From Writer to Used Car Saleswoman…

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So you want to be a writer, eh? Well, to be successful, writers also have to an editors, book formaters and designers, relatable personalities, bloggers, content designers, marketers and salespeople…Sheesh. I just want to write a novel. Why does it have to be so complicated?

In today’s publishing world, being a writer is not enough. Writers need a platform and a following…and apparently, they also need to become multi-talented entrepreneurs. The good news is that writers don’t have to wait to get the attention of a publishing house to sell their books. Self-publishing has become widely respected as a way to become an author. That’s great I guess, but I didn’t realize that I would have to spend tons of my time doing something that a) I generally dislike; b) doesn’t come naturally to Introverts (um, that’s why i’m a writer); c) is rather annoying to other people. I have to spend time SELLING. And I thought finishing a manuscript was hard.

Yes, I feel like I’m morphing into the stereotypical used car salesman (or woman in my case). Cue groans and eye rolling. So now my website is a used car dealership and each blog is a used car I’m trying to foist on unsuspecting buyers (just kidding).

When I started this blog, I had foolishly hoped that I could be sufficiently entertaining to build a vast following, capable of selling millions..no billions of my books (Dr. Evil puts her pinky to chin). And after six months, I have 17 wonderful and awesome subscribers…unfortunately, I am going to need better numbers to crowdfund and sell my books in 2017. After eating a slice of humble pie, I realized that perhaps what I was offering on my blog was not valuable to people who don’t already know me and don’t have to read my blog (family and friends). I don’t take it personally. Life is busy. I would be the first to tell you not to waste time reading my blog. Don’t waste your time…just don’t do it. (Does reverse psychology work in this case?) If you’re still reading, then maybe it does 😉

Anyway, I knew I needed to come up with a different strategy to build an email list, which is essential for my crowdfunding campaign (coming in February 2017). The experts say that building your list is the most important thing to sell your book. Email marketing beats the impact of social media by a significant margin. But if blogging doesn’t get people to sign up, then how do I build my list? A quick way to lose all of my friends would be to spam their inboxes with email after email when I have nothing to offer. I really do hate email marketers…Who doesn’t? You buy one thing from a company online and then you get a daily email from them. It’s annoying and junks up the inbox. And yet, I don’t unsubscribe to some of the worst offenders. Why? Because I might miss an offer that I’m interested in at some point.

Many of you know that I am in the process of trying out something new. And it actually has a name. It’s called content marketing.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Content Marketing Institute

What does content marketing entail? Essentially, it involves building content that is valuable to a desired audience and then offering it for free in exchange for email addresses. When I first “discovered” this new idea a few weeks ago, my mind began to race. I thought I might be on to something. Turns out this is one of the most powerful marketing strategies being used at the moment. Small businesses, authors and entrepreneurs are using a powerful combination of free content, email marketing and social media to build an email list and sell their products or books.

I know you’re saying, wow, that sounds hard. Actually, it is not costing any more time than writing this blog. So what do you need for this strategy:

  1. Website – You need a platform to market your wares and build a following. I signed up on www.wordpress.com last April and within minutes, I had my own website and blog with a pretty cool design. This doesn’t break the bank, but it does come with a monthly charge for domain hosting, etc. I’m very pleased with wordpress and highly recommend to any aspiring author.
  2. Email Marketing System – I didn’t know these things existed until I signed up for a webinar with Darrell Vesterfelt who works for www.convertkit.com. The webinar was hosted by Chandler Bolt, author and entrepreneur, who runs the self-publishing school. At the end of the webinar, I was convinced to sign up for a trial subscription (still in trial period). I’ve used Convertkit to send up landing pages for my products where people can subscribe and sign up to my list. So far, the software is very easy to use and the people at Convertkit have been very helpful. Again, this is going to cost some money, but it’s not going to break the bank.
  3. Content – Once you get the two things above in place, you’re ready to produce content, build a following and begin interacting with your readers.

It’s time to brainstorm. What kind of content could I produce that would be valuable to the audience that would want to read my book? As a professor of national security and WMD, there are many things I could offer that might be of value to my audience. I could offer free courses on WMD, deep dive modules, teaching guides, study guides, etc. But many of these things would require hours and hours of my time. I struggled to answer this question: What content could I easily produce (in less than 5 hours) that would have value to my audience? I want to minimize my effort and maximize my gain.

When you’re producing content, its value can certainly be derived from its quality and/or utility. But the content is especially valuable when it is filling a niche, when no one else is offering what you’re offering. That is how I came up with the Technical Series on WMD Issues, which fills a gap in technical explanations that are needed for a deep understanding of WMD. As a professor on WMD, I’ve looked and looked for readings to assign to my students and haven’t found anything suitable. In my technical series, I offer brief, accessible descriptions of technical issues related to WMD designed for use by students, professors and policymakers.

basics of atomI released my first issue of the technical series on 22 August, entitled The Basics of the Atom.  I followed a few steps. First, I made sure that my website provides a brief overview about the Technical Series and what I intend to provide. Second, I built a landing page hosted by Convertkit where people can subscribe to my series. Third, I wrote a welcome email to anyone who actually subscribed to my list and included a free pdf copy of the first issue. Fourth, I designed a quick graphic to include in my social media posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Finally, I sent out the announcement on social media.

Results: So far, I’m very encouraged by the results of my new strategy. Recall that I have 17 subscribers to my blog (after six months of blogging). In just one week, I have 17 new subscribers to my technical series. I’ve doubled my list in just ONE week.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

3 comments

  1. Really interesting blog, Natasha.

    You’re right that writers are required to be many things–most of which don’t come naturally to a typical writer.

    Haven’t heard of the term content marketing before but it makes a lot of sense!

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