So, what have I been up to this week? You probably haven’t seen any Facebook ads or pages or posts related to my book, and you probably haven’t seen any blog posts about it either… Because I didn’t do any of that.
My first marketing focus: Really good content.
I know, writing the actual book doesn’t seem much like part of the marketing process. But it is. The content is where everything starts. It’s arguably even more important than the typical marketing tactics like Facebook ads, SEO, and influencer outreach.
You can launch a crappy book successfully, but it won’t last. You can also launch a really good book to crickets, and it won’t make it to the big leagues. My goal is to do both. Before I focus on the launch itself, I need to make sure I have really, really good content. Evergreen stuff that is tried, tested and true, and will be for years. Tim Ferriss lives and breathes this philosophy. You can read how he applies it to his books here and his podcasts here.
I wrapped up the two-month-long process of writing my first draft last weekend. I needed a break.
Writing a book is hard. After you compile all the topics you want to talk about, you organize them in a way that makes sense, expand on each thing, find examples, then write it all in a compelling way. It’s overwhelming. Towards the end I had this almost constant feeling that I was missing things I wanted to say and including things I didn’t want to say. It never feels perfect, and even though I’m more of a momentum-maker than a perfectionist, I’m forcing myself to take my time and hold this book to a pretty high standard.
Once you get past 20,000 words, the book itself feels too big to handle. It becomes something with which you have to deal in large chunks. Those chunks grow and multiply. So to get step away from it for two weeks and get some outside input, I sent it to five of my closest friends/family. These are my Alpha readers.
Click here to see how I organized the Alpha readers (they saw this document after I asked them each individually if they wanted to read my draft).
Some of these people are in my target market, some aren’t. I’ll get a good mix of feedback and some time to get the get the marketing ball rolling before I revise it and work with a professional editor.
Now that the content is temporarily off my plate, I can start getting my ducks in a row for the launch. I already have a list of a couple hundred emails from my first book launch. Since it’s been pretty inactive, my goal is to filter out the people who don’t want to be on my list while keeping the ones who do. I gave them an honest update, offered them something they will actually value, and gave them a clear path to unsubscribe if they want.
I’m expecting the list size to decrease and the quality to increase. That’s a good thing. Here’s the email I sent:
I’ll likely send a series of 3-4 more emails to this list between now and launch week with more value propositions, book launch updates, and offers to unsubscribe.
I just sent this email out today, so I won’t have any metrics to share until next week.
**This is Part I of a series documenting my book launch marketing strategy. Click here to watch it unfold live.**
Part II coming soon.
**If you haven’t read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand yet, you should read it before reading this post.
This post is meant to describe how I apply some of the principles from The Fountainhead into my daily life. Not many fiction books are as applicable to reality as this one. Of all the books I’ve read (fiction and non-fiction) this one offers the best explanation of personal psychology.
Rand does this with the use of many characters, but I’m going to focus on two particular ones.
Howard Roark is an architect who was kicked out of college for designing buildings that don’t follow the traditional style. He is the ideal man. His natural state is one of joy and possibility, and he doesn’t really suffer because he believes it to be useless. He views the world around him as something malleable, waiting for him use it to create buildings, and for this reason he loves his work.
He derives his sense of ‘self’ from one thing and one thing only: himself. He is an individual who values his own life above everything else. Love, joy, laughter, creativity, and his work are all parts of this life that he values. He does not spend time thinking about what people think of him. He lives, acts, and exists so that he can achieve his goals. The following quote depicts his attitude:
“…But you see, I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards.”
Peter Keating is very different from Roark. Keating derives his sense of value exclusively from his perception of how others perceive him. Anything he says is meant to elicit a certain picture of himself in another person’s mind. He is also an architect, but he sees architecture as a minor detail in his work which mainly consists of manipulating the perception of others to achieve a higher status.
Keating is a true second-hander. All of his values are held second-hand. He has no true private desires, and he does nothing for the purpose of his own satisfaction or achievement of his own goals. He lives his life with a vague sense of dread which is temporarily masked by guilty pleasure every time receives some sort of external validation. The following quote depicts the way Keating operates:
“Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You’ve wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire, he’d find the answer. He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He’s not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion – prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can’t say about a single thing: ‘This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me’. Then he wonders why he’s unhappy.”
The dichotomy between these two characters highlights a struggle that I (and many others) have faced for my entire life, whether I knew it consciously or not. This struggle can be named many things. Put simply, it is the struggle to not care what other people think about you.
I picture a spectrum.
On one end is Roark who holds his values objectively and genuinely doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of others. Anything he does, he does it simply because it helps him achieve his goals. On the other end of the spectrum is Keating who holds values exclusively based on what others think of him. He does what he does because of how he believes it will make him appear in the eyes of the people around him.
The origin of Roark’s actions is purely internal, and the origin of Keating’s is purely external.
Every single thought I hold or action I take can be placed somewhere along this spectrum. When I picked Aerospace Engineering as a major in college, I did it from the Keating end of the spectrum. The primary reason was so that I would appear to be an Aerospace Engineer in the eyes of those around me. I didn’t want to solve big challenges in the design of airplanes, I wanted to be seen to do so. It felt wrong, but I didn’t understand why at the time. It felt empty and light, as all other actions of this nature will. It felt as if the decision itself was nothing but a bubble of air in my gut enveloped by a thin, fragile shell.
When I dropped out of school and bought an RV to tour the country and share my vision of education, it felt right. I did it purely because I wanted to do it. In fact, most of the people I knew told me not to. I didn’t care. The decision felt solid in my core. It felt as if the decision itself was a heavy, meaningful ball of conviction sitting snugly in my heart. I was nervous, but it wasn’t a nervousness that made me second-guess myself. It was a nervousness that felt more like excitement of the inevitable unknown.
The reality of my life is far from the ideal life of Howard Roark. Rather than accepting that as defeat, or deceiving myself into thinking I never act like Keating, I view this spectrum as a compass to guide me towards understanding my own thoughts and actions more clearly.
I view my actions through the lens of this spectrum because it’s helpful to me. I’m not always on the Roark side. I may never be fully there. I still find myself acting like Keating sometimes, and I’m sure that will always be a part of me. But I’m OK with that since I’m constantly getting better at identifying it and adjusting.
My goal is not to emulate Howard Roark. It’s to emulate my ideal version of myself. This spectrum just gives me clear reference points as I move along in the process.
A little over a year and a half ago, I had a tough career decision to make. There were several options in front of me which didn’t make it any easier. I had just quit my job and published my first book. I could have gotten a job at a startup, or I could have stayed at my old company making a comfortable salary.
I had a vision for education that I wanted to share with the world. I couldn’t contain it. So I did what any clear-thinking individual would do: I sold most of my belongings and took out a loan to buy an RV.
I believed (still do) that most people are wasting their potential in school. I believed that they’d be much more equipped to take on the real world and build a life of their dreams if they went off on their own and didn’t rely on their teachers. This belief felt so right, but it was so unpopular among the people around me. I felt like my ideas didn’t make sense to anyone but me, but something inside me knew that wasn’t the case.
I had something to prove, so I set out to create a movement. I wanted to do this in the most “me” way possible to show people that following their gut instead of their teachers is what will lead to success and happiness.
I’d always loved adventure and exploration, so I decided to embark on a on a cross-country RV tour to spread my vision for education by talking to college students about it. I didn’t have the money for this and I didn’t really know what would happen. I didn’t have much of a concrete plan either — I knew I couldn’t possibly plan that type of experience out from the start. But I knew exactly what I wanted, so I resolved to figure it out as I went. I just jumped in.
You can read the full story here.
Long story short, I failed. I ended up broke and unemployed living in an RV within 6 months. I was forced to paint houses for a month over the summer just so I could afford to eat. It sounds like a pathetic ending to a story, but to me it doesn’t feel that way. I have an enormous amount of pride about this entire experience.
I’m proud because I had a belief and I bought into it completely. I bet on myself. I burned the bridge behind me and allowed myself no way out but forward. I had conviction.
I set out to do exactly what I wanted regardless of the way people viewed it. I was willing to buy into my vision. Failure was a possibility all along, and I was OK with that. I knew I was doing this for the right reasons. Plenty of people called me stupid and weird, but that didn’t matter. At the end of the day, I did all of it for me. The fact that people thought me weird didn’t change the way I went about it, and it certainly didn’t change my goals or my desires.
On top of all the self-knowledge I gained on this journey, and despite my failure, this choice brought me to a group of people who shared my vision for education. This group is called Praxis. Now, I work for Praxis where I get to help people start their careers by relying on their ability, not their credentials. It’s a dream job that I didn’t think would exist.
I believe this happened because of my conviction to do the thing that felt right regardless of all the negative noise around me. Most people drift through life trying to please everyone but themselves. Their actions depend on how they will be seen, and they avoid the potential embarrassment of failure at all costs.
The best opportunities come when you bet on yourself.
April 12th, 2015 was the day I launched my first book. It was mostly a passion project born out of frustration with the college system. It gave me a way to express my ripe enthusiasm for hustle, entrepreneurship, and personal development.
Writing and launching Undecided was really fun and challenging at the same time. It was the first time I had ever published something of my own for the real world to judge. It was also the first time I built a landing page, managed an email list, hired editors and designers, planned/executed a launch, and sold a product of my own. I learned a ton. It had a great launch, selling about 1000 in the first week, but that traction didn’t last.
This year, I’m publishing a new book. I’ve been writing it for the past two months, and I just finished the first draft today. The launch date is set for June 25th, 2017.
I want this one to last longer. I already know what it takes to create and launch a book, but this time I’m diving deep. Way deep. I’m focusing heavily on the marketing strategy.
Some of my goals:
- 5000 downloads in the first month
- 150 reviews
Now, you should know something about me. I’m not a marketing expert. In fact, I don’t have much marketing experience at all. This is a big experiment for me. I’m taking what I learned from my first launch plus resources like this, this, this, this, and this, and testing it on my own book. I learn by doing, and I want to learn more about marketing, so I’m going to do marketing.
I’m also documenting the entire process as it unfolds. I’m inviting you to watch it happen with me.
Here’s how it’ll work:
I have a pre-launch list where I’ll send updates detailing what I’m testing and how it’s working. If you sign up for the list, you’ll get 1-2 emails per week. During launch week, you’ll get 3-4.
Everyone on the list will also get an opportunity to join my book launch group and help me quite a bit with the process. You’ll be part of a core group of people influencing my title, subtitle, cover, some of the content, and even the marketing I do.
If you’e ever wondered what it’s like to launch a book and you want a front-seat view of the process, this is your chance. I’m pumped to share my journey with you. Join the pre-launch list here.
P.S. This is my vision for the book:
People want successful and fulfilling careers, but they don’t know how to build them on their own. They don’t have the skills or connections or confidence to go off on their own and land a job or build a business, so they default to going to college out of insecurity (even though they know it’s not that valuable). I want this to be the definitive guide for those people. Instead of choosing college out of fear, I want to teach them to choose something better out of courage. After reading this book, they should:
- Be certain that building a career without college is possible.
- Be confident that THEY can create it for themselves regardless of biology or upbringing or innate ability.
- Have some specific tactics and strategies in their back pocket to help them on the journey.
“Do you have a card?”
We’ve all heard this dreadfully redundant line thrown around at a networking event. You have an enlightening conversation, exchange cards, and never hear from that person again.
There’s a scene from American Psycho where Patrick Bateman pulls out his new business card in an attempt to impress his colleagues. It works for a moment, until everyone else pulls out their own cards and Patrick becomes disturbed at the fact that theirs are more stylish than his. He starts sweating and shaking. The irony is that they all look pretty much the same, other than some subtle differences in tone of white and type of font.
This scene always cracks me up because it demonstrates an over-obsession with things like business cards, not for their utility or purpose, but for the status they signal. Normal people aren’t remotely as crazy as Patrick from American Psycho, but we exchange business cards with the same intent. We do it to signal that we care about knowing that person, not to use the card for its actual purpose: following up.
I recently threw away all of my business cards and started doing something completely different.
One of my biggest rules for sales is to get the other person’s contact info. Find out how to contact them again. Get in the driver’s seat of the relationship. Giving them your information is the surest way to never hear from them again. They aren’t bad people, it’s just not a priority for them to follow up with you. Meeting friends and acquaintances is no different.
If you value the relationship, or believe it could have some value in the future, get their contact info. This puts you in the drivers seat when it comes to follow up and offers you a unique opportunity to stand out and build some serious social capital.
So when someone pops the question, now I say:
“No, I don’t carry business cards, but I’ll take yours. I always follow up.”
It has been glorious ever since I started doing this. I accept that people won’t follow up. Instead, I assume all the responsibility. If I want to talk to someone again, I know exactly how to get in touch with them.
I mean it when I say I always follow up. Every time I get a business card, I send a nice email and throw the card away before I go to bed that night. That way we both have each other’s information tucked away in a clean, searchable email inbox, and neither of us have to worry about follow up or keeping track of a business card “just in case.”
I use the follow up as an opportunity to help me remember the person. I remember their name, picture their face, and remember something specific and unique about our conversation. This increases my chances of having a better connection with them sometime in the future and almost guarantees I don’t have an embarrassing “Wait, do I know you?” moment.
Instead, I’m setting myself up for an easy layup.
Here’s an example from today:
No pressure. No stress. Just genuine connection and good organization.
I work with a lot of business owners. Most of them are trying to hire good people.
I also work with a lot of young people who are approaching these startups, trying to get hired.
I’ve noticed the thing that impresses these business owners the most is a side project. Blogs, websites, podcasts, side-projects, are all more valuable than any amount of experience or good-looking resume.
I’ve also noticed that young people struggle finding ideas worth doing. Last week I wrote an article about this idea which included a bunch of examples. I decided to take it a step further. That’s where my project comes in.
It’s called Project Every Week. The concept is straightforward:
Every week, I send you a highly actionable project idea.
These projects are designed to impress employers, teach you new skills, and serve as a body of work to demonstrate your talents and interests. The projects might be short, ongoing, complex, simple, easy, or difficult. You can follow them exactly, create variations, or do something different altogether. It’s up to you.
This is less about the project ideas themselves and more about the idea of doing projects. Project Every Week is meant to give you some inspiration to create something of your own. Plus, it’ll force me to be more creative by coming up with awesome ideas every week.
You can get on the list by entering your information below:
You can also check out the list of projects here. I’ve uploaded 3 early, and they’ll start coming weekly on Friday.
See you inside.