Newsletter #4 / February, 2009
IT’S ALL IN THE NAME: What exactly are you and I selling?
I have been wrestling with a pack of demons (five different titles) since I decided to focus on my core topic and share it with you full time. What is the precise core of my message, and how do I title it to convey in one sight what I do and why others should want to know more?
Why the latter? I mean, who really cares if anybody else suffers from the same curiosity and passions that I do?
Since we are both in the same shoes when it comes to empire building, we simply have to care if others want to know more, and we must know from the outset where we will build our castle—and why.
We are selling information. Both words are important.
While we gladly give away lots of it free, mostly through newsletters, blogs, and podcasts, the goal is to create a highly profitable empire by helping others do better what we love, know best, and they most want to do.
An example helps here. I suspect that I know as much about niche publishing as anybody else. No vanity. I’ve been doing it well and profitably for years, had four books related to it in print, have given 150 seminars and workshops about it, and have done lots of one-on-one consulting and manuscript guidance. I’m passionate about the topic and the process, and I gladly share what I know, freely, in person and print (including in this newsletter). But when a person needs a four-hour step-by-step seminar on how they can do it too, or they want me to work for several hours or even days on their book, that’s paid work. My knowledge shared about their specific project will make them money, and if they will prosper from it, so should I.
So I must take considerable care in properly naming my enterprise, so it will attract the right kinds of followers for the right kinds of reasons. If it does, I will develop the kind and volume of clientele that will let me offer them full-time attention, plus additional tools to do even better what they want to do. But if I’m careless with the naming, few people or none will be attracted, and I must turn elsewhere to feed my family. I lose, but mostly others lose who could greatly benefit from my being available and fully focused on, in the case of our example, niche publishing.
If you are serious about creating your own empire, you must feel the same way. Information is expandable but ultimately it’s finite. There’s a delicate balance between what you freely share and what must be rationed so you can subsist—better, deservedly prosper—from it. (One easy guideline is that when you customize your knowledge and its application to a specific client project, it becomes private and marketable.)
So it gets down to a name—and why next month this newsletter will have a new name. Let me wrestle for 30 more days. I’ll tell you the objections I’ve heard from others, and why I’m pulled four ways in trying to succinctly tell you what I do, so you can know if that’s what you want or need to read (and hear) more about.
See you then. By then the store will have a new sign!
BLOGGING: I’m doing it—should you?
I confess that I’m seven installments into blogging, with many years to go! Where are those seven short missives hiding?
Why am I doing it, and should you?
I’m blogging because it lets me immediately share even more empire-building-related information with potentially more people, in a general way, than I can through newsletters. (But you guys get the best inside stuff—and can link directly to the best products that I can find for you. So stay here, and subscribe there [free] too if you want to get each blog as it appears). I’m doing it because blogging is a public venue that lets me reach and help the greatest number of people fastest, and it’s a natural complement to newslettering.
Right now, the blogs are explaining the steps one might take to create their own empire.
My thoughts, a few weeks in? (1) It’s a lot of work to do it right. (2) The host, Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) is free, fast, and a bit confusing. If you make mistakes, its helpers are fast to tell you what you did wrong but slow to tell you how to correct it (like five e-mails slow). Still, it is the site of preference. (3) Unless you scare your kin into looking at your blog, nobody reads it in the beginning. You really have to be in it for the long haul to make it work. (4) It quickly improves your positioning at Google.com. (5) If you’re doing it for vanity, do almost anything else instead. (6) And, unless you say something, who cares?
The best guide about blogging that I’ve read is Yaro Starak’s free, first-rate Blog Profits Blueprint (www.blogmastermind.com). Download and read his 54-page e-book. Ignore the Aussie’s mane and youth; he’s right on the button. Better yet, his straightforward, no-nonsense approach will help you answer whether blogging is for you. (If it is, tell me where your blog is hiding!)
Incidentally, see how well Yaro’s free e-book positions him in the blogging world. Once your empire structure is up and working, you may want to do the very same thing about a core topic that your beneficiaries need to know.
PRODUCTS: The toner con.
I hate to be conned. I buy a perfectly good printer, this time the HP Color LaserJet CP1215. It costs $200. I use the installed toners for a month or so, and all the color inks run out almost simultaneously. I get a new black toner, for reserve, and a magenta, cyan, and yellow toner so the damn machine will even print. The cost, with tax: $335!
That was at Staples. Best Buy was about $6 less. I can get the $74 toners off the Web at about $58, and refilled versions for $47 each, plus shipping. My objection is that I simply hate having to pay the cost of a printer at least five to seven times just to use it.
I know, go to options at the computer print cycle and just use the black.
It’s like the gas companies, do the printerfolk wonder why at least I don’t trust them?
PUBLISHING: Time Magazine discovers the obvious!
In the 1/10/2009 issue of Time, three pages (71-4) breathlessly reveal that fiction publishing is suffering its “worst year in decades,” and that while it won’t expire, it is “evolving drastically, almost beyond recognition.” Even with an increase in readership and a global audience of billions with a literacy rate of 82% and rising, its archaic business model (and the current economic doldrums) are doing it in.
The root of most of the evil? Apparently self-publishing. Novelists, rejected by big-house editors, having the gall to print their own books, sell widely on the Web, get an agent, and extort the big houses for contracts for six figures! The result? A new world full of digital books, podcasts, blogs, chapter selling, and more horrors, plus a new kind of literature: “fast, cheap, and out of control … trashier, wilder, more democratic, and more deliciously fertile.”
Guess what? In the empire-building business our worst nightmare is some big publishing house taking a year to like our book, another 18 months to get it out, receiving 10% royalties (at best) of the marked price (figure more like 4% after discounting), and then discovering that it’s being sold, if at all, through display ads in library journals—when our markets are plumbers, tour managers, or pediatricians!
In the meantime, we’ve been testing our markets first (title, cost, contents); self-publishing; printing only as many copies as we know we can sell in three months; sending a pile of the books free to our field leaders; talking about the book’s contents to our associations and newsletters; blogging like crazy; building a newsletter and e-list around the book’s singular contents; selling it by chapters; making the book’s contents available bound, as trade paper, in a three-ring binder, digitally, in software, on audio CDs and videos; releasing updates or monthly addenda, and then offering to teach and consult about it everywhere, in person, by computer, through teleseminars… We’ve even had the cheek to ask our buyers to tell us what more they need so we can do the same with related products again and again. Talk about vulgar: it’s flat-out what empire-building is all about, and if we don’t know that our core books will bring back triple their cost in a few months, duh, we just don’t pay ourselves huge advances and print thousands of copies waiting to be discovered.
It’s been that way for about 15 years, when I wrote a book called Publishing to Niche Markets. I didn’t invent a system that even then scratched its head at the big-house folly. I simply explained an on-going process that was working for us and the steps to follow that had been taken by hundreds (now many thousands) of others, without fanfare. (Who shouts while the cashbox clangs?) Time calls the rise of self-publishing not only “a technological revolution, but also a quiet cultural one.”
Shhh…and stay tuned. You might also take a look at the newest edition of Niche Publishing. Our part of the publishing world is flourishing. The center of our business model is to tell others eager to pay to read and hear how they can do better, faster, and more profitably what they most want to do—and to put that new knowledge in their minds by as many means as they wish.
WRITING: Why bother to write articles?
In the “olde days,” maybe 20 or 30 years back, we did it for money. Green money in check. form. The editor wanted 800 words on “what do you do about grumbling mates?” For $200, we’d head to the library, research grumbling, check the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, interview both the mate of a chronic grumbler and the editor of the Grumbling Journal, type it all up, and send it off. The less we knew about it, the more fun it was to write.
Not so in the empire-building world. You write articles mostly for exposure and for the verification of your expertise by what you say. You might get paid a few bucks too, but the gold is in that bio slug near the title or at the end of your masterpiece. In fact, if your name, some recognition of your uniqueness or prerogative to write the piece, the title of your most recent or most related book (e-book, audio CD, etc.), and your website link aren’t included in the bio slug, why do it? That’s the minimum trade-off.
Your article has to show the reader why he or she should link to your website or buy your book, whether or not either is mentioned in the text. It should show clarity of vision and expression, knowledge of the words the readers use in their field or trade, and a clean tightness in the prose. Open with a sharp, catchy lead. Tell the reader where you are going: “three things that…,” “a new motif for each season…” Interview the top experts, tell stories, give actual examples, use sub-heads every few paragraphs. Conclude quickly. Write to readers who are eager to know more. Deliver it on time and make it just long as you promised or the editor suggested.
Focus on those publications that your empire beneficiaries most read. Your goal is to be on their pages every few months, as a writer or as an expert interviewee cited by another writer. The very best positioning is a monthly column—one that is always interesting or fun or instructive, or all three! That starts with one solid article, then another…
We’ll talk more about articles… Blogs, incidentally, are a great way to show your writing skills and to have fresh examples on hand for wary editors to review.
NEWSLETTER CHANGES: As I mentioned last month, I’m revamping my website—an exciting hassle. The goal there is to convert to the new design and layout by the end of February. (It will be so seamless even my dogs won’t bark!) At the same time, I’m also changing my web server (just done) and switching my integrated marketing software. That will also take place in February, to streamline the service and make it quicker, safer, and more linkable for you and me. Stay tuned if you’re into net marketing. I will also change the newsletter’s title. At heart, though, it’s still me, same purpose, and I’m just as eager to share with you both new and tested information about writing, speaking, publishing, and product development.
ARCHIVE of earlier newsletters