Would you be happy selling half a million dollars of books at a 94% margin and getting paid in two days? Your business could look like this if you adopt a direct sales model for publishing. Our guest today is Katie Cross, an indie writer that took control of her sales to funnel and dove into direct sales head first. Check out these links website: www.katiecrossbooks.com. Free offer: welcome.kcrosswriting.com/welcome. Beyond the juicy margins, the connection to your fanbase is much stronger because you have transparency on the buyer’s journey. Hang out with us and learn about direct sales as a go-to-market strategy.
TRANSCRIPT OF KATIE CROSS AND JOE SOLARI ON DIRECT SALES FOR AUTHORS
[00:00:00] Joe Solari: today, we’re going to talk about not just your career, but we’re going to really focus in on how. When a path less traveled and focused heavily on growing your business through a direct marketing strategy where you’re doing direct sales, for the folks that have watched us in the past, they I’ve done a few things on this.
And I love when I can find people that are out there pioneering this, because I believe that long-term, this is where the business needs to go. That the closer you can get to your customer. The better relationship you can have and the better you can serve them. So why don’t we get started? Like go jump in the way back machine and tell us how you initially got suckered into writing books.
[00:00:42] Katie Cross: Yeah. So this is the way back machine, for sure. I think he’s almost eight. Oh, like eight or nine years ago. So I met my husband who’s in the army and I was working as a pediatric. I married him, followed him to Tennessee and quickly realized that it’s hard to be a nurse when you move every six months, because my husband’s all over the place and the way things worked out in between a couple of his training programs, because we had to move every six months for awhile.
I just couldn’t have a job. My license didn’t transfer. I didn’t really want to get a travel nurse job. And so I had a lot of time on my hands. I call it my quarter life crisis because it was. And I just decided I’ve always loved writing books. I had been writing books since I was in the first grade. I just loved to write.
So I thought I would just try it out. So tried it out, wrote miss Mabel’s school for girls. It was really well received. So I just kept writing that series. I eventually transitioned into writing full-time when we moved to Colorado, I stopped. So this day I still write full-time and I’ve published, I think just under 30 novels under my.
And when you got started, did you try like writing query letters and doing the traditional route or did you just dive right into,
yeah, that did not sound like fun to me. I was kind of like looking into it and I, I did look at self publishing versus traditional, and this is in 2011 when I first published mislabel.
So we were outside of the big, huge, you could throw any book up and it would make a ton of money and it was just, we’re starting to like pick up some stuff. But there was, it was still like new and things were still pretty exciting. And I mean, it’s still new today, but I just, didn’t the idea of querying for years and having someone else pitching my book, it just, in some fun to me, I’m not a super patient person when I can take the wheel.
And so I was like, I got this, I think I’m just going to try it out myself. And I’ve self published and it, it launched at like three or 400. That single weekend. I didn’t even know what I’d do and they’re just pushing it out there and it just continued to grow from there. So. Exciting.
[00:02:49] Joe Solari: Cool. And where did you kind of hear about self publishing?
Was there like a course you took or were you just, just doing research on the internet net?
[00:02:58] Katie Cross: Mostly research on the internet and other authors as interacting with, I had been on this website. It was kind of like what, what pat is now. It’s way cheaper or less funded. So fan story, I think, I can’t remember like a very small handful of the world would even know what it is, but there were other people there that had self-published were talking about it and that’s where we started talking about it.
And I was able to find some author friends, cause I didn’t know anyone else that wrote and they were talking about it. So I just kind of started looking into things and getting into author groups through probably like Facebook groups, that kind of thing. Or, or just websites like Joanna Penn and her.
[00:03:34] Joe Solari: Yeah, it’s always interesting how people get into that because you know, it is, it’s a precarious deal because there’s you know, different camps of like which way you should go. And then there’s this whole bunch of people out there that are vanity presses that are just saying, they’re going to make you a best seller, but they’re just looking to, so, you know, it’s, it’s hard for a lot of folks when they’re just getting stuff.
So so, and now you were just launching on Amazon at that time.
[00:04:02] Katie Cross: I started with Smashwords and Amazon. That was before I can’t remember if drafted digital hub came out by then, but I, I launched this Maples as wide as I could. Kindle unlimited was just a baby at that time. If I remember it was still pretty new.
I think eventually I went into it months later and tried it out, but came out of it. Like I’ve never really been super committed to anything like that. So I did launch why to get on the hook and, and all those other places, but it was through Smashwords. Cause I remember when drafted digital came out, it was like, this is the best comparatively.
I just struggled a lot with Smashwords and eventually just pulled off the platform. But I can’t remember if drafted digital, was it.
[00:04:43] Joe Solari: Yeah. When you go back and you think about some of the stuff that we’ve had to deal with, like, you know, I used to say to authors, when they were talking about setting up a company, it would be like, well, if you’ve ever put a book on create space, it’ll be easier than that.
You can do that, then you’ll have no problem, like setting up your company online. Nothing is as hard as that. Right. So so what kind of walk us through kind the, the dark part of the journey with selling and what got you to eventually try out something as crazy as selling books direct to, to your readers?
[00:05:22] Katie Cross: I would say sheer desperation that I was it was two little over two years ago. I remember just sitting at my kitchen table and I was just so frustrated because it seemed like no matter how many books I launched out, no help, no matter how well they did them under how much I connected with my readers, my, my royalty checks are just so low.
I can’t remember. I mean, it was a good month to make 5,000 and for the number of books that I had, I think I 20, a little less than 20 at the time, it just seemed ridiculous that I wasn’t making more money. And I, you know, I really focused on connecting with my readers through email, but I just didn’t. I knew I had like a problem.
I just didn’t know where it was not a big problem. And I, I was just angry and I was on Facebook one day and I saw this ad for a guy that talked about doing direct sales. And so I looked at it and kind of looked into the course and decided to try it out. And I ended up setting up the basis of. What would eventually become this system and this process that I’ve built now.
And it, it was really just getting this stuff, set up a book funnel and Shopify and landing pages and all that sort of stuff. And I just decided, as I saw what other people were doing with direct sales, the writing was sort of on the wall. Like I just realized this Amazon hamster wheel that I’m constantly fighting.
Like I’m fighting for a place on Amazon, but they don’t care about me. And they like. The way they could kind of sometimes control things and move things around. And I was just fighting with, says, be seen with other authors, just didn’t feel like a sustainable business model that created safety for my family.
Cause you know, we were dependent on my paycheck. So I just wanted a way that I controlled my cashflow, my company, my strategy, and, and I just told them what I was doing. Because I did a lot of work on the entrepreneur side of things. Like I did a lot of researching on how to be more, how to build business, build processes, like how did, how to do that kind of stuff.
But I just couldn’t ever make it all come together. So once I set up the Drexel system and they started dabbling that I just felt the control that I wanted coming into my company. I actually had a cashflow structure. I actually had a. Different like positions that I could start filling for because the cash came in and, and like, I, I spent this much on ads and they made this much.
Then I knew what that meant. And I knew how to get more money or more people coming to my website in a way that would make them buy. I was able to just actually control the way things happened. And that was worth all the scariness of launching into something that just seems so not done in this world.
[00:08:10] Joe Solari: It’s counterintuitive, right? Because like you, you want to sell books, they’ve consolidated the marketplace. 60% of all books, print or ebook gets sold in the United States on Amazon. Why would you go somewhere else? Why would you, you know, I mean, you had to set up your own website that has, nobody knows why like that those are not the logical choices to make.
Great. What, what got you comfortable with that,
[00:08:39] Katie Cross: Time and really, really small action steps. So I was starting with zero SEO, traction on a new URL and a website that hadn’t been optimized and all kinds of things. And I was having to let go of the mindset that my author ranking on Amazon was a reflection.
Right. So, well, I, my book framed here, my author ranking was here. That means I’m a success. I had to kind of let go of those things first. And then just accept that with time, everything mattered. So even like small actions add up to big things. So, you know, I got like Katie cross books.com URL. I got the store shut, set up.
I started to like funnel traffic to it. I was getting things prepped and ready for this thing to take on. And eventually over time, that started to feel less scary because as I really saw what I was building, I felt the security in it. Like Amazon could crash tomorrow and I would be totally fine because I have my own store set up and I have my funnel and it doesn’t matter if Barnesville blood comes out of like, It goes out because they’ve been trying to die for years
and I’m like, oh my gosh, just let the horse died. You know? So once I saw that happening over time and with effort, I started to feel less afraid of it. And I actually started to, like, this is so much more stable than anything I’ve ever had before, because I’m able to pivot it in like a minute. So I’ll get on with my team and I’ll say, Hey, we noticed.
Let’s brainstorm some ideas to do it better. And we’ll all come up with ideas together. And within 24 hours, we can remove a totally new direction or I’ll say, Hey, we’re in the black, the way things have been going, we could be in the red by the end of the week. Let’s think up a way to like, keep us profitable and spit something out or try something else, you know?
Well, we have a direct feedback to say, oh, here’s our cashflow. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what we can. Here’s what the. So over time that built that safety where I started to learn, oh, I’m actually in control and I’m more creative and I pivot faster than I thought. And so after awhile I only exist safe like
[00:10:53] Joe Solari: this model.
So when that, like, going back to that time, I’m assuming, you know, there was a point where you weren’t happy with sales anywhere, right? Like you were on all these platforms. Walk me through kind of how you saw that changing over time, where it was like on your own site, probably zero sales or one sale.
And that was the one that you did the test to make sure everything works.
[00:11:19] Katie Cross: Right.
[00:11:20] Joe Solari: And then, right. And, and, but it changes over time. Right. And like, just kind of walk me through that experience and how, you know, what were some of the big kind of Keystone moments.
[00:11:33] Katie Cross: So like all the retailers, I was always happy when I had a BookBub because, you know, I’d see my number skyrocket with BookBub, but then drop right back down and the long tail ended.
And that, that was always frustrating. But when I first started the direct sales system and I was really learning, what do my readers want? Like, what do they want to see? How do I serve them fast? And how do I represent. In my system, there were days where it’s like, I sent like a hundred people, so my store today and like one of them converted.
Right. And so I made 20 bucks after spending a hundred or something. It was really frustrating because there is a sense of, I so desperately want this to work and I’m working so hard. Why isn’t it working? And you kind of get into these mindsets of, oh, well, this just doesn’t work. Or I’m always doing something wrong or I’m a failure, whatever mindset you get into.
So what I would do is I would just learn how to peg down when I was getting in my own way with mindsets. And then I would say, well, let’s look at the data. So I had a hundred people come and one converted and they converted on this landing page and they converted at this amount. So I would just back everything away from emotion.
Look at data, make decisions based on the. And then I would just say, okay, like, this is just an opportunity to do something better. And so we would pivot to a different landing page, or we would say, well, this ad fail that’s okay. But this one didn’t really fail. So let’s build off the one that didn’t fail.
And so, you know, I think the difficult days of the beginning when everything feels so desperate and stark and bleak, because you’re investing money and you’re not getting it back right away, I think are, were best for me, Concord with managing my mindset. Using data decisions and then like leaning on other people that were kind of in it, like, Hey, are you seeing this?
What did you see here? And being able to talk to other people that are doing it.
[00:13:27] Joe Solari: Sure. Can you help folks that might be watching this understand like how different it is and in the context of that data that you’re talking about? Like for somebody that’s used to just seeing. They sure they have that same dashboard and Facebook that you have, but they don’t have the backend that you have in Shopify.
Or they’re used to just looking at, you know, AMS ads or BookBub and like how fundamentally different that is when your direct selling and what you’ve learned.
[00:14:05] Katie Cross: So, let me just give an overview of my funnel so I can kind of walk them through what data points I take, where and how direct sales makes that, that different.
So what I, what I do is I run Facebook ads to a landing page. That’s usually tested between I have at any given moment, two to five landing pages that we’re testing, whether we’re testing, price points or images or words, or way things are raised on the landing page, you go to a landing page where they can subscribe to get my first book free.
When they subscribe, they’re taken to a thank you page. And it’s a sales page that basically offers the rest of the series. It’s a five book series for like, versus what they would have on the retailer. So I think it’s priced 29 90, but we sell it for anywhere from 15, 20 years. So that, that it’s, that like sale the sale that comes from like subscribing.
They want to get that deal. That’s really what ends up feeding. The Facebook ads. And that helps me. Okay. This ad is successful because Facebook punting people to be better actually buying this. If they don’t buy that spine, they go into an email sequence where I give them like a second chance at the offer.
And then I just have some like, sort of like a welcome sequence. I’m like training them that I have a direct sales platform. So one of the emails they get a few days after they get my first book free in my first book. I give him some time to start it. And then I basically say, look, I don’t work with Amazon more because they, their company too.
And they want to keep the power and that doesn’t make sense for authors. So I basically teach them like, Hey, I sell from my website so that you can get a discount and you can get the books for better price. And then I have a weekly newsletter. I have Facebook groups, I have nurture campaigns. I have all that stuff.
So in a direct sales model, When I actually get the data, instead of like sending traffic ads from Facebook onto Amazon, you’re basically paying people to go buy other stuff. I run ads through Amazon affiliate links before, and you look at what people are buying and they’re buying.
I made like 75 cents on someone buying like three boxes of depends one day. So, you know, I’ve seen that, but you’re basically, you don’t know what happens once you send them to Amazon. So there’s this total dearth of data that you don’t know how to make decisions. But with direct sales, I can, I can know.
Okay. You know, the ads went and this isn’t just Facebook. This is like Pinterest I’ve Pinterest ads going to, or I have like podcasts or videos that I’m on that get the same landing page link. So it’s not always just advertising. There are other ways to get people into my funnel, but I can look and say, you know, this many people went into my funnel.
This many people like converted this to the tune of this many dollars. So I know my cost per. It was less than 25 cents. My click through rate is 19%. Like I have different metrics on Facebook ads that I monitor and I’m countrysides that I monitor and I have a create more of a direct relationship with iOS changes in Facebook and some data privacy going out.
We see a little less efficacy between actual numbers, but I actually have all that data. So then. This is, this is what’s working right. And well, you know, and, and I can then pivot and make decisions based on increases the ad itself, instead of just sending people to Amazon and looking at my affiliate data dashboard and hoping that they’re buying.
But I don’t know, like when they clicked or when they’re buying and also with direct sales and Shopify, I can see what hours of the day. People are buying so across the board. I, unless there’s some special circumstance I cannot make Wednesday and Thursday a very profitable day. Like, well, we can make profits, but there’s something about Wednesday and Thursday across last two years that people just don’t buy.
Like people just don’t buy books. I’m saying Thursday, my people don’t buy books on Wednesday, Thursday. And then if you look at the hours, I can like pinpoint hours of the day when sales are going to hit. So I might turn ads off in between those hours and turn it off. So there’s a power and having a direct relationship with your buyers because you know, their behaviors and how to serve them best.
[00:18:13] Joe Solari: Yeah. And now that you’ve, so how long have you been doing direct sales?
[00:18:18] Katie Cross: Just about two years.
[00:18:19] Joe Solari: Two years. And can have you started to start see how much is recurring revenue from existing customers?
[00:18:29] Katie Cross: Yeah. Yeah. So there’s a way to, to dive into all that, like like when you’re looking at like lifetime value and you’re looking at LTV of those sorts of metrics.
Most of I say probably most of, I can’t give you a number and I hate to guesstimate, but probably close to 60% of my sales are people coming back from my, whether it’s like they actually decided they’ve started the book and wanted that collection after all. So not three days later, they’ll buy it or. The I’ve noticed that the faster I get people from sort of my like short, welcome sequence and into my active weekly newsletter, that the more they buy their LTV is much longer and much higher because they’re still excited.
I’m still new. So yes, I couldn’t like off the top of my head. Give you super clear data on it.
[00:19:21] Joe Solari: No, yeah. I wasn’t looking necessarily specifically, they’ve going great. But the point that you can actually see that stuff, right? Like. You know, I, I think that from the conversations that I’ve had and, you know, around direct sales, there’s this apprehension about what you’re giving up to get that.
And, you know, you talked about rank, but it’s like, it’s, these are your customers now. Right? It’s a different a different connection because you have. Technically have their credit card information, but they’ve transacted with you. Right. And and you can start to see things like, oh, look at these people are like these people and they tend to buy this series and they buy it in this kind of pace.
You know, you mentioned lifetime value. I think that’s the other thing that this opens the door to is what else can you sell?
[00:20:19] Katie Cross: So, so that’s a perfect segue to something I was going to bring up. So I launched a book a couple of weeks ago. It’s the first in the series and it was a continuation series for my flagship series, the network series.
So the network saga launched two weeks ago with the first book of off magic. And I said to my team, I said, let’s figure out a way to increase our average order. Because always, when I sell a book, I want to make sure it’s selling it at the right price, but we’re also engaging the reader to, to buy, like with the average order value as high as possible, because we see higher profitability.
So it’s still within like what the reader wants. So I said, I’m gonna write, there were two short stories that I wrote while making this book that helped me understand the world. And I said, these are really high value, short stories. So let’s test what happened. If we have these short stories available, at least one of them available on launch, but we don’t market it at all.
We just have it at the back of the book saying, Hey, you want to know more about this character and how she began? Here’s the short story for you? And they said, we can test how much that changes our average order value so that our launch goes double. So instead of making 4 99, We’re actually making like six or 7 99 a book because they’re buying this additional short story that they’re going to be excited about.
Like it’s a re like these readers will really want the story. So we’re serving them. We’re also like, without any additional marketing or effort, we’re, we’re actually going to increase our average order value. So we did that. And the fun thing about it is it’s at a, like a 2 99 price. Wait. So every day we’re seeing.
Just tons of orders come through for 2 99. And it’s that short story. So we’re actually able to gauge, not only like how many people are reading through that book, so it gets to the end, but also how many of them are interested in that additional short story to the point that they would pay 2 99 for it and, and we can engage them in a higher way.
And then there’s also really cool options. Like you can add like frequently bought together buttons so they can actually see what else is in the series. And like today, Already dollar order go through or someone pre-ordered the rest of the series. Like they’re like sweet. I’m just going to buy the whole thing now.
So I already have pre-orders for the fourth book and I haven’t even written the second, but I see that they’re buying it in bulk because I know who’s buying it and I know when they’re buying it. And I know that they’re excited about buying it. So we’re harnessing that and then turning it into greater profits.
[00:22:50] Joe Solari: Well, you know, what, what I’ve talked to folks about. That are just trying this out as like, Hey, before you like go build a funnel like Katy and get all these things, it’s like, you can, you can do this with BookFunnel and PayPal, right. In your newsletter and sell a book. You haven’t even written yet.
Right? Like you can run your own. Pre-order where you get paid upfront. Is it going to be a huge amount of money? No, because it takes time, you kind of mentioned already is getting conditioning, your audience and getting to understand that, but that process over time gets them to see like, oh, if I want to get the book, I can get it earlier over here, like a client that it’s pretty heavy in K U, but he still does direct sales to his newsletter.
Prior to putting the book into case. Because he’s a big audience that hates Amazon, get the best of both worlds. Right. And they love it. Like that’s part of their, you know, their ethos that they, you know, not only are we sticking it to Amazon and making sure the author makes.
[00:23:54] Katie Cross: And I think too, you can create perks and incentives, but you also serve your reader better.
So yes, I’m always finding ways to business, better to profit, better to, to run things better. But really in the end, I wanted my readers to have the best experience possible. And I couldn’t do that with other retailers, controlling price point, like audible. I have no idea where they’re going to price my books at.
And I hate that. Like, that’s ridiculous that that I’m going to create are in the copyright holder. And I don’t get any say that I don’t like that. So I think it’s amazing for the relationship between me and my readers, because I have readers write in and they’ll say, I just lost my. And I’m so grateful that I can escape into your world because it gives me a little boost and I’ll say, Hey, here’s the next series for free, like, go do what you need.
Like let yourself escape. Or they’ll say, you know, my daughter’s really excited about this. She’s saving up her money, blah, blah, blah. And I’ll say here’s a coupon for her to get like 20% off. You know what I mean? Like, so we can actually give coupons and sales and discount. Then I had one. Team member that didn’t have the paperback copies.
And through my direct cell system, I was able to just print them through Lulu, without having to like individually ordered them through KDP and have like 20,000 different packages. I could just put them all in the same order. Give myself a discount like this. This is paid on the backend. So it just allows a versatility for the relationship with the reader that allows you to actually interact in a way that puts your brand out there in a strong way.
And let’s read it. You actually care and you want the best for them. And so you want to be able to pivot so that they can get what they need and ended better price without big tech encroaching into everyone’s business.
[00:25:41] Joe Solari: Right. And I think that the part that you know, for authors that are aren’t on Amazon, would they have to recognize is that Amazon’s not making money off their books.
Amazon is making money off the advertising of those. There’s only two parts of the Amazon ecosystem that are profitable. It’s AWS. So the server system and advertising and advertising is growing. Like I started talking about this in 2016, about how, like they’re getting on conference calls and they’re like, yeah, we’re going to get, you know, we’re going to be making $20 billion a year in advertising in a couple of years.
They’re making for. And then when you compare that to something like Facebook and Google, which make hundreds of hundreds of billions, but you know, $50 billion a year in advertising, like why wouldn’t Amazon make more money? They are the bottom of the funnel. They should be just raking handover fist. That means that’s your cost of goods it’s going up, right?
[00:26:48] Katie Cross: right. Like that has implications for the people that are actually putting their products out. That’s the interesting thing is as a business model, putting all of your eggs in Amazon’s basket works for some people for now, but when you’re playing a long-term game, it’s just a, it’s a stability issue.
And it’s because of the placement of where you are to that, you know,
[00:27:07] Joe Solari: and you’ve got a product that’s like super low margin. It’s hard. It’s hard to, to advertise that, right? It’s not like you’re selling, you know, stuff that has got high margin and you can have a couple bucks a click and know that you got a lifetime value.
You know, I hit with our families home brewing store, you know, we have an e-commerce store, you know, we’re, we’re prepared to spend 25 bucks to get a new customer, right? Yeah. So you’re advertising against me, even if you don’t think you are like your, those are the people you’re advertising against.
Since when you know that your lifetime value of your customers, $500 on average a year. Then that’s why, you know, all Facebook ads go up in price is because I, you know, I’m prepared to do that, but there’s guys that are selling high ticket items on there that a customer’s worth 10,000
[00:28:02] Katie Cross: bucks, right? Yeah.
Yeah. And when you have a, like an ebook collection, you’re selling it like 1499 or 9 99. I know some people who were selling at 7 99, it’s almost impossible to keep those marriages like super profitable. So you have, yeah. I think what you said about starting slow is probably the best like, like information to really give here.
So like, and anyone who wants to go into direct sales, I’ve been doing this for two years and I have a team of eight people that help support me run it. So if you’re just getting started, that concept of small steps make big things happen is really what you need to invest in right now. You need to say, okay, I’m just going to get my book funnel accounts.
And get my book listed there and just see how that feels. Right. And then maybe you just like share it with your family and have them test the process, or you just say, Hey, I’m, I’m, pre-order my book, but it’s only it’s going to be available here and it’s going to arrive in your inbox at midnight. You know what I mean?
Like, so you start really small and then say, okay, I think I’m ready to actually have like go to Shopify or WooCommerce or whoever else you want to go. And then say, I want to actually have a social. And maybe you a book funnels. We want to sell books. I don’t know, but you don’t have to like throw in, like I have at this stage.
Like you can let yourself grow naturally into the business model that you want to have because my business model is extremely intentional to what I want in my life and it looks different than every other business model out there. And I think that’s where, like, you need to really focus as yourself and not.
[00:29:37] Joe Solari: That’s awesome advice because we know prior to getting on the call, we’re talking about a neutral person. We know, and they’re, they have a very big business and have a big fan base. And as they go into direct sales, a lot of the same things apply. You need to test things out like you need to do it. Just because.
You want to go into drug sales? It doesn’t mean that your audience necessarily wants to write like, and it, maybe they do, but they just need to understand. I mean it’s, it’s going to take time to condition people. I know that having done this with a few people and had the experience, you know, the first couple things you do are really underwhelming, but it’s like, it’s okay.
We went. Ted to sales to 12 sales, this launch, okay. That’s a 10% improvement like now let’s right. It takes time for people to, to go through that and, and get comfortable. And you find on both sides, right? You, as, as the person running, this is figuring out like, oh, wow. I better think through that through, I didn’t do that.
At least I made that mistake with only 10 people.
[00:30:51] Katie Cross: I think that the idea of oh shoot, where was I going with that? But like the small steps, the big thing, but also like switching your mindset from emotion to data, right. To saying I only sold pre-ordered 12 and such a failure, but take that away. And then say, well, based on the data I have more than last time.
Right. And then that’s this much profit I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And it’s cash in hand. So, you know, you have it in your PayPal account, so you can do with it, what you want. And then you just restrategize the new plan based on the data you, so I think that’s like if you’re starting in a direct sales, that’s like your next step is to divorce, emotion and data from your decision-making process.
And look at the data. Eventually you’ll bring emotion back into it, but when you’re actually making the decision, they go off whatever data you have.
[00:31:43] Joe Solari: So one thing your earlier talking about your funnel and how you’re using kind of like kind of a traditional digital funnel of educating a customer about your business and what they can. Are you using any of the functionality of machine learning or providing, you know, your catalog information into say Facebook where they can then use some of their more higher end strategies that authors that are going to Amazon can’t because they don’t have that loop closed.
[00:32:17] Katie Cross: Like my, my Shopify is connected to Facebook and Facebook has like specific books that I allow in the catalog that show up on my page. That it’s funny. Like if I update a price or I put a new. Oh, I’ve put a book up the other day to pre-order on Shopify without any intention of announcing it until like October.
And I have like five sales within like 10 minutes. And then I realized that it was through the Facebook channel. Cause I went to Facebook and people were commenting on, I was like, are you like waiting for this? This is crazy. But I have, I use active campaign as my email service provider and they have some like AI driven technology in that I can have emails sent based on.
Previous open times. So like active campaign, just kind of analyzes when they’re opening emails and then they will send that email at a time when they’re most likely to open it. And then they have Shopify and active campaign have an integration where like product blocks can kind of populate in that, that sort of stuff.
So nothing super deep, but certainly dabbling in like how. That can turn our profit a little bit higher and make it easier for the reader to engage so that they are finding it, the books at the time that they need.
[00:33:31] Joe Solari: Yeah. I, I I’ve seen you know, just, just something as simple as now being able to return.
[00:33:38] Katie Cross: Yeah. So yeah, I do have different like retargeting strategies and campaigns that we try out. That’s a harder one to be profitable on, but can be really powerful when you’re sort of waking readers back up that haven’t engaged in a while and it can help you create a higher lifetime value when there’s been like a sluggish time and that reader’s engagement with you.
So I think there’s there’s benefits. You can kind of pull out. Retargeting has been most powerful for me on launching. So I really drive retargeting campaigns like through launches to say, Hey, like we’ve got more for you. And sometimes that’s all the reader wants be like, oh, I’m just here for the books. I don’t really care about your newsletter, you know?
[00:34:19] Joe Solari: Yeah. And I, you know, that’s something I’ve always said. Is that something you should ask readers is because they’re, I just did a survey of. There’s almost 2000 readers and the number of newsletters, I think the average was 20 that the average reader is, is on. So it’s a lot, right? Like if you’re an avid reader and you want to know what’s going on to think that that many newsletters are weekly hitting into their mailbox, you’re just going to get lost.
In that. So I asked them the question, like, do you just want alerts when I’m watching a book?
[00:35:02] Katie Cross: I have, yeah. I have like, in that welcome sequence, I give them a chance to unsubscribe. Like I want to like weed out a few. I don’t want to pay for the people that really just the free book and if they did, that’s great.
But I say, I’m like, Hey, if you want to be here, this is what you’re going to get. Like, it’ll be similar to what you’ve already had. But if you don’t no problem, you fences gripe, or I have a new release only list and they just have click a link that goes to a page that says thank you and active system and not new release list.
And, you know, I’ll, I’ll send out when I have a new release, like with the last magic, I think I have almost 20,000 people on a new roof, new reader, new release, only list. I just kind of send out a whim of an email and I said, Hey, My next book, the lost magic is launching. You wanted to know about my new releases, so that’s why you’re getting this.
And I said, I offer the pre-order from my website or a discount, and it’s going to go away in this many days. So can, and thousands of dollars came off that email and it was really just like a, here you go of dollars. Right? And it engaged people that had been sleeping for awhile, which is always, which is always a good thing.
And then just this morning, I sent out an email and I said, you still want to be here? Or like, are you tired of getting emails? And then inside, I just say, Hey, if you want to unsubscribe here it is. Here’s my new release only, or stay if you want this. And I just, I’m like really warm and connected them. And we’re getting tons of emails today from people like, no, I love your newsletter, but you know, we’re also getting people that are like, yeah, I’m done.
And they’ll unsubscribe. And then I ask them, Is this okay? Like, is, are the numbers of email and sending, okay, do you want more? You want less? And people are replying and letting me know, which is exactly the sort of data you want to hear.
[00:36:40] Joe Solari: Yeah. And I think I, you know, something I’ve been working on with folks the more you do around, story-based read through emails, so stuff that’s helping people get through a series.
The less, you have to be worried about a weekly newsletter, because if they’re getting email sequences that are tied to the books, they’re reading, you’re kind of meeting them where they’re at. Right. And that’s really what they want is story-based stuff and things that are tied into your story world or your characters.
That’s where they really have connected with. I hate to break it to you, but you know, Katie, you’re just the person there to make
[00:37:16] Katie Cross: things work right.
I think there is truth in that, but from the data that I’ve gathered, some story-based like connection and story-based emails for my readers, classically fail across the board to convert into like, if converting is like clicking on a link or buying something. And even like sometimes depending on the subject line, I can get them to open those emails, but they historically don’t do anything.
But the emails that are updates about. Updates on the next book. Pictures of me anything going on in my life. Like last year, our house almost burned down and we were evacuated twice and it was just a crazy story. I actually kept people updated on that. I don’t know some of our best open rates we had seen, and we had people emailing me months after to see if we were okay.
So when I, and I’ll send out like deleted scenes or short stories that they get for free, like once a month, people are excited about. But they don’t open as fast as the emails that are about me, which is super interesting, not super exciting as a person, but to, so the readers, apparently I am. So I think it just depends on what your audience wants.
[00:38:32] Joe Solari: I also think with that when you start looking at it is sometimes you have to not be so focused on the data and. What you’re doing to develop the StoryBrand right. And that some of that stuff that is more story-based that they know is it does isn’t time sensitive is something that they’re digesting like, oh, this is a deleted scene.
I’m going to read that tonight. Or I’m not, I’m not going to read it until I get done with the book. And what, what you’re doing there. Is more alchemy than science, right? Because what you’re trying to do is use the you’re you’re really getting in their head and getting them to connect their identity with your story world and those characters versus two it’s a two-edged sword with the data, right?
Like you can be always focused on getting my conversion rate off. To the point where it starts to deteriorate the overall experience, because now it’s like, oh, all she wants is my attention and my money
[00:39:38] Katie Cross: or my money. Right? Like there’s, there’s certainly a balance between where we are. I’m really careful about how many offers and sending out in my emails.
Right. So like there’s the give, give, give, ask kind of principle or. These things we’d punch or whatever you want to call it, where, you know, you’re, you’re serving and connecting with your readers and then making an ask or giving an offer, something like that. So, you know, we try to be cognizant of that because that’s something to be aware of because it isn’t all about data.
I think more to what you’re speaking to. There’s so much power in staying top of. That even just seeing the email, maybe they don’t read the short story, but just kind of scrolling through it and they don’t do anything. There’s still some power of still being in their mind. Like they’re still forming some sort of a thought pattern around you in a relationship and your, and your books are in their heads.
So I think, I think you’re right. I, I don’t, I don’t think I, I’m not trying to discount the power of story and characters and emails, but when it comes to my specific. They just want more of me. And so that’s what we try to give them,
[00:40:38] Joe Solari: you know?
[00:40:39] Katie Cross: And so, and, and that’s changed. Like my, my audience used to respond more to like connection based emails, where I was giving them stories about my life and just trying to uplift them. I wouldn’t sell anything. It’s just, you know, every other week I just tell a funny story or something. And our open rates just trended down, people stopped emailing.
They just didn’t really care. But when. Incorporated, just more real life updates. We just kind of changed what we were doing. We made more sales and offers our open rates back up. We started to engage engagement returning. So in a year it might change again. Then I might need to go back to more of a connection based, whatever we just roll with what our readers are telling us and allow ourselves to change from what we’ve done
[00:41:20] Joe Solari: well, and I, I that’s the most important thing in my view is like the closer you can get that relationship between you and your reader.
That’s the whole basis of this industry. Like if you don’t write stories, they don’t have anything to pay for. If they don’t pay for it, you don’t have a business. Right. And like anything else, like Amazon book funnels of all that, that’s just friction.
[00:41:46] Katie Cross: Yeah, I agree. And that’s where direct sales I was saying just makes it so easy to have that relationship with your readers, because you can say, I hear you.
You’re going through a tough time. Here’s how we could help. Like you, like you were saying that my books are sweeping you away. I’m going to give you the next series. Cause I want you to have this right now. I want you to have some support, you know, and I, I can just send them the link and we form everlasting relationships that way.
And then I get these launch teams that are so powerful with hundreds of people applying because they want to be part of what we’ve created. So I think direct sales gave me that direct relationship with my readers in a way that I never saw retailers because I can’t hand them a coupon code to Amazon.
Right. Like even draft a digital, like if it doesn’t work that way,
[00:42:29] Joe Solari: Yeah. It’s it’s kinda sucks, right? Because there there’s these people there that are looking for that relationship, but because Amazon has got, you know, that’s their business, right. They’re doing what they can do to take care of their shareholders.
So You know, they are making decisions that aren’t necessarily been for your customer relationship, but your shareholders
[00:42:54] Katie Cross: being you, I mean, it’s their sandbox, their rules, but if you’re not being aware of that, then that could just kind of come back on your leader.
[00:43:05] Joe Solari: Well, and you know, I’m of the view that what’s going to happen with direct sales and probably more so in the area of audio.
Could be the fundamental moment that creators really take back the castles to the king, the keys to the castle. Right. There’s just some things going on with BookFunnel being able to deliver audio and having that. Yeah. And the app. Right. So like from that, from the customer experience, the fact that you’re going to have all your audio books and books in book funnel, right.
That’s going to be real interesting because. You know, I’ve never had, like, when I see all the data comes back off of surveys, like why people buy from Amazon? It’s never because they love them. It’s because, well, I, I like everything on my Kindle. Like, that’s the number one reason, like, because it’s handy on a single device.
Wow. Like how fragile is that?
[00:44:02] Katie Cross: The other thing that I like about the long term feasibility of drug sales is, is the world is going to subscription models, right? We’re there like you’re looking at Netflix, you’re looking at Disney, you’re looking at all these other subscription with Kindle unlimited. We live in the world of subscription models.
Eventually publishing we’ll probably get there too. And authors will need to pivot to that sort of model. And while I don’t think it’s here yet for Indies, I think. That that trend will continue to grow that way. And it will be interesting to see how it changes the industry. But with direct sales, I have a greater ease of transitioning to that sort of model on my own.
And, you know, I can kick out books now so that I have those to give in case we have to flex to subscription model, but I wouldn’t be able to do that on like Amazon or drafted digital or anything like that in that same way. So it’s a way to sort of get ahead of what is inevitable. In a way that wouldn’t make like a year long transition time where all of a sudden, I don’t have revenue coming in, we can pivot a little
[00:44:59] Joe Solari: easier.
Yeah. That’s I think a real important point is like we haven’t really talked about like from a business efficiency, like you actually get paid in two working days, not 60 days, right? Like,
[00:45:12] Katie Cross: so it’s your cashflow management then we’re talking about, oh, I spent this much money. And ads or, or whatever it was I was doing.
And, oh, I got this much back cash in hand. That completely changes you able to do, because you might be running ads from Facebook or Amazon or Pinterest or BookBub or wherever you’re running them to Amazon. And maybe your numbers are increasing, but you’re not going to see that cashflow for 60 days. So my question was always, how do I make this work?
In the meantime. And at the time I wasn’t set up with a business credit card account, you know, I didn’t have like all this free cash flowed to throw thousands of dollars at Facebook and then say, oh, well, please wait for two months, like, get this paid back and you have to restart ads. They’re not working because the market’s change.
So when you have the power of control of your cashflow, it’s the literal game changer because on a daily basis, Look at things and have those direct results like that. Like I did this, I received this, this is my ROAS or return on
[00:46:15] Joe Solari: well, and that, you know, it’s something I’ve talked about. This kind of gets off the subject of dress sales, but it’s such a powerful part of any business.
It’s like having cashflow being the key indicator of your business, right? Like it has the power. The force multiplying power, right? It’s not just making more cash. It’s how fast you cycle that cash through your business. So those dollars, just with what we’re talking about, you know, that cash is the ability to get through your business.
What, six times faster. We’re probably more, when you think about, you know, I’d have to do the math real quick, but you know, if you’re getting paid in two working days, Versus 60. So, you know, what’s that 30 something times faster, their cash is turning around and it’s more in sync with Facebook charging your credit card.
Every time it hits 750 bucks or whatever your limit might be, right. Like, right. Cause it’s not like they just charge you once a month. They could, if you’re running a big campaign, they could charge you two or three times. Right. So having. Even if it’s a small amount of cash that you can cycle back into your ads faster is super powerful.
And, and folks don’t understand that the authors that are going to use those tools that way and think about like, okay, how many times can I use this dollar in a month? How much more they’re going to get out of their business, just with that mindset.
[00:47:47] Katie Cross: Well, I think that’s where you’ve been venture into scalability where you then say, okay, I’ve made this much money and I’ve made a profit.
So how do I like make more? So now, how do I, like you said, how do you use that dollar again and then get on the company? And when you have the ability to lift these metrics, you have cash in hand within two days. Even not, I mean, it could be faster then all of a sudden you’re like, okay, well this is working.
Someone throw more money into it and I’m going to make more money back. And then you start scaling that business up and operating your profits. And that’s where you start to see growth. You start to see brand awareness happening in your books and your author needs. That’s where you actually start to see your business, expand your influence as an author, get bigger and things move the way you want them to.
And I think that’s what you can’t do without zone. As I was never able to scale, I was never able to say, I want to make more money because I didn’t really know how these people were coming
[00:48:38] Joe Solari: in the books. This has been really informative, Katie, before we go, you want to tell people kind of what you got new that’s coming out, that they should know about as well as where to find.
[00:48:48] Katie Cross: Yeah, so you can find firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to try out my funnel and just kind of see the way I do it from a reader’s perspective, go to welcome dot K cross writing.com forward slash welcome. That will take you to the welcome page where you can kind of subscribe to get my first book free.
Kind of just look at what I’m doing and thing to see how it feels for you, and obviously figure it out for yourself, what you would want to do, but that gives you a chance to see a direct sales store in. And right now I just launched a fantasy book and I am working fast on the next one to, to get it coming your way.
So it’s called rise of the demigods and it’s super excited. So you can see all the information on Katie Pressbooks dot.
[00:49:31] Joe Solari: Well, thanks for coming on and sharing with everybody how this has gone for you.
[00:49:36] Katie Cross: Yeah, yeah.
[00:49:38] Joe Solari: Yeah. Well, yeah, I’m sure a lot of people are like, oh, I’m not really interested. And you can share your scar tissue and maybe save some people from.
[00:49:47] Katie Cross: There’s a lot of scar tissue. There’s a lot there.
[00:49:54] Joe Solari: All right. Well, thanks Katie.