January 12, 2012

Behind the Scenes of the “Unconventional Guide to Publishing” Launch

I woke up before 6am on Tuesday morning, eager for a big day. A product launch is always filled with lots of emotions, especially in the first few critical hours.

What would happen? Dun dun dun…

At 7:30 there was a knock on my door. It’s Nicky Hajal! Our genius developer (AKA “kid wonder”) had arrived from New York the previous day. Nicky was in town along with Wes and Tera, our media team, for a tour of venues for this year’s World Domination Summit.

More on that process later—for now, Nicky was also here to help out with Tuesday’s launch of the Unconventional Guide to Publishing, our first commercial guide in more than a year. Since he was staying about a mile from my house, we decided he would just come over in the morning so we could do the launch live from World Domination HQ.

The previous night, Nicky had dropped off a monitor he “borrowed” for a few days while he was here. (Thanks, Office Max!) The monitor was now on our living room table, and on our kitchen counter was what he called his mobile workstation. Take a look at this:

Kitchen-Aid mixer not included

The setup looked suitably impressive to me, someone who has no technical skills and also no physical skills of any kind. (An unwritten post from last weekend: “Why Chris Guillebeau Is Not the Friend You Want to Help Assemble IKEA Furniture”).

As awesome as this workstation was, there was one small problem. Nicky connected a bunch of wires and antennas around the living room, and attempted to connect to the “liberator” WiFi network we use. After a few minutes, a furrowed brow was raised, and I heard lots of clicking.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Nicky was silent for a few minutes. Finally, he announced the small problem… the awesome setup wasn’t WiFi-friendly.

Womp-womp.

No internet? This act of aggression would not stand—Nicky spends about 15 hours a day looking at code on a huge screen (thus the Office Max monitor) and needs to be online to do it.

Meanwhile, the launch was coming up in about 45 minutes… with at least 30 more minutes of things we needed to do beforehand. I was mildly stressed about getting everything done on time with an optimal setup, but now we really had a problem.

Side note: there’s a GREAT book coming out in May called The $100 Startup. I just happened to be proof-reading the final edits last week, and noticed an entire chapter all about product launches. Whoa! If only I had such wisdom before Tuesday. More news about this AMAZING book later. Now back to the story…

Don’t you have a laptop? I asked Nicky.

“Yeah… it’s back at the place.”

Don’t you have an ethernet cable? He asked me.

“Yeah… at my old apartment.”

Nicky hopped on my bike and rode back to his place to grab the laptop, and then to the grocery store to get an ethernet cable. (Yeah, it turns out grocery stores carry those… we were surprised too.)

Long story short, we kicked things off about 20 minutes later than planned. I wrote to our affiliates and apologized for the delay. It wasn’t terribly long, of course, and it’s always better to make sure things are going well before opening the doors to the masses, but nevertheless I still felt bad about the delay. To be safe, I delayed my own post here on the site an extra hour so that the affiliates who were rushing to get their posts up could do so first.

After getting underway, we still had a few problems. We’re moving everything over to our own in-house e-commerce system, which will be great… when it’s done. For now it’s still in beta, and most of the time it works well, but not always. A few users had problems with using Google’s Chrome browser. Others had issues making payment, logging in to a new account, or downloading files.

Computer-in-a-box with biscuit-in-a-box

Thanks to Nicky’s real-time tech support, most of the issues subsidized within an hour or so. We got on a roll with lots of orders coming in, and began receiving good initial comments from customers who were accessing the materials.

Meanwhile, other members of our team were working from various locations. David was sitting in Southern California, patiently entrusting the outcome of this process to my hands. (No pressure, Chris.) Sean, our newly titled “Chuck Norris” Affiliate Wrangler, had just flown in from Denver and was managing email communication with various partners. Reese, our superstar designer, was doing site reviews of other projects in a coffee shop somewhere.

As they say, it was truly a team effort! Thanks, team.

Continuous Improvement and Why Book Proposals Matter

On Wednesday, I cleared as many of my emails as possible, then sat down to review the order process. We still had a few challenges—some users had difficulty accessing their files, and others received payment errors when trying to check out. I knew that Nicky was working on that, and my skills are fairly limited, so I took a closer look at other things.

One thing I’ve learned with launches is that you can always improve results by making a few careful improvements, even after you’ve begun the process. In our case, the check-out page wasn’t as clear as it could have been. I revised it to clarify exactly what people would receive when they finished the transaction. If you’ve already purchased and something didn’t work as it should, check again—and don’t hesitate to let me know if you’re still having difficulty.

Another mistake I made in sharing the launch communication was in failing to explain why we had included several sample book proposals with the guide. When I was first learning to write a book proposal, I really struggled. I had written lots of different applications, proposals, and academic essays—but I learned that a book proposal is a very different thing. There’s a specific way you have to do it, and few good examples out there.

I totally forgot to highlight this fact about the launch, and David sent me a note about it:

In 20 years of doing this job I’ve always found that readers love it when I offer to send them an example of a proposal that has actually sold to a big house. And it’s extremely uncommon to get to see one that has sold for six figures. If you look at most of the books on proposal writing out there, they’re full of low-end, $10k titles and just aren’t very impressive.

Because David is the master negotiator, he was able to get us five complete proposals from books that sold for good amounts to leading publishers. Several of them sold for at least $100,000 and then became international bestsellers.

In addition to the 45,000 word guide and all the proposals, we also included a number of interviews with the guide. There are some surprising disclosures in these interviews, including long discussions on average selling prices for books, what captures an editor’s attention, and several good examples of marketing campaigns that helped new authors stand out in a crowded field.

All files, including these proposals and interviews, are available immediately upon purchase. All updates are FREE for the life of the guide.

Motivations, Thanks, and a Reminder

I work on a lot of different projects, and the motivations vary. In some cases, I want to create sustainability in my business. For some, I may be looking for a significant payday that will allow me to do other things that cost money. In others, like a webinar, I just want to do something fun and useful.

In this case, I was conscious of the fact that David put in a TON of work on this guide. We also had a ton of affiliates lined up to promote the guide, so for both their sakes—David and the affiliates—I wanted it to do well, not just during the launch period but on a long-term basis.

I really appreciate everyone who has supported this project by picking up the guide or spreading the word along. As mentioned earlier in the week, at least 80% of people say that they want to write a book sometime in their life, but only a small minority actually do it. Our goal is to help more of the 80% move into the minority.

Also, one final reminder: the special pricing for the Hemingway version of the guide expires tomorrow night (Friday) at midnight. David will also be hosting a special Q&A call for buyers at all levels who purchase before the deadline. After that, the guide will be in the shop on a long-term bonus, but without the bonuses.

Here’s the link if you’re interested.

Otherwise, thanks for being a part of AONC. Much more is on the way!

Question for those who are still reading: What’s the one thing you wish you knew more about?

You can share with others in the comments.

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Image: Will

Comment on this article

21 Responses to “Behind the Scenes of the “Unconventional Guide to Publishing” Launch”

  1. Great example of how it takes an army to get things off the ground. Assemble your team (and recruit people you love to work with) and your projects grow themselves. Especially in the case of publishing.

    When I let go of the reins and relinquished control, my book sales soared and I got my life back.

    Love the action shot too!!
    ~Sage

  2. I definitely love the computer in a box thing that more and more mobo manufacturers have been doing (even if I personally haven’t taken advantage of it.) Best of luck on the launch.

  3. There is no place to comment on the sales page for your new book so I will do it here. The perspective I gained in the first chapter was worth the whole price.

    Every writer needs to have a copy of your new book package. I am focused on reading it all this weekend and then on to the interviews etc.

    Great job Chris and David

  4. When working via a biscuit-in-a-box, the potential for success rises considerably. Unless the biscuit is unleavened bread.

    ….okay, it wasn’t funny, but I had to try.

  5. Thanks, Wyman – glad to hear that.

    And thanks, everyone else. It’s been fun, especially once we got the internet working. :)

  6. Despite that post being all entertaining and useful, I’m still fixated on the biscuit. Please tell me that’s from Pine St. I still dream about those…

  7. Hi Chris! This product looks fantastic! Can you tell me if the sample proposals you’ve described in this post are included in all three versions of the product? And if not, can you let us know which one I need to buy to get ‘em? Thanks!

  8. @Amanda,

    Indeed! Pine State FTW.

    @Beth,

    Good question. Long story short, we will probably break them up after the launch sale (ending tomorrow night) so that only all five are in the Hemingway, with perhaps 2-3 in the other versions. But I haven’t done that yet, so for now…

  9. I was one of the folks with challenges getting my order through, and I can truly say that you guys rock!

    The look behind the scenes is great – I was one of those poised with my fingers on the keys at 9:00 sharp and couldn’t wait to get the package.

    Nicky was in close contact for the length of time it took to get things sorted out – and all is well now.

    Great launch – and even better to know what went on behind closed doors…

    All the best,

    Gail N-K

  10. Gail – was a pleasure to give you a hand, thanks for bearing with us!

    -Nicky

  11. I wish I could figure out what it is that I am truly passionate about. I need to really figure this out because I am starting to feel as though I am just a cold blooded reptile that only cares about getting a reasonable pay check each week so that I can continue to get up every morning and drive a long way to sit on my can in front of a company computer to do boring work. I now what I am NOT passionate about. How do I figure it out?
    Saying I have no idea what I am passionate about is like admitting I have low self esteem. It does not feel good, it feels bad! I have to recognize it to change. I do feel like a loser though, admitting to not having any idea where my true passion lies.
    Will I ever figure it out? I am NOT young. I should know this by now. I believe I do know what it is, but maybe I don’t want to admit it, because then I will have to pursue it and that is what really scares me.

  12. Chris,

    It’s great hearing about the behind the scene chaos. Regardless of that was happening, my experience buying your guide was smooth.

    As I mentioned in my email, I thought the guide was the best short course to getting a book published. Being in the process of getting a publisher for my first book I have read several books and guides. David’s is complete, to the point and most of all useful.

    Good luck with your guide. I know it will help many. That’s what it’s about.

    Owen

  13. Just want to wish all of you the best of everything. Love seeing your hard work, dedication, passion, guts, and everything else that makes your recipe work so well.

  14. January 12, 2012

    David Fugate

    Thanks, Wyman! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it, and more importantly, I hope you find it useful.

    Regarding the sample proposals: I feel very grateful to the authors who allowed me to include their proposals in the package as samples. That can feel very personal for authors and yet they all understood what we’re trying to do with the project and were wonderful about giving permission to include them.

    And since they represent nearly half a million dollars in advance monies between them, I know they’ll prove very useful to anyone getting started on their own proposal.

    Lastly, just want to send out a big thank you to anyone who has bought the guide. It was a tremendous amount of work, but a wonderful experience to this point.

    Best!

    –David

  15. Listening to the interview with David Fugate right now. What a fabulous package you’ve put together, Chris (as usual!) THANK YOU!

    And thanks for the very entertaining look behind the scenes.

  16. I have written and illustrated a children’s book. As an artist, I am better at making the visuals than promoting myself or the product… be it an oil painting or book. I have social media set up, but few followers.

    Is this (children’s book) an entirely different subject/category than what you have covered in your guide? I’ve done some research and found that if you write the book, the publisher will assign an artist to your work. Maybe this is no longer true, but I am under the assumption that I will have to self-publish. I do know my target demographics, so not totally in the dark…

    Really loved reading The Tower. It helped with brainstorming and soul searching 2012 goals. I look forward to your emails… and that is saying something.

  17. Chris and David -
    Wow. Thank you! I just bought the Hemingway Kit and it really looks fantastic. I have just sent a text message to my inner circle that I won’t be available this weekend, I’m entering Hemingway Mode :)

    Good writing and publishing to everyone that aspires to be an author.

  18. January 13, 2012

    Paul Lewis

    An Ethernet cable was always part of my travel kit. It’s come in handy in countless hotel rooms. Now that more and more laptops are are wifi only, (Chrome books, Macbook Air) it might be time to retire that part of the kit!

  19. January 13, 2012

    David Fugate

    Lavonne, Children’s books really are a very different subject. There are so many different rules for children’s books – not just illustration, but page count, rhyming or not, level of language, price points, formats, etc – that I’d recommend you pick up something much more specific to the children’s space.

    One place you might start is Writer’s Digest’s 2012 Children’s & Illustrators Marketplace.

    Hope this helps!

  20. I’m launching a product mid-February and this was a great read for me. I’ve read a bunch of first-person recaps of launches recently and the one thing I see in common is that you can only do so much prep in advance — some things you can really only learn once the gate is open and folks start buying. Nerve-wracking, but super exciting at the same time. Thanks for a great post!

  21. Chris, all your posts are great information. the how to and what if– scenerios honest reality. As Chief Joseph, NezPerce, said “it doesn’t take many words to tell the truth”….thanks

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