Another webinar I found interesting was Ryan Levesque’s webinar “How To Self-Publish Your Way To #1 on the Amazon & USA Today National Bestseller Lists (And How I’ve Generated $100 Million With This Formula).” In this post I’ll share what I learned from that webinar.
Ryan started by mentioning that he’s used the Ask formula to generate revenue in several multi-million dollar businesses in 23 different industries to generate over $100 million dollars in sales. He generated over 3 million leads, 175,000 customers across 19 different markets in the past 23 months. His original aspirations for his book, however were to have a simple book that he could give out as the best business card he had for his business. As he started telling people the story about how he developed the Ask formula, though, people started telling him the book had the makings of a best-seller – instead of telling just a portion of the story, he ended up telling the whole story – he didn’t hold anything back – the lesson he learned from this is that if you tell people everything you know for free, people will pay you to tell it to them again. One story he told in his book was about how he got so sick three years ago that he lost a lot of weight and didn’t know what was going on. He fell into a state called diabetic ketoacidosis, and his major organs started shutting down. It wasn’t until he applied for life insurance and was rejected that he found out what was going on though. He went to the doctor, and the doctor told him that he should be in a coma right now. He sent Ryan to the ER and from there he spent 10 days in the ICU on life support. He came out of that experience questioning what he wanted to do with his life – he had been given a second chance, what did he want to leave the world with? So he decided to share the Ask formula with the marketing world.
One of the key takeaways Ryan got from publishing that book is that there’s a temptation to hold back – so many books give you some information and then tell you to get the rest you have to buy the course or whatever the author is trying to sell you.
Ryan’s goal for the pre-launch was to sell enough copies of the book to sell enough copies and get enough pre-orders that he could be considered for some of the best-seller lists. His aspiration actually went from having the best business card to being considered for the New York Times Best Seller list. He came very close, but didn’t quite make the New York Times bestseller list, because his book was listed under How-To, which is different from business. Had his book been listed in the Business section, he thinks he would have made the best seller list – but since he was in the How-To section, he was competing with books like weight loss books, juicing books, and other how-to type books. He did however make every other list.
He put a lot of muscle behind the launch – his number one traffic source was cold traffic. In order to get cold traffic he did a lot of advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn and got 300 to 330 orders a day. He marketed the book to his list, to cold traffic, and to a handful of partners who supported the launch and promoted the book to their audience as well. In order for his launch to be as successful as it was, he had to sell people on the idea that this was going to be a transformational book – that it would change their lives.
One thing he found out during pre-launch is that people were excited to get the book – he started doing the pre-launch in February and the book wasn’t due to come out until April. He had people contacting him asking “Where’s my book?” even though he had clearly communicated the launch date. The lesson he learned from that was that when you do a launch, overcommunicate the launch date.
He also got some pre-release reviews of the book and used some of the great things people had said, as well as his story of how he started with nothing but a $450 dollar laptop and an Internet connection, his wife was in grad school and they were living in student housing in Hong Kong, to start his business. He got the business to where it was making $10,000 a month, then the market crashed. His wife ended up having to get a job as a museum curator making $30,000 while he launched their second business, and that’s where they hit paydirt. At that time they were living in Brownsville, Texas, on the border of Texas and Mexico, in the cheapest apartment they could find that didn’t have bars on the windows. The only furniture they had was two lawn chairs they had gotten as a gift for opening up their business bank account and a mattress on the floor. He would drive his wife to work, go home and work until it was time to pick her up, make a quick dinner, then they did their second shift of work in the business. They took the business from making nothing to making $25,000 a month in 18 months. At that point his wife was confident enough to quit her job and come work in the business with him full-time. They ended up moving to Austin in 2008.
Another suggestion he had was telling your story to everyone you can – if their eyes glaze over you know you need to work on your pitch, but if they say “Tell me more,” you know you’re onto something. He also did a lot of podcast interviews – somewhere between 120 and 150. He did 80 alone before the book launched. He sometimes did as many as 5 podcast interviews in a single day. He has someone on his team who pitches his story to various podcasts -if you feel comfortable you can do it yourself, but if you don’t you can bring someone on who can do it for you.
When his book launched, he had hit number 3 on Amazon, then he was working on his laptop and realized his book had hit number one. He immediately took a screen capture so that he could have a record of it. His book held the number one spot for a day, then the second week it hit number two. He also hit number one on all categories in Barnes and Noble. Later on he found out he hit number one all across the country when the Neilsen ratings came out. After the first two or three weeks of launch, sales started to slow, but he was in the top 1,000 books for a month.
One thing he found out is that people who buy books are more critical than people who buy high-end information products – they have higher expectations from a book they bought for 6.99 than a training course they bought for $6,000. (I still can’t figure that one out, to me it seems like it would be the other way around).
Other things he mentioned were that he was tempted to plant reviews of his book, but decided not to because he’d rather have real, honest reviews than fake ones. He also mentioned that it helps if you work with people who are fans of your work – reach out to them and ask them to reach out to people they know and tell them about your book. Another thing he does is he tries to anticipate the objections people might have. One thing he anticipated would happen is that people would say “I don’t care about your personal story, just give me the facts.” So in his introduction he says if you’re the type of person who just likes to cut to the chase, skip the first 100 pages of this book.If you’re the type of person who likes to understand someone’s personal journey, you’ll really enjoy the first part of this book. People loved it, and argued both sides in the reviews they left him. One person left a one star review because they didn’t like the fact that he spent a lot of time talking about his personal journey, and people ganged up on him saying that he said in the first paragraph if you don’t like to read about a person’s journey to skip the first 100 pages.
One of the things he mentioned was to “make the skeleton dance.” In other words, tell the entire story, don’t hold anything back. If you do that, there’s nothing that people can say. As far as finding other ways to monetize your book, he suggested finding out what would benefit your readers – would they like an online course, software, a paid online community or done-for-you services? He had no way of knowing what people would want, so he decided to be more conservative with how often he pushed stuff in his book – he mentioned next steps at the beginning of the book and mentioned other resources throughout the book. The biggest moneymakers that he had that came as a result of the book were the software that he sold, as well as a mastermind group he put together for people that had read the book.
His suggestion if you choose to sell multiple products, was to make one product the main offer and the others the bonuses. He also said that in order to have someone verify they’d purchased the book, he would ask them to mention a certain word on a certain page of the book – for example the third word on page 33.
One final lesson that he learned after selling so many books that he blew through Amazon’s stock of the book, and other people who wanted copies of the book had to wait for them to be printed, was that Amazon has something for printed books called Out of Stock protection – if someone orders your book and it’s out of stock, they’ll print another one up on demand so that the person can still get a copy of the book. He also noticed a ripple effect that happened as a result of the book being published, and that was that people were investing in other offers without ever speaking to him.
Ok, this has turned into probably one of my longest posts, but before I wrap it up I want to mention that you can get a copy of Ryan’s book for free, just go to the website askformula.com.