Game of Cults: Why Time and Patience Are Essential to Your Career

This week, I want to take some time to revisit the stories of the Yellow Kid and Amarillo Slim. Not to talk about the motivations of the mark, but the setup for success.

There are some recurring themes in these stories that shouldn’t be missed. Ideas separate from thinking about how we can influence others. Ideas on how to run a business.

I’ll also show how I’ve been applying these ideas to marketing.

What if I said you could become a mid-five-figure author, but it would take five years and one hundred thousand dollars to do it?

For many, they wouldn’t be happy with that deal.

Yet, it’s the deal most agree to when they go to college and hope it will result in a lifelong career.

The reality of higher education is that it rarely lands us in the jobs we thought it would. Getting there takes more time and money than we reckoned. That doesn’t stop millions each year from applying to universities.

Today, the path to earning a living as an author is shorter than it’s ever been and potentially safer than working for someone else.

You can go directly to the market and begin selling your wares while you get better at your craft.

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If there is truth to the idea of you needing to practice something for 10,000 hours before you become good at it, then writing is one of the few skills where you can get paid to practice while improving.

The problem is that there is a desire to cut out the hard work and time. Worse, some try to exploit that desire by selling recipes and “shortcuts.”

Don’t get me wrong. Many good courses reduce the time it takes to learn by providing the publishing basics.

Those courses can’t sell a poorly written book or a book that never gets written.

The problem with shortcuts is that our own impatience can lead us down a path of diminishing returns.

You need to think like Kid and Amarillo to stop yourself from reaching for the quick buck.

They were patient.

They did the research to identify suitable targets then put in the time and money to get the con set for the biggest possible payoff.

Let me give you an example of how patience makes the difference.

I’m working on a project to build a new audience from scratch.

In doing so, I started with the ideal customer I’m looking to cultivate. I’m seeking audiobook listeners prepared to pay $15 for an audiobook direct.

If I put out five audiobooks a year, that’s $75 a year. I’m expecting someone to pay, and I want them to do this over their lifetime.

If the average time a customer hangs around is five to ten years, that’s $375-750 lifetime value.

If I can find one thousand customers willing to pay $75 a year forever, that’s $75,000 just in audio sales. I’m confident that I’ll not only find these people but give them an ongoing experience that makes them willingly give that money.

Yet very few authors make that kind of money.

This begs the question, what are you asking of your ideal customer?

First and foremost, you need to have a worthwhile product that you put into the market regularly. If you don’t do that, there’s nothing to buy.

Then, don’t make this next common mistake—going after the most accessible customers instead of the ideal ones.

How do you build that ideal customer base?

You need to identify what “ideal” is.

This is where patience pays off.

Think like Amarillo. I don’t want to focus on building an extensive list of people seeking deals; I want a list as pure as possible of only my ideal customers.

In a recent survey of one author’s prospects, 39% responded that they hadn’t read the book because they were currently reading another.

So, how can I patiently and respectfully make sure I get my turn in their reading cycle?

Nothing will sell a book better than itself if read. It’s just getting that chance.

Getting that time from a reader/listener requires setting a different tone and series of emails than the typical sequences I see from authors. In most indoctrination sequences, authors try to sell another book or kick me off their list before I’ve even gotten a chance to read the book I may have downloaded.

Could you be scaring customers away?

Time and money

Amarillo did the research to identify the biggest fish with the right ego and then spent time and money attracting them. Once he had them at the table, he let them set the tone and adjusted to them. To do this, he had to have the time and money to wait them out and make the killing he had planned.

The Kid also understood patience. He had set up massive operations with wire rooms and dozens of actors to pull off his cons. Again, this was a matter of spending the time and money for the proper payoff.

If you’re sitting on an email list of five thousand names or more, you may already have a solid start on nurturing your ideal customer base. But when you sit down to write them an email, is your first goal to sell another book or to develop lifetime customers?

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The fallacy of traffic and proper prospecting

You could have a list of 100,000 names or 1,000 and generate the same sales from those lists.

Based on my current results over the last three weeks, I have built a list of 1,800 names and have $160 in sales.

Conventional marketing says to focus on traffic. Get more names, and that will net you more sales. At my current rate, to get to that $75,000 a year, I would need 852,272 subscribers.

That’s a big difference from one thousand. In reality, the sweet spot is somewhere in between. So, how do I grow my customer base properly?

I choose to abandon the idea of just selling more books and focus on proper prospecting. This makes the concept of marketing an enjoyable experience.

My 1800 names and $160 in sales become the basis for doing better. That means being patient. While I may be able to scale up lead generation, I don’t because I want to give prospects time to self-nurture.

How can I determine if they are a good prospect if they haven’t even had the chance to read the book? How can they make an informed decision about my book if they are still finishing another?


Dean Jackson says that 85% of sales happen after the first ninety days.

The most common funnels focus on closing a transaction in forty-eight hours, not forty-eight days or forty-eight months.

Disrespectful and damaging.

Instead, create a segmentation process that segregates those with lower or no interest and conditions them at a pace they choose. This goes beyond a binary choice of whether they are your ideal customers or not. It is about sorting and respecting.

Take a look at your email list. What behavior are your readers exhibiting, and what does it tell you?

You get a cold sign-up from a newsletter swap. What next?

Use this segmenting paradigm:

Cold, Warm, Hot, Customer

Your cold list is where all prospects start, except those who come from the sign-up link that can only be found in the back of a paid product.

A sign-up from a purchased product is the main path to your customer list.

Everyone else goes through nurturing focused on serving them where they are at in a nurturing process.

If they just downloaded a magnet, the only focus is on building up their trust so that they will read that magnet.

One more thing…

A critical mindset change is that you’re not looking to create demand. The unmet market desire is there. You’re looking to help those with that unmet need. They need to see you as the obvious choice in meeting that desire.

​​​​​​​What unmet market desire do you fulfill?

Read: Using Language to Enrich Your Stories and Unlock Your Reader’s Emotions