One Authorpreneur’s Journey to $100K in Six Months

Do you want to quit your job, write a few books, and build a business that allows you to be your own boss?


Kevin Kruse did just that. Here’s how …

In this episode Kevin and I discuss:

  • How he decided to quit his job and build a business around writing books
  • The “Indie Author Advantage” concept
  • Building an email list of thousands of eager prospects
  • The #1 way to learn from your audience and deliver what they want
  • How to launch a book and get tons of reviews


The Show Notes


One Authorpreneur’s Journey to $100K in Six Months

Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by The Showrunner Podcasting Course, your step-by-step guide to developing, launching, and running a remarkable show. Registration for the course is open August 3rd through the 14th, 2015. Go to to learn more.

Jim Kukral: So I asked today’s guest on the show for two reasons. Number one, he’s a New York Times bestselling author with multiple books, and he knows his stuff as a professional speaker and a business owner. But also the number two reason is he told me a while back that he disagrees with some of the answers that other guests have given on this show. I always like it when people have different and fresh ideas. Welcome, Kevin Kruse, to the show. How are you doing?

Kevin Kruse: Good, Jim. Thanks for having me on.

Jim Kukral: I’m setting you up, though. You’re going to have to disagree now with some of the stuff. It’s great to have you on the show. You have been building this American dream, you say on your website, for a long time. It said you started your first company when you were 22. Tell us a little bit about where you are now.

Kevin Kruse: Yeah, thanks, Jim. I sometimes have been referred to as a serial entrepreneur, but those first companies in my 20s, most of those crashed and burned. I just kept at it. I’m slow, but I finally figured it out and had some decent business success. My passion, ever since I was a kid, was writing both fiction and non-fiction, and I love to read.

It was after selling my last business many years ago that I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, and if I was going to pursue this writing dream, then it was the right time to do it. That’s when I did the book that was called We, traditionally published with Wiley. That experience, I learned a lot. It had some blessings, but it also told me a lot about the limitations of publishing traditionally and writing for a traditional publisher.

How Kevin Decided to Quit His Job and Build a Business Around Writing Books

Kevin Kruse: In the years since, the last few years, I really turned my focus to understanding how to write books that do well as an indie author, primarily in the business leadership space and employee morale, but I touch on some other topics. That’s it. It’s been a great journey. I was writing books and spending most of my time working for a non-profit, and it was January of this year, actually January 2nd was the first day. I resigned my job at the end of last year and said, “I want to pursue the full-time author lifestyle.”

I like to use that term ‘authorpreneur,’ which, Jim, I know you like as well. Knowing that I’m not going to make 100 percent of my income from book royalties, but that the book would be the primary focus, the primary leverage. Then I would have income streams from various things. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last six months.

Jim Kukral: Well, we’re going to get into that, your author journey, because that’s one of the things I want to talk to you about. You have a very similar experience to me. I was a first-time Wiley author as well and quickly realized that I was better off doing it on my own. What was the biggest thing that made you want to do it on your own instead of traditionally publishing it?

Kevin Kruse: The short version, I really consider myself a hybrid author. I’ve got a couple of books that were traditionally published. I’ve got one coming about, about four or five that are indie published. In the future, there will be some books that I will go back and do traditionally published. The publishing industry, a funny thing has happened. Going to a traditional publisher now, that is like the vanity press.

If you care about your name being associated with a big publishing firm because it gives you that stamp of legitimacy, if maybe the big magazines will be a little bit more likely to review your book if it’s coming from one of the big publishing houses, if you care about that visibility or that credibility that might come with a traditional publisher — and I do care about that a little bit, I’ve got an ego like anyone else — that’s when I would go traditional. That’s what I got out of the one book with Wiley.

But if you want to make money, if you want to generate leads for other aspects of your business, if you want to write and publish a book in a month rather than a year, then you definitely have to indie publish. The control, the speed, the direct money, the spin-off money — it’s all a lot better as an indie publisher, at least non-fiction. I don’t do fiction. That’s been my experience.

Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about the site you have, which is called This is a really interesting site. Everyone should go check it out. It kind of goes to what you just said a second ago. You were going to sit down and see if you could quit your job and turn yourself into a full-time authorpreneur and make money. You detail, on this website, how you are doing since the beginning of the year. I see right now, total revenue after six months at $114,254.

Kevin Kruse: Right.

Jim Kukral: You have this really cool chart that you’re showing on the site, and you’re giving updates on how you’re doing it. Let’s talk about that. First of all, how hard was it to quit that job and do this? Second of all, so we don’t have to go over the whole website, what was the very first thing? Obviously, get some books published, right?

Kevin Kruse: Yeah. The first question, Jim — how hard was it? I was in a very comfortable, well into the six-figure executive job. In fact, I had a staff of half a dozen people. We all worked from home, different parts of the country. To my friends, to people who knew me, I had the dream job. I had no commute. I was dressing in jeans and a T-shirt every day. The team I had was a great team. They were remote.

I didn’t have a traditional boss, but I reported to a board of directors. I would report in once a month and get together once a quarter. What could be better than that? I had that job for almost five years. If you’re going to work for someone else, if you’re going to do some sort of an executive job, I could not imagine a better job.

But that voice in my head, that feeling in my chest that I’m sure a lot of your listeners have, is that this is not what I want to be doing day to day. If I got called by my doctor with some very grim news, I would not be thrilled that’s what I did with my previous year, two years, or five years. I just thought, “You know what? Let’s do it.”

There’s some people out there that probably think, “Well, you had a few bucks, and you had a good income. It was easy for you to quit to become a full-time author.” I guess there’s that side of it, but believe me, walking away from that dream job, hiring my replacement, knowing that I can’t just go back into that job if this doesn’t work out, they’ve got another great executive doing that job — walking away from something that good was hard. Life is short. Life is very short, so I just took the plunge and decided week by week, month by month, I would just share everything I was doing, the wins and the failures, so others could follow along.

Your second question — full disclosure, I was fully employed but had written a small handful of indie books in addition to the traditionally published ones. When I quit my job, I was probably already getting about $2,000 a month from royalties from my independently published books. If nothing worked, I probably would have made $24,000 this year just from what was already in place on January 2nd.

Jim Kukral: Okay, great. You had some books out there, and you put up Get us through the model here. You are making income from the books, and you’re also making income from the speaking gigs that are coming from the books, right?

Kevin Kruse: Yeah, that’s right. Jim, when I dove in, the model I had in my mind was like a ladder where the very bottom rung was the book for anywhere from $3 on Kindle to $10 paperback. Again, my topic thus far has been around business leadership. My next book’s going to be on time and productivity. These are business books.

The cheapest way to get my information, my advice, is the book, $5 to $10. One rung up, though, I want to pursue, I knew, “Okay, how can I offer this information not just in a book, but provide value so that people could get me on video and have me hold their hand?” That would be in my world, an online course or an e-learning course, that would be priced higher. Maybe for an individual it might be $199 — I think I priced it at $197 — to take an e-learning course for the same material that you could get from the book.

There’s going to be some people who say, “Well, we don’t want just a one-off training. We want to fly Kevin in.” I guess there’s something in between. Some people will say, “We want you to do a live webinar. You don’t have to get on an airplane, Kevin, but we’re going to put 10, 20, 50, 100 people in a room, bring you in for a couple hours with this interactive webinar, so we get you live. We can ask you questions.” That goes for anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. That’s like the third rung on the ladder.

Fourth rung going higher is the people that say, “We want you in person. We want you to fly in and do a keynote for our executive leadership meeting,” or maybe it’s a conference. The standard fee would be $12,500, more if it’s global.

Even higher than that are the people that say, “We don’t want you for just an hour. We want you for the day or a half day. We want this to be a workshop. Present your information. Let us talk about it. Let us do some activities. Let us bounce ideas off you. Make sure we’re on the right track. Then give us the next nugget. We’re going to go back and forth with you all day.” That’s where you get into workshop fees where you have your basic fee, but then you’re charging per participant. Those fees can go over $20,000.

In my mind from the start, that was the model. For every book I do, I hope to make $1,000 or more each month from the royalties. My main leadership book that I focus on, the indie one, that’s about what I get. It’s about $1,000 a month. No one is going to make an amazing living off that alone. You have to put out a whole lot of books, which is one model. You’ve had Steve Scott, and that’s a great model, is to just put out more books. I wanted to do this ladder approach. The same content, you could consume it in different ways.

I’ve only been on my journey for six months, Jim, so I’ve got the book Employee Engagement 2.0. I did release an e-learning course called Leading for Employee Engagement, and then a lot of people have hired me to do the webinars, the live speeches, or the workshops. It’s really been the speeches that took off faster than I ever thought.

I thought it was going to take me 12 months, and maybe I would break $100,000 in my very first year. Then I could grow it from there. The speaking engagements have been so many more of those than I realized that I was able to break the $100,000 in six months. The only downside is that it does take away time from writing more books, so I’m a little bit behind on the next book project.

Jim Kukral: Let’s back track this. You’ve got the books up. How do you go from getting invited to speaking gigs to just having a couple books up? Did you have an email list of people that you had already? Did you aggressively go out and try to get speaking gigs? There are people listening to this show who want to do this model. They want to either do the Steve Scott model or they want to do what you’re doing. As best as you can tell us, what was the process of getting that started and actually making it work?

The ‘Indie Author Advantage’ Concept

Kevin Kruse: You hit on, I think, the number one key from a marketing standpoint. This is what most of the authors on your show and others will say, keep coming back to. The money is in the list. My email opt-in list, to me, that is gold. Again, full disclosure, I didn’t start that list in January. I started building that list about two, maybe two and a half years ago, where I thought, and I still think, day by day, “What am I doing to be discovered, and how do I get those people who discover me to get onto my email list?” Then I hit that email every week. Every Monday, I send out one email to that list. I’ve been doing it for just over two years now.

The list helps. This list helps stay in touch with your audience, your tribe as Seth Godin would call it. The list certainly helps when you’re launching a book and you want to spike the first day or first couple day sales. The list is great for recruiting people to your street team, so you can get book reviews. Those are all the reasons why the list counts. I don’t think I’ve actually gotten any speaking gigs from the list. The path, and it’s been very interesting, Jim, the number one question I’ve been getting recently is, “How do you find these speaking gigs?” The truth is, I’m not finding them. They’re finding me.

Obviously, nobody’s ever heard of Kevin Kruse. I’m not a famous speaker. There’s no committee, conference committee, or CEO that says, “For our next event, I want Kevin Kruse.” Nobody knows my name, but what they’re doing is they will say, “You know what, we’ve got that employee engagement initiative going on, or we just did our employee engagement survey, the results are pretty bad, and we’re going to try to improve them.”

To the outside world, employee engagement is sort of a weird word or term. It basically just means employee morale or motivation. But because my book, Employee Engagement 2.0, titled very carefully, by the way, if you’re looking for an expert on employee engagement to come into your meeting, you’re going to go to one of two places. You’re going to go to Google and type ’employee engagement speakers,’ ’employee engagement workshops,’ things like that, or you’re going to go to the second biggest search engine, which is Amazon.

You’re going to say, “Let’s find authors on employee engagement to invite to our event.” Because I rank well on both places, Google, but mainly, I’m always number one or number two on Amazon, people will see my book in the other books, buy my book, read it, and say, “Yeah, this is the guy we want in.”

Not to go on even longer, but what’s key, going back to that traditional publisher, if you type ’employee engagement,’ ‘leadership,’ or whatever into Amazon, in addition to my book, there’s going to be all these other traditionally published books. If someone’s looking for a book on my topic area, they’re going to go down that list, and they’re going to see, “Wow, look at all these books that cost $20.” Even the Kindle version costs $12, $15.

You know what? All these traditionally published books, they’re all 300 pages long, and they’re written like a college professor or something. They’re not fun. Then, they see my $3 to $10 book that’s only 80 pages long, and it’s written in big type. If you read it out loud, it sounds like I’m just talking to you. It’s very casual. Which book are they going to buy? They’re going to buy the short, cheap, fun to read book. That is how people are discovering me.

Every week, I get in email in, “Hey, found you on Amazon. Loved your book. We’ve got an event coming up. Would you like to speak?” I send that message over to my VA. I don’t even talk to them. She quotes them a fee. They banter back and forth a little bit. Then that’s it. It’s the indie book advantage that is leading to inbound speaking gigs. People are finding my book and prefer it over the traditionally published ones. Then when it’s time to look for a speaker, these business people are like, “Oh yeah, how about that guy that wrote that employee engagement book?” That’s when they reach out.

Jim Kukral: I love that. The ‘indie book advantage.’ That’s the first time I’ve ever had somebody say that to me is that, from a non-fiction perspective in this business model, saying that was an advantage. Most people will tell me, “Oh, the speaking bookers are looking for people with traditionally published books.”

The other thing that I really thought was very smart, what you said there, was the title of your book, Employee Engagement 2.0, and how you picked that title. I immediately thought of David Meerman Scott, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Your audience is looking for the next level. When he put that out, it’s like, “These are the new rules of marketing and PR.”

You’re putting Employee Engagement 2.0, so someone who is looking to hire you to speak or workshop or whatever, sees that and goes, “Oh, this is the updated version.” That’s exactly why you titled it that way. Right?

Kevin Kruse: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The 2.0 is to make it feel like this is new. This is something different. This is the latest. I’m a big believer in putting the keyword search term into the title of the book. If not to the left of the colon, then certainly to the right of the colon. I know not everybody agrees with that. Just to show the power of that, Jim, the book I did with Wiley called We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, that book does show up on Amazon when you type ’employee engagement,’ but it’s like number 15 or number 20 in the list.

Before I did Employee Engagement, I thought, “Look at that. A New York Times bestselling book on this subject doesn’t even rank well.” Now, Amazon’s a search engine, and like Google, they don’t publish their formula, and it changes. I said, “All right. What if I put that keyword term in the title, to the left of the title.” Then I made sure I put it in the description. I put it in the tags and the categories. I put it even in my bio, everywhere. I loaded up. Not in a way that seems obvious to the reader, but certainly that term is going to be there.

Then, of course, you do the other things. It’s got to sell. You got to have good reviews, et cetera. The book Employee Engagement 2.0 immediately jumped to the number one position, and it stayed at number one or two. Shortly thereafter, I was so amazed by this, Jim, I said, “What if that was a fluke? I wonder if I could do it again?”

I wrote a book called Employee Engagement for Everyone. The first book was for managers. The second book was for rank-and-file employees, how to be more happy at work. I didn’t call it ‘Happy at Work,’ ‘Job Satisfaction at Work,’ ‘Joy Work.’ It was Employee Engagement for Everyone. That book, I did the same thing, and in the same category, this book now ranks usually number three or four on that list. I have two of the top three or four results on this.

I thought, “Okay, this must just be a fluke because it’s such a weird category. What’s the hardest category on Amazon that I could think of to try this out? I came up with the category of inspirational quotes. The reason why that category is so ridiculous is every Kindle entrepreneur, get-rich-quick person out there scrapes a bunch of quotes off the Internet, random quotes, throws it into a Word document, uploads it as a Kindle book, and then tries to game it. If you search on inspirational quotes in Amazon, you’re going to get 1,000 results. I thought, “There’s nothing more of a commodity than a quotes book.”

Now, I actually like quotes, so I said, “Let me see if I can rank a quotes book at the top.” I wrote 365 Best Inspirational Quotes, key term ‘inspirational quotes.’ There’s quotes book with 1,000 quotes. There’s quotes books with 2,000 quotes. I couldn’t compete on that. I didn’t want to. I thought, “Ah, like a quote a day — 365 Best Inspirational Quotes.” I did that. I did the same thing by putting that term in the description, giving it a lot of love on launch day. When you go to Amazon and search ‘inspirational quotes,’ my book is number two out of 1,321,228 results. Number two out of 1.3 million. I’ve done it three times now with three different books.

Jim Kukral: I can tell you for a fact that, for your story, and it’s working for you, but for every person who has it works for, it doesn’t work for somebody else. We cannot make the conclusion that, that is positively the way to rank high for a book is just put keywords in a title. There’s definitely more to it.

Kevin Kruse: Absolutely. Like I said, we don’t know their formula. I believe that the number of reviews is very critical to it. I think the length of time the book has been on the market has something to do with it, although I always rank early as well. I think the trailing sales has a lot to do with it. I think there are a lot of variables. If you don’t launch it correctly, it’s going to be very hard to climb up from the bottom.

Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about that launch effect then. What is your plan when you’re launching a book? You don’t have to give us all your secrets. Just give us the short version.

How to Launch a Book and Get Tons of Reviews

Kevin Kruse: I laughed not because they’re secrets, but the book I’ve got coming out in a couple of months, the launch plan is probably 25 pages long. Here’s the key things for it. The key things for me is to get as many people onto your ‘street team’ or your launch team, who will leave an honest review for the book within the day or two of it going on the market. This last little experiment that I did really just for fun, I wrote this quotes book in a weekend. I’m not trying to make this seem like it’s a get rich quick. You’re right. It does take time and work.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression, but that little experiment took a weekend. Because I put the two years of work into building up my email list, when I went to the list and said, “Hey, I’ve got this book coming out. Who wants to join the street team? Let’s get together in a Facebook group. I’ll set up a little Facebook group for us. You’ll get access to me. You’ll get a free copy of the book to review. I just ask that you leave an honest review by this date.”

Sent that out, probably had just over 100 people on that street team, and within 48 hours of the book launching, I had over 50 book reviews. I think the book has about 70 reviews now. To me, when I launch a book, a big part of it is making sure there’s a street team that are going to leave a lot of reviews. A lot of other people will ask the street team, “Oh, go send Tweets about it. Put it up on your Facebook group.” I hope they do that. I probably ask them if they would do that, but I don’t think that moves a whole lot of books.

Amazon, if your book is discoverable, they will do anything they can to make money. If Amazon’s little formulas say, “This is a decent book that other people seem to think is good, and we can make money on it,” they’re going to promote the book to their buyers as well. You just need to, someone called it ‘tickling the zon,’ tickling Amazon. It’s a great term. You just need to do some of that stuff.

In the past, I’ve done the launch app free. I put the book in the Kindle select program, so I could launch it for three days at zero dollars on Kindle. Then I spent a little bit, $5, $20, for some of those announcement services, “Hey, free Kindle book today.” I think those worked at getting initial traction on the free list, getting a few extra reviews, although if the book’s free, that’s how you’ll also get bad reviews from just trolls and stuff. Then you hope when the book converts to the lower price, that the momentum carries over.

I’ve changed my mind a little bit on that. The next book I do, I’ll launch it with a low Kindle price, probably $1.99, but I think my list is big enough that I don’t need it to be actually zero. I don’t need it to be free. That’s a powerful thing for people just getting started. Line up your street team. Get them ready to go. Launch it at zero dollars Kindle, get a lot of people buying the book, reading the book. Get the readers from the book to opt-in to your email list. It’s a virtuous cycle. Your readers become email subscribers. Your email subscribers become readers. Every book and every launch just gets bigger and bigger.

Jim Kukral: Let’s go back to that email list building. Everyone complains. They’re like, “Well, I don’t have an email list. I can’t do what Kevin’s doing. I can’t do what anyone’s doing.” You have to start at some point.

Kevin Kruse: Absolutely.

Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about how you started that email list. What was it about? Why were you able to build it so big? How were you able to keep people engaged? Everyone needs to do this.

Building an Email List of Thousands of Eager Prospects

Kevin Kruse: That’s right. Look, I’ve had other businesses, other projects, and conferences, and each time, I say, “All right, we’ve got to start a list.” I remember also those days where it’s like, “Geez, this is going to be hard, and this is going to take forever.” But each time it grows, and it’s an exponential growth. Yeah, I didn’t have many subscribers ever the first 90 days of trying to build a new list. Then it looked a little better six months. It looked a lot better 12 months. By two years, it’s really growing.

This was no different. I just a couple years ago said, “All right, let me set up the Kevin Kruse opt-in,” and I’m mainly talking about leadership and other things about business success. Jim, I’m almost obsessive with the email opt-in stuff. I track it weekly. I split test different offers.

To really boil it down, what I’ve learned is that, when I started out, the offer to try to get people to subscribe, it was like, “Join my newsletter, and I will occasionally send you an email of tips,” or something like that. About 1/2 percent to 1 percent of everybody that came to my webpage or whatever would say, “Sure, I’ll sign up.” About 1 percent.

Then I started saying, “Oh, you know what? I’ve got all this content. Let me give them free book chapters, a free ebook, or something like that. Heck, that’s valuable.” Then it went up maybe 1 1/2 to 2 percent. So it got a little better, but it wasn’t great. Then I read somewhere, someone said, “Listen, we all make the mistake of trying to pile on value as a way to get people to sign up for our email.” It’s actually the reverse. People want quick wins. The great offer isn’t to give them an entire free book, a free course, or $1,000 worth of stuff. It’s a tip sheet.

What works really well is, “Sign up for my email newsletter, and I will give you the 10 mobile apps I use to,” whatever it is, “lose weight, make money, have great relationships,” “the 10 tools I use to run my business,” “the top 10 books that I would take to a deserted island,” or whatever it is. Tip sheets, resources poll really well. I did that, and indeed, it went to about 3 percent, 3 1/2 percent when I went to a resources list.

The #1 Way to Learn From Your Audience and Deliver What They Want

Kevin Kruse: Then, I had the breakthrough, and what I discovered is nothing polls better, and I mean nothing, than a quiz. You see them on Facebook. “What kind of dog are you? Take the quiz.” “Which character on Friends would you be if you were on Friends?” We all take these goofy Facebook quizzes that then you publish. “Oh, I’d be Kramer on Seinfeld, ha, ha, ha.” Then everybody else clicks it to see who they would be.

What I did was, I created a quiz that was, “How engaged and motivated are you at work?” You answer some questions. It gives you a score and tells you your style, and you’re now opted-in to my list. Rather than it just being anybody into my list, by the definition of them coming to that quiz, I know that they’re interested in workplace motivation, workplace morale, how to be a better leader. I bet this is the first time you’ve ever heard this, Jim. I’m such a passionate believer in these quizzes. Every time I start a new book now, the first thing I do is I write the quiz — before I even start the book.

My next book is called Fifteen Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. The first thing I did was I launched a “What is your time personality?” quiz. I came up with some questions, so they’d get a little score about how good or not they’re doing on time management, and now, they’re in my list. They get some information. They’re in my list, but I also see that quiz with a couple of questions that help me to write the book. Simple questions like, “What is your number one challenge when it comes to time management and productivity?”

It sounds silly, now I know it, but I don’t have problem with procrastination. I had a book outline covering using the calendar and identifying your top priorities. I didn’t even have a chapter on procrastination. My audience, the quiz audience, said it’s procrastination.

Another question I asked them was, “If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?” I’d get back, I’m up to 4,000 responses now, and I can see what the number one response is, the number two response. That is going to drive my marketing material. I’m opening up my next book, and it says, “Imagine if you had more time to read, exercise, sleep, or to spend with your family.”

Well, that quiz, after 4,000 people took it, told me the number one thing most people would do if they had an extra hour was to read. I never would have guessed that. I don’t know what I would have thought, but most people said read. Second answer, exercise. These answers are now informing the marketing for the book — even before the book is out. See what I mean?

Jim Kukral: Yeah, and that’s a classic smart way to do business, is to figure out what your audience wants and then give it to them. That’s a smart way to do that. I know somebody’s saying right now, “Well, Jim, I don’t have $20,000 to create some fancy online quiz.” I’m assuming this is a very simple way that you make this quiz work.

Kevin Kruse: Yes. I should have anticipated. I’m scrolling through. There are several free to low-cost quiz tools out there that you can buy for $100.

Jim Kukral: I’ve used Survey Monkey before or other stuff like that.

Kevin Kruse: Yeah, you can do it even with a free version of Survey Monkey as a way. You just give the same response regardless of the score, like, “Oh, if you answered this, you are this kind of personality,” or whatever it is. If you just Google ‘quiz-maker tool,’ ‘quiz-maker software,’ I’ve used several. I can’t remember the one that I’ve been using as of late, but they’re not expensive. You just need to think up the questions and the content and how you would like it scored. That’s a very easy thing.

Along those same lines, Jim, the other big thing I found is I do run a giveaway about every three or four months, a contest. I use a tool, it’s KingSumo Giveaway I think it’s called.

Jim Kukral: Yeah, I use them as well.

Kevin Kruse: You’ll see some really crazy case studies with giveaways. The problem is if you wanted to do a giveaway and say, “Hey, I’m going to give somebody an iPhone,” yeah, you’re going to get a lot of people into your email list, but you don’t want that. These are not people that care about your topic or your books. You’re going to inflate the cost of sending people newsletters that have no intention of buying your books.

What you want to do is you want to use a giveaway that attracts your kind of people. I write leadership books. One of the top leadership people is John Maxwell, so I gave away a John Maxwell library. Every book John Maxwell ever wrote, I gave it away. I got almost 1,000 people in my list just from that one giveaway.

There was a leadership conference. We reached out to them in an email, just said, “Hey, I’ve got all these people in my list, social media, give me two free tickets to your event, and I’ll promote the heck out of it with this giveaway and put it on my blog and all that.” They said, “Sure. That doesn’t cost us anything.” I got these $2,000 worth of free tickets, ran the giveaway, and got hundreds of people who are interested in leadership and leadership events into my list. Very, very low cost tool that anybody could run as well.

List building could be a whole day, but bottom line is, I got better at the bait, the lead magnet or the reader magnet. Quizzes work great for me. Every now and then, you can juice it up with a giveaway or a special event. I’ve not done it, but a lot of people are doing these virtual conferences. I think you know a little bit about this, Jim. You bring a whole bunch of experts from your area in your topic area, you record them on Skype or something like that, and people sign up to then listen to all these interviews as part of a virtual event.

Sometimes they’re free. Sometimes they pay. That is an amazing way. All those experts, they’re going to promote it to their lists as well. I’ve seen people go from zero to 10,000 opt-ins in less than a year doing these virtual conferences, virtual summits. I’ve not tried it myself, but it’s another great way to jump-start your list.

Jim Kukral: Let me ask you this question. You have the list of your doubling down on your employee engagement genre of these types of people. That’s where you’re making revenue from. You’ve created this AuthorJourneyto100k, and people are signing up for emails on that. These are people interested in being an author. Then, are you now going to create author information to give to people? This takes you away from your niche.

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Double Down and Laser Focus on Your Niche

Kevin Kruse: Yes. Launching the, it was not started with the goal to monetize it. I don’t, as of now, plan to. I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’m really active in the online indie author communities, especially on Facebook. It’s fun for me. We all feel good giving and helping others. I’m asked all the time, every single day, just like you, Jim, the emails come in, “Hey, I’d love to be an author. How do you do it?” “Hey, I’d love to do speaking gigs. How do you do it?” “I’d love to start a business. How do I do it?”

I spend about an hour a day answering every email that comes in. I get anywhere from 10 plus emails a day, and I answer every single one that comes in personally. I just thought it’s that whole thing. If you’re going to answer one person’s question, well why don’t you just put it on your blog, so other people who have the same question can discover the answer?

I’m bad at that. I should really never answer the emails and always move it to the blog, and I’m bad at that. But that was the goal. I’m always getting asked these questions. I’m quitting my job to really figure out how to do this six-figure authorpreneur thing. Let me just put the answers up on a blog so other people can benefit. I’m not going to walk away from the leadership tribe that I’ve started. I’ve got a lot more work to do, books and courses for that.

The next list that I’ve really been focusing on from a business standpoint is this time management and productivity space. It took half the year to get the book done. I’m now in pre-launch mode on that. The author stuff, I’m doing it as a labor of love and just trying to help and give back. Some day, I guess I could focus more on that audience, that tribe, but I don’t have any plans to do that right now.

Jim Kukral: I guess where I was going with this is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made, and I’m not saying you’re making a mistake, I’m saying one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my past career was not just doubling down, laser focusing on my niche, and just going after it. That’s why I was curious why, for somebody it seems like you know what your plan is, and I guess the answer was this is just the labor of love. You kind of already answered that.

Kevin Kruse: Jim, you’re right. It is foolish, business-wise. If I’m looking to optimize revenue, success, and achievement, it is absolutely foolish to be blogging on the side about what it takes to be an authorpreneur. To be honest, it’s foolish to even do a book on time management. Again, I wish I could attribute this quote, but someone said, “If you really want to be successful, you need to pick a dragon to slay, and slay it over and over and over again.”

Look at the leadership space where a lot of my work is in. You look at John Maxwell, and he’s got like 15 books, over and over again, how to be a leader, how to be a leader, how to be a leader. You look at Ken Blanchard, how to be a leader, how to be a manager, how to be a leader. People just do that.

Now, I can’t do that. I’ve got that shiny object syndrome where every day I’ve got a new idea. I’ve got literally a list of 12 books I want to write on all kinds of topics. That’s foolish if I’m trying to maximize my income, but I’m trying to maximize my life. If I was struggling to pay the mortgage, I would be more focused. Maybe in the future I will need to find more focus, but for now, I’m trying to balance the business with the art. They say the Hollywood actors, they’ll do two movies for Hollywood, one for them as the artist, do an indie film or something. To me, it’s like, “Let me try some of these other areas. Let me go a little bit broader.” It’s more realizing it does take time away from the core monetizing goal.

Jim Kukral: You and I share a very similar goal there with the way that we do things. One thing I will say, though, is that you have Employee Engagement for Everyone. You could go the Jay Baer route, he has Youtility for different topics. I talked about this on the show with David Meerman Scott as well. You could have Employee Engagement for Real Estate Agents, and break that down. Is that something that you want to do?

Kevin Kruse: I hadn’t had that idea. That probably is the smarter choice, and I see that. I think there’s a lot of good advice for monetizing your work, just like I talked about that ladder. You could go sideways. You’ve got your book, and then you could also do your workbook. I didn’t even mentioned the audio books. That’s another low rung on the ladder thing. You certainly can go through the verticals. In fact, Jim, the other part about building the list I should have thrown in, we talked about the lead magnet, but how do people discover you to begin with, that your website even exists?

What you just talked about is something I do a lot of. I’ll write articles for the Internet on employee engagement for hospitals, employee engagement in the hospitality industry, employee engagement for railroad industry.

Any time I go out and give a speech to one of those places, for example, quick service restaurants, I do a little research to tailor the speech for that industry. Then when I come back from that speech, I turn it into an article so that, in the future, maybe I just went and did a talk for McDonalds, who knows, down the road, maybe Quiznos or Subway has an HR leader, human resources leader, that’s going to be looking for employee engagement in their industry. They’re going to stumble on my article, and it’s going to sound like I know all about them already. That approach I’ve been using, but it’s more been to grab eyeballs, to grab attention, than to do the books. It would work. It definitely would work.

Why You Can’t Assume Everyone Knows What You Know

Jim Kukral: We’re almost out of time here, but I just want to make this point. It’s something I’ve been teaching for the longest time. If you know a lot about something, you can turn that into a business. You obviously knew a lot about employee engagement. You owned it. You went out and created content in book form and multiple forms, and you turned that into a business. I always say people devalue what they know too much. Let’s be honest, employee engagement, as you mentioned earlier, is not the sexiest of topics.

Kevin Kruse: First to admit that.

Jim Kukral: People always say that, “Well Jim, I know a lot about New York City architecture.” Well guess what? There’s millions of people who are into that if you’ve got a background in it.

Kevin Kruse: That’s right.

Jim Kukral: Somebody said to me, “Jim, I know a lot about playing video games or World of Warcraft.” I go, “Do you know how big that market is?

Kevin Kruse: Huge.

Jim Kukral: People are making millions of dollars now just playing video games on video. There’s an entire startups.” Anyway, I really love what you’re doing, Kevin, and it’s been a very inspirational talk. I think that anyone who is sitting back and saying to themselves, “I don’t want to be in this job anymore. I want to take the knowledge I have in my head and put it into form,” can follow your model and do it. That really wasn’t a question. It was just me just saying that I think you’re really doing something very smart here.

Kevin Kruse: I appreciate that, Jim. I think your point is the most important point of our whole conversation. I think you’re right. People know something, and they just assume that everybody else knows it, too, or that there aren’t any other people that are interested. It does not have to be some big special thing. I often will say, “Imagine the next time you’re flying on a full airplane. What are the topics? If somebody said, “Hey, anybody know a lot about green smoothies or how to coach soccer?”

What are the topics where if they came on and said, “The pilot needs someone who knows about X,” that you would be one of those people to stand up on the airplane? That’s it. What do you know more about than the hundred people around you? You can monetize that. With the big World Wide Web, if you’re interested in it, there’s thousands of other people out there who are interested in it, too. I think that it’s a really important point.

Jim Kukral: Okay, last quick question. Let’s talk about social media. How effective has social media been for you? Probably not driving book sales, unless you tell me otherwise, but what do you use social media for, and how does it help you?

How Kevin Uses Social Media to Cultivate Peer-to-Peer Relationships

Kevin Kruse: If you look on my profiles on Twitter or Facebook, even Instagram, I’m everywhere, even Pinterest. I don’t think that they sell books. Maybe a tiny number. I really don’t think they sell books, and I would rather have a hundred email subscribers than 1,000 Twitter followers, maybe even 10,000 Twitter followers. People say, “Well, why do you do social media at all?” I ask myself that. Again, I think for me, I like participating in the communities. I like being out there.

I’ve discovered a new tool called Meet Edgar, which really is an amazing tool that you put one update in it, and it can re-post for you. It saves you a lot of time. I answer all the Tweets and everything back to me. It’s just another way to stay connected.

What I do like about social media is it’s a great way to connect with influencers. There are all kinds of other authors, speakers, business professionals who I call and they don’t return the call. I email, they don’t return the email, but if I send them a Tweet, boom. Within 24 hours, we’re having a conversation, and it grows. I do find that social media is effective for building peer-to-peer relationships.

Jim Kukral: All right. Well, Kevin, thank you so much for the interview. Before we go, can you tell people where they should go to check out your stuff?

Kevin Kruse: Yeah, I think you mentioned it, Jim. It’s Follow along, again, all the failures and a few of the successes. That’s a great way to keep in touch, or email me at

Jim Kukral: Listen, thank you so much for being here, Kevin. I hope that people listened today and actually paid attention. You can do exactly what Kevin’s doing. Don’t you think, Kevin? Anyone can do this.

Kevin Kruse: If I can do it, they can do it.

Jim Kukral: Anyone can do it. All right. Well thank you for coming on the Authorpreneur show, and everyone listening, please visit Kevin’s website.

After you do that, head on over to my website. If you’re an aspiring authorpreneur, you want to write books, or you have a book, you should head over to or At the institute, we’ve got a free video course called How to Sell the First 100 Copies of Your Book. We give you some advice and tips on how to do that.

All right, guys, cue the music. It’s time for all of us to get back to work writing books, building email lists, and doing all the things that Kevin’s doing and having success. I’m Jim Kukral, and I’ll be back soon with another Authorpreneur show guest who will help you on your journey to becoming an authorpreneur yourself.

Thank you for listening, and as always, I would really appreciate you heading on over to iTunes and review the show so that we can get some more people checking it out. Thank you so much, everybody. Have a great week, and we’ll see you next time. Bye-bye.