This week’s success story is an interview with Michal Stawicki. Michal is someone that I admire very much, not only do I think that he is a fantastic writer but is also a really great guy, he is a brilliant example of making the most of every moment of your life, how does he do this? Through good habits. Michal has on average 30 good habits that he has incorporated into his daily routine which means he completes a lot of important tasks every day.
Not only has developing good habits been great for Michal’s general everyday life, it has also lead to him incorporating an awesome writing schedule which has enabled him to write 15 books. Through writing these books Michal was then able to generate a side income, through the royalties from his first bestseller his was then able to afford a mortgage and purchase his first house and renovate it!
You can view Michal’s books for sale on Amazon here.
Let’s get to the interview!
Please can you tell us about yourself and your background?
Really, there is not much to tell. I was born in Poland and have spent my entire life here. My story, up to a certain point [see question #5], is absolutely average: a school, a high school, university, marriage, kids, job, and then another job.
I was a model example of a modern man who pursued the standard path set by the society. And I was frustrated and lost, like most of us are. I had been spending 10-12 hours away from home in a corporate environment only to put the bread on the table. I had a feeling that behind all this activity I lived my life with no deeper meaning.
Writing was a big part of the solution that got me out of that hole.
How do you combine your regular working job with writing eBooks? Can you tell us about your daily routine?
Writing is actually not a problem. You could’ve asked any guy how can he combines his job with watching football or playing computer games. I immensely enjoy writing. I have no troubles finding time for it. It gets tricky when it comes to all other activities involved with being an author: edition, re-edition, proofreading, maintaining social media presence, staying in touch with my readers, being active in authors groups and so on.
I prefer to write early in the morning, at home, before going to work. However, I often go to sleep late and have a choice of being sleep deprived or moving a writing session further in the day. I almost always choose to get enough sleep.
I do quite a lot of writing during my 50-minute commute to work (or from it). Sometimes, when there is a quiet time at the office I write even at work.
My daily routine is usual a daily chaos. Apart from the first hour of the day which I use for my morning ritual, I rarely can predict how the day will unfold. During the commute to and from work I will then work on my stuff or take a nap. With the sheer crazy amount of activities I do every day, I constantly struggle to get enough sleep.
I write, I publish on Quora every day, I am active in a few Facebook groups, I keep my online journal, I coach online and perform dozens of daily habits every day. Of course, this is what I do in my “second life” that happens next to the ordinary life I lead: marriage, church community, kids and a day job.
I also reserve my evenings for shutting down my brain. I pray, spend some time with my kids and wife, go through my habits list one last time and fill my gratitude journals. This ritual (and exhaustion 😉 ) ensures that I usually fall into sleep within a couple of minutes.
How did you discover the importance of developing good habits?
On 10th of August 2012 I read the book “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson. The whole premise of the book can be condensed into one chart:
You either follow good habits and reap their fruits or succumb to bad habits and regret it down the road.
You seem very dedicated to “good habits”, how has this improved your life? How many good habits have your incorporated into your daily routine?
Habits are tremendously important. In the end, they decide about who we are, because they work constantly and compound. What you habitually do define who you are.
I attribute every positive change in my life to habits.
After reading “The Slight Edge” I decided to follow Jeff Olson’s advice and started several disciplines (that’s how he named habits in his book). I observed encouraging results quite fast, for example, a month after starting my speed reading program I read 50% faster. Thus I committed myself even more into developing good habits in other areas. The longer I stuck with them, the better were my results- exactly as Jeff promised. After a few months, I was hooked for good.
Nowadays I have a couple dozen habits and I track them in the Coach.me application. I do them fairly consistently. I have at least another dozen that I don’t track in the app, but do them every day nonetheless.
And how have they improved my life? Just several examples that will blow your socks off:
My nutrition, sleep, exercise and mental maintenance habits gave me a bulletproof health. I was sick last time in July 2013.
I started a writing habit in 2013. I produced over 1,150,000 words, published 15 books and earned about $20,000 from royalties in the past three years.
I overcame my shyness in one on one interactions. I even started a couple of friendships during my commute to work.
I read about twice as fast as four years ago. I read dozens of books during my daily speed reading practices.
Thanks to the consistency of my writing I published on Quora over 600 answers, got over 1,600,000 views there and almost 1100 followers, all in less than a year.
My side income provided enough funds that in 2014 we could contribute to the mortgage and buy our first house.
This is just ‘top off my head’ list. I could continue enumerating various benefits of my habits for quite some time!
What made you decide to get involved in the world of writing books and to become an author?
I’m a lifelong reader. I learned to read when I was six. My grandfather used to brag in front of his friends giving me a normal newspaper for adults and making me read a random article.
When I was about 10 years old my sole hobby was reading. I had been reading 4-15 hours a day for several years in a row. I had a dream to become an author and created my own stories since early childhood. I loved to put myself as a character of the books I read and change the plot.
But the dream was soon buried under adolescence dilemmas and adult life. Before I turned 20 I wrote only 2 short stories and some poetry. When I got a master’s degree I was writing one poem per several months, maybe as rarely as once a year.
In 2012 I started a massive personal development program and one of its element was creating my personal mission statement. During the soul searching I made, I discovered I still want to be a writer deep in my heart.
I won’t bore you with the whole story, but my road to become a published writer was littered with dead ends and failures. Eventually, after about 6 months and encouraged by my friend, I decided to publish non-fiction in English.
From the very beginning of re-discovering my passion for writing, I thought about it as a career, but I had no clue how to actually turn my words into income.
When I saw the first purchases of my book made by the people living on the other side of the world who have never heard about me, I knew that I finally arrived at the “career” station.
You primarily publish your books as eBooks through Amazon KDP, where did you learn to create an eBook and upload it to KDP?
I work in IT and I’m amazed how simple the publishing process has become and how it’s getting easier every month. Today you can write your book in a Word document, create an account on KDP, which is almost as simple as creating any other account online, upload your manuscript, slap the cover, fill some additional details and you’ve just become an author!
After publishing 15 books on various platforms I can do it totally exhausted and sleep deprived (which I did a few times). However, it wasn’t so obvious for the first time. Fortunately for me, I bought a great book by Steve Scott and used it as my guideline. Remember, I was doing this for the first time, in a foreign language and his book took me through the process without a single hiccup. It took me exactly 47 days since writing the first word of the book till hitting the “publish” button. I highly recommend this book; its content is still relevant, even with dynamic changes that took place in the digital publishing in the last few years.
Was your first published eBook a success?
To my surprise – yes! At the beginning the sales were meagre, it was selling about a copy a day (often zero copies) for the first 6 or 8 months. But unlike any of my other books “A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness” has been selling consistently every single month since the moment it was published till now. I sold over 2,400 copies of it so far.
What did you learn from your failures? What do you know now that you wished you had known when you first started your writing venture?
I knew everything. Seriously. Scott’s book was like a publishing industry in a pill.
I wish I had believed and embraced that knowledge since the beginning. Writing is about 20% of being an author. It’s a very important part, without a quality material every other activity is much harder if not in vain altogether. But it’s a small part. I estimate that the publishing process (edition, coming up with the title, book description, keywords and categories, cover design etc.) is another 20%. The rest is marketing. That is of course if you are thinking about your writing as a career. If you consider it a hobby the proportion may be totally different.
I didn’t really realise how much prep work comes into making a book success. If I knew I would have reassessed my strategy putting more effort into building my platform and online presence. I didn’t, that’s why my author career reminds a rollercoaster ride with a few highs and many downs.
How many eBooks have you now sold?
Tracking sales was easy when I had just a few books and they all were available exclusively on Amazon. But with a small place for error I estimate my book sales for about 20,500 copies, an overwhelming majority of them were in digital format and only a few hundred were paperbacks. And I sold about a dozen copies of my first audiobook.
You publish your income reports online via your website, why did you decide to do that?
As I explained in my first report, I wanted to show the world the real thing. Yes, everybody knows stories of J. K. Rowling or Stephen King: how they struggled when they were starting out. Every so often a new success story appears and it gives the false impression that writing is an easy career. Kindle predators, folks who games the system and “teach” others to do the same are making fortunes on naive folks who believe this fad.
However, that there are only about 10,000 authors making more than $10,000 a year on Amazon which has at least 70% of a digital market and 40% of paperback market. Do the math. There are less than 20,000 authors in the world earning more than $10,000 a year from book royalties. My story is of course uniquely mine, but it also vividly demonstrates how many years it takes to become an overnight success.
In reference to your income reports, can you confirm the amount you have earned during your most successful month?
How have you developed your author brand? Have you been on podcasts, written guests posts, created an email list etc. ?
I created my email list very early thanks to Scott’s advice. But I was hopeless with it, so for the first 7 months I got less than 60 subscribers. I got more in one day several weeks ago when my InstaFreebie giveaway ran.
An email list is a most fundamental tool for author business. It’s also a tool to develop your brand, but first and foremost it serves to be in contact with one’s readers and cultivate those author-reader relationships, no matter on which platforms you are active. It makes you independent of giants who can smash your business to a pulp in a heartbeat. Google, Facebook or Amazon are not your friends, but business partners and you never know when their objectives will collide with yours. Your email list gives you a power to ignore their decisions and move with your audience to another platform if necessary.
I’m doing relatively poor with my marketing activities. In the last 4 years I published maybe a couple dozen guest posts, a couple dozen articles on some websites and magazines and gave less than a dozen podcast interviews. I was focused on cranking out the content and, with my day job, it left very little time for anything else.
I chose only three social media platforms to be active on: Quora, Facebook and Twitter. This is currently manageable for me.
For any readers looking to earn an additional income by writing and selling eBooks, what tips would you give them?
Treat your writing as a profession, not as a hobby, even if you dedicate only a few hours a week to this side hustle. The basics, the magic “show up” factor for any writer is his writing discipline. You may be a terrific marketer, but first you need something to produce in order to market it.
Develop a writer’s discipline. If possible, write every single day. Mornings are the best time for some uninterrupted, focused work.
Have patience. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Consistency matters more than any rewards or even revenues, especially at the beginning. If you taught your readers that you publish a book every two months, you would better stick to that schedule!
Start an email list even before you publish your first book. If you don’t know what an “email list” is, go and educate yourself. I know only one successful self-published author (and I know hundreds) who doesn’t have an email list and he writes fiction, which is by far more popular than non-fiction. Start on Amazon. Other vendors are lagging behind, they have a much smaller market share and according to my experience, they don’t know how to give exposure to self-publishers. Focusing at the beginning at one platform will spare you some headaches (like different schools of formatting a manuscript) and Amazon is big enough to generate some additional income for you.
What are your plans to take your writing career further in the future?
I currently pivot. I’ve published 15 books and that didn’t get me where I wanted to be (a full time writer). So, I’m changing my strategy, I’ll focus on marketing. I have plenty of content to market.
I started recently a few activities and I track results. I will focus on those that will provide most effects for the time invested.
At the beginning of September, I took several of my books back into KDP Select program and started advertising them on Amazon. So far I’m satisfied. I spent on my ads a bit more than I earned, but I managed to recover a few of my books from the abyss of oblivion. I hope that this additional exposure will position them better in the market.
I also organised a few giveaways on InstaFreebie platform and had great results with those. In just a couple of months I have increased my email list which I’ve been building for 3 years by 50%.
I’m looking actively for more podcast interviews and guest posts opportunities.
I expanded into Medium platform and publish articles there fairly regularly.
I’m going to organise webinars about my books and turn them into coaching programs.
And I continue to publish every day on Quora and a few times a month on my blog.
My plan for my writing career now is to make myself and my books more visible. Only when I build up my audience and platform to the next level I will reconsider publishing more books.