Game of Cults email 18 of 45: Contemplating the individual

The individual is the building block of your system.

Each person with their likes and dislikes finds you and sticks around because they see themselves in the story you wrote.

If a power-law-driven market (publishing) is a complex self-organizing event like a landslide, then the individual is the grain of sand.

We can never know the exact grain that will precipitate this avalanche, so we treat every individual as a customer and build a system that attracts them to our sandpile.

Through cumulative advantage, we seek to trigger multiple avalanches. One each time we launch a book. Avalanches that increase in magnitude.

My observation has been that every successful author has accumulated individuals around a brand, some with purpose, many not. I’ve concluded that by taking the time to systematize building and retention, the results improve further faster.

Why should anyone care about your work?

They don’t until it’s care-worthy, which means making your stories important to them.

We learned that to make someone care for something, they need to see it as part of their identity. Value is proportional to the position on the reader’s self-map. The closer to the ego, the more it is valued.

Many people are attached to their phones. They have spent big money for them, and they feel it’s their social attachment. If they misplace their phone, they will panic. Life must be put on hold until it’s found.

What someone values as part of themselves has status based on how tightly they make that association.

How we feel about things on our self-map is prioritized unconsciously, but still prioritized. We want your story brand to be thought of like that phone. Important enough for readers to consider it as an extension of themselves.

When you get your work on their self-map, they will associate the quality of their life with access to your work, even if it’s only at an unconscious level.

Let me take a moment to dispel a myth.

Becoming a best-selling author isn’t hard because you’re just getting started. It’s hard because the odds are stacked against you.

Get out now if you’re not up for challenging, grueling, repeated work.

Less than 1% of titles earn more than $1,400 a year. That means you need to have over seventy titles to get to six figures if you get your titles over that 1% mark.

Those who succeed have done so by building an audience and backlist while improving their product and brand experience.

It took years.


Did some have lucky breaks? Maybe.

But you can’t build a strategy on luck. You can create one on how you treat your customers.

When a reader finds you, how do you do your best to help them identify with your work?

Is your brand all about them, you, or completing a transaction?

After reading the last seventeen emails, how will you adjust to help readers identify with your brand—to not just recognize your brand but feel like it’s important to them?

Here are the ideas and processes we’ve discussed so far:

  • This isn’t about being technical and logical. It’s about being illogical, personal, and emotional.
  • We won’t play other people’s games. We are going to get others to play our game.
  • We understand that marketing is about finding new customers, and brand is about building loyalty.
  • A brand is a way for a reader having an emotional experience with your work to associate their identity with those ideals and feelings.
  • If we can get a reader to put your brand on their self-map, they will associate a value for your work that’s more than the price.

The goal: win over one person to the point they connect their identity with your story world and characters.

The feedback loop is:

  1. Earn attention.
  2. Build trust.
  3. Influence behavior.

You can’t make behavior changes until you earn trust.

Once you do, there must be a combination of motivation, action, and payoff.

Given there will be little motivation on their part, how do you make it as easy as possible to act?

Can you break it down into small pieces with bigger and bigger payoffs to get them to repeat needed behaviors and move further down a path?

Later, when we talk about gamification, we’ll look at the discovery and onboarding processes.

You’ll need to ask yourself if you are patient enough to give potential readers time to demonstrate the behavior and reinforce it.

Do all of this with your ideal client in mind.

If you want thriller readers willing to pay $9.99 for an ebook, then don’t take part in dozens of bargains or free deals, hoping to find them. Persevere in your focus to win and hold the type of clients you desire.

With a system that promotes this process over time, you’ll get readers that identify with your brand and value it.

What next?

Sell them a book…

Selling becomes superfluous if we bring these people together. This is where we build our influence at the mesoscopic level. The community you create and lead becomes your influence on the market.

Real influence is not this gamified garbage of likes and follows, but a group of people that see a common identity and seek to find more like themselves.

Next week, we move into group dynamics.

We will talk about the power of propaganda and how cult leaders have used it to create groupthink and trigger behaviors that will only manifest as a group.

This is the next step where you bring those individuals together as a group with a common identity.

We seek those like ourselves. We want our us.

When you do this right, you create a marketing force significant enough to influence the market writ large.

You close the loop by having a group that you can engage to trigger behavior in the marketplace, even for a few moments. When the market observes an above-average conversion, it amplifies that signal until it no longer sees above-average results.

This initiates a positive feedback loop to win over the new individuals that find you.

Your group becomes the collection receptacle to hold resources until your next launch—your cumulative advantage vault.

Thank you for your attention,


One more thing…

It’s one thing to read these emails. It’s another to implement them. I’ve gotten a few emails saying I wish you would just give me step-by-step instructions. The one more thing area does just that.

But here’s the hitch.

Some people confuse a plan for action. A plan is worthless if it’s never implemented.

If you took this single email and just faithfully applied the ideas within it for the next six weeks, your business would change. You would stop doing many things and start doing others.

How does Fogg’s model apply to you taking action in your business?

What if you couldn’t go on Facebook or TikTok until you completed one hour of work on your email autoresponder?

Too often, your creativity gets the best of you. You imagine the perfect autoresponder and website. You know you don’t have the time or budget to make it reality, so nothing gets done.

Don’t let perfection become the enemy of “good enough.” It’s through improvement that you get to best practices. One sequence makes a change and helps you to learn what it takes. It may only be a 1% improvement.


Do that every week, and your business will scale to be three times what it was.

Email 19 of 45