I love meeting people who challenge me by what they accomplish and how they work.
Chandler Bolt has inspired me with his focused and ‘work smarter' approach and today I interview him about how he does it. Here come the productivity tips!
In the intro, I talk about the launch of Deviance and the Desecration promotional approach, plus how Amazon's Follow button now seems to work (see the pic here). I also mention the free video series on 11 ways to make money as an indie author and thank you for all your wonderful comments. Over 2000 people have now watched the video and I'm super happy that it's going down so well 🙂
This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
Chandler Bolt is the author of 5 non-fiction books and is one of the entrepreneurs behind the Self-Publishing School training program and the recent Self Publishing Summit, which was fantastic.
- Working smarter, not harder at writing and the value in keeping things simple.
- Chandler's three-step process for writing a book and why getting the first draft finished matters so much.
- On timed writing, tracking time, using Parkinson's Law to gather momentum, and the tools Chandler uses to support his timed writing.
- On confidence, fear and working hard despite a perceived lack of validation. Also the best ways to develop confidence, including the willingness to fail.
- The beginnings of an entrepreneurial approach to life, the value of starting, no matter what that looks like, and the importance of not comparing your success with anyone elses. And how putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves can strip away the pleasure of being entrepreneurial.
- On falling into the business of self-publishing, the reduction in barriers to making art and the legacy that is left by being creative.
- The value of learning from those who are just two steps ahead.
- The key learnings from the self-publishing success summit, including the concept of having a system behind a book at the ‘backend', the importance of pre-sales, and the message of discipline and consistency, even when validation is not offered.
- Ambition and the underlying values behind it of growth, learning and contribution.
- On the future of publishing and the prediction that the balance of power is shifting to the artists' hands.
You can find Chandler's free book and video series at Self Publishing School.
Transcription of interview with Chandler Bolt
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I'm here with Chandler Bolt. Hi, Chandler.
Chandler: Hey, Joanna. How are you?
Joanna: I'm good. It's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction for people; Chandler is the author of five nonfiction books and is one of the entrepreneurs behind the Self-Publishing School Training Program and the recent Self-Publishing Summit, which was absolutely fantastic.
Chandler, give us a bit more of an introduction about you and your writing background.
Chandler: Joanna, it's funny. I think we come from a little bit different writing backgrounds. And for me, if you told me a few years ago that I would be a writer and I'd be writing books and teaching other people how to write, I would say, “You're crazy,” and also, “That sounds like hell.”
Because it's funny. I had been someone who hated writing and hated reading. It's really weird, but I just didn't like it. And it's funny, I finally did that first book. I did it when I was 19, and that was a total game changer for me.
From a writing perspective, I was always someone who was bad at it and someone who didn't really like it that much. And I came through that, so I felt like that's why I'm able to talk to people and teach it on a much more basic level. Because I've been there where either you feel like you're not good, or it's just something that doesn't come naturally, and having to push through that and then being able to come to the other side and learning from it and getting a lot better.
Joanna: Outline the five books that you have now, just so people know what kind of books you're writing.
Chandler: Yeah, so the first one, it was called The Productive Person. So that was on productivity for entrepreneurs. The second one was Breaking Out of a Broken System. That was a charity project that I did with my brother. He plays in a rock ‘n roll band called NEED TO BREATHE. So we did that book. That was 100% for charity.
We did Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs. We did Book Launch, which is more teaching our process. And then How to Not Suck at Writing Your First Book, which is a tongue-in-cheek… it related to my feelings, so I wanted to reach specifically to that person who's like, “I'm worried about this and I'm worried about really having trouble with this.”
Joanna: Actually it's quite funny because I don't really read print, but I have here Breaking Out of a Broken System. Here it is. And the reason I got it in print is because you and your brother did half each way. And half of it's white-on-black and the other half is black-on-white, which makes it easier to read in print basically.
Joanna: But it's cool. I'm going to send it to some of my younger cousins. But what I really noticed in there, by having a look at that, and also what you've just said and what you've done at the summit, I see you working smarter. I know you work hard, but you also work smarter. For example, you're not someone who's going to spend four years doing a Masters in creative writing, are you?
Talk a bit about how working smarter, not harder, applies to the authors who are listening.
Chandler: That's a huge thing for us. And we're big on the 80/20 Pareto's principle, so getting things to 80% and then moving on. So big for me is getting that learning to 80% and then moving on and continuing pushing that.
We also use a lot of Parkinson's law; giving ourselves hard, strict deadlines that are short and challenging so that we push to get to that.
But overall, I feel like a lot of authors, they scatter themselves too much. If myself or us, in general, have been accused of anything, it's being overly simplistic, but that's because we just want to distil it down.
It's like most people when they go to market their books, when they go to write, they want to hear all the tactics. And they're going to test out all the stuff, and they're going to make a Facebook page and a Twitter page, and then they're going to make a site. And by the time you finally sell the book, you're so worn out because you've done a million different things that the book goes nowhere.
Learn from the best.
Learn from people like you and hear exactly what's working for you. And I'm not going to overthink this. I'm just going to do that and focus and double down.
Once it's working, really double down on exactly what's working. And ignore those shiny objects as much as I can. Being a complete ADD person, try to ignore those and say, “Hey, this is what's working right now. I'm going to stick to this. And yeah, that's awesome. I'm going to write that on my pad, stick it in my pocket and save that for a rainy day. Because this is working and I'm going to stick to this.”
Joanna: You mentioned the 80/20 principle there, and you've written these five books, as I said.
What was the 80% – the biggest thing that got you from hating writing to writing five books?
Chandler: I think it was taking the leap and doing the first one. So many people just overthink it. Oh, man. This will be a great example. So for our first book, Breaking Out of a Broken System, it's interesting. It was the first one we wrote, but the second one we put out, so it's always confusing to explain.
It was the first book we wrote, and I learned from one of my mentors. He gave me a three-step process, which was mind map the book, then outline it, then write it.
So mind map, you'd brain dump. You get a piece of paper and you just write down everything you can think of onto this piece of paper. You have an idea. You don't have to have a title. You just start drawing lines and stuff, and you get all these ideas.
And normally what happens is… like this happened to me with my first one. I went from saying, “I had no idea,” or maybe like a book I could write 10 pages on, to, “Wow, I have so much to write about.” And this happens every time.
And then the second step to that is you start to outline it, so you start to pull common themes and categories. And you're like, “Oh, I can't talk about this,” or “This doesn't fit.” And then you start to organize it.
And then you write it. That's what we used with the first book, and we repeated that process through every chapter.
My brother and I, we're both super busy, so we said, “Hey, we don't want this to be a nagging side project that just goes on for six months and we never finish it.” So we carved out a week. And it was actually around Christmas time, and we just locked ourselves in the house.
And then we went to this cabin, and we just wrote it, wrote the first book in a week.
And we used that mind map, outline, write, process, not only to map the whole book as a whole and we had the big picture, but then we did it chapter by chapter. So we would say, “All right, here is chapter number one. It's about how awesome Joanna Penn is.” So we're going to mind map, “Okay, she's British. She has a great accent. She's smart. She works really hard. She's cool.”
Joanna: Okay, that's enough [laughs!]
Chandler: So we're going to map out all these things. And then we're going to say, “Okay, now organize it.” So we'll spend 10 to 12 minutes mind-mapping the topic, then 10 to 12 minutes outlining it in order of how we want to talk about it. And then we would spend anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes writing it. And obviously, we would come back later, but that helped us get there.
The 80/20 of writing the book is finishing the first draft.
You know this. You've got to get to that finish line. And it doesn't matter how bad it is. There's just this psychological thing of when you get into the rough draft, it's like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And for the first time, you believe you could actually finish it. And then it doesn't matter how bad it is. You'll go back and fix it and do all the work you need to, but it seems a lot less daunting once you've gotten to that finish line.
Joanna: And you mentioned the timings there. And I remember also for me, doing timed writing was the thing that started me off. If you sit down for, like you say, 15 minutes even, and you can write something in 15 minutes. It doesn't matter. And like you say, if you have a plan, you can do it. You also say you're ADD, right?
Has timed writing helped you do all of this stuff? Do you time everything?
Chandler: Very much so. And that's really helped. That helped with the first book especially, because we were on the clock. And so a buzzer went off at the end. And then we'd start it again. And then a buzzer went off. So it was really important. And then as you see that little clock ticking at the top of your screen, it creates some urgency.
It's using Parkinson's law — we talked about it a little bit earlier — which is an object will slow in proportion to the amount of time you give yourself to complete it. So you see that and you see that ceiling. And it's amazing because you feel like you have this block, but then you see that clock ticking down. And without fail, those 90-minute chunks of writing, you get down to the last 15 minutes, and the pure pressure of it, you just start typing like a madman and you get it done. So that's really helpful.
And then even down to everyday life, we use RescueTime to track time. And then I just started using Toggl, which I've heard about for a long time, and that's more of you have to manually do it by task. So I've got it on right now, and it just helps you.
Because as writers and just as productive people, in general, switching tasks is a big thing. Writing and then saying, “Oh, I want to look up this thing online to support this point.” And then the next thing you know, 45 minutes later, and you've still got 200 words and you're not back to your writing.
So just the act of not only timing it but also tracking it, that'll really help come to front of mind like, “Okay, how much time am I actually spending writing? Because is it that I'm a slow writer or that I just get distracted too much?” And usually it's the latter.
Joanna: And I think this is usual for fiction and nonfiction. I don't want people to think it's just the nonfiction thing. It really is timed writing, like number one tip, I think.
One of the other things that I've really noticed about you is your confidence. And what's funny is it feels like you came out of nowhere into the space, but in reading some of your other books, you've been working hard as an entrepreneur for years. As a teenager, you won awards for being a young entrepreneur and everything. In Breaking Out, you talk about limiting beliefs and how to overcome them. And many authors here listening suffer from chronic self-doubt around what we're doing, especially in the self-publishing space, because there's a lack of validation really. There's no agent or publisher saying, “Oh, you're amazing”.
Tell us a bit about how you have got this confidence, where this came from, and what happens when you do hit the fear.
Chandler: I think the biggest thing is that I still feel that all the time, that fear. And it's like no matter how hard you try, you still want some kind of validation for what you're doing.
For example, this recent summit, it was months of prep work where there's tech problems and figuring out this site and getting this speaker, and then getting the speaker that said yes but then turned it into a no. And it's just like you run into these walls and you start to question, “Is what I'm doing actually making a difference? Is this going to even be good? Is anyone going to show up to this?” Everybody has these doubts. But it's just continually chugging along. And then eventually, you will get that validation.
When the summit came out, we more than doubled our goal, which was a ridiculously high goal anyway. And it just was amazing. That's when it's all worth it. But in terms of building that confidence, before you get to that validation, that's super important.
And I think the best way to do that is just jump a little bit outside of your comfort zone, which I know sounds really cliché, but take on some challenges. There's no way for you to get more confidence without getting more skills or without doing something that you previously thought was not possible.
And if you're not willing to do that and if you're not willing to fail… you have to be willing to fail and fail a lot. I think the only reason that I've had success is because I fail more than most anybody. It's just fail, get up, fail, get up, fail, get up, fail, get up. You have to be willing to step out of that. And then Breaking Out of a Broken System, we talk about this. This is one of the best things. We have amazing parents, and that book is just all about how awesome our parents are and how much stuff they taught us.
But the big thing we talk about in there is this concept of many mini successes. So M-I-N-I, like mini, as in small, and then many successes. There's a lot of small successes. And growing up, it was like getting in scouts, and then learning how to tie a knot, learning how to start a fire, take care of myself if I was ever stranded. All these different little things that they taught us and continued to push us out there and said, “Hey, go play a sport. Get better at that sport. Learn how to play the drums.” It was all these non-business-related things that once you start to see a little bit of result here and a little bit of result here from taking on these challenges and having these mini successes, then it's like, “Okay, cool. What can I do next?”
That's why I'm so passionate about this stuff. Because I feel that for a lot of people, that first book is a mini success. It doesn't matter if you sell 5 copies, 50, or 500, 5000.
Just getting that first book out is a mini success.
We're like, “Whoa, I finally did something that worked. I have a tangible result and money's coming in from it. I see light that I can go towards.” And it's such a good feeling to finally get that. But you have to jump out and put yourself in that position to be able to make it happen.
Joanna: And like you say, I think in the self-publishing space, finishing a book is one thing. But then so much disappointment seems to come from the sales side. But I'm sure you've seen this, too, making your first $10 online, that can really change your life. And I think we can't forget that. People listening, you can't forget that making $10 from something that's not a paid job is amazing. And then if you can make $10, you can make $100, right? You can make $100,000.
How long has that journey been for you, where you are now, running what I can tell is a pretty big business now? When was that first $10 that you made as an entrepreneur? Because it was a while ago, right?
Chandler: The first $10 as an entrepreneur… gosh. That was probably 11 or 12 at Scout camps. My mom sent me with a bunch of snacks. “Great, mom.” As any great mom does, right? She loads you down with snacks and drinks and just wants to make sure you're taken care of. And then my entrepreneurial brain was like, “All my friends want these snacks. I'm going to sell them. And I'm going to eat a little less and have all these awesome knives and cool stuff.” That was the dream, right? And so I remember that.
And then it just continued and continually leveling up. In high school, I ran a landscaping business for my summer, and the goal was to get $5000 for college. And I remember hitting that and then hitting $10,000. It was the best summer of my life, and I hired all my friends to come work with me.
I remember making $500 in a day, and suddenly an iPod was a half a day's work, whereas I had always looked at it as at least two weeks of a paycheck. When that first happens, it totally changes your perception.
And then fast forward to the first book, and I remember seeing it 80, 100, 170 copies a day. And that's when I was like, “This isn't my mom, and my grandma, and my cousin, and my friends buying this book. These are people all over the world that I have no clue.”
I remember that was like a lightbulb moment for me, because there's a difference between, like you said, hard labor, landscaping and throwing down mulch and working your butt off. There's a difference between that and snowboarding all day in the Swiss Alps in Austria. And I remember checking in, it was like, “I made $400 yesterday and I was snowboarding. How cool is that?” This thing of passive income that I'd heard of, kind of mystical only-through-real-estate. I geeked out on all the Robert Kiyosaki books when I was in high school.
Joanna: We read all the same things.
Chandler: Yeah, you and I have read all the same books. That was when the light was finally… I thought, “Okay, this is possible.” And then fast forward, and it just keeps growing.
I think the important thing and the takeaway for a lot of listeners is, you've got to start somewhere.
And don't have number envy. It's so easy to look and see other people's success and then have a huge letdown when that happens. I remember the best part of my first book is I had zero expectations. So if this sells five copies, awesome. And so when they were exceeded, I was really happy. But it's hard. You can just… putting all this pressure, it just makes the whole process not fun and not enjoyable.
Joanna: You are such a serial entrepreneur and you've done all kinds of businesses, and you know a lot of people in a lot of different businesses.
Why did you pick self-publishing and books when it seems like you didn't come from a book-loving background, I'm assuming?
Chandler: That's a great question. We had success with the first book. Then we did another one, then I helped a friend with his, then I helped somebody else. We kind of fell into it.
The businesses we were doing at the time, they were struggling. And my bank account was just crashing on a one-way path to zero. I was watching it. And I dropped out of school. And I ran successful businesses in the past, but I knew they weren't in areas that I wanted to do it. So it was just trying to find that.
And the business we were working on at the time was struggling, and people kept asking about this. They just kept asking, “How are you writing these books so quickly?” “How are the books so successful?” “How do you market them?” all these questions. I found myself like a broken record, just having the same conversation over and over again with different people just because I wanted to help them.
And then finally, we looked at them and we were like, “This is something people want to know.” It's like you get smacked in the back of the head so many times is where you turn around and look. And that was what happened. And finally, we were just like, “Okay, this is something people want to learn about. We're obviously good at it, and we've done it a bunch of times. Let's keep doing this and let's start teaching it and see where it goes.”
Then we sold the first program to see if there was any interest. And when there was a ton of interest, then we created it based on exactly what people wanted.
Joanna: I know this goes back to your candy thing, which I like, as a kid, selling the candy your mom gave you. This is the point. It's selling the things that people actually want to eat and that are yummy and they actually want, which is why romance is the highest selling fiction genre, right?
People want to eat romance. They really want it. And they want thrillers, and they want sci-fi, fantasy. There are certain things that people want. And they also want to learn.
I wondered about your opinion. My feeling is that we're in this sort of growing maker movement. It used to be that people just watched TV. Now, they watch TV and make TV with YouTube videos. They used to just listen to music. Now, they make music, too. They used to just look at photos. Now, they take photos.
We used to just read, and now, we want to write. Do you see that this fits into a bigger generational shift, I guess, into making?
Chandler: That's a great point and so many great examples behind that. I think it really is because the barrier has decreased. The barrier to entry has decreased, and also it's easier than ever. So whereas people used to look at this as this high and mighty thing like, “Oh, to write a book, you must be a genius,” or, “To make music, you must just be an amazing musician,” or, “To,” like you said, “record videos, you must have an amazing camera.” Whereas iPhone, hello! That's why everyone's doing this number right here.
Joanna: And making loads of money.
Chandler: Exactly, right? So I think it's one, the barrier to entry is so much that lower, but then people see the value in it and they see that, “Hey, I can be a creator.” And there's less of people preaching down and saying, “You can't.” And there's more people like us saying, “No, you actually can, and here's how to do it.” That's what I love is empowering people because if you're not creating . . .
Joanna: You're just consuming. And what's the point?
Chandler: Exactly. And I want to be brash and say, “If you're not creating, why are you here? You're just taking up space.” There's got to be something that can live longer than you do, right? And the essence of creating is like this book, this song, this YouTube video, it will be on a shelf. It will be somewhere long after I am off of this earth. That's how I can leave my legacy, and that's how I can keep living on. And the only way to do that is by creating something.
Joanna: And also it's fun. I was on an interview earlier, and I said, “Actually what's fun is creating. You consume stuff and then you create stuff.” You read a book, like we read lots of books, and then you create something from it. It's fun as well. The life you live is more fun when you create stuff and help people. And also, as you said, you only need to be one rung ahead.
I love the fact that you're just teaching people and you're not 65 years old with this massive history behind you. You're like, “I've just done this and I'm going to teach other people.” I think that's fantastic.
Chandler: Can I touch on that real quick? I'm very passionate about this, that the best people to learn from are the people who are two rungs ahead of you.
For me, it's so hard a lot of times to learn from someone who's 50 rungs ahead of me because they can't relate. When I ask them a question that I need help with, they can't answer it.
So that's why I love learning from people who are just two steps ahead of me, so that they can say, “Oh, yeah. Cool. I just did this six months ago. Here's what you don't want to do. Here's the mistake I made. Here's the provider you want to use. Here's how you want to sell these books. Like email campaign, you don't want to use this provider. You want to use this.”
And it's like they could save you so much time. That's why I love doing that so much more than someone who's way ahead because I've done the other route, and it's disappointing sometimes when they're like, “Oh, yeah. I just have somebody on my team handle that,” or, “Oh, yeah. Google that. I don't know. I'm so far removed from that.” It's like, “Well, that doesn't help me right now.” And I just keep trying to level up. I'm like, “Okay, cool. They are two spaces ahead of me, then I'd catch them.” And it's like, “All right. Cool. Now, who's the next person? Who's the next person?”
Joanna: It's great that you are talking about learning from other people. I've listened to a number of the summit interviews, which are brilliant, and I've learned loads from them. But you sat through them all – 40 odd hours of interviews.
Joanna: I really wondered what were the top three things that you learned from all of these different people listening? Because obviously we're always learning new stuff.
What really stood out for you? And obviously, you're a different level to various people listening, but what was interesting?
Chandler: There were so many, so many great things. The top things, I would say, first would be you have to have a backend.
This is something that we teach and I'm a big proponent of, but just hearing it over and over again. The people who are really successful, they had a really strong backend. A lot of times that was the reason that they weren't going the publish route is because then they lost control of their backend.
So Ryan Deiss talked about that. Russell Brunson talked about that. I think Michael Port, Nick Unsworth, Jaime Tardy. She did go the publisher route. But there's a lot of people who were just talking about that. They write the book with the backend in mind, and what's next, and how do I use this to build my business.
And it's the people with ridiculous numbers. They all knew that yeah, the book is awesome and it's a tool to get people here. But the big stressor there, too, is so many people just say, “Oh, cool. Well, if the book isn't the main thing, I'm just going to write the book in two hours. It's going to suck, and then I'm just going to put it out there.” And that was very important is all those people said, “No, this has to be your best stuff. Even though you're focusing on the backend, the book has to be your best stuff. And you lead with your best.” It's not a 200-page sales pitch. It's actually good stuff, and it's soft on the sales. So that's was a big learning point.
Joanna: Before you go on, explain what backend means to people who might not understand that concept.
Chandler: Absolutely. It's the other actions that people are going to take or the other things that people are going to buy once they get your book. So for nonfiction, it might be coaching. It might be a program. It might be a community.
Chandler: Yeah, software. It could be your local business. It could be a real estate agent to sell more houses, all these different things. And for fiction, it could be your community of your raving fans. It could be other fiction books. It could be the next books in the series. There's a lot of different things it could be, but focusing on that backend.
Joanna: Great. Fantastic. Basically the book might cost $5, but the backend products are higher priced. So you can, from a business perspective, make more income from a customer by giving them something brilliant.
Chandler: Exactly. And something they would love. And also, like nonfiction, it could be behind-the-scenes videos. It could be extra stuff about the characters and just all these different things. People always want that extra layer and the behind-the-scenes, and they want to see how it's made. They want to know more. There's all kinds of stuff you can give them for that.
Joanna: Russell Brunson's interview was great. And his book, DotComSecrets, it's fantastic.
Chandler: When did you read it?
Joanna: About a month ago. And then I listened to the interview that you did with him. I know that stuff, right? We've read loads of books on that stuff, but that book just puts it in a process that makes it… I've given that book to loads of people now. And the interview was super good, too. And his backend with the software, superb, and his webinar stuff. I went to have a look at his website and fell right into his backend.
Chandler: Did you buy The Perfect Webinar?
Joanna: Yes. Yeah.
Chandler: Oh my gosh. So this is hilarious. This is how good he is. Within 20 minutes of our interview finishing, I bought I think $300 worth of his product. And I went straight into The Perfect Webinar. I bought that. I bought the upsell.
Joanna: Yeah, me, too.
Chandler: And I immediately used it all. And I've already made a ton of money from it.
Joanna: It's very good as well.
Chandler: Oh, it's so good.
Joanna: He's a great salesman, but what was so good in the interview you did with him — and I'll link to all this in the show notes — he says, “Go and get the free chart,” right? So you go and get the free chart, and then it's the free plus shipping. And then, oh, it's super duper . . .
Chandler: The one-time offer, yeah.
Joanna: Absolutely brilliant. That's why anybody who wants to get deep into this, DotComSecrets, the interview on the summit, absolutely brilliant.
Anyway, back to what you learned. What else was on your list?
Chandler: I've got a couple of more things. And real quick, I love how I just finished that book last week. You finished it a month ago. Every time we talk, we figure out that we've just recently read the same exact book. So we've got to share reading lists at some point.
But the other two big learnings from the summit is the importance of pre-sales and how to get them.
So a lot was stressed on that. And that's something I hadn't really put a lot of thought into and hadn't really done very well in the past. So I love learning about that and learning about the different ways people do presales.
And whether it was Russell Brunson, whether it was Ryan Deiss. He's now doing free plus shipping offers, doing packages, just all these different things, and how that really help people get high on the charts.
And then the third thing was, and this is pretty simplistic, but I think this will be encouraging to people listening is the discipline and consistency that people showed and that they preached. What we see a lot of times is the tip of the iceberg, so it's this massive success. And what you don't see is the 90% of that iceberg that's below the surface that they've been plugging away, and they've been consistently putting things out.
They didn't have a smash hit on the first one. They probably didn't have a smash it on the second one. A lot of them, they didn't have a smash hit on the third, fourth, and fifth. It's the discipline that they engaged in, and how seriously they took it, and how they just consistently churn things out even when the validation wasn't there.
We talked about this earlier, the validation and how that's what spurs people on.
But the common theme was that none of these people needed validation to keep going.
They just kept going until the validation eventually came. And at that point, it was like, “Oh, cool. Awesome. People recognize what I'm doing. I'm going to keep going because I wasn't doing this for the validation to begin with.”
All those people, they were long-term successes. They weren't just . . . like how Hal Elrod says it. “It takes 10 or 12 years to become an overnight success.” And that's so true, right? All these people have been plugging away and they're putting in their 10,000 hours.
I think that's a great underlying message that can be really encouraging for people, especially just getting started is, “Hey, you haven't put in your time yet.”
Everyone's looking for the shortcut and the tip and the secret and all that, but you've got to put in your time.
And you might get there by working smarter than harder, tying this full circle to earlier, you're going to get there faster. But still, you've got to be disciplined. You've got to be consistent.
Joanna: The presale thing is fascinating because, of course, Amazon now gives indies presales on books, which we only got last year. And iBooks has been doing it for a while, so has Kobo, so has Nook. I think many authors worry about it because you don't get the ranking boost on Amazon. You get it double time on iBooks, but I think the presales idea is something that indies have to get much more into.
So what was the biggest lesson on presales?
I know you're mainly talking about courses. But for book presales, for example — and you did for the summit — what was your best way of getting presales?
Chandler: the biggest takeaways from the summit was packaging an offer that's so irresistible that they get way more than they paid for. So how that applies to books, that's what everyone did, right? Russell Brunson was giving away free stuff. Ryan Deiss was giving away free stuff. It was generally free offer plus shipping, and they used the backend to liquidate that offer. So I remember Russell saying they made $32 per free book.
Chandler: Yeah, it was $37 per audiobook, but like $32 is the average value of the customer that got a free book. So they were making money on people who were getting free books, and that's how they were able to do that. And as an author, our biggest goal was to get the books to as many hands as possible. So presales just helps to do that.
And then for the summit, we did that ahead of time by offering bonuses. And we offered a price discount. So that was an early bird discount that they could get. And also scratching that itch of immediate access. So I pre-recorded a lot of the interviews. I said, “Hey, if something doesn't start for a couple of weeks, but if you want to get pre-access to a lot of these speeches, you can start just going through them and learning, then go ahead and get the all-access pass right now.” So that's how we did the presales for the summit.
Joanna: Right today, as we record this, I'm doing presales on Deviance, my latest novel, and I've put the price down for the presales period and using the email list to sell to people who are already on the list at a cheaper price. It's difficult to do too much with fiction, with a novel. But with nonfiction, I think that there's so much more flexibility because people will pay for information more than they will pay for entertainment.
Chandler: Yeah, absolutely.
Joanna: Right. So just a couple more questions. I wanted to also ask you about ambition. Because I'm trying to bring this up a lot more. I'm ambitious. I know you're ambitious, but ambition and making really good money… being a six-figure author now, to me, it's more like what about being a seven-figure author, eight-figure author, which many of the people you interviewed are doing that.
How do you feel about ambition? And how do you think people listening should claim that ambition and just ignore what other people say?
Chandler: Man, it's tough, because I can easily be accused of being a workaholic.
Joanna: Oh, me, too.
Chandler: A big part of my ambition is wanting to grow and wanting to learn. And money doesn't drive a lot of that. Money's just the byproduct of that. It just happens because I love what I do and because I want to grow.
This is like what we were talking about earlier. I've always been at the camp of if you're not learning, you're dying. If you're not growing, you're dying. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. And I hate that feeling of just being like, “All right. Cool. I'm just going to ride this one out. Life's good. I have a job that I hate, and a decently nice car, and a house in an okay neighborhood. Let's just cash this in and in 30 years, I'm going to die.” What? That's so crazy.
Ambition, for me, is growing and helping other people and leaving an impact.
And it's consistently driving towards that. Continually focusing on growth and helping other people. You can cultivate it somewhat, but some of it's deep down. And if you're willing to just put up with mediocrity, then it's going to happen and it's going to keep perpetuating mediocrity. So I think it's super important.
The core of that is not caring about the validation.
The best artists, the best authors, the best musicians, the validation doesn't matter. It's because this is what I love and I'm going to do it and I'm going to be better.
And like you said, the seven-figure, we're gunning hard for that right now. And it's just a representation of what we can achieve. And by reaching that, we're going to able to help X amount of people. And then by leveling that up, the amount of impact we can have, the amount of ads, the money we can spend on ads, the amount of people we can get in front of.
I feel like a lot of people have these negative beliefs on money. So they look at the profit and the margin, the money you make, and they're almost, they want to be the opposite. “If that person's selling stuff and doing well, they must be a bad person. And I'm not going to compromise my beliefs to sell stuff.”
They have so many negative attachments to this, but I think when you start looking at it a different way, like, “I have to sell someone on my book, because if they don't get this book, their lives are not going to be better because I believe in this information.” Or, “I have to make a profit because it's that profit and that margin that allows me to hire better employees, that allows me to help more people. It allows me to invest more money in my product, make a better product.” All those things are drivers, not just this thing that you make because you're bad person, right? So many people have that just backwards.
I think it's swapping that ambition along with swapping your beliefs with when that stuff comes, not repelling it. A lot of people have money repellent, right? They spray themselves with money repellent and success repellent so that when it comes, they're like, “Oh, no, no, no. I don't want my friends to think I'm better than them. I don't want my family to think I'm a know-it-all.” You have to get past that.
Joanna: I like Peter Diamandis. I'm sure you've read Abundance and Bold, right? Really brilliant book. In there, he says if you want to be a billionaire, serve a billion people. That really helped me.
What you're saying is — and the same with the candy, right, at the beginning — if you serve your market, that's the way you're going to make good money and success in all the ways that you talk about. And that's what you're doing with the summit and the Self-Publishing School. That's what I try and do at the Creative Penn. By serving the market, that naturally brings good things and makes you happy at the same time.
Joanna: So you have to read that by the next time we speak, okay? Everyone listening, Abundance by Peter Diamandis, must-read.
Joanna: Last question before we finish up. As a millennial, one of the episodes I just had was about the future of publishing and talking about the next couple of years, five years of the publishing market.
As a millennial, what do you see in the next five years in the publishing space, internet space? What is the next frontier?
Chandler: I think it's being decentralized. There's so many common themes, whether it's books, whether it's music, whether it's documentaries and movies. It's the exact same.
My brother's in music so I know a lot about the backend in the music industry and record labels, and management, and how all that stuff works. And I see the exact same things happening between the two industries.
I think it's coming back down to where the artist is going to become king. It's more independent, indie, whether it's record labels, indie publishers, all those things. And then also the publishers or the promoters are becoming really, really important.
The only power that publishers have now is distribution.
The only power that record labels have is radio play. There's some old antiquated things that they're still holding on by a straw, but as those things begin to fade away… you see people like Live Nation in the music industry, they own concert venues. And they're promoters. People don't need a record deal to be successful. In self-publishing, you don't need a publisher to be successful. And so I see all that decentralizing.
And then our big, hairy, audacious goal with Self-Publishing School is to put the publishers out of business and to show people that self-publishing is not only a viable option, but it's the best option and it's a great option. We're not there yet, obviously, but that's where we're moving towards.
And the power becomes to where maybe it's the independent publishers at that time where they're not necessarily like “publishers” in a traditional sense, but the power has shifted to where if you listened to any of these summit interviews… you know this, Joanna. The publisher's not going to move books. You still have to move books. So it's already shifted so much more to where… it's the final straws. And it will keep moving that direction, but that's where I see it moving to where the power comes back into the artists' hands.
And also, there will be a new level. It's like instead of the publishers being way up here, the artist and the authors being way down here, there's going to be a new level where there's less margin. The artists make more, but it's a different model of promotion. So that's my personal opinion.
Joanna: Fantastic. I'm a closet millennial. I figured I'm just a little older, but I behave like one. Where can people find you and all your good stuff online?
Chandler: Yeah, absolutely. Self-publishingSchool.com is the best place to go. That's where I have free training videos and stuff like that. Or you can find me on Facebook. That's pretty much it.
Joanna: You're not a big Twitter guy, are you?
Chandler: I'm not. You're more of a millennial than I am, Joanna. I'm an old-school Facebook guy, and I'm not even on there at times.
Joanna: You're just doing the work. That's what you're doing.
Chandler: Exactly, that's it. I try to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for your time, Chandler. That was amazing.
Chandler: No problem. Thank you for having me, Joanna.