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Some say there's too much content out there, that it's too late to start creating a blog or a podcast … or a book. I say that we're only just getting started 🙂 In today's show, I discuss content marketing with Pamela Wilson.
There are many more voices in the world than the ones represented so far online and I'm looking forward to seeing how much more diversity we can explore in the years to come.
I'm also personally doubling down on content for 2017, even starting a new blog. More on that next week when I will share my 2016 round-up and also my 2017 goals. I hope you're having a wonderful holiday break and are getting ready to start afresh in the new year.
For now, a big THANK YOU to everyone for listening, and an extra thank you to all those supporting the show on Patreon. I look forward to bringing you more interviews and more of my own personal creative updates in 2017. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can get access to ask questions for the extra Q&A monthly audio for less than a coffee a month. Click here to support the show on Patreon.
Pamela Wilson is an award-winning graphic designer and the Executive Vice President of Educational Content for Rainmaker Digital. Since 1987, she has helped businesses of all sizes create brands that build their businesses. Her new book is called Master Content Marketing: A Simple Strategy to Cure the Blank Page Blues and Attract a Profitable Audience.
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.
- What content marketing is
- How to use images to help book sales and some suggested tools
- How to stand out in a crowded marketplace
- Tips for writing effective headlines
- The importance of a call to action for both fiction and non-fiction authors
You can find Pamela at www.BigBrandSystem.com and on Twitter @pamelaiwilson.
Transcript of Interview with Pamela Wilson
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today I'm here with Pamela Wilson. Hi, Pamela.
Pamela: Hello, Joanna. I'm so happy to be here.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show. So just a little introduction.
Pamela is the Executive Vice President of educational content and products at Rainmaker Digital, which many listeners will know through copyblogger.com. She's also an award-winning graphic designer, marketing consultant, and founder of bigbrandsystem.com. And finally, she's the author of “Master Content Marketing: A Simple Strategy to Cure the Blank Page and Attract a Profitable Audience,” which is what we're talking about today.
And just an amazing array there, Pamela, of things that you do. Start by telling us a little bit and more about your background, how you got into marketing, because I know many authors sort of go, “Oh, well, you know, I personally don't have a degree in marketing. I don't…you know, we all learn this stuff.”
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
Pamela: The interesting thing is my background really is design. I started out my career as a pure graphic designer, a publication designer. That was my primary job that I did. Did that for many years, always loved marketing.
I learned a lot about marketing, and once I started my own business, I ended up offering a lot of that marketing help along with the design help to people. But just between you and me, no writing at all.
If I needed any kind of writing, I would hire someone to do the writing, because my thought was, “Well, I'm not a writer.” I mean, I'm not really a writer. I'm a visual person. That's my strength. I do all the visual marketing, but not really any of the writing.
Back in 2010, I knew I wanted to start something online. I started that bigbrandsystem site, and I knew I wanted to attract an audience. I discovered this thing called content marketing, and of course, when I did a web search, the first site that popped up about content marketing was Copyblogger.
I started absorbing everything I could from that website, learning everything I could. I signed up for a course that Copyblogger offered, a very intensive like five-month course, and learned a ton from that. And started slowly but surely learning how to do this thing called content marketing on my site.
Joanna: Which is amazing, and well, I love the fact that you and I met at Digital Commerce Summit, but we kind of know each other anyway, because we're both Copyblogger acolytes, and have learned the system according to them. And I think that's really important online, is to find your tribes within the certain areas. Before we go much further, we have to attack the word “content marketing.”
How are you actually defining that? What are the parts of content marketing?
Pamela: The thing about content marketing, my perspective on it is I came from the other side of marketing, the traditional kind of marketing, which was really you know, we're basically going to wear you down with our messages until you finally buy.
I got to this point where I felt bad. It just didn't feel good in my soul to be annoying people on such a regular basis. So when I learned about content marketing, I loved it, because it comes from a place of service, really of the customer.
To define it, content marketing is a way to reach out to the audience that you are trying to draw to your products, your services, your books, and offer them engaging and helpful information that will build a trust-based relationship that is long-lasting, and they will see you as a resource, basically.
You're helping them by providing engaging, informative content, and that content could be written, it could be audio, it could be video. The format doesn't really matter. It almost always starts out in written form in one way or another, but the idea is that you are serving them with this information so that they build a relationship with your business.
Joanna: You mentioned a few things there. The feeling good, the kind of ickiness that many of us, especially maybe introverts, authors, creatives, you know, feel this, like, marketing is horrible.
What I love, like you, about content marketing is you put stuff out there that you love, or that you find interesting, and you attract people to you, and that's kind of the point, isn't it?
Give us some examples of some content that authors, in particular, could use, like some specific examples in the different types of content.
Pamela: For example, I have been marketing this book that I just wrote. One of the things that I did is I created graphics based on the content in the book. I did a big infographic with kind of the central concept of the book. It's all laid out on this infographic.
And obviously on an infographic, you can't give all the details. It still serves as a piece of marketing, because you're basically saying, you know, “Look, here's proof that I have a system, I have a process, I have something I can teach you. Here's basically how it works, but of course if you want the full story, you'll need to buy the book,” right?
That works as a piece of marketing, because you are creating interest in what you're selling, but you're doing it through offering information. Same thing with video and audio. You and I right now are creating a piece of content marketing. We're serving up information, but obviously, this is building your brand, it's building my brand, maybe some people listening will buy my book. It's a nice way to reach out and be in contact with that audience that you would eventually like to offer something to, some kind of solution to their challenges.
Joanna: And what I like about this longer form content is people make judgments about us based on what we're talking about, but they have a longer time to make a decision.
And what I hate about the old style radio was that you might only get a minute, and you would probably cock it up, let's face it.
Pamela: Totally. And the thing is, you have to be so much more aggressive in that environment. I think the biggest difference is that traditional marketing and advertising was sort of foisted out at people when they weren't even looking for it, right? So you were just basically annoying people any place that you could find them.
With content marketing, the difference is that typically people have searched out the information that you're offering. They have looked for it on your website, they've subscribed to your podcast, they hit play on your video, they want the information that you're offering, and that just changes the dynamic completely.
Joanna: Well, there is an interesting question then. Lots we can talk about, but when you mention people are searching, search engine optimization, or SEO, is a very, very important part of content marketing, because what's the point in putting it out there if people can't find it?
My question for you is, for example with this podcast, about two years ago now, I started loading up transcripts on the blog, and the traffic has gone nuts since then, and it must be to do with having thousands and thousands and thousands more words that are SEO kind of compatible.
How do people make images and video and audio without a transcript into something searchable? What are your tips, or do you think Google's getting smarter? How are things changing in that way?
Pamela: Wouldn't it be nice if Google could just read our minds, or read our lips when we're talking on a video and make out what we're saying, but it doesn't work that way.
What you have done is really smart. You're putting together a transcript that is basically putting out there every single word that's communicated in the audio or in the video. That's ideal, but it does have a cost. Not everyone can do that.
The other thing that you could do would be to write your own summary of what is being talked about in the audio or in the video, and just be aware that it needs to be at least 500 words.
Think about keywords that people might use to search for the information that's in the audio and in the video, and make sure those words make it into the title of the audio and video, and make it into the body text of the audio or video, like that summary that you're going to write.
Make sure they're in the title. It's called the title tag. But typically, people have some kind of plug-in that allows them to control what Google actually displays as a search result. So, if the keyword is a little bit awkward in the official headline that's at the top of the page, sometimes you can fit it into that title and Google will see that as well.
And then also what's called the meta-description. And again, most people have some kind of plug-in that allows them to access that. That's another place to make sure that your keyword shows up.
And if it's in those places, then typically you're helping search engines to find that. I mean, it's funny, we say “keyword,” but honestly, what you should be going for is a keyword phrase, because that's how people search. If you search for one word, you get so many results, it's not even useful. People know now to search for two or three or four words together in a phrase, because they'll get more targeted results. That's what you want to target in your own copy.
Joanna: Let's just circle back to your infographic, because that's actually an example that I think is, again, more difficult. Because with a pinnable, and I presume it's a graphic, so it's like a JPEG or a PNG that is an image that you'll share on things like Pinterest or LinkedIn, and there won't necessarily be an article related to it.
I think shareable images, especially with you as a graphic designer, are something that stand out. Everyone on Facebook advertising is doing shareable images.
How does that work in terms of getting people back to buy your book? How do we make an image or an infographic actually lead back to your book?
Pamela: Well, one of the things that I did when I put together this book, and I do have this publication design background, is it was really important to me to make this book seem fun and easy to read. I worked with an illustrator to develop this character, and I have a copy of the book here, so I'm going to hold it up so you can see it, make sure it's showing.
Joanna: Right in the middle?
Pamela: We have this little owl. That owl actually starts out as a little owlet at the beginning of the book, and then he grows up as he grows in knowledge. So the infographic was very easy to put together, because I was really just using these images that were already in the book, and then what I did is when I wrote guest posts, during the launch period especially, I was using those owl graphics everywhere.
It's just this graphical reminder of the book and the cover of the book, since the owl is pretty prominent on the cover.
And then of course, you do things like at the bottom of the infographic, there was an image of the book sitting on a table with a URL that led back to the landing page that I had created for the book. It's not a perfect system, but I'm a big believer in just trying a lot of different kinds of media so that you can hit people wherever they are.
Joanna: I think that's really important. Hitting people where they are. And the other thing you've mentioned a couple of times, you've said trust. We've talked about attraction, and doing things in a non-icky way.
How much of yourself and your personality is it important to get into your content so that people feel that it's authentic?
Pamela: I think it's going to vary by what field you're in. I know your audience is a lot of authors, so I actually think authors probably should put a fair amount of themselves in their content, because it's an opportunity for their readers to feel really connected with them.
Reading is such an intimate act when you think about it. I mean, you're holding this thing right next to your body and you're interacting with it, whether you're swiping or you're listening or you're flipping through pages. You're interacting with it in a very kind of kinesthetic way, right?
I think the more you can build that connection with your readers so that they feel like they know you. I mean obviously you don't have to share every detail from your life, but the more they feel like they connect with you personally.
Honestly Joanna, I think you do a beautiful job with this. You really do. You have a good balance. I mean you share bits and pieces from your life. You're not sharing everything, you're not letting, like we say over here in the U.S., “letting it all hang out,” right? You are maintaining your privacy, but I think those of us who are in your audience feel like we know a little bit about what makes you tick.
Honestly, I think that's a great way to handle it. I guess if we thought about it in the terms of a home, you let them into your foyer. Maybe not back into the bedroom, but you let 'em into your foyer, so they can kind of get a look around and get a feel for who you are. Does that make sense?
Joanna: Yeah. Absolutely. Or into your fake bedroom if you're writing erotica.
Pamela: Right. Okay, there you go.
Joanna: There's loads of great ideas there, and I know a lot of people listening will already be doing a lot of content for their books. Now one of the things that many people are worried about is overwhelm, in terms of there is a lot of content out there, and in the last few years, it's become very trendy for even big brands to do story-based content. Whereas it used to just be the individual with the YouTube camera, whatever, now, there's sort of these fake individual videos, and I mean there's just so much content.
Is it too late? People are feeling like, “Oh, well, if I'm just starting out, I've got my first book, how do I even get noticed in this world of too much content?” Some people call it “content shock,” I believe.
Pamela: I actually think authors are in such a good position for using content marketing, because you are building this asset that goes way beyond anything that you can find online. And like we just said, people are interacting with it. They're spending hours, hours with your thoughts, right? Whether they're in digital form or print form, they are spending hours interacting, and they want to know more about you. I think you are building audiences with your books. It puts you in a great position for using content.
Some people do think it's too late. There's a lot of content, and yes, I totally agree with that, but most of it is very mediocre. There still is not that much really, really well-structured, skimmable, and we should talk more about that, but skimmable and highly usable content. I think if you can create content like that, it will naturally stand out. It's kind of like you know, there's a big ocean out there, and anything that's different is going to stand out, even though it's swimming around with a lot of other stuff.
Joanna: Coming back to the authenticity in the personality side, because you know, I've been thinking about my site, The Creative Penn, and how to self-publish when I first started doing the blog in 2008. There very few of us. I mean there were really not many sites talking about self-publishing. It was still in the days of being called vanity. I was standing out by saying how to self-publish. But now, how to self-publish is blooming everywhere. I mean it really is. I'm now thinking that I have to use my personality and my opinion on things to stand out in what's become a much more crowded niche.
What do you think about your writing voice? Not necessarily the authenticity, but how do you stand out, especially with nonfiction, because that's what you write. How are you standing out when there are lots of books on marketing, for example?
Pamela: Well, yes, absolutely, voice. I think of the personality and the voice as a big piece of it. And what you are doing, I mean, first of all, I have to tell you all those new people who are talking about self-publishing, they're all looking at Joanna Penn, going, “I wish I had started when Joanna Penn started. Look at all that content she has.”
You and I know that Google rewards sites that have been online longer. People who start earlier…and that's why I always tell people, like, “Don't wait. You might think it's too late, but don't wait. Get started now.”
There will be people 10 years from now who'll be looking back at your site that has 10 years of content, going, “I wish I had started back in 2017 or something,” right? So I think voice is super important. It really is a great way to connect with people, and I know people kind of struggle with voice. Did you have an invisible friend when you were growing up?
Joanna: I have many of them now.
Pamela: Okay. But what about when you were little? Did you have?
Joanna: I don't remember. I think I just read a lot of books.
Pamela: Okay. Well, I had an invisible friend when I was little, you know, like three, three years old. I had this invisible friend and I used to talk about her and everything, and I remember at one point, my mother said, “What is your invisible friend's name?” And her name was Pamela. Like, I knew it was me. Even when I was three years old, I knew it was just me.
I try to keep this invisible audience in mind when I'm writing, and that's how I found my voice. I have this person who's very present in my mind, and I'm just writing them like an email. It's just like a very, very 55,000-word very long email, right? And I think if you can think of it like that, like almost more like you're writing a letter of advice for someone who wants to know something about a topic, that really helps you to find your voice.
And if it's content, it's the same thing. You're just writing a short article, trying to make it as readable as possible, which we can talk about. I'm big into the formatting thing, and you're conveying information that's going to be useful.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. And we should state, you know, for nonfiction, useful, as well as entertaining, like some nonfiction is entertaining, although mainly fiction falls into that entertainment bucket, and also inspirational. A lot of nonfiction sites can be inspirational, too. But let's come back to the formatting, because you've mentioned it.
You've mentioned skimmable and readable. If people are writing a blog post how should that look?
Pamela: The thing about writing for a blog and writing for a book, it really is different. I have been writing so much online content that I actually had to learn what does the book page need to look like, and I had to think about it differently.
What we can do is I can reverse engineer what I had to do with the book, and give you some advice about online content. What I noticed about writing a book versus writing online content is a book typically has longer paragraphs. The way that changes online is typically, you want to have shorter paragraphs.
I always tell people, you need to give your right pinky finger a workout, and hit that return key very often with online content. Forget what you learned in English class, that every paragraph has to have three to five sentences. Every time the thought turns a corner, hit return.
Because what you're doing is you're injecting whitespace onto the page. Like we said, I came from the print world. So in the print world, you're always trying to conserve paper, because every time you add pages to a project, you're adding cost, you're adding more time on press, you're adding weight, shipping weight, you're just adding time and volume and cost to the project.
This is the delicate tightrope that a publication designer is walking, because they want to give you the illusion of the piece having a lot of white space, but at the same time, they've got the client breathing down their necks, going, “We can't add another signature worth of pages.” You know, they want them to be careful about that.
Online, it's completely different. You have this unlimited vertical page that you can just keep going down. And so I recommend that people, as much as possible, use that to inject as much white space as they possibly can.
And I think if your listeners are writing a lot of books, their tendency is going to be to write longer paragraphs, which end up online looking like you know, the dreaded wall of text, which is what we try to avoid. The wall of text. The wall of text that when the site visitor hits your page, they look at it and they go, “I don't have time to read this right now. Maybe I'll bookmark it, maybe I'll come back to it later.” It just doesn't look inviting.
Anything that you can do to inject that white space onto your page will help. Things like, for example, if you have a paragraph, and you're writing a lot of commas, like you're listing an item, comma, another item, comma, another item, that should be a bulleted list. It really should.
Bulleted lists have a lot of white space on either side of them, and that will make your page look lighter and more inviting and friendlier. Same thing with callouts or block quotes. Callouts are from the publication world, but block quotes, block quotes which highlight a section of your text, something that you want readers maybe to remember or to really see, that can make your page just look more skimmable and more inviting.
The other thing that I'm really a fan of with online content especially, and that we have to be so limited about when we're writing books, is images. If you want to print a color image in a book, you have to pay for color printing. It's extremely expensive. But online, you can use as much color as you want.
If anything, I'm always trying to rein people back, like, “No, you don't need every single color of the rainbow on your website.” Like, let's get some brand colors here, so that we have a recognizable color palette, but when it comes to images though, really, the more the better.
An image at the top of your post, just really important. A lot of content nowadays has images inserted into the post as well. Anything that you can do that inserts multimedia, like video, like what we're doing today, that also just makes your content look more visually interesting.
Joanna: There's so much there, but there are a couple more things I wanted to ask you about. One of the biggest things I see, especially with fiction authors who have their own blog, is headlines. One of the things I do a lot is share a lot of other people's content on Twitter, and I spend way too much time re-writing people's headline to try and make them more clickable, because you need a headline to make people even look at your page, right?
What are some of your thoughts around good headlines?
Pamela: You just said it. The headline is the clickable thing, and that's what I always want people to think about. Your headline is the advertisement for your content that goes out into the world. And its sole job is to get people to click, so that they will land on your page and read your content.
In the book I say, “Don't be afraid to be a little bit more salesy with that headline.” You can make up for it with your helpful content once they're on the page, but they will never land on that page if you put a boring headline at the top of it. People who may not feel comfortable with headlines, what I recommend is that you lean on the many, many templates that are out there, just maybe in the early years.
Eventually, you'll absorb those templates, and they'll be in your personal headline vocabulary, and you'll just be able to spit out headlines like they're inside of you, you know? But, in the early years, don't be afraid to avail yourself of templates. I included some in my book.
There are free headline templates wandering around on the Internet that you can find. It's a great way to get started.
And then the other huge tip really is just to write a lot of headlines. You've heard this before, but basically, the first 10 or 12 are probably going to be terrible.
They're gonna be clichés, they're gonna be boring, they're going to be imitating other headlines that you saw a couple of minutes ago, but you have to get those out of your system. You just have to write them so that they're out. And then, after about 12, then the interesting stuff starts.
It's usually toward the end of writing headlines, after you've written 18, 20, 25, you'll hit on one, and this happens to me all the time, you hit on this headline and it gives you goosebumps. And you're like, “I can't wait to write this piece of content.” I mean I've actually said to my husband, “Listen to this headline I just came up with.”
Before I have even written the content, I'm like, “I can't wait to write this one, because this headline is gonna be so funny,” or attention-getting or something. But the way that you get there is writing a lot of headlines until you hit on that one that gets you excited about writing the piece.
Joanna: I'll have to admit to everybody that I don't do that at all. I spend that much more time on a book title, which I have often got wrong as well. But for headlines, because it's for The Creative Penn, a nonfiction site, I go for the useful SEO-packed headline.
I just want to encourage people if they're worried that they have to now write that many headlines, that it's okay. You can also just start and give it a go, and get better over time. But as you say, those templates are really useful for people. Now the other thing also we should say is the call to action. And this is something I also see authors are terrible at, and a call to action is not, “buy my book,” although it might be.
Help us with call to action.
Pamela: The thing about call to action is I always say there's this continuum. So there's a call to action that may be a sales call to action, like you just said, buy my book. But there's also this very soft call to action that's kind of like, “Let's talk, let's chat. Go down to the comments, tell me what you think about this topic, let's interact. Do you have questions? Ask me your question.”
That's a very soft call to action, but what I always tell people is the thing about online content is online content has a business purpose. We're not just writing this because we want to. We're writing it because we're hoping to move the audience to take some kind of action, interact with us, maybe opt in to an email offer that we have for them, or maybe buy something.
It's really important that every piece of content have some kind of call to action, even if all you say is, “Let's talk about it in the comments.” You've just delivered some useful, engaging, helpful information, and it's okay at the end to say, “Okay, take the next step. Let's do this next. This is the next thing to do.” And if you don't ask, they won't do. That's the thing. You have to kind of guide people toward the action you want them to take.
Joanna: Yeah, and it's crazy, because even in our Amazon sales descriptions, or Kobo, iBooks, whatever, it is advisable, it's so crazy, a lot of people don't do it, is you know, “If you like supernatural thrillers, download a sample, or buy now.”
You wouldn't think you have to put that on a Amazon sales page, your book page, but the best practice is to actually tell people what you want them to do. So a call to action in that case, and the same on a blog post or a, yeah, join the conversation or, you know, your list sign up. I think that's really, really good advice there.
Pamela: That's interesting. I just learned something. I didn't know that. Now I'm gonna go back and go scrambling back and add a call to action on Amazon because you're right. You wouldn't think that. It's got all these buy buttons all over the place. It's a shopping site, you know? But yeah, why not? Put it there as well, you know? People, especially if they've read the whole description, it's like, “If you're still here…”
Joanna: Yeah, if you're still here…
Pamela: “…here's what you need to do next.”
Joanna: Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, maybe that's changed, but that's something I learned, I can't remember who I learned it from years ago. I definitely do that, but it's interesting, because of course the sales description is so important on our books. And as indies, it can be really hard. But hey, that's another podcast, which I did with Bryan Cohen I think, on sales description.
Just a couple of things before we finish. I definitely wanted to ask you because of your design background and your content marketing background, are there any of your favorite tools for creating these images? I feel like I'm half a visual person, I'm not very good at this stuff.
I found using Canva is really good, but do you have some favorite sites or advice on that?
Pamela: It's interesting, because one of the things I have planned for the near future is a course to help people to create these kinds of images. And the reason I wanna do the course is that there are so many online tools, but a lot of people are like you. “I'm not really that visual. I mean, I like it, but I don't really know what I'm doing,” and so I think we're in such a unique time, because so many of these tools really were only within reach of designers, professional designers. Even just 10 years ago, there wasn't that much. And now, there are so many.
People need help picking the best tool.I love Canva. I also really like PicMonkey. And they work differently.
The way PicMonkey works is they have a free level of their tool, and then they have a pro level, and you end up paying a few dollars a month for the pro level tools. But once you have those pro-level tools, you can use everything. PicMonkey does not provide the image. I actually like that, because it forces you to go out and pick from the bazillion images that are already available online. I probably lean a little bit more toward PicMonkey than Canva, but Canva has its own strengths.
The way Canva works is in order to access certain things, like images and patterns and fonts, you have to pay per use. So PicMonkey to me feels a little bit more like a tool that you would use, and Canva is a little more like a service, you know? But I will likely highlight both of those in the product that I'm putting together.
It all starts with the raw material of the image itself. So as far as finding images, that people are looking for free images, I love a site called pixabay.com. Pixabay is amazing. I think what's so interesting about so many of the free sites is they have terrible search functionality, or almost nonexistent search. So you end up sitting there and paging through all these images to try to find the one you want, where, I mean if you're short on time, and who is not short on time, you need some kind of a search engine.
You have an idea of what you're looking for, and you need to be able to search. Pixabay has a very robust search tool, and every single image on the site has a license that you can use it for a commercial purpose, and you do not have to credit the photographer, which is pretty amazing.
It's run by volunteers. That's a great site for free. And then because Pixabay doesn't have an image for everything, sometimes you end up needing to buy. So if you're looking for a site for paid images, the one that I end up using the most is called bigstockphoto.com.
Joanna: Me too.
Pamela: That's a great site. And the reason they're called Big Stock Photo is that their images are sized larger than most other sites. You buy a small sized image on one site and it might be 600 pixels wide or something, the small sized image on Big Stock Photo is 900 pixels wide. And that just gives you a little more resolution. You can just do more with the images you buy there, and the prices are very comparable.
Joanna: Just on Canva, because I use Big Stock Photo, I get my images from Big Stock Photo, and then I upload them to Canva. So you can actually do it that way too.
I end up using Canva for free, and just getting my photos from Big Stock Photo. So it works, I guess, in a similar way to PicMonkey in that way, or you can buy the photos. It can be kind of either way.
What I like about Canva too is they have, I haven't used PicMonkey, but Canva, I know has like an infographic template, and they also have sizes for like Facebook ads, which is great because how many times do we have to like, change all our sizing for things.
I really recommend people check out these sites, because it makes it so much easier than thinking that you need to be some kind of graphic designer to be able to do this stuff.
Pamela: Right. It gives you a huge head start. I think each of those tools have their strengths, and I'm looking forward to exploring them and then teaching people. If you're putting together an infographic, Canva is your tool.
Joanna: Interesting. Okay, so before we finish up, I wanted to ask you about writing a book, because you, obviously, you've been doing so much. You were in the book design, you've done a lot of copywriting. And I know that you've shared the journey on the podcast with Jeff Goins. Maybe just talk about that too, about doing this stuff in public.
I wanted to know, what did you discover that was a surprise when you were actually writing your book.
Pamela: The interesting thing is it was my first book. I had never written a book. I had never written anything that long. And so, I knew I wanted some kind of help, and Jeff is local, I'm in Nashville, Jeff is also in Nashville, and I had met him a couple of times. So, and he is obviously a published author, and has been very successful.
I reached out to him and I said, “Do you know anyone who I could just ask questions of as I'm working through this book, because I know I'll have questions?” And he wrote back, “Me.” It was the shortest email I got last year, “Me.”
And so, we got on the phone, and he said, “If we're going to do this, we should do it on a podcast, because that way, other people can benefit from the process that you're going to go through.” And you know, let's face it, when you're learning something new, you're really only a newbie once, right?
At this point, I wouldn't have those questions anymore because I have learned the basics at least. So we did. We recorded I think 26 episodes total, I was able to get on there. It's called ZeroToBook.FM if anyone wants to look it up.
I was able to get on there and ask every newbie question I had, which was wonderful, and I got answers to it all. And it was super, super helpful.
The other thing that was helpful, honestly is, and I told you this when you and I met a couple of months ago, is I absorbed so much of what you have done, and it helped me to anticipate the fact that in the middle of the book writing process, there's this big dip. I'm sure it hits different people at different times, but it hit me when I was about halfway through the first draft.
I had half the first draft written, and I still had to write the other half. And it kind of dawned on me like, you know, I have this feeling like, “Oh, I'm halfway through.” And then I started thinking like, “Okay, but then it has to go to the structural editor, and then it has to go to the line editor, the proofreader, it has to be designed, it has to be…and I realized I'm like 25% through. I'm not even halfway through.
You hit this dip that you just have to keep going and push through. And talking to Jeff, absorbing your information, it just helped me to anticipate it, so that when it came around, which I guess it always does, I was able to push through it and get past that.
That was a really interesting part. It's a longer-term project. It was just interesting to see the psychology of the whole thing. The other thing that I did, which was so much fun, is I recorded an audio version of the book.
Pamela: Yeah. Of me reading, and I partly did that because here I had spent 26 episodes talking about this book on a podcast, and I couldn't imagine hiring a narrator to speak through the book. The book is very much written in my own voice, so it was hard to imagine somebody else reading it for me and getting me inflection in the places where I was imagining it hitting, and all of that. It was a very fun process. I live in Nashville, and there are a couple of recording studios in this city.
Joanna: Is it not like country music place or something?
Pamela: There is a lot of country music, but there's just a lot of music, period. There are studios basically every place you turn around. My next-door neighbor is a DJ for one of the big country stations in town, and I just find out a few weeks ago that he has a studio in his basement. So that's where I'll be recording the next book, I think.
Joanna: I actually think as a nonfiction author, and someone who's put your voice out there, I do this as well, I'm back in the studio next week to do “The Successful Author Mindset,” and “How to Make a Living With Your Writing.” And I think it's actually really good practice, like as a practice, to do it. I think it's quite respectful of the person who listens that it's the author who does it. I really respect that you've done that with your first nonfiction.
Did you find when you were reading it that there were things you wanted to change?
Pamela: I found some mistakes, actually.
Pamela: I found some mistakes. It was so annoying. I'm like, “This went through two editors. How can there still be mistakes?” Not a lot, there's just a handful. But what I was doing, I was reading off of an iPad, and I just realized early on, you know, I got frustrated when I saw it. I was like, “Ugh! What's that doing in there?” you know? But what I did is I just took screenshots of the pages that had mistakes. I'm like, “Uhh! I'll just take a screenshot. I'll deal with it later.” It's amazing how stuff pops out when you read it.
Joanna: And it's so funny, because what I then do is I'll go back into my Kindle file, or my e-book files, and fix all my e-book files, and I generally don't fix the print, but if it's significant, I'll fix the print, but the beauty of being indie, you can go back in and fix it.
Tell us, where can people find you and everything you do online?
Pamela: The best place to find me very consistently is on bigbrandsystem.com. If people are interested in the book, it's mastercontentmarketing.com.
I designed the book very intentionally to be large. It's wider than the typical book, because I'm hoping that people will sit it on their desk and use it as a resource. People have told me it's been really interesting.
A lot of people in the reviews have said, “I bought the Kindle copy, but then I got the print,” or, “I bought the audiobook, and then I bought the Kindle.” Like they're buying it in two formats, which is kind of crazy.
Joanna: Well, yeah. And this is why I recommend nonfiction authors to do a normal book and a workbook, but you've actually done it kind of all in one, haven't you?
Pamela: Well, it's not really a workbook. I have thought about that, about doing a workbook. I have somebody talking to me about…somebody said, “Do you think this would be good, like a good textbook for a class on content marketing?” And I said, “Yes, of course.”
Joanna: Yes. Here's my contract.
Pamela: Right. I mean I think it would be honestly, because it's really for people who have no experience doing content marketing. It's really step-by-step. It's how to get started with it. I do think it would be a good textbook. And I said, “It's probably gonna be the most amusing textbook they have.” She said, “Oh, no, that's a good thing,” so, yeah, we'll see what happens with that.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Pamela. That was great.
Pamela: Thank you.
Eric M Hill says
Another incredible interview. Really helpful content. I’ve been contemplating what marketing path to take (there are so many!). I feel that content marketing is a natural fit for me. So I’m going start putting deliberate, systematic effort into intelligently producing great content.
Pamela’s comments on it not being too late or too crowded to produce great content resonated. I can still remember a couple of years ago when I first learned of Joanna and thought, “Who is this lady?” I checked and could hardly believe that someone was putting out this level of content on a regular basis–for free.
I went through and listened to everything podcast. It’s a pleasure being a Patreon supporter.
Thank you, Joanna!
Eric M Hill
Don Corleone’s got the market cornered on being the Godfather. But to us aspiring indie authors/publishers, you are the Godmother!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Eric 🙂 I’m glad it was useful!
Aleshia Robinson says
This was a great interview. Pamela Wilson really gave some helpful insight into content marketing and was a joy to listen to. I am curious though: are there any NEW marketing ideas that sell books? I feel like I am hearing the same suggestions over again. Not just on your site but others as well.
Joanna Penn says
When you start to hear the same advice over and over again, it means you know enough 🙂 The question is now – are you implementing it?
Jerry Dawson says
Wow, what an insightful answer that speaks to me loud and strong.
Prasenjeet Kumar says
Hi Joanna. Some fiction authors don’t want to blog, podcast or put out videos. What they do is have a static website that lists their books and e-mail address. What they focus on is to write the next book and the next one and the next one. Do you think writing more books is also just one form of content marketing? 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Yes, definitely – but that is a high volume model and many authors struggle with that. This is just one option, and as we mentioned, probably more suited to non-fiction.
Very inspiring podcast.
I liked it when Pamela said she thought was halfway through the book, then realized that was just 25%. Happened to me in the past, with almost each book.
Thanks for the reminder. I will keep that in mind as I complete the first draft of my next book – there’s the editing, proofreading, formating, SEOs, cover design and more. Long journey!
Cathryn Wellner says
That was really excellent. I’m inspired by the interview and will be putting many of the ideas to work. Thank you so much.
Henry Hyde says
Just caught up with this and was delighted, because as you know Jo, my background is similar to Pamela’s, having been a graphic designer for over 25 years. I’m also ashamed to say that for years, I gave the very same advice about web content to my clients, but then look at my own site and realise that I haven’t lived up to my own standards!
Wrist suitably slapped, it’s clearly time to revisit my own site yet again, but also to find my own way to market stuff that I’d forgotten I already knew.
Great conversation, thank you both.
Joanna Penn says
I’m so glad it was useful, Henry 🙂