Interview with Scott H Young

I ran across Scott Young’s blog some time ago when I was writing about my battle with procrastination, and I have slowly become a regular reader. Being a rather slow, introverted, laid-back personality type, I find people like Scott terribly interesting, just because they’re such go-getters and they do unconventional things successfully.

I also noticed–after reading a number of Scott’s articles–that he makes his living writing, so I asked him if I could interview him for my blog (and my own curiosity). He graciously obliged, and here is what he has to say about writing for a living:

Q: You’ve been blogging for some time and have produced a butt-load (can I say butt-load?) of articles. You seem to have a rather large audience, gauging by the number of comments I see. Have you done a lot of active promoting of your blog, and if so, what did you do? Any recommendations for building readership?

A: Be patient and be interesting. The two biggest mistakes bloggers make is that they give up too soon (building an audience takes time) or that they’re too generic. The latter point can actually come with practice; few bloggers are amazing out of the gate.

Q: It’s my understanding that you make a living by your blogging and self-published books. Is that the entire source of your income or only a portion of it? What else do you do to supplement your income? Do you plan on living solely on your writing one day?

A: Yes, I’ve been living completely off my blog for the last two years, mostly from sales of my rapid learning course. [I should point out that Scott’s been blogging since Feb 2006, so he spent 4 years building up an audience and product before he became self-sufficient with his writing.] It can take awhile to figure out a revenue model that works for you and your audience. I certainly made a lot of missteps in the beginning, but now I’ve reached a comfortable point where I can earn a living while still keeping the majority of my readers happy.

Q: I noticed that you do not sell ads on your blog. Does your blog make money, or is it strictly a place for your own thoughts and a way to generate interest in your books?

A: I started with ads, but unless you have a particularly high-traffic website, they’re really hard to earn a living from. Since the money is negligible, I’d rather not clutter my blog with trashy ads.

Q: You sell your books on your blog, but do you have them placed anywhere else (Amazon, for instance)? If you don’t have them anywhere else, what made you decide to not list them elsewhere?

A: They’re all sold through me, although other bloggers can affiliate andsell my products for 50% commission, so you might see links to them on other websites. Going through Amazon or iTunes is worth considering, but if the traffic is coming directly from your website, the surcharge and restrictions they place on you usually don’t make it worth it.

Q: I checked out the free chapter of The Little Book of Productivity. Did you do your own design and formatting for it?

A: No I paid an ebook designer. Many people can do a design for fairly cheap if you’re serious about an ebook, but I did my first three ebooks without any design help, so if you’re low on funds it’s not strictly necessary.

Q: I watched a show, “A Day in the Life…” featuring Timothy Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. The way he thought and approached his work reminded me of you. You and he and many young, successful entrepreneurs seem to have very similar personalities (I’ll call it the “entrepreneur personality type.”) 

From what I have observed, EPT’s seem to have some things in common:

  • EPT’s tackle big goals, but typically do them in a short amount of time (your 4 years of MIT in 1 year is a good example).
  • EPT’s seem to focus on just one or two things for a short period of time (a year or less, typically), do it successfully, then move on to something else.
  • EPT’s are always seeing new possibilities in everything and they tend to ride the front of the new-technology wave.
  • EPT’s take a lot of risks (although they would say they’re calculated risks).
  • EPT’s always seem to do things quickly (mostly thanks to life-hacking) and have a goodly amount of energy that keeps them going throughout the day, week after week.

Do you see anything else that you would add to that list? Furthermore, do you think there is there a way for those of us who aren’t born-EPT’s to develop that ability to not only be successful and do what we love, but to make it look easy?

A: Well I think there’s definitely similarities in the personalities of ambitious people, particularly bloggers. After all, it’s a certain personality type that’s attracted to trying to make a living unconventionally and writing about your pursuits. That said, I wouldn’t worry if you don’t think you fit the mold. After meeting many successful entrepreneurs, I can say there is a huge range in personalities that work. You just need to find what  works for you.

Q: Are there any other tips or suggestions you’d give burgeoning bloggers and would-be authors?

A: Do it because you love it. Nothing is more obvious that reading a blogger who is just in it for the money. Writing, particularly about yourself, is too hard and the chances of success too sporadic to go at it in any other way.

So, there you have it: write because you love it, write on a theme (or three; The Pioneer Woman is a good example of having several specific themes: cooking, photography, and living on a cattle ranch), and do it for years. Eventually, success will be yours.

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