By Mike Enemigo
As an upcoming writer, one of the best things you can do is get something (of quality!) to market as soon as possible. But writing an entire book is a lot of work, will take a lot of time, and can be intimidating for the novice. However, you don’t have to start your writing career by penning an entire book. Nor should you. There are ways to start small, and build, which is not only easier, but wiser.
In addition, whether you are writing your first book or tenth, getting your name out there, and word about your upcoming book(s), is everything, and this takes promotion. Promoting from your prison cell without a lot of money or resources, like social media, your options are limited. You can advertise, and advertising is good, but it’s very, very expensive to do, and it will eat up a lot of your profit – the very profit you will be working so hard to make.
The solution to both of these problems, and by far the best strategy for prisoners, lies in my Secrets & Strategies to Publishing Short Stories & Reports for Promo & Profit. Like most things, this is something I had to learn the hard way, but luckily for you, you now don’t have to. Let’s get to it!
If your goal is to be an infopreneur, and you want to write a how-to book, rather than starting with an entire book, you can start with short reports on your subject of expertise, or another, strategically-chosen, well-selling topic. In fact, as a prisoner who likely has very few resources, for an upcoming infopreneur, I’d say this is the best way to start. It’s much easier and cheaper to get started; you can go to market and start selling faster; it can act as part of your learning curve before going “big” with your entire book; you can use it to start getting your name out there to your target market; you can use it to promote your upcoming books; and you can make a few bucks from it (or a lot if you want to), then use the money to fund your larger, upcoming project(s). Here’s a little-known secret about Special Reports: If they are of quality and full of value, they can sell for a lot of money.
I’ve made a lot of money selling Special Reports that I’ve written. I branded them under the collective title of TCBU – The Cell Block University – and the topics ranged from How to Do Your Time Wisely, to Prison Workout Techniques; to How to Turn Your Mailbox into a Money Machine, How to Hustle and Win Legally When You Get Out of Prison, and more. I might’ve had around 100 reports available through TCBU.
And I’m not the only prisoner who’s done this with some success. Josh Kruger sold a Special Report titled “How to Get FREE Pen Pals,” and another titled “How to Win Your Football Pool.” He later included both of these in his book The Millionaire Prisoner: Special TCB Edition, published by yours truly. If you’re truly interested in being prosperous from prison, I suggest that you buy a copy of this book immediately. Another prisoner, James L. Valentine offered seven reports, one of which – How to Have a Local Businessman Give You $400,000 in Addition to Receiving $35,000 and a New Car – was priced at $100.00. Others were priced at $25.00 and $50.00.
So now you’re convinced you should start by writing short info reports, but unsure of what you should write about? The best-selling topics for how-to reports are how to make money or achieve prosperity in some way; how to get girls or more sex; how to improve your health, both physically and mentally; and since you’re in prison, I’d say anything that will help prisoners improve their experience, lifestyle, or legal situation.
With the above in mind, what do you know about? Are you an “expert” on anything? Maybe you found a way to get your restitution reduced from 40k to 5k, or at least an effective way to challenge it, and you can write a report teaching other prisoners how they, too, can do it? I can see a report like this being very successful. What prisoner wouldn’t be willing to pay $10.00-$20.00, or more, for a report that teaches them how to basically squash a significant debt? Or maybe you found a way to get your case overturned, or your sentence reduced, in a way that many other prisoners could possibly qualify for? Maybe you found a way to make money from prison, legally, or a surefire way to get girls to write you from pen pal websites? Who doesn’t want that? Maybe you know something entirely different, that has nothing to do with prison or prisoners, like James L. Valentine, and you have the ability to get in front of people who would be willing to pay you for your information? Maybe you are a former drug dealer who invested in the real estate game prior to prison, and you can market a report to fellow hustlers interested in real estate titled “How to Flip Houses in the Hood for Huge Profits”?
If you don’t already have an expertise, what do you have a need for that others would also want to know, that you can research, master, then teach to others in the form of a Special Report? You don’t have to be a literary genius to write one of these reports. In fact, the easiest way to create one would be to buy some how-to info, maybe a book or two, or perhaps even a Special Report, read the info, then set it aside and write a better version with more elaboration, or from a different point of view. If you’re too lazy to do this, there are even reports you can buy that come with reprint rights. These you will just have to photocopy; no writing involved. Then advertise them to the proper market and fill the orders when they come. Of course, this is the worst option of all, as reports with reprint rights will be sold by many others, and you won’t be offering anything unique.
The key to being successful with this is not in the length of the report, but to provide value. The more value you provide, the more you can charge, and people will be happy to pay. Again, if you charged $20.00, or even $50.00 for a Special Report that told people the secrets to getting rid of a restitution fee of several thousand dollars, nobody would have a problem paying for it, even if it was only one page long. In fact, something only a page long would likely mean you found a way to simplify the process, making it easier for the person to do it, which is actually better – so long as it worked, of course. The value here, for the prisoner, would be a simple way to get their restitution reduced, for “only,” say, $50.00. For you, of course, the value is selling a single sheet of paper with info for $50.00! So, don’t get hung up on length, focus on value – providing great, valuable information. If you can do this, people will be happy to give you their money. And if it’s legit, they will buy from you again, which is how you really make money – with repeat business. Remember: It’s much easier and cheaper to sell again to a happy, existing customer than to try to reach and win over a new one.
If your Special Reports are directed towards prisoners, to get the word out about them you can advertise in my book, The BEST Resource Directory For Prisoners; Prison Legal News, perhaps starting with a classified ad as it’s the cheapest, then build from there; or Inmate Shopper. If your how-to report is directed towards people on the outside, you can advertise very inexpensively via the many mail order publications available for “opportunity seekers.” For a list of mail order companies/dealers, and to learn more about the mail order business in general, which is heavily related to self-publishing, be sure to get yourself a copy of my book Mailbox Money: How to Turn Your Mailbox into a Million Dollar Money Machine When You Get Out of Prison!
Another great thing about producing Special Reports, aside from what’s already listed, is that you can later put all of your reports together in the form of a book. I did this with my TCBU reports, turning them into Get Out, Get Rich: How to Get Paid LEGALLY When You Get Out of Prison!; The CEO Manual: How to Start Your Own Business When You Get Out of Prison!; The Money Manual: Underground Cash Secrets Exposed!; and Mailbox Money: How to Turn Your Mailbox into a Million Dollar Money Machine When You Get Out of Prison! Some of the Special Reports were even made into chapters for my book The Prison Manual: The Complete Guide to Surviving the American Prison System! Shit, I might even turn The Secrets & Strategies to Publishing Short Stories & Reports for Promo & Profit! into a Special Report and use it to not only make money, but promote my upcoming masterpiece, Jailhouse Publishing for Money, Power & Fame! book.
If selling reports, you will need someone on the outside to fulfill the orders when they come in, ideally to a P.O. Box you will have set up. It’s best if you have a loved one, such as your wife, mother, sibling or trusted friend fulfill the orders, which will mostly consist of putting a copy of your Special Report in an envelope and mailing it off, but if you don’t have anyone, all is not lost. Simply contact one of the several mail order dealers listed in my Mailbox Money book who’s already in business selling reports, and ask them to distribute yours for a split. You won’t have much trouble finding someone to work with you. These guys are in business to make money, and they’re already doing it anyway.
Once you’ve mastered the business of Special Reports, you may want to graduate to booklets, which are, I’d say, 20,000 words or less, though there’s no set length. The actual definition is “A small thin book that gives you information about something.”
For a booklet, you can add a few of your reports together, maybe for a more comprehensive explanation. Typically, Special Reports are easier to sell at a premium than booklets, and booklets are also going to cost you more to manufacture, which means less profit for you per copy. However, there’s no rule that says you can’t call your booklet a Special Report, yet manufacture it in the style of a booklet, like I did with my Special Report booklet, The Ladies Who Love Prisoners: Secrets Exposed! You may wonder why you’d want to produce your report in a way that’s more expensive for you, while at the same time not allowing you to sell it at as high a price, but there are two major reasons. For one, producing a booklet will help you learn the production aspects of book publishing, as you will have to have a cover made, the interior text formatted, then everything uploaded to Amazon, etc. The other major reason lies in distribution; a booklet will allow you more options. For example, your reports will be printed on regular 8.5×11 copy paper, and Amazon won’t sell and distribute those. As I explained, you will have to have a loved one or mail order dealer do that. But Amazon will sell a booklet, as will other companies who distribute books to prisoners if this is something you desire, like SureShot, Inmate Shopper, and so forth. Like most things, you have to weigh the pros and cons when deciding your strategy.
When I officially launched my publishing company, The Cell Block, in 2014, I published two booklets. One, The Art & Power of Letter Writing for Prisoners, was around 9,500 words, and I priced it at $9.99. “Letter writing” was actually two chapters out of the first book I wrote, Surviving Prison. I wasn’t ready to publish Surviving Prison, and wanting to launch TCB with as many books as possible, I decided to take out chapters “Letter-Writing Like a Pro” and “Pen-Pal Websites: The Secrets” and publish them as a booklet. And thank God I did, because it ended up being a hit! I had no idea! I sold a ton of them! (I attribute part of this to the fact it was picked up by book distributors like SureShot and Inmate Shopper, where it’s still sold to this day.) This was the market’s way of saying, “We will give you our money for this type of book,” and that’s when I knew I had to elaborate on it, so I published The Art & Power of Letter Writing Deluxe Edition in 2018, which has also been very successful.
As mentioned above, Letter Writing isn’t the only booklet I’ve dropped. I once got into a beef with an incarcerated rapper, who I, along with a friend, was forced to stab back in 2010. After the incident, the schmuck, who told, went online – social media and various top-tier hip hop sites – trying to assassinate my character, and lying to the fans about the incident. So, I responded to the blog, online, but then I turned the response, which was lengthy, about 6,500 words, into a booklet so I could easily distribute it to prisoners who don’t have access to the online blogs, and sold it for $9.99. This booklet was also a hit.
Don’t underestimate the value or power of a booklet, which also can later be added to a book, or made into a bigger book if the market responds favorably.
Short Stories & Articles
Writing short stories or articles, depending on your genre (short stories for fiction, or a nonfiction story; articles for nonfiction, like how-to books), is a great way to start in this business. If you can get your Short or article published in a magazine or some other established publication, it’s a great way to get your name out there, and your target market familiar with you. By definition, Shorts are under 10,000 words, but I’d say 7,500 is a good amount, unless you are writing for a magazine with limited space; they will likely have a word limit you have to abide by. And when I say established publication, I mean any publication in your genre that has a bigger platform and fanbase then you do.
Do not underestimate the value of this, as so many prisoners do, as even I did at one point in time. This is something I had to learn the hard way. Listen to me: Promoting yourself from prison is very hard to do, and also very expensive. But it is critical to your success as a writer, because no matter how great you are, if nobody knows about you, they cannot buy your books. You may think social media is the answer to getting your name out there. If you were free, I’d say you’re right. But as a prisoner, you have to depend on someone on the outside, who is busy, to keep it maintained for you, and depending on someone else is never a good thing. And you can run ads in whatever publication, if you have the money, but I promise you, ads are very expensive, and they are going to eat your profit more viciously than a school of starving piranhas will eat a dead body floating in the Amazon – if you’re lucky enough to profit in the first place.
But if you can get a dope short story or article published, preferably as many as possible? You now get your product – not an ad about your product – in front of your potential customers. This gives them a sample to see whether or not they want to fuck with you, and if they do, you are likely to make a sell, and hopefully even gain a fan. Look at it this way: I pay $1,500 for a full-page ad in Straight Stuntin magazine. This means I have to sell $1,500 worth of books just to break even. But if I can get them to publish a short story or article relevant to the topic of my book(s), and establish myself to the reader as an expert or dope author, this can persuade him to buy my book – or at least get him closer to doing so, perhaps more effectively than an ad, if done right – without me having to pay the $1,500, which means everything I sell as a result of the short story or article is profit. This is so important, I now require all TCB authors to give me at least three short stories or articles for each book I publish, relevant to the specific book, so that I can do my best to get them published in the appropriate, established publication.
The reason I say “publication” instead of magazine, is because magazines are not the only place to target with short stories or articles. If your shorts stories or articles are geared towards the prison audience, you can submit them to me for possible placement in The BEST Resource Directory for Prisoners; or Freebird Publishers for possible placement in Inmate Shopper. If what you write is related to laws impacting prisoners, or prisoner conditions of confinement, etc., you can submit to Prison Legal News for possible publication. These are all established publications that will get you in front of prisoners all around the country, if this is what you desire. I also have a couple short story collections in the works – Trap Tales (short urban stories) and American Prison Stories (short prison stories). I’m creating these specifically to be a promotional platform for TCB and other incarcerated authors. I plan to run a heavy promotional campaign for these books that includes magazine ads, giving away hundreds of books free to prisoners around the country, and more. The point is to get our work in front of as many readers as possible, so that if they like what they read from a particular author, they can then purchase their book(s). Yes, I’ve learned that even giving away books for free, which is quite costly, can be less expensive than ads. (Note: If you wish to submit to Trap Tales or American Prison Stories, send your very best work to The Cell Block; P.O. Box 1025; Rancho Cordova, CA 93581, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not write your prison address on the pages of your story. Only write your first and last name, and what state you’re in. My people will keep record of your full address. Include with your submission, on a separate page, a brief bio, being sure to list any books you may have available. We have the right to edit, and we do not pay for submissions. We will, however, send you a copy of whatever book your work appears in, if you make it into one of our books.)
If you can get paid for any short stories or articles you submit to an established publication, great! I urge you to get the bag. But do not bypass an opportunity to get your name and work out there via an established publication who doesn’t pay, because you think you should be paid. Too many prisoners, ones with no name and who’ve never sold a book, think like this. Perhaps this is the reason why we don’t know their names, or have never bought their book(s). Do not be arrogant and foolish like such prisoners. Established publications don’t need your story or article, you need the established publication’s platform. Even I, who has a rather large platform, will give a free story or article to another publication, perhaps one with a platform less established than my own, so long as they have a solid platform, one I’m trying to reach, and one I may not be reaching with my own.
Getting your name out there is extremely valuable, as you will otherwise not sell books. So, remain humble and focused on your objectives. Your goal needs to be to get yourself out there, at little or no cost to you. Do not underestimate the value of this.
And get this; if you have a book already written, it’s not hard to find and interesting part, edit it accordingly and make a short story, then submitting it to the appropriate place(s), to promote the book. King Guru and I have made several Shorts out of scenes in the Underworld Zilla series that we offer free to any publisher with a platform. I also mail these out to fans who’ve been loyal supporters of The Cell Block to keep them in the loop of what we’re working on.
If you’re working on a fiction novel that you want to promote to people on the outside, you want to publish an e-short first, relative to the upcoming book, possibly a prequel, and give it away for free, or .99 cents. An e-short is a short story that you publish electronically – a short e-book. From the e-shorts I viewed online, I’d say an e-short should be between 20 and 40 e-pages.
As we’ve established, writing a book takes a long time. And then you don’t even know if the market is going to be interested in it. This means you may spend an enormous amount of time and money, all for nothing. In addition, in case you don’t know by now, getting your name out there and promoting from a prison cell is very difficult and expensive. So what you want to do, while working on your book, is drop an e-short as quickly as you can, on Amazon and other e-book sites, so you can get the word out about your upcoming book while you work on it. This will not only allow you to start spreading the word, but also get feedback. To help spread the e-short around further, you can get in touch with websites and blogs in your genre, ones who have lots of traffic, and work something with them, where they can give it to their web visitors for free. This will help you get your story in front of potential buyers of your full-length novel. For example, I have a book titled The Mob coming out with inmate-author PaperBoy. The Mob is about Bay Area rappers in the drug game, and one of the rappers is Mac Dre, who’s like a God in The Bay. There are several Bay Area hip-hop websites with large followings, like Thizzler.com, RapBay.com, AllBayMusic.com, and DopeEra.com, and The Mob is geared towards their exact market. Before I lost my last cell phone, I was in the process of negotiating a deal with these websites, where they would give The Mob e-short away free. This would get The Mob in front of over 200,000 viewers. We would also then be able to read the comments and see what people like and dislike about the story, allowing us to use the information while finishing the novel, all the while, getting people to know and hopefully talk about The Mob for the next year (or whatever, we’re in no hurry) while we finish it.
I also use The Mob and other e-shorts to capture e-mail addresses from urban readers who visit my website, thecellblock.net. I give them away free, but the person (and hopefully future buyer) must insert their e-mail address to receive the download. Now I have their e-mail and can e-mail them directly when the book is done, or a similar book. If we did our job with the story and made it interesting and entertaining, this person is likely to buy the novel when it’s done. We may even gain them as a TCB fan, where they then buy our other books.
I also publish my e-shorts on Amazon and sell them for .99 cents. (I can’t give them away free on Amazon without signing up for KDP Select, which is an exclusive deal, and that would prevent me from offering the Short on my website where I’m able to capture e-mails, something I can’t do on Amazon, so I’m not willing to sign up for KDP Select.) Not only does selling the book for .99 cents help promote it by offering it at such a low price, if you push it enough, you may even make a few bucks you can then invest into the publishing of the full-length novel.
E-Shorts are a must if you want to promote to people on the outside. Offer them for free or .99 cents, allowing potential readers of your upcoming novel a risk-free entry point into you world. Get this done as soon as possible, then promote it via as many low-cost ways as you can.
If you’re working on a fiction novel, you definitely want to get short stories relevant to your novel published in as many magazines and short story collections by more established publishers as possible. But again, these will usually have some sort of word limit you have to meet. But if you want to write a longer piece, it would be a great idea for you to publish a novella. A novella is between a short story and a novel; over 10,000 words, under 50,000. A novella is similar to an e-short, but a little longer, and not necessarily distributed in electronic form. Novellas can be done in any genre, but romance and erotica novellas have been especially popular, making a few self-published authors rich.
The Mob, which I discussed in the previous section was made into an e-short with the specific intention of using it to promote The Mob online. But how do you use this same strategy to promote to prisoners, who may need a printed product? In the case of The Mob, since it has some length to it, around 17,000 words, I made it into a print copy, which would classify it as a novella (though on the shorter side), that I sell for $6.00. With the cost of printing and mailing, etc., I don’t profit from the $6.00, The $6.00 I charge is just to cover my costs. I give this story away free online for the purpose of promoting the upcoming novel. So my goal here is not to profit from the novella (although you can sell novellas for a profit), it’s to give the reader the lowest possible price without me losing money, so I can get it to as many people as possible, and promote The Mob to as many potential customers as possible. It basically works as a way for me to promote The Mob for free, which is critical, as so many other ways we have to promote from prison is so expensive.
In addition to what I’ve explained thus far, on some ads I offer the $6.00 Mob novella free with the purchase of $40.00 or more, of any of our other books. This not only allows me to get the word out about The Mob at little or no cost to me, it also encourages customers to spend a little more than they would have, in order to get a free copy of The Mob. As I write this, I have The Mob in my ads for Straight Stuntin magazine, Kite magazine, and State V. Us magazine. PaperBoy, who’s writing The Mob, is in another prison working on it along with a few other projects. We’re in no rush to publish the full novel because the longer the novella and e-short is out, the more it promotes our upcoming book, and this increases the likeliness of it being a success.
Do not sleep on the importance of getting word of your story out as soon as possible. But instead of just talking about it, which you should also be doing to any- and everyone who will listen, put out a sample of what’s to come, and make sure it’s something that, whoever reads it, will be standing in line eagerly waiting for the novel to drop so they can buy it. And don’t do this with the expectation of profit; instead, do it with the objective of getting free promotion, promotion that would otherwise cost you thousands of dollars, for the book you later plan to sell.
As they say, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and this is especially true when publishing from prison, where most of us don’t have a lot of pennies to work with.
To see a great example of a novella that you can use to promote an upcoming novel, order The Mob by sending $6.00 to The Cell Block; P.O. Box 1025; Rancho Cordova, CA 95741.
Go to thecellblock.net and subscribe to The Official Magazine of The Cell Block, where we provide you with raw, uncensored news, entertainment and resources on the topics of prison and street culture from a true, insider’s perspective, and be sure to follow us on IG @mikeenemigo and FB/thecellblockofficial. And if you want to help a prisoner learn everything, they need to know about publishing books while incarcerated, order them Jailhouse Publishing for Money, Power & Fame, by Mike Enemigo, today!