As the last one of our bonus episodes for Season 1 of the Book Launch Show, Valerie gets to interview one of Tim’s certified book launch coaches, Sue Campbell. She has many years’ experience helping writers get their books marketed and sold, and being a novelist herself, Sue understands the writing process and the obstacles that indie writers are confronted with. Today she walks us through the process of making the first contact with a writer and what the initial considerations should be, including making sure that the client’s website and signup incentives are well set up. We also talk about blogging and whether it’s really necessary for writers to spend hours creating content that might not be read and talk about Amazon and other platforms and how marketing on them should be approached. Sue also shares why writers have to market their own books, take responsibility for the outreach process and the various ways that having a coach can help them be more successful. Don’t miss out on the very last episode of Season 1!
Key Points from This Episode:
- A consultation call as the first step for writers and book marketers to get into contact.
- Using Tim’s connection system and organizing tasks in the right buckets.
- Permission assets to consider: the writer’s website, signup incentives and email.
- What the bare bones of your website entail.
- Why blogging is not something every writer should do and what to save your content for.
- The type of questions to ask a book launch coach before starting off.
- Why Sue’s group coaching is a more viable and beneficial option for many writers.
- Long and short term strategies and why Amazon or the next big platform is not everything.
- Why it is absolutely crucial for writers to do their own marketing.
- Practical advice for writers who are pressed for time and how coaches can help them.
- Switching between micro and macro view and how they always have to be connected.
- And much more!
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Tim Grahl — https://booklaunch.com/
Tim on Twitter — https://twitter.com/timgrahl
Valerie Francis — https://valeriefrancis.ca/
Valerie on Twitter — https://twitter.com/valerie_francis
The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast — https://valeriefrancis.ca/podcast/
Running Down a Dream — https://www.amazon.com/Running-Down-Dream-Winning-Creative/dp/1936891557
Sue Campbell — https://www.pagesandplatforms.com/book-marketing/
Steven Pressfield — https://stevenpressfield.com/
[0:00:00.3] VF: Hello and welcome to the Book Launch Show. My name is Valerie Francis and this week, in the final bonus episode of the season, I’m chatting with one of Tim’s certified book launch coaches, Sue Campbell. I know I’m pretty lucky to have access to Tim every week. I really do know that. Many of you have told me that this podcast is helping you with your own book marketing. But there are only so many hours in the day and sooner or later, you’re going to need to hire help.
When that time comes, you need to know what kinds of things a book marketer can and can’t do for you and what questions you need to ask before hiring them. That’s what this episode is all about. Sue has 10 years’ experience as a content marketer and she’s a novelist in her own right. She knows what kinds of challenges we’re facing.
She was kind enough to sit down with me and chat about some of the things she does with clients and what we, as fiction writers, can expect when we work with a pro. Okay, let’s jump in to the episode and get started.
[0:01:04.8] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Book Launch Podcast, helping authors launch and market their books.
[0:01:11.6] VF: Today, I have with me, one of Tim’s certified book launch coaches. Sue Campbell, how are you, Sue?
[0:01:18.3] SC: I’m great Valerie, how are you today?
[0:01:20.3] VF: I’m fine, thank you. I wanted to talk to one of the certified coaches because it can be really intimidating for an author who is sort of really busy just trying to learn how to write the book to then wrap their heads around marketing. Lots of times, well, for me anyway, in my situation. But also with a lot of the writers that I know, we didn’t even know what questions to ask someone who knew about book marketing, we didn’t know if the person knew what they were talking about.
We were just coming at it so cold that it was completely overwhelming. I thought it might be kind of fun to just have a chat about that it’s like to be a certified book launch coach, the types of things that you can do for writers when you’re working with them and all that kind of stuff, sounds good?
[0:02:13.9] SC: That sounds great.
[0:02:14.5] VF: All right. Well let’s start at the beginning. When you work with a client, when someone calls you and said they want to work with you. Where do you start with them, what’s step one?
[0:02:27.4] SC: Step one is just a free phone call, right? I just hop on the phone with someone. If they have time, they can send me any information and then email ahead of time about their particular situation. But I really just want to get on the phone and see where they’re at with their book marketing and then I always give them an overview of the connection system, right?
Tim’s beautiful connection system which should be your underlying strategy for everything. I walk them through to make sure we’re on the same page about the kind of approach that we’d be taking if we work together. That’s step one. I get to know about them, their book, their career, what do they want out of the book, right? Not just about how many copies do you want to sell, you know, how do you want someone to feel at the end of the book. Five years from now, what do you want the book to be doing? Where do you want it to be, who do you want to have read it? All of those kinds of things. That’s how it usually starts.
[0:03:24.8] VF: When you explain the connection system to people, can you see the light bulb going on for them?
[0:03:29.1] SC: I can see the lightbulb going on but there usually is the process of just getting familiar with the pieces and how does what you’ve been doing or what you think you have to do, how does that fit in, right? Valerie, I’m a great listener to the podcast so in that early episodes when you were trying to say, okay, this is content or this is outreach or this is permission and Tim was like no, that’s really common and –
It just takes a little getting used to, to try to put things into the right bucket, right? What I like to tell people too and maybe I’m jumping ahead here is your permission, you’re going to set it and forget it, right? You’re going to get it set up and then you’re going to focus on other areas.
You’re going to be delivering content to the people on your list but really, what I want people to do is put most of their energy into outreach and the content that you’re developing should be going into your outreach channels because that’s where the growth is.
[0:04:32.4] VF: All right, building on that, when you deal with a writer, where do you start with them, once you’ve had your consultation call, do you start with the permission like the getting the email list setup and organized on their site, is that where you start?
[0:04:46.6] SC: It depends on the writer, but let’s pretend just for the sake of helping somebody who is starting from ground zero. If we were doing one on one work together, it would be kind of similar to what you and Tim are doing, right? We start with the permission, every time. I’ll go through an audit and make sure that they have what they need to have.
Do they have a website, does it look decent, right? It doesn’t have to be super big and fancy, it needs to look professional but it can be very simple and spare, really. Do they have enough places where the signup form is appearing. Do they have a good signup incentive that’s actually tied to the book that they’re writing, right? Or the book that they’re promoting or launching.
Looking at all of those permission assets and making sure they’re setup well, do they have a welcome email sequence that works, right? Can we improve any of these pieces, can we tweak them so that they convert better or they speak to the right people more effectively?
[0:05:46.4] VF: Now, when you’re talking to them about their website, because you know, Sue, I nearly went bananas working online, because I had my site developed organically. I think I started it in 2011 and it was just a blog, right? I sort of started to build pieces on it as I went along. It was very much a patch work quilt, it’s a necessary evil.
I kind of look at it like my taxes, right? I don’t want to spend a lot of time at it, I just have to do it. The sooner I can get to the point where I can offload it to someone else, the happier I am. When Tim was working with me, I mean, the first thing we had to do was kind of untangle the mess that I had or the thing that didn’t really fit together very well.
We had to sort all that out first. That took a while. If someone is starting from scratch, you said a minute ago, it doesn’t have to be a fancy website, it can be a bare bones site, what is bare bones to you?
[0:06:45.4] SC: Bare bones, I can talk about it briefly and then I actually do have an article about what do you actually need for your author website.
[0:06:52.5] VF: Okay.
[0:06:53.1] SC: Bare bones is you need a home page, obviously, you need to have a mailing list setup, you need an about page, about you as the author, you need a book description page and you need to have a place where they can contact you, book you for events that kind of thing. That’s really about it.
You can have a blog; you don’t have to have a blog. Again, depending on what you’re writing about, who you are as a person, how much you like blogging, these would be things that we would talk about to figure out if you should have a blog or not. Not every writer needs to.
[0:07:30.6] VF: Right, these are things that Tim and I were trying to hash out as well. You know, I had a blog and I was used to blogging and I did it, I did it consistently when I first started because that’s all it was. It wasn’t anything else. But I’m glad to hear you say that it isn’t necessary when you start. Because this is – I keep coming back to the word overwhelming because that is the feeling I have all the time in this industry, right?
We start out and all we want to do is write stories, that’s it. We discovered that that thing grows. It’s not just about sitting down and writing a book, you got to learn how to write the book and that requires all this big study and then you got to learn how to sell the book and that requires a whole bunch of big study and a whole bunch of stuff to learn.
It’s not a learning curve, it’s a vertical line straight up all the time. I really like what you’re saying that you don’t have to go from zero to a hundred immediately, you can start with the bare essentials of a website and add to it as you go, right?
[0:08:38.4] SC: Yes, the part of the problem with saying I have to have a blog, is as a writer, you’re going to make sure that blog is great and you’re going to invest a bunch of time in writing blogpost that nobody’s going to see. Because you haven’t built an audience yet. You’re going to get exhausted on content that isn’t really going to serve you because there’s no one there to see it.
That’s why I like to save your content juice for your outreach efforts, right? Go and write a guest post on somebody else’s blog who already has the type of audience you want. Don’t burn yourself out on your own site when there’s nobody there. You know, craft beautiful talking points for the podcast that you’re going to go on or make videos that you could put out and distribute through someone else or interviews where you’re capturing someone else’s audience, right?
Otherwise, you’re just going to burn out, you’re not going to have time for marketing and you’re going to say it doesn’t work, right? Because I did all of that and no one’s finding me, right? Because you’re not going out and doing the outreach. That is the danger of websites and blogs is that they’re a great place to honor resistance, to give in to resistance, right?
[0:09:51.4] VF: That’s right.
[0:09:52.3] SC: Cause you can tell yourself, you’re doing something but really, you are just wasting your energy because you’re scared to go out into the outreach.
[0:09:59.8] VF: When someone approaches you or if someone listening to this is thinking, you know, I would really love to work with a book launch coach, what kinds of questions should they be asking when they contact you or someone who can help them?
[0:10:12.8] SC: Well, first you want to make sure that the person actually has an underlying strategy, right? That they’re not just spouting all the latest tactics that you can just Google and read, right? What’s the underlying strategy that you’re using, why are you using it, how has it worked well for other clients, those types of questions. The other thing I really want to get at for most writers, most of us, I’m a writer too.
Our B and C list writers. Most writers are not going to be able to hire me to do an entire book launch for them, right? They certainly aren’t going to be able to afford to hire Tim to do one. What can that coach do for you that can get you further down the road for a decent amount of money.
When I trained under Tim, I was so excited to help fiction authors, right? Fiction authors aren’t where the money is for book launch coaches, right? It’s the business books and the big launches of nonfiction that are the most lucrative, because those are the people who get the good advances and can reinvest that money into a book launch.
I was very disappointed to hear this. I was cracking my head, trying to figure out, well, how can I also work with fiction authors? I love nonfiction too but I’m a fiction writer, how can I help my people? I put together like group coaching, right? Look for a way that you can leverage other people and you all pay in a little bit instead of writing one monster check yourself and then you also can leverage the brain power of that group of people and you get even more eyes on your stuff.
More people saying, have you thought of this person as an influencer? You can really leverage hive mind and get the absolute most bang for your buck with group coaching. That’s what I started doing for fiction authors, in particular but nonfiction people are also in my group coaching. Talk to that coach and see how flexible they are with the type of writer you are and the type of time that you have and the type of marketing mindset that you have, right?
If they are just full steam ahead with all of these Amazon tactics and meta data and all the stuff, is that really a fit for you, right? You have to evaluate any coach that you’re talking to, one to one to see if you can work well together.
[0:12:38.8] VF: As a coach, do you behave the way Tim is with me, like Tim isn’t actually doing the work for me, he’s saying, he’s pointing me in a direction and saying, go forth, go do it and come back. Is that how you deal with your clients?
[0:12:54.5] SC: It depends on the clients. I offer sort of from soup to nuts, right? Some of my clients, we just talk on the phone, maybe once a month and we say, what have you done since the last time we talked, what are the results you’ve gotten from it, okay, now go do this. Very much like what you and Tim do.
Then there are other folks who they’ve got a book launch coming up and they need help at like actually executing on their big list of stuff that needs to happen. I will also get down in the weeds and have all your passwords and be helping you with social and helping you create images in Canva and along with all those strategy pieces, just helping you to actually execute as well.
I think most of our coaches are probably like that where they have a range of things but they’ll do and it depends on the client and the budget and some other factors.
[0:13:43.7] VF: One of the reasons I kept getting confused and overwhelmed is because a lot of what we’re hearing in you know, the community. Just sort of listening to what others are saying as they’re trying to learn. A lot of what I was hearing, although I didn’t understand it at the time, was about tactics and it was a lot about gaming the system and it was all about Amazon algorithm and you know in sheer frustration one day I said, “Well who cares? Well surely this can’t be a winning long term strategy” and that is just my gut instinct speaking because it certainly wasn’t experience or knowledge. It was just gut instinct. It didn’t make sense to me because when I go into Amazon or Kobo or whomever, usually I go in looking for a particular author.
I am not going in there just to see what pops up or do you know look at the also bots or that kind of stuff. I am going in to look for someone in particular or a particular book and when I came across Tim, he was one of the very few people who was talking about this bigger picture strategy, right? And since then, I learned about Seth Godin who is even more global because he is talking across all industries whereas Tim is just speaking to our industry.
When you’re dealing with clients, how many of them come in, because when I am talking to people I feel a little bit like a lone wolf when I talk about bigger picture marketing strategies because immediately people want to talk to me about how to tweak my keywords, how to fix my author page, how to – I got to publish every 30 days or whatever. I don’t even know if the publish every 30 days is still a thing. It used to be a thing. I just stopped listening to all of that.
So when clients come to you, is that still the mindset or have people woken up a little bit and thought, “Okay wait a minute, let us look at something a little more long term or are they still looking for the quick hits?
[0:15:47.5] SC: Well, it is kind of half and half because a lot of the people who find me, fine me through Tim. So they’re already drinking that particular wonderfully flavored cool aid but there are people who find me through other channels and they are almost always fixated on social media, right? That I have to have a big Twitter following or I have to start a Facebook group or they are very social media focused and they are somewhat concerned about Amazon keywords and things.
But that is almost too scary to think about. So that’s often where we are starting and I have to start by debunking the idea that social media sells books because it doesn’t. So we start talking, again I bring them back to the big picture of the connection system and why are we using the connection system. Well because if someone reads your book, you want them to also read your next book, right? It’s not just about the splash in the pan, I am only writing one book.
You need an audience of people who just love you more and more over time and want to read absolutely everything you put out. So how do you create that type of audience? Where do you find the people who you think are going to be that for you and how do you get in front of them and then develop a relationship over time. Because the problem and Tim talks about this all the time, the problem with chasing Amazon or whatever platform is going to be the next big one is they can change their rules at any time.
You’re never going to be able to truly keep up and if you are putting all of your eggs in the Amazon basket and they change something on you, you’re fucked. It’s just plain and simple.
[0:17:29.6] VF: And that has happened to a lot of people.
[0:17:31.6] SC: It has happened to a lot and it continues. You know every three or four years there is some big huge upheaval in the indie world because people are exclusive with Amazon and that’s all they have but if you have your own list of thousands of people that you own and you can reach them at any time, that insulates you from a lot of that buffeting that happens in the distribution channels that we have access to.
[0:17:58.1] VF: If I think about this as marketing or sales like resistance just walks right in the door and says, “I’m back” and I am just going blah, that does not sound interesting or appealing to me at all. I mean this is one of the reasons I had to actually get on a podcast with Tim Grahl to get my sorry self in this chair and get the work done, right? Now that doesn’t happen to me when I’m writing creatively. I mean it happens now and then I mean obviously.
But I can handle resistance on the creative side so much easier. When it comes to marketing, I welcome resistance walking in the door. Like, “Woo-hoo I have marketing block. I don’t have to market.”
[0:18:40.6] SC: But Valerie, look at your own, the marketing that you have come up with and the content that you’ve come up with. You have already done this, right? I am a subscriber to your newsletter and I can see the book reviews that you are doing, right? I can see how those books might be feeding your creative process and they are certainly feeding mine when I am able to pick them up and your writer’s life column is just another story, you’re storytelling there.
So you’ve already internalized this concept but you are still labelling marketing versus creative and they don’t have to be that separate.
[0:19:17.5] VF: Well if I think about it, instead of thinking about this as a marketing blah-blah really dry thing that I have to do, when it comes to the content and the outreach, I am an extrovert. So for me, going out and meeting people is a lot of fun. So I am looking at this not as a marketing activity but as a way to just meet new people who are interested in the things that I am interested in. I cannot as an author, I believe anyway, tell me what you think, I cannot abdicate my responsibility for promoting this book and for finding new readers.
[0:19:56.5] SC: Absolutely and that’s one of the things I have to tell my clients when they call and we start talking. It’s like, “Well I am just really busy and I just need someone to do it for me” Well I can’t do it for you. You know it is not going to work. You have to be your own cheerleader. You are the CEO of you, I think Steven Pressfield talks about that too, right? Like me incorporated, right? You are the head of that company and if you don’t want to invest the time,
none of your marketing is going to ring true, right? If I just create it all for you, it is going to feel so artificial. What I can do is help you channel the best voice and find the best audience etcetera and give you that sort lens because we get too close to our marketing just like we get too close to our own story and we need an editor or sometimes we get to close to our marketing and we can’t see what’s really going on but if my client isn’t willing to be down in the trenches and caring about that book and caring about making other people find it and care about it, it’s just not going to work.
[0:21:06.7] VF: What is your advice and recommendation for people who are really pressed for time and are trying to balance working full time with developing their career as an author with maybe raising a family or looking after aging parents or whatever else it is they have going on in their lives, what would you say to someone like that?
[0:21:27.0] SC: Stop watching television and get off of Facebook, right? Tim talks in Running Down a Dream, he talks about track your time. What are you actually doing every day? Where are those places where you’re just mindlessly doing something that is not making you any smarter or getting you any further towards your goal because that time is there. It really is and I am a mother of two children. I have my own business and I am also a fiction writer.
So I am doing my own fiction writing and marketing sort of on the side so I get it, but I think a lot of that is lying to ourselves and a lot of it is resistance because there is a lot that you can do and that is why having a book launch coach is really helpful because we can help you laser focus. So you are not just spinning around feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what is the next step to take. So we can help you be more efficient and use what time you have more efficiently.
And we can give you ideas that you have never thought of because you don’t live and breathe this like we do.
[0:22:31.4] VF: When you are dealing with clients who maybe are shier about the outreach and contacting someone to say, “Would you like to review my book” or “Can I come on your podcast?” What kind – how do you handle that? Do you do that or do they do that or does it depend on the situation you have with your client?
[0:22:51.2] SC: It could depend but just to be as helpful as possible to the introverts out there listening who are doing it on their own, again the connection system gives you a way to make it meaningful in connection. So I live in a house full of introverts. My husband is an introvert, both my kids are introverts and they thrive in one on one meaningful conversations, right? So they don’t want to be at a cocktail party making small talk but if they can have a deep meaningful conversation with someone then they love that and then they’ll go home and rest for a while.
So you can set it up that way for yourself as a more introverted writer, you might want to be more thoughtful about who you are targeting, right? So maybe you cast a narrower net but you find those areas where the person you want to talk to you know you are going to have a great worthwhile conversation. So you are willing to step outside your comfort zone to have that because it is going to be worth it. So I feel like the connection system is flexible enough to accommodate both introverts and extroverts.
[0:23:57.3] VF: So for writers who are starting their marketing activities, I mean we touched on this and we did talk about it a bit already is looking at the bigger picture of marketing and Shawn Coyne, when I was studying to be a certified editor, he taught me about the macro view and the micro view, which has really helped me in a lot of areas because I am detail person so I go right to the micro immediately and Tim is a macro thinker.
So we work together at Story Grid and I think that is one of the reasons we work so well together is because he is real big picture thinking and I am a detail person. So for me, I had to learn about to switch back and forth between macro and micro and I’ve had to do that with my marketing as well and I think the best place to start is this macro view, which is kind of what the connection system is as oppose to the micro view of the ins and outs of how Amazon works, would you agree?
[0:25:00.3] SC: Yes, definitely. You have to be able to switch back and forth but what I tell my coachees especially in group coaching as when you read an article online about what you’re supposed to be doing for marketing, you’re going to ask yourself, “How does this fit into your connection system?” Does this make sense? And also the great thing about Tim developing this is that he actually used data. He tested things and made sure that they worked instead of just throwing spaghetti at the wall.
So if you see, if you are in that detailed list of things you should be doing, you need to know how they tie back to the macro, how does this serve your underlying strategy and if you can’t answer that question, you’re probably wasting your time.
[0:25:49.7] VF: Sue, this has been fantastic, thank you so much for joining me.
[0:25:52.8] SC: Oh it was my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
[0:25:55.8] VF: So if anyone listening wants to find out more about you, where can they find you online?
[0:26:00.1] SC: They should go to pagesandplatforms.com and they should sign up for my mailing list. Yes, and the magnet is a free 45 minute phone call and it is not a sales call. I will brain dump on you for 45 minutes.
[0:26:16.3] VF: Awesome, thanks so much.
[0:26:17.7] SC: All right Valerie, thanks.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:26:19.5] VF: That wraps it up for Season one of the Book Launch Show Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us and for following along as Tim coached me through the connection system, redesigning my website and generally untangling the mess that I had created with my haphazard approach to book marketing. We’ll be back soon with Season Two, when I start putting Tim’s advice to practical use to grow my mailing list and generate sales.
Don’t forget to visit booklaunch.com to get more of Tim’s marketing insight. He’s got dozens and dozens of articles there to keep you busy until we return. If you want to learn more about working with one of his certified Book Launch Coaches, you can find all that information at booklaunch.com/coaching and if you want to find out more about me and what I do, you can visit my website, valeriefrancis.ca.
July 9, 2019