Author Interview: David Butler, Reading with the Right Brain
I believe the key to this author's success is that he listens to what his customers are saying and then writes books that cater to their needs (all within his sphere of expertise). I've come to know David Butler as the "Speed Reading" guy. As I was editing his books Reading with the Right Brain and Easy Speed Reading, it all made sense. I am a naturally fast reader, but never realized why until I learned of his method. I love David's method! It definitely works.
The great thing about David's writing is that it is clean, to the point, and easy to follow--which is great for an instructional/self-help genre. For him, writing books was a natural progression to his business of teaching people to read faster while comprehending what they are reading. Read his interview below to learn more about how he came to write and publish his books.
1. How many books have you published and when?
I’ve published five books and am a few days from publishing the sixth. Two books were primarily intended only to give to family, and one other book has been discontinued.
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started writing Reading Thought-Units in May 2011. I wrote it to help users of my reading course at readspeeder.com better understand the technique of phrase-reading.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
I had lots of ideas I wanted to discuss, but the hardest part seemed to be organizing them in a coherent order to make sense to someone if they were new to this approach. I often found it difficult to see my writing from an outsider’s perspective.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
For my first book, I originally made my own (horrible) cover and put the book up onto KDP. I had considered publishing on SmashWords but they wouldn’t accept it because the book was in “color” (it uses alternating black and gray text).
For my later books, I always put the book on both KDP and CreateSpace, and hired cover designers.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
The first book I had edited was Reading with the Right Brain. I had read up a bit on what to expect so wasn’t surprised, but was originally unsure how to select an editor. I sent the first chapter to two different editors before choosing one for the entire book.
The experience was very interesting. It’s great to see your own words polished. And the feedback about the order of my explanations and when things were unclear or redundant was invaluable.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
Oh gosh, that’s the hardest part. EVERY time I re-read it, I find more changes. Then I think it sounds PERFECT, until the next time I read it, and think this is awful! My re-writing goal was to keep re-writing it until it stops moving.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
I’d ask my wife to read parts and she gave me lots of helpful feedback about what was confusing or poorly explained. The best help though was when I read parts out loud to her because that’s when I really could hear where things needed work.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
I had 3 or 4 designs for my first book, some on Fiverr and then some on Elance (UpWork). I wish there was a way to know how important the cover is, but my gut feeling is that it is ultra-important — maybe more important to sales than what’s inside, unfortunately.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
Publishing was easy. The nicest thing about self-publishing is that you can always come back and make changes. So I aim for 99% perfect, and then adjust as needed. The most difficult part of publishing for me is deciding what to write in the description.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
My first book was “marketed” by using KDP’s free days. I also mentioned to my readspeeder.com users. I wasn’t collecting an email list back then though, so I could only promote it on the site.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
My feedback has always been amazing. It was very satisfying to receive so many grateful responses from readers.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
The book actually surprised me a bit by earning about $200 per month for the first couple of years, but then sliding off to near zero for some unknown reason, at which point I pulled it. I actually don’t know what helps to sell the most books. It feels like a lottery. A book will take off or fall back almost randomly it seems.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
My best seller is Reading with the Right Brain. It earns about $1,000 per month in the good months and about $500 per month during the summer. Most sales are from ebooks, but there a surprising number of sales from the print book. I’m especially surprised when expanded distribution will buy 10 or 20 at a time.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
It might just be the nature of the self-help genre, or maybe my books in particular, but I have noticed that book sales decrease when I lower the price. I sold the ebook for $9.95 for most of the first year, lowering it later to $6.95. But when I tried it for a while at $4.99 and $2.99, I actually had a decrease in sales until putting it back to $6.95. Same thing with the print version which started at $19.95 and is now at $14.95, but suffered reduced sales when I priced it any lower.
I think what might be happening is that readers are more concerned about wasting time with a book like this than wasting money.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
I wrote the Right Brain book because I didn’t know why the Thought-Unit book sales collapsed so I wanted to try again. I did a lot different the second time because I think my writing and organizing skills had improved. I also put more effort into getting a good cover and writing a more effective description.
The next book, Easy Speed Reading was in response to readers who said they would like to have more modern writing to use for their reading practice. So for this book, I was fortunate to have 12 popular authors allow me to use small excerpts of their books in the practice exercises.
The book I am currently working on, Speed Reading in 60 Seconds, is being written for people who have said they would like to read my book but didn’t think they had time. So this book will have 100 60-word excerpts. Since speed reading is 600 wpm, they only need to read an excerpt in one minute.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
Each time I feel a little bit more confident, but honestly I still feel like I’m working in the dark as far as what to do to ensure a successful launch. It’s strange to be one drop trying to be noticed in an ocean of books. If I’m not feeling depressed enough, I just remind myself that there are about 10,000 new book launches each day.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
At first I avoided telling people I was a “writer” and I probably still do. I couldn’t help wondering, “Who am I to write a book?” But the incredible reviews have probably done the most to support my fragile ego and so I sometimes will admit to people that I write books.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I don’t know what motivates me, but I find if I sit down and get started, that somehow the motivation arrives and I get into the zone.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that (well, except for question 20).
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Writing: Try to write to one person. This helps you write in your normal voice. And use conjunctions (“isn’t” instead of “is not”) because it sounds more natural and it’s surprising how we tend to omit conjunctions when we write.
Editing: You’ll never be done. It goes on for what seems like forever. I find that things that look good on the screen can look horrible on paper, so I always print it out, read it out loud to someone, marking it up as I go.
Publishing: Get it 99% “perfect” and let it go. Don’t be afraid to hit the publish button because the worst thing that can happen is you have to fix it later.
Marketing: Write more books. This is difficult for me because I’m kind of a reluctant writer. I only wrote my first book because I had something I wanted to say. I didn’t think of it as a job or something I needed to market. But from all I can figure (and I’ve wracked my brain and read so much stuff about this), it comes down to luck what takes off and what doesn’t. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a magic formula, but this is all I can make of it so far.