[Day 13 of 90] Time For Marketing

This email might make you sad.

But since I’m not charging, I get to tell it like it is. That’s part of our little deal here.

It’s time we talk marketing.

If you remember nothing else from this 90-day challenge, I hope that this next part burns into your memory forever.

It’s how I was able to sell 300k copies of science fiction in my first year of writing and selling fiction.

It’s the core of every successful business I’ve launched.

And it was the one thing I missed/forgot about in all my business/writing failures.

Ready for it?

Here it is:

The 40/40/20 rule.

Everything you need to know about making money with fiction is right there.

Here’s where the numbers come from:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there lived a direct marketing master named Ed Meyer.

Ed was a special kind of marketer. He was a pioneer in the scientific testing of direct marketing methods. He was a master at analyzing why campaigns succeeded and why they failed.

In his rigorous study of both success and failure, he found that 100% of all successful direct marketing campaigns could be distilled into three major component parts:

Part 1: The Offer

Ed taught us that 40% of any successful campaign was the quality of the offer.

Entire books can be written on what this means, but in short:

How attractive is the thing you are selling?

In fiction, we might ask “how well is your book written?” Or “how interesting is your premise?” Or “how compelling is your offer’s position (meaning: are you giving away an entire anthology? Are you giving away a brand-new book? Are you giving a 500+ 5-star review book a 50% discount for a limited time? Etc.)”.

Part 2: The Audience

Ed says that 40% of any successful marketing campaign has to do with the quality of your audience.

This is the list of people who are going to see your offer.

Are they an email list of buyers?

Are they seeing a Facebook ad for the first time? Who is being targeted?

Is this a Bookbub?

All three of those have varying degrees of effectiveness INDEPENDENT of the offer itself.

How you plug your offer into those audiences, how you frame the offer, and how you select which audience to view the offer at which time all has tremendous effect on your outcome.

Part 3: The Creative

Ed teaches that 20% of any successful marketing campaign comes down to the ad creative itself.

In fiction, this is the book cover. The blurb. The ad copy. The reviews.

Why Any Of This Matters

Let me put it to you like this:

The quality of your book makes up 40% of your ability to generate sales.

Who you show that book to via advertising makes up another 40% of your ability to generate sales.

Your book cover, the blurb, and your ad copy makes up the final 20% of your ability to generate sales.

Here’s what that means:

80% of your ability to generate sales comes from the quality of your book, and the quality of your list.

And that should frighten you.

Frighten you into action.

Frighten you away from spending so much time tweaking Facebook Ad copy when your book is in such bad shape.

Frighten you away from learning the “latest advertising methods” and focus instead of caring for and nurturing your audience.

Frighten you into realigning your belief into what really matters when it comes to selling books.

I see two major problems right now in the world of self-publishing:

Problem 1: Ghostwriting

My inbox got flooded this morning with an offer about how to make money with ghostwriters.

I have nothing against the model (I use to do it myself).

Many great novels have been ghostwritten.

If quality is the focus, then it’s an absolutely wonderful business to be in. You get to help a lot of people (the writers you hire, the readers who read, and yourself).


Understand that what you pay ghostwriters directly affects 40% of your ability to sell your books.

I see too many people hiring ghostwriters for less than $0.05 per word and wondering why they aren’t selling more.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

You can use all kinds of fancy marketing tricks, but if your book is terrible, it will still be a terrible book.

And terrible books don’t sell nearly as well as good books.

And lest you get the wrong idea…

… In the very near future terrible books won’t sell at all.

Remember, Amazon doesn’t care about you as a content creator.

Their focus is on their customers NOT on pleasing you.

They are motivated and incentivized (with dollar amounts you can’t even begin to imagine) to make sure terrible books don’t show up in the buying experience for their shoppers.

If you are currently operating a business which relies on low-end ghostwriters, then let me be the first to warn you:

Your days are numbered.

This is why I left the ghostwriting/publishing model.

If you’re familiar with Peter Diamandis and his 6 D’s (look it up) then you know that price decompression will continue as the technology forces the democratization of fiction.

It’s only a matter of time.

So, instead of dumping a bunch of money into training writers (wait… you aren’t hiring writers without training them are you? Please tell me you aren’t…), I want to dump that same investment of time and money into MY ability to produce better work.

As price decompression continues, I’ll be unaffected because I won’t be in the commodity game (which 99% of the people who publish ghostwritten work are in).

There will always be big money in fiction. Always.

The key is being able to produce good enough offers to maximize your ability to stand out and sell in an overcrowded marketplace. (I would argue a rigged marketplace to boot).

You can’t do that with cheap ghostwriters.

Problem 2: List Abuse

I am on more than two dozen self-publishing authors’ lists.

Every single one of them commits list abuse.

What’s list abuse?

It’s trying to run your list like it’s still 2005.

You only send sales announcements.

Your emails are impersonal.

Your emails are infrequent.

You ask more than you give.

You treat it like an ATM instead of a marketing tool for moving people through your customer experience process (from cold to evangelist).

Readers might be tolerant of that right now.

But that will shift.

Just like it did back in 2005 in the more competitive/high stakes markets.

To combat that, you have to put in effort.

Effort to nurture your list from the word “go”. To treat it like a communication channel, and not just a cash machine.

Again, we are talking about 40% of your ability to sell books being jeopardized if you don’t make the change.

Pretty scary, right?

The good news is…

You CAN overcome these potential pitfalls…

… And profit righteously by reverse engineering other successful marketplaces and maximizing the full 80% of your ability to sell…

… And all you have to do is click on this link here to buy my step-by-step course on how to sell 300,000 copies per year of your fiction books!

Just kidding.

But in all honesty, I WILL be talking about how to maximize your offer AND your audience (80% of your ability to sell) BEFORE you even publish your first book.

And I am DEAD SERIOUS about the problems of ghostwriting and list abuse.

Audience and offer are not something that you think of AFTER your series is finished.

They are integral parts of product development. They are stage one tasks.

We’ll talk about those in upcoming emails.

But for now, memorize and re-memorize the 40/40/20 rule.

Live by it.

Let it guide you to creating quality books, and coming up with creative ways to better nurture your audience.

Once you have this rule memorized and understood, selling books becomes incredibly easy.

Knowing how to implement that rule also means that you don’t have to rely on single strategies/tactics.

If Facebook ads stopped working tomorrow, I could transition quickly and easily into a new platform to generate similar results.

If I want to write in a new genre, easy. I rely on the 40/40/20 rule to make sure that it’s a profitable experience.

We’ll talk more on all of this later, but for now learn the rule.

And don’t forget to keep writing.

Mike “Apprentice Of Ed Meyer” Shreeve

P. S. Today I wrote a solid 3192 words. I’m happy with the progress I’ve been making.

I’m thinking that I will be switching my hero/detective to an amateur sleuth OR private eye.

That will require some rewriting, but such is life.