I’m delighted to welcome Joe Pulizzi with his guest post ~ 3 Things I Learned Moving from Business Writing to Fiction. Joe’s fiction novel The Will To Die eBook and Audible version will be release on 4th March 2020. In the meantime you can download the audio and listen for free here.
Now over to Joe…
I started working in the content marketing industry 20 years ago. Everything I did from start until 2018 revolved around teaching businesses what content marketing was and how they could use it effectively.
Over the years, I’ve written five marketing books.
But, in 2018, I quit everything. I took a year-long sabbatical and decided to follow a new passion…fiction writing. Why? I wanted my wife to read one of my books, and her favorite genres are mysteries and thrillers.
I can honestly say this was one of the most difficult transitions of my life. Business writing, for me, always came naturally. Writing fiction? I was all thumbs.
Here’s three things I learned in the process:
I started the writing process for my thriller novel, The Will to Die, in January of 2018.
It wasn’t much of a start. Call it writer’s block or a sheer lack of ideas, but I couldn’t find any rhythm.
Nine months passed and I had nothing substantial to show for it.
Then I listened to a James Altucher podcast. One of the guests was talking about writing tips. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “Writer’s write. If you want to be a writer, you need to get up in the morning and start writing…on anything. Do this every day. Then you’ll find your rhythm.”
I followed the advice. The first day I wrote 500 horrible words. The next day was the same. The third day was a bit better.
After about a week, I found my groove. Things just started to flow. Every week day I wrote at least 500 words. Some days, 500 words turned into 3,500. Three months later, on January 21, 2019, I finished the draft manuscript for the book.
Writer’s write. Every day.
Everyone Publishes Books the Exact Same Way
There are basically two ways to publish a novel.
You can go the traditional route. First, find an agent (good luck getting anyone to pay attention to you if you don’t have a reputation). If you land an agent, the agent will pitch the book. Then, if you’re lucky to get a book deal, then you go through an excruciatingly long process toward publishing…most likely a print and eBook version simultaneously. Best case scenario the process takes 12 to 18 months.
Or, you can self-publish, as most novelists do. In this case, everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) revolves around Amazon. Most writers use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to produce their eBook, and Amazon will give you higher commissions (70% versus 30%) if you only sell via Amazon. It’s possible that the writer may produce a print or audio version, but just about everything is built for Kindle.
That’s it. Just two ways to publish a novel.
All this led me to believe that there is a huge opportunity for different in book publishing.
Most novelists want to make money right away and charge for their books. By taking the same old self-publishing model, most novelists never sell a thousand copies. My goal was to build an audience so that there would be a second book. Being patient is a competitive advantage. So is giving content away for free.
I decided to launch my novel in audio format leveraging only podcast players, mostly Apple Podcasts, and do so absolutely free.
So far, the early results are extremely positive, with tens of thousands of downloads of the chapters and we’ve barely even started. I’m also seeing my enewsletter subscription rate increase dramatically. The jury’s still out, but things are looking up.
I Learned How to Market Again
If I wanted to build a long-term audience where I had some control over the database, I needed a great email offer. So first, I needed to recreate my website to focus on driving enewsletter subscribers. Then, I needed to develop and distribute a regular newsletter (in my case, called The Random Newsletter).
After starting at zero I’m currently at a couple thousand subscribers and growing fast.
Treat Every Piece of Content Like a Product Launch
Three months from book release, I put together an entire pre-marketing release plan, just like I would any other piece of content.
Early Review List – I asked my current community if anyone wanted to review the book early. Those 80+ people were critical in getting the book off to a great start.
Influencer List and Dates – Curated a list of over 100 influencers and included dates of when I reached out to them and if they could help promote the book or not.
Media Sources – A list of local and national media that would be interested in the story. For each one, we developed a separate “press release” based on their audience.
Interview Possibilities – A list of blogs and podcasts that may be interested in interviewing me about the book, or about a particular subject where I could be an expert.
Writing Opportunities – Blogs and media sites that are looking for guest posts on marketing or writing topics.
Paid Sponsorships – Yes…we are paying for promotion of the book as well. Specifically, we bought space with four true crime podcasts to promote the book, as well as multiple email promotions to audiobook listeners and thriller readers.
Social ads – We are testing social media ads on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Overall, the process solidified a thought I’ve always believed, and is true today more than ever before: A content creator needs to spend drastically more time, energy and money on marketing the content than on the content itself.
Thanks so much for sharing your fiction writing journey, Joe.
About the Book
The story of death in a small town, the lies that covered them up, and a conspiracy that brought one man to his knees…
Will Pollitt just successfully delivered the business pitch of his life — a win he desperately needs. At the same moment 50 miles away, Will’s father is found dead.
Coming home gives Will a chance to reconnect with his father’s life and work. Yet digging into the past, Will makes a shocking discovery: His hometown neighbors are turning up dead at alarming rates. His father seems not only involved but could he be… one of the lead operatives? Is that why his father is now dead, too?
The hunt for the truth jeopardizes Will and everything he loves. And it makes him question not just his father’s death, but what it means to truly live.