SBM 019 : Book Publishing and Running Membership Sites with Elisa Doucette

Today’s Guest

Elisa Doucette joins the 19th session of Smart Brand Marketing with your host Tom Libelt.

We talk about writing (specifically trying to get that one book out of our systems) and running membership sites. Elisa has ran the dynamite circle for what I believe was 3 years and I found it interesting to hear what goes into that.


The Realities of Publishing Your Own Book Online and Running a Membership Site

Drumming up interest for your brand online can be a tall order. Aside from offering your main products and services, you should also be able to provide compelling content to your target audience while also getting them updated with whatever is going in with your business.

If any of those two things mentioned sound familiar to you, it’s because that is basically what publishing a book and running a membership site were meant to do online. However, the question is “is there something to be had from doing all of these?”

Of course, the answer to that is yes but, as with all things, it is best that you understand a few things about these two strategies first before implementing them.

Why Do People Self-Publish?

When it comes to publishing a book, you are given the option to do it the traditional way or the newer, self-reliant way. Self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular option these days due to advancements in technology that made the option cheaper and more accessible for every would-be writer out there.

So, why do people opt to self-publish their work these days? The answer lies in a sense of frustration over the way things are done traditionally.

DO you know how many times a book has to be turned down from a publisher and undergo many revisions before somebody accepts it? The answer can vary from author to author but you can be certain that that number is beyond 2. The grind to get attention for your works in the industry is quite considerable. It might even take years for you to get noticed by someone in this market should you do things traditionally.

Also, there is the politics which can be ruthless here. Take as an example what recently happened to Richard Meyer aka Diversity and Comics with the controversy surrounding his upcoming Jawbreakers comic book. Fed up with the left-leaning identity politics screwing up a lot of his favorite comic books in major publishers like Marvel, D&C decided to make his OWN comic book and have it published on a smaller publisher called Antarctic Press.

The problem arose when Marvel write Mark Waid contacted Antarctic Press and convinced them to drop the deal with D&C since he’s a sexist, bigot, Nazi, and every other buzzword insult SJWs have imagined for right-leaning folk. Fortunately, the Streisand Effect came into play and the now publisher-less Jawbreakers is killing it on Indiegogo donations.

Sadly, that is not the rule for every starting writer in the market. Getting yourself noticed here is going to take a lot of time, revisions, and even diplomacy on your part.

The Drawback

Of course, self-publishing is not without its problems or else everybody would consider it as the sole viable option for writers now. Most of its problems lie in physical sales as, obviously, bookstores won’t stock up on products that don’t give them the assurance that it will sell.

Not that saying that a publisher gives your work an air of legitimacy but it does help it sell more. After all, being backed by a publisher often entails that your work has undergone some form of quality control through editing to meet industry standards. Self-published authors, as such, will have to do a lot of convincing to make local bookstores stock up on their works.

Fortunately, this problem goes away once you move from a physical store to a digital one. Platforms like Kindle don’t have to deal with books taking up space in their sites as most eBooks don’t take up a lot of digital real estate. All these sites need from a publisher is a single copy of their eBook, which goes from a few hundred kilobytes to several megabytes, and then have that copy downloaded over and over again. Plus, everything is available on the database which means that products becoming shelf-warmers (that’s a term for products that don’t sell a lot of copies in the market) is not exactly a problem here.

The Compromise

So, what’s the best course of action when it comes to publishing your eBooks? For starters, don’t take traditional publishing out of the equation. Instead, start there if only to build your reputation in the market.

The indirect result of presenting yourself to a lot of publishers is that you are making yourself known to a lot of potential contacts in the market. Sure, they might turn your work for being crap but, at the very least, they get to know your name and the kind of work you put out.

Next, the grind helps you hone your skills. If you are that positively-minded, you can look at a publisher turning down your work as an opportunity to improve on your work until you have the best version of it that will entice a publisher later on, JK Rowling was turned down many times for one of her earlier works that revolve around the story of a boy who finds out he is a wizard. And now, who owns various estates and is still earning from royalties with Harry Potter?

Once you have honed your skills, you can then self-publish your work. By now, you should have gained enough traction for your work in various markets while also proving that your books do sell.
The good thing about publishing online is that the Internet actually less rigid to failing works compared to the real world. If you find that your books are not selling that well, you can always revise it and submit a new edition. This could take no more than a day for you, depending on how much you want to add or change in your work. The point is that, when it comes to publishing a book online, you should have limitless opportunities to change your work without spending too much time and money on it.

Why You Should Have a Membership Site?

First things first, a membership site is just exactly what the name implies. It’s a gated part of your online community where people who subscribed have access to as well as a number of exclusive content.

It also helps that having a membership site can bring in a lot of advantages for you including:

  • Better Revenue

    A membership is like a product that every member has to pay for month after month. This, in itself, should be obvious enough that there is some financial reward to setting up your own membership program for your online business.

    So, let’s say that a membership in your program is about $15.00 to $20.00 per month depending on the details of the subscription. If you have 40-50 members in that site, then you should net somewhere in between $600.00 and $1,000.00 from your site every month. That’s a steady rate of income most internet marketers are aiming for.

  • Establishing Loyalty

    The problem with a purely transactional relationship is that you don’t exactly build some sort of rapport with your customers. As a matter of fact, the only way that you are actually conversing with them directly is through a receipt at the end of the sales process and that’s not much.

    With a membership site, however, you allow them a glimpse into your business which should allow a community to form around it. Once you have enough people loyal to your business, then there is some sense of staying power with your brand in the online world.

    You should understand how much a sustainable community can affect your business’s longevity in any market. Even if you have a good product but everybody else in the market does not know about it or worse, hates dealing with you, the business won’t be able to last long in the market.

    This is exactly what happened to Boss Key Productions when they released their first videogame, Lawbreakers. The mechanics of the game might be sound but nobody was playing it as they find other similar shooters like Overwatch far more accessible. It also does not help that Boss Key owner and lead developer, Cliff Bleszinski, tends to come off as a rather abrasive douchebag in interviews as he calls Xbox gamers “salty” and fans of his previous works a “bunch of thieves” which evidently turned a lot of people off.

    With such a combination of things, no community was ever set up around the brand and Boss Key is effectively dead as of May 2018.

  • No Tangible Product Needed

    By design, a membership is a service. What you are offering here is information that people can use later on and is free to create and distribute. The best part about this is that you get to keep all of the profits since there were no additional costs made to provide such information to your community.

    Of course, people will have to pay to get those kind of information from you but the info itself is easy to make and easy to distribute. Also, since the product is digital, there are no costs to be made from storing it. So, it’s basically a low-cost yet high-yield product which is something that most business owners would dream of for their products and services.

  • Free Traffic

    Membership sites tend to bring in a lot of traffic to your site which should increase viewership and engagement for your main website. The best part about this is that traffic only increases the more you improve on your offers. At best, your membership site should yield you 30,000 visits every month with 5,000 to 6,000 of those being unique visits.

    Add to this the traffic coming from your other channels like your social media profiles and you should have a rather stable rate of traffic coming to your website.

Running Your Membership Site

Of course, setting up a membership site is just part of the process. The challenge now is to run it to the best of your abilities. Here’s how:

  • 1. Listen to The Community

    Feedback is a common occurrence when you interact with other people and how you deal with it is going to make or break your brand. More often than not, your community can tell you a lot that surveys won’t including what your product needs in order to improve. The best part about this is that, regardless of how they deliver it, the feedback is always frank.

  • 2. Show Up

    Look, building up a community for your business is pointless if you avoid interacting with it altogether. Make the effort to regularly log in and interact with your members. You’d be surprised as to how people can get attached to brands the moment that owners actively interact with them in forums and discussions.

  • 3. Be as Human as Possible in Every Interaction

    When it comes to the online world, where it’s hard to gauge a person’s intent or even attitude, being as sincere in your engagements is a good replacement for something called “charisma”. Being sincere in your membership site usually translates to being passionate about what you do so make it a point to respond to queries in a very upbeat manner and, if possible, take criticisms in stride.

    Also, it pays if you don’t insult your own community by being condescending or rude to talk to. The less that people feel that it’s a chore for you to talk with them, the better they will respond to whatever changes you might introduce to your brand in the future.

In Closing

Both of these strategies have their own kinks to work but it cannot be denied that publishing your own content and managing a membership site does have its own set of advantages.

The key to success in these ventures is to make full use of whatever resources are provided to you while also listening intently to whatever people are saying to you. Soon enough, you will create your own community that will not hesitate to pay for whatever you are offering in the market.

Have you tried to publish your own books online? What other methods have you used to increase brand engagement for your business? Let us know in the comments section below.





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