Game of Cults: Marketing Like a Businessperson Versus Advertising Like an Author

Adopting a business mindset

The number one reason most authors fail is they don’t produce a product the market wants.

This is true of most start-ups.

Look over history, and you’ll see a long list of failed businesses with an elegant solution to a problem no one had.

In publishing, you’re selling an experience delivered through a form of media. If your product doesn’t resonate with even a minimal audience, you’ll never succeed.

So what do you do?

We touched on this last week when we discussed repetition and feedback loops…

Rinse and repeat.

Write a book and win two or three fans.

Now do it again in obscurity with no adulation.

This type of grind is not easy.

The numbers don’t lie. Three thousand titles are released daily on Amazon, but only thirty-three will sell more than a book a day.

Those who sell will earn 60% of their income in the first four months. That’s it.

I share this harsh reality to make my point about the second biggest reason authors fail.

They don’t market like a businessperson. They advertise like an author with a book they are desperate to sell.

Advertising like an author selling a book is a losing proposition.

Your focus is on that book’s success at any cost. You conflate the success of a single title with your personal worth and business success.

You make short-term decisions that have long-term consequences.

You elevate that story and its meaning to you far beyond the value it has to others willing to pay for the story experience.

As a businessperson, you think about how to take a fixed amount of capital and grow it by offering a product, service, or experience.

In the case of the author, you are in the experience business.

Sure, it feels like a product, but it’s not. The value is what happens in your customer’s head. How that happens (print, audio, etc.)—are delivery methods.

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Think about Apple. They taught us to THINK DIFFERENT.

If you are an Apple customer, you’ve adopted that brand as part of your identity.

I discussed this back when we explored the self-map and what we associate our identity with. I would have to stop and consciously think about all the various products I’ve bought over time. Most are lying unused and obsolete in boxes in my house or have gone to recycling.

I don’t identify with any specific products but with the whole experience. Through that process, they have extracted a significant amount of revenue from me, and most of my waking life is spent staring at the screens they sold me.

This is bigger than writing to market.

This is about building an asset called an audience.

You don’t know what the future will bring regarding how your story is delivered to your customer. What you know is that you’ll need that customer now and in ten years.

We’re in an age where the command and direction of attention have value.

As an author, you can use what you’ve learned this season right now. Stop looking to sell the next book to the next new customer and develop an audience creation system instead—a system to build the asset your business needs: audience.

Businesspeople use marketing to amplify their brand and connect products to customers.

For them, marketing is a process of positioning products and LISTENING to the market about their feelings about the product.

Marketing in the twenty-first century is about creating a one-to-many relationship that feels like it’s one-on-one to many.

What causes success

Successful business operators work from the core principles. First and foremost, this business must deliver a return to investors. Not just a return on ad spend, but one that drops to the bottom line.

When it comes to marketing, they measure what matters.

Rank isn’t a leading indicator. It’s a lagging indicator. Worse, it has far more to do with ego than success.

I recently started working with an author doing six figures, keeping sixty cents of every dollar he earns pre-tax.

I had to be honest and say that he could likely teach me a few things about the author’s business.

While some authors wouldn’t give him the time of day because he isn’t making seven figures, I’m in awe of his business acumen. He’s three times more profitable than the average self-publishing author.

He doesn’t have to sell a million bucks worth of books because he keeps so much money he earns. Saving well is not as cool as saying, “I made seven figures,” but the only place to measure is at the bottom line. That’s the indicator that matters.

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What causes success is funds and fans. Funds allow you to do bold things and take your business to new heights. Funds are the safety net. Fans are the recurring source of those funds.

But first, you need something they are willing to pay for, over and over.

I can’t help with the quality of the product. I can only emphasize that poor quality is the main reason for failure—but that’s not you, right?

So, where I can help is with the ideas around marketing. This season, you were exposed to some tip-of-the-spear ideas that will drive how creators build an audience in the years to come.

We let go of the pleading for strangers to buy our book and take the longer, more challenging road of building a brand and influencing people to create cultish worship of that brand.

One more thing…

I’m looking to hearing from you. What ideas would you like us to follow down the rabbit hole, to deepen our understanding?

They don’t have to be super big ones that take forty-five articles and a year to research. Some might be worthy of me doing shorter dives or videos to unpack.

Please email me and toss out a few ideas. I’ll tally them up and work on the ones with the most interest.

Read: Final Thoughts on Season 2 and a Sneak Peek Into Season 3