I want to share with you something new that I am trying on a very small scale, and something I know that has a lot of potential for making money – the ticket brokering business.
No you don’t have to become a big ticket exchange house, nor do you need to invest all the money you’ve got. This industry is highly fragmented and there is room for all kinds of participants, big or small.
I will explain the reasons I am trying this out, but by no means do I intend to develop this into a large business – although it could become one option down the road for someone interested in this type of business.
I feel this experiment is relevant to share here because it is one that you can participate in during your pockets of availability, and one that takes a relatively small amount of time and investment to get started with.
Similar to what I’ve repeatedly said about a web based business, or any other for that matter, the same principles apply to this in that you can reinvest your profits back into your business and grow it over time if you choose to turn it into a long term business rather than a one time opportunistic transaction.
So this is how it all started that got me thinking about this initiative…
I am a big college basketball fan and have attended the last two Final Four tournaments. The last tournament was particularly special because my Alma Matter – The University of Michigan Wolverines made it this far.
Having experienced two Final Four weekends now purely as a fan and from a consumer’s perspective, I wanted to capitalize on this year’s event and profit from it as the event will be hosted in Dallas at the Cowboys (now called AT&T) stadium.
What I wanted to do was invest some of my own capital purchasing event tickets well before the event. I thought to myself, as the event gets closer and demand builds up, I can sell my tickets in the secondary market for a handsome profit.
While the potential returns are north of 100%, I am not doing this just for the profits. I thoroughly enjoy this particular annual event and all the festivities that come with it during the weekend it’s held. For me, it is more about being part of the event as well with my friends who enjoy college basketball, and fortunately, I will be in a situation where I can do that.
I don’t remember the last time I attended a big entertainment event where I had planned it well ahead of time. My trips have always been last minute, literally just days prior to the event. A lot of this has to do with not knowing which teams will be participating or the unpredictability at times of my own schedule.
The fact is that most people are likely not in a situation to pre plan well ahead of time as far as events go. Schedules change, commitments arise, and there is just too much unpredictability for many to risk committing to an event that far out.
Having said that, as you can guess I have never paid face value for tickets to such large events that I have attended in the past. There is almost no way you could if you decide to attend the last minute. This experience has proven true again and again. Here are some of the other larger events I have attended for which I have grossly overpaid:
I am sure I am missing some from this list, but the point is that there is always some type of event that interests someone. You may not be interested in sports, but you may jokingly be a die-hard Justin Bieber fan. You may not enjoy Sting, but you’d pay any price to see David Copperfield do magic tricks that you know are fake.
If you don’t plan well ahead of time to attend whichever events you’re interested in, if the event is a popular one that is likely to sell out, chances are that you will end up overpaying for tickets through a secondary market. This has been true for me for any popular event I remember attending.
Some enterprising individuals recognize the possibility that people (fans) will be scrambling for tickets at the last minute to attend sought after events. In anticipation of this, they purchase several tickets to the event in advance at face value directly from the original seller. In many cases the original distribution is done through a ticket exchange partner such as Ticket Master.
The opportunity for the entrepreneur is of course the likelihood that people will want to attend the event and thus willing to pay a higher price as the event gets closer and they become more desperate to secure tickets. The value proposition to the consumer is the flexibility to not commit to and plan ahead of time and still be able to attend the event at the last minute if they want and are able to.
There are countless ways to make money, and one of my goals on this blog is to introduce alternatives that can produce extra income for you in your spare time (those that do not require full time involvement). Ticket brokering is one such alternative, on a small or big scale, and whether as a one-time transaction or an on-going business initiative.
While I often write about several low start-up cost and passive business models mainly based online, I don’t want to ignore viable businesses models that require up-front investment. In fact, if you’ve heard the phrase “money makes money”, it is true and possibly the fastest way to make more of it.
It is no accident that the rich get richer. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the rich have capital set aside ready to be deployed at profitable opportunities. Capital leverage is the best and quickest way to magnify financial returns, especially from a tried and tested business model that we know has worked repeatedly in the past.
Here are some examples. Opening up a McDonal’s franchise in an emerging market (new country), investing in a dying brick and mortar business you know inside out which you know you can turn around and sell for a profit, or investing in the stock market in significantly undervalued equities, taking advantage of depressed real estate valuations like we saw in 2008 or currencies when they are at their rock bottom. The examples can go on forever. The point is – it is most always easier and quicker to take money and multiply it rather than to create it from scratch.
When I first started this blog, my goal was to discuss various alternative methods to generate some extra money, which are mostly and traditionally methods that require start-up capital. But fortunately because of the time we live in today, the internet has made it possible to create income streams from a relatively low capital investment perspective.
This caused a shift in my focus. While the focus of many articles on this blog weigh more on the online platform and passive income streams based online, I certainly don’t want to ignore the more traditional, tried and tested methods of making money. These methods worked back then, still work today and will likely work forever in the future. There is a reason why there is a Starbucks on every corner.
Learning to mobilize your excess funds so that you can earn a handsome return on investment (higher than the rate of inflation and other alternatives you are comfortable with) is just as important in my opinion, if not more important, than learning how to create new passive income streams online. Why? Because starting a profitable online business may be a far-fetched reality for many for various reasons, but saving part of an active income and investing it is rather the common norm given that most people in this world work for a wage.
One of my property managers once told me: “Sunil, stop worrying about every darn small little thing. It takes money to make money. I’d gladly hand your property back to you to manage”.
The message rubbed me the wrong way when I was scrutinizing the rehab invoices he was sending me. He had spent over $5,000 turning over a property and getting it ready for the next tenant. He changed the carpet, repainted the whole place, fixtures, caulking, etc. I wasn’t very happy about this – at least initially.
But when I took a step back to think about it, I realized that the previous tenant was there for six years. The next one will likely be there for another three or more, and the rehab job we did is going to last at least six years.
When the cost is spread out over time, the return on investment significantly outweighs the money I had to shell out. I can lease the unit quicker, attract better tenants, a longer lease and demand more money.
The whole thing totally makes sense. Just like we are putting in the hard work now to build a better, strong future, the same can be said about investing. You sow the seed today with your investment dollars to see the growth of your investment down the road.
This was of course years back, however still very vivid in my memory. These days, $5,000 turn-around jobs are routine and I am rarely bothered by them because I know they are a necessity and that the investment will produce far greater returns down the road.
Another reason to consider initiatives that require investment of cash is that your money will lose value if it sits around doing nothing. It’s one thing to have it working for you in high interest rate vehicles, but cash most likely loses its value over time as we experience inflation. The cost of milk today is much higher than what it was 10 years ago.
While it is important to balance the return potential to the risk and your comfort level with a particular investment, it is also very important to diversify and have fun when possible. If you enjoy picking stocks, then pick them. If you enjoy working with real estate property, buy them. I find sporting events and the activities around the events fun as well – and if I can find a way to profit from it, then I will definitely pursue the initiative.
It is very important to thoroughly research and understand your competition whenever engaging in a profit generating initiative. I am aware that the ticket brokering business is dominated by few online giants such as Stub Hub and Fan Snap, but there are countless other specialty online brokerages and smaller players as well. This is a highly fragmented and very local market.
In addition to online avenues, there are also several individuals like myself who are doing this both at local and national levels. Professional ticket brokers travel city to city and State to State depending on the event they are working on.
With that said, my goal is not to become one of either. My goal is to carve out my own little niche around specific events I know and am comfortable with, in markets I am very familiar with or want to get familiar with. In fact, depending on how this particular experiment goes, I might just call it a one-time transaction and never do it again. Time will tell how much I enjoy this process and how financially viable it turns out.
I definitely want to start with the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and if that goes well I want to extend this activity to the Super Bowl as well and other handful of high profile College Football Bowl games. If things go especially well and I find myself enjoying the process, I may pursue other one off events like a big boxing match or a highly sought after concert.
As I started researching and learning more about ticket brokering, I realized this “business” is one of the simplest forms of businesses. It is really not much different from a retail company. If you think of how a retailer like Home Depot works, it’s pretty simple.
The business first deploys capital to buy products at bulk / lower prices and then resells them to its customers for a profit. It takes its profits and reinvests them back into the business. It does this over time until it snowballs into several locations across various markets.
Ticket brokering is no different. I reached out to several family members and friends and requested them to enter the lottery through which each can secure up to 4 tickets to the games at face value. This is roughly $195 per ticket for the all session pass which includes two Final Four games on Saturday and then the final game on Monday.
I had several folks enter and I ended up with 22 who were granted tickets. I now have 88 tickets in my possession for a total investment of $17,160. Think about this as Home Depot spending $17,160 to purchase inventory.
If you are wondering, most events generally have an early bird window within which you can pre order tickets to an event. This is how you secure tickets at face value.
As with any for profit initiative or investment, this has its own set of risks to consider. We all hear about the glorious stories, but we don’t always hear about brokers losing money on events. If brokers are not able to sell all their tickets, they may lose money on the event. Many times they recover their investment and simply break even, but it is not uncommon to lose a lot of money.
Full time brokers deal with a lot of unpredictability, uncertainty and chance all the time. For example, weather can impact an event’s turn out. Local, political and economic events can also interfere with various events. Similarly, many such unpredictable factors are involved that can impact an entertainment event’s turn out.
I wouldn’t say this is a complete gamble because brokers don’t go into this totally blind. This is a calculated initiative that carries its own set of risks similar to any other. And like any other initiative, it is important to study and understand everything related to the business.
For example, by starting out with the Final Four, I know that the event will be held in Dallas at the Cowboy stadium, also known as Jerry’s world. I know that the stadium itself is an attraction and a place many sports fans want to visit. I also researched that prior major sporting events in Dallas have always been profitable and turned out record crowds and fan participation.
At the same time, I also know that places and activities are more spread out in Dallas unlike Atlanta where the last event was. There are going to be commuter challenges involved, and it’ll be interesting how visitors from out of town deal with this. It is always more attractive to have all activities taking place centrally whenever attending a big event – whether that’s a sporting event or a business conference. Unfortunately, the Dallas metro plex is not quite consolidated. It’s a very wide spread out region.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing your homework, especially when high stakes are involved. The more success an individual experiences, the easier it is to impulsively get involved with something because the individual fees he or she can’t do anything wrong.
This is a big trap that even the best fall into, which take them back to reality and remind them that each business initiative stands on its own and should be approached accordingly with adequate due diligence. This is referred to as business hubris.
After going through two Final Four experiences, I realized that I wanted to become financially involved in this event. My friends and I purchased tickets for well over 100% of their face value. I almost fell into this trap after my first Final Four. But thanks to short term memory and some other things that distracted me away from the past experience, I didn’t get involved right away. The experience after the second Final Four trip however tipped me over the hump.
Few weeks after the event, I set aside several hours each week to study the previous Final Four events. I researched the venues, participating teams, attendance, local vs. out of State attendance, impact on the local economy and several other attributes which I logged into a spreadsheet. This helped me understand the marketability of the event, or the potential demand that may exist for tickets.
I reached out to my network to get connected with several ticket brokers, part time and full time. I spent hours talking to each about the business, how it works, how they got started, the pitfalls they fell into, the “secrets” to big successes they’ve had and just the business overall.
This was time extremely well spent. It was not only knowledgeable but also fascinating. Even if I were not to move forward with this initiative, the conversations educated me so much more about the business than I learned on my own. Nothing beats personal experience, thus the value in personal one on one coaching. Many of my thoughts in this article come from my discussions with brokers.
A full time ticket brokering business is a much broader discussion, but the points below are some important considerations to take into account if this is a business model you are interested in.
Many of these points can be applied to one time initiatives, as well as a part time ticket brokering business. Many brokers focus on just one team near where they live and do this on the side.
Here are some things to consider:
One of the keys to a full time ticket brokering business is building relationships (isn’t this true for every business?). You build a network over time of suppliers, customers and allies who can connect you to the customer. For example, if you have a good relationship with a concierge associate at a hotel, they may refer hotel guests looking for event tickets to you. It’s smart to build many such strategic relationships and even incentivize your contacts to send you business.
Similarly, connecting with human resource personnel, corporate marketing departments, secretaries who work for high profile bosses, professionals like lawyers and CPAs who deal with clients all the time helps tremendously. Focus on building a rolodex of connections who will either buy directly or connect you to the buyer. Treat them well, especially those who are sending you business consistently.
Build a rolodex of sources to get tickets from at face value. Many times, the box office will leak them out to their personal contacts. This is how many brokering sites have tickets to events before the tickets go on public sale. Yes, I don’t necessarily agree with this practice but the reality is that it happens all the time.
In addition to larger institutional supplier contacts, also maintain a list of individuals (like I did) that you can reach out to who will buy tickets on your behalf. A single buyer is usually allowed to buy a certain number of tickets during a pre-sale, a lottery system or the day the tickets go on sale at face value. Incentivize them for their time so they are more inclined to do it the next time around.
You can’t sell something you don’t have. Identify and record sources from where you can buy. This can be organizations and individuals. Maintain a rolodex of contacts and consider an email newsletter system to manage communications.
Identify key events that you know are going to be a hit, especially in your immediate area. It helps to be a local here, particularly if you happen to live in a place like Los Angeles or Atlanta where several “big events” happen year in year out. Always research the event’s past history, performers and venues. The more information you gather, the more successful you are likely to be as you can more accurately estimate demand and potential for profitability. Over time, the better you get to know a recurring event, or a recurring performer / performance in a recurring venue, the better your chances of success will be.
Now that we have the purchasing side covered, let’s talk selling.
When you have a hot commodity in possession that everyone wants, selling becomes that much easier. All you need to do is find a platform that makes your commodity visible. For example, if you have an inventory of branded products, you may post them on Amazon or Ebay. Similarly, avenues exist specifically for entertainment even ticket sales. Stub Hub and Prime Sports are two examples of these.
In addition, there are always auction sites like Ebay where you can auction off your tickets. You also have local classified sites like Craigslist where you don’t have to pay to list or sell your tickets.
Finally, you have the social platforms involving human interaction. For example, you can strike up a deal with a local hotel who can buy your tickets from you and offer them in a bundle package when they sell their rooms.
You can make contact with a hotel concierge and tell them that you have tickets in case their guests are looking to buy them. Of course you want to offer some incentive like a small finders fee in return.
Professionals like lawyers, accountants and financial advisors are always looking to entertain their clients. Build a network of these folks and keep them informed of your inventory. There are countless other examples of people, places and platforms that you can tap into to expand your reach and sell as much of your inventory as possible.
Ideally, you want to unload everything prior to the event so that you can also enjoy the event without the stress of unsold inventory in the back of your mind. Unlike products which can be sold at another date, tickets to events have a very limited shelf life.
All brokerage fees and costs are tax deductible. If you travel for this business, you can deduct travel costs, part of your meals and entertainment, mileage, etc. By doing this, you will lower your effective tax rate and thus increase your overall take home returns. Read this article for more clarity on this topic. You can also incorporate your business if you plan on doing it long term, truly maximizing your tax and legal protection benefits.
The more I researched and the more thought I gave it, the more ticket brokering appeared as a really interesting trade to get involved in. You can definitely earn several thousand and tens of thousands of dollars doing this in your spare time alone, even if you were to focus just on local events. The key is to establish the necessary relationships over time. Your network will grow over time and word of mouth alone can bring you consistent business. This statement can be true for any business.
The other nice thing about this initiative is that many sought after events are held on weekends. If you are a working professional who has weekends off from work, you can use some weekends and holidays to travel to local events which you plan to profit from. You don’t have to, but you have the option to.
Before I conclude with the tax benefits and upsides, I do want to state that it is important to start on a small scale when you are first trying this out. In fact, I’ll go as far as stating that you should only use capital you can afford to lose in a worst case situation. In addition, it is also important to recognize that you will have your capital tied up until you are able to sell your inventory of tickets. It is only then that you will realize profits that you can reinvest back into your business.
This business is interesting from a legal and regulatory perspective as well. Scalping has a very negative connotation, but the reality is that it happens every day everywhere.
If you are going to participate in scalping, referred to cleanly as “ticket brokering”, you must be aware of the local laws where you are doing business. Scalping laws vary broadly from one jurisdiction to another.
Some States may have their own laws, whereas cities within those States may have their own. Furthermore, event sites have their own laws. For example, some event sites (i.e football stadiums) will allow you to resell tickets at the gates, while others don’t allow it within 500 feet.
What makes things even messier is the determination of the origin of the seller. Where were you when you bought the ticket originally, where were you when you sold it, where and how did you physically sell it and execute the transaction, etc. The capability to trade over the internet makes this a very confusing topic from a legal and regulatory perspective. You also brokers who locate themselves at the border of certain jurisdictions so the more favorable laws apply to them.
That said, you will learn the ropes of the trade once you immerse yourself in it. The internet makes all this information very much accessible. When in doubt, call the local police station and ask them about what the laws are in their area. You will learn a lot of this from practical experience as you gain experience and spread your geographical participation over time. I am amazed at how much I have already learned about the ticket reselling laws and regulations of Dallas and Arlington, TX (where the stadium is) in just a short period of time.
What you will quickly realize is that the laws and regulations are not very clear or granular. They vary broadly, and are applied and enforced differently everywhere. Lawyers are good at convoluting this matter even more, and this is why we see the gorillas like Stub Hub who have their own corporate lawyers who have managed to get away with all sorts of things in the ticket reselling business. An individual on the other hand has to be more cognizant of the law and its applicability.
I’ve had everyone mail me the tickets and I’ve reimbursed everyone through online banking, plus an additional $50 for the 15 minutes of effort they’ve put in on my behalf ordering the tickets. The tickets are listed on two major ticket exchange websites. These sites normally take a 5% hair cut on the selling price.
I have reminders set up on Google Calendar to monitor prices weekly and make adjustments as needed if they have not sold. We are still a bit early so I will leave them untouched for now. I also have a hotel room booked close to event and plan on staying there for accessibility reasons over the weekend festivities. Being there in person helps especially if you plan on selling hard tickets on the day off the event. It also helps if you are selling through platforms like Craigslist. Many utilize these sites because they are free and involve no cost to sell.
While one may hope to sell as many tickets through Craigslist (in person transaction) to avoid fees, large ticket brokering sites have a much broader reach and are likely quicker to sell the tickets. Buyers also feel more comfortable buying through reputable sites as Craigslist is well known for scams (and killings) of all sorts.
If I sell every ticket through a brokering service and pay the brokerage fees, I am anticipating at least a 180% profit based on my experience at the last couple events. I thoroughly studied ticket pricing and monitored the movement in prices from two weeks out all the way to the hour prior to the games. Based on these figures I am approximating roughly $30,888 in profits if I can sell all the tickets.
I’ve calculated the total time investment at roughly 15 hours (super aggressive) between emailing/calling people, ordering, organizing, posting, etc. On the surface, this is a pretty good return on investment. Of course, I anticipate this number increasing as the event nears and I continue to monitor and modify my listings. This number will also increase if I decide to sell in person during the event itself.
Even at 30 hours, I am looking at a profit of $1,029.60 PER HOUR. Of course there are several assumptions I am going with here, but even if I were to discount that by a whopping 50%, I am still looking at a $500+ per hour net return on investment.
This is exactly what I meant when I stated that money makes money. When you have capital saved up ready to be deployed, all you are then doing is waiting for the next opportunity where you feel comfortable enough to take the plunge and where the returns are enough to satisfy your requirements and risk appetite.
It is important that we realize that such opportunities exist everywhere and all around us.
So there you have it, my plan to profit from ticket brokering from the next Final Four weekend. I’m anxious to find out how this turns out.
If you are interested in ticket brokering as a business, understand that like any other, this business requires just as much learning. I thought I could just jump in and make money, but not to my surprise, there is a lot more to learn once you roll up your sleeves and get dirty. Financially speaking, the brokerage business is a longevity game. The longer you do it the bigger your snowball (profits and investment capital) will grow. The more capital you invest the more potential return (and also risk).
If you’d like to give something like this a shot, pick an event you are comfortable with and learn everything you can about it before getting into the ticket brokering business. Like anything else, TAKING ACTION after gathering the knowledge you need is what will drive results.
This last point is important. If I didn’t do my research and talk to enough ticket brokers, I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable putting $17,000 at risk on a brand new investment.
And even if none of this interests you at all, if you have cash sitting around, make an effort to learn about other wealth building alternatives and diversify into methods and vehicles you are comfortable with and those you understand. Utilizing cash to make more cash is the quickest way to make money. This is why the rich get richer. They are able to timely capitalize on opportunities.
If you need tickets to the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four, you know where to come J I will write a follow up post to report the results of this experiment after April. For now, let’s hear your thoughts…
Would you ever considering doing something like this? Why or why not? Are you interested in reading about similar ways to make extra money where an investment is necessary, or would you rather read more about purely internet based, free or at best low cost methods to generate extra income such as publishing ebooks, creating iPhone apps, websites and blogs?
It’s been some time since I have written about the state of my businesses and quite frankly I have been experiencing withdrawals from it.
One of the toughest challenges for me personally has always been where to spend my spare time. With a career and several income streams on the side, I frequently find myself negotiating between pushing the professional career forward or any one of my income streams.
To add to the dilemma, some of the more recent income streams have really started to really pick up and show strong promise, which inherently makes me want to focus on them. That said, something has to take the back seat.
With a limited amount time available to spread between initiatives outside my career, the frequency at which I get to work on side projects, including posting on this blog is significantly slower than someone working online full time.
I have been exclusively focused on creating more ebooks, audio books, iPhone apps, working on two larger authority type websites and experimenting with methods to revive websites that were penalized by search engine algorithm updates. I couldn’t help but break my momentum to share recent success I’ve had with penalized sites.
I have mentioned before that I started this blog to document the various projects I am involved in so that you can see how I was and still am to able to establish various income streams while maintaining a full time career with the idea to be able to replicate it as well if you wanted to.
While I will continue to do exactly that, albeit at a much slower pace than full timers, I want to share some recent success I have had reviving some sites that were impacted by the changes in search engine algorithms, most particularly the Google algorithm updates (Bing and Yahoo have held up for me for the most part).
I have haphazardly shared signs of improvement in traffic at random intervals in the past on my Facebook page. But I wanted to make sure that the success I had with this website was not an anomaly. I wanted to see whether I could experience the same success with other websites as well.
To date I have three websites that have successfully bounced back from the various penalties imposed on them by Google, as well as the impact on traffic due to the various algorithm updates we have seen in the recent past.
Here are some screen shots showing the traffic trends:
This is a site that started recovering in the August time frame. It was down to just a few hundred visitors per day – as good as dead compared to where it was during its hey days. The site is back to the mid three thousands of uniques per day.
This shows a site that started recovering around November. The site was penalized and was down to under 300 unique visitors a day. After several months of working on it the site is now just under 500 visitors per day. There is still some upside to recover but I’ve added 200ish visitors per day to it and I am happy about that.
Finally, this one shows a site that started recovering later in November. It was down to under 300 uniques per day. As I write this post traffic is up to just under 700 uniques per day.
Collectively this is a huge improvement in traffic, and my Google Adsense earnings are definitely reflecting the improvement.
If you’re curious how the traffic breakdown looks like on these, have a look at the pie charts below. Notice that most of the traffic comes from search engines. This is what I want ideally for these particular sites. These sites were created with the sole purpose of profiting from Adsense, information products and affiliate marketing.
Note: None of these sites are “spammy” in nature. I truly believe the content is valuable and of high quality. These sites were impacted by some of the traditional search engine optimization strategies I used to get them to rank higher initially.
You will notice the date ranges are quite varied. The reason for this is that I took my time experimenting with the methods with one site only until I was able to see some results. I wanted to let the results continue for a reasonable period of time before moving on to the next site.
I did the same with site #2 and subsequently site #3. I have a handful of other sites that were impacted which I am currently working on. These sites are larger in nature and were more penalized (I can tell by the number of “bad” back links they have coming into them).
Naturally, these sites will take longer to recover. I will post an update once these have recovered to hopefully further reinforce the methods I used to get the first three back on track.
Fortunately, not all of my sites were impacted. In fact, some of the sites continued to thrive amidst all the algorithm updates and changes and continued to generate a healthy passive income stream.
So here is what I plan to do. I will follow up with several posts and discuss each step I took in detail with the hope that you too can follow along if you’d like if you’ve had some sites that were impacted. The good news is that it didn’t cost me an arm to execute on these. The bad news is that it took a lot of time to methodically get through the exercise.
Considering the net results that I am seeing now, the bad news doesn’t sound bad at all now that I look back in retrospect. But because we are human, the challenge is that just like starting an online business for the first time, there are many unknowns and often doubt creeps in, making us second guess our decision because we don’t know whether it will pay off in the long run. The only way to truly find out is to try. But if we don’t try and take action, we eliminate all possible chances of success to begin with.
In the next post I will discuss how to first confirm whether your site was penalized.
Have you been able to successfully recover a site from Google penalties and algorithm updates? I’d love to hear about how you did it in the comments below. Even if you haven’t fully recovered yet, I’d love to hear what you have tried so far and what you plan on doing in the future?
My favorite emails and messages received on social media platforms are those from people who are able to implement the information I share on this blog and as a result experience success after taking action.
Although this blog makes money, I did not start it to primarily make money. I have several other passive income streams that I built long before I started blogging.
I simply use this blog to document what I know, my experiments and the results. When I see and hear others succeed because of the information I share on this blog, it gets me pumped up and it inspires me to create more content that I feel can help others.
One such example of success is Kara King, who took action and published her first ebook on Amazon few months ago titled “The Power of the Pussy”. Today, she is earning north of $10,000 in royalties every month from her ebook sales. Kara was kind enough to share her story, as well as her process of researching, creating, marketing and profiting from her ebook.
She has transparently shared everything in her story below. I have read it and found it super helpful and more importantly motivational. I hope that you too find it valuable and actionable so that you too can replicate her success if you choose to.
Here is Kara’s story….
My name is Kara King and I’m a successful self published author. I wrote a controversial dating advice book for women called, “The Power of the Pussy“.
My book’s been a best seller since it launched in May of 2012. Even better than being a best seller is the fact that I’m making more money from it than I ever dreamed possible. I wanted to write this article to serve as motivation and encouragement to anyone out there on a quest to self publish an e-book.
During my own personal journey of writing my book, I got a lot of great information from Sunil’s Extra Money Blog. I thought it would be a great karmic payback to write a detailed description of my own personal journey. It’s my hope that I will be able to motivate someone the way Sunil’s blog motivated me.
Over a decade ago, before I ever thought about being a writer, I was a college student and a waitress. In the course of 3 years I worked at The Cheesecake Factory, The Melting Pot, The Crab House, Latin Quarters at Universal Studios and even Bennigans. I would go from restaurant to restaurant because I’d always quit.
I was good at my job. I had great customer service. However, I did not work well under management. I knew that I could not continue on like this forever, and I would eventually go insane. I would have to let go of the financial security it gave me and move onto to pursue my future career.
I wanted to be an on-air radio personality. I wanted to be rich one day. I knew in my heart there was more to life than hourly wages and crappy tips. I was determined to make something of myself.
Unfortunately, with my lack of experience, the only way I could get my foot in the door at the local radio stations was to take minimum wage jobs answering phones. Here I was, at 21 years old, used to a weekly income of at least $400, quitting my job to take a part-time, minimum wage job.
Like most people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had to work to survive. However, I lived with my Mom at the time, so there was no better time to make the sacrifice. I decided to leave the world of dirty dishes and unappreciative managers to pursue my career at a measly $5.25 an hour.
I’m firm believer that you can do and be whatever you want in life. With hard work and a strong belief in yourself, anything is possible. I started at that radio station answering the request line and within months I worked my way up to being a producer. Months later I had my own show and was on my way to having the career I always dreamed of.
Then, a few years into it, reality set in. Once I was engulfed in the industry, I realized I would probably never make more than $40k a year. Even worse, it could take 10 years to work my way up to that level. To top it all off, there was no guarantee of success and I was still under the command of managers.
After three years, the new wore off and the fun began to dissipate. I began to get depressed. I would cry on my way to work. I wondered what I could ever do to escape the monotony of the rat race. I would day dream about investing in real estate, the stock market or opening a business. Anything to get away from the hum drum life of living pay check to pay check.
In between all of this radio chaos, I had met the man that would become my future husband. We both worked very hard for very little and we were really getting sick of it. We knew there was a better way.
Self employment was the only answer. I left my unrealistic dreams of striking it rich with a radio career behind me and began a family. We used the money from our tax return to open our first small business; a screen enclosure repair company. I also began to invest in real estate via tax deed auctions. The tax deed auctions began to take off and I had profited $20k off of my first flip! Life was going well.
We decided to move up to Central Florida to be near my Father, who was my financial partner in the real estate business. We invested in our next property and moved into it while we were waiting to sell it.
One month later, to everyone’s surprise, The Great Recession struck like lightning. The next few years would be the hardest yet, but it all brought me to where I am now. So, I honestly don’t know whether to call it bad timing or divine intervention.
Our screen business failed. Our real estate investments flopped. We were stuck in the investment house for years. I’m sure everyone has similar stories and can relate to the hardships of this terrible recession.
We could barely find work at a decent living wage. We had two kids to take care of. At times, it was really scary. We decided to open another business. We took our tax return (again) and gambled it on our next venture.
My husband and I opened a wildlife trapping company called Rodent and Wildlife Control in 2008. It was our saving grace. We made $60k in profits our fist year. We did very well…at times. Other times…not so well.
The Great Recession spared no mercy. It was literally a financial roller coaster. Up and down, up and down, month after month, year after year. I was tired of the uncertain ride and I wanted off! My life was not supposed to be like this! I was turning 30 soon and I was supposed to be on my way to riches by now.
Although a lot of people would have been very content with where we were at that time, I was not satisfied. It was a constant battle to churn up enough business to catch up, only to fall back into a slump. I was mad at the recession. I was mad at myself. I was pissed off. I decided I was going to channel my energy into something productive, rather than sit around in pity and wait for the recession to end.
I decided I was going to write an ebook. I wanted to write a book for women who struggled with men, relationships and dating. The reason I thought I could do this is because I had a really great husband. I knew what I did (and didn’t do) to land such a great man. I always had these opinions floating around in my head about the subject. I knew my ideas could be beneficial to women, especially young women looking for an honest, committed man in their life.
So I started writing a page or two here and there. I also purchased an ebook that discussed how to make a living writing ebooks. It gave me the foundation necessary to begin my long and grueling journey into being an ebook author. The most important message I got from this $27 ebook, I am going to share with you today for free.
100 people will decide they’re going to write a book. 20 of them will actually sit down and start. Five of them will actually finish the book. However, only one of them will actually get it edited, formatted, published and marketed. I decided I was going to be that one, no matter what.
Then at the very end of 2009, New Years Eve to be exact, we accidentally got pregnant. The pregnancy was hard on me. I couldn’t do much. But I could write! I think it was another case of divine intervention. I wrote for months and months. I wrote while caring for my newborn. I wrote in between baths, home work, working on the business’s website, taking calls and paying bills. I churned out about 80 pages in that time frame.
Then, it happened. I got discouraged and I put the book on the back burner. I was becoming one of the people I said I wouldn’t be! It just seemed like such a far away goal. Sure, I had 80 pages written, but I was no where near having a completed book. I had three kids, a household and a business to run. It was hard enough to find the time to bathe, let alone write!
About 6 months went by and I’d totally forgotten about the book. Then one day I turned on my computer to find an email from my Grandmother. She told me she had found the copy of my book. It was a copy that I had emailed to my cousin and specifically instructed her not to let Grandma find it on her computer.
My book is very sexually explicit and definitely not something I would ever want one of my Grandparents reading. Yikes! I was so embarrassed, but she went on to say that she loved the book. She encouraged me to get it done and seek publication. She believed that what I was writing was very important information and could help a lot of women. That email gave me the encouragement I needed to get back to work.
Over the next few months I cranked out another 50 pages. Then, it happened again. I became discouraged. Now that I had the bulk of the book done, it was time to work out all of the kinks. I needed to finalize, organize, edit and format the book. There was just so much work involved; it seemed like it would never end. Writing a book is not easy. It takes a lot of dedicated, disciplined, consistent hard work with no guarantee of ever seeing a dime.
I dealt with my discouragement this time by going online and finding other success stories. (This is why I wanted to write this article. There is someone just like me searching for motivation right now and I want to give it to them.) I would search for success stories about self published authors. I had to know that other people had succeeded. That I wasn’t just day dreaming or wasting my time. One of the sites that I came across was Sunil’s Extra Money Blog.
The information on his blog was invaluable, but the honesty and transparency gave me a great boost of motivation. That’s because Sunil had published a picture of a check he received from his ebook royalties. It was a $3,000 dollar check. I printed it out and put it on my wall next to my computer. I also wrote to him to thank him for publishing it.
A lot of people talked about their success, but no one had ever been brave enough to publish the actual checks to serve as proof. Something about witnessing that check put the fire back inside of me. It proved to me that success was real and it was within reach. It wasn’t just a fantasy. People did make money from their ebooks. I now had the proof hanging on my wall.
From that point on, there was no stopping me. Any moment I had, I worked. My poor husband only had one day off a week from our business. He would stay with the kids the whole day while I went in the room and worked.
We both made huge sacrifices without ever knowing if it would pay off, but we were so tired of the rat race (no pun intended) that having a glimmer of hope kept us going. By the time the baby was a year old, I had officially finished the book. It was invigorating. I couldn’t believe I had actually written a book.
Unfortunately, that was only half the battle. It was now time to edit and format the book. I went through 18 drafts before I came to a final product. I had 4 family members and friends go through and edit it. Even after all of this, there were still mistakes throughout the book. I also had to gather affiliate links, file the copyright, format the book for Kindle, and a get a cover put together. The list of chores began to get overwhelming.
I couldn’t keep track of all the random things that I had to do for the book to get it done. So, I sat down one day and made a list of every last little thing that needed to be done to get to the finish line. I printed out the list and hung it on my wall (right next to that check). Every time I would get something done, I would scratch it off and over time the list grew smaller and smaller
This process took an additional year to complete. I did not have the money to hire people to do anything for me. From becoming an affiliate, creating the cover, filing the copyright, to formatting and publishing; I did everything by myself. This added a lot of time and stress to the process, but I couldn’t do it any other way.
If I could go back in time, I would have figured out a way to hire an editor. That was my one regret. I published the book trusting only my friends, family and my own editing skills. That was a mistake. After publishing, I had to eventually pay an editor. Even after an editor got a hold of it, there were still mistakes.
Sunil’s comments: I agree with Kara that tasks such as formatting, editing, proofing should be outsourced if you can manage to do so. I have been using Elance for these sorts of tasks for years now, and over time have identified my “go-to” resources for every task related to publishing and marketing an ebook.
I personally decided to add affiliate links into my book because of the research I had done about creating ebooks. Everyone talked about inserting affiliate links. I almost didn’t do it because it took some work. I had to learn how to insert the links into my book. Which at the time was a difficult task, but now that I look back I can laugh, because it’s really so easy to do.
The most difficult part creating affiliate links is establishing the accounts and going through the approval process. However, now that it’s all said and done, I will continue to make money off of these links for the rest of my life. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go the lazy route and that it’s something I chose to follow through with.
My book actually meshes well with its affiliate links. There are perfect spots throughout my book where I point women to additional resources. For example, dating sites, books, mp3 links, and even a sex store! The links are really quite helpful for my readers, so I’m happy. Not only because I earn a little bit of extra income from it, but because they’re actually helping my readers.
My favorite affiliate accounts are Clickbank.com and Amazon Affiliates. I like these two because they were easy to set up and there’s an endless array of products to choose from. There are affiliate accounts for just about anything these days. Be creative and I’m sure you can find a way to promote just about any product that exists.
I even include my own links to my book’s Twitter and Facebook accounts at the end of my book. It’s kind of like being an affiliate for myself. I can build loyalty, trust and a connection amongst my readers by interacting with them. Then, I can update them about my next book and occasionally promote affiliate links via my social network.
My next step was the cover. This was the one thing I was willing to spend some money on. I needed my cover to be able to stand up against the published author’s covers. I had a certain level of quality that I was expecting. Unfortunately, the cover artist idea of professionalism and my idea of professionalism didn’t match. Once the work was delivered to me, I was heart-broken. It was not at all what I was expecting, so sadly I had to fire her. Like the old saying goes, “if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself.”
I downloaded the open office application. It’s a free application similar to word. I learned how to make my cover on that application. I liked the application so much that I now use it to write and format my books. You can export any document into a PDF file too. It took me about four weeks of toying around with the program, but eventually I ended up with a cover that I loved. Better yet, I did it all by myself and it was free!
Sunil’s notes: Sadly, many judge a book by its cover. This is simply reality, whether we like it or not. I highly recommend you outsource the creation of a professional ebook cover if design is not your forte. Although you can use services like Elance and Logo Tournament to get an ebook cover done, I have found Fiverr to be just as good of a resource and much more economical. The only thing you need to keep in mind when using Fiverr is that you have to be very detailed and specific about what you want the freelancer to do. Many freelancers will give you one opportunity to provide feedback and they will incorporate it in their design. However, don’t expect more than once chance. Many don’t even give you that. When hiring from Elance and Logo Tournament, you don’t pay unless you are fully satisfied. If you are new at outsourcing, you may try one of these two before graduating to a more cost effective, but less flexible option such as Fiverr.
Last but not least came the joys of formatting. I hate formatting. I could write an entirely different article on the challenges of formatting. Let’s just say it’s not the funnest part of being an author. My husband specifically remembers hearing me yelling curse words from the office for about three weeks straight.
I would many times come out of the room in tears. Formatting is no fun, especially for beginners. If you can afford to pay for anything. Hire a formatter and an editor. I have recently found a great formatter that charges really reasonable rates.
After all of that work, I was ready to go! It took me three years from start to finish before I was officially ready to publish. Then the big day came. On May 23rd, 2012, I published my first book!!! It was the biggest relief.
Publishing is actually the easiest part. Once you have all the other stuff done, it’s as simple as creating an account on Amazon’s KDP. You fill out some basic information, upload your cover and your book’s file and within 48 hours, you will be a published author. But, of course the work doesn’t stop there. It’s now time to market the book.
I decided to hold off on the website. I was exhausted from putting the book together and I needed a break. I thought it would be easier just to start on Amazon, see how it went, and worry about a website later.
I published my ebook exclusively on Amazon (a decision I’m very happy I made). I enrolled my book in the Kindle Select program. I had heard a lot about Select through the writer’s cafe. It’s an author’s forum at KindleBoards.com, which I highly suggest joining if you’re considering self publishing a book.
Sunil’s notes: Again, highly recommend services like Elance to hire freelancers to get things like formatting done. I also recommend reading this article, which talks about the ability for anyone to generate some passive income without owning their own blog or website. This is exactly what Kara has done in her example. You can too.
Kindle Select is a great program for new authors because you can take advantage of five free promotional days during the term of your three month contract. All they ask in return is exclusivity. You cannot have the electronic version of your book published anywhere else on the web. This was great for me at this time, like I said, I was exhausted and needed a break. I didn’t want to build the site, and I certainly didn’t want to upload my book onto several other platforms.
I also made the decision because everyone said they made the bulk of their money on Amazon. Plus, I had marketing to do. I didn’t have time to fuss around with a bunch of other sites that were only going to bring me a small percentage of the income that Amazon was going to bring in.
I decided to price my ebook at $5.99. I earn 70% of that and Amazon keeps the other 30%. I made this decision based on my competitor’s prices for similar products. At $5.99 I would beat their prices, but it wasn’t such a low price that people would second guess the quality of the product.
You get what you pay for. You don’t want people to assume things about your work based on a low price. $5.99 is actually a high price for a self published e-book. But I felt that I had a high quality product, that I worked very hard on.
I actually looked to my competitors for advice a lot, unbeknownst to them, of course. Anytime I had a question or wanted to know how or why I should do something, I would just look at my published competitors. I find that it worked quite well for me. Hey, if you can’t beat em’, join em’ right? Besides the publishing industry has time and money invested into knowing what readers want. So, why not take after them?
Here is more information on pricing an ebook.
Then began the never ending job of marketing the book. When it comes to marketing, some of the specific actionable takeaways from Sunil that helped me the most were about knowing how to do your keyword research and understanding your target audience. These two things make a huge difference between success and failure.
Knowing who your readers are and getting into their minds. Always keeping in mind that you’re solving someone’s problem. If you’re not offering advice that’s going to solve their problem, you’re doing your readers an injustice. You’re wasting your time, their time and you’re wasting their money.
Understanding your target audience is even more important when it comes time to market your book. You need to know your audience in order to properly do your keyword research. As a website owner, I know the importance of keyword research. I think it’s just as important when writing a book.
I made sure to find the top keywords for my topic. I included those keywords in my subtitle. They were also used on my book’s description page on Amazon’s KDP. Once a year, I re-check these keywords. Google’s search results fluctuate and what might have worked last year, doesn’t work so well this year. Update your keywords if needed.
Another thing I did while writing the book was I would write as if I was speaking directly to someone in my target audience. A lot of the time, it was Chelsea Houska from Teen Mom 2. I know that sounds strange, but she was a perfect example of my target audience. I would write as if I was speaking directly to her. Other times it would be other women. I think that’s a great technique to help you speak directly to your audience. It connects you as a writer to your readers. But, it won’t work if you haven’t done the proper research to truly and fully understand your target audience.
Here is more information on marketing your ebook.
For the first few months after I published, I marketed my book all day, every day. I posted links to my book wherever I could. Any website that would allow me to post, I would post it. I was a link posting machine.
All I did was promote my book for months. I used sites like fiverr.com and tweetpeddler.com to pay others to market the book as well. I even posted links in the “books for sale” section of craigslist. I would go on to yahoo answers and when women asked questions about men and dating, I would reply with an answer and a link to the book.
All of this obsessive marketing paid off. Every day the sales increased and the rankings dropped lower and lower. Amazon sales ranks are updated regularly. As soon as a single book is sold you’ll get a ranking.
Then for each hour that goes by without a sale you’ll climb higher in the rankings. On the other hand, if you’re selling books, you’ll go lower in the rankings. So, low ranks are good and high ranks are bad.
My rankings started out somewhere around 220,000 on my first day of publication. In addition to being a link posting maniac, I asked all of my friends and family members to purchase the book on the same day. It was my theory that I would get a boost in rankings and then hopefully gain exposure via amazon’s search results.
The lower your rankings are, the more popular your book is and the higher you’ll go on the search results. Thus, allowing for more people to see your book. At least this was my theory, I could be wrong, but it worked.
My rankings dropped lower and lower every day. Then I used up two of my free days. I announced the free promotion anywhere and everywhere I could. A few days after the free run my rankings started dropping even lower. I started making it into the 12,000’s. I was in disbelief.
I was selling around 15-20 books a day. I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. It didn’t stop there. It continued to go lower and lower. Whenever the rankings would stall, I would do another free day. Eventually I made it into the top 10,000. I was sitting on the charts next to published authors.
Now that my rankings have pretty much leveled out, I no longer have to market all day, every day. The Kindle book’s rankings hover in between 1800 and 2800 and the paperback’s rankings bounce around between 1500 and 5000.
I still market the book at least 3 to 5 times a week for about an hour a day. If I see my rankings fall lower than that, I will go back to marketing more aggressively. However, I can’t do that all the time or else I would spend my whole entire life marketing and I’d like to start working on the second book.
I still make sure that my ads are posted on craigslist under the “books for sale” section. I still use fiverr.com and tweetpeddler.com a lot. I’m very active on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, but I never spam my followers with tons of ads about my book. I also have purchased T-shirts that my husband and I wear to populated events. Yes, believe it or not my husband wears a shirt that says, “The Power of the Pussy”.
I believe that the success of my book is in part due to the title. We all know sex sells. Having a title like that sure helped. However, I truly believe that I wrote a unique book that is helping women. Women are buying the book, reading it, loving it and then they tell all of their friends to read it. I’ve had many women tell me that they’ve encouraged every woman they know to read the book.
I’ve had mothers tell me they’re going to pass the book along to their daughters when they’re old enough. I honestly feel that in releasing a quality product that truly empowers women, I have been able to garner word-of-mouth and that’s what has catapulted my book on to the best seller’s list and kept it there. I didn’t throw together some words in an effort to make a quick buck. I really wanted to help people.
At my best, I had made it all the way to the top 1000! This is out of over 2 million ebooks on Amazon. The lowest rank I ever saw was 995. Eventually I made it to #1 on the top 100 of both of my categories. My second month of being published I made $5,000. The third month I made $7,000. I now average no less than $10,000 a month in royalties.
My biggest month was January, when I made $13,500. January is always a great month for authors. All of those new Kindles purchased as Christmas presents need to be filled with ebooks. I also get little bonus checks from my affiliate links. They make nothing compared to my book’s royalties, but it always makes me smile to get random checks in the mail.
One month after publishing the ebook I decided to go ahead and get the paperback version released. I used createspace.com to publish the paperback version of the book. I like createspace.com because they’re easy to use. You have the same issues with publishing a paperback that you have with the ebook.
You have to worry about a cover and formatting. But, things are always easier the second time around. I also paid $25 to be added into their expanded distribution program. This allows bookstores to purchase bulk orders of the book. I think it was worth it because I have sold quite a few books through expanded distribution. Enough books to make up for the minimal $25 investment. And it makes me smile to know that my book is sitting somewhere in a bookstore
I think having your book available in both ebook format and paperback is very important. Not everyone likes e-books and not everyone likes paperbacks. If you have your book available in both formats, you’re only broadening your horizons and allowing for more access to your book.
Besides, some people still like having a good old-fashioned book on their bookshelf. The Kindle version always sells more copies than the paperback version. However sometimes the paperback does really well. I’d say on average, it’s about six kindle books for every paperback sold.
I know all of this sounds like a lot of work. Writing and self publishing a book was a three-year investment and I had no idea if it was going to pay off. Well, I’m one of the few that has made it to the other side and trust me, it was all worth it.
Having my book is something that will continue to pay me and my family for the rest of my life. Perhaps even after my life is done, I will continue to make money off of my book. Being a self published author has changed my life. My husband no longer has to work full time.
We pay our bills with ease. We have moved into a larger house and we’ve been able to purchase a luxury vehicle. I will be able to have a large family, like I’ve always wanted, without worrying about financial issues getting in the way.
We’re able to take vacations and save money. In fact, one of the greatest things I love about being a self published author is making money while I’m on vacation. Just recently I left out of town for the weekend and made over $700 while I was gone. I’m so grateful that I was not one of the quitters. I made it to the finish line and the reward for my hard work has paid off and will continue to pay off for years to come.
Being an ambitious person, I never found it difficult to dream big, believe in myself or work hard to accomplish my goals. But being a self published author taught me one thing about success that I hadn’t previously discovered: perseverance.
Many people, just like myself, will have the ambition to set goals and work very hard to accomplish them. However, only a small percentage will persevere to the very end. This is why many will fall short, while the small percentage will shoot to the top. I know how easy it is to get side tracked. I was there. I truly believe that perseverance was the key to my success.
You have to decide that you’re not going to be the majority. You have to push your hardest to be that one. The one that takes the gamble, putting in hours and hours of unpaid work, not knowing if it will ever pay off. The one that pushes forth, when everyone else gives up. The one that believes in yourself, when everyone else thinks you’re crazy.
This was one of the best lessons I learned, because as time went on, I was getting less and less enthused and motivated about my book. But, I kept hearing that message again and again in my head. I refused to be the quitter. So, first things first, no matter where you are in your journey…refuse to quit.
If I could give one last bit of advice it would be to listen to what other authors, such as Sunil, have to say about researching before you decide to write. You need to have a plan. I carefully planned and executed a strategy, based on the information given to me from Sunil’s blog and other successful authors.
I hung on to their every word and did what they told me to do. I think when you follow the path that has been created by successful authors who have been down this road before, you will have success. You may not make $10,000 a month, but maybe you will…
Sunil’s Comments: I was so pumped up after reading Kara’s story. I hope you are too. She is a perfect example of how anyone can take their passion or knowledge and turn it into an income stream. You can too.
Please leave your questions for Kara in the comments section below. I am sure she would love to answer them and interact with you.
If you haven’t written an ebook yet, why not? What are your reservations? What do you need help with? If you are ready and are looking for a step by step guide, start here.
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