How to become a best selling author without doing much? Not sure but somehow it worked. For fun we decided to look at our sales over the last 12 months and realized we’ve eclipsed 10,000 total units (product released July 23, 2017). According to random people on twitter anything over 10,000 is supposed to be a best seller. We doubt that’s true considering we’ve done it but for fun we’ll use that as a benchmark. If the number sounds pretty good to you, here’s the exact strategy we had (I.E no strategy that evolved over time).
Strategy #1 – Useful Information: The first item is probably the most important. The only reason why we’ve made any money off this website is because the information was legitimate. When we first started we had a lot of noise “no way information is true”, “no way they every worked on wall street” etc. Since we have no interest in fame, we did two things 1) disclosed exact compensation numbers each year and 2) met people privately who had no *incentive* to out us. This makes it impossible at this point to say the information is fake. This was luckily enough. The easier route is to always go public at the massive expense of being a public figure (something we’ll avoid).
Strategy #2 – Differentiated Information: While we started the website as a complete joke, it does serve as a strange niche. First people know that the information is true since it’s not possible to get the banking numbers *ahead of time* without being in the industry for a decent amount of time. Second, there are not many websites that are tailored to this audience as most people in the “high finance” realm are generally dorkier. They are not successful in the dating market, are much more nerdy – despite depictions in movies and they are not really all that fun to hang around. This acts a weird filter to the website since you only attract three different audiences: 1) other people in that same niche who agree/laugh/enjoy the blog, 2) people looking to get rich and 3) finance guys looking for basic advice here and there. After that it evolved quite a bit (since we quit) and added the affiliate marketing crowd as well.
Putting these items together, the only reason we’ve sold anything (still small money being honest here) is because all of those niche markets are difficult to fake. If someone tried to call “fake” it would be shut down in less than a few seconds of searching on the website. The other reason is the information is written differently and is quite obvious to the reader that we don’t take it seriously (we just now updated the email side where it says the book is going to be released… we didn’t even notice it for a year until a person commented on it a few weeks ago).
Strategy #3 – Social Media: Social media is free. You don’t have to spend a cent and if you’re not interested in making a lot of money off of something. Just go the social media route. We didn’t buy a single follower. That’s right not a single one. In fact, when you look at the numbers when twitter had it’s “purge” we lost a grand total of 50 followers out of the ~33,000 (not sure where it is today).
Note, we would say our social media following is done poorly. We don’t try and it shows. The right way to do it is by following significantly more people and increasing your brand. We should be following around 300 people (rough math based on current count), but instead we only have 10. The good news? Like we noted above you can still get a decent number sales while putting in bottom barrel effort.
To emphasize this point if we were doing it right: 1) we would follow more people, 2) post more money related items – cars/flights etc, 3) help promote similar people that would likely “tit-for-tat” and link to us, 4) increase presence by meeting more people and 5) of course… create ads and create products with higher price points to sell said products.
Strategy #4 – Over-Deliver: This is probably the one thing we did right. Giving out tons of information that should not be cheap or free. Our products are definitely underpriced and that’s really the point. The only reason we charged for them was really two fold: 1) when people pay for something they are more liikely to act on it and 2) we may as well prove our old english teachers wrong – success! Number one is the biggest motivator. Anyone who has worked in sales knows that a paid for product will more likely be acted on. This is the same reason why guys like Tony Robbins charge more for their seminars. First they can (no idea why anyone pays). But. More importantly, it’s hard to tell someone you wasted $2,000 on something. Note: billionaires and other successful people don’t write books for the money. They do it for their own joy or to build a brand/increase exposure.
Fast forward and think about this. If you’re going to *under-deliver* you should actually charge more. It makes it harder for people to admit they made a big mistake. Like getting $80K in debt for a sociology degree, or paying $100 a month for diet pills that don’t work etc. We can all see how this becomes grey area in a jiffy! Like they say “a sucker is born every second”… they just don’t admit to it.
Strategy #5 – Offer Something for Validated Purchases: Everything gets stolen. Expecting any sort of digital product that isn’t a crypto currency to remain safe is quite crazy. Instead there is an easy way to validate if a purchase was legitimate or not and provide something useful for these individuals. We do a monthly Q&A and while some of the answers may not be “good” we’re honest in all of them. If a question is solid we try and walk through the answer. If it is already answered in the book we direct them to it (not surprisingly most people who buy books don’t actually read all of it). Finally, if it is something we don’t know we always say we don’t know. Many people try to answer everything, we avoid this by only answering if we have high certainty we have a good answer.
The odd thing in life is that if you’re good at something people believe you’re good at other things. Similarly if you’re bad at something they assume you’re bad at everything. Connecting with our prior post, this means you want to make your first impression with something *you’re extremely good at*. This actually applied to the blog. We purposely chose a “regular person repellant” type name and also came out firing with primarily high-end information. Information on interviews that are usually paid for content, pay by banks (paid for content – see Glocap) and finally to affiliate marketing where we left the juicy items for the book. This was the only real strategic move we made, the rest was largely a mess.
Strategy #6 – Failing Doesn’t Matter Much: Unsurprisingly, we failed at almost every angle in running this blog. We know the homepage isn’t set up well. We know our social media strategy isn’t good. We know that we didn’t market correctly. We know that we should expand our reach.
The counter argument: “well if you know why don’t you do it?”. The answer is we legitimately don’t have time and on top of that it wouldn’t lead to a good ROI. This shows since we rely heavily on content to drive user growth. That’s it. We also know that ROIs on blogs are extremely low. We’re actually surprised we sold so many units of a single sku (never intended to write anything but pulled the trigger due to free time).
Anyway. The point is that you can actually sell a decent number of units without doing everything correctly. Similar to our posts on talents, you just need to focus more effort on something that will distinguish you from everyone else. The writing style here is certainly not going to be found on any professional website or mainstream news website. Leveraging that with legitimate information helps create a familiar voice/tone over time.
Strategy #7 – Having Fun: Can’t believe we wrote that. But. Unlike real businesses if you’re only interested in making a few bucks, you should have a lot of fun with it. If we weren’t having fun writing this it would have died in the first two years. We’re getting close to year 6, so much has changed and yet we’re still having fun on this site. Who knows how long it will last but if we did it for the money we’d be poor and voting for a socialist at this point. Instead, if you want to sell some books making some money for a couple vacations, you can have a lot of fun doing it. One of the major benefits is you *will* attract people in your similar level. This has already proven to be true as we’ve met people privately and the writing style/views on life are so painfully obviously aligned that “you attract what you are” becomes reality over time. Also. We’d say that having fun means you shouldn’t dedicate a lot of time to it. If you’re dedicating a lot of time for it you’ll feel the need to do something else and begin to resent the hobby. This has happened to us a few times and that is when you should stop writing and take a break. If a hobby takes up a lot of time you’re literally losing money because you can do something else to generate more.
Strategy #8 – Set Reasonable Expectations: Our expectations were not high. If you have high expectations, then it should surround a real business activity. By setting lower expectations, you mentally treat it in-line with your time constraints. We know. The gurus will always tell you to “Set high expectations at all times! Maximize your potential!”, it sounds good but doesn’t work. if you focus your energy on what matters and treat your hobbies as hobbies you’ll make way more money. Why? You’re not spending equal amounts of time on the activities. If you can make 100x more money doing activity A versus B, you should always do activity A unless you have down time (so you switch to activity B). This also helps lower your expectations naturally. No reasonable person would put high expectations on something they are not taking seriously.
Strategy #9 – Write Even if Unrelated: If you’ve learned something new that is differentiated? Publish it even if it is not related to the theme of the blog. Sure it won’t be your most read post, but it will expand your readership. Some people get upset when we talk about Art or other various topics like the election for a grand total of two posts. But. Ignore them. If they like your normal content they will just avoid that one and wait another week. The people who read the offshoot posts will be surprised that you’ve written on something completely new. Besides, if it’s occupying your mind then it’s likely on the minds of other people as well.
Strategy #10 – Don’t Do it for Money: Anyone who has read Efficiency already knows why we don’t take this blog seriously. It’s not a good business. One time sales do not make people rich. Recurring revenue (subscriptions) or consumable revenue (one time use and repurchased again) make people rich. Also. If you do it for the money you’ll give off an odd vibe that we’ve seen with other websites. No one wants to feel pressure, just use items to cover your hosting costs etc and move on. We used to run the website as a loss (typically hobbies are money losing!) and decided it didn’t make any sense and decided to make sure we offset hosting costs at minimum through ads. It has worked and readership hasn’t changed at all.
That’s really all there is to it. There are zillions of people who have made more than us selling book online. We’re definitely not going to become famous authors in the future. That said, if you have specific niche knowledge (say a blog on enterprise sales or consulting or law) then we’d bet that you can earn some cash from it. You just won’t get rich. The good news? It’ll be fun and exciting. If you ever come up with another idea, you can probably publish something on an annual basis or so. Oddly enough, we should seriously write a book called “life is a joke, $0 to multiple millions” and explain how most of the stuff you think won’t work (does) and most of the stuff that you think will work typically fails the hardest. Then you get older and finally become more accurate.
For the newer readers… if you’re interested in learning more about making money, staying in shape and doing so without choking off your personality (essentially the point of this post!)… You’ll probably like Efficiency, Get Rich Without Giving Up Your Life. The benefits include: 1) How to get into the top 10% physically with one hour a day of exercise; 2) How to eat correctly to be in the top 10%; 3) How to figure out what type of intelligence you have; 4) How to use this type of intelligence to choose a career and the *right* company: Wall Street, Technology or Sales; 5) How to start an online business and sell (the basics and all you need to start); 6) Clear outline of how to create and start an online product business with correct copywriting; 7) How to go into affiliate marketing if someone wants to take a stab at the competitive space; 8) Overview of how affiliate marketing operates and how to do it, 9) How to do all of this and maintain a normal social life (avoid choking off your personality). As a bonus you can read a success story by Clicking Here.