7 crucial marketing insights for creative entrepreneurs (platform building for authors and artists)

7 crucial marketing insights for creative entrepreneurs (platform building for authors and artists)

The problem with marketing is that most of the bad advice works short term and not long term, and most of the stuff that works only works long term and not short term.

People who hate marketing generally fall into two camps.

1 – People who have decided to “dip their toe” into something like ads or mailing list, but not for long enough for them to actually work, and then they complain that those things don’t work, even though they only did them for like 3 months, or only send an email once a year, and don’t even optimize it when they do.

2 – People who tried some garbage, saw it work for a minute, and then watched it flame out, and are now so bitter that they think nothing works, or that something that works won’t work long term.

If they are still doing marketing, it’s at such a small level that they could never survive.

Maybe they rely on newsletter swaps, which only work when stacked with a bunch of other promotions, or they post on social media, which only works…well pretty much never unless you have a stacked profile, but usually they do nothing.

They sure like to tell you what doesn’t work though, and what could never work, just because it doesn’t work for them.

I’ve written two books on this subject, and pretty much dedicated all my free time for five years on the study of building a creative career, and successful people do the things that work for long enough for them to work and while they might try out new strategies, they are aware, for the most part, they will flame out.

Most every successful creative I know has a mailing list (even if it’s a small organic one of a blog that hosts subscribers they can reach during a release), 1-3 social media accounts which have a robust follower base, and run ads at least at some point during the year.

How they function otherwise is different between them. Some have podcasts, or Youtube, or a blog. Some focus on releasing products ALL THE TIME, like all the time, so much of the time that it feels like they couldn’t ever sleep.

Those people take the energy I use for podcasts and doing other things and focus it all on making and launching their products, and that becomes their consistent content.

Some do big launches and some focus on advertising with their launches and keep it small.

But what is consistent across ALL of them is:

  1. mailing list (or blog with a subscriber list they can reach during a launch)
  2. 1-3 robust social media accounts
  3. advertising (this might be Facebook, or Google, or in newspapers, or on radio, or even at conventions)
  4. launching GREAT (not mediocre or good) products often and consistently that their audience WANTS.

Most of them have either a Youtube channel, a blog, or a podcast, but not all of them. In fact, not nearly enough of them for me to say it’s required unless you want it.

All of them do the four things listed above, and constantly talk about how they wish they had done them all sooner.

You can complain about it, or argue, or say it’s not worthwhile to do one of those things, but I have spent my professional life looking for trends in marketplaces, and those four things are consistent EVERYWHERE I look. Are there exceptions, yes, but the massively successful ones all look pretty much the same, though not exactly the same.

Literally, everywhere, so when you say one of those things doesn’t work, I know what you mean is “this doesn’t work for me and instead of looking inward at myself, I am blaming the mechanism”.

I have seen people succeed without doing one of the things on that list, but the most successful ones do all four. Besides, even if you could “get away” with just three, why would you not want to give yourself the BEST chance of success?

Showing up often

The more often your work is seen by somebody, the more likely they are to become a fan.

This is why I am so adamant about a weekly newsletter and doing as much marketing as possible. It was the impetus behind doing 40 shows a year so that I could always be in the mind of my potential fans. There are multiple brands that I have fallen in love with just because I kept seeing their ads all the time until I finally tried them.

In order to do this, you need to have a decently high price point for your products, and high-profit margins, but if you can sustain it, then the more often you can be in the mind of your fan, the more likely they are to buy.

Part of the game is trying to figure out how to keep popping up in the mind of your customer over and over while expanding your reach and remaining profitable in the meantime.

Network vs Fans

You need a network of fellow weirdos to go through this crazy existential existence with, grow with, learn with, and level up with, so you can reach success together.

You need fans who love your work, buy your work, and happily talk you up to their friends.

A network is a finite resource. You can’t have millions of people on your immediate network, because you have to nurture and care for it.

A good network has limits.

You can keep maybe 200 people in your close network at any one time, because you need to reach out and engage with them.

A fandom is infinitely scaleable because you do not have one on one interactions with them on a consistent basis, and when you do it’s often to address them as a group.

Hopefully, your network are fans of your work and vice versa, but they are two distinct things, and y’all be screwing up and thinking they are equated.

If you can’t break out of the “network=fans” mentality, you will never be successful.

Bringing more people into your ecosystem

A big part of success is bringing new people into your ecosystem. You shouldn’t be searching for any person, though. I’m talking about bringing in new, qualified, interested people who are very likely to enjoy the products and services you offer.

For me, I am always working to get new people onto my mailing list. For other creators, it might be a social media page, or following their blog. I am a huge fan of a mailing list, because when somebody joins your list, you then own the lead and can automate the process of turning them into a fan.

However, if you set this up in many ways. The key part is that you need to always be finding new people to join your ecosystem. The more people who know about you, the more people can like you, and then trust you, and then buy from you.

Many people think they are doing this well, but they are not scaling up nearly quick enough to have the kind of success that want to achieve. Between January 1 and February 8, I added over 9,000 new leads into my database.


That’s over 9,000 qualified people who are highly likely to enjoy what I offer, who I was able to send through my sales funnel and indoctrinate into why they should become a fan of my work.

Most of those people will fall off and never become a fan, but I hope to convert 10-20% of them into buyers over time. If I can do that, then that brings 90-180 new buyers into my world. The more people I find, the more fans I convert.

In 2018, I added over 40,000 leads that remained in my database going into 2019, and over 80,000 overall. In December of last year, I cut over 40,000 people from my mailing list that weren’t engaging anymore.

I am always looking for new leads, qualified leads, who will like my work. I spend a LOT of time finding new people and bringing them into my ecosystem. I have a process for turning those leads into fans and those fans into customers which has been systematized over the years.

How much time do you spend on it? How many people have you brought into your ecosystem this year? Do you have a process for turning those leads into customers? If not, then maybe that’s why you’re not having the success you desire.

Quality interactions at scale

It’s not about the quantity of the people in your network, it’s about the quality.

Ok, so this isn’t entirely true. The quantity does matter. However, what really matters is how often you interact with the people in your audience. A huge audience is nothing if you can’t reach out to them and make a connection.

So often people get big lists from my marketing and don’t send emails for weeks after, and then when they do it’s sporadic at best. That’s not helpful for building a connection with your audience. You need to show up consistently, and in more ways than just “buy this from me”.

If you can manage interaction at scale, that’s when you can build a thriving career. There are plenty of ways to interact at scale, from mailing lists to podcasts to blogs, but the key is that you still have to make it feel intimate with each person that interacts with you. Otherwise, people will tune out. Anybody can have a blog, but your goal is to have a blog that makes every person feel like you’re talking directly to them, even if you have thousands of people reading it.

It’s not hard to interact with a couple of people, but it is hard to interact with thousands and still make them feel special.

It all comes back to one human

There is a weird mechanic that occurs when most people start building an audience. As their audience grows, they start thinking of them as one collective, like a school of fish, instead of hundreds or thousands of different unique individuals.

This helps for academic discussions, but it’s important to understand that every single person in your audience is an individual human with their own wants, needs, and desires.

I find it helpful to think of specific people in my audience when I’m writing. Often, I will write a line, or develop a plot twist, for one specific individual human, knowing they will get a kick out of it.

For me, doing this prevents me from thinking of my audience as a collective thing, and reminds me that I’m writing for thousands of individual humans, who share their love of my work in common.

It’s daunting to write for a big audience, but writing for one human is pretty easy. Ironically, it helps people to connect with your work more easily, because you’ve humanized it, instead of being made for an amorphous blob of “your audience.”

Getting Buy-in

One of my key goals is to get somebody to follow me on as many places as possible. Every time they opt-in to hear from me, they are buying into my brand. Buy-in does not necessarily mean buying a product. It means they have built trust in your brand and are much more likely to buy from you in the future. Buy-in now means buying from you later.

Thus, my goal is to get as many buy-ins from a potential customer as possible, as often as possible.

If I can get somebody to download an ebook, for instance, they are much more likely to buy than just joining my list and doing nothing except receiving my emails. If I can get them to join a giveaway, or follow me on Facebook, I know they are even more likely to buy from me, because they are engaged.

The more times they choose to engage with my brand, the better a customer they are in the end.

This is not always true. Sometimes a customer never engages and still buys every time I offer something. However, that happens far less often than somebody who chooses to engage with me more often.

I’m not judging them based on the immediacy of how they buy. I care much more about how committed they are to buy every time I release a product. Every time they opt-in to hear from me, it’s a little commitment that they like and trust my brand, and people who trust me are exponentially more likely to buy from me.

Will they buy everything? No, because some things won’t fit their needs. I write fantasy and science fiction books and novels, along with sell courses and marketing services. Some people do want all of those things, but most people are only interested in a segment of my offerings, and the more engaged they are, the more likely they are to buy anything that comes along which suits them.

If you’re looking for your best buyers, they will likely be the ones who follow you everywhere and join every promotion you offer. When you have that kind of buy-in from customers, then it’s just a matter of scaling it.

Doing marketing consistently leads to huge results

To go along with the theme of long term gains, and to give you a personal example, I’m going to share with you some numbers from this year.

At the beginning of this year, I had 7,834 people like me on Facebook. That’s a LOT of people, but because I run so many Facebook ads, one of the ancillary benefits is a lot of Facebook fans.

That’s one thing I love about pushing hard on the right things because there are so many ancillary benefits.

Yes, I’m sure that some of those people came organically, but most came because I run a lot of Facebook ads.

How many Facebook ads? $12,348 in Facebook ads this year alone, or a little more than $1,000/mo.

I’m actually surprised it’s this low, but then I remember that I run many giveaways without ads, and I took over 4 months off without running any ads.

Still, $12,000+ in Facebook ads is more than most people will do in their whole lives, so I have some amount of authority in this space.

During those $12,000 in ad spend, I moved from 7,834 to 12,982 Facebook fans. This is one reason I like fan pages, because the most you can have on a Facebook profile is 5,000, and I wanted way more than that.

Additionally, I collected 84,273 email addresses for over 200 authors during that time.

I have an average of 75% new with giveaways, which means I collected 63,204 new emails.

However, here’s where things get tricky, because at the beginning of this year I had 24,576 emails on my mail list, and right now, as of my last send, I only have 12,348 on my list.

How did I collect 60,000+ new emails but have half the amount of emails than I had at the beginning of this year?

Because I cull voraciously, leaving only the best of the best emails behind. I’m able to do that because I KNOW more emails will be coming.

I don’t have to be precious with dead emails. I don’t have to horde them. I can let them go because I know what’s going to happen again.

I’ve developed a process, which means every three months, if you don’t open my emails…you are GONE. That growth isn’t chance or blind luck. Yes, some people have blind luck, but you can’t plan for luck.

In fact, two years ago, in January of 2018, I had 1,500 fans on that same page. A year before that, I had barely anybody.

I just happened to keep pushing and pushing until something stuck, and I’m not even close to my goal,

My goal is still 20,000 people open my emails every week, and I’m still just over 3,000, but I have to remember that 3,000 is more than most small conventions get in a week. It’s half of a mid-sized convention, and I not only reach them, but they open my emails every week.

I once ran four Kickstarter in a year, and even though they were less and less successful, launching those products gave me the success on Kickstarter when I finally launched the big one, because I had an audience.

I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing until success came, because I wouldn’t give up, and I kept making better and better stuff until I hit it out of the park.

In January of 2017, three months before I broke through, I had 2,200 emails on my email list.

2,200, and I was desperate to keep them all, mostly because I had no idea how to get more.

Now, I don’t worry about that at all, all because I kept pushing and developed a process that worked for me, based on processes that worked for other people.

I have people who have tried and pushed for 5 years to become a successful author, and because of all that work, they finally broke through, because they kept working and working, and now they are CLEARING, after taxes and everything, six figures a year.

It didn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen if you just…keep doing it consistently.

Consistency is everything in this game. Y’all keep giving up after a couple of rocky attempts, but it takes HUNDREDS of attempts, and trying, for longer than you believe possible before you hit it out of the park.

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