Monday, May 13, 2019

Minimal Viable Audience - Individual Connection Marketing

minimum viable audience - hummingbird



In a recent podcast with Seth Godin, one of the ideas mentioned was looking at the minimal audience needed. When people are thinking of what they can sell to make money, they are thinking that the more people that views their product the better. Therefore, they look to see advertising as an infinite source of views. This becomes a race of converting views into “funnel” travelers. At the end of the funnel is a customer who buys everything you put out.

Personal connection vs. Funnel travelers

The flip side that Seth Godin talks about is that true marketing is about personal connection. To me, that makes logical sense. In the small town I used to live in, my boss was like a celebrity. When he walked down the street, people waved, and he chatted with nearly everyone. In fact, he had to send people out to get items from the store sometimes because it would take too long for him to do.  He had a personal connection with so many people, which is the foundation of his business. He knows exactly who needs what and helps them out.

Seth Godin talked about creating raving fans that then create more fans. The idea is to focus just on the most fanatic and leave the rest to work itself out. I want to take this concept one more step forward. Instead of just creating raving fans, what is the least number of fans you need? If you want to sell two books a day, and you have 60 fantastic fans, then you are set for the first month of book sales. Great! But what about the next month’s book sales? What about some natural attrition from the list?

What is your aim as an author?

Perhaps here is a different way to look at it: What are you trying to go for as a writer? If you want people to read your book, and are not as concerned about the money, why not just go strictly for reviewers? Why do any advertising at all?

Talking one on one with reviewers and building that comradely is a unique idea. Most times authors look at reviews as a means to an end. If we get enough reviews, others will buy the book. What if we flip this and stop looking for end customers completely? What if we only looked for reviewers?
To me, this makes a lot more sense. Not only does it allow for more personal connections, but it helps build a platform. In the end, I think that this practice does something powerful. If you have a list of people you know and know you, that can lead to something Amazon can’t take away.

Better than Amazon

As an author, we know that there is a trade off between “going wide” and “going exclusive”. Going exclusive allows the author to get Amazon’s promotions and have potentially more easy revenue. However, going wide can provide an author with a revenue stream outside of Amazon. This can be important because it allows the author to adapt to the future. However, these are the two main choices, right? Well, there is a third one that few people think about “going narrow”. That is, having those close relationships with people. Amazon can’t duplicate this relationship and even if they change against you, you can pivot quickly. Furthermore, going wide can work even better because you can move people to the right fit for them. Perhaps they want to have a specific format or don’t want to jump through a lot of hoops. By building that personal relationship with them, you can figure out exactly what they need and fill it. Maybe Amazon is the best step for them? Maybe someplace else is the best place for them? Ultimately, the struggle no longer becomes what you want as an author, but rather what your audience wants individually. There is no way Amazon or anyone else can take that away.

The Money is in the List

This old saying relates to mailing lists. The idea is that a sales funnel slowly develops contacts and then you can section those most likely to buy. I would look at this from an alternative perspective. I would almost look at it from a Salesforce point of view. Instead of looking at a specific funnel, think of this as a mountain of value. You are being paid to be a Sherpa on this mountain. You don’t know where your people want to go, or how they want to go there, you are just there to provide value. In that regard, a CRM (customer relationship manager) may be a better fit than AMS (Amazon Marketing Service) ads. Think about the conversation from an AMS standpoint. You try out a sales copy, and the response is a simple: yes, no, or kinda. Is this what they are looking for? No? Let’s try that? All the while you are wasting a ton of money trying to get a clear picture. Why not skip all that and just send out an email (or call) and get an immediately answer? In addition, you can ask more detailed questions and have a wonderful conversation.

So the money is still in the list, but the truth is that the money is in the relationship building techniques. How do you provide value as an author? How can you tailor what value you build to fit their need, not your own? If you are able to hit that every time you become something other than “another marketer”. You become a resource for your readers. Your writing becomes that water in a desert that they know they can go to and get exactly what they are looking for. If it turns out that they aren’t happy, well guess what? They know the author! They can get it fixed. That gives them the power, which is ultimately, where it’s always been. No platform, no advertising, no gimmicks hold the same power that interested customers hold. Let them decide and they will reward you with more than money. They will reward you with loyalty.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Dismantling Bad Advice on How to Market an eBook


Bad advice on how to market ebook

When it comes to how to market an ebook, there is a lot of bad advice out there. However, the advice can sound completely rational and logical. So how do you best separate out the good information from the bad? There are three main ways to do this:

Method 1: Ignore success, look for failures

There is an old saying that failures teach more than success. This is exceedingly true when you are looking for marketing advice. Many people will take a look at the success of a project and try to duplicate it. However, they may not see that the success of the project was an iterative approach, achieved just a bit at a time. That means that when you try to duplicate success, you could be missing steps or may not have the full picture. Instead, if you can see the road they took to get to success, you will be setup better. Things to look for include:
  • How many failures did they have
  • How much did each or all the failures cost
  • What was the method that they experimented


That final thing can be more important than any other piece of information. However, this is often ignored in marketing advice. Giving an example of an A/B test is simply not enough. What led a particular marketer towards certain words? What websites did they visit for ideas? How did they generate each round of test keywords? This complete method of experimentation is the map towards success, or at very least, the same location.

Method 2: Are they talking about the 80% or the 20%?

Knowing the impact of each change can determine how much effort should be put in. When you put your time into an effort, you don’t want to waste that precious commodity. In addition, advice can also focus on a “shot gun” approach where the marketer tried a bunch of stuff and something stuck. However, when you dissect their advice, it is easy to tell that they don’t know what exactly stuck. Knowing the exact lever to pull is important to determine the validity of the advice.

Method 3: Does the advice fit the box you are trying to put it in?

Another common approach to any marketing advice is to keep it really broad. The idea behind this is that many more people can use the advice. The only problem is that many more people can use the advice in the wrong way. Instead of determining what fits their goals, they may focus on a broad aspect and hope it fits. One example could be the “just write” approach. However, if the writer is trying to determine the value of time to writing, this advice isn’t going to be helpful. If the writer is trying to build better books and needs to learn through trial and error, this advice will work. When it comes to marketing, the same is true. Pouring more money into keyword research isn’t going to matter if the problem is that the author doesn’t know their genre. That would just put the wrong product in the wrong hands. The result of that will be either negative reviews or no sales.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Pay to Play versus Traditional Royalties

Pay to Play versus Traditional Royalties

My definition of traditional royalties is where you build the product once and continue to make money from it far into the future. However, pay to play is becoming the norm in the author community. The secret to writing success is becoming "marketing". The secret to marketing is to find small ways to earn more than you spend. However, these small ways keep changing, which requires you to keep changing your marketing. It is at this point, that those secret revealers say that being an author is about running a business, not just writing.

Here is a sample thought from a Reddit forum post:

Amazon Ads would be your best bang for your buck (and book!) but depending on the price of your paperback they may not make financial sense. An awesome click to buy ratio is 1 sale for every 10 clicks, and clicks in popular categories can cost $0.25 or more, so unless you're making more than $2.50 profit on your paperback it might not work. Note that 1 in 10 is very good, something like 1 in 30 is more common.
A lot of advertising only works if the books are part of a series, in which case the read through will end up covering the cost of the ads.
It is worth experimenting with cheaper bids to see if you can get any traction.

That's helpful, but also disheartening. The dream of everyone who builds royalties is not to continue to pour work into their effort for everything they want to make. They want to make it once and be done. The sad truth is that's not always the case.

In a recent Podcast of the Sell More Books Show, they say [paraphrased]: The Amazon indie book market mirrors what happens to YouTube content creators. The difference is that it happens to YouTube content creators several years in advance.

So, what is happening with YouTube? Looking at a recent Entrepreneur article, we know new YouTube creators will need 4000 hours of watch time every year and at least 1000 subscribers in order to earn money from their content. This means that lower level content creators don't see a dime. If that's coming down the pipeline to Amazon, that could be huge. Why? Because according to this Guardian article, many indie authors make less than $500/year. If those authors are cut off from any compensation at all, will they still write?

Here is where pay to play (purchase marketing) and traditional royalties being to take different paths. I suppose it's sad in a way. So many authors write books hoping for a trickle of money throughout their lifetimes. If Amazon makes this change, that author dream will die for so many people. I find that very sad. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sadistic Writing App Review: The Most Dangerous Writing App

The image at the top is an example of a new simple, yet sadistic writing app: The Most Dangerous Writing App. Overall this app is a fairly straightforward thing, but it is built for a reason. Simply put, the app has a timer that goes for however long you want, or by word count:
If you stop typing the screen fades red and you lose everything! In addition to the regular mode, there is a hardcore mode where you can't even see what you've written. You must simply trust your writing and grammar skills. The goal of this app is: keep writing and avoid distractions. Beyond that, it carries a large stick - if you fail, you don't keep any words. That's downright sadistic. I think that this could be beneficial if you are trying to get to a specific word count every day. However, I also think it's a bit extreme except if you are having major writer's block. I think for many people, once you start you can keep going. However, I can't count the number of times I need to do some minor research or simply want to go get a cup of coffee. I still hit the numbers I want, but if I was using this system it would completely be destroyed.

There is a wonderful way to use this tool: Writing Prompts!

Many writing prompts are used not because they will build works of art, but because they are helpful to get a person get started. If you combine this ticking time bomb with a writing prompt, you will probably be less likely to fail. That's because you don't have to worry that you're saving your best work. Instead, you're just betting against a writing exercise, so that you have less "skin in the game".

Final step in the game: Feedback.

Writer's Digest lists a number of writer prompts. What is great about these prompts is that you get to post your work in the comments. If people like your response, they will reply and tell you so. If they don't like it, you'll know that too. I think that's a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment, even if you are using a sadistic writing app like The Most Dangerous Writing App.

One more thing, if you link your user name on Writer's Digest to your website, you can even get people to potentially go to your website after they read your writing. I am going to give this a try and post the result:

Writer Digest Prompt [summation]:
"Your child finds a massive egg during an Easter egg hunt and it's unlike any bird egg you've ever seen."

My Story:


Egg hunts are always more exciting with gold. The only problem when your child finds a real gold egg is deciding what the next step will be.

"Daddy, look what I found? Do you think it's real?" my 7-year-old girl asked looking up to me.
I didn't think it was real. However, as a jeweler I can always appreciate when people get the color right. What I didn't expect was that the feel was right. It was cold in the way it should be cold. I then did the ultimate scratch test. Gold is a very soft metal, so I wasn't sure if this would work. To my amazement, it parted the way it should. It was then that I asked my little girl a very important question:

"Do you got any more?"

She replied " yes!" Apparently, she had green plastic ones, and blue plastic ones, and even red plastic ones.

She was very excited about this. I sighed and asked her where she found this gold one.

"Over by that goose daddy!"

"By the goose?" I asked, wondering if I had heard right. Wasn't there a goose that had laid a golden egg in some nursery story? Wouldn't that be a blessing?

"Can you show me exactly where near the goose?" I asked

"Sure thing!" She exclaimed.

She took me over and spent the next half hour trying to find the exact spot where she found the egg. After much trial, she showed me a spot in the brush where a small egg indentation was at. To my untrained eyes, it looked like a nest. I looked a bit closer and was greeted by a honking and hissing goose coming in our direction. My daughter left running, and I am afraid to admit that I also left in a huff. It wasn't that I was scared of a goose or anything, but it was just surprising, that's all.
My mind started to come up with schemes to search more of the area. I went and jumped into a nearby pond and looked around the border. I didn't see any eggs there. I then climbed the tree nearest to the goose looking for any above ground nests. I didn't see anything there. By the time I was done I had sticks and twigs buried in my hair, my jeans were muddy, and I was no closer to finding yet another golden egg.

I made a mental note: If I could come back and visit, I would. I would hunt down all those golden eggs. It was then that my daughter said she was hungry. I handed her some snacks but she didn't want carrots. Before I knew what she was doing she grabbed the golden egg and peeled it. Turns out it was chocolate. Maybe I am not the best jeweler around. I guess, though, I did have a great Easter egg hunt.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Five Ways to Make Writing Fun




Writing can be somewhat difficult to start, but if you know the tricks it can be a lot easier. In this article we will work through five different things to make writing more fun. You may want to achieve this to build a daily writing habit or to get a bit of work done. Either way, having a writing habit can lead to a higher level of productivity and happiness. I think part of the trick here is also knowing what it takes to make writing not feel like work. The more fun you have with writing, the better. In addition, the easier you make it to pick up the keyboard and produce, the better. Ultimately, writing is fun for a number of reasons, but every writer has to start somewhere.

1.)    Setup a routine of inspiration (music, art, etc.)

Writing is often the best when you are fully inspired to do so. This may not always be the case. However, the internet is full of potential inspiration for your next writing project. This can range from cool images, to amazing art, to 3D creations and more. There are so many different things that can be used to help you get inspired and write that next piece. If you write fiction you can read / audiobook a selection of stories to help inspire you. If you are non-fiction, or just want non-fiction information, then podcasts can provide you with a wonderful source of enthusiasm. Either way, one of the best ways to make writing fun is to break if off with the ordinary and observe something that inspires you to action.

2.)    Build training wheels (outlines)

Many times the hardest part of writing is the first few moments the cursor is blinking. This is an intimidating time where you may be wondering what to write. The best way to solve this problem or hurdle is to have a rough outline accomplished. However, even that can be difficult to build. If you can’t find the right place to even start an outline, you can make an outline for your outline. While this sounds redundant, I can explain. You can start with a goal or general structure. For example, if you want to write a short story, you can determine what the word count needs to be. From there, you can separate the word count into how many chapters and scenes you need. From there, you can separate these into beginning, middle, end. Now that you’ve made the outline for your outline, you can add in the components. What inciting incident starts the story off? What kind of hero journey or story is told? What kind of question do they have in the middle? After you build these questions onto a frame, you then can start typing up the first chapter. You have a rough outline to use to make things easier, but if you deviate off that path, no worries, because you know where you want to go by the end. This can make it easier to write as you know where to go.

3.)    Point A to Point B (have a purpose)

Speaking of going somewhere, it can also be helpful to answer the question “why”. Why is this being written? Is it for a blog article or a book or a report of some sort? Being able to determine the ‘why’ can help you with motivation and with building the correct quality into your work. Beyond that, you can measure what you are writing while you are writing it. For example, some genre’s will require that you cite your facts while others may be fine with simply stating a fact. Knowing your purpose is a wonderful way to break the ice with writing.

4.)    Pavlov response (treat yourself afterwards)

I feel like this one is the most common for advice. After you do something you want to maintain, give yourself a treat. The next time you do it, give yourself another treat. Soon enough, your brain will associate the positive action with a positive feeling. While I am not fully sure this works, I do think that rewarding yourself can be a wonderful thing. The trick is to reward yourself with a relevant thing, and not just some random goody. Giving yourself a hit of sugar for writing may not associate writing with the feeling in your brain. Instead it could associate getting that sugar in the store with that feeling in your brain.

5.)    Forget perfection

This is the biggest way to have fun with writing. When you need everything to be absolutely wonderful, you end up with very little. Truthfully, wonderful writing never happens in the first draft. Instead, you see the sparks of wonderful in the first draft and through revisions you unbury it. Giving yourself permission to run the metal detector of wonderful against the beach of your brain is a good thing. Sometimes you just need to wander around for a bit to discover the really important components.

Bonus: Daily Creation

I think there is a major component to not wasting your life being “just a consumer”. In a consumer mind set, you are determined by your opinions on products. You’ve found product X doesn’t have the proper features. You now know that product Y is the correct price point for this problem. The knowledge of products goes on and on. However, this is not the only mindset out there.
The producer mind sent has a different set of questions. In that mind set, it’s more about “what good can I do”. In that framework, questions like “can I build this better or faster? Will people enjoy this? Can I sell this so I can make more of my ideas?” are common to the producer mind set. When you are building articles, books, or more, you need to move to a producer mind set. If you get stuck in a consumer mindset, and try to write, you will be looking for which products work best for writing. Does this promotion or tool work better than their competitor? I am not saying that it’s not useful information, but you can get swamped down in the details with this train of thought. It is best to keep your mind on building and producing things than to simply consuming them. If you do consume products, then you can ask things like: “How can I reproduce this? How does this reflect on what I am working on? What do I like about this and can I bring it into my own work?”

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

7 Steps to a Writing Daily Habit

Building a Daily Writing Habit


I think writing every day is a very tricky situation. While it may seem easy to maintain, especially if you are prolific-slanted, there are a number of barriers.
  • ·        Coming up with something to write every day.
  • ·        Having to edit what you write every day.
  • ·        Finding time to write ever day.
  • ·        Being worried you don’t have anything relevant to share.

This is the short list of barriers. Any one of these can completely derail your progress towards a daily writing goal. However, there are number of steps you can take to make the writing daily goal more tangible. Like anything, these are small steps towards a much longer path, and the path is different for everyone. Some writers will recommend ideas surrounding daily habit creation. They argue that if it works for one thing it can work for others. My goal here is to offer advice that is specific to the writing daily habit, not to other habits. That being said, I may dive into other habit creation as a method of explaining each section. Here are the seven tips I can think of that can help build a daily writing habit. Are these all the tips there are in the world? No, but I think this I a wonderful start towards that effort.

Step 1: Writers write

This is a two-word phrase that also has a double meaning. The first meaning is that the act of being a writer is simple. If you write things, you can automatically call yourself a writer. The second meaning is that as a writer, you have to actually write. So this is both a “welcome” to a group and a “get to work”. It’s about giving yourself permission to be bad and still call yourself a writer. After all, who cares if what you write is garbage if you can edit it into gold? Or if it’s complete garbage and only teaches you how not to do it. Either way, the central tenant is that to be good at anything you need to practice it. While I don’t think 10,000 hours to expertise applies to writers, I would say that 1,000,000 words does. If you can create over a million words in a variety of story combinations, that will help you tremendously towards being an expert writer. That may take a half a year or a decade to reach, but by typing one word at a time, you will get there.

Step 2: Imagine with eyes open 

Normally writing advice would tell you the steps to build a habit at this point. Instead, I think it’s important to determine what you want writing to be to you. If you want to write simply because of the money, then think about how you want that job to look. If you want to write to keep people entertained in their cars during their commutes, think about how best to produce audio books. If you want to write to show lessons, think about how to border conflict with reliability. Finally, if you want to write simply to please yourself, think about why writing pleases yourself. Once you’ve got a good vision of the “why” behind writing, you can start to experiment in that direction. That’s the part of “with eyes wide open”. Having a deeper purpose behind your material also helps build motivation, which will be absolutely necessary for a daily writing habit.

Step 3: Decrease excuses

Part of why writing every day is so hard is because there isn’t a normal space for it. Just like when you cram in round peg to square hole, things just don’t fit naturally. However, if you cut the corners of the square hole, then fitting in the round peg is much easier. The same is true for every habit you wish to learn. For example, if you expect to write fantastic material every time, you are going to be upset when the muse isn’t sitting next to you. Sometimes you just need permission to write junk. Another excuse is that you don’t know what to write. This can be alleviated with writing prompts and flash fiction. Or it can be alleviated with building a writer’s blog where you can post your thoughts. Finally, the longer your day goes on, the more things get added to your “to-do” list. In addition, you wear out more throughout the day, so motivation may go down. It is a lot easier to write in the morning and be done with the work. Then, the rest of the day, no matter what happens, you finished building on your daily writing habit.

Step 4: Know when to end

Part of building a daily habit is know how much you need to do. If you want to write a specific amount, then make that part of your daily habit. Knowing when you can end writing is just as important as knowing how you are going to start your writing. That can also give you a push if your nearly the goal and simply need to get one or two more paragraphs done.

Step 5: Rain Dancing the Word Count

There are certain cultures where they believe that dancing can cause the rain to fall. This ritual of dancing followed by result, was enough to make them believe in this truth. That same idea can be used to trick your brain. By figuring out a particular spot to write, what to drink when you write, what you listen to when writing, etc, you can build fake momentum. In other words, you can trick your brain into thinking “okay, now it’s time to write” by surrounding your daily writing habit with little rituals. While these rituals may not help you build any word count, they can put you in the mood to write.

Step 6: Don’t pull a “just got my gym membership” mistake

A lot of people want to get in better shape. This is especially true when the year starts. They know that they’ve been really relaxed in their fitness and with a new year starting, they are ready to make a change. These people build a chart to track which days are for which muscles. They build a diet plan and make sure they have all the workout gear needed. They go and buy new clothes. Finally, they compare gyms and sign up for the best one. The first week of exercise comes and they go hard starting on Day 1. They are sore and have had an excellent workout. The next day, they try to replicate this with a new muscle group, wondering if this is going to be their new normal. After all, how long until they are considered regulars? Day 3 comes and they give themselves a bit of a break. Everyone needs a rest day after all, right? You don’t want to over-do it, right? Day 4 happens and they try again, but start to get bored and make it a short trip. Day 5 something comes up in their life so they skip their calendar. Day 6 happens and they try to get by with the least amount of energy people. From Day 7 forward, life becomes busy and they are never spotted in the gym again. The gym is happy, because they keep their membership for a few more months, which subsidizes the expensive equipment. So how exactly does this apply to writing? People can look at a daily writing habit the same way they look at a gym visit. They work out too hard at first and put in to much energy. While they believe the focus is “getting fit” they really should have been focused on fun. The same is true for writing. If you are just going for word count, without taking into account what makes writing fun, you are more likely to give up. If you make writing a relaxing thing, then you are more likely to indulge in it.

Step 7: Celebrate through inspiration

I think a lot of writing is building a unique value. That can mean a wild fiction world where anything is possible. It can also mean an article that doesn’t have a clear search engine “winner”. Finding a need and filling the need is at the soul of every entrepreneur endeavor. However, after that need is filled, I think it’s a good idea to celebrate. This can be done with a sweet treat, printing something off in a 3D printer, or simply looking for potential inspiration for the next chapter. Either way, taking a moment to reflect on your writing is important. It helps frame the writing as valuable, even if that’s not fully true. Many people live not on what they produce, but on what they can produce. That means that building a solid writing habit, and learning the techniques of writing, can make you more valuable than a single great book. After all, being able to build many fun books is often more important than building one extremely painful book that you never want to do again.




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Determining good writer software


People will often praise writer software. A lot of the software out there is really great. However, there's a good portion of software that is complete junk. I think the best way to determine the difference, beyond getting other people's feedback,is it to only purchase at when you need it.    If you do this, then you will use the software right away. That will help you determine how useful the software is. If you find that it's useful, then you can put it into your daily practice. If not, then you can get a refund on your software. I think this is the best way, to determine if the writing software is junk. You can also check out websites and support forums to find any information that you need to make the software useful. Again, the key is to need the software right before you use it.

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