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The Experimental Mindset

I released a book a couple of years ago. I had a plan. It wasn’t my first rodeo. I had solid sales numbers to start.

And then one weekend, I sold 1087 copies of my book in 48 hours.

It was pretty significant considering the previous five and a half months since my book had launched I only sold a little over 3800 copies altogether.

What made such a difference?

Having an experimental mindset.

Writing = Emotion

Writing, of any kind, is an emotional process. It is a terrifying thing to put a series of words together to form a cohesive narrative that will help and entertain as well as, just maybe, change the world.

As the great Stephen King said in his fantastic book On Writing:

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

So when it comes to the act of selling your work, it is also an emotional process. Here are just a few things I have personally felt when marketing my book:

  • Fear – This isn’t going to work. Nobody is going to buy it. Or, even worse, this is going to work! People are going are going to buy it. And then hate it.
  • Shame – My book isn’t selling. I suck. What are my friends/family/colleagues – all those people who think I’m crazy already – going to think?
  • Guilt – I’m not doing enough to sell my book.
  • Exhilaration – This thing I’ve always wanted to do is finally happening!
  • Happiness – People are buying my book and actually liking it!

It’s ok to feel these emotions – both the good and bad – but what causes us problems is when they drive our marketing decisions.

What is the experimental mindset?

The experimental mindset comes in four steps:

  1. Look for opportunities
  2. Try a new opportunity
  3. Evaluate results
  4. Plan next step

Think back to your chemistry labs in high school, if you were lucky (or unlucky) enough to have them. Were you emotionally attached to the outcomes of your experiments? Of course not! You followed the instructions in the book and recorded the outcomes. If the outcomes were right, you moved on. If they were wrong, you evaluated what went wrong and tried again.

2 benefits of the experimental mindset

When you start making your marketing plans from an experimental mindset, two wonderful things start happening.

First, new opportunities present themselves.

Through my experience working with authors, I’ve brushed up against paid advertising a few times and been extremely underwhelmed. Most of the time, the economics just aren’t there.

Most authors are making about $2 per sale of a book. If you buy pay-per-click advertising such as Adwords or Facebook Advertising, you have to convert an extremely high percentage of people to buy your book in order for it to make sense. The economics just don’t make sense.

Because of this, I had pretty much written off paid advertising as a good source of book sales.

However, with the 10k Experiment, I’ve forced myself to start looking at new opportunities… ones that I would have previously ignored. So when a good friend recommended that I advertise through BookBub.com, I decided to go for it.

The result? I paid $160 to promote Your First 1000 Copies and ended up selling 1087 copies in 48 hours. Since I was running a $0.99 promotion on my book (while still making 70% royalties), that means I netted roughly $753.

Also, I achieved a ranking of #95 out of all books on Amazon.com – Your First 1000 Copies is now a Top 100 Amazon Best Selling book. I also hit #1 in all editions of all business books on Amazon.com.

More importantly, it got 11% closer to my goal of selling 10,000 copies.

This happened because I’m in an experimental mindset. I’m looking for new opportunities and am willing to try new things just so I can learn what works and what doesn’t.

Second, it removes emotion from the equation.

When I separate my self-worth from my book sales and treat my efforts like lab experiments, all I’m looking for is data. I try new things, watch the results, adjust and then try again.

I tried the BookBub.com advertisement just to see if it would work. If it failed, I was out some money, but at least I knew that it wouldn’t work. If it was successful, then it puts me on a path to look for similar opportunities.

It was unemotional.

How to move into the experimental mindset

Well, of course, the whole process wasn’t completely unemotional. As I saw the sales rolling in and my Amazon ranking grow, it was exciting! I was texting my friends and driving my wife crazy with the updates.

If it hadn’t worked, I would have been frustrated. Wasting $160 isn’t fun. Neither is being wrong.

However, here’s the important thing about learning to move into the experimental mindset… you have to separate your decision-making process from your emotions.

If something works, that’s great. Get excited! If it fails, that sucks. Be sad!

However, when it comes time to deciding what to do next, remove your feelings from it, consider your opportunities, look at the data and make the best decision you can on what to do next.

Make the decision knowing full well that you might be completely wrong.

You are not your book sales.

The caliber of your writing is not reflected by your book sales.

Your career as a writer is not destroyed by one failed marketing experiment.

Results of an experimental mindset

More book sales.

So many authors don’t try new things because they’re afraid it won’t work. They’re afraid of failure. The result of this is missed opportunities and missed book sales.

Step back from the situation, separate your emotions from your marketing decisions and start treating it like a lab experiment. Look for those new opportunities, try them, see if they work and then use that information to make a new, better decision. If you’re able to do this, you’ll see those new opportunities start turning into book sales.


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