Become a Writer Today

How to Get More People to Read Your Stories and Books with Joseph Bendoski

September 16, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
Become a Writer Today
How to Get More People to Read Your Stories and Books with Joseph Bendoski
Show Notes Transcript

My guest this week is the author of the Sky Fall series of books, Joseph Bendoski. Joseph's background is in screenwriting which he eventually left behind as he found the conventions of that particular genre too restrictive.

When he switched to writing novels, he found it a more freeing format. He was initially undecided whether to write fiction or non-fiction. He made his decision after looking at the book sales for Malcolm Gladwell and George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin had sold over 80 million books, whereas Malcolm Gladwell's sales were around 8 or 9 million. 

Joseph's key takeaway from that was that if you want to write a story that readers will read and enjoy, perhaps fiction is the way to go. 

In this episode, we also chat about marketing strategies and insights for getting your writing in front of more people.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The restrictions that come with script writing
  • How scriptwriting informed Joseph's novel writing
  • The decision behind writing a series
  • Using online advertising including Facebook Ads
  • Joseph's writing routine
  • The steps prior to publication

Resources:

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

Joseph: Yeah, all decisions are just based on what’s best to the story instead of budget decisions, exactly, and that’s the real freedom in writing fiction.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: How can you get more people to read your stories and read your book?

Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast. My guest this week is Joseph Bendoski. He’s the author of the Sky Fall series and Joseph actually has a background in screenwriting but he left screenwriting because he found that the conventions of that particular genre were pretty restrictive. Basically, as Joseph would explain in this week’s interview, people were asking him to take elements out of scenes and out of scripts because it was too expensive or not in the budget for that particular TV show.

So, when he switched over to writing novels, he found that it was a lot more freeing format because he didn’t have to worry about that particular constraint. Joseph also wondered if he should write fiction or non-fiction and he looked at book sales for Malcolm Gladwell and for George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones and George R. R. Martin, and this was before the TV show, had sold over 80 million books whereas Malcolm Gladwell’s sales were somewhere around 8 or 9 million at the time.

Now, that’s still a lot of books, but Joseph’s key takeaway was that if you really want to write a story that readers will actually read and enjoy, then perhaps fiction is the way to go. These days, he’s spending a lot of time thinking about book marketing, which is something that I’m doing as well, and Joseph uses two strategies that Mark Dawson teaches in his course. I follow these strategies.

One of them involves, you know, having a free book that you give away to readers, either on your author website, and I’ve done that with my book of writing prompts and also with Book 1 in The Power of Creativity, and another strategy involves using Facebook ads. Now, I did experiment with Facebook ads before. I couldn’t quite get them to break even and I was spending a lot of time looking at spreadsheets so I switched over to Amazon ads which, oddly enough, a lot of authors would say are harder but I found that Amazon ads converted better for me, at least for non-fiction books, but Joseph was having good success with using Facebook ads.

Before we get over to this week’s interview with Joseph, if you enjoy the show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or sharing the show on Overcast. You can also become a Patreon supporter for just a couple of dollars a month and I’ll give you discounts on my writing courses, software, and books. 

Quick caveat, the audio quality for this week’s show isn’t quite up to the usual standards but I hope you’ll bear with it and take away some insights from Joseph and how he markets and promotes his books.

Bryan: Joseph, you’re all the way over in Utah whereas I’m in Dublin, Ireland.

Joseph: Yes, so it’s early morning here.

Bryan: Could you give listeners a flavor for who you are and the types of work that you like to write?

Joseph: Yeah. Well, I guess I’ll start with the podcast so — well, I guess I’ll start with how I got into writing. So, as a kid, like, I mean, even when we were assigned to like write little short stories and stuff, I would stay in during recess just to finish the writing project. I’d just sit there and just keep writing until the teacher was like, “I wanna go outside, you’re done. Let’s go,” so, you know, I always enjoyed writing stories ever since I was a little kid and then, as I got into high school and college, I became more interested in psychology, just, you know, the way people thought and worked were very fascinating to me, I think because I was an awkward kid and I would see kids who were popular and had lots of friends and, in my head, I was wondering, like, “What’s the difference between me and them? What is it they do differently?
 
How is their brain working and affecting how they make choices that our lives are so drastically different?” and so that really drove my curiosity in psychology and, as I was nearing the end of my college education, I came across a book that had been written by a bunch of social psychologists who had used stories to engineer social change. 

One of the stories that I remember the most is they had wanted to address illiteracy in Mexico and, you know, there’s just millions and millions people who were illiterate there, and the government had set up literacy programs for the people but they just went unused, you know? Like people would go out and they would like do canvassing door to door and they would hand out pamphlets that were images to, you know, kinda guide people and they’ve gone through massive efforts to let people know about it but still the class is just left empty every night. 

And so this team of social psychologists went down to Mexico and they had a proposition, they’ll be like, “Hey, we think we can fill your classes. What we wanna do is work with the writers of your number one soap opera,” which is, you know, they’re huge down in Mexico, and so that’s what they did. These social psychologists worked with — they devised a very specific storyline. One of the main characters was illiterate and it caused a multitude of problems in his life all based on what are common problems people who are illiterate encounter and it just got more and more frustrating for him as the season went on and caused him more and more problems in his life until, one day, he was just so frustrated, he went and signed up for the illiteracy class.

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: The very next day, over 6 million Mexicans really went out and signed up for the illiteracy class. And, you know, they continued with the project because, you know, they were worried about retention and all that, but, I mean, that — and they had other stories like that. How they were able to combine psychology, sociology, and all of that into this work that had this impact I just thought was amazing and it was at that point that I really decided I wanted to combine these two interests of mine, psychology and storytelling.

Bryan: Was this back when you were in college?

Joseph: Yeah, this was just as I was finishing college.

Bryan: Okay. Okay. And, at the same — I noticed you’ve also been a head writer for the television show Saved by Grace. Did you get into television writing after college or at the same time as —

Joseph: It was right after, so just after college, I’d written — I think I wrote two or three non-fiction books and they had kind of struggled and then, you know, I guess this is a whole another story but, essentially, I came across some really interesting statistics on writing and like, if you’re familiar with Malcolm Gladwell, he said, you know, very big non-fiction writer, you know, for the New York Times, I remember at one point I was reading a thing, he’d sold over 6 million copies of his —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: Wildly successful. In contrast, I came across, you know, George R. R. Martin who’s just a fantasy writer, you know? No science, no history, nothing. And he had sold over 80 million copies of his books and —

Bryan: Was this before the television show?

Joseph: Yeah, this was before the television show. So, Martin had sold over 80 million copies of his books and then — was it — Amazon doesn’t release its Kindle data and e-reader data but a company called Kobo does and Kobo says, on average, only 32 percent of people ever finish non-fiction books, but when it comes to fiction books, over 84 percent of people finish those and so I was looking at these two pieces of information, you know, here we have a nonfiction writer at the top of his game, 6 million copies, but, if we go by the average, then only 32 percent of people ever finished that book. Whereas Martin —

Bryan: That’s less than 2 million.

Joseph: Yeah, has sold over 80 million copies and over 84 percent of people are finishing his books.

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: It’s like, if you want to reach some people, you have got to write stories and so, I mean, I had first, you know, come into writing or I guess come back to writing because I, you know, read about this but then I’d gone into non-fiction just because, you know, I was just going straight to that and that’s what I’ve been writing all through college. 

That was my familiarity, right? Writing papers. And so it was then that I was like I’ve really gotta start combining the two and, at that point, I started to explore screenplay writing which I did for quite a while, just, you know, writing screenplays that nobody was reading for a long time and then, eventually, it was actually my brother who became a director on a project and invited me to join the writing team and, eventually, I became the head writer there.

Bryan: And has screenwriting helped your ability to write novels or informed your craft for novel writing?

Joseph: I wouldn’t say a lot, like it’s very different, like screenwriting, you know, you try to tell a story but, at the same time, you wanna leave as much room as possible for the actor to embody the work and, not only that but, I mean, like I would write a draft and then like, you know, then I would spend the whole week in meetings with people just basically telling me to cut. 

Cut for costume cost, cut for, you know, staging cost, cut for, you know, and it’s just — eventually, I was just like, “I don’t like this.” I mean, if you’re on a multimillion-dollar project in LA, maybe it could be fun but, you know, writing for a smaller project is just like — my whole week was just being like told, “Cut this so we save you money.”

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: So it was a little bit of a frustrating experience and, like I said, I don’t think it really had a big impact on how I wrote fiction but I think it was my step into just writing fiction.

Bryan: Yeah, I guess for fiction and for your Sky Fall series, like you don’t have to cut something because of budget, you just cut it if it doesn’t make sense to the plot.

Joseph: Yeah. All decisions are just based on what’s best for the story instead of budget decisions, exactly, and that’s the real freedom in writing fiction and I think I was actually listening to an interview with — he was a Hollywood actor, I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, but he had written a novel and he just talked about how freeing that had been, you know? 

He says, “If I wanna write a scene, I write it, and the cost of the scene was irrelevant because nobody’s producing it,” so I think that kinda opened my mind to be like, you know what, maybe I should just write narrative fiction literature instead of trying to do screenwriting where everything is — so much of it is about budget.

Bryan: I was talking to a screenwriter the other day and he described how, when you’re writing a screenplay, it’s all about the dialogue, whereas when you’re writing a novel, you have other things to think about. So, did your screenwriting background inform how you approach dialogue?

Joseph: I wouldn’t say a lot. I mean, a lot of dialogue I’ve more learned and studied in the post-screenwriting era, you know? I guess — in screenwriting, you’re a slave, like they just want you cranking all the time, which I guess is good in the sense that you’re writing a lot but there isn’t a lot of time to really break it down and study the craft.

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: So most of what I’ve learned about writing, I learned, you know, after writing, you know, three non-fiction books, after, you know, screenwriting for a couple years. Then I wrote my first novel, it was awful and I couldn’t figure out why, right? I was like I need feedback, I need feedback, and, eventually, I found a writing group and they were able to point me in the direction of — because I’d read craft books for writing, you know? I’d read them before and I was never impressed by them. I was like I didn’t really learn much but, in my writing group, they were able to direct me to some very specific books on craft that were just incredibly informative and —

Bryan: Any particular books that come to mind?

Joseph: So, is it — Writer’s Digest puts out a series and those are fantastic like they are really good. And then, what is it? Writing Kidlit was one that I picked up that was also really good, you know? And since then, I’ve kind of explored out. So, Robert McKee, he is a writing instructor but he’s an instructor for screenwriting but his exploration of story itself is incredibly well done. The book is just called Story and then —

Bryan: Yeah, it’s a fantastic book. I attended a workshop by Robert McKee several years ago. Made a big impact on how I think about writing.

Joseph: Yeah, so his is great and it’s more about, you know, he’s not gonna address, you know, writing narrative points within, you know, literature, he addresses just writing story in general. And then, you know, K. M. Weiland, I don’t know if you’re familiar with her, she’s definitely one of my favorite writers on the craft of writing. I always reference her. And then there’s a writer called Lisa Cron.

Bryan: Yep.

Joseph: So those I’d say are my big three and then there’s one more, I can’t even remember the name off the top of my head, sorry, but, yeah, so those three and one other, they’re kind of my big source so whenever I’m preparing an episode for my podcast, I’ll always see what these four writers have written on this topic and then, you know, I’ll explore out as well.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah. If you like Robert McKee, there’s an excellent book, perhaps you read it, it’s called The Art of Dramatic Writing.

Joseph: If I haven’t read it, it’s at least wish list because the name is very familiar.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of I think where Robert McKee maybe based some of his ideas on. It’s all about what goes into a good story, specifically screenplays, but it works for other genres as well.

Joseph: Yeah, yeah, like the fundamental elements of the story are gonna be the same across all genres but just how you write out the specifics is gonna be very different. 

Bryan: Yeah, yeah. This particular book was written, I think, in the mid part of the 20th century. He’s a Hungarian playwright, definitely worth checking out. So, when you wrote your series, did you set out to write Sky Fall as a series, or did you write book 1 and then decided to write a sequel?

Joseph: So it was originally planned as a standalone but there were several things that kind of happened along the way to make me feel like I have to write a series and the first was just the monetary aspect of it. 

Studying the marketing side of writing, you know, before, I just kinda leaned on the publisher to do that and it just — it had never done well and then I encountered Mark Dawson and he had talked about his own story of traditional publishing. He had been traditionally published and nothing had happened, right? 

The marketing behind the books had not been good and they never took off, right? Like he was never able to really become a full-time writer or anything. And so then he decided, “You know what, they’re not doing a good job marketing my books, I bet I can do a better job,” so then he, you know, started to explore the marketing side and started marketing his own books that way and, you know, it’s kind of taken off since. It really proved that the fault in the books was the marketing behind them, not the writing.

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: And so, I was like, you know, that’s something I wanna do, you know? I think I really enjoyed my books, you know? It’s why I wrote them and so it’s like I think the problem might be the marketing behind them as opposed to the book themselves and with like Mark, you know, because of contracts and whatnot, I wasn’t able to market those original nonfiction books but I could write new ones and market those. 

Bryan: So, with Mark Dawson, I took his course maybe two years ago and two of the strategies he recommends are having a free book and also he talks about advertising. Are those strategies that you’re using?

Joseph: Yes. So, I mean, all my books are available for sale on Amazon but if you’re signing up for my newsletter, you get one of the novellas for free —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — right? And, you know, I joined various promotion groups and giveaway groups to really, you know, push that free book to people and try and drive them to that newsletter.

Bryan: And do you run Facebook ads or paid advertising as well?

Joseph: Yeah, yeah. So I love Facebook ads, like just very easy to split tests, very easy to adjust, very easy to analyze the data. I remember at one point during my own podcasting, I interviewed a guy who was traditionally published and when he was published, the publisher, they had him take some classes on marketing and different things and so they were having him do basically all the stuff I was doing in the indie side and the difference was is that I can see the impact of my choices tomorrow, you know, or usually best to look at it like a week later. He would get a report every four months and he’d have to try and figure out what he did that worked and didn’t and I was like, “Oh, that’s a rough way to market.”

Bryan: Yeah, six months, that’s a long time when you think of anything online, particularly relating to digital, well, that will be impossible. So, in terms of one of your books, I noticed like it has 140 plus reviews, this is 12 Shots: 12 Crimes…12. Authors. I presume this is where you collaborated with other creatives on it —

Joseph: Yeah.

Bryan: — a thriller book.

Joseph: That was an anthology that we put together of either short stories or novellas to just kind of expose our writing to the audiences of all the other authors in the collection there so, yeah. Pretty common tactic. Oh, I don’t think I ever answered your question of why I changed from standalone to series. So, in studying marketing, I realized how much easier it is to make a profit on a series, right? 

Because if the reader reads one book of yours and it’s, you know, decent, okay, you know, they didn’t — it’s not like their all-time favorite but not terrible, then they’ll usually go on to read the series, you know, and then far more likely to become a fan of yours if they’ve read a whole series and continue to read your books even outside of that series, whereas if they read your one book and it’s not part of a series and it doesn’t just blow their mind, they might not become a fan of yours. You’re just maybe an author they read one book of and never really hunted down. And so, just from the profit aspect, being able to sell a whole series is a lot easier and it’s a lot easier to convert a reader to a theme.

Bryan: On the series question, it looks like you’ve doubled down on thriller, like from what I can see, Sky Fall is a four-book series and then you also have your collaboration with the other thriller writers. Did you ever consider any other genres?

Joseph: Yeah. So, I mean, I started working on a fantasy series. I read a lot of fantasy and I really enjoy it. I haven’t published in that realm yet but I do plan to and I have like an outline and pieces of a rough draft, even a romance, I don’t read a lot of romance, I will never become a full-on romance writer but it was just an idea I had that just kind of grew on its own and so I was like, well, I’ll just write this standalone just so that I can just write this story and get it out of my head.

Bryan: Okay, and what does your writing routine look like these days? Do you write in the morning or do you write for a predetermined period or do you have some other workflow?

Joseph: So, because I’ve got, you know, I’ve got two podcasts that I run and a bunch of projects so, essentially, writing gets two weeks out of the month and during it, I write in the afternoon and so I’ve got like — I’m a checklist person so every day has like a checklist of things I’ve gotta do to get through the day and, you know, then there’s a to-do list, you know, and part of that is, you know, try to get in at least an hour of solid writing and then, usually, the to-do list itself is just more writing on that day but it could be, you know, revising, looking over an outline, going over feedback from a beta reader or my writing partner, you know, just different things like that. 

And so, you know, I try to get in, you know, four to five hours a day on writing whatever aspect I’m working on during that two-week period, and then I get, you know, distance from the work when I go back to the podcast for the next two weeks. 

Bryan: Okay, that’s quite a lot. You’re speaking to another person who likes to-do lists and checklists so I’m the kind of person who likes to outline in advance. Do you also outline in advance or do you have another approach?

Joseph: Yeah, so my first novel which was never published and a train wreck, I pantsed, like I can just sat down at the screen and wrote like I had, you know, I had vague ideas in my head and I remember sitting down at the computer so many times and being like, “What am I gonna write? I don’t even know,” you know? It was just agonizing and I remember in one of the craft books I was reading at the time, one of the writers had talked about the tyranny of the blank page and that constant tyranny of facing a blank page was the reason he had left writing to become a producer and I was like, you know, I don’t like the tyranny of the blank page either. It makes, you know, once I get into it, it’s okay but just starting the process is miserable and so I then began to read about, you know, the difference between, you know, gardeners and architects or pantsers and plotters and I started plotting out my books a little bit more just particularly to make sure I could hit the really big points of story and that transported the writing process for me, like there’s no longer the tyranny of the blank page, you know? 

I’d sit down and I’d look at the outline for the upcoming moments and I’d look at the outline for the chapter and I just transfer those notes onto the page itself and then I just follow the outline, and I was like, “Oh, this is so easy,” and, you know, the outlining process is kind of a brainstorming and fun session anyway and so, suddenly, all the struggle and the tyranny, so to speak, of the blank page was gone and I could enjoy the whole writing process instead of just aspects of it.

Bryan: When I’m outlining, I tend to use bullet points or index cards or occasionally mind maps. Do you outline by writing like a summary of the chapter or do you have some other approach for outlining?

Joseph: So I guess I move through phases, like I just do everything in the Word doc and so the first thing is I look at, I’ll be like, “What are the major points of the story? What is the climax? What is the midpoint turn? What is the catalyst?” and then, well, first I write in those and go back, “Okay, what are some of the big themes that I’ve imagined in my head that I know I really wanna write and where do they fit in there?” you know?

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: So the book’s now been kind of cut into four acts, so to speak. And then I’ll be like, “Okay, so what are now the smaller pieces? What are the steps I need to take to reach each of those points?” and so then I’ll go and fill in those and, at that point, I’m gonna be like, “Okay, so what are the chapters that need to happen in each of here?” and then I kind of fill in — I don’t fill in like chapter 1, chapter 2 but like I just go, “This chapter needs to be about this section, we have this, this, this,” and so, at that point, I kinda have a rough outline, you know? And so then, when I sit down to actually write, I’ll then take, you know, “What is this section/chapter about?” and then put that there and I think through just really quickly back, “Okay, what are some things that need to happen here to make sure I reach this one goal?” and then, from there, then I just sit down and write.

Bryan: What does your editing process look like?

Joseph: So, it moves through a couple phases. So, the first phase is I wanna take my rough draft and just convert it into a paragraph per chapter —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — and then I will send that off to my writing partner and he will, you know, he’ll read through it and then we’ll have a meeting and we’ll talk about the plot and some of the problems I think it has and some of the problems he sees based on the little outline that he’s read and then we structure scenes based on that feedback there. 

So then I take that feedback, I run it, you know, through the outline, and then I’ll try and pull it and then I’ll send it back to him one more time and we’ll repeat that process once and then, at that point, I’ll prep it and send it to my alpha readers and then they’ll go through it and, you know, identify what they see as problems in the plot and whatnot and then we’ll, you know, again, revise. It doesn’t go to the alpha readers twice, they just read it the one time, then it will go to the beta readers, then I will go through it one last time and make any adjustments that just I feel as a writer that I want, you know, after all the feedback has kind of been put into it —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — then it will go into copyediting.

Bryan: I’m familiar with beta readers, as in somebody reviews, you know, a copy of the book before it’s published and looks for errors and provides suggestions but what’s the difference between an alpha reader and a beta reader?

Joseph: An alpha reader is gonna give you points on character, plot, like, essentially, it’s kinda the same process as I go through with my writing partner, you know? He’s gonna poke holes in the plot, he can say, this character feels undeveloped, this decision feels inauthentic, you know, this scene didn’t feel big enough, you know, I would have liked to see this, just stuff like that so it’s more of a developmental feedback you get from an alpha reader, like an alpha reader kinda takes the approach and be like, “What would I have done differently if I wrote this book?”

Bryan: Okay.

Joseph: Those I have to hire, like I don’t have like a specific list of people who just like to do that —

Bryan: So they’re not readers on your e-mail list. Where did you hire them?

Joseph: I just get them off of Fiverr, you know? I look at their experience and everything and so I’ll hire an alpha leader off of Fiverr.

Bryan: Okay, okay. And do you find that they come up with helpful suggestions? It’s just I haven’t used Fiverr for anything like that and I wonder what the quality of their feedback is like.

Joseph: I mean, I haven’t found anybody that I’m like 100 percent I would, you know, do this person again but I have found some that I like, but — so, usually, they’ll have a list of the types of books they like to read —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — and that kinda gives you a feel of what kind of feedback you’re gonna get but, I mean, sometimes you’re gonna get more beta reader feedback rather than alpha reader feedback from them —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — so it’s kinda hit and miss, you know, until you can find somebody who really, you know, I have some that I will go back to just because I haven’t found anyone I love yet.

Bryan: Okay, okay. Yeah, I guess it’s — but you’re making the decision on whether to accept their feedback or not. Is it expensive to work with an alpha reader?

Joseph: No, and a lot of times — I live in the United States and so, a lot of times, if I’m hiring an alpha reader in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or even just a native English speaker living in a country where the cost of living is much lower, usually that lowers the cost of the alpha reader just based on the currency shift, right? So, I mean, you know, I’m paying them like 100 where it’s equal to like maybe 700 of, you know, their currency.

Bryan: Okay, okay. So you’ve got the book critiqued by an alpha reader, by a beta reader, and it’s gone through a copyedit. What’s your next step before publication? Do you start working on promoting the book?

Joseph: No. So, I mean, once I’ve got my cover and everything ready, then I start teasing it to my mailing list, right? I send out the cover, couple of days later, they might get, you know, a blurb, then, you know, three or four days later, they might get the first chapter, just kind of doing — really only the hype I’m building right there is to my reader list —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — and then, you know, I inform them, you know, that if you get it in the first 24 hours, it’ll only be 99 cents and then, after that, the price will go up to normal, you know? Call it the fan’s pricing —

Bryan: Okay. 

Joseph: — and the goal there is just to spike those early sales on the book and to start getting new reviews really early because you’ve got a lot of people that, you know, they’re like, “Oh, I’ll save several dollars here if I just get it on the first day.” The fan pricing is really about manipulating Amazon algorithm.

Bryan: When you’re promoting your book, are you also writing as well or do you just focus solely on promotion?

Joseph: So, during the two weeks that I’m writing, I try to do at least an hour a day of writing but, I mean, if I’ve got promotion stuff to do, then that’s kind of like, you know, I do just an hour of writing and then it’s like, okay, the rest of the day is just promotion work here. And then I’ll run Facebook ads to my mailing list just to make sure, you know, maybe they didn’t get the e-mail or they haven’t gotten to it yet. Then they’ll start getting Facebook ads for the new book as well and then I’ll run Facebook ads against people who kind of match the profile of my mailing list and just go from there.

Bryan: Okay, okay. Yeah, sounds like you’ve taken to heart what Mark teaches in his course.

Joseph: Yeah, like I have found Facebook ads to be insanely effective. I love Facebook ads. They’re so good to use.

Bryan: Could you give listeners a flavor for your ballpark budget for Facebook ads?

Joseph: So, like whenever I’m starting a new book, I always just start with like $50 because I’ve got — like there’s a ton of split testing to do before I can commit to a marketing budget for real, right?

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: So, it’s, you know, $50, I’m testing, you know, just backgrounds with the cover on the front, you know, looking for conversions. One thing I always tell people when you’re running Facebook ads is you need to have a book in the ad, like it’s gotta look 100 percent like a book because there’s TV shows, there’s movies, there’s video games, like if you just have the image of your cover there, it could be anything, you know? Or some — I’ve even seen book ads that have no, you know, there’s not even a book cover on there, just like some cool looking images and I’m like, “You’re not filtering properly with this ad.” You have got to have a book on there so that they know when they click on it, they’re going to be looking at a book.

Bryan: You’re sending them directly to the Amazon page?

Joseph: Yes, although, at the moment, I’m trying something new where I’m just driving everything to my landing page. I’m just trying to do everything through the novella so I’m not even advertising paid product at the moment, just everything is for the free book giveaway and so then, yeah, just as I’ve been studying marketing stuff recently, I became familiar with the work of Russell Brunson and he is all about just get that e-mail list, I mean, the e-mail and then your whole investment is just converting this person into a fan. 

Because if I send people to an Amazon page, then the things I have to sell the book are the cover and the blurb and those are the only things that I can fully control to sell my book. But if I can get their e-mail and get them opening my e-mail, then I can, you know, there’s the cover that they’ve seen of the book, there’s the blurb that they’ve already read, and then I can tell them the story behind why I wrote that book. I can tell them some of the stories from the research that are really interesting that aren’t actually part of the book. I can tell them my own story as an author, like there’s a — I can now tell them a multitude of stories to make them become more invested in me as an author.
 
I can, you know, I can then offer up my best reviews in those e-mails as social proof. I have a friend who hates mangoes, absolutely hates them, thinks they taste awful, and she has tried mangoes at least 12 different times and I was asking her about this and she’s like, “Well, so many people just tell me about how good they are and how much they enjoy them that I have to try them again,” and, you know, this is really kind of the same concept here is, one, selling a person a book does not guarantee they’ll read it or giving it away for free, like if they’re gonna read it, it even drops lower —

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: — but when I have that e-mail, I can invest in some really short, well-done e-mails to convince them to read that book that they now own. And, you know, even with my friend, you know, she tried mangoes 12 times, you know, even if they didn’t really get sucked in in the first chapter, maybe, with all the social proof and stuff I can get through e-mail, I can get them to try chapter 2.

Now, if you get to chapter 5 and you still don’t really like my book, my book’s not for you, but my own experience is — The Name of the Wind is one of my favorite books but I did not enjoy the first 100 pages and the only reason I pushed through was because so many people just said how great it is that I eventually pushed through that first 100 pages that I didn’t thing was that great and I got into the rest of the story which I just loved, you know? And that’s kind of what I hope to do by gathering e-mail addresses is to be able to, one, convince them to read the book that they now have, and, two, if they don’t love that first chapter, to convince them to dive deeper.

Bryan: Yeah.

Joseph: So that’s what I’m working on right now. It’s kind of a new approach for me and I don’t really have feedback for you on how it’s working.

Bryan: Okay, okay. Yeah, I’m familiar with Russell’s approach. I use ConvertKit for my e-mail list. Are you using something similar?

Joseph: I use MailerLite for my e-mail list.

Bryan: Yeah, very good. So, Joseph, where can people read your books or where can they find more information about you or listen to your podcast?

Joseph: My books are of course on amazon.com. I’m currently exclusive with them just for the higher royalties. And then, my podcast is Start Writing and you can find that pretty much anywhere you can find a podcast.

Bryan: Thank you, Joseph. It’s very nice to talk to you today.

Joseph: Yeah, thank you.

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