Tim Grahl is the Chief Thinker of the Out:think Group and author of, “Your First 1000 Copies:  The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book.” He joins the show to discuss how any book can sell at least 1,000 copies on Amazon.

Visit the Out:think Group at www.outthinkgroup.com.

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Start of Interview with Tim Grahl

Jason Hartman:  It’s my pleasure to welcome Tim Grahl to the show.  He is the chief thinker at Out:Think Group, and he is the author of Your First 1000 Copies:  the Step by Step Guide to Marketing your Book.  And he is an expert on tribe engagement.  So it’s great to have him on the show, coming to us I believe from Virginia today, is that correct Tim?

Tim Grahl:  That’s correct.

Jason Hartman:  Hey, it’s good to have you on the show.  So tell us a little bit about the book and some of the challenges authors face and how they can succeed in overcoming them.

Tim Grahl:  Well, it was kind of born out of this idea that for the first time in history, the authors can really connect directly with their audience.  In the past you’ve got your publishing deal, you wrote the book, you maybe did a book tour, went on TV or radio and then you went back into your cave and trusted the system to sell your book for you.  And that just doesn’t work that way anymore.  Everything’s changing and I think changing for the better in that authors can now build direct connection with their audience and build a connection that they control.  They don’t have to rely on anybody else to control it.  And so, but of course, the other side of that problem is there’s just too many options now.  Whether it’s blogging or podcasting or social media or anything, any of these different tools that are out there.  There’s just so many different things that authors can do in so many different ways; it can get really confusing.

Jason Hartman:  Where do you start?  Very good point.

Tim Grahl:  Well and then it’s where do you start, and then well that didn’t work, I’ve got to try something else.  Well that didn’t work, so I’ve got to try something else.  And it ends up kind of bouncing around and it feels very much like floundering.  So I’ve been over the last four years, I’ve worked with over a hundred different authors, and from top best-selling authors all the way to authors that are just getting their start, and I’ve really found what works and what doesn’t just by testing it and trying out all of these different things.  And in that process I came up with this connection system, that’s what I’ve called it, and it’s made up of, it walks you through the path of how you can connect with readers, what tools work the best, and which ones don’t and how to actually use them and how to think about them in a way that is actually helpful.  So that at the end you actually have a plan in place to do you’re marketing because a lot of times we start with the tools.  We start with well, I need to be on Facebook so we’ve got to figure out how to sell books with Facebook. And that’s akin just to reaching in a tool box, pulling out a tool and saying okay I need to find something to hit with this thing.  And I look at it as okay, let’s have a plan first, figure out what we’re trying to build, and then reach in our tool box and pull out the right kind of tool for the job.  And I find if you look at it that way and actually have a plan, things go a lot easier, you work on things that are actually successful instead of floundering around and doing things that are mostly a waste of time.

Jason Hartman:  Well that makes a lot of sense because there are too many options out there.  So let’s kind of drill down on that, I mean, what are the best most productive, best ROI activities for authors?

Tim Grahl:  Well it takes 3 things to build a good platform.  You have to have permission to stay in touch with your audience in a way that actually drives action.  You have to release content in a way that people can engage with it widely and freely, and then you have to do outreach.  You actually have to move people from not knowing you exist to knowing you exist.  And as far as tools, permission is the biggest thing.  If you go out and your do a bunch of publicity to get people to know you, but you have no way to capture those people in a way that you can continue the conversation later, it’s mostly a waste of time.  Sure you might sell some books, but you haven’t really built anything that’s sustainable.  If you hire a publicist to go out and you spend a bunch of money to get you on a bunch of radio shows, television shows or whatever, you’ll have to do that same thing in two or three years when you have another book to sell and you’ll end up spending more money for less results with how media’s changing.  So the big thing is building an Email list.  More than anything else, an author should be building an Email list.  Because it’s still the number one way to stay in contact with people online in a way that actually drives action.  So that’s the number one thing, the number one tool that I recommend, is to start an Email list and start building it as quickly as possible.

Jason Hartman:  The good old fashioned Email list.  I’ve got to just comment on that.  So many authors and speakers, infopreneurs, they’re spending all this time building social media fan pages, say Facebook.  Oh I’ve got ten thousand Likes; Great!  But we’ve all got to remember, you don’t own that.  That’s a Facebook list so if Facebook were to go away, if they were to take your page down for some reason, you’re done.  I mean, that’s why a good old Email list is, I agree.  Couldn’t agree more.

Tim Grahl:  Well, and also, let’s just take that out of the equation that somebody else owns it.  Which is a big deal.  The other part is that people engage with these different platforms in different ways.  So are you on Twitter?

Jason Hartman:  Of course, yeah.

Tim Grahl:  So how many people do you follow on Twitter?

Jason Hartman:  We’re following on one of the Twitter accounts, we have 16 different brands so we have 16 Twitter accounts, and on one of them we’re following 4,100 people.

Tim Grahl:  Okay, so of those 4,100 people and all the updates they do in a typical 24 hour period, how many of those do you actually read?

Jason Hartman:  Oh gosh, not many.

Tim Grahl:  Right.  Probably well under 1%, right?

Jason Hartman:  Yeah, I would say so.

Tim Grahl:  So, now let’s compare that to your Email inbox.  Of everything that comes into your Email inbox, how many of those do you at least look at?

Jason Hartman:  Well, sometimes they do get lost in the shuffle, admittedly, but pretty much I’m sorting through my Email box and sorting stuff out and filing it and looking at it.  Even if it’s just a glance.

Tim Grahl:  Yeah.  I mean you at least process it, you at least have to do something with it.  And no matter how…

Jason Hartman:  So if somebody sends me an Email newsletter, at least I’ll see it on the way to the delete button or the metaphorical trash can, right?

Tim Grahl:  You force people to process it basically.  And no matter how much the productivity gurus tell us to check our Email twice a day, most of us check it in real time.  And so that’s why it’s different too, because we process messages on social media much different than we process Emails.  And you cannot reliably drive action.  That’s why I talked about permission.  You need a way that you can communicate with people that reliably drives action.  And you can’t reliably drive action through these other platforms as well as you can Email.  Can you do some things with them?  Absolutely.  But if you compare to the effect they have on book sales to how much time people spend on it, it’s usually way over run with too much time spent on social media.  And so I have tested it.  I have run book campaigns that debut books at the very top of the New York Times list.  And I’ve run campaigns that are small.  And over and over and over, Email outperforms anything else by far.  And like you said, you own it.  If I’m using mail chimp for my email list and I don’t like the way mail chimp is doing things, I can download it somewhere else.  And worst case scenario I can just copy and paste them, and I don’t do this, I do not recommend it but worst case scenario I can just live send them myself.  So that’s where I’ve seen it drives most action and if there’s one goal in mind that every author should be doing marketing wise, it’s getting as many people as possible on their Email list.  That is what will actually sell books in the long run.

Jason Hartman:  Okay, so what should they be doing with the Emails to build maximum engagement?  How often should they be sending, what should they be sending, etcetera, etcetera.

Tim Grahl:  Well there is no magic formula.  There’s Emails that go out every day, there’s Emails that go out, there’s lists that people send to once a month.  And depending on who it is and what they’re doing, it works for them.  So there’s really no magic formula but I have some guidelines that I’ve seen work really, really well.  The first is when it comes to the content, focus on being relentlessly helpful.  And that’s going to look different depending on who you are, but basically I try to remember that everybody on my list, or if I’m working with a client, everybody on their list, they’re individual people with individual goals, hopes and dreams.  And my job is to help them get more of what they want out of life.  And so with my personal list, I’ve talked about book marketing.  So every time I write an Email, I try to write something that I know will be helpful to people that are on the Email list and give them something of value.  And then I send enough, I think sending enough to stay top of mine.  So it should never lapse over a month before they hear from you.  Because if they’re only hearing from you once every two, three, four months, you’re not creating any kind of ongoing conversation or expectation that you’re somebody they can rely on for good information.

Jason Hartman:  Okay, so once a month is the minimum.  What’s the maximum though?

Tim Grahl:  This is interesting.  I’ve been researching this.  Because I have trouble saying there is a maximum.  And one of the things I read on this topic that kind of sums it up for me, is there was this great article by the guy that ran president Obama’s last campaign; The online portion of the last campaign.  And he said from what he can tell it’s really, really hard to burn out a list; to send too much.  And for me, when I promoted my own book, I really wanted to see how many Emails I could send until it finally, people stopped opening them.  So I sent 9 Emails in two weeks promoting my book and my open rates stayed the same, my click through rates stayed the same, my engagement stayed the same.  It stayed the same because in each of those Emails I tried to send out really great content.  It wasn’t just an ad for my book, it was content promoting my book.  And so I think too much is, the only answer to sending too much is when you’re getting past a point where you’re sending out good content.  If I had the time and wherewithal to come up with great content, I would be sending out Emails every day.  So I think, if you think about how we engage with content, our favorite news sites that provide the news that we like, we visit those sometimes multiple times a day.  Our favorite blogs, I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog, I read that every day.  If it’s good content, I’m going to consume it every day.  So I really focus on well, any writer can come up with great content at least once a month.  And then after that, it’s basically how often can you come up with great content.

Jason Hartman:  Alright so besides Email, let’s talk about some of the other engagement strategies.  But I think your point is well taken there.  Definitely.  Good old fashioned Email has not gone out of style.  So it should not be forgotten.  But what else can they do to engage?

Tim Grahl:  Well, past building the Email list, you want to put content out to the world that will spread, that will get people interested.  And you use that content to do outreach.  So even if you have the best website with the best offer to get people on your Email list, and so a lot of people would come to the site, and a lot of them are actually going to sign up for the Email list.  But you’re not actually getting anybody to your website, that’s not really going to help.  So focus on outreach is the next thing to do, is looking at how you can move people from not knowing you exist to knowing you exist.  And this can look a hundred different ways, whether it’s speaking at an event, whether it’s guest posting on somebody’s blog, whether it is what I’m doing right now, being on this podcast.  A lot of people who are listening, you’ve never heard of me before so I’m moving you from not knowing I exist to knowing I exist.  And making sure that you connect that back to your platform in a way that you’re inviting them to be a part of it.  So for instance, I have on my website if you sign up for the Email list, I have a 30 day free course that you can sign up for.

So whenever I’m doing any kind of outreach, I mention that as a way that people can, if they like what I have to say, they can get more of it by signing up for my Email list.  And again, this can look a lot of different ways.  I had one guy, one client I was working with, and he was speaking a lot.  He was speaking 60-70 times a year but it wasn’t really past that talk, it wasn’t doing much to actually build his platform.  So we just inserted a simple offer into his slide deck and into his talk, and he would say to the audience if you’d like to download my slides when my talk’s over, just sign up at this URL and I’ll send you my slides after this talk.  And he started converting a third of the people in the audience to his Email list.  So it’s no longer, he gets up in front of 500 people, does a talk and he has no way to follow up with them and no way to sell them anything down the road, now a third of these people are signing up for his Email list and he can have a long term relationship with them.  So always looking at well, what am I doing to move people from not knowing I exist to knowing I exist, and making sure that you work that offer in of how they can connect with you further and sign up for the Email list.

Jason Hartman:  Good points, good points.  So, anything on the website in particular?  I like your website.  I mean yours looks great and I like how the auto responder works, where you confirm the opt-in, very simple, clean.  Nice looking stuff you’ve done.

Tim Grahl:  Yeah actually we’re about to launch a new site, so it’s actually going to be a lot different.

Jason Hartman:  Saw it was under construction.

Tim Grahl:  I look at if this is going to vary depending on who you are, and what your book is about.  If you’re a consulting firm that’s looking to get new clients while also building an Email list, you can’t just have a giant Email list sign up, you need people to actually be contacting you to hire you.  But when I’m looking at typical author websites, where the main goal is to get people to buy the book and sign up for the email list, you have to make that email list sign up very, very easy for people to sign up for.

And there’s two main ways that I’d look at.  First you have to make the offer very compelling of why they should sign up.  The second is you have to offer it to them many, many times.  So the first one as far as offering something compelling, it can’t be sign up for my newsletter or sign up and get my updates.  It has to be something that answers the question what’s in it for me, when people are reading that.  And so if I just read something and say sign up for my updates, what does that mean, what does your updates mean?  I have no idea what I’m getting, when I’m going to get it, who it’s coming from, I don’t know any of this.  So you have to give something like sign up now and I’ll send you a free PDF with the eleven things you need to know about X, something compelling, something that will get people to take action.

Again, on my site, I’m going to send you a free 30 day course if you sign up for my Email list.  Something that will get people to take action right now.  Something that’s worth giving you their Email address, and having something go in their inbox that’s already too full of Email.  So you have to give a really compelling reason for them to sign up.  And the second thing is, make it really hard to miss.  I go to websites and I see the Email list, the Email sign up buried down in the footer.  Or its half way down the side bar and it’s the same color as everything else so it just blends right in.  Again, back to president Obama’s campaign, for a long time if you went to his website, the first page you saw was a giant Email sign up and you had to either sign up or click that you don’t want to sign up before you could get to the actual website.

Jason Hartman:  Now, I don’t like those though.  Personally, I usually just close that browser window.  Do you recommend that?  That you just force people to sign up?  You don’t let them look at anything?  Or what do you think?

Tim Grahl:  Well, so those are called squeeze pages, and again, it depends on your goals and what you’re trying to do.

Jason Hartman:  Or it’s like they let you see the page and then this pop up over shadows it and usually they’ll let you out of it and you can just click close, but even then I find it to be annoying, I don’t know.

Tim Grahl:  So this is probably the thing that recommend that gets the most push back, is that I do recommend using those pop overs, those pop ups, and there’s lots of reasons behind that.  The first one is, I read this great article and I actually reference it in my book; the title of the article, I think it’s called Junk Surfers, at least that’s how I remember it and basically this guy was talking about he does web usability.  He talks about how usually when you do usability testing and watch people use a website, you put them in this controlled environment, where they’re using the website and you watch them.  That is not reality at all.  He likes to go to the bar at 9 o’clock at night, buy somebody a beer and let them use the website then.  Because for most of us when we’re surfing the web, it’s getting like 10% of our attention.  We’re checking our Email, we’re checking our phone, we’re talking on the phone, we’re yelling at our kids, we’re spilling coffee on our key board.  We’re doing a hundred other things, so you’ve really got to smack people over the head with the most important thing.  And the other side is, this isn’t how most people interact with the internet.  If you go to Forbes.com, you can’t even get to the home page without seeing an ad.  If you go to New York Times, an ad will like slide down and take up your whole screen.  Some of the most popular websites on the internet have these things that pop up.

Jason Hartman:  I realize that, so I think that the hard part, there’s an old saying in economics, you can’t hear the dogs that don’t bark. Because there’s not always a, there’s not always a way to measure things that don’t happen, obviously.  So the question we have to consider, though I’m not saying it’s the whole thing, but the question we have to consider I think is yes, the New York Times and Forbes, they already had a big following, they still have a big following, but would their site be better, would their engagement be better, would their results be better, if they didn’t force that upon the visitor?  I don’t know.  We don’t know the answer.  It’s just a question.

Tim Grahl:  Well, so I’ve actually tried to test some of this.  I have put pop ups on some very popular websites and I’ve tried to test several things.  The first one is, comparing statistics; do any kind of visits or page views go down afterwards?  And we’ve never seen it go down.  We’ve also welcomed feedback on it, to people on the site.  And we’ve got very, very little negative feedback.  Almost none.  But what we do see is a huge spike in Email subscriptions, which is the number one way to sell things down the road.  And if you look at your stats, most people get about a 70-80% bounce rate.  That means people come to the site, they look at one page for a couple of seconds and then they immediately leave.  And so if you can start actually capturing some of those people that are randomly coming to your website and get them on an Email list that you can then continue, it becomes a push technology instead of a pull.  You don’t have to rely on them to come back to your website again.  Because you now have direct access to where they spend their time in their inbox.  And especially if I focus on giving really great content.  I don’t advocate that you get them on the Email list and then start slamming them.

Jason Hartman:  If you’re a spammer, it’s not going to work.

Tim Grahl:  You still have to look out, and there’s definitely people that don’t agree with me, but I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it work.  On one site that we did this on, we signed up in four months what it had taken us over a year to get signed up on the list.  And that was after so many people that regularly came to the site were already on the list.  And so the effects are just so high, and then, that was actually Dan Pink.  And then when it came time to sell his next book, we had a much bigger list that converted very, very high to selling the book.  And it was because we had put a pop up on there.  And so that’s where I go back to the second rule.  Make sure you put that Email list sign up, make the colors contrast so it stands out on your website, make it, if you are looking at your website, the number one goal that you want people to do is to sign up for that Email list.

Jason Hartman:  Right, yeah.  Okay good.  Well, we talked about some of the electronic stuff, the Email marketing, and webpage and so forth.  Talk to us a little bit about book launch.  I know that you offer it looks like 3 basic services.  Coaching, web packages, and book launching.  Talk a little bit about the book launch.  You’ve got several well-known clients that you’ve done that for.

Tim Grahl:  Yeah, so one thing to remember here in the stuff that I’m talking about, I’m not a publicist.  So we don’t, when we do book launches, we don’t look at how can we get media interested in what we’re doing.  What I’m looking at is how can we take the platform you’ve built and leverage it to sell as many books as possible?  So that’s a different way of thinking, so actually most of the people that are interested in hiring me to do book launches I don’t work with because they don’t have a big enough platform to make it worth the money it would cost to hire me.  So most of my time I actually spend with authors helping them build their platform so that when the book comes out, they actually have people that are ready to buy it.

But for people that have a platform, and I did this for myself, which my platform is a lot smaller than several of my clients, I just look at 3 things.  I look at how can we sell as many books as possible to the fans that we’re connected to, basically the Email list.

How can we make it really, really easy for those people to also share the book with their network?  So in most cases I don’t spend a lot of time building a social media following, but being able to leverage other people’s social media followings can be really powerful.

And then the third thing is how can I get influencers?  People that have blogs, and Email lists, and big social media followings.  The people that I’m connected to, how can I work with them to spread the word on the book?  So when I look at something like a launch of a book, I look at well how can we get people to actually stand up and buy this book when it first comes out?  Because that’s when you’re most likely going to convert them.

And there’s 3 types of people that you’re connected to.  There’s people that are going to buy the book no matter what, there’s always a percentage of people that love what you do, love everything you come out with, no matter what it is, they’re going to buy it.  And you don’t really have to worry about them.  And then there’s another group that no matter what you do, they’re not going to buy it, right?  They’re just not interested in buying it, no matter what you give away, what kind of incentive; they’re just not going to buy it.  But there’s a pretty large group of people that are fence sitters.  They’re trying to decide whether or not they should buy the book now.  And I focus really hard on getting them to buy the book now, not to wait for reviews, not to put the book on their amazon wish list.

Everybody already has a stack of books they already feel guilty they’re not reading.  I have to convince them this should be another book to go on that stack.  And so that’s where we start doing pre order giveaways where if they purchase the book now, I give them an incentive for purchasing the book now.  I just look for any way that I can get people to make the decision right now to buy the book.

And then I also put tools in their hands so that they can share the book, whether it’s info graphics around the book, whether it’s PDF giveaways, whether it’s Email copy or social media copy that they can just click and send to their friends, I try to make the path between them and them promoting the book very, very short and very, very easy so all they have to do is click a couple buttons and they can tell their friends about the book.

Jason Hartman:  So making it easy to share, making it easy to become somewhat viral, definitely important.  Any other great techniques?  Maybe some newer techniques, some unique techniques that you’re using or recommending?  And you mentioned publicist too.  Do you recommend that authors even hire a publicist?  Or as you started out talking about this, it was really about how we can do direct to our public now.  And we certainly, authors have circumvented the publisher many times.  But maybe they can even circumvent the publicist by doing a lot of this themselves.  Technology is such a powerful leverage creator.

Tim Grahl:  With the publicist, what I say is it depends.  I like to start with the idea of I don’t need a publicist and you’ve got to talk me into it.  Most people start with this idea well, I’ve got to hire a publicist.  And it’s like well, most publicists suck.  They’re not very good at their job and they’re not doing much.  And what happens is they want to get paid for sending out inquiries.  And that’s just not great.  But at the same time, there are publicists that can open up doors for you that you just can’t.  Actually right now I’m working with one.

I’m working with one that’s trying to get me a writing position at somewhere reputable.  To be able to add that to my resume and solve my outreach problem.  Well, there’s only, that’s only, the reason we’re working together is because I know him pretty well and I know his contacts and I feel pretty confident that he can do that for me.  This idea that I’m just going to go hire a publicist to just go out in the world and just hope that they can get somebody to pay attention to me, that just isn’t’ useful anymore.  And because of the way the media’s fractured, people think well, if I get on the Today Show or I get on some major television show I’m going to sell a ton of books.  And it just doesn’t necessarily work that way anymore.

And so you have to be very careful and think it through and what has changed is that, nothing is default anymore.  Nothing is something everybody should be doing and nothing is something everybody shouldn’t be doing.  Even though I self-published my book, I don’t think everybody should be self-publishing.  That would be crazy.  And it’s the same thing with publicists.  I don’t think that they’re the default answer anymore, but to say that they’re completely irrelevant isn’t the case either.  It’s just be careful, get good references.  Talk to them, make sure they’re getting paid when they actually get good results, not just paid when they try their darndest to get you something.

And then as far as certain tactics, the biggest thing, and to me it seems like something that should be obvious, but whenever I talk about it, people realize they’re not doing it.  The great thing about everything with this technology is you can track what’s working, and what’s not.  And so few people are doing this.  And this is where my actual advice to most people is to ruthlessly cut out things they’re doing.  Focus on things that actually get results; that get measurable results.  That is the biggest tactic I see.  A recent author I’ve been working with a long time.  I said we need to just shut down your blog.  It’s not doing anything for you.  You’re not enjoying it anymore.  Why are we spending any time doing this thing that’s not getting results and that you don’t like to do?

Jason Hartman:  I bet you met with a lot of resistance there, because so much effort has been put into it probably, right?  And it’s just not working, it’s like cutting things lose that just aren’t working.

Tim Grahl:  And I harp on social media on this same thing.  People spend tons of time on social media telling themselves they’re marketing.  When they put something out and it gets 83 Likes, and that’s probably high.  And first of all, you can’t pay your mortgage with Likes.  Second of all, you haven’t actually asked those people to do anything.  How many of those 83 people are actually going to click a button and buy a book?  I’m guessing under 10.  And you’re spending huge amounts of time doing this.  And so I look at well ruthlessly cut things that aren’t getting results, focus on things that are getting results, that are getting you connected to people in a way that will actually sell your book in the future.  That’s the secret.  That’s if you look at people that are being successful, that are actually being successful, that’s what they do.  They focus on the highest value things and ruthlessly cut everything else.

Jason Hartman:  Well, I think that’s very good advice my friend.  Well hey, give out your website if you would and tell people where they can find you Tim.

Tim Grahl:  You can find me at outthinkgroup.com, and you can also just Google my name, Tim Grahl or look it up on Amazon and buy my book, Your First 1000 Copies.  And of course, if you go to my website you can sign up for the Email list and I’ll send you a 30 day course on how to build your platform, connect with readers, and sell more books.

Jason Hartman:  Good stuff.  Well I’m glad to see it’s not just another one of these people recommending that everybody do everything.  Because the concept of here’s a thousand ideas to market your book, it’s just, nobody can chase that down.  So focusing relentlessly cutting and doing things that work.  Some very good advice today Tim.  Tim Grahl, thank you so much for joining us.

Tim Grahl:  Yeah, thank you.

Narrator:  This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved.  For distribution or publication rights, and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected]  Nothing on this show should be considered personal or professional advice.  Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice.  Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively. (Image: Flickr | Danard Vincente)

Transcribed by Ralph

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