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Finding time to write while juggling family and work commitments is one of the hardest things for creatives. It also takes time to build your writing career once you do get some books out there. Today, Bryan Cohen and I discuss these issues as well as tips for selling more books.
In the intro, I give an update on my trip to New Orleans and how American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice is coming along as I've been editing the four author collaboration this week.
Big news in Europe this week as the UK starts the Brexit process by triggering Article 50. I talk about how this might affect publishing in the UK for both traditionally-published authors and for indies. The Financial Times reports that Bertelsmann, which owns Penguin Random House – the world's largest book publishing company, may move some of its business from London, and has concerns over the impact on intellectual property rights. A Publishing Trendsetter report outlines the potential impact of losing access to the single market and customs union as the EU is the biggest export market for UK books, and of freedom of movement which is affecting publishing staff. Interesting times, indeed.
Plus, Amazon buys Souk.com, the biggest e-retailer in the Middle East, which currently only has 1% online sales, so is a potentially huge growth market. Similar to Amazon's move into India, this makes me more certain that the biggest growth for our indie ebooks will be outside the US in the years to come.
Today's show is sponsored by my non-fiction audiobooks, How to Make a Living with your Writing and The Successful Author Mindset, available now on Audible. If you need some more inspirational audio that will give you actionable tips to make more money with your books AND stay sane while doing it, check them out here!
Bryan Cohen is the author of How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step system for enticing new readers, selling more fiction and making your books sound good. He also writes YA novels and non-fiction, and is a stand-up comedian and entrepreneur. He's the co-host of the Sell More Books Show with Jim Kukral and also runs Best Page Forward, a copywriting service for authors.
FREE WEBINAR: Join Bryan and I for a webinar on the 3 forgotten essentials for selling more books, featuring how to build a sales funnel, copywriting tips and more. Thurs 13 April at 3pm US Eastern / 8pm UK. Click here to register for your free place.
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.
- Scheduling tools and tips for busy authors and parents
- How to make sure your spouse is on board with your creative entrepreneurial career
- What a sales funnel is and why authors should care about it
- Writing effective hooks for Amazon and Facebook ads
- Using copy from your reviews for headline ideas
- When and how rebranding can work for an indie author
- Writing and branding using a pseudonym
- Having the courage to connect with others in the indie author space
You can find Bryan at BryanCohen.com and on Twitter @bryancohenbooks
Transcript of Interview with Bryan Cohen
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today I'm here with Bryan Cohen. Hi, Bryan.
Bryan: Hey, Jo. How are you doing today?
Joanna: I am good. Now, just a little introduction.
Bryan is the author of YA novels and books for authors, as well as the creator of the “Selling for Authors” course. He writes book descriptions at Best Page Forward and co-hosts the “Sell More Books Show” with Jim Kukral, alongside a whole host of other things.
Bryan, you are super busy these days, aren't you?
Bryan: It's true. It's true I'm always doing something. There's never an idle moment.
Joanna: And you also have a new baby, which is kind of crazy.
Now, one of the biggest questions I get is, “How do I get everything done?” and I'm, you know, happily child-free and do all the things I want to do.
How are you managing all your business and creative tasks right now, as well as being a new dad?
Bryan: It's definitely a challenge, and I have to just thank all of my parent-friend authors out there because as soon as I even mentioned that my wife and I were expecting, we got so many suggestions and ideas and plans, and so, just a big shout out to everybody there.
But it is a challenge, and today is a momentous day while we're recording this, because today my wife and I dropped off our daughter at day care for the first time. And so, lots of emotions, big deal.
I think that when you are an author, when you're a creative entrepreneur, you have to really think about every hour in the day, you have to schedule. And when the baby is at home, all day, which, for stay-at-home parents, or if you don't have childcare, you don't have control over that.
The last few months my wife was on maternity leave, I will say, “Hey, I need to be in the office, I need to be working on this for the next hour, I'm recording this really important interview so I need to be in here and maybe put the baby in the swing so maybe she falls asleep,” because you can't guarantee anything when you're a parent.
I didn't understand that fully until becoming a parent, and I'm sure there will be many, many changes as our daughter grows up, but I think you have to know what you need to do that day, what's the most important because you're probably not going to get that many consecutive hours of work in a row.
Joanna: Scheduling is obviously really important. Do you use any specific scheduling tools? Because of course you also do the podcast with Jim, you're working with other people, like we've booked in this time together.
How are you scheduling? What are your tools?
Bryan: I am a big fan of just the regular Google Calendar app. I make sure that I have everything in there, including something that's not a meeting. If I say, “I have to work on this project from 3:00 to 5:00,” it needs to be in the schedule or it's not going to get done.
I'm also a paper to-do list person. I have about 15 journals that are just my daily to-do lists, every day. I could probably find my to-dos from three years ago if I really needed to because I don't throw anything away, which my wife isn't happy about.
I really do think that writing things down, and if you can use apps that work for you…I've played with a ton of apps that I don't like. I've tried all of the Trello and those kind of message boardy sort of things that allow you to communicate with a team. None of them has resonated with me, but I will try again until I find the one that works the best.
Joanna: I also wanted to ask, if you don't mind, about how things have worked with your relationship, because people are asking me now, “What if a spouse doesn't support our life in terms of being a writer and being an entrepreneur?” What are your relationship tips for making sure your spouse can understand what we do? Because it's a very hard thing to explain to a partner, and it's certainly something that Jonathan and I talk about all the time, because it's not a proper job.
How has that gone down with your wife, your parents, your friends? How have you explained that, especially with a new baby when I guess everyone's like, “Well, you should get a proper job, Brian?”
Bryan: Actually all these people are saying, “Oh, you should stay at home with the baby because you don't really work during the day.”
Joanna: You don't do any work.
Bryan: To which I said, “No, day care is great. It's gonna be fantastic.” This is a great question, Jo, because my wife works a nine-to-five, and so she is in a very different lifestyle work-wise than I am.
And, there was a long period of time where I felt like she didn't necessarily understand the scope of everything, but the funny thing is…and maybe this isn't gonna be helpful for everybody, but as things have gotten to be more successful, as she's seen kind of more of the results of what I've done, she starts to get it. “Okay, I understand now why this three or four-hour period is very necessary. I understand why you need to focus on this.”
But here's another thing I'll bring up because not everyone's at that point where they're having success and can kind of point to that. I did a workshop recently in Chicago and also a fellow podcaster, Eric Marshall, who was there with his wife and his seventh-grader daughter who's also a novelist, which I thought was amazing. But his wife was listening to the presentation, was listening to what I was talking about, which went into publishing, went into writing, and she said, “Now I understand why he needs that time. Now I understand why that makes sense.”
I think if you are running into a problem with a spouse, with a partner, and they don't seem to get it, let them in. See if you can share some of the things you're learning, share some of the things you're doing, and I know for a long time my wife could put up with me talking about publishing for about five minutes at a time here or there.
But, slowly but surely, try to share what you're learning with your spouse and they'll see how excited you are, and they'll start to understand better, “Okay, now I get why there's a sign on the door that says ‘Please don't disturb when this is closed,'” a lot of good that does me, but I'm trying. And, I think you guys out there should try to share as much as you can as well.
Joanna: I know it's super hard, but I think it's an important question because it's happening to more and more people now, is carving out time, especially when there are kids around, when it's like, “Well, shouldn't you spend more time with the kids, or you know, whatever?” So, thanks for answering that, I think that's really important.
You've got this great course, “Selling for Authors” which I've had a look through, and it's brilliant and you've got so many great tips, but I wanted to come to the funnel.
The funnel is something that people talk about and everyone immediately thinks of like, a kitchen funnel, you know. So, just going back to basics:
What is a funnel in a sort of big, marketing sense, but also what are some examples of good funnels for authors?
Bryan: You're right, people think of the kitchen funnel if they haven't heard anything. The reason we even use the term of a funnel is because it's wide at the top and narrower at the bottom. If you're trying to think about gathering an audience of readers, not every person you talk to is going to buy your book, that's just how it is. And that's good because we don't want thriller readers to read our romances and leave us one-star reviews.
So it's a positive thing, but we are trying to kind of get as wide a swath of people as possible in the beginning. Usually, that comes in the form of giving away something for free. We all do it. We give away a cheat sheet, you give away your Author Blueprint for non-fiction, and then for fiction, usually a story could be any length. Some people give away a novel or they give away a starter pack of novels.
You don't have to, don't worry, if you only have one novel. You don't need to write three just to give them away for free, but it starts at the top. You're giving away something for free, and then you're kind of walking them through who you are, what you do, what other books you have.
And, not everybody who downloads that freebie is going to make it through that whole process. They'll unsubscribe after getting the freebie. That's just kind of how it goes sometimes. They will say, “Oh, I'm getting too much email,” and they'll unsubscribe.
But then there's going to be people who are still there as you've gone through the funnel to the narrower part of the funnel, who say, “I like this person's books. I'm going to buy one.” And then you've got that person at that middle part of the funnel.
We want to try to find those 1,000 true fans, those people who will buy everything we put out, ever. Those are the best people in the world, and those are at the narrowest part of the funnel because we're not going to get everyone through it.
Walking people from the free area, all the way to the point where they're actually buying our stuff all the time, that's the goal. That's the dream of the funnel, and the way that I usually do that is by telling a little bit more about myself as I go along, kind of in the same boat as convincing a spouse that your career is worthwhile. It takes time.
And so, over time, you tell that story, you maybe offer more free things or you offer more opportunities to connect, and then eventually, after you've built that relationship up, then you tell them, “Hey, I have paid books that you can buy.”
Joanna: And I think the time thing is so important, because I was speaking in Australia recently and someone was like, “But, you know, your blueprint, it's like, nearly 100 pages and it's amazing,” and I'm like, “Yes, it's so amazing.” But they said, “I'm just starting out. What can I do?”
I said to her, “If you use the Wayback Machine, you know, the Internet Wayback Machine, you'll see how awful my website was in 2008, I had a blueprint up and it was about three pages because that's all I knew at the time. And then, things change over time, don't they?”
You don't need to start off day one with the most amazing, you know, lead magnet. You can start somewhere.
Bryan: You need to start. That's the most important part.
If you're in analysis paralysis of trying to figure out what the best thing is, it's going to keep you from writing and it's going to keep you from starting to gather readers.
Joanna: And the other thing about time, I was thinking about this as well. Someone just emailed me and they said, “Oh, I stopped following you a couple of years ago because I just got distracted by my work, and now I've found you again.” I totally agree with you in that people who go to the bottom and they're like, “I buy everything you put out there,” but those people are quite rare.
Whereas also if we're around a long time you're turning into a veteran of the indie scene as well these days. You were once a newbie and now you're a veteran because everything moves so fast. But, you know, if people are around you long enough, then they might be interested in something.
I think that longevity is so important too, isn't it? Have you seen that with other things that you've done?
Bryan: Oh, I've seen it with fiction and non-fiction and I've seen it with podcasting, of course. We recently had our 150th episode of the “Sell More Books Show”.
Now, we have our question of the week in our comments section, and we asked, “When did you come aboard? When did you find us?” And we had several people who said, “Oh, just 20 or 30 episodes ago.” And then, we had the people who said, “I started listening in Episode Two, went back and listened to Episode One, and then have listened ever since.”
Those are the people who we get emails from, who give us news tips, who are very interested in what we're working on.
And, when I did my workshop in Chicago recently, saw more hands than expected of people who listen to the show, and those are the people who will come out in person to support. I had people who drove over 100 miles to come see me, and I'm sure you had the same experience in Australia. It was probably 1,000 miles.
Joanna: Yeah, it was. It was weird.
Bryan: But I mean, those are the people. Those are the lifers. And, if you are around long enough, you're going to collect more lifers and you'll collect people who forgot about you, found you later, and are very interested now.
Joanna: And I should just say, I've been listening since Episode One of the “Sell More Books Show.”
Bryan: Thanks, Jo. You're a great supporter.
Joanna: I'm a fan, and I listen every week. It's the only show I do listen to every week. So, everybody, if you're not listening to the “Sell More Books Show,” go listen. In fact, I was talking to someone the other day and I was like, “Yeah, I'm pretty sure you and I just steal off each other. Like, whoever's first…”
Bryan: Now that you started doing the news on Mondays, I just say, “Well, obviously this is newsworthy because Jo reported on it.”
Joanna: And it won't be, but sometimes it arrives on like, a Monday or a Tuesday and you get it on the Wednesday.
Bryan: It's great.
Joanna: It's awesome. I love our ecosystem.
Okay, so, you were on the show last year or the year talking about book sales descriptions. We're not going to go into that again, people can go listen to that show.
Copywriting is also important for Amazon advertising, which is something that's very big right now for authors and is difficult, like anything. Basically, if people haven't tried it, you have to come up with one or two lines that is the description.
What is the best way to take a longer sales description and make that into a hook for an ad, whether that's Amazon of Facebook?
Bryan: I'll refer to another episode of yours where you talked with Adam Croft, the hook master. He obviously had a lot of success with his thriller, “Her Last Tomorrow” and his big hook which he used on all of his ads.
I will say that when you are trying to condense something, I think that it's almost better to treat it like you're writing poetry as opposed to prose, where you have a lot of different ideas of, “Well, what could this line be?” Instead of our usual practice of, we write a full book and then we say, “Let's change this sentence slightly, this sentence slightly.”
You need to come up with a lot of ideas. Really dig into your subconscious here. I like to recommend writing 20 different ideas of one or two sentences that would really embody what your book is about. It would really entice those genre readers.
Like I said earlier, you don't want the thriller readers reading your romance book. You want, if it's romance, you're going to focus on the guy and the girl and if they get together.
If it's a thriller, you'll focus on the plot and the bad guy and if he's going to destroy the world or not.
You want to focus on the things that your genre is known for, that readers really enjoy. And it needs to be short, sweet, to the point.
It's hard. This is not the kind of thing you're necessarily going to nail on day one. But, you brainstorm a bunch of different ideas, you get some feedback from your readers, maybe you do a survey, and then you take the two or three best ones and then you tweak, and then you're gonna be able to come up with something stronger.
I'll also say, with Amazon ads, you can try a bunch of different headlines all at once. You can play with lots of different ideas and then you see which one converts the best, and then you put more money into it.
Joanna: And also, you could just go on Amazon and look at other people's.
Bryan: Oh, well yeah. Of course.
Joanna: People forget that, though. They forget that if you actually spend a couple of hours, like I did the other day, spend a couple of hours just trolling through people's ads. I mean, as a reader, you'll be like, “Yeah, that looks boring,” you know, or, “That definitely hooked me.”
I ended up rewriting a ton of mine that were boring when I looked at them again. But, this is the thing.
I think what you're saying is really important, that you have to kind of play with it, don't you? Don't expect it to be right.
Bryan: Yeah. This is not the kind of thing you nail on the first try. This is the sort of thing that gets massaged, you maybe come up with the idea late at night. It's something that's going to take time, but, you know, we're talking a lot about the time here.
It's going to take time to get it right. It's going to take testing and reiterating. But eventually, if you keep working on it, if you look at other ad ideas.
I'm going to give another idea here. You look at your customer reviews or the reviews of books in your genre, some of these reviewers should be copywriters. They write great little ad headlines for themselves, for their reviews. So, you check those out, bring in as much information as you can and then just let it fly and see how it goes.
Joanna: That's a great tip actually. I hadn't thought about using the review quotes in the text because you're so right like, some of them are really good. But then, it's sometimes hard to distinguish ego from, like, you know, advertising.
Bryan: Oh, yeah. That's a constant struggle.
Joanna: It really is, isn't it?
One of the other important things around selling for authors is obviously the book cover and the branding of the book cover. You talk a lot about this. You've re-branded, or you're in the process of re-branding your “Ted Saves the World” series and looking at your own author brand using a pseudonym for fairy tale books.
Can you talk about your decisions around re-branding the pseudonym and that kind of branding idea?
Bryan: Sure, and I hope by the time this is posted, I actually make some progress on my “Ted” re-branding. It kind of paused a bit as our baby was being born.
I think that just because a book hasn't sold, just because a series hasn't done well, it does not mean that it's dead forever. There is a possibility to revive, and this is particularly true for self-publishing here. If you are self-publishing, you have control over more than you think because you put out a book and it doesn't do well, “Well, what can I change?”
What I'm changing on the “Ted Saves the World,” which is Young Adult Superhero, I'm changing the titles. It's going to be…instead of the “Ted Saves the World” series, it's going to be the “Viral Superhero” series.
It's going to have “Superhero” in the series name. You can change the cover. I noticed when I launched the “Ted” books, there wasn't really a consistent superhero branding. There is now, which is kind of a silhouetted figure in the background doing an actiony kind of pose. Now, I've re-commissioned covers. I use damonza.com for my covers, and they have done a great job, and I will release those to the world eventually.
What else can you change? Well, the content of the book. I took the book, which was the first novel I ever wrote, so it's not as good as what I write now, and have destroyed it, broken it down, built it back up again, and made sure especially that that preview first couple thousand words is absolutely stellar.
All those things combined, in addition to changing the copywriting, all of that stuff, is going to make it so it has a better chance of succeeding. Will it succeed? I still don't know because I haven't done it yet. But, there are options. If you want to try to revive an old series, playing around with those options is going to be really helpful.
Joanna: J. Thorne and I have just done a new cover for “Risen Gods.” We're repositioning it into urban-fantasy, looking at a load of authors who write similar books to that. And this is the other thing like…again, I get so many emails. Someone emailed me and said, “It's nice to know that your first book wasn't successful,” and I'm like “Hey, it's not just your first book that might not be successful. It can happen later on.”
And the thing is, you know, it's very hard as an author to understand where you fit, especially with your first book because you did with yours and I did as well, with “Pentecost,” which I later re-launched as “Stone of Fire”. So, I totally get that and I think, again, the importance of time in getting to know your own author voice and how you are positioned.
I just want to come back to the pseudonym.
Tell us about the pseudonym, the fairy tale books, and why you made those choices.
Bryan: Okay. I write fairy tales; Young Adult, New Adult fairy tales as Casey Lane. Oh, you've just been spoiled, but I'm kind of open about it, everywhere.
Joanna: I think you came out as Casey Lane a while ago.
Bryan: Yeah, I did. But, you know, you have a bigger listenership than I do.
I decided to write as a different pen name just by looking at the genre and seeing, okay, well, some of the biggest names in this fairy tale genre, they're all either female or they have a gender ambiguous name. And who am I to mess with the success the other people have had?
I didn't see any successful obviously male authors, because there are a couple of male authors that have gender-neutral names. So I said, “Well, I'm gonna make a gender-neutral name here. I'm gonna use the cover of my book as my author photo on Amazon so nobody really knows and nobody really thinks about it, and then I'm going to use that as the front.” And I've come out with a novel, “Cinderella Dreams of Fire,” which is my best novel because it's my most recent one.
And then I launched an anthology with a group of other authors in the genre, and that has actually done exceptionally well because people like box sets, people like lots of different options in their readings, and that book has had over 3 million pages read. That's been a really incredible experience.
Joanna: Yeah, which is fascinating.
I am asking you think because I am doing another pen name as well with sweet romance later this year, and which will be co-authored, but with one new name.
Do you have a separate website, a separate funnel, a separate email list? Have you replicated everything?
Bryan: Great question. I do have a separate website, I have the whole funnel, so I have a series of five emails that are just for Casey Lane readers to go through, I've done separate promotions, I've done a lot of work with instaFreebie, I have one of their professional plans there.
When you're going into fantasy fairy tales, that's very much an instaFreebie-friendly kind of place. For those of you who don't know instaFreebie, it's a site where you essentially do giveaways of your lead magnet or you do group giveaways with other authors in your genre, and you start to collect those email addresses and then you can add them to your list or you can do it automatically if you have MailChimp.
I've added over 6,000 readers just through instaFreebie just to the Casey Lane list through the various promotions I've done there.
Joanna: Oh, that's very good.
Is that a hot genre right now, the fairy tales?
Bryan: I would say that it's hot at certain times of the year. I don't think I launched it at the right time when I did “Cinderella,” but when I launched the anthology in November, that was a very good time.
It's not as hot as military space-opera. But yeah, I think it does pretty well. It's a genre where you need a lot of content to succeed, I feel like. The more books you have, you'll succeed in there.
Joanna: I think that's true anywhere. I just wondered because of course, “Beauty and the Beast” is coming out with Emma Watson, and…just a question on this.
Is there any IP issue with using “Cinderella”? Could anyone use “Beauty and the Beast?”
Bryan: Yes, actually. I did research into this before I wrote to make sure I didn't step on any toes, like Disney's. Those are the biggest toes in the industry.
Joanna: Yeah, don't step on them.
Bryan: What is important is that “Cinderella” is public domain, “Beauty and the Beast” is public domain, but there are certain aspects of the movies that are not public domain. You could not write a “Cinderella” story where you have singing mice running around putting her dress together because that's from the movie, not from the book.
In the book, in the original story, it's actually these flying golden birds which are, in my novel because those are public domain. You do have to make sure you're not accidentally co-opting something that is from the movie which is definitely Disney's IP.
Joanna: That is a really good point and I want everyone to make sure they're aware of that because it's so funny how often you assume something. I was thinking about “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco, which I remember as being an amazing book but I went to try and read it again and it was just such hard work, and I think that it was actually Christian Slater in the movie. I remember from my teenage years because I had a crush on Christian Slater.
Bryan: He does make everything better, Christian Slater.
Joanna: He really does. It's funny what you remember from movies and then think they're in the book. Something to be very careful with.
I also wanted to ask you about building a network because you've talked very much about building a network in “Selling for Authors” and you've been very good at this yourself. I remember when you first emailed me…I don't remember exactly, but I remember becoming aware of you and you reaching out, and then meeting you. There's a lot of emails I get that I don't become friends with the people, and also many people are introverts and struggle with networking.
What are some of your top tips for building a network in a non-scammy way?
Bryan: I get that a lot, that last point especially. I've had people message me and say, “I love the stuff you do on networking but I could never do that myself.” I think that's a limiting belief. I think that we are afraid of the idea of networking like, we only think of it as going to a conference and trying to introduce ourselves to complete strangers, but it is not like that.
Thankfully, we live in this wonderful world, we live in this amazing world where we can tweet people and not have to meet them in person, or we can send a message on Facebook or an email and we don't have to worry. We send it off and then our hands are off of that. We're done, that part is over.
I think the challenge is, if we say, “All right, I see a person I would like to connect with,” we need to just build up –
and I kind of stole this from the book “Level Up Your Life,” – you need to build up those 30 seconds of courage just long enough to click that send button, to make that initial contact.
I asked to submit a guest post to The Creative Penn when you were doing a lot of guest posts, and so there was an opportunity there for us to connect. But, it later ended up being, I think, us working together in Multi-Author Facebook Group and the Multi-Author Facebook events.
Joanna: Yes, I think it was that.
Bryan: Yeah, because that was March to a Bestseller, which I've run a few of those. It's March, maybe I should do another one, but it's April when this gets posted. The magic is gone.
I think that you need to find something you're good at, that you like doing, that you can maybe do for other people. For me, I used to produce theater, I've produced live events, and so producing a Facebook event where it's kind of like a live event except you don't have to put on pants, is that you can connect with a lot of people at once.
I asked a bunch of people who I maybe knew slightly or didn't know that well, but I remember the first event I had Steve Scott, I think Mary Buckham, a lot of these great authors who I'd read, and said, “Hey, I'm putting this event together. We're gonna sell a lot of books maybe, but if everybody promotes the event, everybody comes to the event, we will all do well and it will be great for everybody.”
I think I actually co-opted the idea from Timothy Long who was a guest on the “Rocking Self-Publishing” podcast, just to give credit where it's due, who did a Zombie event, but I said, “This will work great for non-fiction authors,” and it did. We sold thousands and thousands of books over the course of that day because everyone just went through and clicked “buy” on all of the 99-cent books they hadn't purchased yet.
And so, for me, running that live event was something I was good at, and I knew if I asked people, “Can I help you promote your books by you joining this live event of mine?” it would work well.
I'm not saying you should all go out and run live events, because that's not necessarily your strength, but I know when J. Throne was getting started, he was doing those box sets because he said, “I know how to do HTML coding. Let's put all these box sets together.” This was before Vellum, of course.
Joanna: Yeah. And, it's funny because I started my podcast back in 2009 because I thought, “I'm reasonably technical and I can do something that other people aren't doing. If I interview authors, they will get a benefit from this.” And that's where I started.
I wanted to learn from them but I thought, “I can't just get free consulting, so how about I start a podcast and do it that way?” And, I think you're totally right, and I talk about social karma. You don't know how it's going to come back to you. But you're right that I noticed you because of March to a Bestseller, and basically you did something.
And then, according to “Influence” by Robert Cialdini, the law of reciprocity means that people are more likely to hear you, or read your email, or notice your name if you've actually done something positive for them. I think you're totally right in that networking should be that way. And it's not transactional, is it? But it's that social karma. It's more like “Give and you'll receive in some other way.”
Bryan: It's that time thing again, because it happens over time. You can't just ask for things. It's so funny, because I remember this, I pestered you a couple of times to try to get on the show.
Joanna: And I said, “Go away.”
Bryan: And you said no, and that was after we'd worked together on March to a Bestseller and after we'd even met, so we weren't quite at that point yet. When I started doing my book description business, first of all, you sent me an email that said, “Crazy man,” because I was pricing my book descriptions too low, and then you said, “Okay, well this is something that I would love to share, so this is a good opportunity.”
You never know when you make a relationship, you can't just say, “All right, I did this thing for you, so where is my thing in return?” That isn't how it works. It takes time. You need to keep connecting, you need to continue to help, you need to continue to share and build the community because over time those things are going to come back but you can't just want them.
It's the same with a relationship with your spouse, with your partner. It's not, “I give you something you give me something.” That's not how it works or you're not going to last very long. You need to work over time, you need to get to know each other. It is very much like dating, and then eventually there's a reason for you to help each other and it can work out splendidly.
Joanna: I totally agree. And I think “The Importance of Time” is our title for this show. But also, I mean, just coming back to the “Selling for Authors” and selling books, I guess you've mentioned a few examples there, but how has your networking…you know, say the “Sell More Books Show.” Like, you know, sorry, Bryan, I haven't read your fiction.
Bryan: Oh, don't worry about it.
Joanna: You probably haven't read mine, but I'm a Patreon supporter of your show and I know you're a Patreon supporter of my show, which is like, kind of random. But, you know, that's one example of selling in a way, because it's an income stream for both of us, the Patreon thing.
How can the networking and how can some of these other things actually result in selling books?
Bryan: That's a great question, and thank you for being a Patreon supporter of the show. It is very appreciated. But when you build up a network in that particular genre, because obviously building up a network for “Sell More Books Show” has not necessarily helped me sell more fiction because that's not how it works.
When I launched my “How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis” non-fiction book for authors, that sold several thousand copies in the first week, and part of that was “Sell More Books Show,” people we'd build up. Part of that was, “Hey, friend I've known for a couple of years and that I've worked together with, would you be willing to email out about my book?”
I even had an instance where someone accidentally emailed me for a promotion that week and said, “Oh, I meant to email the other Bryan,” and I said, “Well, what's this promotion?” And actually got in on that too. So, it's good to be on the top of people's Gmail accidental contact editions, of course, but it's about the like genre.
If you are trying to build up say, an urban fantasy presence, you are going to want to connect with, or make an effort to connect with and do something for people in your genre, so you would connect with some of those big-time urban fantasy people and see if you can do something for them.
That's kind of what I was doing with the fairy tale genre. When I did the “Once Upon a Happy Ending” anthology, I said, “Who are the people? What can I do for them? Oh, well, I can make this kind of like a lead magnet for them and maybe make some money for them as well,” and that means they are now connected with me. When I release my next fairy tale novel, I will be able to tap into that network.
A lot of it is email sharing. I would say that the easy answer to that is, a lot of that is, “You share my email list, I share your email list,” which usually only comes when you know the person, you trust the person, and you know that you're not going to be sending them to a terrible book. You know that it's good.
Having that network and then connecting with each other to share via email or via boosted Facebook posts I've seen have some success…usually the Facebook page needs at least a couple of thousand for that to make any kind of impact. But, there are definite ways to make networking directly pay off, but it still takes time to get to the point where that person is willing to share your book, via their email list.
Joanna: That's a very good point.
You do have loads of specific tips and we're going to do a webinar, aren't we?
Bryan: We are.
Joanna: We are. Tell people about what they will get in the webinar, in the free webinar that we're doing together which will be super-fun. Tell people about that.
Bryan: Okay. We're going to go over a ton of stuff. I've been told my webinars are very, very full of information and lots of people need to take notes, so be prepared to get some good info.
We're going to talk about how one author used copywriting to earn over a million dollars with his books. We're going to talk about how an author used creating his funnel to actually quit his job, which is a wonderful thing…jobs, who needs them?
And we're going to talk about how an author made some great connections to help with the launch of a series that has done exceptionally well. And, we will say, not just those great stories, but we'll fill in all the gaps as to how you can apply those aspects of your copywriting, of your funnel building, and of your networking to sell more books and do really well for yourself in 2017.
Joanna: And that is on Thursday, 13th of April at 3 p.m. U.S. Eastern and 8 p.m. UK. And you can sign up at thecreativepenn.com/bryan17, and the links will be in the show notes.
Before we finish, because we're almost out of time, I did want to ask you about the “Sell More Books Show” which we've mentioned a couple of times. Two years now, you guys have been going…or is it three years? It must be three years.
Bryan: By the time this episode comes out, it will have been three years.
Joann: Because you're at 150 and it's like, a weekly show, so three years. What's interesting is it feels like some news is similar some weeks and you think, “Have things really moved on?”
What stands out in terms of how things have changed like, since you started doing the news and now? Have you noticed a shift?
Bryan: I think there's been two kind of shifts in the show, and one is Jim and I learning so much more that we actually know what is newsworthy and what isn't, which was not always the case at the beginning, because you're learning, the first few episodes are always gonna be a challenge.
But, I would say that the anti-self-publishing hit pieces that used to really crop up so much more often, those are a lot less frequent now, and you see a lot more success stores. I mean, just the last show that we produced was talking about two big indie launches of Adam Croft and of Mark Dawson.
And having several news stories in one single episode saying indies made thousands and thousands of dollars in a wonderful show of marketing and patience and building over time, that's been the greatest thing, is seeing those stories happen more often, being able to talk about those.
And, you see the results in the listeners, when people message you and say, “This tip really worked well.” It's such a good feeling, and I'm sure you get that all the time when you see that people are listening and taking action, because it's not just about listening. I listen to your show, I listen to several other shows infrequently, and I know if I hear an idea that is going to potentially make me money and connect me more with readers, I want to put it into practice and I want to experiment with it.
That's always our biggest thing on “Sell More Books Show.” Try things, because you never know what's going to work, but you do know if you do the same thing over and over again, it's probably going to have diminishing returns.
Joanna: That's true. I've actually written down two things from our chat today. This is another reason I keep podcasting, and the main reason I invite people on the show is because I'm still learning, we're all still learning. It's not like any of us become an expert and then that's it, it's like, you keep learning all the time and you learn from other people.
I've got two ideas to put into action. I was saying, given that the two authors you talked about there are British, have you seen a shift from American-centric news to more international news over the last few years? Because as indie has spread out of America.
Do you feel like it is becoming more of an international movement now?
Bryan: Oh, most definitely, most definitely. It's funny, because I'm this American course creator and then all these British course creators who've had so much success, and you have great courses, Nick, and Mark, and all of these, and I almost feel more like now it's an American upstart sort of situation versus it being heavily focused on American sales.
I think it's been so great, and you're always several years ahead of the curve. And, when we know and see the latest crazy island that you've sold a book in in Kobo now, but those sales are going to become so much more important over time, and now we see the Kobo Plus subscription service in the Netherlands.
And, these kind of things happening not in the U.S., things being first started not in the U.S. is going to happen more and more often because there's so much opportunity to sell eBooks and sell print-on-demand books throughout the world. I think the movement is already shifting and it's gonna shift more, and then there might be a little course correction which always happens with American brands like Starbucks and such. “Oh, we went too far, let's go back.”
I think it's going to be really balanced over the world, and we're gonna see that over the next few years, and authors like yourself who have positioned themselves well to capitalize on international sales will really be able to reap the benefits of that.
Joanna: Awesome. We're both optimists, aren't we? We always see the upside of what's coming. And again, you know, coming back to our theme of time today, you know, your daughter who's now, you know, very small…I mean, if you think about what's changed over the last five years in indie. As she grows up, I think it's amazing to think where things could be when she's getting ready to read. It's just gonna be so cool. I'm looking forward to continuing together on the journey. And we see more of each other now, which is nice.
Bryan: I agree, I agree. I'll try to keep that up as my responsibilities at home grow.
Joanna: Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Bryan: Well, if you love podcasts, which I think you do if you're listening to this show, you can go to sellmorebooksshow.com or search “Sell More Books Show” in iTunes, and there you'll hear the “Sell More Books Show.” And, I do too much stuff to give to all the crazy websites, so you can just go to bryancohen.com, that's Bryan with a “Y”…I really should get the “I,” too. But it's bryancohen.com, and you can check out all the crazy stuff that I'm up to over there.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Bryan. That was great.
Bryan: Thank you, Jo.
ALESHIA ROBINSON says
As usual, I absolutely love your intro.
Thank you for sharing your viewpoint about Brexit. I’m still rather confused as to importance of Brexit but your input about the situation regarding publishing is helpful.
I am also happy you shared the motivation behind the sweet romance you are working on. lol. I was very concerned for a moment that you were turning into those sell-out authors willing to write anything just for fame and fortune. I know we can write within any genre but the question I always ask myself is, “Why am I/he/she doing this? Is it for love? Or business? Or adventure?”
Reminds me when satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He said, “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.'” I have found that artists who make business decisions like that aren’t very happy with themselves in the long run. They sell their souls somewhere in the process without realizing it. Just look at Hollywood!
Finally, I absolutely LOVE the way you pronounce bayou. Your English accent is so charming! Makes me want to marry a Brit!! lol.
Joanna Penn says
I’m glad it was helpful – and yes, I struggle with the sweet romance as it takes me away from what I love to write – BUT it is to help someone I really need to help. And that is a good reason to write 🙂 It’s also interesting on an intellectual level to challenge myself to write to a market, as opposed to for love. I’m a reasonably experienced writer now, I should be able to do both!
ALESHIA ROBINSON says
Indeed. As always, thank you for sharing. Your journey is inspiring.
Meg Cowley says
Ah, it is so wonderful to hear your dulcet tones! I’ve been podcast free for 10 weeks through ill health, and blimey, I have missed the indie industry! On the upside, I now have tons to catch up on. Great episode! 🙂
I love that you mention holidays aka ‘book research’ are tax deductible. I am using this exact strategy! It’s amazing to write books about places I’ve visited. The writing is infinitely richer for doing it. I’m now scratching my head trying to figure out how to write a (good) book set in Israel next, when I’ve never visited and won’t have the chance imminently.
Wonderful discussion with Bryan about balancing family and spouse understandings/expectation, and time. Definitely true that to non-authors, what we do is an enigma! I know most people think I sit at home doing nothing all day. Today, I was at my desk at 6:30am working on 2 book launches! If only they knew how much harder this is than a ‘real’ job, haha.
(ps. Working on a cowriting series too at the moment – it’s a blast!)
Peter Blyth says
Old post i know, i’m still listening to back list episodes. I’m confused about the point about the EU being the biggest market for British books … I would have thought that America, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria were our biggest potential markets and that the EU would be relatively unimportant since the number of English speakers is much smaller. (This isnt a political PoV by the way – I voted remain- just a practical one)
As an Indie is it really worth selling in to the EU countries in English ?
Joanna Penn says
Not quite sure what this was referring to in the interview – but licensing for trad pub right now means that UK & Europe are often in the same licensing agreements, whereas US & Canada are in the North America region. This will change with Brexit – see recent articles in the Bookseller etc.
Many Europeans read English so why wouldn’t you make sure your books are available there?