Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: February, 2017
Feb 27, 2017

Today I'm getting real about something that makes me feel INCREDIBLY vulnerable. Mostly because I don't read a lot about this from other people. I'm going to share what you do when your launch fails. 

Recently, I re-launched my email course, Own Your List, and it totally failed to meet my expectations. I want to share my own personal thoughts on this and on why I think this happened so that I can help YOU succeed with your launch. Or so you can get back up on your feet if and when your launch fails. 

Listen to Episode 91 - When Your Launch Fails


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When Your Launch Fails

In the podcast episode, I share all the nitty gritty about the background from this course, how it started as a terribly named course (How to Build an Authentic Email List) that didn't sell well and was built on one password protected Wordpress page. It had good content, but I clearly had NOT taken enough courses to see different ways to build them or what should be included. 

Now, 18 months later, I updated the course to a full video course built on full course software on a webpage dedicated to courses. (See my course site here!) I had some reservations about rebuilding, just because I never validated this idea in the first place to see if it was something people wanted when I created it the first time. 

It was really important to ME to redo the course into something I was proud of, and I stand behind the content. It's pretty stellar. But in the back of my mind, I knew that I was again creating something that people didn't necessarily say they were NEEDING. And I decided to build it anyway. 

That's the back story. 

In a ten day launch, I added about ten people to the course. My goal was to make $5000. And I fell super short of that. Clearly. 


I'll share what I did and what I suggest YOU do at the end, but first: let me help you avoid getting to the point when your launch fails. 

How to Avoid a Failed Launch


Before you build a course or write a book, you should first do the best you can to make sure that people can and want to buy it. If you still want to create it even without validation, realize that it's a passion project and you're doing it for YOU. 

Tips for Validating Your Idea

  • Do NOT just present your idea and ask if people will buy it. They will likely say yes because of the psychology of wanting to confirm. Ex: Would you guys be interested in buying a course on email lists? 
  • DO ask more targeted yet open ended questions to help you see what people DO want. Ex: What are you struggling with the most right now in terms of connecting with your audience? <- Email is really about audience connection, but this question will help you find out if your audience is more concerned with blog traffic or email subscribers. 
  • DON'T try to convince people of what they NEED. In the above example, maybe people NEED to be concerned about email as much as they need to be concerned with pageviews. (Or MORE.) You aren't likely to convince them of this, as least not in order to buy your course. Maybe over time. But not in a launch. 
  • DO hang out in your own and other Facebook groups and see what questions people are asking related to your potential topic and how popular the threads are. How many people have issues? Are there easy answers that people share in the group? Do you NEED a course or book on this topic? 
  • DO create a survey asking about what people are wanting to learn this year and what price point they want to pay. 
  • DO get some of your people on the phone or a video call to ask about their struggles and pain points. 
  • DO give people a choice. When you narrow your idea down (doing the above things) then you can ask if people are more likely to buy A or B. Do NOT do this at the very beginning. 
  • DO presell. I know some people say not to and that's totally okay. But as long as you are up front that it's a presale, this is a great way to see who is interested in buying your course before you invest the time and the money to DO it. 


This is really a part of validating that idea. If your people cannot afford the price point that you were planning, you should really reconsider. 

Tips for finding your audience's price point

  • See what they have bought from you in the past. Was it a $200 course or a $20 product? 
  • Know where they are in their journey. Are they just starting out? Are they five years into building a business? 
  • Consider your niche. Are you in a niche that helps people MAKE money? Is this a hobby?

It's also important to note that people may SAY they can't afford it, but what they MAY MEAN is that they have the money, but not for your particular product. Really hear what they mean, not just what they say. I had some people say in the follow-up survey that they didn't have the money, but that they were interested in my one-on-one coaching, which has a high price point that might exceed the cost of the course, depending on the option they choose. 


When you are selling, you need to show people the benefits (the transformation that will occur as a result of taking your course or buying your book) and the features (the details about what exactly they will get). Typically, the benefits sell a course. But I know that I am not alone in being a features girl. I look for how many modules, how long it will take to complete, and the exact subjects. I totally skip all the long sales page stuff with all its benefits. 

The benefit is why MOST people buy. They want to know what will happen as a result. They will start out stressed and confused and finish your course with an exact strategy that's easy. That is how you need to present your course in terms of benefits. 

Be sure that you are accurately presenting BOTH. I missed out on some sales by not letting people know that every video had an audio MP3 for those people who don't want to watch. I also didn't explain fully why my course was different than my book, Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers, which is only $4.99. (The difference: monetization is not included in the book, but plays a significant role in the course. Among other things.) 

It's important to think about whether or not you have a sales copy problem as well. You can always improve and work on this, so print out any copy you used in email or watch back your video to see what you said and how you could sell better. 


When I started doing what I'm doing now almost two years ago, the webinar space was much less crowded. I had 200 people sometimes show up for a live workshop. My attendance and registration this time were MUCH lower, I think because of the crowds. There are also way more courses, and a lot of people communicated that they already had too many courses to go through. 

While many people are still having success with webinars and with courses (and it's still not too late to start), it's MUCH MORE CROWDED. That means you have to do more work to stand out and succeed. Just keep in mind the context of what's going on in the space that you're in. It matters. 

What to Do When Your Launch Fails

Those are some great ideas to avoid this, but if your launch DOES fail, here are some things you should do afterward to recover. 


I really do think it's important to spend some time mourning or being bitter or angry or depressed. I feel depressed whenever I finish ANY project, whether it was a raging success or not. Give yourself some time to complain to a friend or just be miserable. But no more than 24 hours or so. Then get up and do the rest of these things. 


Stop saying that it failed. Say that it failed to meet your expectations. When I started talking to friends who are NOT in this space about my launch, they were blown away. "You just made money doing WHAT?" was a common response. It IS pretty awesome that I can create something online once and sell it again and again. It was amazing to get some emails during a night out with friends, letting me know I just made money while having dinner. Give yourself grace. 


I knew almost immediately WHY my launch didn't work well. I identified those four things up above pretty quickly. You may have some insight right away into what went wrong. 


I created a super quick, three question survey asking why people didn't buy, what would have made them buy, and what they WOULD be interested in. Those three questions alone tell me so much! I did a random drawing to give away one spot in the course to the winner. Then I followed up and offered all of those people a free copy of my book Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers as well as a coupon code if they DID want to buy the course. I also let them know about my coaching packages (though there is a wait list). 


One great thing about creating something is that you can keep on using it. My course does rock. And I have a few ideas on how I can continue to get revenue from it in the coming months and year. I'm not sure if I'm going to do a bigger joint venture launch in the later part of the year because of how low the response was. I'll share more about how I plan to use the course in the future, but for NOW, you can check out the episode I did last week on repurposing content to see how I've done this in the past (not a launch failure, but just a repurposing). 


Don't give up when your launch fails. Don't. Learn lessons. Get up. Keep moving in a forward direction. There are so many lessons to learn when something fails to meet your expectations. If you give up on something, you'll never learn the lessons and get better. 

Have you had a launch that failed your expectations? Let's talk about it in the Facebook group. It's a safe space, I promise. 

Feb 24, 2017

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Feb 20, 2017

When you have a piece of content in WHATEVER form that has legs, make those legs go the extra mile. Whether that's a podcast episode with more downloads than normal that you turn into an ebook or a blog post that keeps going viral that you turn into a course, repurposing uses what you've already created as a springboard to create even MORE. 

Feb 17, 2017

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Feb 16, 2017

Building an author platform is second maybe only to thinking about book marketing strategies in terms of things AUTHORS HATE DOING. Not all writers, I'm sure. But many of us just wish we could write the thing and people would gather to read it. This interview with author and marketer Chris Syme will give you some solid tools, book marketing strategies, and maybe help you change your mindset about all this platform stuff!

Connect with Chris Syme

You can find Chris at her website, listen to the Smarty Pants Podcast (here's my interview!), follow her on Twitter, or find her over on Facebook.

Also, I HIGHLY recommend her book (affiliate link!), Sell More Books with Less Social Media. If you liked this interview, you will LOVE that. And here is the link to her free, vetted book marketing resources that she mentions in the interview!


Why Authors Struggle

While it's amazing that we can do so much on our own with the tools for indie publishing now, that also means that authors are often tapped out from writing, editing, formatting, and all that by the time they get to the marketing point. Social media is also dynamic (as in always changing), so it's hard to keep up and can be very frustrating to know what works right NOW.

Chris' tip: Find the one place in the marketing world where the light bulb goes off and you really click with something. Quit hating that! Find a way to like it.

These problems are universal. Get into Facebook groups and forums so that you can talk to other authors to hear what's working for them and what they're struggling with. You need some camaraderie.


Fear of missing out (FOMO) plays a big role because there are so many posts from authors talking about different platforms and how you need to be everywhere. With a new platform every week, this can totally overwhelm and freeze authors. Find the platforms that work for you and where you can SELL BOOKS. Try something and get good at it. You don't have to be on every platform 100 times a day. What works for someone else may not work for you. And not ALL advice is good advice! So be discerning and maybe be a little wary of all the advice, especially if it sounds too good to be true or too easy.

What's the ONE Place You Should Be?

Chris recommends Facebook as the one place to be if you pick only one. The data tells us this is the place to be, with over 80% of online adults using it globally. You can't just sell your books 100% of the time on ANY platform, so you need a strategy that allows you to engage and sell in the same place. You need to engage AND you need to sell. Facebook really allows you to do that in a place where so much of the adult world is there. (Plus, Facebook ads are a really cheap and great way to advertise if you can lock it down.)

Tips for Marketing Your Books on Facebook

Don't use a profile to sell. Facebook doesn't want you to sell there (this is actually against their terms of service) and you can get your account shut down. Pages also have commerce tools and insights that will make it easier for you to be successful.

Don't even use your profile for engagement. Engage where you will sell. This is huge. So work to engage people on your page, where you will be selling. People struggle migrating people from their profile to their page. Use the 80/20 rule where you're engaging 80% and then 20%.

Use commerce tools. There are built-in tools on pages from developers to sell your books. You can use the Freebooksy app, for example, or embed a signup form. Check out this screenshot to see some of the ways that Facebook encourages you to use tools as you post. 

Have a group for engagement. Pages were built to sell and groups were built to deepen engagement. If you have time for both, have a group to up engagement. But there are no commerce tools or insights like you'll have on a page.

How to Use Facebook Ads

Warm Audience Ads- Reach people who are already opted into your page or your email list. (You can actually upload your list--if it's big enough--to Facebook's ad manager and run ads that your list will see.) Your fans who have opted into your page are likely to sign up for your page. Then you can use warm ads to your page likes AND to your email list. Ads are also cheaper when you're running them to a warm group. (This means that they will be more effective for less money!)

Grow Your List- You can grow your list with those warm ads to your Facebook audience. People who already like your page are more likely to want to sign up for your list.

Cold Audience Ads- These are great for promoting your backlist promotions of your books (as in, not the newest books) or some of these joint author events that many authors are doing. These can also be effective for non-fiction authors who are doing courses or similar events.

What Are the Current Trends?

Engagement vs Numbers in Email Lists- Email marketing used to be all about growth in numbers and having a giant list. Now it's all about upping open rates and engagement.

ONE LINK - Have only ONE link in each email rather than the newsletter style with a lot of links for people.

Email as Audience Research- Ask your email subscribers for feedback on marketing topics. Ask an easy question that people can reply to (like: which platforms do you use online?), enter those email addresses of responders into a giveaway, and then store and utilize that information.

Get rid of newsletters- Consider selling a one-topic email blast (that's not necessarily sales) that gets your audience engaging and maybe giving you feedback.

Use social platforms for discoverability- You can totally utilize something like Twitter as a placeholder to send people where you actually HANG OUT. You don't have time to be everywhere, so you can set up a basic account with your name and image and a link or pinned post that tells people where they can really connect.


Do you have any book marketing strategies to share? What's worked (or NOT worked) for you? Share in the comments!

Feb 13, 2017

Are you trying to live the creative life on your own? You don't have to. Today, our Community Wizard, Matt McCarrick, talks about the importance of building relationships and how to connected to our Facebook group.

Feb 10, 2017

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Feb 6, 2017

I failed at five businesses before transforming into a list-building mindset. Now my connection to my people meets my love of teaching in a perfect storm. 


To view five free videos on email list building, head over to

Feb 3, 2017

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