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#054: The Holistic Skill Stack For Authors

May 04, 2024

Read Time: 8 minutes

I've run multiple businesses over the past 20 years:

– Portrait Photography

– Property Photography

– Wedding Video and Photography

– VHS to DVD Conversion

– Transferring Old Photographs To Digital

– Dropshipping (eCommerce)

– YouTube Ads Agency

– Video Production Agency

And yes, most of these businesses "failed" but I did learn critical lessons from every single one of them that have been instrumental to getting to where I am today.

I know in hindsight why these businesses failed; I didn't have the correct skill stack.

Whatever business you're running, you need a stack of skills, not just one skill, to succeed.

Today, I'll walk you through my thoughts on The Holistic Skill Stack For Authors...

With the businesses I mentioned above, these were mainly service-based businesses, rather than product-based.

So my main focus was on delivering the service and mastering the skill of that service, to provide the best possible results to clients and customers.

I was too naive to think about building a sustainable business.

In the beginning, it was fine; I was still living at my parent's house for some of the early businesses.

But as soon as I needed the business to sustain rent, then a mortgage, bills, food on the table, and kids, things needed to change.

Whenever there was a change in our life circumstances I needed to step things up a level.

It wasn't just the business model itself that needed to change though.

I needed to change as a person.

My longest-lasting business was the video production agency, which thrived for around 10 years; it crashed in 2020 when the global pandemic hit and I could no longer go to venues, offices, events, etc to film.

Up until 2020 though the video production agency was going strong and I'd just secured some exciting projects due to start in summer 2020 (these never went anywhere though due to the pandemic).

Our current business, I know it's not perfect, and no business ever is, but we can always strive for perfection even if we don't hit it.

After all, done is better than perfect.

But our entire business, Lori's books and my courses, have been built on the experiences I've been through building the other businesses I listed at the top of this newsletter.

Without this experience, without these failures (lessons), without learning the fundamentals of building a business, our current business wouldn't be here at all, or at the very least, we'd be a lot further behind than we currently are.

The Business Fundamentals

Building a business is simple, but it's not easy; not by a long shot.

Any business, in any niche, any industry, in my opinion, comes down to having these 3 pillars in place:

Traffic > Offers > Sales

Before that though, you need to understand who your audience is, what their desires are and how your product or service delivers on those desires.

It All Begins With A 1st Class Product (Book)

No amount of marketing or advertising is going to sell a poor-quality product, in our case, a book.

The caveat to this is the meaning behind the story, The Emperor's New Clothes.

In today's world, The Emperor's New Clothes, at least from my understanding, means following the direction of the general population without question, and not wanting to be seen going against popular opinion.

So, as an example, a book "goes viral" and it makes a lot of sales because "everyone is reading it" and people feel they have to read just to "fit in" with everyone else.

They fear being seen as irrelevant or ignorant if they haven't read this book; even if they have no desire to read the book in the first place!

Coming back on track...

The skill you need to write a book should be pretty obvious: your craft as an author.

I'm not an author so I'm not for a minute going to teach you how to suck eggs; you'll know the skills you need to work on to continuously improve your writing.

On top of writing a great book though, other tasks need to be executed well to create a book that will sell:

– Professional Book Cover

– Proof-Reading

– Editing

– Writing An Enticing Blurb

– Collecting Reviews/Ratings

A high-quality book will always outlast (and outsell) a low-quality book.

Learning Prison
 Is No Way To Build A Business

I get it; learning new skills is fun. It gives us a spike in dopamine, and we get excited.

But until you put what you learn into practice, everything you learn is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Yes, there are a lot of skills to learn as an author, but don't feel you need to learn them all before you start.

Just start.

Ready > Fire > Aim

Start, then iterate and adjust as you go.

Don't get stuck in learning prison trying to learn everything you "think" you need to know upfront.

Start, then learn the skills as you need them.

You can plan (and procrastinate) for weeks, even months, but even the best-laid plans can fall flat on their face.

You'll hit roadblocks and will need to figure things out as you go.

There's 0% chance you can plan and learn the required skills for every challenge you'll face along the way.

So don't try.

Let's dive into the skill stack for the 3 pillars of a successful author business:

Traffic > Offers > Sales.

Pillar #1: Traffic

You don't need a plethora of traffic sources to build a solid and sustainable author business.

2-3 traffic sources are all you need.

And when I say traffic sources I'm referring to something you can control as much as possible.

For me, my preferred form of controllable traffic is Ads. They also come with the added benefit of getting results quickly.

But social media could be a traffic source too; it's much slower than Ads of course, but it's an option if Ads aren't a possibility right now.

Another traffic source could be influencer marketing.

Traffic is simply another term for marketing.

You're making people, the right people, aware of your books.

From personal experience, don't try and learn multiple traffic sources at the same time.

Focus on one traffic source for 30-90 days, get comfortable with it, gather data, and then layer on another traffic source whilst keeping the original one running.

Yes, this could take 6-12 months before you feel confident in your abilities to run 2-3 traffic sources comfortably, but these are invaluable skills to learn and you're in this for the long-haul, right; you're not in this game to make a quick buck.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But it isn't and they're not.

Ad platforms, social media platforms, traffic in general, the market... it all changes and evolves over time.

Don't become complacent like I have in the past; evolve and adapt with the changes.

Find a strategy for the ad platform, social media platform, or any other traffic source you're implementing and stick to it. Adapt it if necessary, but stay consistent.

In my opinion, one of your traffic sources should always be email.

Growing an email list, communicating with the readers on that list and building rapport with them will be one of your biggest assets as an author.

If you don't currently have an email list, the best time to start is yesterday. The second best time is today.

Pillar #2: Offers

A good offer will make or break your marketing.

Good Ads and a bad offer can fail.

Bad Ads and a great offer can thrive.

This isn't a hard and fast rule by any means. But a great offer can have a huge impact on the success of all your marketing efforts.

With books, offers often come down to pricing.

So, study the pricing of other books in your genre.

Understand how and when to run promotions.

Research different launch strategies and schedule launches into your calendar to hold yourself accountable for meeting these self-imposed deadlines.

Learn to write compelling emails to your email list that not only nurture the relationship you have with your readers but also subtly sell your books (without the snake oil salesman tactics).

Understand the basics of copywriting to present and position offers in your marketing and advertising efforts.

Pillar #3: Sales

Sales come when you have a solid traffic strategy in place and good offers.

But you need to capitalize on what's working, which is where tracking comes into play.

Here's what I recommend you track:

– Ad Performance

– Business Performance

– Email List Growth Performance

There are many nuances to these of course, but from a high level, this is where I would recommend starting.

Understanding the numbers will give you unbelievable clarity on your next steps.

You should know what you're spending and what you're earning and make decisions from data, not from emotion.

Take the emotion out of your decision-making, especially when it comes to financials.

Embrace The Business

You're an author and writing books is what got you into this business in the first place.

But if you want this to be more than a hobby or more than a side hustle, you need to embrace running a business. Embrace entrepreneurship.

Some of the work involved in running a business isn't sexy or glamorous, but it's got to be done.

As you grow, sure, you could hire contractors to do certain tasks you don't enjoy doing.

But ultimately, you're building a business and you need to wear your business hat as well as your creative hat.

This is where the holistic skill stack we've covered above comes into play (I'll give you a summary at the end with the holistic skill stack).

Understand and build the relevant skills to not only write books but to run a business.

Avoid Complexity

The more successful you become, the easier it is for you to add more "stuff" to your business, but this is where complexity rears its ugly head.

Complexity can be detrimental, especially when you're running this business on your own, with an assistant, or with your spouse, partner or significant other.

For me, complexity just brings about more problems than it solves.

It adds more time to your schedule, leads to burnout and can even culminate in you building a prison for yourself that you'll find almost impossible to escape from.

Many business owners I've spoken to over the years left their 9-5 job only to create their own 6-9 job that they end up detesting.

This trap is easy to fall into and one I've fallen victim to more times than I care to remember.

In the beginning, yes, building a business will require some upfront investment of your time; it's going to be front-loaded as you get things set up and figure things out.

So you need to set boundaries, set limitations and set your non-negotiables.

How much time can you/do you want to work each day, week or month?

Block this time out in your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself and don't let yourself down.

This could mean you need to get out of bed an hour earlier in the morning, work in your lunch break or stay up an hour later at night.

But set a limit somewhere because the list of things you want/need to do will continue to grow and expand; it never ends, but that's the whole point. This is a journey we're on for the long haul.

Don't Neglect Yourself

To serve others you must first serve yourself.

As well as running your author business, writing books, looking after your family, enjoying the entire human experience, you can't forget to take care of yourself.

It's easy for business to consume you and make it your purpose, your identity. And that's ok if you're aware of it and that's what you want.

But I personally believe that everyone should work on themselves; if we did, the entire human collective would be stronger and the world could be a very different and better place.

Unfortunately, so many people limit their potential and the impact they can have in this world by not working on themselves, but that's a topic for another day.

I would encourage you to learn skills for different aspects of your life and business to make your experience of being on this earth as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible.

There are no set ways to do this, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

– Journaling

– Meditation

– A New Sport

– Learning A Musical Instrument

– Public Speaking

– Cooking Healthier Meals

– Gardening

– Jewellery Making

Embrace your curiosities, whatever they may be.

All these experiences help you to build yourself into a more rounded person and to get the most out of life.

You can then build these experiences and learnings into your author brand and build a deeper connection with your readers.

This is a topic I'm incredibly passionate about so may cover it in a future newsletter and how it relates to being an author.

Wrapping Up...

Meta Ads, Amazon Ads, BookBub Ads, and building a social media following are all great skills to learn.

But there are other skills you need to learn along the way to build a thriving, sustainable and enjoyable author business.

You're going to experience roadblocks along the way; no business can avoid these.

It's how you react to them that will determine your success.

Over time you'll build the mental fortitude to tackle these roadblocks.

You can persevere, stay the course or you can try to avoid the problem and sweep it under the carpet.

Mindset is a huge part of running a business and building a strong one that is capable of moving through and thriving when tough times hit, is where personal development and resilience come into play.

As promised, here is the holistic skill stack we covered earlier:

– Your craft as an author

– Branding

– Advertising

– Email Marketing

– Copywriting

– Pricing

– Offers

– Promotions

– Launches

– Tracking

– Decision Making

– Personal Development

This has been a pretty long newsletter, but one I've thoroughly enjoyed writing.

I hope you've found it insightful too.

Enjoy your weekend.

To Your Success
– Matt



Learn How To Run Facebook Ads And Build A Six-Figure Author Business

Get immediate access to my FREE How To Create Scroll-Stopping Facebook Ads That Sell Books course when you sign up for my weekly newsletter for self-published fiction authors.