Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing.
Julia: Everybody! Welcome back. This week I have a special guest, Karen Anderson. She and I met at a conference back in April over in Nashville, and we connected. I told her that we have a lot of aspiring authors listening to our podcast and coming to us for advice, and she agreed to come onto the podcast. Karen, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Karen: Sure. Well, first, thank you Julia. It’s so fun to be here. I’m really glad!
Julia: I’m glad this worked out!
Karen: Gosh, I have been in the book business for 25 plus years, and so I’ve kind of done it all. So I’ll tell you a little bit about my background. So where I am right now, I’m an Associate Publisher with Morgan James Publishing. We are a hybrid publisher, which I think is the best of both worlds. We have all the benefits of traditional publishing, but authors keep their IP. So that’s why I do it. I’ve kind of done everything that you can do. I self-published my first book when it was very expensive to do that, before Amazon. I have grandchildren, so I’m not that young. So this was before Amazon! Before grandkids, before Amazon. So I self-published my first book, and then I got picked up by a national publisher, and then I did the whole author, dog and pony show with a national publishing company, and then I went to work for a publisher, and did that for many years.
I don’t tell many people this, but if you look, in my first career, I was a marriage and family therapist. So I help people communicate. And so that’s what I did. I went from being a therapist for a long time to getting into direct response marketing. It’s kind of a weird connection, but for me, marketing is really helping and compelling a person to take action, something that’s gonna be good for them, something that solves a problem, that’s what I did as a therapist, I helped people communicate, solve their problems, get to where they want be. It felt very similar. A lot less liability in the book world, to be quite honest. And I loved it!
And so I had a friend who was a publisher, I ended up doing direct response writing, marketing copy, and loved doing that. And then he was like, “Well, do you think you could help somebody write a book?” And I was like, “Well, sure!” And so I co-authored a couple books, and then like I said, self-published my first book, got picked by a house. And then after a career of kind of being on the publishing side, I did a season of family caregiving. It happens. We lost my mom and Steve’s mom and his sister. Somebody had to do it, and I did it. And I think it was probably eight or nine years ago, so I’d gotten everybody’s affairs settled, my daughters had gotten married, and I ended up going to a marketing conference and ran into someone who, short story long, needed a ghost writer. So I was like, why not? Ghost wrote a book, and then you’ll maybe appreciate this, but it nearly killed me. We did it really fast, and I was like, “Okay, God, never, ever touching another book as long as I live. Done with books, swearing off books, never getting me to read another book.” And God laughed.
Julia: Of course.
Karen: And then I met David Hancock, who was with Morgan James, and he was like, “I think we have a model that you might like.” And really having done it all, I really liked the hybrid space, I love self-publishing. But what they often don’t tell you is to be a self-publisher, you actually need to learn to be a publisher. But with traditional publishing, for the most part, if you can even get a contract, you could give up a lot of control and a lot of money. So I really love the hybrid space. And so then I ended up doing a lot of acquisitions, looking for new authors and new titles. And then because of who I am and what I do, I ended up creating a side business as a strategic book coach, so I can help people figure out where they are in the process. And this, I guess, is my biggest claim to fame, is I actually wrote a book with my husband. I’m still married!
Julia: That’s excellent.
Karen: We wrote a book called The Bezos Letters, 14 Principles to Grow Your Business Like Amazon. And it’s done really well, and it’s been fun. Hit the Wall Street Journal, USA today.
Julia: That’s awesome! Well, Karen, you clearly have done everything.
Karen: I’ve done everything. So you tell me what you wanna talk about!
Julia: Well, I’m curious, when was it that you realized, okay, I have this idea for a book, and I’m gonna write it? I feel like in my opinion, the people in my circle, they’re all like, “Let’s write a book! Let’s write a book! Let’s write a book!” How did you know like, here’s something worth writing about?
Karen: That’s a really great question. And I will tell you, I also get that question in a different way. When somebody says I’ve got an idea for a book, but there are a lot of ideas for books, the same kind of book out there. And my answer to the question is pretty much the same, which is, if you want to reach an audience with your unique message, a book is going to be yours when it’s your unique message. So you’re bringing your perspective to it, your expertise. Now, I’ll start out by saying I am in the non-fiction world. I read fiction every day because I believe in the power of story, but I mostly work in the non-fiction world. And for example, you can’t copyright a book title. You’re gonna have a lot of books that have the same title, because your subtitles are gonna be different, your message is gonna be unique to you. And so I think if someone has a message that they want to get out in detail, in-depth to a large group of people, your book is going to be, and again, this is a bit of a marketing comment, but it’s your path of least resistance to get someone to understand you, know you, know your message, and gain your trust. And by that, I mean, are they willing to part with 20 bucks to buy your book? Before they buy your mastermind, before they buy your course, before they buy whatever it is that you’re selling, are they willing to take a minimal risk of $20 for a book? I just use $20 as a round number, but $20 for a book.
And then you actually have that person, and you can share your story. You can share, with a caveat, that it’s all about what’s in it for them. Because if it’s all about you, it’s a memoir. That’s the definition of a memoir. It’s all about you! If you actually have a way that you wanna engage with people, and I love the term lead gen, that a book is a lead generator. And the reason I love it is that’s a way for somebody who doesn’t know you, it leads them back to you. And then you have an opportunity to build a relationship with your reader. And then you have that relationship and they trust you, and they know you, and they know your message. I tell people this all the time; for a book to be a successful lead gen, it has to have 110% value. Meaning you give everybody all that they need to do something themselves. You give them everything. You don’t hold anything back. You give them the best of the best of the best. And then if you do that and you do it well, they’re gonna come back to you and go, “Well, I don’t wanna do this by myself. Can you help me? Do you have something else? What else can you offer?” And so it’s really all about building trust.
And I know with StoryBrand, that you all are supporting, it’s that idea of it’s all about what’s in it for them. You’re making them and their need the hero, it’s their journey. But you’re coming alongside that person to say, guess what, I’ve gone to the school of hard knocks and it’s freaking expensive. If I had somebody to guide me and lead me through this, here’s what I would do. And then you give them that opportunity to be – I mean, it sounds a little weird – but to be cared for by you; by your information, by who you are, and what you have to offer. And in the nonfiction world, if you’re giving people valuable information and you’ve got the time to do it in a book, and you’ve articulated it well, and they love it, they’re gonna come back to you and want more.
Julia: For sure. I love that! Recently, I read something that used the stat, the average book sells 250 copies. They were talking about it from the perspective of like, oh, this is so low, is it worth it? But then the other flip side is those are 250 people that you might not have reached otherwise. And if your message is good, and if it’s gonna help people – I love the idea of giving 110% away. Then those 250 could be leads, they could be people served, they could be people who refer you to other people, who knows? So I love that!
Karen: And I will say too, is that if you’re thinking about 250 people, you don’t write a book for 250 people. You write a book for one person, to one person. And that’s why I would say the most valuable thing is to know who you’re writing to. Create that avatar, and figure out who that person is that you’re writing to. I can’t think of her name. First name was Alice, I’m blank. She was a writer in residence, I think, at Vanderbilt, so to speak, and she was incredible. She was in the fiction world. But one of the things that she did that I loved, is she would create a character, and she would actually spend the day as the character. She would dress like them, eat like them, order food like them, go to the store like them. She would put on the character. And then she would walk around and she would gain insights, because she ended up being that character.
And I actually think that I really love that for the nonfiction world, because if you can actually put on your reader, like who it is, what are they, how are they living, what are they ordering? What are they doing at the grocery store? Like, who are they, where are their pain points? What’s keeping them up at night? What’s causing them anxiety? And if your book is the solution to their problem, then you can write with more emotion because you’re like, oh, this is who they are, this is what they’re struggling with, this is what they need. I think a lot of people go, I have lots of expertise I wanna share, which I love. But I feel that to have not just a good book, but a great book, you really have to balance information with inspiration. If you have lots of information, I’m sorry, that’s a textbook I don’t know about you when you were in school, but textbooks were not my favorite thing to read. They were boring and horrible for the most part. But if you get over into something that’s compelling and then you go, oh, I can do that, then you’ve empowered that person to be able to use your information and take that information and make their life better, and you inspire them to go out and try it, and you provide support for them to do it, then they become lifelong supporters of what you’re doing.
Julia: Some of my favorite nonfiction books are the ones that I feel like I have to pull out a notepad at the same time where I am like, there’s just so many ideas flowing in my head based on the person writing that I have to write them down or I’m gonna forget them. And so, those are some of my favorite ones, and I can see how that would be both like the compelling factor, but also balancing inspiration and information.
Karen: I like to encourage people to read above the room. And by that, I mean go outside the room, watch yourself reading. Don’t get just sucked into the content. Let me back up. Reading as an observer in terms of the writing process. And so, I have a favorite fiction author that I love, and her name is Louise Penny. She is a Canadian author. She’s written probably 15 books. I’ve read them all.
Julia: I’ll have to read hers.
Karen: I’ve read them all three times.
Julia: Love it.
Karen: And the first time I read it for plot, I just wanted to know what was going on, which is great. It was interesting. So I was like, okay, because she’s written so much. Then I went back and read it a second time, and I was reading for character development. How did she position people? What were they doing? What were they thinking? What were they feeling? How was she creating them? And then the third time I went back and I looked at her, I read that from a writing style. How did she set things up? How did she engage people? What was the way she used language? What did she do? And I think, again, that’s why I love for people in the nonfiction world to read fiction, because it’s all about story. But then when you go to write about whatever the solution you have to their problem, you can think about, oh, what’s the environment? Where are they in? What’s creating tension? What’s creating story? How can I make this so it’s emotional? And those books, any good book, I think evokes feelings of some kind.
And so by the end of it, I suggest that people answer two questions at the end of a book they’re writing. What do you want the person to feel? And what do you want the person to do? By the end of the book, what do you want them to feel? Like, oh, I want them to feel hope, or I want them to feel inspired. But then you gotta take them to the next step. What do you want them to do? Do you wanna have them sign up for a free bonus report? Do you want them to be a part of your community? What do you want them to do? So that they get to it, and you don’t just leave them hanging. I don’t like putting the words, “The End” at the end of a book. I don’t want it to be the end. I want it to be the beginning, the beginning of a relationship. So it’s how to evoke that kind of emotion so that somebody goes, “Oh yeah, I feel empowered. I can do this. Can you help me? Can we do it together?”
Julia: This is excellent. I love it! So we’ve talked a little bit about the writing process, like how people figure out an idea, how they should evoke emotion, things like that. Usually, the next step is figuring out publishing. When people ask you, what should I do? How do you answer that?
Karen: It’s a good question. And again, I wrote a book on Amazon, but I also say the good news is that Amazon has lowered the bar, so anyone can write a book. And the bad news is that Amazon has lowered the bar and everyone can write a book. And so I think it depends on what your purpose is. I love self-publishing, and there are lots of ways that you can self-publish. I think it depends on what kind of audience you’re looking for. So the thing about going with a hybrid publisher or a traditional publisher, it’s really distribution. Like with Morgan James, the author does their content, but we do the production and distribution. If you’re self-publishing, you do everything. You do content and production. And so you have to do that all on your own. With traditional publishing, like I said, for most people, traditional publishing isn’t a high option today. And mostly, if you go with a traditional publisher, you gotta have an agent, which is a huge deal, and you’re giving up 15 or 20% to an agent. The advances today are incredibly small. They want you to have a huge platform, and then they take your IP. And I’ve done it. I mean, I’ve given all that up. I know exactly what it’s like. I’ve done it, and how frustrating it can be.
I mean, that’s why I like the hybrid thing. Is that for everybody? No. But I think it depends on how big you wanna grow. If I do my book – and I know I do have many friends in the self-publishing world that have done amazing, but it depends on if you want that to be your day job. Like, you really have to commit to self-publishing, because there’s a lot you need to learn and do. And again, I learned that all the expensive way.
Julia: The school hard docs!
Karen: But I would say, write as if you were gonna get published. And part of that too is, and I would say this to anybody, that the more you write – I think I’ve written, I don’t know, 17 books. I’ve written a lot of books. The more books you write, the more you appreciate having a phenomenal editor. Because an editor, you can’t see this for the forest, for the trees. And a good editor is going to go, “Oh, yeah. This needs work.” Understand that.
I will say the other thing too, and even if you work with an editor, before you go to hit the publish button, whether it’s with a publisher or whether you’re doing it on your own, one of the things that I did was with Steve, because the short version is, it was his concept, but I wrote the book. We’re still married, so that’s a good thing. One of the things that I did was – we’re Apple people, so we had a little Apple TV on my screen, and I shared my screen, and I had him read the book out loud from beginning to end, twice. I had him do it, and so I sat there so he could see the manuscript. I had him read, not from the computer, I had him read from the TV. It’s a different function. And so he was reading from the TV, I had him read the book, and if he read words and he either stumbled over the word or he added a different word or whatever, I was sitting at the keyboard, and I was making notes as he was reading. And I would say, okay, obviously, that’s not clear. What did you mean by that? And we would clarify it and tweak it, and then go on. And we kept doing it. And then after we got it finished, perfectly clean, everything done, I had him do it all again. He was like, “Are you serious?” And I was like, “Yes, I’m serious.”
Julia: I’m impressed that you guys are still married after that. I don’t think my husband would stick around to read out loud.
Karen: The reason for that is that I believe that reading’s an auditory function. You’re creating pictures in your head, you’re hearing it. And if you do it out loud – because a lot of people don’t like that part, but if you read it out loud – you’ll find where the bumps are. And one of the things I firmly believe is that if text is confusing or difficult or people don’t know the words or whatever, then they stop reading. And what they go is, “Oh, I’m really tired. I’ll pick this up tomorrow.” And guess what? They never pick up.
Julia: No. My English teacher, Ms. Nelson – shout out to Ms. Nelson, made us read things aloud when we were editing them, because it really works differently.
Karen: And the other thing that it does is it preps you if you’re gonna record an audiobook, because a lot of times, the first time the authors are in the studio, that’s the first time they’ve read their work out loud.
Julia: That’s so interesting!
Karen: Not a really good thing to do.
Julia: No, no! That’s fascinating!
Karen: It’s really important when you’re not pressured and you’re not spending money on a producer and a sound engineer. It’s really, really important to have read that work a time or two out loud. So when you get into the studio, then you’re much more comfortable with content. Because what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna get to read it, and you’re gonna go to read it, and as you’re reading it, you’re going, “I shouldn’t have said that. That’s too far.”
Julia: And your book is already published.
Karen: So you really wanna be comfortable with your content.
Julia: Oh my gosh, that’s excellent! I guess you might have different phases, but what I would see as a phase is writing, publishing, and then marketing. Like I mentioned, we have a lot of authors who come to us because traditional publishers tell them that they have to have social media platforms, things like that. What have you found that have been some really good ways that either you or people that you know have marketed their books well?
Karen: Sure. As you well know, one of the best ways to market a book is through podcasts. It really is through podcasts, because in the old days, in media, again, pre-podcasting, you only got two minutes or three minutes. The thing about a podcast is you’ve got time and you’ve got a niche audience. I call them OPP; other people’s platforms.Getting on other people’s platforms. If you have a message and they have an audience, it’s a perfect match. And so I love podcasting for people. And many podcasters are looking for guests, and they’re happy to promote you and your book.
Julia: Yeah. There’s a lot of Facebook groups out there who are people desperate for guests.
Karen: And I would say again, if you’re gonna do it, start as small as you can. If somebody has a podcast and they only have five people, start with five people, five amazing people. As I say in chapter seven of my book on page 245, nobody cares if you’re not giving value. But if you give value and they know that you’re an expert, then they’ll be like, “Oh, I would love to read his or her book. That would be great.”
Julia: It’s almost like using your book as a lead generator. The podcast becomes this lead generator for your book. Your book becomes this lead generator for a service or whatever you might be. You wanna give people enough information that suddenly they’re like, wow, if this was this great, what the heck is in the book?
Karen: And so I think podcasting is great. The other thing is, even though this sounds like a contradiction, I think in traditional media, people think it’s not even worth it anymore. But I think traditional media is still worth it. I think social media is great, but go to your local rotary club and give a talk. If you have something that’s newsworthy, and I really believe anything that you write, you can make a connection somehow to make it newsworthy. They’re looking for stories, give them a story! And so I think that that’s a good way to market books. So they really are looking, and it’s easier these days to find them than ever. So I think that there’s that. I think social media is really huge, and the difficult part about social media, I think, is keeping up your enthusiasm to keep it going, because most people get tired of it and wanna quit. And so that’s where I think having support for social media and planning it out and having a social media strategy and doing that, so it becomes like brushing your teeth. Like you wouldn’t think about not brushing your teeth when you get up in the morning. If that becomes a habit, and you know you don’t have to be creative about it every day if you know what’s coming, I think that that can be really, really helpful.
Julia: The reason I have a business is because people get tired of social media, frankly. But I love the idea of being prepared because then also, all of those things that you just mentioned kind of speak to each other. Like if you’re podcasting or going to local talks or local meetings, all those people, you can invite them to join you on social media and vice versa. And so I feel like that’s also where I see a lot of authors struggle on my side with social media, is they’re only focused on social media, and not doing other things to feed that. Because that can help enthusiasm if you’re getting more people engaged.
Karen: And so I would say another thing that is a marketing function that people sometimes forget to do, and it’s called giving your book away. Giving your book away is an incredible opportunity that people forget about. They get very invested in selling their book. I love selling books. I mean, I make my living with people selling books. I love that, but I also love the power of giving a book away. You keep a case in your car, you keep a case in your office, you take books with you when you travel, you just never know where the opportunity is. And when you give somebody a book, depending on numbers or what you pay for it, let’s say round numbers, a book costs you, I don’t know, $5. I’m just pulling a number out of the air. A book costs $5, and you give that book away, that’s a $5 expense for a legion. And if you’re spending that $5 in other places and you get somebody who comes back and goes, “I love your book. Can I get your coaching? Can I be in your mastermind? Can I buy your course? Can I do whatever?” It’s a very inexpensive lead gen in terms of production cost.
And there is something for people that go, “Wow, I just got a signed book from the author.” The other thing that we do at Morgan James, and this may surprise people, one of the things that we do at Morgan James is we allow authors to give away their ebooks for free. And the reason we do that is because we’ve set it up so that if you go to our landing page, they have to give their email address to get their free ebook, and then we give that to the author. Because when somebody buys a book on Amazon, you don’t have a clue – or BNN, like wherever. No clue who bought that book. But what we found is that people are getting multiple versions of the same book. If they buy audio, they’ll buy the print. If they buy the print, they want the ebook. They’ll buy multiple versions of the same book.
Julia: That’s so interesting!
Karen: And so the idea is you want people to hear your message. So if you give the book away, whether it’s in print, it doesn’t even matter what format it is. You give that book away, then you have an opportunity to build a relationship with a reader.
Julia: I love that! I love that about Morgan James. I think one of the other things that is interesting is that, especially in the nonfiction world, I feel like even if you’re self-publishing, the fact that you wrote a book gives you some sort of authority and legitimacy. And so even say you only sell 250 books or less, maybe my mom would be the only one who bought mine if I ever wrote one. But that’s the thing though, is it opens doors to different places. Because if, as like a podcast guest, I can say, well, I wrote this book, that automatically tells the host, hey, they actually spent time, they spent brain energy. It doesn’t necessarily matter how many copies it sold, depending on who your audience is.
Karen: It positions you as an expert. I know I said it before, but a lot of it’s just about trust. People wanna trust people. And if somebody has spent the time and energy and resources, whatever, to create a book, then they go, “Oh, they’re invested in it.” And it just builds that trust. And the same kind of things, when people ask me about any endorsements and forward words, like does all that matter? And unequivocally, my answer is a resounding yes. Because it’s borrowed trust. When you have people that have endorsed your book or someone’s written the forward of your book, that’s what goes, oh, I don’t know whether I should spend 20 bucks on this book. And then you go, oh, somebody that I know, I recognize. Either it’s a brand or it’s a name, or whatever. They did that book. And again, it can even be big. And that’s why publishers use it all the time. Michael Hyatt is a friend of ours, and was gracious enough to write the forward for our book. I would say a lot of people listening right now don’t know who Michael Hyatt is, but it says Michael Hyatt, New York Times bestselling author. And so now, all of a sudden, they go, “Oh, a New York Times bestselling author has endorsed this book.” So you’re borrowing that trust.
Julia: You’re borrowing trust from Michael Hyatt and the New York Times, which is cool.
Karen: And so when you’re doing a book and you know your audience, you wanna reach as many people that you can with people that they recognize, so that they go, “Oh, I know that name.” And then they go, “Okay, well, yeah, if they did it, then I’m willing to do it.” And the same thing is true for reviews. When you put up your book, your ebook, those books will carry over for EM print, and when people write reviews. And the other thing, I can’t stress this enough, you do not want all five star reviews. Because like you said, they believe if you’ve sold X number of books and they’ve gotten 10 reviews, and all 10 reviews are five stars, then they go, oh, well that was her mom, her aunt, two of her cousins, her bestest friend, her boyfriend. You feel like it’s stacked. But what you really want to see is you really want to see three quarters of them are gonna be five, four, three, few twos, and a few ones, and you’re kind of really looking for that ladder. To me, it’s always a day of celebration when you get a one star review. And most of them are really great reviews, you go, “Oh, now we know that they’re outside that circle of influence.” You’re hitting a mark that somebody’s written a one star review. And then as you write more and more and you get more and more reviews, you learn to manage your feelings.
Julia: Well, and that’s the thing, is in the end, our books are not for everybody. There are books that I’ve read that I love, and there are books that I’ve read that I don’t love. And that’s okay!
Karen: And I always suggest when it comes to reviews, if somebody says something really wacky, my advice is never feed the trolls. Do not respond to them, because you got a community. If they’re really absurd, the community will respond to them. Like, you’re totally off-base. But don’t feed the trolls because it’s not gonna end well.
Julia: Right, and it’s just gonna go further, and just hurt your feelings more too. So before we wrap up, Karen, would you have any words of encouragement for up and coming authors? What would you tell them?
Karen: I’m trying to think of how to say this. They say that most people give up right before something good really happens. They worked really hard, and they get discouraged, and they go, okay, I’m done, I’m giving up. And my word of encouragement would be, don’t give up. Don’t give up too soon. Don’t give up when you’re discouraged. Don’t give up. Just keep going. Because if you really believe your message has value, you’re doing the person a disservice not to help them, not to give them your message, not to provide them a solution that you’ve discovered. And so if you give up because you go, “Oh, my writing isn’t that good.” Well, guess what, that’s why I got editors. So you can get over any of those hurdles, because really, you can have a great book that has impact. And that’s what my bottom line is, is you want your message to have impact. And you’re gonna reach people that you haven’t reached before, and it’s worth pressing through when you wanna give up, or throw your computer out the window or whatever. It’s worth pressing forward.
Julia: I love that. I love that so much! So Karen, if people wanna find you and learn more about your work, where should they connect with you?
Karen: They can easily go to my website, which is www.karenanderson.co. There is no M. It’s not com, because the M was $95,000, and I decided I didn’t need the M that badly.
Julia: No M is worth $95,000.
Karen: So it’s karenanderson.co. And if they want, there’s a tab for free eBooks and a bunch of books that I’ve either written or published, or been involved in or whatever. There’s a tab for that, and they can help themselves to free eBooks.
Julia: I’m gonna go there now. Karen, thank you. I really appreciate your time, your wisdom. This has been so fun and so helpful!
Karen: Well, I loved it! If I can help anybody, there’s a way that they can contact me through my website. It’s what I love, and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.
Julia: Yeah. Thank you
Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys.
Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.