Many authors are introverts and prefer creation to marketing, but what if you could use your words to attract your perfect target market? In today's episode, André Chaperon gives some valuable tips for building a sustainable creative business.
In the intro, I talk about intellectual property rights and the indie path for musicians. Taylor Swift has been in the news this week as the rights to her first six albums change hand [CNN]. Compare this to indie grime rapper AJ Tracey, profiled in the Financial Times where he talks about the benefits of staying independent. There are always pros and cons of each route, but if you're educated about those, then you can make an informed choice about your creative direction.
I also mention that my next Mapwalker fantasy, Map of Plagues, is on pre-order, and I have two more audiobooks on the way.
Today's show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at www.draft2digital.com/penn
- How authors can attract readers
- Why polarizing an audience is a good thing
- Why resonance at all a follower’s touch points is so important. How to deepen your ‘Level Zero' home page to pull a reader in, even if you write in multiple genres. Sphere of Influence.
- Taking the long-term approach to attracting readers. It takes time and consistency to build a long-term business. Frank and Matt and the difference in thinking.
- The power of storytelling when connecting with your email list. Tips for nurturing your email list asset.
- Scaling revenue but not the size of your business. Lean Business for Creators.
You can find Andre Chaperon at TinyLittleBusinesses.com
Transcript of Interview with Andre Chaperon
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. Today I'm here with Andre Chaperon. Hi Andre. Welcome to the show. Just a little introduction.
Andre is an entrepreneur, writer, marketer, and co-founder of Tiny Little Businesses, which offers online courses for creative business and marketing.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Andre: It started way back in 2003 when I lost my job and I was thrown into this world of the Internet. I figured out early on that video and audio was out of the question being a super introvert/shy person.
Early on it became very clear that writing was something that I needed to get good at. Also, I have a weird accent being from South Africa. So there isn't that accent barrier when you're writing words. In fact, the very first time I did an interview, years ago, people thought I was American because I always writing in ‘American’.
Joanna: That's really funny because I get the same thing. If you write with American spelling people just assume you're American.
In your bios and everything you say you're dyslexic.
So how does someone who is diagnosed or labeled as dyslexic manage to overcome that to get into writing?
Andre: I think it must have been shyness and introvertedness that overpowered dyslexia. Mainly the dyslexia was that I can’t spell and I read slowly. Other than those constraints I guess it’s no big deal. I read a bit slower and spelling.
You don't really need to know how to spell when you on the Internet because you've got spell checks. It hasn't been that bad and over the years I've certainly gotten better at writing. The spelling is getting better but it doesn't need to be perfect because well it does need be perfect.
Joanna: I totally agree. It's really interesting that you came into the internet so you said 2003.
What was your previous job?
Andre: I used to be a computer guy. Sort of like a system engineer. I was working at companies in London at the time just doing computer stuff really. And then I fell out of love with it. I stopped enjoying it and there was kind of a signal that hey Andre you need to figure out what to do.
So there was a mid-life crisis back then. It's like well, I can either look for another job in the same industry or figure out something else to do.
I had no idea that you could earn a living online. That was completely new to me and foreign. But I knew that I was going to lose my job at the end of 2003 because our company had been acquired by a bigger monster so we knew that the computer department was probably going to be replaced by the other one. So everybody started looking for new jobs and I was the only one that said let's figure out something else that really interesting, especially back then.
Joanna: I didn't know you were a systems engineer but I can kind of tell from going through your courses and your material because you do figure things out in words and with diagrams. You're really good at diagrams and working things out that way.
You have this great course, Sphere of Influence, which I completely love because it's how I've done my business model and it's all about attracting people to you. And as you said you’re an introvert, you're shy, you're not about the hard sell, you're not out there all the time doing webinars and this and that and the other, or speaking. You stay pretty quiet and private.
Let’s talk about Sphere of Influence.
What are some of the ways that authors can draw readers to them?
Andre: The first thing to understand is that there are some big ideas. And one of the big ideas is that you want to serve. You want to be crystal clear on who your market is and it's typically narrower than you think it is.
Most people default to want to talk to everybody. Everybody is my market. Everybody is going to read my books or buy my courses and that's not the case. As soon as you come to terms with the fact that my audience is only a tiny little thing and therefore I'm going to talk to just them and ignore everybody else.
As soon as you make that mental shift, what you say and what you do becomes very polarizing and polarizing automatically attracts certain people and it pushes other people away. And that's the whole big idea around this.
In terms of a concept if you want to just map it out in your brain, when you say something or do something that has somebody’s posture leaning in because they want to hear or learn more about this thing. The words or the story or the video or the audio isn't just about text. It’s about creating an environment that when somebody is reading that message they lean in because they want to hear more.
As opposed to it just being very wishy-washy and general and it's just meh.
One of the ideas is resonance and dissonance. As soon as somebody reads something or hears a message or they're exposed to something that causes internal dissonance and then they automatically back away. And that typically happens all the time.
So from seeing an ad, to landing on the landing page, at every single touchpoint, there's always this dissonance and resonance. That's playing out. Something's resonating or it's not right.
By creating these environments that pull people forward you have them leaning in all the time as opposed to moving backwards. But at the same time, because you have a very clear idea of who your audience is, both sides are always at play.
There needs to be resonance for the right people so they’re leaning in and there needs to be dissonance for everybody else and have them moving away. Because ultimately the goal is to build an email address for example, which is an asset that you own. You went as many people on that email list to want to be there because there's something that they feel that you've got to say that's valuable to them. Whether it's a course or it's books or it's an author.
So that's the big idea again. And then there's just little things you can do.
Joanna: There’s the idea but then there's the tactic. For example, this podcast is one of my tactics to attract people and if people feel dissonance they're going to stop listening.
What's your favorite way of creating resonance?
Andre: One of the things I like to do, which is kind of like the way that I build out all of my web pages on my sites is that if anybody goes and visits my site they'll soon figure out that it's kind of like an experience. Then they'll kick around.
There are parts of it that's very linear. There's a whole journey that they go down. But at some point, it's going to open up and they're going to make decisions. They can go here or they can go there. Or they can find something.
Many times I’ll create content where I don't make it obvious for people to find. And the benefit is, it turns into Easter eggs because when they find them and they think that's just like a surprise. I just found this thing and it's amazing. It's like then they're wondering why didn't you put this so it's obvious and then they'll email you so then you know that that is working.
So by setting up marketing funnels in such a way, it really does a great job of pulling different types of people forward. It's not just one size fits all. Here's my funnel. It's four pages or whatever and that's it.
There's stuff all around there that's interlinked and connected up and people mostly will follow that narrative. But sometimes they'll come in from different entry points or they'll just click around and I'll click your bio page and read that and that'll lead somewhere else and the next thing you know they're reading some internal page that they just happened upon, although it was on purpose but they didn't know that.
They found something amazing and all these different things create that that sense of them leaning in and say look this is different, this is something that they want more of. But it's all engineered in a good way, not engineered in a sleazy way.
Joanna: I find this very easy for nonfiction. It's really easy to do in the niche that I’m in. You know it's easy to do.
But fiction is a lot harder, especially for like someone like me. I know you read Jack Reacher. I know you like Reacher books and it's very clear what that is.
But for someone like me, I write all over the shelf and I write in different genres.
But you've just made me think if I have more of a landing page that enables different people to click different things if they're interested in different things that intersect with my fiction that might lead them through a journey to find the right book.
Is that what you're talking about?
Andre: Exactly. There’s something called hypertext narrative and hypertext narrative is much like HTML pages. You know what the whole Internet is built on. It's a web page and these links and the links go here go there right. So it's just different pages all linked up. It's just using that same experience.
When you're reading a book, you read page one and then you flip to page two. That's really like a link and you use your finger or you'll turn the page if it's a physical book but it's going from page one to page two. There's a mechanism that says two comes next and three comes after that.
On the Internet and the pages that you build you have the same dynamic at play but it's even better because then you can ask questions by essentially having a Choose Your Own Adventure.
If you're into this or that raise your hand and click the thing that's most relevant for you. And it just works so well because people don't feel pressured. At no point did I feel pressured. It's just a big choose your own adventure game.
They get to pick the thing that stands out, whether it's an image or an awesome headline or some copy or some story, that then leads them somewhere and they click and make a choice. And then obviously on the back end of that, with your technology, you can be tracking things. You can figure out that this person is going down my author book three funnel or whatever.
And then at the end of that, there's going to be something of value for them to allow them to go to the next level. The next level would be exchanging their e-mail address for something else. And that next level would then be taking that conversation to email list and then it can be more cool stuff happening there. So you can have all these different levels.
But I think one of the mistakes I see many people make is that level zero, which is on your website or that first touch point. This is very short. It's literally there's an opt-in form. There’s just a few bullet points: get my lead magnet and then we'll chat.
But it’s like a first date that's gone all wrong. That level zero needs to be big and wide and you need to allow people the freedom to move around and to pull themselves forward.
Joanna: You've given me so much work to do! I've been reading your stuff for years but you've really helped. Something clicked for me just then.
For my fiction site, that's exactly right. It needs to be in a much bigger way in rather than just here's my free book and then maybe you don't like that particular free book. Maybe there's another way I could have talked to you. So that's really interesting.
I can hear my audience. Everyone's going, great. We can work on that level zero on our website. But how do we get people to our websites because most authors are focusing on the book and then they might start an email list with a link from the back of the book.
If you enjoyed the book sign up for my list. Generally, most authors are not directing traffic to their website. They're focusing on sending traffic to Amazon or other book retailers, Kobo, that type of thing.
What would you do in terms of traffic generation and getting people to that level zero?
Andre: I think many people don't quite realize the value in this, in certain segments of people. There are certain customers – what we'll call them customers because ultimately your best superfan is a customer that's made more than one purchase right.
That's like the 80 20. When you really focus on creating an environment around serving those people and not quite ignoring everybody else but I just see so many people chasing the 20 percent but they're spending 80 percent of the energy trying to track down all these new leads and doing all these things.
I'm not saying that's wrong, because obviously, you need to be able to attract people into your business. But there are so many ways that you can do that, that will create so much leverage that once that's all working right then you can go and spend time messing about with the 20 percent that's going to require 80 percent of your time and effort.
One idea would be that if your book is really amazing and your characters are really amazing, your best readers are always going to tell their friends about it. It's something that's going to happen. But you can't engineer that other than just creating the best version of your product.
And then obviously you can engineer it in the sense that in your back matter you can have links that point back to certain places on your level zero on your website where they get to then browse around.
Because now this is the person that's been told that they should check out this book and they have and they've gone through it and they've really enjoyed it and then they're clicking the link to go to the website.
Now, this is like a whole new world for them and giving them that ability to browse around a bit and get to know you as an author and the different stuff you've got. I think that's really powerful. And if you just get that part dialed in and creating a magnet.
Think about your website and your books and your assets as a magnet and if you make those things as strong as you possibly can.
Things are going to get attracted to it. People share, they talk. They do all these things that bring people in.
We get tons of traffic that I've got no idea where it comes from but it just rocks up. And then once you've got all that stuff working then you can go around and try and fiddle with your Facebook ads and do all the other little things.
But I think just focusing on those things, which is a moving target all the time and ignoring all the other things that are very high leverage that I think are more powerful. That's one way anyway.
Joanna: I really like your focus on building that asset. That you own your website and that's what I've done as well with The Creative Penn and I want to do that from my fiction. It's something I really want to crack for fiction.
I'm interested that you said that traffic just rocks up and I know how that feels as well. But I think that is about time. You started in 2003 online and I started what 2008. So little behind you.
I'd love to hear your perspective on patience and time in the market because some people come to your website because they've just heard of you through word of mouth, as you say, like I did. I don't even know how I heard of you wherever it was a number of years ago. And I couldn't point to how that happened but it did.
How important is time and consistency?
Andre: It's a choice early on and I think that the sooner somebody can come to terms with the fact that they're in business for the long term as opposed to it being a short-term play.
Most writers don't become writers because they think they're going to make a bestseller and make millions overnight. It's a long game. If you approach all the stuff that you do with that same mindset then it frees you up to just work on it.
And that hockey stick starts off really flat and shallow and it stays like that for a while. And as you know there's no getting around that. You can do all the things that you do. You can wake up each morning and you can do your writing and you can create your content and create all the little things.
Ultimately you need to write the books that are the best version you possibly can. And that's the stuff that you’ve just got to do. And it takes time.
Then you can layer on all these other little bits along the way. But I think spending so much energy on things that are difficult and are moving targets and can be frustrating sometimes. It’s just challenging.
Joanna: Yes. And on that time thing;
I'm interested in your perspective on what has changed with Internet businesses and what has stayed the same.
Andre: I think lots has changed and lots has stayed the same.
It's not something that I really focus too much attention on. There’s something called the business fair record systems thinking, and systems thinking is saying that your business is a system and life is a system, your body's a system.
And by just having that system can be controlled by just tweaking one or two inputs. But each thing affects the next few parts and the next thing. And so it's a big thing.
If you understand that then it makes life a bit easier to understand that it does go a bit slower. Facebook ads isn't going to be the savior. It's just one component. And then you’ve got to send them somewhere. Then you get the website and things happen over there. Things change all the time.
There's this randomness and there's luck. And those are factors as well. If I just start from scratch right now today and delete everything else, maybe it'll take longer, maybe it'll be quicker because I know more. But I don't have the answer to that. I just know that I put a rock up each day and do my stuff. And over time it'll work out right.
Joanna: I love that and I feel the same way. I don't measure most things. The thing I measure is my effort, my time in doing things and I measure money but I don't measure even downloads very often on the podcast. I measure book sales once a year.
Like you, as long as it's trending in the direction that feels right and I'm happy with it then all’s good.
Andre: Totally. We haven't even got Google Analytics installed on our website. We just keep it lean and the fewer distractions the better.
Having Google Analytics, for example, isn't going to make more people show up at the website. That's just a mirror. It's just luck. Sometimes it's vanity metrics for the most part. It's not going to change anything.
Joanna: You have this fantastic example of Frank and Matt who are these two different characters that represent the difference and that long term thinking is definitely one of the differences.
Could you outline Frank and Matt and the difference in the mindset shift that you need to do this for the long term?
Andre: Frank and Matt was an experiment that I did many years ago.
Ultimately, people hire coaches because coaches can read the label that's on the outside of the bottle so to speak. When you as a creator are in the bottle it's difficult to see things.
We hire coaches and all of us have blind spots. For the most part, we don't see our icky parts or the things that are necessarily negative press right.
So Frank and Matt was basically creating two characters. Frank is the character that people are and the reason why they’re stuck and not really going anywhere. They hop from opportunity to opportunity and from thing to thing.
Matt is the ideal person. It's the person that they want to be. It's the writer, it's the entrepreneur, it's the guy that's doing his work and earning a nice living.
So I just attach those results to those characters so they could identify with them.
As they were reading Frank, when I first put it out there, they're nodding their heads and then somewhere on that page the penny dropped. They have that realization and it's like a slap in the face but it's not a negative thing. It's more like Oh my God I'm so glad someone's told me this because I didn't quite see it this way.
I can't read the label on the bottle and I'm glad that this person has all I've now been able to see that this is why I'm like this. And it's that aha moment that they get. And it changes everything for them.
And now they read and lights are going off and the sirens are ringing. And it's like yes that's what I want to be and then ultimately at the end that the whole idea is if you want to move from a Frank to a Matt.
I'm using language now, move from Frank to Matt because they've already associated themselves as Frank, so now I’m essentially talking to them personally.
As soon as you want to become the Matt in matters associated with our products, our courses, or whatever at the time, it’s the simplest thing ever. I want to become a Matt. They've really made that that mental shift.
So then making that purchase back then was just easy. Game over. They all hopped along and went into that training course.
I've used that concept of Frank vs. Matt. I've actually kept that original letter intact so people can still read it today.
Joanna: There's a blog post on it so we'll link to that in the show notes.
I feel like all the authors listening have the same journey. You go from that short term thinking and just chucking stuff out in the world and jumping on the next marketing tip and ads, to this more entrepreneurial, longer-term mindset. And maybe it just takes time.
Maybe you have to be at that place when you're ready for it.
Andre: Everybody has to go on the journey from their version of Frank to Matt and you can call it different names.
When you read the Frank vs. Matt thing, it's a framework that anybody can take and map their own story onto.
You can call them whatever you want to call them but ultimately it's the hero's journey, going from where they are here to where they want to be. And as the person, you are helping them bridge that gap. You’re creating that bridge to get them from there to there.
So although they've still got to make that journey, you’re the one that's giving them a map and telling them that it's going to be hard and he has the secret sword and it's going to get hard and there's a certain place you're going to use the sword.
I don't know if you're a Game of Thrones fan. It was a pivotal part. I don't want to spoil it for anybody that hasn't watched it but there was a certain part with the frozen King guy.
As creators, we give people these magic weapons, which is our courses our products or whatever and it helps people get to where they need to get to and they understand that journey needs to be traveled by them. Somebody else is not going to travel the journey for them. You are helping them make their journey easier.
Joanna: I guess that's what we both do. We both share our journeys in order to help other people on their journeys. I think that's the basis of non-fiction but also fiction because you're telling a story in the hope that it will help someone else go through their own story.
You have not written a novel yet, I think, but you use the power of story.
How can authors use that power of story, say in email marketing, because you have a very famous course, Autoresponder madness, which is about email marketing.
I know it's a huge topic, but what would be the number one tip for using story in email?
Andre: A big tip is that email is your asset.
It's this thing that you own. It's built on a protocol that's not owned by anybody. That's baked in and part of the actual Internet. So it's part of the protocols that power our internet.
Facebook doesn't own it. The government doesn't own it. So e-mail can never be taken away from us and it's an asset that we have.
The big mistake as I see is that most people don't nurture that asset. They either don't build an email list or if they do it's very random and they'll just get names onto a list and then never e-mail them unless there's something going on.
Russell Blake, who's his author that I love to read, but he's the worst human marketer in the world. I know he's got that celebrity status and has lots of books out there. Maybe he feels that that has bonding and his relationship is in his book so he doesn't have to do the stuff on the e-mail.
[Note from Joanna: Russell is big on Amazon ads, he'll be on the podcast soon to talk about it! Different strategies work for different personality types!]
I think he's missing a trick because you'll receive just this random e-mail saying, Hey Jack number eleven is out. Click here to go buy it.
There's no anticipation. There's no, this book's coming out. So you're using this as an opportunity to create some excitement about a book that your audience is really into because they've read the first ten in the series. Why wouldn't you?
Understanding that e-mail list is an asset and it needs nurturing just like your rosebush. If you don't water it it's going to die. And you've just lost out on probably the most powerful asset you can have.
When you've got your 1000 true fans and then over time when you get to 10,000 true fans that's the most powerful asset in the world because if you treat it right it will treat you right and you can sell tons of books every single time. It's like clicking a button running and running a few emails. And that's like an A.T.M. machine without sounding too spammy.
Joann: You are the king of email. And part of that comes from your introversion, which I think is amazing. I’m an introvert too but I'm not as good at emails as you are. But it's using that gift in a different way. I highly encourage people to sign up for some of your e-mail lists, just to look over your shoulder.
Andre: And writers have no excuse. There are marketers that buy stuff and I get it. They can't write or they need to learn how to write. They've got an excuse.
But writers don't have an excuse. They've got the whole writing part down. It's the technology part that maybe scares them, or what do I have to or what do I say?
I'm scared of selling my stuff. But people are there because they want to hear about the books.
Joanna: Absolutely. We're almost out of time but you run a company with your lovely wife Anita, called Tiny Little Businesses, which I love because it's what I have and it's what most authors have.
You also have this great course on Lean Business for Creators. You and I and Anita, we've chosen to run businesses but not to grow massive businesses. Not to build out loads of employees and just grow like that but we still love to grow our revenue right. We enjoy money.
What are your tips for scaling revenue but not growing the size of the company?
Andre: It goes back to our principle mindset and just understanding where you choose to play.
Choosing small is a mindset that has consequences.
And if you go the other way going big and scaling at all costs also has consequences. One example I like to give is 37 Signals which is Base Camp. That's a fairly big company. Tiny doesn't mean earning 10000 dollars a year. 37 Signals earn multiple millions a year in recurring revenue but they've chosen to be small.
They've chosen not to take funding. They've chosen not to do the things that many other people would do. So for them, that works and then it comes through what their product.
I think for us choosing to be small and choosing not to have ten staff, which then there's payroll and then payroll requires certain decisions to make. Now you've got to do launches every single month because it's just that hamster wheel that needs to turn.
As soon as your mindset is thinking in a certain way, it frees you up to be able to create and do the best possible job you possibly can. That it's like a snowball because then you can create the best work you can do. And as a result of that, other things happen.
And you don't need to do the big things that other companies have to do to bring in revenue. For us we don't have to drive paid traffic to our sites. It's something that we'll get to when we get to it. But we don't have to do it.
For other people, fifty thousand dollars a month isn't enough to even cover staff. So they've got to go then seeking out other ways to bring in business. They've got to go and do deals all day long and it's hard.
If you understand that you want to play at a certain size and that size can get bigger over time but just be okay with the fact that maybe ten thousand a month is great and I can now leave my job and then just continue to do what you did to get from zero to 10000 a month and then you eventually get more and more.
But for us, it's just been a decision to stay small. We've gone the other way and it wasn't so nice. We just didn't enjoy it anymore. We stopped enjoying what we did. I think that's a good signal. If you stop enjoying parts of what you do then that's not a good thing.
Joanna: I totally agree and again, it’s about personality type. I don't want to spend my time managing people. I don't want to talk to people apart from occasionally on my podcast. Podcasting is how I talk to people and other than that I don't particularly want to interact with employees or whatever.
That management of other people is something that has to happen the bigger you get.
You have virtual assistants, don’t you? You've got a balance between outsourcing and the things you love?
Andre: Totally. We tried the whole hiring full-time staff and although it's a great model, it's just for us. It just didn't feel right. It wasn't what we wanted.
We are the two co-founders and then we have a person that runs our support desk and then outside of that if we need stuff done will then just outsource that. Tech stuff or whatever. But most of the things that I do is what I enjoy, which is all the writing part including the weird images. I'll handle all my on my graphics. I don't have to outsource graphic work. I did it all myself because I enjoy it.
I think so long as you are enjoying what you're doing, you should do it. And the stuff that you don't like doing, just farm it out.
Joanna: You're very good then. I thought you had another artist doing all of that. Your graphics are amazing. You should do a graphic nonfiction book of your work. Have you thought about that because those are big now?
Andre: Most of our products now there's a lot of hand-drawn stuff inside of it. Lean Business for Creators, all of the images inside there are just my hand drawn doodles. But people really love them.
I used to start off with the hand-drawn doodles and then once I'd released that version I would then go back and then make everything look nicer. I would then stick it into a sketch app and then redraw everything as vectors. But then people said, no, we like it messy. We resonate with that. It just goes to show that anybody can draw doodles.
Joanna: Some of your stuff is really good. And that system thinking I think that's what very much makes it easier to understand some of your contacts. Doing pictures really works.
In bookstores now there'll be a whole section of graphic nonfiction books. So there's a little idea for you.
Andre: In fact, I've got one over here. It's the whole theory of constraints. It is a comic. And it’s a business book.
Joanna: It's so fascinating that it is going that way, but I think people do love visual. So anyway, that was off topic but I just was amazed that you do all that yourself.
Andre: I'm a very visual person so lists aren't my best friends. I do my maps so everything is very visual. And then I just write. So that's my thing and it's become part of my superpower if you will. Lean into your strengths.
Joanna: That's a good way for us to finish.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Andre: If anybody goes to TinyLittleBusinesses.com they'll find all of the stuff. Or if you put Andre Chaperon into google and you'll find it that way.
Joanna: Thank you so much for your time, Andre, that was great.