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Joseph Michael has helped countless authors succeed with Scrivener, but his uber-successful course, Learn Scrivener Fast, was not a bolt out of the blue. Joe learned a lot along the way and today we talk about how to turn failure into success, plus some Scrivener tips.
In the intro I give a personal update about my own creative doubts and fears, plus I mention appearing on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast talking about dictation and standing desks and health for writers in general.
The corporate sponsorship for this show pays for hosting and transcription. 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
Joseph Michael is known as the Scrivener Coach and he has a fantastic online course, Learn Scrivener Fast, which I highly recommend.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Joseph's beginnings as an entrepreneur and the genesis of the Learn Scrivener Fast training.
- The reasons the training works for both bloggers and writers.
- Some of Joe's favorite features of Scrivener.
- Tips for creating a successful online course, including developing the content in a way learners can easily consume it.
- How to research and discover the type of idea that will work for an online course.
- Building a platform with partnerships.
- What ‘utilizing your unfair advantage' means and why it matters.
- Dealing with the risks of taking an entrepreneurial leap and offsetting those risks.
- Maintaining authenticity online while also protecting your privacy.
You can find Joe at JosephMichael.net and on twitter @ScrivenerCoach. I highly recommend his Learn Scrivener Fast course, which will help you get Scrivener sorted for your writing business. You can also find the Easy Course Creator Course here.
Transcription of interview with Joseph Michael
Joanna Penn: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I'm here with Joseph Michael. Hi, Joe.
Joseph Michael: Hello, Joanna. I'm so glad to be here.
Joanna Penn: Oh, it's good to have you on the show finally. I feel like we've been talking for years and we've done webinars. Then I was like, “Oh, I haven't actually have you on the podcast.”
So just in case people don't know you, a little introduction, Joe is known as the Scrivener Coach and he has a fantastic online course, Learn Scrivener Fast, which I've done and recommend highly to everybody, and as well as being serial entrepreneur and a family man, which is very important, and we'll be talking about that.
But Joe, just start by giving us a bit of a potted history of your entrepreneurial life and how you got to where you are today.
Joseph Michael: Sure, yeah. It's a funny story actually. I was a normal working guy. I had a normal career. I was very entrepreneurial from a young age, and I always liked to experiment with things. And of course, like most entrepreneurs, I failed at a lot of stuff. And I was at the time in my career where I had a decent job and I remember thinking, I've just got to suck it up and just play this corporate game, right? The entrepreneur stuff, I'm tired of failing. I'm tired of all that and I was really just depressed about it. It's depressing, right?
Joanna Penn: What were you actually doing? What was your corporate job?
Joseph Michael: I was working in a marketing department for a casino company. So I got to do a different design and marketing and stuff like that. I enjoyed what I was doing, but climbing that corporate ladder was just taking too long for me. And like you said, a family man, so I had our second child on the way, and we were saving for a house, and trying to pay off some debt.
And so this was the time in my career where I was like, “I guess I've got to get some side income. I've got to start making some more money somehow.”
So I started looking for pizza delivery positions that I could probably do in the evening. I heard some guys were saying, “Make an extra few hundred bucks a month.” I was like, “Well, that would be life-changing for me at the time.” So I started applying for these pizza delivery positions, and funny thing is I kept getting rejected from them.
Joanna Penn: Thank goodness for that.
Joseph Michael: Yes, I'm looking back thinking, “Man!” Every time I drive by one of those places, I'm like, “I'm so glad I didn't get hired.” It was for silly reasons, right? I didn't have pizza delivery driver experience, which, I mean, how can it be, right, especially with technology now? But it was three or four applications that got rejected and I was down and a little bruised ego.
So this was the time I started to research making money online, and what could I use my skills for and knowledge for, and how could I teach and help. And I had no idea that you could actually help people online, make an income from it, and everybody wins. So it was amazing.
And that's when I started blogging, writing, discovered a fantastic tool for organizing all of my content, which is Scrivener.
And long story short, I found a lot of people struggled with Scrivener, and so I just found this unique spot in the market where I knew I can teach people the software.
I had always been a software tech geek guy and I like breaking complex things down into small, manageable step-by-step instructions. And it turns out, it was a big hit, and it's quite life-changing in a very short amount of time. It's now my full-time deal.
I quit that old day job, and I quadrupled my day job income which is just mind blowing for me, considering I was just wanting to make an extra $300.
So it's been a fun journey, and there's lot more details I'm sure we can get into along the way.
Joanna Penn: And I'm personally very grateful to you for working out Scrivener for all of us because it's so interesting how as writers, it's one of the most powerful tools there is out there. And I love it. I don't know if I could do this job without it. It really is a life-changing tool.
What's so crazy is you didn't invent the tool. You have a training course to help people actually use the tool.
Start by giving people a bit of an overview about what you use it for. Because you're not actually writing novels or anything, are you?
And then also what are the top things that people love about Scrivener?
Joseph Michael: Yeah, it's really interesting. I started using it to write blog posts. People are actually loving it now. There's a big wave of bloggers all raving about Scrivener, but this wasn't the real main use when it was first developed. It was for novelists.
It was created by writers, for writers, helps them really organize all kinds of long-form content.
With three or four different blogs going, and I needed it in a way to organize a whole of my content, when I was posting, my schedules. And Scrivener is an amazing database-type tool, as well as writing and organizing and structuring. And so I started using it like that. And I'm just a huge, huge fan of it.
And so I started realizing that people were talking about it. It's kind of a new car syndrome. When you buy a new car, you see that car everywhere, right? So I was using Scrivener and I kept hearing people talk about Scrivener. And I found this trend of people being really, really obsessed with it. People talking about they want to marry Scrivener and have its adorable organized babies. These are the kind of tweets that people are posting on Twitter.
To the very next week going, “Oh, yeah, I tried it, but I gave up because I just couldn't wrap my head around the learning curve, and I don't have time to learn it.”
So there was this highly passionate group of people who had been using it, and then there was this other group that wanted to use it, but they just couldn't figure out how.
And I remember that that bothered me because I knew the power of the tool. I knew what it could do. And I started researching deeper into that, and figuring out how people were using it. Obviously novelists, writers were swearing by it. And from there, I just said, “I've got to create a course here to help people. I bet I could help someone by watching my screen.”
Because then I started to look into, well, what's out there for people to learn it? And there's “Scrivener for Dummies.” There's a lot of written material. There's a few YouTube videos and things like that. But nothing really organized and really step-by-step. Just watch what I do, follow my clicks, here's what you can do.
And so I started little by little, just creating some tutorials and interacting with people on Twitter. It was basically where I found most of the writer folks and just said, “Hey, what do you think of this? Is this helpful?” And it started out really slow and people were just, “Yeah, oh, that's so helpful. Could you do a tutorial on this or that?”
And really it's the writer audience that helped me build and create the course into what it is today.
Joanna Penn: That's so interesting. Sorry…about blogging. I mean I don't use it for blogging at all. So it's always weird for me to hear you say that because I'm like, “Yeah.” It's really strange. I guess people use Microsoft Word for all kinds of things and Scrivener is, as we say, Word on steroids or whatever.
I was talking to Nick Stevenson the other day, and I think he said he still doesn't use it. There are some people who are just not converts, which is crazy.
Joseph Michael: Right. You know what? It's one of those things where it's like if you've got something that's working for you, stick with it, and I think that's how people are.
But I always tell people Scrivener is one of those things where you don't know what you don't know.
You've got to see what you're missing and once you see a couple little things…its publishing capabilities alone are worth the low cost of $40-$45.
You can publish to the Kindle, MOBI, EPUB, all of these different formats with the push of a couple of buttons. So it does a lot of the heavy lifting for the folks and I think they really like that.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. And I know people who actually just use the formatting and output a file ready for CreateSpace, which is crazy. I don't do that. I guess I want to format it for me. I export the Word file and get someone to format it. But you can actually get it down to that level where you just export your finished files. I do use it to publish to Kindle and to all the other platforms, and it's just super amazing.
But talking about people taking it further and not knowing, I'm now using Dictation into Scrivener and I can already see, I'm in this very honeymoonish phase right now where I can see the incredible shift in what can be achieved.
With these two things together, with Dictation and Scrivener, you can run a multi-million dollar publishing industry.
Joseph Michael: Oh, the possibilities are endless. I think we've never been in a more exciting time with opportunity in front of us. And the tools, to take advantage of that opportunity. It's just amazing.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. So one of the other things, like when you're sharing, and we've done a number of webinars, and there's always things that people go, “Oh, that's so exciting.”
Show a couple of the things that authors tend to find exciting about Scrivener, apart from the publishing side.
Joseph Michael: Sure, yeah. Well, right off the bat, there's a virtual cork board that it's known for. And it's got index cards on that cork board, you can move them around. Think of people brainstorming on a desk and they've got lots of index cards and they're trying to figure out where the pieces of the story fit and so on. Well, you can do all that right on your screen with Scrivener, which is really amazing.
But they've also got a couple of other views that really complement each other in the same way. They've built Scrivener to adapt to people's different writing styles and not to box people in to any one style. So whether you like to plan out your story on advance, you can totally do that, or whether you like to just write on the fly and organize later, you can do that as well. It allows you to write in pieces. You can create a folder, and then underneath that, you can create a document that goes into that folder.
When I teach webinars, I always show people a picture of a binder, like a physical three-ring binder, and I tell people, “Think of Scrivener like that because it's going to keep everything together in your binder, nice and neat and organized.”
So you've got this binder, and then inside the binder, you've got folders.
It's got a sidebar on your screen, and then you've got sub-documents that you can put in. And what's neat is you can drag and drop these around inside the program to reorganize them and rearrange them in a multitude of ways. So you can do it on the cork board with your index cards.
And it's also got these other views, like outline views, that can add a lot of detail. And for those of you familiar with the technology, you can tag things, you can label them. For instance, if you're writing a story and you want to use characters, and I always give this example of “Hunger Games” on one of my webinars, you could setup the character names and you can label a scene from whose point of view you're writing that scene from.
With a click of a button, you could instantly see all the scenes that have a certain character's point of view.
It makes the writer so much more efficient instead of their writing just being a mess, and taking them probably twice or three times as long to finish because they've got a handle on it. So those are just a couple of things.
And you can color-code. People don't realize, you can really use all these little knickknacks. And I think people always love the colors when we're showing them in the webinar because you can pick a different color for each character.
You also can label your scenes, your documents as the status that they're in.
So whether it's a first draft, revised draft, finished, all these kind of things. So if you sit down on your computer and you're like, “Okay, I need to work on the things that are in first draft mode,” you can instantly click that, and it will sort those right to the top for you. And then you've got all these other labels there which, okay, this is my first draft scene. And it's in the perspective of this character, and so on, and you can start writing.
On top of that, I think it would be horrible if I skipped over the fact that you can set targets. I know you're a big fan of this.
Joanna Penn: I love the targets, yeah.
Joseph Michael: You can set targets and deadlines and see how many words you're going to write for a particular scene or a project. If you want to get a scene, and I know bloggers do this, the ones that I work with, they say, “I want to write a thousand-word blog post. I can set that target,” and there's this cool little meter, this colored meter bar at the bottom that goes from red to green as you get closer to your word goal.
You can imagine how beneficial this is for NaNoWriMo.
People set their word goals and it keeps them going. So there's a lot of really cool tricks like that that are built-in. And we could talk hours of just the features and cool little benefits of Scrivener, but those are the main ones that people really ooh and aah about.
Joanna Penn: And that word count thing, you can have it calculate backwards. So if you say like my 70,000-word draft has to be done by the end of the month, and I'm going to write 6 days a week, it will tell you how many words you have to do each time.
So that backwards calculation is just super useful for production planning, which is what most professionally-minded authors are doing these days, this “I need to have things done by this date.” So I agree with you, that feature is fantastic.
Like you said, we could go on about Scrivener, but what I wanted to ask you about particularly is the course as well because people who don't need a course to learn Scrivener, obviously they can use the…the software itself has a help documentation. There are videos, as you say. But I think what makes your course different is you have very short videos.
I haven't been to every video. I don't know whether people do, but you kind of go, “I don't know how to do this. So I'm just going to watch a three-minute video.” So that's obviously one of the things that you've learned to do.
I wonder if you can give us a few tips for if people want to create a successful online course. Yours is very successful and enabled you to leave your job.
What are your top tips for creating a course that sells?
Joseph Michael: I'm actually in the process of creating a course for people who want to create their course. I've been asked about this so many times from people who've gone through my course, and I always tell people that you've got to start from the perspective of the learner.
When I first started creating Learn Scrivener Fast, I realized two things, is that people are short on time more than ever these days.
Trying to fit learning into their schedule is hard. And number two, people have a shorter attention span now and it's rapidly decreasing. I think we've officially gone underneath the goldfish in the attention span of eight or nine seconds now, which is pretty crazy, but our society just is fast-paced and attention spans are dropping.
And when I was doing some research, I realized that the average YouTube video watched was 2 minutes and 7 seconds.
And so I started going through the different courses that I had attended as a student, and I realized a lot of these, their lectures, their units, their trainings were like maybe 20 minutes, 30 minutes at a time, and there's a lot of times I started a video and I never finished it because I got interrupted or I just couldn't sit there for that long.
I realized, for the success of the student, I need to make this easy to consume, and let's teach one principle at a time and make them bite-sized. And let's stick to that YouTube range and try to keep it in the two to five-minute mark.
And that little shift has just done wonders for the student success. And we get comments all the time saying, “I love the bite-sized lessons.”
We put the time on each lesson so they know how much time they're committed to, so whether it's three minutes, five minutes. And a lot of folks say, “I love it because I can just jump in, learn something cool on Scrivener between phone calls.” So it's fitting learning into those little crevices of time.
And you know what? It makes it a heck of a lot easier on the creator to create in little bite-sized pieces too. So it's not so overwhelming when you're creating this long 20-minute video, but just teach one thing at a time and keep it simple. And there's a lot of videos in there obviously. I didn't skimp on the training, but they're just short and bite-size and they're broken out to really just highly organized pieces of information.
So like you said, people can go and learn Scrivener on their own, but I really developed it for those who don't have time or they don't want to waste their time going out searching this or searching that. They just want to have it at their fingertips so that they can get back to doing what's important for them, and that's writing.
I think there's a huge market out there today of people that will pay for that time savings in highly organized and packaged content.
And whatever kind of content that is, whether it's something you know about or even curated content that people can bring together in an organized manner.
I think those tips, those are huge nowadays when people are in this fast-paced, “Just tell me what I need to know and don't make me think.” This is where people are at today, and they'll gladly pay for that.
Joanna Penn: But it's not all…I mean you know a lot of people who've done courses, as do I, and I've had some myself, that they don't always work. Some people spend a lot of time on courses and then are very disappointed in things that don't work. So you mentioned obviously not getting a pizza delivery job, which some would consider a failure, but we're going to reframe that as not a failure in your case.
Joseph Michael: Sure, that's right.
Joanna Penn: Have you had any kind of negative experiences with the training courses, online courses?
What have you learned from other people that you've avoided in terms of things going wrong?
Joseph Michael: It's funny, the birth of my successful course came out of a failure of multiple other things that didn't take off.
When I first started blogging, I was spinning my wheels, trying a bunch of stuff, the whole throw enough stuff against the wall and something's going to stick technique. And I had first started with a productivity blog, and I was getting to the point where I was like, “Okay, I'm going to make some kind of product now and I'm going to put it for sale.”
I came up with this time management, 10 mistakes you're making with your to-do list. E-books were all the rage at the time and so I was like, “I'm going to create this e-book,” and I spent months on it, way too long, using every design skill that I had from my corporate job. I probably spent six months designing this e-book.
It was the prettiest e-book that nobody saw because nobody wants to spend $30 or $40 that came about the price to that, to help them solve their time management techniques. There's just some information that it's not something that somebody is going to exchange money for.
So that's something I teach today is you've got to, number one, validate your idea before spending six months creating it.
Don't waste your time there. But number two, you've got to make sure that your topic, your niche is something that has a high degree of pain associated with not knowing that information.
I talk about different kind of content. There's sugar content, which is, “Ooh, that's sweet. That's fun to know,” right? And then there's painkiller content where it's like, “I've got to take this pain pill, otherwise I have this massive headache. So please, give me the pain pill.”
If you go to a doctor, for instance, and you're complaining about head pain, and he says, “Oh, you've got a headache here. Let's try a surgery.” You're like, “No, I'm not doing a surgery for headache. I'll figure this out on my own.”
But if he says, “You've got an aneurysm and we've got to get you to…” “Sign me up. I don't care how much the cost. This is life or death.”
That's an extreme example, not life or death, but you've got to make your content fix something that's so painful so that people can solve their pain with your course.
That's what I learned with some of my products earlier is that they weren't painful and it was just very broad.
That's my second point is you want to make sure it's very narrow and focused. A lot of people think backwards on this and they think, “Gosh, if I make it too niche, if I make it too narrow, I'll exclude so many people and I'll lose out,” right?
But the problem is there's so much noise out there today that it's the only way to cut through all that noise and really target and dial in your marketing, so that when somebody lands on your sales page for instance, they know, “Oh, my goodness, that's for me.”
And I give an example of the classic movie “Field of Dreams” and if you haven't seen it, it's about this farmer who built baseball field in his backyard, in his corn field. He tears down his corn, puts a baseball field, and he hears a voice that says, “If you build it, they will come”. So there's this amazing baseball field, and these players come out of the corn because they know it's for them, right? It's a baseball field.
And I tell people, “What if he had built a volleyball field or a soccer field and a football field, and then there's also a baseball field?” Now imagine them walking out and they're going, “I think this is for us. We're baseball players.” But it's a totally different field than, my goodness, it's highly specific.
So number one, highly specific. And then number two, the content has to be a painkiller type of content.
And I've found that with Scrivener, it's very focused. I tell people, “Try to go four levels deep.” Okay, you could say, “I've got a product to help writers.” Okay. Let's get a step further down.? Let's do a software program to help writers. Well, let's take it a step further down. Let's do Scrivener to help writers.
It's very focused so people know exactly, “Oh, I need help with Scrivener. That's me.” And if the pain is enough, which I found it was with Scrivener, because it was very painful and people needed to learn the information so that they could continue on with their writing careers, then you've got a winner.
Take the time to do research in the beginning, and make sure that it has those criteria in there, and you'll save yourself a lot of headache and trouble later on.
Joanna Penn: Although we say that, I don't know anyone who has come out the gate with their first product, first thing they've ever done, and it's been just an amazing success.
You're going to have a bit of failure to help you learn different ways of doing stuff right.
Joseph Michael: Yes, get out there and fail as fast as you possibly can.
And like you just did with my pizza story, reframe that failure. So a lot of times, this mental hurdle of failure will keep us back from even trying. And something I did in the beginning was I reframed that failure into, “Let's just experiment.”
It's a totally different feel when you're saying, “I'm going to experiment with making this course,” because if it doesn't work, “Well, hey, I've still got the experience of learning how to put together a course, learning how to connect the dots, and I can use that with something else if this doesn't work,” all of a sudden, the pressure is off of you. Instead of saying, “I'm going to create this course and it's going to sell this much. And if it doesn't, oh my gosh, it's a failure.” Just approach it from an experimental, as like a scientist. “Be a scientist,” I tell people, “and just see where it works.”
Joanna Penn: I also wanted to ask you about marketing a course, because I'm an affiliate of yours and I know other people who are, and I think that you've mainly partnered with people who already have a platform. As in you don't have an author platform attracting specifically authors to you, and I don't believe you have a blogging platform for specifically bloggers.
Have you mainly built the course sales through partnerships? Or how else have you done that, and how have you built those partnerships?
Joseph Michael: Yes, I definitely have started building my whole platform with partnerships. It's a hard route to go and I don't recommend it. If you can spend the time to build an audience first, if you've got an email list that you can utilize, my goodness, that would make things a lot easier.
But on the flip side, I think I gave a lot of people hope because you don't have to have those things to succeed, and to succeed in a rather short amount of time.
It just takes a little bit of soul and grit in the beginning because obviously, it's harder to connect with a person of influence before you have any credibility.
And so it's difficult. You've got to do some groundwork in the beginning.
Think about actors. They don't just immediately get their Oscar role, right? They have to start, and a lot of times they do some terrible movies that later on you find, “Oh, my gosh, look how they started.”
And sometimes you've got to just do some stuff on your own. I did a few webinars that were just really small and nobody ever heard of them, but we made couple of hundred bucks. And so the conversion rates were good, even though these numbers were on smaller scale.
And so you take that and you just go and bring it to the next person, and you bring it to the next person. And I made connections and networked. You want to be helpful. One of the things I started doing right from the beginning is I couldn't introduce people to anybody because I didn't know anybody. So it's not like I could say, “Hey, let me help you. I'm going to introduce you to so-and-so.”
But I found the skill that I found that a lot of bloggers and people online wanted or needed, and that was design. I had a design background and I said, “You know what? I want to help you in some way. Do you have an e-book or something? I could design a cover for you or I could do this.” “Oh, you know what? I do have this thing that I could use a fresh design for. I think so.” I would look for anything that I could give them, and then in return, “You know what? Let me introduce you to this guy. Let me introduce you to this guy.”
Give value anywhere and everywhere you can.
I started doing this on Twitter immediately too, just chiming into these discussions. It's like the cocktail party, just jump into discussions. If you could find a place to add value, add value. It was through a connection that I had met somebody who got me an introduction to Jeff Goins, who I did a webinar, a Scrivener webinar for him for his Tribe Writers group.
And that was a blockbuster success because it was a very targeted audience. I had been wanting to get in front of Jeff's audience for a long time because I knew his people would really benefit from my course. And so we had great numbers.
And you probably don't remember this as well as I do, but after that webinar, I actually emailed you. Well, I think we connected on Twitter and I was like, “Hey, Joanna, we did this webinar with Jeff. Here were some of the numbers. I think your audience would really benefit from it, too,” And of course you said, “Yeah, let's put something together.” But what you probably don't know is I had emailed you or connected with you on Twitter probably six months before that and you said no.
Joanna Penn: Oh, no.
Joseph Michael: Probably because you're like, “Who is this guy? I don't know him. Why would I do this?” And so I said, “Okay, that's fine. I'll come back in about six months after I get a little more credibility.” And so that's just what you got to do.
Joanna Penn: Oh, now I'm embarrassed.
Joseph Michael: You've got to play that game.
Joanna Penn: And it's funny because of course I don't remember that. And you will be in the situation I am now where you get hundreds of emails every day from people who were not paying you any money and haven't bought your course, asking questions that you answer in your courses, as I do in my books and for free on the blog, and people who don't spend the time looking for that information, for example, and lots of pitched emails every single day.
And you're right, there has to be something about the pitch that stands out, that makes you want to even spend a minute reading the email, let alone looking at a course.
I mean you know the time it takes to even log on to a course and have a look at the material, that could be 5 minutes, 10 minutes. And I don't want to sound like an idiot, but it's all time that none of us have. And so I'm trying to remember, I can't remember that first time, but I do remember logging on to your course that first time and going, “Okay, this is great.”
So the fact that you have an excellent product, and that's why consistently I recommend your course because it is so useful. And it's got to come down to that, right?
No matter how much you were networking and how much you were connecting, if your course wasn't any good, then people wouldn't be promoting it.
But I do agree, you've done it incredibly well, and you are a very helpful guy, which is that just a personality trait, do you think?
There are some guys online, and women, who are really just ballsy and in your face, and you have a very different feel about you, just a more humble feel.
Joseph Michael: Well, I think you've got to utilize whatever your unfair advantage is, as they say.
You've got to know what your gifts are. And once you know what your gifts are, I think you can really utilize those.
It takes some self-reflection. I had done this when I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and whole pizza thing and all that. I was like, “Okay, what am I good at?”
And people had always told me, “You're so resourceful.” I'm the kind of guy that if you ask for directions, I'll give you a printout with arrows drawn and I'll draw little landmarks and go overboard, attention to details. So I was like, “Oh, great. I'm resourceful. I can give people information in an easy to understand way. Whoopee! What am I going to do with that?”
When I came online, obviously my resourcefulness has worked out well for me now. On top of that, I am just an everyday guy. So very early on, I realized people could relate to that.
I remember screwing up in a webinar one time in the beginning. Somebody asked me a Scrivener question, and I didn't know the answer. And that was my worst fear on a webinar, what if they ask me a question that I don't know the answer? They're going to think I'm a fraud, and it's just like impostor syndrome that we have.
And I remember saying, “You know what? That's a great question. I don't know the answer.” I said, “If I was not doing a webinar right now, I'd probably log on to my course and watch one of my videos.” And I said, “I don't know if that makes me a bad teacher or a good teacher, but I actually do go and watch some of my own videos because Scrivener is such a huge program. You don't use all the features all the time. You forget.”
Being humble and being real.
Afterwards I got multiple emails from folks saying, “We loved that when you didn't know the answer. We loved that you were just open. We felt like you were one of us.” And man, that was just such a huge relief.
And I realized, you know what? Let's be real from day one and just connect with people on a real level. And I realized that was probably another unfair advantage I guess that I had was that I am just an everyday guy and I really view myself as that. And so people can relate and think, “Hey, he's one of us. He's just here to help us.”
I think that helps with your marketing message and all that, but hands down, no matter how you slice, the more you give, the more you're going to get back.
It's just one of those laws of nature and so whether that's hard for you or it comes natural, it's something that can't be skipped over. So if you're always looking how you can add value, it will always end up coming back to you.
Joanna Penn: I talk about that as social karma, and it might not come back to you in the way that you expect but it does eventually. It'll come back in some way and that authenticity is super important. And you always talk about being a dad and a husband and there were lovely pictures of your family on your site and I think it's lovely.
I know that some people who are really interested in changing careers and becoming an entrepreneur are scared of the commitment, or the potential risk I guess, of leaving a job. Now you have these two young kids.
So how did you tackle the risk of doing what you did making that leap and how did you offset that risk?
Joseph Michael: Funny because I probably didn't handle it very well actually. It might appear that I've handled it well, I mean outside looking in. But funny story, my name that I've gone online with, Joseph Michael is actually just my first and middle name. So Joseph Michael, my last name is Nicoletti, which you don't see that online hardly at all. I've put that out there a little bit more as I've been more known.
But in the beginning, the reason I did that was really for two reasons. First, was out of fear, fear that I was going to fail because like I said, I had done lots of things before and this time I was like, “You know what, I don't really want everybody to know about this new thing I'm starting. So let's just kind of use a pen name. I won't even put my real name attached to it so then everybody doesn't have to see it and know oh Joe is starting something new. Then when or if it fails, aah.” So this is my way of just hiding behind this name that wasn't really my own or my full name anyway.
And number two was my current employer. I didn't really want them to know I was having this outside interest because I was actually really excited about it and really passionate about it, and my fear was, what if they found out and maybe they didn't like it and they kind of discouraged me from doing it? Well, I couldn't lose my day job because that was the bread and butter. That was putting food on the table at the time. I don't think they would have minded. It's not like I did any work on company time, or that kind of thing, but it was just basically those kind of things out of fear.
And then as I have started putting more stuff out there and things got successful, then I realized that was silly that I was just so afraid of that. And some parts of me are like I wish I could just attach my full real name to it now but now there's this brand deal and whatever. But that's a delicate line. It's a hard one, like I really relate with people who struggle with that.
I don't know if there's a real easy answer. Just really don't worry so much about what people think.
Just try it. Our country, our great world is made up of people who took a chance, who did something that was uncomfortable, whether or not most people who are the trolls or the haters out there, they're the ones that aren't really taking a chance. They're not doing anything and so it's easy for them to criticize.
Again, reframe the way you look at failure.
If I would have done that right from the beginning. And then just little by little, take one step at a time. That's all you can do, right? The best you can do is the best you can do. That's what I always say.
Joanna Penn: Yes. Exactly and I always…I got quite upset about an email I got or this social media thing. A lot of things happen every day but this one, I still keep coming back to, and this person said, “Joanna speaks for people who have a lot of books and are doing really well. Who speaks for the person with one book, their first book?”
I got really upset because I was like, but that was me. That was me with one book, and my blog, if you read, go back to 2008, I did only have one book, and this podcast started when I had one book. It's like people only see us at this point in history unless they've been following us for years, right? And it's just keeping it honest but as you move forward, it's owning up to your past.
It's funny how maybe we only feel comfortable about it when we've achieved some success later on down the road. But yeah, that's really interesting.
I wanted to also ask you about your family again because again, you share pictures of your wife and your children online, and this is another question I get from authors who use pseudonyms or are worried about online.
Where do you draw the line around your family and your personal life in terms of authenticity? And have you drawn that line and how do you manage that divide?
Joseph Michael: I think that has to be a personal decision for each person. I don't really think there's a right or wrong. I think you need to be wise. And I do think about, I try not to worry about it too much but I do think about the risks involved. I don't think I would ever post a picture of the front of my house where you could see the address or anything like that.
You've got to be careful, but for me it's really hard to separate the two, my business, my personal life, because it's all kind of rolled into one for me.
So much of what I do business-wise is the reason it's for my family. And the time I get to spend with them and those are the results and the fruits of my work. And so much of it is just baked in together that I can't help but want to share it.
And I feel like with the audience that I want to cultivate, I want them to know more of the real me. And if you're going to know me, you've got to know who I am and this is my family and this is the most important thing in the world to me.
And so, I don't know, like any proud dad, you just can't help but share the pictures of your kids or whatever. And I try to do it a little bit more on maybe just my social channels of where people, I might have a smaller audience, not as public. Instagram for instance, or my Facebook, my personal Facebook thing. I don't broadcast a ton of personal pictures.
But there is that line. There's that line of “Okay, I don't want to do it too much.” There's others out there like Pat Flynn who has, he post a lot of pictures on that and he gets the same kind of question. And then there are others who say, “Absolutely no pictures of my children will ever be online.”
Whatever you're comfortable with, I think just use discretion.
Be smart about it but if it's part of your brand, if you're putting yourself out there, and you're okay with connecting with that to having people know about that.
Again, I think it can help contribute to the realness of folks and have that everyday connection. That's what it's really all about online. That's what sales is really all about. It's that connection, building trust and likability with folks and that's how we connect. So that's how I view it.
Joanna Penn: I agree, and I look at what I do consume online in terms of blogs or podcasts and increasingly, it's individuals. It's not magazine style blogs anymore.
I might read a couple of RSS feeds from more magazine styles but mainly I'm interested in the people behind the site. So sites with individual voices and faces are the ones that I actually care about. Whereas things just with the brand logo, I struggle to care about in any way.
And that's why people like reading books. They like the characters. They want to know what's happening in the character's world and all that type of thing. So I do agree with you. It's a question everyone has to tackle and make a decision about.
Okay. Well, you and I could chat forever I know but we're out of time. So let people know where they can find you, and all your courses online.
Joseph Michael: Sure. So you can find Learn Scrivener Fast at LearnScrivenerFast.com, obviously if you're interested in learning Scrivener quickly. You can check out more about me and my personal life, so to speak, at JosephMichael.net. You could follow all my projects there. I'm very active on Twitter since that's where I started. That was my humble beginning, so connecting with writers and folks there. So if you want to follow me on Twitter or give a shout out, say hello there. I'm @ScrivenerCoach on Twitter. And those are the best ways to find me.
So very shortly, I'll be launching my new course, Easy Course Creation. If you're interested in learning how to create a course that sells without spinning months and months of time and getting no results, I will be sharing my past failures and all that with that. So we'll link that up as well if you're interested in that.
So thanks, Joanna. This has been a blast, as always.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. Thanks so much for your time, Joe. That was great.
Michael Pierce says
Hi Joanna! Great interview with Joseph Michael. I really like and connect with his story. He just seems like such a genuine, down to earth guy. I’m interested in learning more about Scrivener, but I just started experimenting with dictation…so I really need to focus on one new tool/skill at a time.
I’ve been listening to your podcast on my morning commutes for the past six months and really look forward to it each week. Thank you for all the tips and motivation. I’m looking forward to hearing you speak at the Smarter Artist Summit! 🙂
Jax Hunter says
Great interview. Love Scrivener and I am a Ninja – The Scrivener course is awesome.
Joanna – are you dictating right into the Scrivener pop-up box or into a text editor and cutting and pasting into Scrivener?
I mostly listen as I drive two hours weekly to critique group.
Thanks – Jax Hunter (True Heroes Military Romance)
Joanna Penn says
I’m dictating directly into Scrivener but may switch to a text editor as sometimes it does crazy things!
Harley Christensen says
Another great podcast, Joanna—you and Joseph are so inspiring! Love both your perspectives on reframing the way we think about failure—so very true.
It made me sad to hear about the email you’d received, suggesting that you speak only “…for people who have a lot of books and are doing really well…” and that it still weighs on you. I know I don’t comment often but I’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile and I think you’ve always been supportive of ALL authors, no matter what point they are at in their writing careers. Just wanted to let you know that your honesty and transparency—and what you bring to the writing community—IS important…and very much appreciated.
Keep on being who you are—a trailblazer, a visionary and a total rockstar! ;D
I wasted a month trying to use Scrivener for my half-finished novel. Yes, wasted. It’s a great tool if you have no idea what you’re doing and need help remembering who your protagonist is. Otherwise, skip it. It’s more of a research paper publishing tool. Completely unsuitable for fiction, and in fact, takes time away from writing just monkeying with all the goofy settings, none of which translate into a good novel.
Joanna Penn says
I totally disagree with this. It’s incredibly difficult to keep a whole novel in your head. Scrivener has outlining tools, you can mark POV and scene type, you can use the Inspector to keep track of open questions, conflict points, cliffhangers, and you can use the word count tracker to keep yourself on target. You can print synopsis, drag and drop scenes (which is killer in word) and you can format for Kindle and ePub formats so you can also publish with it. All for $49. I couldn’t run my business without Scrivener at this point – and I use it to write both fiction and non-fiction, as well as research projects, do marketing tracking and more.
joanna elm says
I was relieved to see Jon’s comment above about wasting his time with scrivener. I watched a video yesterday with you, Joanna , in which you explained how scrivener works and how great it is, and then said there was a course “learn scrivener fast” to help get things moving. I was absolutely flabbergasted to see that the course cost as much as $297 (for the deluxe edition).
I figured if you have to spend that much money to learn how to use this tool (which itself only costs $45) it had to be pretty complicated . I downloaded it for a free trial anyway.
Then, this morning, I woke up and asked myself, what the heck are you doing?
When I decided to return to fiction writing a year or so ago (had two thrillers published about twenty years ago) I realized things had changed enormously. First, I was informed I had to have a website otherwise agents etc would not read my manuscript. So I spent a few months setting up a website, writing articles for it, and I like my website but my new novel was put to one side.
There’s always something new to read about author websites or new ploys to try to attract readers to the website. And, I really enjoyed writing articles for the website. Easier than writing a whole novel!!
Then I read that it would be a good idea to join Goodreads, so I did that and now spend some time each day on the site.
Now, I have a free trial of scrivener on my desktop, and I can see that it’s going to take a while to get into using it.
Meantime, the novel I started writing last year, and which I outlined on Word, and for which I have a first draft, is lying untouched.
I can’t say I’m not enjoying myself, but I also realize that neither my website, nor scrivener nor any other social networking sites are going to do me any good if I don’t actually get on with my novel.
Joanna Penn says
Yes, the book should come first – but as with learning our writing craft, there is always more to learn in terms of marketing and publishing. This is like any other career – nothing stands still!
joanna elm says
I understand there’s much to learn if you want to be writer, publisher and marketer all rolled into one. But not everybody does, and not every writer has the energy or desire to run a business as well as writing fiction.
I believe it was John Steinbeck who turned on his publisher one day back in the 30s and said , ” I’ll write it. You sell it.” Those days, it seems are gone, though come to think of it, if Steinbeck were alive today I’m pretty sure he would still be able to take that attitude with his publisher. It’s only us lesser mortals who having acquired the “means of production,” must now toil harder than ever.
Joanna Penn says
I agree that not everyone does, but this site is really aimed at people who are interested in running a small business as an author as there are plenty of craft sites that only focus on the writing aspect. You must decide your definition of success and then take steps to make it. Plenty of authors still use traditional publishing as their goal … and once upon a time John Steinbeck was only a lesser mortal working on his first book too. Everyone starts at zero.
Chloe Adler says
I have a few things to say to newbie Scrivener users. I’m an avid listener of your podcast and since I’m a Scrivener fanatic I just got to this Podcast (backlisted) today. Several years ago I downloaded Scrivener. I never took a class, I studied almost nothing about it. I am one of those people that doesn’t like reading instructions and I’m here to tell you that anyone can figure out the bare minimum with Scrivener and have it work for you in a myriad of ways. I love it more than any other software out there. The basics are not difficult. I started with the built in 3 act novel template and figured most of it out myself. If I have a question about how to do anything, I google it. Mostly I google keyboard shortcuts. I’m barely scratching the surface with what it can do but I wouldn’t/couldn’t write without it. I’m on book #6 (unpublished until May) – all written in Scrivener. I find that Scrivener MAKES writing easier. I like writing in chunks (scenes) and can easily do this here. I also love love love the Targets and keep on track specifically because of that. You don’t have to know anything to start using this program!! I didn’t 🙂 All that said, I’m totally going to sign up for Joe’s class in the next month or two – I’ve been putting it off for awhile. Thanks Joanna!
I love Scrivener but something has changed! I just made a pdf and although the clickable links and TOCs work in Scrivener, when I compile into a pdf, nothing is there, no links nada! I tried control click on the text and a highlighted message says adobe doesn’t allow you to do this? I just checked the links in an old pdf I made in Scrivener a few years ago and they no longer work. Does anyone know how to make these links work? 😕