Today, I thought I’d let you in behind the scenes on how I’ve sold well over $1 million in books.
I’ll share with you both the history and the how-to’s.
I’ve ALWAYS wanted to write a book. If you had asked me when I was four what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said the same thing I was already doing: writing books and making art.
The first book I remember creating was a book called Cyclone Charlie. It was the true story of our cattle farm being hit by a cyclone. I dictated it to my Mum, and illustrated each page. I still remember the page where I described how the rain made small waterfalls down the mountains.
That’s me at about that age, baby sister on hip.
Writing and illustrating books was my destiny, the thing that was sure in my bones. It was just a matter of time before that would be my job.
I started blogging when I was 21, and wrote my first book when I was 22.
That book was like a graphic memoir – I just didn’t realise that was the name for it! I just did it intuitively, combining art and words as I have always done in my journals.
To get that book written, I set myself a really short, sharp deadline: write it and have it available for sale within one month. I was working full time in the public service, so the book was written in lunch hours, on the bus, at night and on weekends.
I think that’s the thing: everybody assumes that to write a book, you need vast swathes of time. You don’t. You just need to apply your energy to the thing and get it donesville.
I know that if I set a more “realistic” deadline of say, six months, I would NEVER get the book done. Too much would come up in the meantime, and the months would go by, and it still wouldn’t be done.
By using the Wild Donkey method, I devote my focus to being immersed in getting one project done and finished as soon as possible.
Here’s a little bit of what it looked like on the inside:
Doing the short, sharp deadline mode of creating doesn’t just work for graphic memoirs either.
I’ve also done a 40,000 word business book in that time as well.(That book was then turned into my Double Your Biz e-course. I’ve retired that now, but will release a new updated business course this year.)
Again – I wrote that 40,000+ word business book when I had a LOT of other things on my plate as well. I was in the final stages of my second pregnancy, and horrifically ill with hyperemesis gravidarum. At that point, I spent most of my day bedridden, and got a small reprieve from the debilitating nausea by late afternoon. It was enough to be able to sit upright and be able to think somewhat.
I would set myself a deadline of writing 3,000 words before the sun set over the rainforest. I’d take frequent vomit breaks to run out to my office balcony and vomit over the lawn for the forest animals to eat. I’d keep writing as much as I could before the illness swallowed me whole again and sent me back to bed.
I would like to clarify here:
I am really big on sane, healthy working practices, good self care and great work/life balance. I don’t want to share this story to be a martyr of “Too bad if you’re sick! I was sick too!”
There’s all different kinds of life circumstances. In the earlier stages of my pregnancy illness, I was chronically debilitated and in hospital often, so this kind of project wasn’t going to work for me.
By the time I did take the project on, I was six months into the pregnancy and still fucked up but not AS fucked up. I also desperately needed SOMETHING to think about apart from the misery of my illness. So even though it was still challenging to pull off, it was what I needed.
I’m definitely taking the same Wild Donkey approach with my 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course… but it definitely still can be done whether you are working full-time, parenting or having “life stuff” going on.
Okay, that’s slightly off track.
Now where were we?
Ahh yes! My first book! I released it, and I sold a few hundred copies. At the time I was totally delighted. For me, it was less about profit and more about OMG! I actually DID THE THING! I WROTE THE BOOK!
Sometimes the reward of completing a creative thing is not the revenue or recognition, it’s about the pride and joy of accomplishment. As I always say:
Momentum breeds Momentum.
Completing a project like a book can help you become even more productive and feel even more fulfilled.
Honestly though, I was pretty shithouse when it comes to marketing the book. That was in the early days of my business. Now when I release books, I know the marketing of it is going to be the driving factor for its success.
I kept blogging, and started running retreats, doing coaching and running e-courses.
Come December 2009, I was working part-time at my government job and pregnant with my first child. I knew the coming year would be intense, and that the initiation into motherhood. By that point, I’d also started setting goals and discovering just how powerful that was. So I decided to give myself the gift of setting goals for 2010 to keep me sane and inspired during my first year of motherhood.
I looked around to see if there was any books out there that I could fill out to help me set goals. But everything I found had two major issues:
they weren’t comprehensive – I wanted to go deeper than just “set three goals!”
they were black and white and corporate and felt really masculine.
I wanted something that was inspiring to fill out and rainbowy AND also helped guide me through setting goals for every area of my life and business.
So I decided to create something FOR ME to use. I spent three days around Christmas time creating my goals workbook, and I loved it so much I thought it would be fun to pop online and sell as a PDF and see if anyone else wanted to use it. I thought it would be super cool if like 10 people bought it.
I went on to sell over 1000 workbook PDFs that year which was SO groovy.
hit #1 and #3 bestseller SIMULTANEOUSLY on Amazon AU for ALL FREAKING BOOKS (!!!!)
generated well over $1m in revenue (probably over $2m – I need to go back to count all the years!)
In that time, I’ve also gone through different types of publishing:
I started out selling as a PDF only
A couple of years later, I started selling it as print on demand through Amazon’s self-publishing service
A few years after that, I decided to try printing in China instead and using distribution houses in three countries. I hired a lot of staff to try and cope with the increased workload, and realised just how much I hated managing staff and logistics. I wrote about my decision to stop doing that here.
I went back to using Amazon’s print-on-demand service while I scouted for a publishing deal for the workbooks.
Me, stoked at no longer having to manage shipping logistics anymore.
There are pros and cons for all publishing routes, and what’s right for you will change over your business career. I’ll go through the behind-the-scenes details of the pros and cons of all of them in 40 Days To A Finished Book. I’ll talk about what’s more profitable, what’s easiest and what gives you the most credibility, and how to maximise all of these.
Now, let’s talk about what made the difference between selling fuck all books and selling a fuck tonne of books!
When I look back at where I started with book writing and the results I got then to the results I got now, there are some really big things I did differently.
Let me tell you the key pieces of creating book success.
#1: Writing the book is 10% of the job. Marketing is 90%.
That may make you groan, but it’s true. You need to spend WAY LONGER marketing the book than you think you need to.
If you think “if it’s a great book, it will speak for itself! I won’t have to market it at all!”… you’re wrong. Sorry mate, it just doesn’t work like that.
“Just putting it out there” isn’t enough. It’s lazy. And it is not of service to the world.
If you’ve spent all that time in creating something, you need to invest time in making sure that the people who would care about it and find it useful actually HEAR about it in the first place.
I’ll talk more about the how-to’s of book marketing in the course.
#2: The three most important parts of selling: Testimonials. Testimonials. Testimonials.
I once asked a very well-known copywriter what the three most important parts of a sales page were. Her answer? Testimonials, testimonials, testimonials.
The same is true for books.
Have testimonials for the book in the first few pages of the book – the more the better!
Give advance copies away in exchange for a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
Consider giving away books to peeps with a profile who have similar interests as your target market. You can even get a bit polished with it and do it up as a cute package. I’ve sent my books to bloggers with chocolate, tea and pens in wrapping paper – all the supplies they needed to have a gorgeous time with my book!
Ask people at the end of your book to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if they love it.
Collate all your testimonials and reviews on your sales page.
Speaking of which…
#3: It’s not enough just to give fucking links to Amazon. You need a sales page!
A sales page is a long, comprehensive page giving people EVERYTHING they need to know about in order to BUY!
There’s some REALLY important parts to a sales page including:
a sales video
who the book is for
how the book helps
why you are the best person to learn from
benefits and results
and a big call to action.
I’ll go into all these in detail in the course, but I really want to reiterate: STOP JUST SENDING PEOPLE TO AMAZON TO BUY. YOU NEED TO SELL THE FUCK OUT OF THE BOOK FIRST SO THEY WILL ACTUALLY BUY IT!
#4: Stay connected with your readers. They’ve got bonza ideas!
That way, I get to hear when people are confused by something, LOVE something and want more of it, ask about a certain feature or want another companion product in the future.
Your readers have great ideas. They love your thing, and they can help come up with ways to make it better and write even more books!
#5: Offer it both digital and printed
It’s SO much easier than it was 10 years ago to self-publish books both digitally and in print. I’ve tried a few services, but keep coming back to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. They formerly were called Createspace, but it’s all merged into one platform now.
#6: This one tip will make you WAY more money!
This one is SUCH a simple tip, but can hugely increase your $$$ income.
Get your pen and paper out, and write it down!
When you do point to Amazon for people to buy your book, MAKE SURE you are using your own Amazon affiliate link.
On the book front, look for writers with a unique voice that attracts you. It doesn’t matter the genre – instead you are on the hunt for other authentic voices. Something in you knows when you’ve found one – it feels like the author is speaking directly to you. They carve language in a new way. The words are so thoughtfully crafted you hold your breath.
You might find it in different places from me. That’s PERFECT. Just find the voices that do speak to you. And let them be a soul lighthouse for your authentic voice.
They are proof that it is doable and possible. And that when you do, it will move great mountains.
4. Copy the EFFECT, not the STYLE.
When you DO find writers that inspire you, don’t just be a copy and paste of them. The world doesn’t need another JK Rowling… it already has one!
Instead, notice what it is you love in your favourites, and think how you can create the same. Dive a little deeper than just the surface into WHY they are great writers. Break it down to its scrumptious essence.
So, for example: I love Nikki Gemmell’s writing. Especially her non-fiction books.
What do I love about Nikki?
I love her searing honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable and unmentionable.
I love how she plays with words, makes them up, uses them in an innovative way.
I love how bare-hearted she is in her words.
Those are the things I hope to replicate and respond to, but in my very own Leonie way.
Another example: Trent Dalton:
I love how I can read an article and know within the first paragraph that it is his.
I love that he is unabashedly emotional, how he looks into the heart of people and shares his response to them.
I love how he loves people with his words. He is kind about almost everyone, no matter how odd they may be. He loves humanity.
Again: marvellous essences to tap into and aspire to, without becoming a carbon copy.
Copy the EFFECT of their words, not the STYLE.
5. Falling too much into the comparison trap? Go Full Hermit.
On the other hand, sometimes it can be unhelpful and even painful to read writers you love. You may find yourself comparing yourself viciously or wondering why you should even bother writing when there’s so many other great writers out there. Sometimes there’s so many voices in your head it’s hard to hear your own.
That’s when you know it’s time to go Full Hermit.
Unplug, unfollow and ignore all the writers that trigger you into comparison-itis, indecision and creative inertia.
Plug into YOU instead: journal. Write. Look back through anything you’ve written over your life – note what you love about it.
Do the inner work and self care so you’ve got enough quiet and confidence to share the birdsong that only lives in you.
6. Fuck the masses. Go full weird.
Don’t try and appeal to the masses.
If you try to appeal to EVERYONE, you end up appealing to NO ONE.
Instead, go hard with your own definitive way of writing. It will resonate more deeply with your right audience. It will amuse or touch you more. It will have its own special joie de vivre in its wily weirdness.
Some people, I am sure, think that my writing style is OTT and overly contrived and too sweary/blunt/what the fuck ever.
Even at school, I had some English teachers who would tell me my writing was too “flowery” or “emotional.” And I just remember thinking: NO DERRRR. AND THAT IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT. YOU ARE WRONG AND I WILL CARRY ON MY MAGICAL WRITING WAY.
And that’s exactly what I did. With great and glorious gusto.Ha!
Here’s the thing: if someone doesn’t resonate with my writing, it means they aren’t the right personality fit for my business. The ones that DO like my writing like it a LOT. They LOVE that I swear, they LOVE that I make up words, they LOVE that I get deeply personal and emotional. If I tried to cull the weird out of my writing, it would have taken out the best bits.
And the people who DO love my writing? They are just the right kind of person for me: funny, compassionate, big-hearted creatives.
Being your own style of weird pays off in attracting people who ADORE your work, and who are just right for YOU.
7. The only way to write well… is to write.
I saw a friend recently. She is brilliant and wise and just a gorgeous person to know. She has SO MUCH to share in her fields of expertise, and has been wanting to start teaching online for years. She already has all her content written… it’s just that fear of actually getting out there and doing the thing.
“The thing is,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’ve got a great speaking voice yet. So I think I should go do Toastmasters or something before I can do anything.”
I looked at her and laughed.
“Fuck off, mate. The only way to learn the thing and get great at the thing is by DOING THE THING. Just start teaching, fuck ya! Start putting courses out already! People needs your work! You’ll learn as you go, and grow as you go. If I’d waited around until I was perfect at everything, I still wouldn’t have done anything! My speaking voice is still shithouse – it shits itself regularly, it’s raspy and I’m a throat speaker. But it is better than what it used to be, and that’s just from sheer practice! JUST DO THE THING ALREADY!”
Have I told you I am a very bossyblunt encouraging friend?
The same is true as well when it comes to writing. There’s no way to all of a sudden snap your fingers and become a great writer… without writing.
The only way to learn and grow and find your authentic voice is by PRACTICING. Write every day. Blog every day. Journal every day. Whatever form you want to take… the only way out is THROUGH.
No more waiting for perfect.
No more wanting to be anything but who you are. It’s time to use that voice of yours that only lives in you, and start sharing its gifts in the world.
Since I’ve launched 40 Days To Finish A Book, I’ve had a bundle of questions and conversations about the why + hows of book writing and publishing.
So I thought I’d take some time and write some posts for you to answer them.
First up: Why do SO MANY Successful Women Entrepreneurs Choose To Write Books?
Take a look around at your favourite women entrepreneurs, and chances are, they’ve written a book.
From global billion-dollar entrepreneurs like Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Sara Blakely (Spanx) to your favourite online coaches and sometimes even your local yoga teacher… chances are, they’ve written a book.
WHY would they do that? Books can be a huge investment of time and yet are a lower-end pricing strategy. What are the business reasons behind writing a book?
In the post I’ll be sharing some of the most powerful reasons successful women entrepreneurs write books, and give some examples as well!
I’d like to clarify as well – I’m giving examples of how peep’s books work for them. I don’t presume however to know the reasons for them being written. Sometimes books are a strategic decision, sometimes they are pure gut instinct, sometimes they are a fire inside you that must be born into the world. Always, at their heart, books are a gift to the world.
Reason #1: Books give you “expert status”
Having a book with your name on it positions you as knowing more than most other people in your industry. It’s one thing to say you are a freelance monkey milker (can you imagine THAT JOB? HA!)… but it’s another thing entirely to be a freelance monkey milker AND the author of a book on the Art of Monkey Milking!
Brigit Esselmont’s Everyday Tarot is a great example of this. Brigit is the founder of an online school teaching people how to read tarot. By creating a book on it, she is showing just how much knowledge she has on the topic! Not only does it affirm to her existing audience that she is a teacher, it signifies to new potential customers and even mainstream media that she is someone to turn to in the marketplace.
Reason #2: A book is a giant business card people pay for
Let’s face it: business cards are NOT memorable, and they get lost/thrown out at the earliest chance.
Books however, are basically a giant business card. They teach people who you are, how you help and how to find you… AND they pay for the pleasure of having it!
Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Get Rich, Lucky Bitch is an awesome business card. DDT is a money mindset coach which is one of those unique jobs that people don’t instantly understand. Read it, and you’ll get to know exactly who DDT is, who and how she helps, and how hot she looks on a cream couch!
Reason #3: A book attracts more clients
I know sometimes entrepreneurs worry that by writing a book that shares their knowledge, they will cannibalise their own market. Why would people sign up for your coaching or course if they can read your book instead?
It’s a legitimate worry, but it isn’t one that is substantiated by evidence.
What ends up happening instead is this:
Your book becomes an easy, low-cost way for people to start working with you.
Your book helps them understand you, your process and the results you get.
They are more motivated and committed than ever to working with you, or buying your thing!
Kerry Rowett’s Align and Attract is a great example of this. Kerry is a kinesiologist who works with entrepreneurs to reach their goals. She has both coaching services and an e-course. Her book is a fantastic way of starting the process of working with Kerry’s methods and falling in love with her (it’s the only natural thing to do). And her existing customers (i.e. me) have bought it and it makes us even more thrilled to be working with her!
Reason #4 – A book can be a creative side project
Entrepreneurs are a kooky breed. We get bored and often need creative side projects to keep ourselves amused and our brain challenged.
I’ve had so many creative side projects over the years – from a network marketing company to retreats to podcasts to tarot card reading! It’s a beautiful thing to expand and express yourself in new ways.
This can be really useful as well when you’ve got a really large business with a very defined purpose, and you’re wanting to create something outside of that. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, did just that with her The Belly Art Project. Is it completely off brand for Spanx, a tight undie company? Yep! Is it something she wanted to do anyway? Fuck yaaaa.
These creative side projects can be an awesome way to test a new market or business model without affecting your existing one. Ariel Meadow Stallings, owner of the excellent and long-running Offbeat Bride blog, also produced a high-end erotic memoir as a way to do just that.
Reason #5 – A book helps you collect Amazon search traffic
Amazon is one of the most popular search engines in the world. It has more people searching for products on there each day than Google and other search engines combined.
There’s a LOT of people on Amazon searching for information on that very thing that you teach… and they are ready to BUY NOW.
Why wouldn’t you want to get in front of that traffic, and get brand new people falling in love with you?
Hibiscus Moon is a gorgeous crystal healing teacher and her book Crystal Grids is an awesome way for Amazon traffic to find her. It shows just one part of her expertise, and positions her as a teacher and expert to learn from.
Reason #6 – Books are a great way to Pay It Forward (and mentor while maintaining your sanity)
Once you’ve reached a certain level of success in your business, a LOT of excited peeps come out of the woodwork. They want to learn exactly how you’ve done what you’ve done, and how they can create some of that same success for themselves. They want to meet up for coffee to “pick your brain” or ask your thoughts on a new business idea.
And of course, we all want to be able to help as many people as we can. But we just don’t have hours in the day to give everybody what they are wanting.
Books are an awesome way to condense all that experience and hard-won lessons into something ANYBODY can access. It’s our way of paying it forward to anyone who is struggling, or wants guidance and support, but we don’t always have the time to be able to give.
Sonya Driver is really honest about this being the reason for her writing The Nudge. Founder of ECO TAN, Sonya sequestered herself away on a Byron Bay holiday to bang out this business manual just so she could give it to people who wanted to be mentored. I love that I found it serendipitously in a bookstore and got to hear her common-sense advice and success story… without it eating up her valuable hours! Plus, I could read it in the bath with a beer and chips. It probably would have been a bit awkward if I did that over a brain-picking sesh with Sonya! HA!
Reason #7 – Books are a great passive income stream!
Constance Hall is a straight-talking Australian mum who shares honestly and vulnerably about motherhood. She’s amassed a huge following online, and converted it into an income stream through writing books and designing a fashion label. Still A Queen is her second self-published memoir that has become an Australian best-seller.
Reason #8: Write the book you wish you could buy
If you go into a bookstore and can’t find the book you are longing for… CREATE IT YOURSELF!
It is 100% the reason I created my Shining Year goals workbooks. Back in 2009, pregnant for the first time, I knew I needed to set myself goals to hold onto when shit got tough.
But when I looked around, I couldn’t find ANYTHING that guided me through the process, step-by-step. And anything I did find was drab, black and white, and felt super corporate. It didn’t feel fun at all.
So I made the workbooks for myself. And after I was finished writing and painting them, I realised a few other people might find them useful too. So I put them online. Nearly 10 years, and 350,000 people later… that divine inkling has come true. You can find them right here.
Reason #8: Books are an incredible source of good in the world, and help people in so many ways!
At the end of the day, I reckon that’s why all books are created. Books have been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Reading business, marketing and finance books are the reason I’ve been so successful in business. I’m not someone who loves travelling to go to conferences. I’m way too much of a hermit to learn anything but in bed, with a book.
Self-help books have been just the thing I’ve needed at the right time. Memoirs have helped me feel less alone in the world. Graphic memoirs have given me the gift of empathy. Romance novels have brought me so much joy and sweet brain holidays over the years.
All of them. All of them. All of these books are angels.
And I want you to know: whatever it is that inside of you. Please know it will go out and help the world. That it will touch the people it is meant to help and heal. And it will heal you too as you birth it into the world. That is how it always works. Bringing your book into the world will heal you first, and then heal so many others.
We need you. We need your book. We need your story. We need your wisdom. It’s how the world will change.
All my love,
Want to start + finish your book in 40 days?
Want to find out how to market it for maximum success + abundance?
One delicious side effect of my No Spend experiment has been reading through my library of unread books. It’s been SO blooming good to dedicate so much time to reading. I’ve unearthed some real gems that have given me so many insights for the next stage of my journey. And it’s also got me really cogitating on all the books I’ve read across my lifetime… and those that have had the most profound effect on me.
What are the most life-changing spiritual books do I recommend for women?
Oh SARK… how do I count the ways? SARK was the start of life for me, in so many ways. Her whimsical, magical, illustrated memoirs of a life lived out loud lit a spark in me like no else. She was the first “Succulent Wild Woman” I had ever come across – a woman who was unabashedly herself. SARK truly is a soul lighthouse for so many… and I believe EVERY woman should read her!
I believe Byron Katie’s mindset methodology (she calls it “The Work”) is one of the most powerful tools available. Her four simple questions can alleviate suffering, increase contentment and inner peace. I adore every single one of her books, and have even done a two day intensive workshop with one of Katie’s teachers. It’s work that has continued to touch me over a decade later. Highly recommend.
Julia truly is the Archangel of Creativity. She has an extensive range of books – she is truly prolific, and they are all excellent. The Artist’s Way however is her seminal work. Use it as a three month course to rediscover your creativity. I’ve done this book over and over and return to it whenever I get creatively stale. It’s a fabulous book to do as part of a women’s circle, or in tandem with a dear friend as well. A must for all those wanting to be more creative.
Dr E is more well known for her best-seller Women Who Run With The Wolves, but I personally found this book of hers even more powerful. It is an ode to the unconditional love of the divine feminine…. but more than that, it is deeply touching stories that touch the heart. I can barely explain it without sounding like a wanker, but this book is holy.
Glennon is a beautiful teacher on so many levels, behind some of my favourite quotes:
Her memoirs are stunningly honest and tender accounts of being a sensitive human, trying to work out how to be okay in the world. I am so grateful for her vulnerability in sharing about the most difficult parts of parenting, marriage and being true to yourself.
Denise is one of my favourite teachers – wise, compassionate and insightful. Her books and oracle cards are powerful! I’ve used Soul Coaching like a 28 day personal exploration course/retreat… it’s a beautiful experience that brought me so much joy.
It’s tough trying to choose between Brené’s books – I have yet to not get huge insights from one! Brené is a social worker who gathers data on happiness and being a “whole-hearted” person. Her findings are extraordinary. I personally recommend getting the audiobooks on these. Brené is an excellent storyteller, and her wisdom has a way of living within you.
To be honest – I was resistant to reading this because it was so hugely popular. But then I read it – and proceeded to read all of her books at great speed. Turns out: it’s blooming popular for a reason. It’s GREAT! Insightful, thoughtful and delicious. It will encourage you to embark on your own Happiness Project and find what truly brings delight into your day.
If you have anxiety, bipolar disorder or mental health disorders (or love someone who does), this book is STUNNING. A profound book that celebrates the beauty of mental health snafus and fuckupperies (yep, those are technical terms). It was a balm to my anxious heart.
Those workbooks I made for myself back in 2009, just so I could set my goals in a rainbow, joyful way? They’ve become a cult sensation, used by over 350,000 people worldwide with more miracles than I can document. All I know is, I am so grateful for the gift of them coming through me. They’ve changed me in the very best of ways, and I am so grateful that others feel exactly the same way.
Books Are Miracles!
To all these precious books and teachers… I am so grateful they are in the world, making the magic they were meant to.