Today we are going to talk about all things writing and book marketing and strategy with my guest, Brittany. Brittany’s latest book is Fall in Love with God’s Word: Practical Strategies for Busy Women. This is her first traditionally published book but she also has several self-published books as well.
Brittany considers herself more of a marketer who happens to write rather than a full-time author and will be sharing lots of advice for us about the publishing and marketing of a book.
Brittany says, “So many people wonder, okay, if I want to write a book, if I want to be an author, which should I do – traditional publishing or self-publishing?
“There are some very distinct pros and cons to both, and reasons why you might want to do one over the other. There are very valid reasons to do both. I've done both and I feel like I have done both fairly well.”
Press play on the podcast player below to hear the full story.
Getting Started as a Blogger and Creating a Product
Brittany didn’t start out with the intention of becoming a writer. She started as a Mommy blogger, writing there as a hobby. Soon she found the traditional advice online that bloggers should have a product. So she created an ebook.
A friend warned her that people who buy ebooks don’t want it to be too long. They prefer something quick and actionable. No problem!
“My first book took probably less than a month to write. I typed up the equivalent of about 12 blog posts, put it together in a book, put a cover on it, put it on Amazon.
“Even though it was a thrown-together book, it did actually become an Amazon number one bestseller. I did sell quite a few copies of that through some launch strategies that I use that were really fun. Then having it on my website over the course of a few years, the sales just kind of came in over years as people would come on my mailing list and end up buying the book.
“So after that, I wrote a couple of other books that didn't do nearly as well because I had followed the same sort of strategy in terms of let's throw together a book because I need to have a product. I would just type something up, proofread it, and then put it on Amazon. That’s really all I was doing at that point.
“I didn't spend a lot of time in product creation to make it this amazing thing. I mean, they're good. They have a lot of good information, but they're not as good as the kinds of books you find in a bookstore.
“They just are what they are.”
Hiring a Business Coach to Help with Growth
By the time Brittany had published four ebooks, she realized that she was not going to be able to make a living this way. So the next step for her was to hire a business coach.
“I had hired a business coach around that time, because I figured that's also what you do if you want to grow and you don't know how to grow. You hire somebody who is further ahead of you.
“I asked her what I should do and she advised me not to pursue traditional publishing. She told me that when you work with a traditional publisher, and there is some grain of truth to this, they don’t really market the book for you. They only want people who have a big platform. And if you have that platform, you might as well just publish it yourself.”
Combining Traditional and Self-Publishing to Get the Best of Both Worlds
Another author told Brittany that she was finding success with traditional publishing and also with combining traditional and self-publishing together. Brittany headed down that path too and has done very well.
Benefits of Self-Publishing
- It is very cheap and easy to get started. Your book can be available quickly.
- It is easy to reach a niche audience.
- It is faster which is important if your content is time-sensitive.
Benefits of Traditional Publishing
- The end product is higher quality because it has gone through multiple rounds of edits, with input from many different people along the way.
- Traditional publishers have a bigger budget and can pay for things like editors and publicists.
- They will help you with things like cover design and marketing and things that writers don’t know a lot about or aren’t as skilled at. Writers write.
“There are so many things to think about when deciding which publishing route to pursue.
“How much control do you need over this? How big of a project do you want it to be? Do you want it to just be something that you're throwing together and selling on your website? There is definitely a time and place for that.
“Or do you want this to be a book that you invest three years of your time into? Are you prepared for the level of scrutiny that will go into it? But then it's going to be in bookstores and libraries!”
Self-Publishing Doesn’t Have to Be a Solo Endeavor
With traditional publishing, you have a team of professionals working together to bring your book to life. Self-publishing can also involve a team, but it is not cheap and you are paying all of these professionals yourself, in advance.
“Often, if I'm investing thousands of dollars in this self-published book, I don't know if I'm gonig to get that back. Especially if you're a first-time author and you're just getting started. That's a big investment. What if nobody buys your book?
“So if you work with a traditional publisher, you know that they know what sells and what doesn't sell. They are putting the money up to say we believe in this book, we believe in you. We will help you to get there and help you to sell the books. So you don't pay for any of it upfront.”
Traditional Publishers Help with Logistics
Another advantage of working with a traditional publisher rather than going it alone, is having help with behind-the-scenes logistics. The publisher has a legal team to make sure everything is covered legally. They also have contacts with Amazon and other bookstores and can manage things like inventory level and coupon codes.
“There are all of these things behind the scenes that you wouldn't necessarily think of, and you may not need all of them for self-publishing, because you can kind of figure it out for yourself. But it's just nice to have that team behind my back, making sure that all of the logistics are taken care of.”
Marketing Her Book With an Online Conference
Brittany decided that she wanted to create an online conference to promote her book. She and 19 other people pre-recorded a session that was posted on the conference website. Tickets to the conference were free but the videos were only available for 24 hours.
“The reason that I wanted to do this for free was that I wanted it to to be very shareable. I wanted to bring in as many people as possible because I'm using this to market the book and I want to get the word out.
“So I figured if I do a free conference, people are going to be way more likely to sign up. Because you know, why wouldn't you sign up for a free conference, even if it's not that good? It was amazing but even if it wasn't that good, you have nothing to lose-it's a free conference.
“People are more likely to tell their friends about it, too. If it was a $50 conference, are you going to go tell all your friends? No, probably not. But hey, I just signed up for this free conference, maybe you want to come to it's free? That’s an easy sell. It also made it easier for affiliates, because they could share all of the speakers and we had other affiliates as well. We just reached out to people who we thought might do a good job and be interested and said, Okay, just send your people our way. And we will take care of the rest.
“My publisher also had a lot of contacts in the Christian living arena and was able to spread the word that way as well.
“The idea was to just get the word out and get as many people as possible because every time people sign up, they go on my email list. So I just increased my email list by about 9,000 people just by hosting this free conference.”
Selling an All-Access Pass Brings in Revenue
“We offered the conference for free to get as many people in the doors as possible. But then we also added an all-access pass, which was a paid ticket. So if people wanted to upgrade then they could purchase the all-access pass which includes a print copy of the book, as well as the ability to watch each of the videos for a year plus entrance into my membership community for three months.
“They also got a ton of bonuses from the speakers. My speakers were amazing and very generous and they would say, Hey, I have this thing I usually charge for but you can include it in your all-access pass for free.
“So my hope was that even if there were people who may not rush out to buy the book, that when they see the book in terms of this huge bundle that we sold for around $40 that includes a print book with shipping they would be interested. Like that's a fantastic deal.
“I definitely underpriced it probably under what I should. But I was okay with doing that because I am trying to sell books. And it worked really well.”
Pre-Orders Are Important For Book Sales
“Pre-orders are important for book sales because they tell bookstores how many copies to have in stock. They also count towards best-seller lists and things like that.
“I generated over 1,000 pre-orders with my conference plus added all those people to my email list. Even if they didn’t upgrade to the all-access pass, they will still be offered the book again and other products of mine through my emails.”
It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect – Start With What You Have
“Throwing an online conference is hard. Creating this book is hard. You can get so caught in the weeds of all the details, but start with what you have.
“I didn't have a fancy name for my conference. But that's cool because I still had a conference and we still sold lots of books. My first self-published book wasn't very fancy at all. But I still have that self-published book, and it still makes me money.
“So you don't have to start with, okay, let's do it perfectly the first time. Start with what you have and you can always build from there.”
Customers Need a Compelling Reason to Buy Your Book
As authors and publishers, we can get caught up in pre-sales and numbers. But the truth is that people don’t need to pre-order the book, right? They can buy it any time after it’s released or even get it from the library. So you have to give them a compelling reason to pre-order the book.
“There are so many things that authors do in order to push pre-orders and I'm doing them too. We're going to have a book club in February with the book, which will be great, because that will be another time-sensitive thing because you have to buy the book before the book club starts in order to join us and we'll all read through it together. I think that'll be a lot of fun and it gives them that deadline.
“But if people don't have the deadline or a very compelling reason that they have to do this now, then they're not going to because there are so many things vying for our attention every time we get online. There are a billion articles we could read, there are a billion Facebook ads in our newsfeed, there are all the products, all the things. Why are they going to take action on yours?
“So you have to give them a very compelling reason and a deadline so that it gets them to take action.”
Logistics of Shipping Pre-Orders
Shipping pre-orders can get complicated and tedious. Brittany opted not to ship them out from her own home and instead searched for bookstores that would be willing to ship them for her. She was not able to find a single shipper option and will consequently be doing a lot of follow-up work to get all the books shipped post-conference.
“The alternative for me was if I had the conference, and I sent them to Amazon to buy the book, how many people are going to click through and actually buy it? And even if I send them to Amazon, they’re likely to get lost in all the shiny things to buy on Amazon. They're going to go buy other things.
“I wanted to make sure since I'm doing this conference that they buy my book. I want them to go buy my book because I believe in it. I believe in this message of fall in love with God's word that it will truly help people. And I want them to have it. So for me, it was definitely more complicated.
“I want to encourage people that if this sounds way too complicated and way too much work for you, you can do it a different way. It’s a strategy that I used this time knowing that it would be a lot of work. It turns out I didn't realize exactly how much work it would be but ultimately I knew that for me, it would be worth it. Because my goal was to sell books and I didn't want the drop-off that comes when you send people to Amazon to order it themselves and they get distracted.”
Combining Traditional and Self-Publishing to Extend Your Impact
As we mentioned already, traditional publishing has a ton of benefits. They will help you get greater reach and they will help you do all the things.
But for Brittany, there’s more to it. She wants to do more than just sell books. She wants to serve the community and she wants to help women fall in love with God's word.
“If all I do is sell them one book, I feel like I could serve them so much more. I want to do more for that community and I'm able to do that with my email list. When people get on my email list, I can tell them about the book. And I can tell them about our membership and all the courses and other things we have. I can email them every week so it’s not just a one-time interaction.
“Once upon a time, I was just a young Christian girl who saw these Christian women, and I wanted to be like them but I didn't know how to get there. And so now I get to provide that for women. I love saying, okay, here's how other women do things, and here are some other ideas. And that's why I love to be that voice of encouragement that says, Oh, you have a question about this, I can help you with that.
“And you can't do that as well with traditional publishing. Because if somebody walks into a Barnes and Noble and purchases my book, I give them what's in the book, but I can't follow up with them. So one of the things that I love about traditional and self-publishing is that it combines the benefits of both. I am working with a traditional publisher on my book but from the very beginning I told them that I wanted to self-publish a workbook alongside the book.
“The first half of my book is about how to get started reading God’s word more. The second half of the book is how to put it into practice and stick with it. So all of that content is in the book. However, I do this all the time and you probably have too, where I read a book, and I'm loving the ideas but I struggle to actually take action on them.
“I'm not just trying to sell books here. I want to help women fall in love with God's word. I want them to actually read their Bibles after having read my book. I want them to do something about it. So that’s where the workbook comes in.
“Because of copyright issues and other things, I had to work with the publisher on the workbook idea right from the beginning. I offered it to them first but if they didn’t want to publish a workbook, I was going to do it myself.
“The published opted not to do the workbook and gave me permission. Now it’s also on Amazon and when people buy the book, the workbook gets suggested to them as well.”
Secrets of Book Advances and Royalties
A little-known fact is that very rarely do any authors sell more books than the advance payment. The advance on the book is all the money they ever see for sales of that book.
Brittany was able to use the advance payment for her book to pay for creation of the workbook. Now she is essentially selling two books to one customer and making more money on the self-published workbook as well.
“I'm selling two books instead of just one. I'm getting people on my email list, and I'm serving my customers better. Because it's not just a book, it's a workbook, and it's printables. And it's an email community and all of these things that I'm walking alongside women and saying, I want you to have this, I want you to do this, and I will give you all of the things. But please don't just read a book – fall in love with God's word and use it to change your life. And I'm going to show you how.”
Creative Marketing and Capturing Leads
Brittany has certainly given us lots of unique marketing ideas around books and growing an email list. Not only does she sell the book and the workbook, but she also has pieces of the workbook available in stand-alone places where she can bring people from the single workbook page exercise into the larger product, selling them the whole workbook and the book too.
“I don't want people to get overwhelmed and be like, Oh, my goodness, all the things! You don't have to do all the things. I love marketing, I love doing this kind of stuff. I think it's really fun to figure out, Okay, how can I get the word out there? How can I use what I have? How can I do all of these things? You don’t have to do ALL of the things.
“What I think really makes a difference is making sure that the things you are doing are things that will actually benefit your audience. Because there are a lot of strategies out there that include throwing together a short ebook to use as a lead magnet for a full, expensive course.
“Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But I've seen so many people do that in a way that did not serve their audience – they just threw something together. You want to make sure you are doing these kinds of things in a way that actually serves your audience and that is actually helpful for people.”
Connect with Brittany
Read the first chapter of the book online