10k Experiment

Writing, Goals and Discouragement

We’re now less than a month away.

June 27, 2014 is the day by which I was to have sold 10,000 copies of my book Your First 1000 Copies.

It’s now mid-June, and I’ve sold 8770.

I had big plans for the month of June, to help me close that gap. In fact, I had two separate big promotions planned. But due to situations beyond my control, they’ve fallen through or been delayed.

Based on past performance, those promotions would have spurred on an extra 1,000 sales.

What does this mean?

It means I’m probably not going to hit my goal of selling 10,000 copies of my book in one year.

Surviving the numbers

This is really discouraging, for a number of reasons.

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Seven months ago, I very publicly proclaimed my 10,000-copies-sold goal. Now there’s a good chance I’ll very publicly miss that goal.

Second, my best-laid plans have fallen through and left me scrambling with very few options on a goal I thought I had locked down.

Third, this is something I personally wanted to achieve.

But there’s something even bigger at play here — bigger than my missing that 10k goal.

And that is the fact that discouragement is always a part of book marketing endeavors.

Every achievement brings about a new chance for a letdown.

I’ve talked to authors who have sold more than 100,000 copies of their new book, who are disappointed and discouraged because it didn’t sell as many copies as their last book sold. Or as many as their friend’s book.

I’m discouraged because I’m the “book marketing guy” and may miss my own book marketing goal.

Maybe you’re discouraged because you’ve released a book and have struggled to sell in the triple digits.

Or discouraged because your outreach efforts aren’t working.

Or because you can’t seem to even find the time to write.

How do we deal with discouragement?

This morning I spent some time alone, re-centering and figuring out what to do next.

I don’t want to walk in discouragement. It’s only going to stunt my creativity and keep me from doing great work.

So what steps do you and I take to get out of discouragement?

1. Think about what you’ve accomplished.

I’ve sold almost nine-friggin-thousand books! In a world where most books sell 250 copies or less, that’s a big accomplishment! Throw in the fact that it’s a very niche book by a first-time author, and I have a lot to be proud of.

You have a lot to be proud of too!

Most people dream about writing a book and you actually did it! How fantastic is that?

Focus on what you’ve accomplished, and how far you’ve come.

2. Think about how you’ve made the world a better place.

I get emails daily from readers thanking me for writing Your First 1000 Copies. I’m almost up to 150 reviews on Amazon.

I’ve helped people.

And they’ve helped me. Last week I read three different books. All of them were great and added enjoyment and knowledge to my life. That’s three different authors who made my life measurably better.

If you’ve written a book, you’ve helped people, and that’s something to be proud of.

3. Focus on the long term.

You’re probably sick of seeing this quote from me by now, but it’s one of my favorites:

“Do you want to be a writer or just somebody who wrote a book once?”

These short-term discouragements will seem meaningless in 2 years, 5 years, 20 years. You won’t even remember them.

And another thing: If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

Yesterday I was chatting with an indie author who is doing well, but still working to break into real success. But the beauty is, he’s laying the foundation for future success.

This year he’ll do OK. Next year he’ll do better. The year after that, he’ll struggle to remember what it felt like to struggle.

Even with these setbacks I’ve had, when I look back at where I’ve come from and then forward to where I’m going, I can see that this is just a small bump in the road, not a huge boulder blocking my way.

4. Wallow for a bit, then move on.

If you’re working towards something and it falls through, give yourself to permission to be upset. Have a friend take you out for drinks. Cry. Bitch and moan to your significant other.

It’s OK to admit discouragement.

But don’t live there.

After you’ve given yourself some time, open up your experimental mindset again, and move on to the next project.

When will success come?

Discouragement is always a part of the journey.

Behind every successful writer is a backstory full of slammed doors and rejections.

If you’re feeling discouraged now, know that you’re walking a well-trodden path.

And assuming you’re not going to give up (and I know you’re not), know that that same road will ultimately lead to your success.

Is your marketing not working? Here’s why.

There are a lot of really amazing things you can do to promote your book.

Here are a few ideas you may have heard of:

  • Host a video series on YouTube
  • Create PDF excerpts of your book
  • Host a live webinar on your book’s topic
  • Release a top-notch book trailer
  • Run a special discount sale

The possibilities are endless!

Here’s the truth, though: most of these promotions will fail.

Most great content never gets seen

I’ve been on conference calls with an author and their publisher in which they argue and deliberate over every nuance of a book trailer that probably less than 100 people will ever watch.

More bad news: most blogs are hardly ever read. And most podcasts get just a few dozen listens.

How does this happen?

In Your First 1000 Copies, I argue that the #1 thing you should be doing as an author is growing an email list of your readers. It’s the best way to communicate with them long-term.

Let’s back up and look at it from a different perspective. The main thing an email list is doing is creating a direct channel to your readers.

It gives you access to them, so you can get their attention when you have something new to talk about – a blog post, a new podcast episode, or a new book. It’s a direct way to let your audience know you have something new going on.

What is your channel?

A few months ago, a guy named Bryan Cohen reached out to me. He was putting together a Facebook promotion for a bunch of different authors, offering their books at a discount for one day.

I agreed to be a part of it, and as a result, sold more than 300 copies of my book in a single day.

Brian created a channel that brought new people directly to my book. The one-day discount by itself wasn’t enough. I had to use the right kind of channel to promote it.

When I publish this blog post, a few people will see it by chance. But it will mostly sit in obscurity until I email my list to let them know it’s available. (Thanks everyone!)

My email list is the channel that brings people directly to my blog post. The blog itself is not enough. I have to have a channel through which to promote it.

A lot of authors see the huge success Tim Ferriss has had with his book trailers, such as the one for The 4-Hour Body, which has now received over 1 million views. They decide they want to do a book trailer just like his, and they’re disappointed when it falls flat.

The difference is, Tim has a huge following – and a huge email list that he uses to promote his book trailers.

Just creating the book trailer is not enough. You have to have a channel through which to promote it.

I often see writers get absorbed in the different tools and events they use to promote their book. Meanwhile, they forget to create a channel, a reliable way to contact their target audience.

With everything you create, the question to ask yourself is: “How am I going to make sure people know this exists?”

Who is your audience?

In fact, you could reverse the process – find an audience first, then create something perfect for them.

Over the last several months I’ve done several webinars and Google+ hangouts for several different platforms. For each of these, before I went live, I did my research.

I studied the platform to find out who that topic’s audience was and what they normally talk about. I was then able to take my content and craft it in a way that would be the most helpful for that particular group.

So start with your audience. Who is going to want to see this content?

Create something that is perfect for them. Then create a channel, such as an email list, so you can contact that audience whenever you have anything new to share.

Your work should never exist in a vacuum.

You’re working hard to create great content, so don’t let it go to waste!

Make sure you are looking for and identifying new channels, new ways to reach your audience, so you can reap the greatest returns possible from your work!

How to connect with successful authors

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I get a lot of email from authors asking for my help.

I love it, really. 

The whole reason I do what I do is to help authors get their books into the hands of more readers. Any time I can help an author reach more people, it makes me happy.

However, many of the emails authors send me are written in a way that makes it hard for me to help them.

Reaching out—the right way

A big part of my success has been the ability to surround myself with people who are way smarter than I am. Input from other authors and business people—clients, colleagues and mentors—has dramatically aided me in getting where I am today.

We all need each other. 

We need people who have walked similar roads to help show the way, to help us step over the pits and potholes that so many of us fall into.

I believe in that process.

But I see many people making fundamental mistakes when reaching out to their chosen mentors and advisors. Those mistakes keep them from making great connections with people who are in a position to help them.

Today, I’m going to walk you through how to reach out and connect with amazing people who will help you reach your goals.

I offer this advice based on three important perspectives:

  • I live in Lynchburg, Virginia. I’m at least three hours from anything that could be called a major city. I’ve had to do the vast majority of my relationship-building remotely.
  • I know what it’s like to feel like a “nobody” reaching out to a bunch of somebodies.
  • As I’ve become a quasi-, low-level “somebody,” I’ve begun to see what it’s like to have people who are just getting started reach out to you for help and advice.

Put these in your toolbox 

These tools will help you get connected in the right way, so you can start building those relationships that will help lead you to success:

1. Get the right mindset

You cannot, in any way, have unhealthy expectations regarding the person you are reaching out to.

If you’ve got a copy of my book Your First 1000 Copies, re-read the first six sections of the Outreach chapter (pages 80–87 in the print edition).

If you feel you are owed something—and that you’ll be angry if you don’t get the response you want—stop now and re-route your thinking, or don’t contact this person.

2. Take a risk

This is a good time to exercise your experimental side. Of course, not everybody you reach out to will respond and be helpful, but some will.

Take a risk and put yourself out there. It’s no fun to be ignored or to get a “no,” but it’s much worse to never even try.

3. Start with the B-listers

There are only ever a handful of A-listers, and most people are trying to get help from them.

So many people forget that the B-listers are also having a lot of success, and are much more available to help unknown authors than the A-listers are.

Everyone is clamoring for help from Stephen King, John Grisham and Malcolm Gladwell. Shoot for authors who are selling tens of thousands of copies of their books, not millions.

They’re still seeing a lot of success, and probably have more time on their hands—and a greater inclination to help you than the bigger names would.

4. Keep it short

I honestly wish I could sit down and have a long afternoon coffee session with every single one of you. I love hearing author’s stories and giving advice that’s specific to their situation. However, as you can imagine, that doesn’t scale very well, given how crowded my work week is.

The same goes for email. When you send out a message, keep it short!

Don’t share your entire life story. Don’t share a lot of needless details. Get right to the point.

If you show respect for this person and their time, they will be much more likely to respond in a timely and respectful way.

5. Do your research

Recently I received an email from someone who claimed to have read my book and all of the articles on this site. They then launched into a bunch of questions around the intricacies of building a following on social media. If you’ve read or listened to anything I’ve said about social media, then you’ll know this isn’t a good place to start with me.

I never even responded.

Every answer this person needed is easily findable in my book or on this website.

Do your research first!

Read this person’s blog posts. Listen to their podcast interviews. Read their books.

If you’re not willing to invest time into your own learning, why should they?

6. Ask a specific question

Please do not send a huge backstory of what’s gone wrong (see #1) and then ask a question like “What should I do now?”.

A big, ambiguous question like that would take a lot of back-and-forth emailing to sift through it all.

When you send an email to someone who is an established authority or success story in their field, ask just one or two specific questions that can be answered quickly and concisely.

7. Take their advice, then report back

Most people ask for advice, get advice, then promptly do the opposite, or never act on the advice at all.

Please, don’t be this person.

People love to help other people. Every author I’ve worked with loves to add positively to other people’s lives.

But after they’ve gotten burned, trying to help a lot of people who never act on their advice, it’s hard to keep trying.

However, if you’re respectful of them and their time, do your research, ask a specific question, then promptly implement the advice—you become someone they love to help, and will keep on helping.

Case Study: Do it this way . . .

A good friend of mine used this method to get a very prominent and successful author to become his mentor:

First, he read everything the author had published—in this case, two books.

Second, he listened to every podcast interview with that author that he could find.

Third, he took a specific problem he was having and sent the author an email asking for advice.

That quick, concise, thoughtfully worded email showed he had done his research.

And, most importantly, it was something the author could answer very quickly.

Fourth, the author almost immediately responded with a short email, answering his specific question and giving a bit of advice.

Fifth, my friend immediately dropped everything and implemented that advice. 

He then fired back an email the following day, describing the results and asking a short follow-up question.

Sixth, the author sent my friend his personal phone number and told him to give him a call.

Now, tell me: 

What do you think would have happened if my friend had instead sent a 500-word email describing his entire background, then asked a vague, open-ended question that the author had already answered in one of his books?

Exactly.

Get in their corner, and they’ll get in yours

It’s no fun to feel alone on your journey.  It’s also extremely frustrating to repeatedly make the same mistakes that so many others have made.

By connecting in the right way with people who have walked the same road and found success, you will reach your goals much faster.

You’ll also be inspired and encouraged by the company you meet along the way.

6 ways to take control of technology

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Quick disclosure:

This article is going to save you hundreds of hours of wasted time.

Time spent doing what most writers dread and resent.

Because when it comes to this whole “online marketing” thing, one of the biggest hurdles that we face is that dreaded word… technology!

Today I’m going to show you exactly how to wrangle technology and make sure you’re controlling it, instead of the other way around.

The problem with technology

A few weeks ago I was at lunch with some friends. We started talking about germaphobia, and I described my intense fear of public restrooms.

One guy at the table commented, “The problem with germaphobia is, it’s a deep hole that never seems to have an end.”

This is true about technology too. There is no end to how deep that rabbit hole can go.

It’s true that you can set up a simple website with something like SquareSpace or WordPress.

Or you can learn advanced PHP/HTML5/CSS3 and handcode your own.

Better yet, you can even learn how to set up a custom LAMP stack to serve your website.

(If you just went cross-eyed, I’m with you. I don’t even know what that last one means.)

But the same questions will remain:

  • I know I need a website, but how do I structure it?
  • I need to do email marketing, but which email marketing service do I sign up for? And how do I get that damn signup box on my sidebar?
  • I don’t want to manage six different social media platforms, but how do I get them to all automatically sync?

And those are just the big things. There’s a million smaller things that can constantly confound, derail and distract us.

Setting priorities — and knowing when to let go

How many of us have done the equivalent of wasting three hours of our life tweaking the font color for our website’s footer?

Or fiddling with an email template?

Or trying to get the background to look just right on our Twitter profile?

I’ve done all of those time-wasting tasks and many, many more.

Then one day I realized that I had to keep myself from going too far down the endless technology hole.

I realized that I needed to focus on getting things done and launched, instead of endlessly tweaking things that don’t matter that much in the long run.

So I developed a list of rules to help me get the most out of technology, without wasting a ton of time on it.

And I’m going to share that list with you today:

Rule #1: Decide if it is actually important

Here at Out:think, we like to build beautiful websites.

But here’s the truth: ugly websites can work great too. And an ugly website will always work better than no website at all.

Technology can be time-consuming. Don’t waste time on things that aren’t worth the time.

Constantly tweaking the background on your Twitter profile is a waste of time.

Trying to get the email signup box on your sidebar to be 10 pixels taller is a waste of time.

Before you fall deeper down that hole, decide whether that particular issue is important enough to spend time on.

Rule #2: Find the 80% solution

Recently I was looking for a tool that would allow one of our clients to run simultaneous live meet-ups all across the world.

When we made a list of what we wanted it to do, it was pretty extensive. Then we found a ready-made platform called Meetup Everywhere.

It only fulfilled about 80% of our requirements.

But it was something we could start using now, instead of spending time and money on building our own custom solution.

WordPress.com is far from perfect.

But it enables you to get a website up and running, quickly and inexpensively.

Gumroad has a lot of limitations.

But it allows you to start selling stuff online quickly.

Learn to sacrifice your ideal tool for one that offers most of the features you need — and that enables you to get started right now.

Rule #3: Stick with what works

For all of you productivity lifehackers out there, this is a sacrilege.

But I’ve found that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I’m using the Byword app right now, as I write this article. When I’m done, I’ll be able to upload it straight onto my WordPress site, where my editor can login and fix my egregious spelling and grammar errors.

Are there better tools out there for writing articles? Probably. Do I care? Nope.

This app gets it done just fine, so I’ll stick with it.

While all of you lifehackers are out there are hunting for the next new, super-efficient writing tool, I’ll actually be writing.

So stop looking for the Next Best App that’s just hit the marketplace.

You waste far more time fiddling with the new stuff than you would if you just sat down and worked with a simpler tool that gets the job done.

I love Scrivener for writing, but I have writer friends that just stick with plain old MS Word.

Why? Because they know they’ll get distracted by all the “features” in Scrivener and stop writing.

Don’t live right on the edge of technology. Let other people beta test and constantly hop from new thing to new thing

Wait to see which of the new tools turns out to be the winner, further down the road.

Rule #4: Decide what is “good enough”

I want my writing projects to get shipped. Done. Out into the world.

A live website with some spacing and color issues is better than one that never gets launched.

A published ebook with a couple spelling mistakes is better than one that sits in your drafts folder, unpublished and unread.

Let’s call perfectionism what it really is: Fear of shipping.

I’m speaking to myself on this one as much as to anyone else.

How many times have I continued tweaking something because I was afraid to let it out into the world?

How many times have you done that?

Are you doing that right now with one of your projects?

Don’t fear that moment when you ship your work out. It’s what you’re here for.

Rule #5: Start with the tutorials

When I was a kid and got a new toy, I would often tear into the box and start trying to randomly put the pieces together, trying to figure out on my own how it all fit together.

Usually, that method didn’t work very well.

I’ve learned it’s better to start with the boring stuff like reading the instructions before diving in.

The same goes with all of these online tools.

If you’re about to get started with MailChimp, start by watching their extensive video and tutorial library. It doesn’t take that long, and it’s time that’s well-invested.

Same goes for WordPress or LeadPages, or whatever new tool you’re learning to use on your own. These are complicated platforms.

You can learn to do a lot yourself, but take your time and start where the professionals advise you to start.

Watch the tutorials (such as the WordPress tutorials on YouTube). They’re designed to make it all simple to use.

Rule #6: Know when to get help

There is a time limit on how long you should spend messing with something.

Need to publish a blog post? Learn to do it yourself.

Need to send out your weekly newsletter? Learn to do it yourself. See Rule #1.

But if it takes you eight hours to do something a professional could do in 25 minutes, it is probably best to get some help.

You can’t do everything yourself. And if you try, you’ll never get anything else done.

Think about the long-term effects: If it’s a task that will need to be done a lot in future, learn to do it yourself.

The time invested in learning that skill will pay off over time.

But a very technical task that only needs to be done once should probably be outsourced to a professional.

Are you building your website from the ground up, or custom coding a new email template?

These are things a professional should probably do.

But if it’s something you need to do on a regular basis, learn to do it yourself.

Are you going to blog regularly and send out weekly email newsletters?

Those are tasks that you can learn to do yourself, while saving on the hassle and expense of hiring someone to do it for you.

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Technology is an amazing thing.

If used correctly, it can allow us to get more done and reach more people than we ever thought possible.

This website alone has allowed me to connect with many great authors whom I would never have met otherwise.

However, technology can also be a major distraction and time-waster that keeps us from doing our greatest work.

It’s easy to fall into that rabbit hole of endless new writer tools and choices.

These rules will help you to take back control, so you can use technology to help you get more of your writing out into the world.

 

7 ways to overcome criticism

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In most of the writing I do to help writers, I try to focus on the upside of sharing your work with the world.

I talk about how your writing can make people’s lives better. I discuss the fulfillment that comes from connecting with your fans.

Overall, I try to focus on the positive.

But let’s be honest. The publishing experience is not all positive.

Most writers feel plagued by self-doubt at one time or another. “Is this piece well-written? Will it reach the right audience? Is this point worth making?”

Unfortunately, it’s not only our own doubts that can plague us. Often, we also have to deal with other people’s doubts about our writing.

A couple weeks ago I received these two emails, within five minutes of each other:

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Talk about a high and a low! One person compared my writing to holy scripture and the other called it stupid nonsense.

Then there was W. Terry Whalin.

He published a 3-star review of my book, Your First 1000 Copies, on Goodreads and Amazon. It ended with the phrase, “That I gave it three stars was a bit generous in my view.”

Of course, it’s fine that someone left a negative review of my book. That’s what the whole customer review process is for.

And Terry wasn’t the only one to leave a negative or lukewarm review.

But instead of merely writing the review and leaving it at that, he decided to post a link to his review on Twitter with the comment, “Save your money.”

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Again, completely his prerogative.

But did he really have to tag me in the tweet so it would ping my phone during my drive home from work that day?

It’s one thing to leave criticism online. It’s another to intentionally wave it in the criticized person’s face.

And while there’s no scientific study that’s been done on this, I think we can all agree that most writers need to receive about 50 good reviews to recover from a single bad one.

Sooner or later, we all face criticism

If you’re doing something interesting–something new, something novel–if you’re taking a stand of any kind, then at some point, someone somewhere is going to have a problem with your work.

Or just not understand it.

Take a small peak into history and you’ll see that anyone who did anything interesting in the world had a lot of critics.

Hell, Copernicus waited until he was dead to allow publication of his book that stated that the planets revolved around the sun, not the Earth. He knew it would be considered highly controversial, and he was right.

The biggest downside of the internet age is that so many now have the ability to publicly rip someone to shreds, without being there face-to-face and having to deal with the social consequences of their action.

But if it is all part of the job of being a writer in the internet age, then . . .

How do we deal with criticism?

Over the years I’ve come up against criticism in various forms, aimed at both my own and my clients’ writing.

Here are a few ideas that help me deal with it in a positive way:

1. Know it’s coming.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’ll escape it.

Even if you are talking about the most benign of subjects, someone somewhere will have a problem with the fact that you are doing something with your life besides being an internet troll or a couch vegetable.

2. Whenever possible, avoid the negatives.

After a while, Hugh Howey came to the point where he stopped reading his negative reviews.

I know writers who have someone else check their email every day, and delete all the negative ones before they see them.

I don’t spend any time on Reddit. Actively avoid negativity and criticism, even about other people, whenever you can.

3. Kick negative people out.

Among Tim Ferriss’ rules for leaving comments on his blog: “Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff.”

I’ve also heard him refer to his blog as his living room. When he invites people into his home, they’re allowed to disagree, but if they get rude, negative or offensive, he’ll kick them out.

You’re allowed to do the same. If someone enters your space not with simple criticism, but with a rude or offensive comment, block their email address, block them from your site, and do anything else required to keep them locked out.

Delete their comment. Delete their email. Hide them from your newsfeed. Unfollow them.

Do whatever it takes to get them out of your life for good.

4. Don’t engage. Just delete.

Don’t feed the trolls! Any response from you will only encourage them to keep going.

Don’t email them back or reply. Just delete the message and then see #3.

5. Only accept criticism from people you trust.

I sent the second draft of Your First 1000 Copies to five trusted friends.

Four of them said it was great, and offered suggestions for minor changes. The fifth one gave me six pages of notes on things that needed to be fixed. It was extremely hard to hear, but it led me to fix several major flaws in the manuscript.

I recently sent the first draft of a new book to a writer friend. His response was “OK, brutal honesty–it’s a mess.” Again, hard to hear, but when I took a second look at the draft, I realized the advice he gave me after that comment was right on the money.

Surround yourself with people you trust, then ask them for their honest opinion. If they care about you, they will give you honest criticism that you can trust and take to heart.

6. Keep your eye on the why.

Remember why you started writing.

Focus on the people you are relentlessly helping. As far as my own writing is concerned, I’m willing to make a few people angry in the pursuit of helping you reach your goals.

7. Don’t add to the negativity.

This one is maybe the most important.

I have a personal rule: I never post anything negative on social media. Whether it’s a complaint about the weather, a rant against the government, or criticism of someone’s work.

While there are times and places to criticize, I think long and hard before I do it, especially publicly.

There’s already plenty of negativity out there. I’d rather do the work to fix a problem, instead of adding to it.

Unfortunately, criticism is part of the writer’s world.

But it doesn’t have to hold you back or keep you from your most important work.

You can learn to not only cope with criticism, but to overcome it!

Don’t let it shave the edges off of what you’re doing.

Don’t let it stop you from changing the world!

 

Now is the time to get started

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“I wish I had started this five years ago!”

I was talking with an author who had recently signed his first book contract. In about a year he would be releasing it.

The author had been writing and working in his field for years but hadn’t taken the time to start building his platform. It didn’t seem necessary at the time. But now that he was faced with coming out with a book, he was realizing all of the opportunities he had missed.

I get the following questions all the time…

“I’m just starting the first draft of my novel, when should I start building my author platform?”

“I’m trying to get the final edits done on my book, when should I start building my email list?”

“My book came out six months ago and I’m working on the next one. I’m pretty busy with it. When should I start my blog?”

My answer?

“Yesterday. Now. Immediately.”

Every day that slips by without working on your platform is a missed opportunity.

There’s a lot of reasons to put it off though. Trust me, I’ve used them myself and heard them from other people:

  • I’m really busy right now writing my book.
  • I’ve tried before and it hasn’t worked
  • Maybe I should just work on my next book
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t know where to start

Here’s what I can promise you:

When it’s time to release your book, you’ll regret putting it off.

I do understand why it gets put off. It’s often not the thing that seems most pressing. Your job is busy. Writing is more fun. You’re on deadline. There really are a thousand reasons to do something else with your time.

So how can you possibly fit it into your schedule?

Here’s the things I’ve learned:

  1. Think small instead of big. You’re not going to be able to get 1000 new readers in a week, but you can get 10 and feel accomplished.
  2. Think system instead of goal. Can you do something every week that will move you forward? I focus on doing two things a week to promote my book. If I do that long enough, they will stack up and be successful. Forget some big, lofty goal. Focus on what you can do week in and week out.
  3. Think learning instead of failing. Especially at the beginning, you’ll probably have more mistakes than successes, but that’s ok. It’s normal. Focus on the fact that you’re learning as you go. As the great Zig Ziglar said so many times, “Failure is an event, not a person.”

If you focus on small things that you can experiment with every week, you’ll turn around in a few months and realize you’ve made a ton of progress!

But this naturally leads to the next question…

What should I focus on?

This is the next thing that so often locks us down and keeps us from making progress… we don’t know where to start!

There’s just too much advice swirling around out there about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, email, forums, Pinterest, Google+ and so much more, it’s just hard to know what you should be spending your time on.

I know this is true because every single day I have authors reaching out to me for help and direction. But, as much as I would love to help every author 1-on–1, I just don’t have the time. Then, to make the time, I found I was having to charge several thousands of dollars just to do coaching.

So a few months ago I decided to make a change. Instead of charging thousands of dollars for me to give advice, I put all of the advice together in one place for any author to access at a fraction of the cost of 1-on–1 coaching.

So this week I opened it to the public for the first time, and you have 1 more day to act.

Where are you going to be in six months?

It’s easy to put off. It’s easy to say you’ll get started later… after work slows down, you finish your manuscript or the kids are out for summer.

If you want to start taking steps to grow your platform and you want to learn exactly what you should be doing, click below to check out the new course I’ve released this week.

Click here to learn more

How to write a book you know will sell

How to Write a Book You Know Will Sell

Predictable.

That’s my favorite word when it comes to building an author platform. And that’s the word I want for your book sales: Predictable.

Writing a book is hard work. Getting it from manuscript to launch date can be even harder.

And the scariest thing about the whole process is wondering if, when you finally do launch your book, anyone will even buy it.

I’ve been involved in dozens of book launches, and I’ve learned that there are three kinds of book projects:

  1. The Write and Hope Project. This is where an author writes a book hoping it will find an audience. There’s no real plan in place, except to publish the book and hope something good happens.
  2. The Write and Pay Project. This is where an author writes a book and then pays a lot of money to make sure it sells. They hire publicists, pay for placements, etc. This is an expensive process, and getting more expensive every day.
  3. The Write and Know Project. This is where an author knows from the first word penned on a new project that their book will sell. This is an author who has already built a direct connection to their audience.

I want you to be that third kind of author — the kind who works knowing they’ve already got an audience.

Recently, I was talking to my friend Josh Kaufman about his book The Personal MBA.

Here’s the interesting thing about his book: It was released in 2010, and never hit any of the major bestseller lists. Yet it continues to sell month after month.

In fact, so far it’s sold over 150,000 copies worldwide.

Then, last year, Josh released his second book The First 20 Hours. It immediately jumped to the top of all its Amazon categories.

It sold over 40,000 copies in the first 6 months.

Now Josh is working on his next book project. And he’s feeling confident while working on it, because he’s already directly connected to his readers and fans and knows they will buy the book when it’s released.

This same approach works for all authors, across all genres.

Because it’s not all about having a huge launch, and hoping you sell enough in one week to suddenly have a bestseller and a huge following.

It’s about creating an author platform, built on connections with your readers, so you can confidently write and launch new books, knowing your audience is already there.

Next week I’m doing something I rarely do. I’m offering a free public webinar. I’m going to walk you step-by-step through exactly how these kinds of author platforms are built.

In this webinar, you’ll gain crucial information, including:

  • Case studies of 2 authors, showing how they built platforms that predictably sell their books
  • The 3 tools every author can use to build their platform, no matter what their level of technical expertise is
  • How any author – in any category, at any level of fame – can build a platform that will launch an instant bestseller

Click here to watch the webinar

 

The truth about fear (and how to conquer it)

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fear. That may be obvious to some of you. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how insidious it can be. Here’s a few definitions of the word insidious:

  • “causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed”
  • “awaiting a chance to entrap”
  • “having a gradual and cumulative effect”
  • “developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent”

I really like that word “insidious” because it describes the active, thinking, moving parts of fear that seem so real. I often feel like my fear is this sentient being inside of me actively working against what I’m trying to do.

The other picture that comes to mind is that of a leaky dam. Every time I fix one hole in the dam, two more spring up without me noticing. I will conquer one fear only to realize a few weeks later that I’m avoiding two other things because of fear.

Here’s a few ways fear has affected me in the past week:

  • I didn’t respond to a request from a big name author because I was afraid I’m not smart enough to help.
  • I considered bailing on a get together because I perceive the people going as way more successful than me.
  • I spent a good amount of time wondering how I could shutdown this 10k Experiment without anyone noticing because I’m afraid I won’t hit my goal.
  • I’m putting off writing my talk for an upcoming conference because I’m terrified of doing it.
  • I procrastinated finishing a big project because it means I’ll actually have to try and sell it and it might fail.
  • I started and stopped two other blog posts because I was dodging writing this one which wasted a good hour of writing time.

That’s just from the past week. And that’s just the ones I remember. Or the ones I’m willing to share publicly.

Those that love us and support us can easily tick off all the reasons why we should be confident and will succeed. And that’s helpful. But we know the “truth”. We have a list of reasons why we’re not good enough, won’t succeed and deserve failure. It’s a long list. An easily recitable list.

Our fear loves to read it to us.

However, looking back over the last fear years as I’ve grown my business, I’ve gotten to work with over 100 amazing authors, released a book and continued building a following. I’ve realized that the vast majority of what little success I’ve had is due to learning methods to keep fear from being a barrier.

The following are the truths and methods I’ve learned to keep fear from stopping me in my tracks.

The truths about fear

1. Everybody deals with fear.

Pick the most successful, confident, established author that you can think of, and I promise you they fight their own fears. I have worked with authors from every level of success and seen each of them struggling with it.

Your fear doesn’t make you weird. It makes your normal.

2. Your fear will never completely go away.

That insidious little imp is here to stay.

The only thing to do is learn to work through it and use it the best ways that you can. If you are waiting to start until you feel like you’re good enough or smart enough, that day will never come.

The methods for minimizing
the effects of fear

Or, how to cage that little imp and keep him from destroying your life.

1. Admit your fear. Give it a name.

We like to take our fears and cover them up with something less ugly. I’m not afraid to turn in my manuscript, it’s just not quite ready yet. I’m not afraid to email that person, I just already know they’re going to say “no”. I’m not afraid to try again, I’ve just failed in the past so I know what will happen.

Come on! Tell yourself the truth. You’re not accomplishing anything by lying to yourself.

I’m afraid my manuscript isn’t good enough. I’m afraid they’ll reject me. I’m afraid of failing again and looking like an idiot – again. You’ve got to call fear what it is. It loves the dark, so as long as it remains there, it keeps it’s power. As soon as you expose it to light, it’s power starts getting stripped away.

Let me be clear on two points:

  • It’s 100% ok to be afraid.
  • It’s 100% not ok to act like you’re not afraid.

Once you name your fear, you can do something about it. Start here…

“My name is Tim, and I’m a fear-aholic.” (Say “hi” in the comments)

Now it’s your turn.

2. Play out your worst-case scenario.

Once you’re able to look at your fears, name them and expose them to light, now you can do something about them.

The first step is to play out the worst-case scenario game. If your fear actually happens and it happens in the worst way, what are the results?

Sure, some fears have catastrophic outcomes. The worst-case scenario of getting on an airplane is hard to come back from.

However, most of our fears have extremely benign consequences.

I’m afraid to turn in my manuscript because it’s no good. Worst-case scenario: my editor and early readers kick it back to me with a lot of changes that will make it better. I have some extra work to do.

I’m afraid that if I try again, I’ll fail again. Worst-case scenario: I end up where I am now.

I’m afraid of emailing a query letter to an agent. Worst-case scenario: They say no. If we’re having the proper experimental mindset, we know this is just information that we can use for the next try.

I’m afraid of publishing my book. Worst-case scenario: Nobody buys it. Scratch that. The worst-case scenario is people buy it and every single one of them leave a 1 star review.

If you run out the worst-case scenarios – the things you know probably won’t happen but maybe, if everything goes wrong, could happen – you’ll often find there’s not as much to be afraid of as you thought.

To clarify, I do believe there are legitimate fears with legitimate consequences. Putting our work out into the world is a scary business. Asking other people to be a part of it is even scarier.

But what I want to point out is my third method.

3. The real fear is of doing nothing.

What would the 90 year old version of yourself say?

Mine wouldn’t say anything. He’d just cane-whip me for letting what other people might think and petty fears stop me from doing my meaningful work.

But seriously, if you picture yourself nearing the end of your life and looking back, what will be important to you? It’ll seem silly that we didn’t go after our dreams just because they might fail. We’ll be sad that we let time slip through our fingers.

This is my overarching fear. This is the real fear. It trumps my little impish fears and allows me to keep working.

4. Start small.

You’re not going to conquer all of your fears the first day you start naming them. Instead, start taking baby steps towards beating your fears.

If your fear of showing your writing to other people is stopping you from writing at all, then write only for yourself and promise yourself you won’t ever show it to anyone.

If you’re afraid to start sending your query to agents, send it to three trusted friends to get their feedback. Then send it to one agent – the one you care the least about representing you.

If you’re afraid to put your book for sale on Amazon for the whole world to see, just sell it on your website to people that already read and like your blog.

Often, our fear of something happening in the future stops us from ever starting. Instead, back up, figure out one step you can take towards your goal that is still a good way from that worst-case scenario, and start there.

It’s hard

One of my fears(!) in writing this is I’ll be perceived as glossing over your fear, assuming it’s no big deal. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I know fears are real. And they’re big. And everyone fights their own demons.

But I also know that fear is what holds us back from doing what we were put on this earth to do.

Remember that you’re not alone in your fears. Everyone has an imp wreaking havoc in their mind. But you can minimize the damage and work through it. Consider the worst thing that could happen and ask yourself if the 90 year old version of yourself would agree that’s a good reason to stop and play it safe.

We all have our work to do. We all have our fear fighting against us.

We all can conquer it.

The Introvert’s Guide to Book Marketing

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Two recent emails I’ve received from readers:

“This advice seems geared toward extroverts/people persons, but many writers are introverts who find it hard to reach out to people and who, thus, suck at marketing. [It is] easy for extroverts, and painful or even next-to-impossible for introverts. Is there any hope for introverts like me who just want to write our books?”

And the other:

“Marketing seems to come easy for authors like you but I just don’t think an introvert like me can do it.”

If only people knew.

Put me in a room of more than two strangers and I’m the guy standing against the wall looking at my phone and feeling like everyone can sense the anxiety rolling off of me.

After I did an all-day workshop a few months ago, I literally found a corner in the office building where I could hide behind a couch and just sat there so I could be alone.

Newsflash: Authors, as a group, are introverted

Isn’t that why most of us pick this profession? It allows us to sit alone with our thoughts for hours on end. It’s the perfect situation for an introvert!

Here’s the truth though.

Don’t let your introversion become your excuse

It’s often a lot easier to blame something like being introverted instead of taking responsibility for our success. Yes, you may have to learn some new skills and yes, that will be uncomfortable. But it’s part of the job. And I promise you, if you stick with it, it will become something you truly enjoy in the long run.

We all have hurts, habits and hangups that hold us back. One of yours, like it is for me, is being introverted. That doesn’t mean we throw up our hands in defeat. It means we lean into it, and learn how to be successful through it.

How introverts can be good at marketing

The key to success as an author is to change your perspective of what it means to be good at marketing. It’s not a used car salesman mentality. It’s a 1-on–1 helpful mentality.

1. Understand the true definition of marketing. The following is an excerpt from my book, Your First 1000 Copies:

Let’s sum up what marketing is and should be.

Marketing isn’t sleazy car salesman tactics.

Marketing isn’t tricking people into buying.

Marketing isn’t unethical.

Marketing isn’t intrusive self-promotion.

Marketing is two things: (1) creating lasting connections with people through (2) a focus on being relentlessly helpful.

Does that seem so bad?

Once you change your perspective from “marketing is tricking people into buying something they don’t want” to “marketing is helping people connect with my meaningful work”, it takes on an entirely different tone.

2. Focus on one person. I used to go months without writing anything for my platform. No blog posts. No emails. Nothing. I was so caught up in my head about people judging my work, that it wasn’t good enough, and people smarter than me were already writing about this stuff. Even when my readership was extremely small, it still seemed overwhelming.

However, when I got on the phone with an author that was struggling, I would light up and truly enjoy helping.

One day it clicked. When I’m helping one author, it comes easy. When I’m trying to help hundreds or thousands, the sweaty palms happen and I clam up.

So I picked one of my clients that needed my help the most, printed off her picture and taped it to the wall next to my computer. Then, when I would sit down to write, I’d focus on writing something that helped her. I’d forget about the part where I’m going to share it with thousands of authors later. While I wrote, I only wrote for her.

3. Go slow. This is a long-term game. I want my book to continue to sell month-after-month and year-after-year. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make everything happen now. This week. This month. Give yourself grace to play a long-term game. Have an experimental mindset. Do two things a week.

To invoke a cliché, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Remove the pressure and give yourself permission to find your pace.

4. Find what you enjoy. Here’s the truth: I can talk about books for hours. Both reading and marketing them. While I enjoy writing these blog posts, the writing part is pretty laborious on me so I try to dodge doing a lot of guest blogging on other websites. However, I love doing podcasts and webinars because I really enjoy talking about books. So any opportunities I get that involve me sitting comfortable in my office while talking on the phone with someone about books, I jump at.

I’ve tried many different ways to do outreach, and this is what works for me. I’ve found what I enjoy, so I pursue more opportunities in that vein. You can do the same.

5. Don’t wait for the fear to go away. I talk to a lot of aspiring writers. They all believe the same myth about writing. They believe that at some point the fear goes away. They assume the big best-selling authors confidently approach the blank page and scrawl out their words knowing the world will love them.

This, of course, is not true.

I’ve worked with those top, best-selling writers and I’ve worked with those just getting their first project off the ground. The fear is always there. It never goes away. In fact, they know if the fear is gone, they’re doing something wrong.

The good writers learn to lean into the fear instead of allowing it to keep them from writing.

The same is true for marketing.

It’s scary. Every time I write a new blog post I worry what people will think. Every time I do an interview I wonder if this will be the one where everyone realizes I’m a fraud.

But I do it anyway. Through practice and repetition I’ve learned to lean into the fear and accept it. It’s not something to beat. It’s not something that will ever completely leave. It’s part of the process.

And if it ever goes away, that means I’m doing something wrong.

Introverts can be great book marketers

Don’t believe the lie that your introversion means you’ll never be good at marketing. Just focus on connecting with and helping one person at a time. Experiment to find your pace and your sweet spot.

People need your writing. Don’t hide behind introversion.

How to guarantee you’ll do book marketing right

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I’ve been blocked all week.

I’ve strung out over 4000 words in blog posts with no finished product to show for it. Everything I write seems to come to a sheer cliff with no soft way to land.

Even that metaphor sucks.

This is the fifth time I’ve started over writing this post.

I’ve found in the past that whenever I get blocked, my cure is to come back to the basics. So as I sit here staring at the blinking cursor, I asked myself what is the basic thing that underlies all author marketing. Of everything I’d like to write about, what’s the foundation of it all?

The answer: attitude.

What is a bad attitude?

My interpretation of the technical definition of attitude is this:

“The real reason I’m doing what I’m doing.”

All bad book marketing comes from having the wrong reason for doing what I’m doing. Here’s a few examples:

Desperation. This usually comes from attaching my self-worth to book sales. When I get desperate for book sales, I start pushing people to buy my book instead of inviting them.

Selfishness. I’m more interested in selling books to help myself instead of the reader. It’s all about what I get out of the transaction.

Pride. This usually keeps people from marketing their book at all. If the book is good, they tell themselves, then it will sell itself. Somehow marketing — inviting people to connect with them and their work — sullies the whole thing.

Fear. What if people hate it? It’s probably best if I don’t do anything to market my book, that way I don’t have to worry about people reading it and hating it and then posting their hate on Amazon as 1 star reviews.

Envy. I’ll never be as good or successful as her, so what’s the point in even trying?

I’ve felt all of these at some point and to varying degrees and it always turns out badly. It keeps me from writing. It keeps me from connecting. It keeps me from sharing.

What is a good attitude?

In my book, Your First 1000 Copies, I define marketing as this:

“Creating long-lasting connections with people and then being relentlessly helpful.”

It’s the second part of the definition that will fix our attitude.

Always focus on helping the reader.

Zig Ziglar said too many times to count, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

When I’m focused on being relentlessly helpful:

  • Desperation falls away because we’re merely inviting people to be a part of something that will be good for them.
  • Selfishness disappears because we’re focused on helping other people.
  • Pride turns into humility because we feel honored to play our part.
  • Fear evaporates because it’s no longer about us.
  • Envy is no longer a problem because we’re not trying to live other people’s lives.

How to fix your attitude

The way to beat those negative attitudes that so easily grab us and block us from reaching our goals is to stop and focus on the right things.

Here’s how to fix our attitude:

  • Focus on our why.
  • Focus on one person. With email lists, social media and analytics it’s easy to turn people into numbers. Instead, focus on one person that needs our help and write for him. It no longer matters how many you sell as long as you’ve helped that one person.
  • Focus on now. Nothing will lock us up like worry about the future. Will it sell? Will people hate it? Will it matter? When we’re creating, focus on doing your best now. If it sucks, we can always throw it away later.

Every single reader has their own wants and needs that we can be a part of helping.

And that’s the point.

I’m here to help. Some people won’t like my help. Some people won’t appreciate the way I’m trying to help. Some people don’t need my particular brand of help.

All of that is ok.

I can’t help everyone, but I can help some people. Maybe I can help you.

And that’s why I wrote this. Because I woke up this morning wondering how I can help you connect with more readers. That’s why I’ve thrown out over 4000 words this week and finished with something that barely breaks 700.

Focus on helping your readers, and you’ll never run out of things to say.