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A wide-ranging discussion with Tim Grahl about writing book titles that sell, productivity and habits for writers, how to build a platform around you rather than your book, and marketing for introverts. Super fun!
In the intro, I mention the upcoming self-publishing conference, IndieRecon.org, which is a free event with some amazing speakers so make sure you register and check out the schedule. I also talk about my trip to Charleston for PubSense, some of the plans I have underway with my new agent, plus Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur, now available in audiobook format.
Tim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies: A Step by Step Guide to marketing your book and the founder of Out:think, a firm that helps authors make money with online marketing tools.
Launching a book? Get your free copy of Tim's Book Launch Blueprint here.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube here or read the notes and links below.
- How Tim started out in the more technical side of the internet and started helping authors with their marketing. He's always been a big reader so working with authors was preferable to big corporates.
- Tips for book titles. Authors are generally too close to the project to make a good decision. Your own fans know you so they aren't the best either. You want to know what title will make someone new click to look at your book further. Tim advises using data to make a decision and talks about using PickFu.com to work out what gets clicked the most. It is unlikely to be what you think. You can do this with titles and sub-titles, which is how Tim ended up with his. You can also use PickFu for book covers as you can use images. [I talk about my own title change based on SEO reasons]. We also talk about fiction book titles – which are very difficult! It's more about genre, reviews and author brand and the eco-system around the book than title.
- On reaching 1000 readers. Most books sell around 250 copies (that includes traditionally published). If you get to 1000 copies, you're doing something well beyond your own network. Measuring goals and moving the goal posts around numbers sold. Celebrating achievements and re-evaluating the next goal. I mention my own success journal that I got from Austin Kleon's logbook idea. Tim mentions Autofocus productivity system.
Ruthlessly cut out everything that doesn't get you what you want out of life.
- Social media is automated with MeetEdgar. Social media is fun, but it's not moving the goals forward. Tim has a structured day and has specific creative periods. He focuses on achieving goals based on a systematized life. It's much harder to procrastinate when you have structure. He mentions a Facebook news feed extractor so Facebook doesn't become a time suck. Structure your life so it's easy to make the right decisions. I mention Gretchen Rubin's book, Better Than Before. It's about your WHY. That will drive you to get up and create.
- The difference between fiction and non-fiction marketing. Tim is also writing fiction, and is part of Apocalypse Weird. He talks about building a platform around you, the AUTHOR, not around the individual book. Think about building a platform around who you are and what you're interested in. On permission, content and outreach for marketing – the underlying systems and strategies as opposed to tactics. We both agree that doing podcasts and audio is so much more preferable now to doing text based interviews or guest posts. Tim talks about driving people to email as his main marketing goal as it is the best way to stay in contact.
- Marketing as an introvert. What suits introverts in terms of alone time and online marketing. Don't use introversion as an excuse, and don't confuse it with fear of rejection, which everyone has. Find what works but also push your comfort zone. How it all gets easier over time, and how we are STILL nervous – but you just deal with it.
You can get Tim's free book, Book Launch Blueprint here, and you can find his book, Your First 1000 Copies here on Amazon.
Transcription of interview with Tim Grahl
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com, and today I'm here with Tim Grahl. Welcome, Tim.
Tim: Thanks for having me.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction. Tim is the author of the “Your First 1000 Copies” and the founder of Outthink, a firm that helps authors make money with online marketing tools.
So Tim, there's so much in your book I could ask you about, and we talk about marketing a lot on the show.
But first up, tell us a little bit about your background in writing and publishing and marketing.
Tim: Well, I kind of came into it backwards. I was a programmer and had build up a whole network of blogs early, early on. I actually built my first blog on the first release of Word Press. That's how long ago it was. And I was just freelancing, doing programming and other things, and helping people with their marketing, but everywhere from individual people to big companies. And I started working with a couple different authors, just kind of randomly, because I was fans of them, and I could see that they needed help. So I reached out to them.
And I came to this point where I could keep working with bigger companies where I could probably make more money, but probably end up shooting myself. Or I could work with people that I really respected and liked their work. And I've always been a big reader, and so the idea of working with authors was just a dream come true. So that's when I got into working with authors full time and helping them figure out how they can sell books.
Joanna: Fantastic. So you're actually quite technical then, your programming background.
Tim: Yeah. My website, everything I build, all that kind of stuff. And early on it was a big help because there was so few people that knew the nuts and bolts of actually building stuff and understood online marketing. It helps to understand, and it helps me now, too, as I give advice because I try to steer away from stuff that I know is crazy complicated to do and just focus on the easy stuff that most people can do.
Joanna: Yeah, which is great. As I said, there are lots of things we could talk about, but one of the things I noticed on your site, you have this resource about book titles. And you talk about how important book titles are. And right now, I'm going through an interesting phase of about to change some book titles. It's a fascinating talk. I wonder if you could talk a bit about why the book title is so critical, and what are some tips on . . . Let's do non-fiction specifically first, and then we can maybe talk about fiction.
But for non-fiction book titles, what are your tips on book titles?
Tim: The book title is important because that's the first thing that people see. I think that's pretty intuitive of the book cover, and the book title especially. When it comes to Amazon, that's what people are just scanning for, especially when you're looking at that list of “Customers Also Bought,” all you see is the cover and the title. Especially for non-fiction, the title paired with a really descriptive sub-title is really, really important.
But the problem is that you're way too close to the project to make a good decision. You have in your mind what you think it should be called, and I would almost guarantee you you're wrong. And I really wanted to figure out a simple way to get a lot of people's opinion, because even your own fans aren't good because they know you. And you want people that have no idea who you are, that are just making the split second decisions on the title to help you make the decision.
And so I heard a long time ago the story about Tim Ferriss where with “The 4-Hour Workweek” he had to change the title at the last second, so he ran this whole thing through AdWords. And which ever ad got clicked most, that's what turned into the title. But that's expensive, and actually really complicated to pull off.
So I found this tool called pickfu.com, and you put in a question and two answers, and they send it to 50 random people through Amazon's, I think it's Turk Engine or something like that, and people just pick whether they like A or B the most. I just do it like a bracket. So I went out and I just asked a bunch of friends for titles. And I think I started with eight different titles. Two of them were mine, and the other six were just people gave them to me. One of them had cursing in it because I'm like, “I don't care if it'll get people to buy the book, I'll be happy.”
“Your First 1000 Copies,” a friend of mine gave it to me. He's like, “Oh yeah, authors are just worried about just getting that first 1000 copies,” and I talk about the 1,000 number is a really important number anyway.
And I was like, “Okay, that's kind of a crappy title, but I'll throw it in the mix.”
And I threw it in the mix, and basically what I did is I just pitted titles against each other and just kept A, B testing them until I got down to two titles and every single time, “Your First 1000 Copies” won. It beat every other title.
Then I did the same thing with sub-titles. Once I had the title I went back through and came up with eight different sub-titles and did the same thing, and I landed on “Your First 100 Copies: A Step-By-Step Guide To Marketing Your Book.”
And over and over, it's hard to know 100% if you made the right decision, but I ended up getting hundreds of people probably by the end, a good 800 or 900 people's opinion on my title, and I landed on what I thought was a really good one. Any time you can base something on data instead of your own opinion when you're too close to the project anyway, it's a really good thing.
And what's surprising is how much publishers, they just kind of sit around and say, “I think the title should be blah, blah, blah, blah,” and they have no data to back it up whatsoever. Just getting a little bit of data of what a lot of people split-second decisions are, I think that's really good because that's how people make decisions on buying books.
Joanna: Which is fascinating. And amusingly you said, “It should be intuitive why is important, why the title should be important.” It's amazing how many people don't think like that. It's amazing.
And I'm just as guilty as anyone. The first book I did self-published was “How To Enjoy Your Job Or Find A New One,” which let's face it, no one wants to enjoy their job. So I changed it to Career Change a few years later with a subtitle and sells better, but mainly based on SEO.
“Your First 1000 Copies” I wouldn't think is an SEO title, your sub-title sounds more SEO.
Did you do any kind of SEO research for title?
Tim: I didn't think much about SEO because I wanted people when they saw the title, to just grab a hold of it. I didn't think much on the SEO side, and now that you say that maybe I should. But I think more on the, “I'm gonna do the promotion, I don't really rely too much on the Amazon engine for people to find it. I'm going out and promoting the book.”
And what I've found is that the title works really well when people hear it, especially for new authors because they dream of hitting that 1,000 book number. And so it ended up working really well. SEO to me for a book title should be secondary to just how people respond. I'm more interested in how people respond than to how computers respond to it.
Joanna: You're right. If you're driving your marketing, it should be more about the response. Whereas, if you are an author who is not doing any marketing, then the search engine is really important. Those are great.
Do you think Pickfu would be useful for fiction authors, and do you have any tips on fiction titles?
Tim: I've gone back and forth on that, and I just don't have much experience in picking fiction titles. In fact, I've got my first fiction novel coming out next month, and I just threw out a name for it. And it was the test name, and then it just never got changed. And I'm like, “Well, it's different because people are making decision for fiction.”
If I look at how I make decisions for fiction, it's not based on the title. It's more mostly based on the genre/what I heard about it/ ow many reviews. It's more about the ecosystem around the book is why I decide to read fiction. It's important because I've seen bad titles, but it's not as important as non-fiction where you're trying to be very clear about what people are getting out of your book. With fiction is always, “I'm getting entertainment, I'm getting a great story.” With non-fiction it's much different. You have to be very clear about what people are getting out of the read.
Joanna: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned there like 1,000 is important, and it's funny. You know you get to a point where 1,000 . . . there was a point where 1,000 was a big number. And then there's a point where 1,000 is a disappointing number.
Why 1,000? Why did you put your stake in the ground around that? Why is that important?
Tim: The majority of books, the vast majority of books that come out sell about 250 copies in their first year. That's traditionally published as well. If you think about that number, 250, it's probably about the number of people you know. If just the people in my network buy a copy and then maybe a couple more outside of that, I'll hit about 250. So most books can hit 250.
But once you hit 1,000 copies, you've done something interesting. You've gotten about 750 people that you don't know to buy your book. So you're doing something that has kind of got you to this place where people that don't know you personally are willing to invest in your book. If you're a new author, if you're just getting started, and you come out with a book just you spamming your friends and family and co-workers, you can probably sell about 200-250 copies. But you're gonna stop there.
So once you hit 1,000, you're doing something in marketing, either you've got a blog with a following, or you've been in a bunch of podcasts, or you've done something that bumped you up to that next level. And what I've found is once you sell 1,000, getting to 2,000 is a whole lot easier than that first 1,000.
I look at that number is like if you're just getting started, if you're just starting to build your author platform, your goal should be 1,000 copies. And once you get that 1,000 copies, you've got something working that's gotten you over that initial hump that most authors don't get anywhere near.
Joanna: Also I think it is a good aim because so many authors often their fist book expect to get a movie deal.
Whereas 1,000 copies at least is achievable and measurable. It's a good solid goal basically.
Tim: It's that measure like once I've hit 1,000, I've reached that goal and I can now re-evaluate what my goal is. Because after this, the first year, about four or five months after my book came out, my book was doing that. I sold over 1,000 copies in nine days. And then of course, it started ticking down every month. It came out in June. About November I was like, “Man, I hate how little my book is selling.”
So I put on my blog, I blasted out to everybody, “I'm gonna sell 10,000 copies by its one year anniversary.” And then every week I shared how I was trying to sell copies, and I ended up hitting over 10,000 copies in that first year. Because that 10,000 is the next number, really. I heard from several people that have been around a long time in the industry that if you can sell 10,000 copies in a year, your book has reached this point where it's gonna perpetually sell for a long time. To me, that first thousand is a good marker, and then once you move past that, your goal should be 10,000.
Joanna: And then a hundred, and then a million.
Tim: That's right. I'm still working on a hundred thousand.
Joanna: It's funny how it goes from 10,000 to 100,000. And then after a 100,000 it's like, “Now I need to sell a million books.”
Tim: And you move it right before you get there. Like 9500 copies you're like, “Well, it'll be successful when I'm at 100,000.”
Joanna: Yeah. And I wonder if this is the curse of the creative, or I don't know whether it's ambition. You're never happy.
Tim: Actually, to get real for a second. I've had to stop because I was doing that. The first big launch I did, I got my client to number one on the New York Times list and the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post the same week.
Joanna: Oh well, you're screwed then.
Tim: I was immediately unhappy because I had another one coming up in three months. And then I hit number two on that one, and I felt bad because we didn't hit number one. And I'm like,
“What is wrong with me that I can't enjoy success?”
I have some friend now that whenever I do something that I'm proud of, they're like, “Are you taking time to enjoy the fact that you've actually succeeded at something?” Because I could always find somebody more popular than me, more successful than me, more money than me, whatever, and that is a well that will never be filled. I look at it as like I set my goals now, and when I hit those goals, I take time to celebrate and then I re-evaluate what I want to do next.
Joanna: Well done. I hope you know since we're on video, people on video, I have a success journal now, which I got from Austin Kleon, you know who did . . .
Tim: Oh, yeah.
Joanna: I now have three books on my desk, a journal journal, a diary, and this-is-my-everyday-what-I-have-achieved type of journal, which is great.
Tim: Have you heard of auto-focus? Have you heard of this?
Joanna: Is that an app?
Tim: No, no, no. It's a productivity system.
Joanna: Oh, okay. Tell me about that.
Tim: Okay. It is the best productivity system I have ever come up. I've tried them all. I've done the GTD thing. GTD is like, if it takes 200 pages to explain it, it's too complicated.
Joanna: Yeah. That's Getting Things Done for you people who don't know, GTD.
Tim: Oh yeah. This is a pin in a notebook, and all you do is every time something comes in mind you write it down. And there's a whole system. Go Google it. It's Mark Forester, and just Google auto-focus system. And it's like four pages that walks you through it. I've been doing it for two-and-a-half months now, and it has kept me more organized. Things don't fall off my to-do list. It's perfect for creatives. That's a little tidbit for everybody.
Joanna: That's great and this comes back. You have a thing that you put on Twitter as well recently. “Think system instead of goal.” That feeds into what you're saying. And you mentioned, can you do something every week that will move you forward? Because I know people get really overwhelmed with all this stuff. How have you done that?
What are some examples of the two things that you would do every week compared to almost everyday stuff, like Twitter or social media?
Tim: The first thing I do is ruthlessly cut out things that don't get me what I want out of life. All of my social media is completely automated with a tool called Meet Edgar. You know how Buff, where you put stuff in and it kind of . . . This is like you create a library of content, and it just keeps cycling through it.
Joanna: Oh, that's good.
Tim: I literally don't look at what's going on with Facebook and Twitter, I just keep every couple weeks add new stuff to it to make the library grow, because Facebook and Twitter don't get me to my goals. They make me feel good about doing stuff, but it doesn't actually move me forward.
Joanna: But it's fun, Tim.
Tim: It is fun but see, that's the difference. I'm fine with having fun. I watch TV every night with my wife for 45 minutes or an hour, okay? That is fun. It's okay to have fun. But people do it and they call it work, and it's not work. It's fun.
What I do is I have a very structured day. I do the same thing day in and day out.
I'm up usually making coffee by 4:15 in the morning, and then I work until about 9:00. I home school my kids until noon, and then I work again until 5:00. I have a very structured day. I work four days a week.
I get up and in that morning time I do creative work. So whether it's creating videos, whether it's doing writing or whatever, that's my creative work because nobody is gonna call me or email me or anything at 5:00 o'clock in the morning. That's what I do. And that's more of a system of like, “I want to create on a daily basis,” and so I've set this time aside, and I am going to create. And I always sit down knowing what I'm supposed to be working on that day.
Actually, the last couple of weeks has been hard because all of a sudden I have seven new projects that I want to start. And so what I'm going to do is put them in order. This is what I want do to. This is when I'm gonna get them done. And then every morning I just chip away at them, and I have a goal of what I want done by the end of the year.
It's not a goal of what I'll gonna get done today. Because you know what? I did 40 minutes of video today, and I plugged it into my computer and everything got corrupted. And if my goal was to get X amount of done today, I would be devastated because I won't hit that goal. I just have a system I know, I get up and I create four mornings a week for a decent amount of time, I'm gonna eventually hit my goals. I think about goals. I think about where I want to be, but it's much more important to have your life systematized in a way where it's hard to not do these things. It's hard to procrastinate.
I installed that news feed extractor plug-in where you go to Facebook and it wipes out your news feed. You can't see your news feed. I have Facebook groups I'm supposed to be a part of, but then I end up watching cat videos for an hour. And so I put these things in place where it makes it really, really hard to do the things I don't want to do and really easy to do then things I do want to do. I just look at how can I structure my life in a way where it's easy to make the good decisions on a daily basis. And then what I find is I look back over the last three months, and I got a lot done.
Joanna: It's funny. You've seen Gretchen Rubin's latest book?
Tim: I haven't read it yet.
Joanna: I recommend it. I'm reading it at the moment. It's on habits. And she talks about personality types, and it sounds like you're an “upholder” which is someone who is very motivated by inner motivation and external motivation, which makes you quite rare. If people listening are going, “I can't possibly do what Tim is doing.” There are these personality types. I recommend that book to people who are struggling to put habits into place.
Tim: What I would tell you, I've not always been this way. I'm the get up late guy.
Every morning is a struggle to get up in the morning. I used to procrastinate.
I played video games for three hours because I was scared to do anything creative. And to me, the change has been over a long period of time, a lot of grace, because a lot of people tend to beat up on themselves. And I used to do that a lot, too. And as soon as I was like, “Hey look, am I a little bit better than I used to be? Am I better than before?” And just keep plugging along.
And I just kept backing up. I'd get up at 7:30. Then I'd get up at 7:00 for awhile. Then I tried 3:30 for a week, and that was too early. What I'm just constantly doing is tweaking a little bit. Can I change a little bit? Can I add a little bit? Can I do a little bit more? And I'd constantly keep the vision of where I'm going in front of me, because that's what drives me. It's not money. It's not status. It's about the kind of life that I want to live, and I have a plan of how I'm gonna get there.
When I wake up and my alarm is going off at 4:30 or 4:15 in the morning and I'm just like, “I don't want to do this.” I'm thinking about, “If I don't get this done this morning, I'm not gonna get where I want to go,” and so I get up.
Joanna: That's great, really very good. This is almost like a productivity discussion.
Tim: Yeah, sorry. I'm such a nerd about it.
Joanna: It's so interesting, and I've also made changes over time. And it always looks bigger if you look at like, compare ten years ago to where you are now, it's just crazy different.
Coming back to marketing because you mentioned, have you just finished your novel?
Tim: Yeah, it's at the editor now.
Joanna: It's at the editor. You're known for non-fiction so far. First of all, tell us about this novel, can you?
Tim: Yeah. It's about an assassin. It still feels weird talking. I keep thinking like, “I should talk about it like it's normal,” but I feel really weird talking about it.
Joanna: Yeah, you've got to get used to it.
Tim: Yeah. It's set in the medieval times, and it's about a wizard that's going through the kingdom and is wiping out cities, and so an assassin is sent to kill him. And that's what it's about.
Joanna: So it's fantasy
Tim: Mm-hmm. This is gonna be a plug. I'm part owner in a new publishing venture called Wonderment, and we started this series of books called Apocalypse Weird. And we've released, I think, eight book now. So it's gonna be set in that Apocalypse Weird kind of world.
Joanna: Sounds good, I like the sound of it.
Tim: Yeah. It's supposed to come out next month. It's at the editor, and she's getting on to me about all of my passive voice.
Joanna: The first novel, you learn a lot with the first novel. It gets easier. Well, some of the things get easier.
Tim: I kept telling her, because she's like, “Well, there's some problems.” And by the end, she's like, “It's kind of a mess.”
And I'm like, “That's fine, we can fix it. You're not gonna hurt my feelings.”
Joanna: What I was gonna ask was, you wrote this book really as an expert in non-fiction marketing. You're now doing fiction.
What do you see as the big difference is between fiction and non-fiction in terms of marketing?
Tim: I've done a bunch of Hugh Howey stuff for several years now, and I've worked with a lot of other indie fiction writers. Here's what's interesting. I announced that I was writing this novel, and I immediately get a lot of people emailing me saying they can't wait to read it. And then people continue to say, “Oh yeah, when is it coming out?”
Okay, logically that makes no sense because it's my first novel. It's gonna suck. If you want good fiction, you shouldn't be reading my fiction. But why are they excited about reading my book? It's because they're fans of me, right? What I see every author should be doing is not creating a platform around their book or any kind of specific genre, non-fiction or fiction, they should be building a platform as an author. As people become fans of them, they're gonna want to be a part of everything they do. You've done this. This is what allows you to cross over back and forth is because people become fans of Joanna Penn, so they're gonna read whatever you come out with. I read Stephen King, when he came out with this short book about gun control.
Joanna: Yeah, I bought it too.
Tim: Yeah, I bought it and read it, because I like Stephen King.
Joanna: I never read it.
Tim: Why do I care about his opinion on gun control? It's like well, because I like Stephen King. I like the way he sees the world. I'm a fan of him.
What I look at it is I should be building a platform for me the author, and get people connected to my world view and the way I think about things.
And then I can extract books out of that. I'm gonna be out to sell my fiction book just like I sold my non-fiction book because people are fans of me. Will I sell as well? Probably not, because I've built a following around book marketing, and not everybody is gonna want to read a first-time fantasy novel. But at the same time, I'm gonna sell a lot more that if I had no platform whatsoever.
And what I've found is, and I see this over and over, if authors build a fan base around themselves, they can pivot. They can go to different genres. They can come out with different products. They can do all kinds of different things because they've built a platform around themselves.
I really get frustrated when fiction authors say, “Well, all that marketing stuff works for non-fiction, but it doesn't work for fiction.”
It's like, “Well, that's because you're sitting in your hall thinking about your fiction book, and that's the only thing you have to give to this world.”
And it's like if you're building a platform around how you see the world, how you can help people, the kind of things you can give back, and you start just trying to actively help people, they're gonna connect with you. And they're gonna want to be a part of everything that you're doing.
Joanna: I think you're right. Although I would say from my experience, probably only about between 5% to 10 % moved into the fiction side of things, from my non-fiction to my fiction.
Tim: But it does two things for you. First of all, the 5% to 10% is more than what most fiction authors have. The other thing is your platform gives you access to influencers that you wouldn't have otherwise. If you want to do something to promote your fiction, you have this entire group of people that you've connected to that are willing to help you do something.
And so your platform isn't just your connections to fans, it's connections to influencers as well.
And so I feel like yes, that's true. Not all of them are gonna hop over, and maybe a small percentage. But still having a platform around yourself and your name gives you so many opportunities that you wouldn't if you just think of yourself as “I'm a person who wrote this fiction book.”
Joanna: I totally agree with that. I also wanted to ask you, your book came out June, 2013, which is almost two years ago now. Is that incredible?
Tim: Yeah. It's insane
Joanna: It is insane.
What do you think has changed in marketing in the last two years? Are there any shifts that you see? Or anything that has developed? Or anything you see coming?
Tim: In my book I outlined the three steps in marketing. You have to have permission, content, and outreach. And I go into what those are.
What I find is I'm always much more interested in the underlying systems and strategies than I am in any particular tactics. An example of a tactic would be back when you could go to free on your book and spike your ranking, and then throw a price in there. And all of a sudden, you could get a bunch of sales. Well, there are all these authors depending on that tactic, and when that tactic got pulled by Amazon, they were kind of “hum.”
I had an author that emailed me the other day, and they were complaining about some changes Amazon made, and how all their book sales have gone down. I'm like, “That's because you're 100% relying on Amazon, and Amazon is gonna do whatever they want.”
It's the same thing that happened to Facebook when they made all those changes to the pages, so many people got in an uproar. And I'm like, “Facebook doesn't care about you. They care about the user that are coming to their site.”
Tactics change every day, but what I see is that now more than ever, and it's going to always be this way, if you can get permission to stay in contact with your fans and communicate with them in a way that gets their attention and drives action, you're gonna succeed.
Email lists are still the best way to do that, which I know you know. And then I just look at everything as a way to get more people on writing that list. Blog, any kind of social media, any kind of interviews, everything is all a funnel into my email list because that's where I have the longest term connection. Now if something comes along that works better than email, I will be all over it. But for now, email is still the best way to stay in contact with your fans. That's what stayed the same.
Tactics have changed. Amazon has changed a lot, and different things that you can do with social media has changed a lot, but I just don't really worry that much about those. Because if you get too caught up in these little tactics and constantly jump into the next tactic but not having an underlying plan of how it all works together, you're going to always be in a rush and kind of up and down and up and down.
Joanna: Yeah, I was thinking about it, and for me the biggest thing is podcasting. I've had a podcast since 2009, so it was a bit early. And now it's just gone nuts. And with Apple announcing CarPlay gonna be in all the cars and Google Auto and stuff.
Whereas we used to guest post, now it seems more effective to podcast podcast, right?
Tim: Yeah, and this is a whole lot easier than writing a guest post.
Joanna: Exactly. To the point where I'm now where people ask me to do interviews on text, I say, “No, I'll be on your podcast.”
It takes more than an hour, doesn't it, to write stuff. And then you have to check it all.
Tim: Oh, yeah. Yeah, you've got to proofread and everything. It's a whole mess.
Joanna: And then it's more quotable and people Tweet quotes and stuff. But with this, people are more forgiving, I think, of what we might say.
Tim: Yeah. That's an example of a tactic changing. This is outreach. I just need to move people from not knowing I exist to knowing I exist, and that's all outreach is. It used to be guest posts. Now it seems to be podcasts. In five years it's gonna be something else. But as long as I'm constantly looking for new ways to introduce myself to people and make sure more people are learning that I even exist, I'm going to continue to win. If you get too narrow minded . . . I mean, there's how many courses now on how to do guest posts? It can work, but it's not like it used to be.
Joanna: Not at all.
Tim: And it's the same thing about blogs. I've actually had several of my clients just shut down their blogs. Because ten years ago having a blog, you would get traffic. That's all it took. And now you start a blog, you're competing with Huffington Post. It's just a different world. If you are somebody that's only thinking about blogging, you're gonna have trouble. But if you're just constantly like, “I hold all the tool with open hands, and whatever will work for permission, content, and outreach, that's what I'm gonna do.”
Joanna: On that, I did noticed that you mentioned being an introvert on your site as am I, and as are many of my listeners. And if people are unsure, introverts get energy from being alone and not with people. Being with people physically, we love it sometimes. But it's very tiring.
How do you deal with all of this as an introvert?
Tim: One thing that's nice is that you're the first person I've talked to today.
Joanna: I'm like that too.
Tim: I'm in my basement office, and besides my family, you're the first person I've seen today. I spend most of my time alone, and I look at it as I just try to regulate it.
I don't travel that much. The last conference I went to I'd go out, and I did two sessions, and led two sessions, and I'm loving it. I'm personable, and I get good feedback. And then as soon as it's over I'm like, “Oh, my gosh, I'm exhausted.”
What I find though is that you can't let it be an excuse. This all comes down to, “Well, what do you want out of life?” If you want to be a successful author in today's world, you can't use your introversion as an excuse to never talk to anybody. And so what I just try to do is, “This is a conversation one-on-one with somebody that has the same interests as I do, this is pretty easy.”
And so I just look for some things that I can do and get used to doing, and they're just things. I just force myself to try new things. And if after awhile I hate it, I just won't do it anymore. I'll find something else. But I just encourage people to try things and don't use it as an excuse. I actually can't remember the exact advice I gave in that post you're referring to. But that's the biggest thing is I talk to authors, and I list out five things they could try and they'd be like, “I can't do that. I'm an introvert. I can't do that, I'm an introvert.”
And I'm like, “Okay, then don't do anything, and just write, and put it on Amazon, and sell five copies, and keep going.” You know? What I want to do is accept the reality of what is, but at the same time look for ways to get around those things. I don't travel much. I'm not around people a lot. I do very little local networking, but I look for ways that I can do things that I enjoy. So having a conversation over Skype is pretty easy, so I can do that.
Joanna: I agree. Much of what I love about online marketing is most of it you can do at home on your own, a video, like YouTube I find hilarious because people think you have to be outgoing to do Youtube. I'm like, “No, you're just sitting on your own in your house.”
Tim: Well, really here's what the truth is, is that people call it introversion and what they're really saying is, “I'm scared of rejection.”
And those are two very different things. They're scared to put themselves out and be rejected, and so they say, “Well, I'm an introvert, I can't do it.”
And it's like, “No, no, no, no, no. Everybody has fear of rejection.” And so those are two very different things. They don't go after the podcast interview not because they're an introvert, but because they're afraid to ever being rejected, which I totally get. I've been rejected just as much as anybody. That's what I come back to. Let's be honest about our . . . Whenever we're lying to ourselves, we're just holding ourselves up.
When we were talking about social media, I'm like, “I'm fine with having fun on social media, just don't lie to yourself about what you're doing, and then just do it.”
Because once you say, “Okay, I'm afraid of rejection,” Now, I have somebody I can deal with. I can Google that and find help on that. I can talk to friends about that. I can start managing that. But if I call it something else to avoid the actual situation, I'm gonna stop, and I'm not gonna move forward.
Joanna: Good. I hope that's challenged people listening. Because I still think as authors if you get into multimedia, you are so ahead of most authors, because most authors will not go through the pain barrier of learning some basic technical stuff and putting your face and your voice out there.
Tim: And please, it gets easier. The first time I ever tried to create a video, I sat at my computer and was on Facebook and all this other shit, trying to work up the nerve. It took me like 45 minutes to hit the record button. And then it was awful, so I had to delete it. And then I sat there again.
And now I just flip on the camera and go, and so it gets easier. So yes, it's hard. Yes, it looks easy when Joanna and Tim are sitting here talking. But trust me. It's horrible the first few times. The first few interviews I ever did, I'm keeping my hands down because they're shaking. Yes, It's hard, and it's scary, and you're gonna face rejection. But that's part of it, and you won't die. You'll make mistakes. And I've said like stupidest stuff, and it's no big deal. You just keep moving forward.
Joanna: I'll admit, I think this is episode 215, and I still have pounding hearts and sweaty hands, and I'm nervous talking. As the introvert, I hate phoning people. It's just a nightmare. But once I'm in there, everything is fine. And you're a nice guy, so you're not that scary. This is true. You've got to get over it.
We're running out of time, so you have a fantastic 30-day free email course. Tell us a bit about that, and also what else you offer authors.
Tim: If you go to timgrahl.com, that's T-I-M-G-R-A-H-L. I have the worst last name. You sign up, and I'll send you a free 30-day course on how to build your platform as an author. Or if you go in, I have a bunch of resources. I have interviews with authors. I have PDFs you can download. I have audio. I have a bunch of resources I've put up for free that you can take advantage of. That's all there for you to take advantage of, and of course, I have my book “Your First 1000 Copies”.
Joanna: Well, that sounds fantastic, Tim. People can go and check that out. Thanks so much for your time. That was brilliant.
Tim: Thanks for having me, Joanna.
Frank Hurt says
Joanna, I absolutely appreciate the content and timing of this interview. So much great insight to think about, and I took notes to review too.
I especially enjoyed the insight into habit-forming, the A/B testing tool Tim mentioned, and marketing as an introvert.
Your podcasts are always so insightful and professional. This is why I keep coming back for more. 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Frank – so glad you enjoy the show!
Laura Fredericks says
Thanks for another wonderful podcast! I hadn’t run across Tim’s work before, and can now see that we’re working on a lot of the same things. I was very interested to hear a lot of his tips, and look forward to reading and hearing more from him!
Roland Denzel says
MeetEdgar is FULL right now! I’ll have to wait for a slot down the road. Looks pretty good.
Tim, your fiction story has me intrigued, just from hearing you describe it. Looking forward to it.
shane a. mason says
What a dingbat I am. I wrote seven words instead of seven phrases in the keyword place – so obvious but missed. Great tip>
Loved the bit about having something of substance to give away. I need to nut out what to give away.