A few months ago I shut off all my sites to client work. Although I still have lots of unfinished projects, there are two big differences in my life now.
1) I have time.
And it’s amazing. I still work all day, but I’m working on projects that excite me, which keeps me energized; and the more I work on exciting projects, the more things seem to unravel and reveal themselves until suddenly I’m working on things that seem perfect but I’d never considered them before.
2) I’m broke.
Not totally broke, but my monthly income is a good 1/5th of what it has been for the last few years, which means, I need to take a look at all my expenses, cut frivolous activities, and focus on finishing some courses and projects that can start generating income.
But I’m not stressed, at all… I’m thrilled.
Previously, I thought I would be taking this time to finish my first novel. I started that. Got pretty far: I’m at 90K of a very ugly rough draft. But it’s good. I can turn it into something about as good as any other YA novel out there.
But since it’s my first book, I want to market the shit out of it: so first I’m building a list of 1000 YA authors to strategize with. Then I’ll build a list of 10,000 YA readers by. (I’m using KingSumo’s giveaway plugin for WordPress, plus targeted advertising, to reach people). Those two lists will give me some clout to run a massive book launch, and also jumpstart a YA focused book review blog.
Those plans are going well, but I don’t feel like I need to rush things. I’m building the foundations of a strong author platform that will make lots of money down the line (assuming people don’t hate my books, and I’m confident they won’t – and even if they aren’t super, there are plenty of YA books with nice covers and 3 star averages that continue to sell well). I can’t guarantee success until I’ve published a few novels, but I think I can guarantee I’ll be in the top 10% of authors in my genre, and earn a few thousand a month from book sales. At least, once I publish my first ten novels, which are all mapped out and designed already.
Maybe it’s been a little hard to focus on writing fiction while I watch my income dry up. Luckily, I have plans for that as well.
A few weeks ago I was at Jonathan Field’s Camp GLP (Good Life Project), where two amazing catalysts plotted a new path for me. The first was Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, talking about how we should all launch some quick $99 video courses. The second was meeting Jenna Soard, of YouCanBrand. Both of them have amazing online platforms, which made me want to clean up my sites and redo my branding.
Jenna is also killing it with video courses and free webinars, so I’ve been learning a ton from her. I had already planned a big 21-Day Bestselling Author Platform course, but after Derek’s talk (the other Derek, not me…) I knew I needed to make 3 much smaller courses, focused on the basic three audiences of Creativindie:
So I started checking out Fedora, an online course building platform… I had been struggling with Udemy, and they still won’t approve my courses because I didn’t follow all their rules (like video length). I’ll probably go back and put some courses and Udemy later – more reach to find new viewers – but Fedora is pretty fucking awesome.
This week I mapped out 10 courses, and finished the first. But that wasn’t enough: I’ve got a handful of pretty cool free courses, but I want them to establish me as a credible expert, so I’m going to start doing 5 minute interviews with amazing people so I can add 10 bonus videos to each free course (and 21 bonus videos to the big, 21 Day Platform Course).
That also gives me an excuse to reach out and collaborate with people – something I haven’t been doing, because I don’t podcast or do videos much. The three free courses are based on three ebooks I have, or was planning:
- How to stop time (motivation and procrastination)
- You are f#cking awesome (do more meaningful work)
- How to buy a castle with no money down (building a community that can crowdsource anything)
I may do a fourth for another book I haven’t finished called “How to succeed at anything on the first try.”
Those are cool, general topics, and I’m brainstorming all the authors and bloggers doing incredible things, that I can interview on those topics. I’ll send a simple email form first for a quick response, add their story or comments to the books (some of which are published but need heavy revision), republish the much improved books with links back to the free video courses, and then add the 10 interviews to the free video course pages.
Fedora has a built in system for emailing students, which means, for this at least, I don’t need to worry about integrating Mailchimp or any email provider: and the free courses are an easy way for people to get to know me, for me to establish my ideas, aims and brand, and also position me as a thought leader and expert.
I’ll also have some free courses on basic things, like book design and formatting or setting up an author website. All that will be happening over the next few months. I’m also attending several more book conferences, am doing several joint webinars (and then I’ll start running my own!), and am also making 5 podcast appearances in the near future.
That will last me until the end of the year probably.
Once I have my courses built, have done my webinars, have added all my expert interviews, I’ll have a pretty amazing platform… so I’ll need to start guest posting to increase traffic. I never focused on traffic before because I never needed more clients. But now that my income will be product-based, increasing traffic increases income, which means I can write articles and blog and that will be my job.
And the courses and stuff are fun, but they aren’t my real goal, they are a means to an end. I need the courses, and I need the income to free my time so I can keep working on more meaningful projects: I do plan to be a full-time writer and write a lot of novels, or at least try my damn best and see if I can succeed with it.
And of course, my big, long term plan is to buy a castle and use it as a co-working space and writing retreat. I made some progress on that goal this week: I decided to accept all the advice everyone has been giving me to just rent a castle first and try it out. I didn’t like that idea because it sounded like a lot of work and wasn’t very sexy.
But I realized, I can rent it out and invite some bestselling authors and celebrity guests, and also giveaway several FREE slots. A giveaway to come live with me in a castle with celebrity authors and learn about writing and book marketing is pretty sexy. That’s a giveaway that will get a lot of shares. I think I’ll actually do that 2 or 3 times a year.
Benefits of the event =
- I’m actually doing something, not just talking about it.
- I’m creating an example of the type of community I want to create.
- I’m attracting people who would support the project (and getting emails!)
- I get to post videos and photos of the event, maybe hold a live webinar
It will cost a lot, of course, maybe $10K a week, but I plan to make it up quickly – if every event adds 10K authors to my email list, and I have a really well-written autoresponder that delivers valuable content, a portion of those new subscribers will buy courses or other things I recommend. 20 sales of a $497 course and I’ll just about make my money back. But since 1% of a list is actually the industry standard, I’ll be shooting for 100 sales, which would be $49,700.
And that’s the exciting thing about this new business model: it’s scalable, in a way that designing covers or working with clients never could be.
Once I reach 100K subscribers on the CreativCastle email list, I’ll launch a Kickstarter project and try to buy a castle for real.
And now I’ve revealed my evil plans…
I’m excited and eager to do the work and transform my blog and my brand. This website has been a hobby site for several years, and now it has to be a business. Luckily, that will mean a lot more great content and probably less personal reflections and brain-farts like this post.
Creativindie is growing up. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the few who found me early on in my journey – and I’d love to hear about what you want to learn about or what I should be focusing on to help you succeed in yours!
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
Hi, Derek–I’ve been following you since you appeared on The Creative Penn and am very impressed with your work. Regarding your plans to build a YA reader following, I’m very intrigued. Is it realistic to build a reader following when you have nothing currently available to read? Similarly with KingSumo, what will you give away if you’re building anticipation for a book that hasn’t been released yet? I would LOVE to build a reader following but am struggling with these very same issues (although I do have two books out and am working on a third). I’d appreciate your insight! Oh, and it goes without saying that I would f#$%&g LOVE to write in a castle. Although not in the dead of winter. Or summer. Will it be insulated?