Hollis Carter is an online marketing superstar. As a product creator, marketer, consultant, and coach, he’s worked on several million-dollar online product launches. Hollis has appeared on Mixergy, Entrepreneur on Fire, Smart Passive Income, and other major podcast shows on online outlets for entrepreneurs.
For the past few years, Hollis has taken his experience in marketing and applied it to the publishing industry as a coach, consultant, trainer and publisher. Hollis has planned some incredible book launches, and helped many thought leaders, experts and novelists take their exposure and marketing to a whole new level. He founded Velocity House, a publishing company that creates huge book launches using email marketing and innovative online marketing strategies to help authors create massive buzz and exposure in a very short period of time.
In today’s show, Hollis shares his marketing system for success that any author can (and should) apply right now to their business to sell more books, attract more raving fans, and create an active community of readers who will support you.
Hollis got into Internet marketing almost by accident. He was in college when Facebook came out in 2004. His college was one of the first to be invited to the Facebook network when it was still exclusive.
Hollis quickly saw how Facebook was changing the way people interacted in the real world. He was able to stop going to class because he connected with people in his classes and got their notes. He also saw relationships ending because of pictures posted on Facebook.
Hollis and a roommate hired some people in India to create a Facebook clone, and they sold it to K-12 and Montessori schools. It was an opportunity for kids, teachers and parents to be connected through the Internet.
They were making some sales, but it was a very time intensive process. That’s when Hollis and his roommate decided to convert their Facebook clone to a business opportunity. They sought advice of an online marketing expert who helped them figure out how to set up an affiliate marketing plan and an email list. He also helped them craft a 30-minute video presentation which became the video sales letter for the product. It was one of the first video sales letters on the Internet.
They went to market in 2006. In the first two months they made $1.2 million in sales. At the end of the first year they had just over $2 million in sales. They went to market with the right product at the right time.
They didn’t end up keeping the money because they were young dumb kids who didn’t set up their business the right way. But it was a glimpse at what true online marketing success can be like.
The Next Step
Hollis moved to Colorado. He and his roommate kept running their software as a service business, and they build a bunch of other software products.
Hollis got bored with his company because he got really good at being successful in that marketplace. He’s the type of person who needs to be in a newer marketplace, with areas to explore. That’s why he decided to start working with authors.
Hollis has always enjoyed reading, because the ability to learn from the books you read is limitless. He wanted to find a way to be of value to the authors that he admires so that he can learn from them directly and hang out with them. It was a way for him to have a direct connection with people he wanted to learn from without paying thousands of dollars for their seminars.
He began to build systems around creating blogs and using Kindle for lead generation.
The key to being a successful info marketer on Amazon is creating products that you sell at a low price point to get them into your sales funnel.
Hollis developed his system for customer connection and engagement after three months of binge reading several books. He wanted to stay connected and communicate with the authors that he admired, and he noticed that those authors made it difficult to stay connected with them.
How to Build a Relationship with Your Readers
“You have to build a quality relationship with someone before you get the transaction.” – Hollis Carter
Every book you write is a relationship building tool.
At the end of your book you should have a link to a free video or some other kind of multimedia experience so readers can connect with you on a deeper level. Readers don’t like opting in for another piece of text because that could have been delivered in your book without making them go through that process.
Hollis created an opt in offer with a client who wrote a recipe book. The opt in offer was 10 videos of the author cooking her 10 favorite recipes. 36% of the people who bought the book opted in for the offer.
These people are far more valuable than people who opt in because of a free report they see on your website. They’re more valuable because they found her book AND read it to the end, and then decided to opt into her email list to stay connected with her.
From a business perspective, the conversions on that opt in offer are higher, and the author has already had a conversation with people who have opted into her list. That builds a stronger relationship than a simple free report.
Build a Community
Building a community around your work isn’t difficult. You just have to have a clear vision of the outcome you want for yourself and your readers.
Some people might just want to build a passionate relationship with their fans because they’re going to write a lot of books.
Others might want to sell different products to their community, so they need to do that in a special way, because the relationship you have with your audience is always your most viable asset. You shouldn’t do anything to put that relationship in jeopardy.
The best way to begin thinking about how to build your community is to ask yourself: “What do I want to do with my reader after they’re done reading the book?”
The answer to that question will help you shape your strategy for creating your opt in offer, and how you build your community around your work.
You can make good money from book sales if you have a series of books that come after the first book you publish. You can make good money if you’re going to sell other products to the audience you gather by publishing your books on Amazon. But you can’t rely on one book to make a living for you unless you get lucky.
Going Deeper With Readers
You might want your readers to:
- Buy your next book
- Go to your podcast
- Go to your blog
- Buy your coaching program
- Buy backend products and seminars from you
You might want to:
- Call yourself a best-selling author
- Get your book into the hands of as many people as possible because you’re passionate about the story you have to tell
- Get more publicity
- Generate more leads
- Use your book as something to sell in the back of the room because you speak all the time.
- Raise your speaking fees
A book can help you do all of these things. You just have to decide what you want your book to do for you, and keep that decision in mind as you create the book and build a community around your work.
Books really have the ability to be whatever you want them to be. And we live in a time where we’re not dependent on traditional distribution channels.
That means you have to ask yourself which path is right for you. Do you want a traditional publishing deal, or do you want to go the self-publishing route? Both successful paths are very different, so you have to weigh the pros and cons, and make the decision.
Author List Building Case Study
The first thing you have to know before you start building a community is the result that you want from every individual in that community. You’re going to build your email marketing strategy around the end result you want.
Note: You always want to make sure you keep up with the rules of the marketplace, and you always want to make sure you’re testing what works.
Hollis got 3,000 reviews on Amazon by providing an incentive for people to review his book. He didn’t ask for good reviews. He just wanted to know what people thought about what he was saying.
Amazon changed the rules and now you can’t incentivize anyone to leave a review for you, good or bad. They also took the 3.000 reviews that Hollis had on his book off of his product page, erasing the value of all his hard work.
Always stay aboveboard with Amazon. Create quality content and obey their rules. The rules are constantly going to change and it’s very important that you stay on top of them.
If Hollis is reading a book, he wants to know the next logical psychological step he should be taking. So if he’s looking at a book in the health space by a Doctor, and your listing off supplements he should be taking, Hollis wants to know a way to drive that information home further.
If you’ve just listed off your favorite supplements you might say, “I’ve made a bonus video to help you decide which supplements are right for you.”
Hollis prefers videos because they’re a different way to engage the reader. He really prefers using different media than text when giving people an opt in offer.
Sometimes you can send people directly to your blog to give them an offer. Generally speaking however, you want to use your link from your book to get people on your email list. Having them on your email list allows you to communicate with your reader multiple times in the future.
Hollis has a 60 day follow-up email sequence that he uses to build relationships with his audience. He tweaked the follow-up system he learned in Autoresponder Madness by Andre Chaperon.
The key is to find passive income streams that align with your area of expertise. That’s why health and fitness are so easy, because there are so many types of products to sell in that marketplace.
Hollis’s tried-and-true strategy is to start with a piece of the multimedia as an opt in offer, and then continue with the soap opera sequence of emails that tell more of the story. That’s the one thing your community has in common. They all want to hear more about the same topic. They also want to hear a story because people who enjoy reading enjoy stories.
Your email sequence should be an extension of your book.
When you think about your opt in offer and email sequence think about repurposing some things you’ve already created. Podcasts that you’ve already recorded can be a great resource to help you build your email list.
Respect Their Time
When you market a book, there’s a lot more time and trust involved then when you’re marketing other products. The $3 someone will give you for your book is insignificant when measured against the 5 hours it will take them to read your book. So it’s really important that you respect your reader’s time. Readers will notice when you respect their time, and they’ll be more loyal to you in the long run.
People Vs. Numbers
“Marketing is just another form of relationship building and communication.” – Hollis Carter
It’s essential that you remember your sales numbers represent people who invested their money and time in you.
The #1 thing you have to do is create quality content and products that help the people in your community. If you do that, your community will grow on its own by word-of-mouth.
Online Marketing in a Nutshell
There are three pieces to online marketing.
- Creating the product.
- Marketing the product.
- Working with the technology to make the product available online.
You want to decide which of those three areas you want to put your 10,000 hours into. It’s important to know enough so that you know what everyone is doing. You want to be aware of all the moving parts, so that you can judge how efficient and effective all those things are.
Outsourcing for Success
“Hiring a professional is more expensive upfront, but less expensive in the long run.” – Hollis Carter
It’s important to focus on your strengths and find allies who complement your weaknesses. Focusing on your strengths is the fastest way to become successful in the Internet age.
It’s important to find the right people to support you. When you find the right partners, they’ll give you enough information so that you know what they’re doing. You should do some research when you’re hiring somebody to do something for you, so you at least have some idea of what it takes to achieve a good outcome.
When you know how to do something but you just don’t have the time to do it, you can hire a cheap or outsource employee and detail out how to do something.
When you have zero knowledge of how to get something done, but you have a larger creative vision, it’s worth it to hire a professional, so you know you’re not wasting time because of your inability to communicate something essential.
Usually you get what you pay for. The caveat to that is if you know enough to give very detailed instructions you can afford to pay somewhat less.
How to Build Community
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction you want to:
- Deliver quality
- Understand what people want
- Build a personal relationship with each individual in your subscriber base
When you write nonfiction there’s a key relationship you’re trying to build where your reader is constantly learning from you.
When you write fiction you want to focus on building more of a community rather than building individual learning relationships. You want to build a community around the subject matter of your book.
Hollis is working with an 83-book series right now. You can make serious revenue as a fiction writer when you have a long series.
One of the books in that series got a movie deal, so he’s created a documentary about the making of the movie based on the book, and he’s sharing that with his audience.
A movie is a backend product for a book. It is over the top, and you can’t expect every book you write to get a movie deal. That’s just an example of a backend product for fiction.
You can also do a podcast about the subject matter in the book.
You can have:
Your number one job as a marketer of fiction is to build your community and fan base.
One of the best ways to build a community is to create a Facebook group where fans of your work can interact.
One way to get your community to engage with you is to have them help you come up with a name for something in your story.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you have to consider the size of the audience you can attract with your content. Sometimes it’s better to aim at a smaller more targeted audience and serve them really well.
Building a community is the essential ingredient in the success of any fiction enterprise. You see this all the time in the movie industry. There have been whole amusement parks built around fictional worlds.
Your ability to build a community around your work is contingent upon your ability to write a good story that engages your audience and gives them someone to root for.
It’s really important to have the rights to sell a digital as well as a physical version of your book.
If you are operating on a shoestring you can start by just putting out the Kindle version, and then add the print version, and an audiobook version when you’re packaging is perfected.
Build a Facebook Group for Fans
A lot of people in the online marketing space are hung up on email marketing because that’s what’s been taught, and it works so well.
A lot of the strategies that work well in building an email list translate to social media. One of the advantages of social media is there’s more direct two-way communication than with an email list. Social media groups foster communities where fans can talk to each other as well as the author.
One of the first things you want to do is identify community leaders when you set up a Facebook group. You want to look for people who:
- Post a lot
- Are passionate about the subject matter
- Have some free time
You can often get these people to run your community by offering them free books.
It’s important that you take time to show you care. You want to make sure that you have content regularly scheduled for your Facebook groups. You want to post on your Facebook group on a consistent basis. Create a content calendar and stick to it as much as possible.
Creating online communities helps in shorting accountability for you as an author to create good content. Some authors are afraid to create communities because they’re afraid of the response of their fans if they write something the fans don’t like.
The truth is being connected to your fan base is invaluable because it allows you to understand who your fans are and what they want.
When you create an online community you are committing to being transparent about the process and opening up the lines of communication between you and your fans, as well as giving them a place where they can talk to each other.
The bigger you get as an author the more flak you’re going to receive. You can’t please everyone. You’ve got to know that going in.
Before you start writing your novel, think about the readers you really care about. Also think about the readers you will never be able to please. You want to nurture the former group and ignore the latter.
“If no one strongly disagrees with you, that probably means that no one passionately agrees with your point of view.” – Tom Corson Knowles
If you’re not pissing some people off you’re not going to be able to make other people really happy. A politician who is in the middle is never going to win.
How to Handle One-Star Reviews
A one-star review on Amazon is a right of passage. If you have a passionate community of fans you can ask their help to down vote one star reviews as unhelpful. But you should understand that not everyone is going to like what you put out into the marketplace, and you have to be prepared for that.
It’s hard for some authors to hear that their work isn’t good. Many creative people are emotionally tied to the work they’ve created, and it hurts to hear that your baby is ugly. But the truth is you’re never going to be able to please 100% of your audience.
Indifference is the worst response you can get because that means that nobody feels strongly one way or another about your book, which means you won’t get many sales.
Becoming a New York Times Bestseller
Being a New York Times bestseller doesn’t carry the weight it used to. The New York Times bestseller list is based on the old model of publishing, and it doesn’t generate positive buzz in the communities where consumers of indie published books live.
People who buy indie published books don’t usually decide to buy a book because it’s a New York Times bestseller.
If you want to be able to tell your parents you’re a New York Times best-selling author, it’s probably best to go the traditional publishing route, and you’re probably going to have to spend thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign.
You shouldn’t invest in chasing the New York Times Bestseller List if it’s not going to help your business in the long run.
Choose Business Goals That Align With Who You Are
When you’re deciding on the goals you have for your business, make sure they’re goals you actually want to achieve. Don’t just do something because you think you have to, or because a mentor or advisor told you to.
Choose business goals that align with you and who you are. Figure out who your audience is, and please them as much as possible. You can ignore everybody else.
“Once you’re clear on the outcome and the audience it makes your life a hell of a lot easier.” – Hollis Carter
The two decisions you need to make are:
- Who is your audience?
- What you want out of publishing a book?
Writing and publishing a book isn’t easy. And you’re much more likely to achieve your goals if you start with the end in mind.
When you decide to write a book you have to be clear about how much time it’s actually going to take. You shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations about the production process or sales when you put your book out.
“If you don’t know where you’re going in the book world you’re lost.” – Hollis Carter
Resources and People Mentioned in Dhis Interview
Hollis mentions Sam Harris when discussing how to implement his email marketing strategy. Sam Harris is an example of how this can work well.
Hollis mentions Neil Strauss, Tim Ferris and Ryan holiday when discussing writing principles that have informed his creativity. He specifically mentions the podcast Tim Ferris did with Neil Strauss.
Links and resources mentioned in this interview
http://HollisCarter.com – Hollis’s website
Autoresponder Madness – Andre Chaperon’s course on email marketing.
https://www.facebook.com/holliscarter – Follow Hollis on facebook
https://www.instagram.com/hollisc/ – Follow Hollis on Instagram
http://babybathwater.com/ — Check out the new conference Hollis is involved with