Turn your $16 book into a 6-figure business! Or not.
Note from Laura: Susy Flory and I met about eight years ago at a writers’ conference. Little did we know that a few years later we would be serving on the board of West Coast Christian Writers and creating a writers’ conference from the ground up.
This article is the result of a conversation we had on Facebook. It addresses a topic that makes us squirm: marketers who prey on unsuspecting writers.
I inserted a few of my thoughts to the article, but I’m giving Susy credit for doing most of the work!
By Susy Flory
A blogger asked me recently about a particular Christian author who teaches 2-day sales seminars that cost $1,000; let’s call him Abe. She was pitched by him and she wanted to know whether attending his seminar was a good idea.
Here’s my response:
Writing, speaking, and blogging typically doesn’t pay enough to live on. So, most of us, even those writing/speaking/blogging full time, must have other income streams, have a high-earning spouse, or win the lottery.
I learned this when I met a successful author at a speaker seminar a few years ago who had about 20 books published with traditional publishers, and she wasn’t even close to making a living.
So someone like Abe, who’s authored several books, needs to find other income streams to supplement what he’s making from writing/blogging.
There are a group of men (it’s mostly men; I’m not sure why) who have published books in both the Christian and general market, who augment their incomes through hosting publishing workshops, speaking workshops, blogging workshops, marketing workshops, and spendy online courses.
They sell add-on services like booklets and DVD sets and private coaching sessions (usually via phone).
They find customers through offering a free webinar or free e-book, and through lengthy sales letters that promise they will reveal publishing “secrets” or little-known tips and tricks for success.
Some of these guys travel in packs or mastermind groups and cross-promote each other’s stuff.
There’s really nothing wrong with it, because their information is usually good, but it’s also nothing you can’t get from a good book or writers’ conference.
The hard part is putting this information and these techniques into practice, because their “secret” techniques take so much consistent effort and are time-consuming.
Alas, and here’s the problem: these guys sometimes veer into wild, unsupported claims, such as “Six-figure income” or “Write 30 books in 30 days” (I seriously just saw that one) or “Make a living by blogging.”
Plus, once you’re on their mailing list, they hard-sell additional services like coaching or buying a monthly subscription to an “advanced” group. The upsell offer costs lots of money and is almost always time-dated, urging you to act now.
“Only 8 hours left to get this once-in-a-lifetime deal at this amazing discount! After that, it will be gone FOREVER!!!”
These marketing techniques are quite common; so common, in fact, that there are expensive online courses that teach you how to create your own expensive online courses.
My big problem is that some of these guys – I’d guess Abe is one of them – are making money from selling these sales-y products to aspiring writers and bloggers.
In other words, Abe and his cohorts are mostly NOT making a six-figure income (or whatever they are promising) from their own writing or their blogging.
Why bother with that, when they can make a lot more money selling marketing information to writers?
The BIG secret they’re not telling you is that they’re making money off of YOU buying their sales products. If you want to make money like they’re raking in, you have to join their icky, self-promoting, inflated-promises tribe and sell marketing secrets to other writers.
Typical sales pitches used by these guys
- begin earning money immediately
- explode your sales
THE COURSE TITLE
- “master course” or “master class”
- ultimate course
- intensive training
- next level coaching/training
- proven formula
- proven strategies
- powerful advice
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU
- get results
- beat the odds
- exactly what you must do
- exact steps
- behind-the-scenes process
- everything you need to know
THE BONUS (what you get if you fork out the big bucks or pay a monthly subscription fee)
- full access
- premium content
- surprise bonus gift
- bonuses worth $552.80 (or some other random amount)
THE RISK FACTOR
- no risk or zero risk
- satisfaction guaranteed
- money-back guarantee
THE HORRIBLE THINGS YOU CAN EXPECT IF YOU DON’T SIGN UP
- fail (as in, “you will fail if you don’t buy what I’m selling”)
- If you hired me to teach you this in person, it’d cost a million dollars. So a thousand dollars is the deal of a lifetime.
Verbiage in their multi-page sales letters
- Publishing Insider
- Next generation solutions
- Success system
- Sustainable income
- Thought leader (yes, these people dub themselves “thought leaders”)
- Act now!
When you pull these words and phrases out of the context of the sales letter, they don’t promise anything specific, do they?
Think twice before buying.
- In addition to selling the occasional training course, does this person consistently publish great content that educates, informs, inspires, and entertains? Or has this person abandoned content creation in favor of earning income solely from selling training courses?
- Does this person inflate their claims, sacrificing the originality and value of their content in order to sell, sell, sell?
There’s a tension in the middle, between taking the time and energy to write something great, and making it commercial enough to sell.
My feeling is that high-pressure sales pitch-people who make money from selling marketing secrets (rather than making money from their original books and articles) have given up on trying to create art.
They’re more interested in making money by peddling dreams and get-rich-quick fantasies to struggling writers.
I have nothing against Abe. He seems like a nice guy. But there are better ways to get this same information without feeling pressured to spend four figures by a ticking-clock sales pitch.
If you choose not to plunk down a thousand bucks in an effort to get rich quick, you’ll probably do your marketing the old-fashioned way.
That means slowly building a group of readers who like your writing, who are helped and inspired and entertained by your writing, and who will become word-of-mouth influencers for your blog or your books.
It takes lots of time and education and effort and friendships with other writers and bloggers. That’s what these marketing gurus tend to gloss over. There really aren’t any shortcuts on the writing journey.
For marketing “secrets,” I’d recommend attending a writers’ conference with a marketing track. Or investing in a good book like Mike Hyatt’s Platform, Rob Eagar’s Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, or Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book.
Get Rich Quick?
Writing is not a way to get rich and it’s not quick. But it is worthwhile.
Think of the book that changed your life. Or the paragraph. Or the sentence.
Was it at a thousand-dollar marketing seminar? Or in a “free” report recycled from a marketing manual?
I’m guessing not.
I was in an art gallery once, and seven words jumped off a collage hanging on the wall. Those seven words changed my life. And you know what? There was no pressure. No money-back guarantee. Nothing to sign up for.
Just seven beautiful, truthful, powerful words.
The world needs more of those kind of words. Now go and write some.
Susy Flory is a New York Times bestselling author and director of the West Coast Christian Writers Conference.
Her next book, The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God, features Jep and Jessica Robertson, stars of the popular TV show, Duck Dynasty.
Visit Susy at www.susyflory.com
Amen, Susy and Laura! I’m bombarded with “insider marketing advice for writers” and I’m sure other writers are too. Thank you for your thoughtful rebuke of these practices and providing solid alternatives.
Thanks for your comment, Beth. I received two new email pitches from authors-turned-marketers yesterday.
And how about all the “Oops! The Email I sent you 2 hours ago had the wrong link. So here’s YET ANOTHER Email with the right link!” Emails? The first one I forgave. By the dozenth, it felt like a strategy … or sloppiness … or sloppiness-turned-strategy.
I received an “Oops” email yesterday, Cheri. The sender wrote:
“Oops! I dropped the ball.
A while back, you signed up for some free training or bought something from me. I was supposed to add you to my mailing list to receive my blog updates.
For some reason, that didn’t happen. My apologies.”
I’m SO disappointed that a marketer I respect would stoop to using this tactic. And yes, it IS a specific marketing tactic — it’s in no way a real “oops,” but is an intentional “oops.”
To me, this kind of “follow-up” message shows a lack of professionalism and a lack of integrity. Yes, we all make mistakes and have to send out the occasional “oops” message. But this one smacks of being a planned “oops.”
It made me lose respect for this person. Instead of buying the person’s stuff, I will instead unsubscribe from the person’s list.
I wonder if these kinds of “oops” emails are meant to arouse empathy … to make the reader feel generous and make the sender seem like an “ordinary guy” who makes mistakes, just like the little people (who aren’t making a 6-figure income)?
Ha! I’ll bet you’re right, Cheri. Only one problem. We already know that the “ordinary guy” is a zillionaire. That’s why we signed up for his list in the first place. Because he is so rich and successful, he MUST know something we don’t. So when he tries to make himself sound like an ordinary person who makes mistakes, it smacks of artificiality.
It’s wonderful to hear this from someone with the wisdom you’ve gained over the years. Susy, and great to learn from your wisdom.
Appreciate you chiming in, Tim.
Laura (on behalf of Susy)
Tim, I always thought it would be fun to be a judge and to be in charge of meting out justice. Now I know what a huge responsibility it is and that it’s not necessarily “fun.” But I do still have the part of me that is outraged by injustice, and that’s what activated here. Anyone who takes advantage of new writers (and it’s not just the marketers–there are many other predators around) gets me going. And, thank you for serving our judicial system!
Laura, you can speak for me anytime. In fact, will you speak for me next Saturday at a particular luncheon….(just kidding).
I “second” that motion.
Really enjoyed this post, Laura and Susy, lots of good tips and helpful information. An author friend and I were talking the other day about the authors on online forums who have these staggering sales figures that they write “under a pen name”…but then refuse to share what that name is.
Something Susy mentioned about if the author/writer was really so successful in their business as an author/blogger, whatever, then how would they have the time and energy to create all these high-end, high-pressure courses/coaching packages, etc. to share? Good point. I’ve often wondered that myself!