OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I believe all authors need to become entrepreneurs and treat their writing as a business, but today's guest started as an entrepreneur and then got a book deal from her blog.
Marianne Cantwell is an author, speaker and entrepreneur, making a living with a free range, location-independent life. Her new book is Be A Free Range Human – Escape the 9-5, Create a life you love and still pay the bills (or on Amazon.co.uk here).
- How Marianne got started. Marianne has always been a voracious reader and created stories in her life from a young age. She did a Creative Writing degree but then went into a ‘proper' job with media, marketing and management consultancy. She put aside her writing for a number of years until, as part of her own career change adventure, she started a blog, Free Range Humans which kick-started her writing again. We both agree that if you don't know what to do with your life then starting a blog is a great way to work it out!
- Marianne's latest blog post states that her business is based on writing and that writing is not a waste of your time. She explains how writing has been indirectly responsible for her income, and that until the recent book, she hasn't been directly paid for writing. She has an email newsletter weekly as well as writing articles to attract her target market on the blog. All her clients have come from people who have liked her writing enough to find out more.
- What is a Free Range Human anyway? A few years ago, Marianne was working in the city of London and commuting on the Tube, packed into crowded transport with lots of miserable commuters. During the summer, the temperature gets so high that, if animals were inside, the rights campaigners would be up in arms. Marianne thought about the much happier free range animals out there, and decided she wanted to be a Free Range Human. She started the blog and the name stuck. Now she helps people figure out what they want to do with their life and make money from it, as well as considering the option of location independence.
Getting a book deal and working with a publisher
- How Marianne got a book deal, even though she didn't really want one. A few years ago, her site did get noticed and she did start talks with a major UK publisher but it turned out they wanted her as an author, but only did it their way. This negative experience with publishing put Marianne off, preferring the freedom of blogging. About 18 months later, a publisher approached her but that person had been on her email list for several months, so she “got” Marianne's message and unique voice, giving her more freedom and an expansion of her message in a book format. It's important to be able to commit to the book for the long term so you have to be happy with your publishing partnership.
- Marianne talks about the experience of publishing as up and down during the process. She didn't like not being able to control the title or the cover design, but she is still glad the book is out there, and the publisher has let her put the book she wanted to write into the world. She feels it does give her a bigger reach than she could do alone. On balance, it is a positive thing and thinks her publisher is amazing, despite their battles!
- Marianne went into the publishing process with her media and marketing hat on, and with a business discussion in mind. Part of the reason she was even approached was her marketing ability and her existing audience through the blog. She used her knowledge of what the publisher wanted to bargain for some of the things she wanted as part of the deal. A big part of marketing is writing a book that people want.
- Publishers love comparisons, so never think your book is unique. Make sure you can name 3 other titles your book is like, which empowers the team to market your book internally.
- You will be asked about your existing platform, so include your own mailing list numbers and social networks, but also think about your broader network and contacts e.g. I know these other influential people and these are THEIR followings. So you have access to far more people than are just on your email list if you connect through other networks.
- They will also look at media profile, but the focus is on your ability to be promotable, so look at how you would respond to interviews or speaking live. Some publishers want their authors to talk in public or speak to journalists. Being presentable and media savvy is always a bonus and will help your pitch.
How relationships are critical to your success online
- Part of blogging is about connection even if you're not a natural networker or outgoing person. You can do that through writing or social media, so it doesn't have to be in person. But when you are putting yourself out there, you tend to meet other people who are in the same niche over time and that helps build a reputation.
- Going to conferences is a great way to start, and also emailing people who you have connected with over social media first.
- Both Marianne and I use interviewing other people as a great way to connect, as it's an excuse for a 30 min chat as well as an opportunity to market them. Always be promoting others. What can you do to promote them?
On launching the book to the top of the Amazon.co.uk charts
- Marianne concentrated on building her email list and doing a pre-launch to drive pre-orders before the book came out with her existing fan-base. She offered bonuses and got other bloggers to promote the book and it debuted at the top of the charts in Entrepreneurship. This got a lot of notice for the book and then of course, it dropped during the Christmas rush but then after it officially went live it started to rise again, on the back of word of mouth, as the book is so useful.
- Pre-launch is important but it's also over-hyped. You can make many more sales after that initial launch period. It's more about awareness raising and generating reviews. Don't let it go – keep focusing on marketing for the long-term.
- Her publisher wanted to do media in February after the book went live in Jan, which then caused a second spike for the book. Marianne has had interviews for major news and magazine outlets, including Business Week and CBS Moneywatch based on her publisher hiring a PR company. (Most authors will not get this, so don't bank on it!) She uses HARO and Sourcebottle to respond fast and concisely to journalist requests and with a new book in hand, most journalists want to talk to you.
- Choose your publisher wisely and the experience will be much better.
You can find Marianne at the Free Range Human blog, or on twitter @freerangehumans
Here's my review of the book:
This book is a great primer for people who are considering stepping out of the corporate world, the traditional career ladder and aiming to make a living doing something they love. You can still earn good money but the focus is more on life wealth, on how you spend your short time on the planet. Marianne walks the talk, living the free-range life, so she is the perfect guide to this way of life. I particularly think the section on “creating your free range life” is important for people to consider when deciding on a business. Do you really know what you want? Or are you using the metrics that you have been taught to use? Being the person you “should” be or who you really are? Inspirational and useful as a way to consider your next steps towards your future.
Do you have any questions about getting a book deal from a blog, or launching a non-fiction book? Please do leave them in the comments and we'll jump in to answer them.