things that happened in the day, with a healthy dose of culture, tech, and other fascinating articles.

He reads everything so that I can read what’s best. I absolutely love NextDraft. You can always check out the current edition on the web as well.

Sidenote, I interviewed Dave in 2013 on Post Status.

FirstDraft

I’m a political news addict. I admit that. I’ve flirted with inside baseball newsletters like Mike Allen’s at Politico, but that was a bit much for me. A happy balance of campaign and political news — both wonky and serious news — is in the New York Times FirstDraft.

FirstDraft is both a blog and a newsletter, but they provide me pretty much everything I want to know in a day for national political news in their daily email.

I subscribe to the New York Times, and usually consume it through their NYTNow app (though now that they are changing it I’ll probably start using the regular app more). However, it often leaves me wanting more from a political perspective, so FirstDraft gives me what I miss from the top stories in their apps.

Quartz

Quartz (they are online at qz.com) offers an outstanding business-focused daily newsletter. They have an interesting combination method for the newsletter as well. During the week they link both to their own articles and others around the web, and it’s a news roundup, essentially. I like that.

But what really shines at Quartz is their weekend brief. They usually highlight a single issue and go a bit more in-depth, and they also share the most important business news of the week. I catch probably half of the daily briefs, but always read the weekend brief.

Buzzfeed News

The Buzzfeed News newsletter is outstanding. It’s very personally written — like the editor is talking straight to me. They cover mostly serious news in this edition of their newsletter (though they have other newsletters for the cat gifs, literally).

I’ve found Buzzfeed to be a great source of high quality journalism, though it’s certainly not what they’re most known for yet. They have serious news and political journalists, and are investing more into investigative journalism while other media sources pull back.

Other than the New York Times, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are investing more in original journalism (versus reporting what other folks report) than anyone in the United States. They are rapidly opening offices all over the world as well. I think Ben Smith is super smart and I love what they’re doing at Buzzfeed.

Nieman Lab

Nieman Lab offers the best journalism on journalism out there. They are heavily focused on the changing media landscape, and you end up with a healthy mix of news on all sorts of media, and they aren’t afraid to get technical either.

You can get Nieman Lab’s newsletter either daily or weekly, but I go for daily. It includes their new articles, plus the most interesting links from Fuego, their tool to gather other interesting links about journalism.

Sidenote: I interviewed Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton in 2014.


All of these newsletters share some common traits.

  1. They are personal. I don’t feel like I’m being fed automated junk, even if parts of them are automated. It feels like it’s been written to me, as a human, by a human.
  2. They are generous. They aren’t just teasers; there is real meat in the newsletter itself, not just in the links they share. Also, they don’t just link to their own publications, but each of them is willing to link to external sources.
  3. They have personality. Part of why they feel personal is because they have a personality themselves. Whether they inject humor, or are willing to go on a tangent within the newsletter, or are a bit more quippy than a traditional article would be, I feel the personality of the newsletter editor in the writing. That makes me want to read it, versus an automated feed that feels emotionless.
  4. They are consistent. I can rely on these newsletters to hit my inbox when they say they will. Over time, as they keep delivering good stuff, that makes me become more reliant on them and more committed to opening them each day.

As a newsletter writer (and blogger), I attempt to emulate those that I think are doing a great job. Of course, I use my own personality, but there is much I (and I bet you) can learn from the folks that write the newsletters I’ve outlined.

A note on email

My daily newsletter for Post Status Club members gets read by around 85% of subscribers each day. That’s because it’s a decent newsletter, the content is relevant, and it’s an engaged audience (because they paid for it!).

I get a lot more newsletters than the ones I included here, but these stand out and I make sure to read them. They send me good email, and it’s a great delivery method to make sure I consume their content.

People say they hate email, but they don’t. People hate bad email, and most email is bad. People love great email. So send great email.

Minimum wage of $70,000 a Year

The owner of Gravity Payments, a credit card processor in Seattle, said he heard stories of how tough it was to make ends meet even on salaries that exceeded the federal minimum wage.

This is a pretty radical experiment by Gravity Payments. Their new minimum wage is going to be $70,000 per year, and the article also cites that the CEO is reducing his wage to that amount as well. I’d love to see more companies think outside the box like this.

Source, NY Times: One Company’s New Minimum Wage: $70,000 a Year, via Dave Pell’s NextDraft.

Full stack employees

I can’t decide if I love or hate this article on full stack employees, by Chris Messina. I certainly don’t think many companies are setup very well for such employees.

Furthermore, the job description sounds more like that you’d hope for in an entrepreneur or partner; or you better be willing to shell out incredible money for such a person.

I think T shaped employees are more realistic and perhaps preferable as well.

Domain extortion

There’s been a lot of domain craziness around the new TLDs. I know they were enabled to allow for less competition for short domains, but it really doesn’t seem to be working to me.

It seems it’ll be years, if not decades, before people really trust URLs with non-standard TLDs. I still have to explain anything that’s not .com to most non-tech friends – with exceptions perhaps for .gov, .net, and .org.

Even when I held a .us domain hack for Post Status, it was complicated for my tech-focused audience. Domain hacks and a few trendy TLDs like .io have done okay, but most of the new ones just don’t seem to have much, if any, traction.

Moreso, the barage of new TLDs pressures companies to register all of those with their own name, pointlessly raising costs. And worse, a domain like .sucks is a straight up “extortion racket” as EasyDNS puts it.

I’m glad to see them being sensible and not giving in to an obviously ill-intentioned TLD like this.

Hacking PR

When companies have news they want to push out, they often reach out to the “press” for the given industry to try and get it covered.

Manipulating news and gaming PR has been well documented. Ryan Holiday made a book out of how much he manipulated blogs and news organizations for American Apparel and others. It was so nauseating I couldn’t even finish it.

“Hacking PR” is possible, yes. Bloggers want to write good stories and break news. But don’t tell someone you have a scoop for them and then give it to everyone under the sun. You can do that… once. Then you are done with those journalists you gamed (or at least the ones that care about their craft). No decent journalist wants to be your PR arm, and they’ll remember when you game them or stretch the truth.

What company PR folks should do is choose a single publication for a story, and give them a proper scoop. Let the journalist post it even before you put it on your company blog. You’ll gain goodwill from the journalist and I’d argue you’ll even get more exposure. Readers like “scoops” too.

Publish it on your own blog after the fact, and point to the journalist’s piece.

Journalists will write better stories when they get scoops.

I often get asked to wait on a story until the company is ready to publish. Sometimes I get promised a scoop and then when I’m about ready to publish half the industry’s blogs are publishing the same story with the same quotes. Screw that.

You’ll be much better long term if you put yourself in the shoes of the publication. Give them a scoop. Give it just to one publication. Rotate the next story to another publication; nobody will get upset about that. They’ll maybe still publish the news and give credit to the other publication.

But gaming everyone into thinking they’ve got the scoop, when they don’t, won’t make you any long term friends. They’ll just ignore you the next time.

I write industry news. I’m not anyone’s personal PR arm. I’m happy to cover news that matters, but don’t tell me you’ve got something for me and then give it to everyone.

Good journalism (and PR) is about relationships. Relationships are two way streets.

Learning from past failures

We each share 3 of our previous failed entrepreneurial projects. Every time you launch something and put yourself out there you learn a lot about sales, marketing, partnerships, and focus. As long as you keep those lessons with you as you progress as an entrepreneur you’ll keep being more successful each time.

I often enjoy Bootstrapped Web, by Brian Casel (who makes Restaurant Engine) and Jordan Gal (who makes CartHook). Both of them have experience in the WordPress product / SaaS world.

Learning of their past failures was enlightening. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them to talk about, but I gained value hearing their experiences.

2015-03-21 22.31.25

Fitness tracking for one month

I did a “fitness challenge” for the month of March that included tracking my exercise on a daily basis. For me, that’s mostly my kickboxing class. I thought the challenge would be a fun way to figure what all I do in the month, and see where I need more work.

My workout class is 3x per week. On some off days (maybe once a week), I’d run 1-3 miles or go on a walk with my wife.

Here were my results:

Focus area Count Unit
Stomach 1377 reps
Chest 331 reps
Back 120 reps
Shoulders 90 reps
Lats 30 reps
Arms 315 reps
Legs 946 reps
Burpees 38 reps
Plank 20.5 minutes
Jump Rope 39 minutes
Biking n/a n/a
Walking 8 miles
Jog/Run 9 miles
Low Intensity n/a n/a
High Intensity 240 minutes
Stretching 60 minutes
Water 41 cups

Overall, this is a fairly accurate representation of what I actually did. I would typically take a picture of our “board” and then log my reps when I got home.

2015-03-16 17.31.41
A sample warmup

I’m sure stuff like stretching, walking, and water are lowballed, because I didn’t log non-intentional instances.

Also, some of the items were difficult to log. For instance, so I wouldn’t double log the “high intensity” kickboxing element of my workout, I didn’t put stuff we’d do that could qualify for reps, because I’d just add 15 minutes of high intensity for each session. Also, some workouts didn’t really have a home (like mountain climbers for instance), so I rounded in other areas as best I could to fit.

I’m pretty pleased with the results. I definitely want to see how this would change month to month, so I’m doing it again. I’d love to see the back/lats/shoulders go up; but I was shocked just how many stomach and leg exercises I did.