How to Market a Book (Hint: It Starts Before You Write!)

Over the past few years, I’ve collected a lot of knowledge about book marketing. Some of it has been based on my own experiences and the mistakes I’ve made, and some from the amazing guests I’ve had on my podcast. In this post, I wanted to create a directory of all the book marketing (and writing and publishing) knowledge here on SPI so that when you sit down to write your own book, you’ll have a head start.

And a big thank you to everyone who supported the launch of my new book, Superfans, last week! It was a massive success. I’m so thankful for the launch team, and everyone on #TeamFlynn who not only purchased the book, but also posted about it on social and shared it with their friends, family, and followers. I appreciate you!

The blog posts and podcast episodes below are organized according to a few general categories—but there’s a lot of overlap. I hope you find them helpful!

Writing Tips and Strategies

How to Write a Book: The Secret to a Super-Fast First Draft

Learn the tools and techniques I use to write 36,000 words in two weeks, save time, and achieve up to 180 words per minute. I also cover strategies to keep you moving forward, so you can write your book quickly without getting stuck.

AP 0167: I’m Writing a Book. Where Do I Start?

Getting started writing a book can be intimidating enough. Before the first edition of my book Let Go came out, I started another book, which I never finished. Here are my tips and strategies for helping you get through that initial resistance to writing.

SPI 197: Behind the Scenes of Writing Will It Fly?

If the idea of writing your own book is still daunting, it might be helpful to go behind the scenes and learn how someone else did it. In this podcast episode, I walk you through my decision-making process about the marketing, promotion, creation, and launch of Will It Fly?. I also clear up some of the mystery and worry that comes with starting something new.

How to Write a Bestselling Book (5 Tips from a Self Published Wall Street Journal Bestseller)

Want to write your own bestseller? As a self-published Wall Street Journal bestselling author (of Will It Fly?), I have a lot of strategies to share with you based on my own experience. Although it was a struggle, writing this book was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. With the right book writing strategies in place, I’m hopeful you’ll have an easier time than I did, and your book will get in the hands of everyone who needs it!

How To Open & Start Your Book (10 Bestseller Examples)

When it comes to creating an appealing book experience, you’ve got to hook the reader in from the start. And the great part is, you can learn a lot from what’s already out there! I take you on a tour inside the opening pages of ten bestsellers to learn how different authors start their books and grab their readers.

General Book Publishing and Marketing Advice

How to Publish a Book in 2020: Step-by-Step

These are my top fourteen tips for writing, marketing, and publishing a book, from finding your purpose for writing, to brainstorming the content, to creating an effective writing schedule, to what kinds of editors you need to hire. I’ve done it all and learned from it, and I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

SPI 079: Time Travel and Book Marketing with Jeff Goins—Strategies to Help You Sell More Books and Spread Your Word

Way back in 2013, my good friend and bestselling author Jeff Goins gave me some marketing advice for my then-upcoming book, Let Go. Two months later, I sat down with Jeff again to see how well I did implementing his strategies. This podcast episode is for people who are writing books or may want to eventually become authors. But it’s also for anyone who wants to sell anything they’ve put a lot of work into and know will benefit their audience.

SPI 199: The Marketing Effort Behind Will It Fly?

I sit down with the members of Team SPI who were instrumental in the production and marketing of my book Will It Fly?. We talk about all the different pieces that come together to create a successful book launch, from managing the production schedule, to building and executing a successful marketing strategy, and even some of the awesome software tools we used to orchestrate a successful launch for this book.

Book Publishing Tips with Honorée Corder – SPI TV, Ep. 40

Authorpreneur Honorée Corder has an incredible wealth of experience writing books, turning those books into sustainable income, and working with inspirational authors like Hal Elrod. In this episode of SPI TV, she shares how to uncover the book within you, how to promote it, and why you shouldn’t stop at just one book.

SPI 124: Your Author Empire—Pick a Niche and Publish for Profit with Steve Scott

Steve Scott has created a book publishing empire. He was also one of the most active and helpful members of the Facebook group for my book Let Go. Since starting his book publishing empire, Steve has published dozens of books and earns a healthy five figures per month from them! I talk to Steve to learn exactly how he’s built his empire, and tips and strategies we can all use to win in the Amazon Kindle market without spamming.

9 UNCOMMON Book Marketing & Promotion Tips (That I’ve Used to Become a Bestseller)

You’ve written a book—or you want to—and you want to know how to sell as many copies of it as possible? Then spend ten minutes learning the nine tips I’ve used to turn my books into bestsellers, including my self-published Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Will It Fly?.

SPI 380: 5 Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing Books

How many books can you realistically write in one year? Why do you want to write a book? How much money can you expect to make from your book? These are some of the crucial questions you must answer before you sit down and start writing.

SPI 381: Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publishing

Self-publishing has come a long way since the days when you were just some weirdo trying to sell PDF downloads. But at the same time, working with a traditional publisher still has a lot of benefits. So how do you decide which route to go?

SPI 382: The Surprising Truth about How One (Self-Published) Author Sold Millions of Books

Most self-published authors will tell you that their first month’s sales numbers are far and away their best ones. Then things slow down month by month until all that’s left is a trickle. But Hal Elrod’s story is different. Here’s how he turned around the traditional wisdom about what self-publishers should expect from book sales long after launch day.

Selling and Marketing Your Book on Amazon

SPI 378: Amazon Book Marketing—Everything You Need to Know with Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur

Dave Chesson teaches people how to sell more books on Amazon. He helped me with my launch for Will It Fly?, which became a Wall Street Journal bestseller, and I think he can help you, too. In this podcast episode, we talk keywords, reviews, your sales page, and everything else that goes into getting your book in front of as many people as possible on Amazon.

SPI 338: Selling a Book? Overlooking This Page Could Kill Sales—Book Marketing with Bryan Cohen

When it comes to selling your book on Amazon, your sales page does most of the heavy lifting. How do you set up a great sales page? Where do most authors fall flat when it comes to titles and subtitles? How do you design the perfect book cover? In this podcast episode, Bryan Cohen and I dive deep on book marketing, giving you the knowledge you need to create convincing Amazon sales pages that sell more books.

AP 0939: How Do I Engage with People Who Buy My Book on Amazon?

When you’re selling your book, there can be huge benefit in staying in touch with your readers, both pre-sale and post-sale. And to do that, you need to know who’s buying, and how to contact them. But how can you make this happen on Amazon, where you don’t have easy access to your buyers’ email addresses? I share some strategies and workarounds in this episode of AskPat.

Writing and Publishing an Ebook

The #1 Tip for Starting an Ebook Is…

We all have an urge to dive right into writing, but all too often after the first few pages—we get stuck. Want a great method for avoiding this dilemma? Start with your outline! Creating an outline first has several benefits—perhaps the biggest one being that it gives you a visual roadmap for success right in front of your eyes.

Ebooks the Smart Way: A Complete Guide to Publishing, Marketing and Automating a Killer Ebook

Over the past decade-plus, I’ve learned a great deal about the process of creating and selling ebooks. Ebooks the Smart Way is my no-nonsense guide that’ll teach you everything from content planning and formatting to pricing your ebook and launching it out into the world. It’s my way of giving back for all of the wonderful things—in both life and business—that have come from writing my very first ebook.

SPI 075: Six-Figure Earnings with Ebooks (Not on Amazon) and a Pricing Structure That Works with Nathan Barry

Nathan Barry is the founder of ConvertKit, my email platform of choice. Before ConvertKit, Nathan was a self-publishing rockstar. With an email list of under 1,000 people, he successfully launched his first ebook, The App Design Handbook, and made over $12,000 on the first day. In SPI Podcast episode 075, I talk to Nathan about his three-tier book pricing structure, and why he sells his books on his own site rather than on Amazon.

Succeeding with Social Media and Launch Teams

Behind the Scenes of the Will It Fly? Social Media Strategy

In this blog post, Team SPI member Non Wels shares the details of the coordinated, multi-platform social media effort we used to promote the Will It Fly? launch. He talks about how we built our strategy, what worked, and how it worked.

I’m Running an Experiment—and I Need Your Help…

When I chose to self publish Will It Fly?, I was told that it would be nearly impossible to get onto the shelves at physical bookstores. I took that as a challenge, and I ran an experiment to see if I could overcome it. Guess what? It worked. Here’s how I did it.

SPI 198: Building a Book Launch “Street Team” (Plus Pre-Order)

Daniel Decker is a master at building community. He’s managed book launch teams for authors like Michael Hyatt and Lewis Howes and taken the success of their books to new heights. In this podcast episode, Daniel walks you through how to build launch team, how to keep them engaged, and what you should be doing in the weeks leading up to your big launch.

My Best Tip: Bring Your Audience Along for the Ride

If you’re sensing a thread in some of the strategies and tips I’ve shared in this post, it’s that marketing your book doesn’t begin after you make the final edit on your draft. Effective book marketing starts before you even begin writing. That’s why my favorite strategy is to include your audience in the entire book creation, publishing, and marketing process. (There’s a reason it’s the first tip in my “9 Uncommon Tips” video above.)

So before you’ve written a single word or finalized the idea for your book—as soon as you make the decision to start writing one—let your audience in on it. By including them, you’ll make them curious and excited about the book and ultimately invested in its success. Share the journey with them!

Thank you all again for being there for me together as we launched Superfans! Here’s to you and your book writing, marketing, and publishing success, too!

The post How to Market a Book (Hint: It Starts Before You Write!) appeared first on Smart Passive Income.

Income Report: All the Numbers Behind My 2016 Bestseller, Will It Fly

In February 2016 I published my first business book, called Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money. Before that I’d published my first ever book, a memoir called Let Go. Will It Fly? has been very successful, and I hope it sets a baseline for what can be achieved with Superfans, my next book that’s coming out on August 13. In this blog post, I want to share all the numbers behind that success, through a detailed income report on the earnings for Will It Fly? since the book was launched.

The Return of the Income Report

It’s been three years and four months since Will It Fly? came out. Today, I’m going to share all the numbers we’ve tracked over that time, including ebook sales, paperback sales, audiobook sales, and audiobook bounty unit sales. (I’ll explain what that is in a minute.) I’ll also share details on foreign royalties, as well as income generated beyond the book based on collecting emails and driving people into a related course.

For those of you who have been around for a while, this post may look a lot like some of my older income reports. In the first nine years of Smart Passive Income, I did a detailed monthly income report for all my businesses, all my products, and all their earnings. But eventually there were so many pieces involved that I couldn’t go into much detail about any single one of them. I started to feel like the income reports were becoming less helpful.

So I stopped doing them. But I think there’s still potential value in this kind of report. So I’ve decided to do occasional income reports based on specific products or campaigns. That way, I can go deeper to understand how that product or campaign has performed and establish some useful takeaways.

With all that said, let’s dig into the Will It Fly? numbers! These numbers are all accurate as of the end of May 2019.

The Bread and Butter: Will It Fly? Ebook and Paperback Sales

We’ll start with ebook sales, which came from almost 20,000 units. They were sold mostly at $6.99 each (because I offered limited-time discounts through Amazon from time to time), generating $32,893.93. But although there were more ebook units than paperback units sold (as you’ll see in a second), we made more money from the paperback because of the royalty rates. At $7 per ebook on average, we got 70 percent and Amazon took 30 percent.

Speaking of the paperback, we sold 13,556 units at a retail price of $16.95. However, Amazon likes to play around with price points, and because of that, we weren’t always earning royalties based on $16.95 for each unit sold. Amazon changes the price automatically via algorithms to optimize it for sales. For example, Will It Fly? is currently being sold for $11.25, so depending on how Amazon prices it, the royalty amount will change every time.

Paperback sales came to $62,495.48. There were also cases where I spoke at conferences and the organizers bought multiple copies for their attendees; there were also awesome fans who wanted to support me with bulk orders of the book. These numbers, which weren’t counted in the main paperback sales because they were handled directly through CreateSpace, totaled about $3,500.

Paperback and ebook sales combined came to roughly $100,000. Not too shabby!

Then we have Kindle Unlimited royalties. Authors who self publish on Amazon through KDP also earn a 70 percent royalty on books price between $2.00 and $9.99 and a 35 percent royalty on books that cost more or less than that. With Kindle Unlimited, however, you’re eligible for royalty payments from Kindle Unlimited and the lending library. That means you get a share from a global royalty fund, depending on the size of the fund each month and on how much of your book people have actually read. Since Will It Fly? was released, I’ve earned about $4,000 from these royalties.

Really Taking Off: The Will It Fly? Audiobook

With the audiobook, we sold 19,389 units. This is where things get really interesting. We definitely sold more Kindle and paperback copies, but with the audiobook, I get a bigger cut of each sale—about $5 per sale. As a result, I’ve made just about the same with audiobook sales as I have with Kindle and paperback sales: $96,945. That’s pretty amazing, and it shows you the power of offering an audiobook. I’m especially thankful that I’ve kept the rights to my audiobooks and will continue doing that moving forward, including with my next book, Superfans.

You can make a lot more money on the audiobook than other book formats—which is why a lot of people have wondered why I’m giving away the audiobook version of Superfans for free during the pre-launch period. That’s right: If you pre-order Superfans before August 13 and submit your receipt at, you’ll get the audiobook for free.

Yes, we’re giving away the audiobook during the pre-launch, which means we might end up losing money on it. But it’s more important to me to offer a ton of value and give people an incentive to pre-order the book. Honestly, that will also help me get as many sales as possible on launch day and maybe even boost Superfans onto another bestseller list. Will It Fly? became a Wall Street Journal bestseller after a week, which was amazing, especially as a self-published book. Superfans is being self-published too, and while the bestseller list isn’t my main goal for the book—helping people is—I’d be pretty psyched if Superfans became a bestseller, too.

Pat Flynn, Bounty Hunter

Now, let’s talk bounty units. What are bounty units, you ask? Well, when you have a book on Audible, if you can convince someone to purchase an Audible subscription and they make your book their first book, you get a $50 bounty. What’s especially nice is Audible gives a person their first credit for free when they subscribe. So if they use that free credit for your book, you’re going to get $50 if they continue their subscription.

I was able to sell 490 bounty units at $50 each, which is $24,500. That, added to $96,000, brought total audiobook sales to $121,455. Total ebook sales (if you also count the Kindle Unlimited royalties) came to $36,981.81, which is far less than the audiobook sales. So when it comes to digital audio versus digital print, there’s the possibility for almost a four-times return if you prioritize the audiobook.

Breaking the 50K Unit Barrier

That means total book earnings from the self-published book, with 52,166 units sold, came to $224,432.29. We broke 50,000 unit sales, which is really cool. Total earnings per unit was about $4.30, both audio and digital and paperback considered. A quarter million dollars is not bad, especially when you consider that sometimes royalties for traditionally published books don’t get to that level! Those royalties, on average, are in the four-, maybe five-figure range. But we definitely made a lot more money from the book alone by self-publishing, which was amazing.

That said Will It Fly? wasn’t only a self-published book. Yup, there’s more to the story . . .

Will It Fly Across the Ocean? Yes!

Then there’s total royalties from foreign rights. That’s right, Will It Fly? is international! I worked with an agent who helped me sell the book to traditional publishers across the sea in a few different countries, including Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Taiwan, and Poland, for a total of $19,600 in advances. Here are some pictures of the covers of the book as it was published in a few of those places.

Will It Fly translations

Will It Fly Polish editionBecause these versions were published by traditional publishers, I didn’t have any say in the book cover design or any of that stuff. I just sold the book to them and they made it happen. But it’s been really cool and gratifying to see the book expand beyond the US, with the various awesome cover designs.

I’ve been noticing, especially in Poland, that a lot of people are responding really well to Will It Fly?. They’re talking about the book using hashtags and tagging me on Twitter and Instagram.

Will It Fly Poland reader

Serving and Selling Beyond the Book

All in all, the book itself has generated $244,032.29. However, book sales are just one group of transactions related to the book. There are other ways to use a book to make money and serve your audience. As any good business owner knows, a book can be treated as the first step in a process to generate more sales and ultimately help more people, which can help generate even more sales.

Beyond the book, there are a couple interesting notes to share. First, I created a free companion course that I linked to in the book. The Will It Fly? Companion Course has allowed me to collect email addresses so I can stay in regular contact with my readers. The beauty of this companion course is that although it’s free, it’s still really valuable to the reader. The course is kind of an obvious next step for someone who’s read the book and who wants to get access to more tools and more resources. The course was created using Teachable, and it took about a day and a half to put together. It’s not designed to help people on its own, but when combined with the book it definitely adds value.

Will It Fly companion courseAt this point, 26,680 people have enrolled in the Will It Fly? Companion Course. That means more than half the people who read the book have agreed to share their email addresses with me.

This is a HUGE deal. Let me repeat that:

More than half the people who read my book gave me their email address

(This number doesn’t include people who purchased the book in foreign countries because I’m unable to track those figures. It’s probably less than 50 percent overall, but very close to 50.)

One of the most important reasons to create a course or some other way to collect email addresses is Amazon (or any retailer, for that matter) doesn’t give you your readers’ email addresses. In particular, I’ve used that list to help solicit reviews for the book. We’re approaching 800 reviews on Amazon right now, which is amazing, and more than some other popular books by better-known authors. So thank you to everybody who has left a review. And if you’ve read Will It Fly? and haven’t left a review, I’d love to know what you thought of it.

Will It Fly? Led to One of My Most Popular Courses

Collecting email addresses has also helped generate additional sales from another course I created. That course, Smart From Scratch, came about as a result of a request from many Will It Fly? readers who said they wanted to go deeper.

I opened Smart From Scratch initially to beta testers for $147, and it’s currently available for $249.

Overall, 1,684 students have enrolled in Smart From Scratch, which has generated $215,308.71. It’s been amazing to see how the book became the first step that led so many people to want to go deeper and get access to step-by-step tutorials, specific examples, and support and accountability through community and office hours.

Will It Fly? Recipe for Book Success: Answer the Burning Questions

The grand total of earnings directly and indirectly from Will It Fly?, from self-publishing the book, selling it overseas, and selling the Smart From Scratch course, came to $459,341. I’m extremely happy with that, and it’s been really neat to go back in time and see how this book has performed.

I hope you find this inspiring as you build your platform, because the platform I’ve built is definitely the reason this book has been so successful. Will It Fly? wasn’t a viral hit like Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning, which tackles some of the fears and issues people encounter when they want to start a business or change their life, and has really taken off. But Will It Fly? has still been a big success, and I’m really happy with how it’s done.

This brings me to why I believe this book has become such a success, and that’s because it answered some of the most burning questions my audience was asking. The content for the book was based on the answers to a survey I did in 2014, combined with a number of conversations and questions on social media among my audience about what they needed help with. And they told me exactly what they needed help with. They didn’t know where to get started. They didn’t know how to pick a niche. They didn’t know how to do market research. They were afraid of losing money and wasting time. Hence: Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money.

Every Book Is an Opportunity to Serve More People

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who’s supported Will It Fly?. This book is proof that you can serve and sell at the same time. And a book is a great way to do that, because of all the ways you can connect it to other opportunities and offerings, like your email list, courses, coaching programs, and other products you can provide to better serve your audience.

This book, along with everything that’s happened in the wake of it, such as the companion course and Smart From Scratch, has been another SPI experiment that has helped me learn and grow. I’m very thankful for it, especially the fact that the audience is what has made it the success that it is. I’m hoping for similar success, if not more, with Superfans, not just in terms of sales and revenue, but how it can help people.

I know from experience that building superfans and creating amazing experiences for your fans is the best way to futureproof your business. It’s the not-so secret secret to success in business. I think every business, no matter its size, can benefit from creating superfans. Even if you’re just starting out, learning these things up front is going to help you stand out. It’s going to help you tackle or avoid a lot of the technological and competitive challenges out there right now.

If you think your business can benefit from creating its own army of superfans, then Superfans is for you. You can get the audiobook version of Superfans for free by pre-ordering the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then going to and sending us your receipt.

So Team Flynn, you’re amazing. Thank you for your support of Will It Fly? and everything else I do. I hope this post was eye-opening and helped you see all the possibilities that exist for you with a self-published book. Now go get yourself a copy of Superfans, and have a great day!

Addendum: The Numbers for Will It Fly?

*Published February 2016 | Figures accurate as of May 31, 2019

  • Ebook Sales: 19,221 units (at $6.99 each) = $32,893.93
  • Paperback Sales: 13,556 units (at $16.95 each) = $62,495.48 (~$4.61 per book royalty)
  • Kindle Unlimited Royalties: $4,087.88
  • Audiobook Sales: 19,389 units (profit $5 per sale) = $96,945
  • Bounty Units: 490 ($50 each) = $24,500
  • Total Audiobook Sales: $24,500 + $96,945 = $121,455
  • Total Ebook Sales: $32,893.93 + $4,087.88 = $36,981.81
  • Total Paperback Sales: $62,495.48
  • Total Bulk Paperback Sales (from Conferences and others): $3,500.00
  • Total Book Earnings (Self Published): $224,432.29
  • Total Units Sold: 52,166
  • Total Earnings Per Unit: ~$4.30

Royalties from Foreign Rights

  • Korea: $10,000
  • Vietnam: $1,200
  • Romania: $1,000
  • Taiwan: $5,600
  • Poland: $1,800
  • Total Foreign Royalties: $19,600
  • Total: $244,032.29

Beyond the Book

  • Emails Collected via Will It Fly? Companion Course: 26,680 enrolled on Teachable (51 percent conversion rate!)
  • Smart from Scratch Course (Will It Fly? Leads into Smart from Scratch. Note: Not everyone in SFS has read Will It Fly?, but it teaches the same material, in way more depth, with step-by-step examples and accountability, community, and office hours): 1,684 students enrolled, $215,308.71 in earnings
  • Grand Total: $459,341.00

The post Income Report: All the Numbers Behind My 2016 Bestseller, Will It Fly appeared first on Smart Passive Income.

A Week in the Life of Janna Maron, SPI’s Content Director

Editor’s Note: This is a new series we are testing out here at SPI, and you know how much we love experiments! We’re inspired by other journal-like content we’ve seen around the web like the Money Diaries and Feel Good Diaries from Refinery29, as well as the standard format of the much-loved “How I Work” series from In this series we hope to capture a vast array of not only different types of work that people do in the online space, but also the different ways we all work toward our goals and positive impact with our jobs, businesses, or brands. We’re starting off this series with the members of Team SPI and, if it’s a hit, we are kicking around the idea of turning this series into an ongoing feature by expanding it to include reports from you, Team Flynn! So let’s get right to it with another “Week In the Life” with our content director, Janna Maron.

[Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through some of these links.]

As the content director, I’m responsible for overseeing all of the content production we do here at SPI, from blog articles and podcast episodes, to emails and lead magnets, online courses and book projects. Not only do I establish and support implementing workflows and systems, I work with Pat to create our content strategy and plan blog topics and podcast guests for the year. Once the plan is in place, I hold the team accountable for executing and meeting our publishing deadlines. Additionally, I take on special projects as needed (like managing the team for FlynnCon, our upcoming conference event at the end of July). It’s definitely a lot to keep track of, and can be hard to find focused work time when a lot of my work day is spent in meetings with the team.


7:15 a.m. One of my goals for 2019 is to establish and maintain a consistent morning routine incorporating movement and meditation. I started slowly, with a short commitment of five to ten minutes a day and continue to build on it incrementally when I feel I’m ready to add on. I’m proud to say that so far I have built the routine to include about fifteen minutes of yoga and stretching, ten minutes of meditation, and fifteen minutes of listening to an affirmations recording. I’m fiercely protective of this time, restricting any use of devices until after my routine and a smoothie for breakfast.

9:30 a.m. Mondays are my busiest day of the week, with meetings starting right at 9:30, going straight until 3:00 p.m. depending on the week. This schedule gives me about thirty minutes in the morning to check email and Slack messages that have already come in, as most of my team is on Eastern or Central time and are two or three hours into their day by the time I start. First up on the calendar is a senior staff meeting with Pat, Matt, our COO, and Karen, our marketing manager. We use this time to sync with Pat on priorities for the week. Immediately following that meeting I meet with Matt for a one-on-one, focused on my development as well as any challenges I’m having or support that I might need. From there it’s off to our full staff meeting, and then I wrap up with one-on-ones with my direct reports. It’s a packed calendar and I frequently feel rushed and behind on Monday mornings, but once I get to the afternoon things will quiet down and the rest of the week will be much less hectic.

3:00 p.m. Finally done with meetings for the day and now I have time to focus on getting corrections for Superfans wrapped up and delivered back to the layout designer. We’re in the final stages of review before sending the book to print, which is always exciting but also stressful because if things go wrong at this stage (as they often do) it means rushing and long hours to prevent delays in the schedule. There are about ten more pages of the back matter that I need to review, plus my final punch list to double check. I have an hour now before I go to yoga and I’ll finish when I get back to my computer around 6:00 p.m. I should be done just before dinner with my husband at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., when I’ll call it a day and shut down for the night.


9:00 a.m. I’m in crisis mode because I ended up working until almost 9:00 last night wrapping up my review of Superfans and troubleshooting an issue I was having with Dropbox. With a remote team, we rely heavily on technology platforms to allow us to collaborate on our work. For example, when more than one person needs to review a PDF, we host the file on Dropbox which allows multiple people to review simultaneously and collect comments all in one place. Dropbox isn’t the most ideal solution because it can be slow and buggy at times, but it’s the only way we can do this work. And, as if I was foreshadowing from yesterday’s entry, while I was wrapping up my comments last night, the comment feature on Dropbox broke. As in, all the comments were there but their corresponding highlights were not displaying so there was no way to see what the comments referred to on the file. With more than 250 comments, this is a nightmare. Last night I sent an email to Dropbox support right away and also messaged them on Twitter. This morning there is a reply saying they are aware of the problem and are working on it. But that doesn’t help me decide if I have to redo all of the work because I don’t know if the issue will be fixed quickly. I have to jump into a meeting for FlynnCon now and so I’ll have to worry about this later.

10:00 a.m. Since I had already emailed our layout designer with the Dropbox file last night, I call her and fill her in on the issue with the broken comments. She assures me that even if we have to redo the work and deliver corrections by Friday or Monday at the latest, we should still be on track to meet our print deadline. That’s good to hear, but I’m still pretty stressed about the issue, so I send another email to Dropbox to ask for a status update and refresh the webpage to see if the problem has been resolved. It hasn’t. I go refill my water and make some tea in the kitchen. Back at my desk I look at my to-do list for something to distract me from Dropbox.

4:00 p.m. Distracting myself with my to-do list worked because I knocked out a bunch of items this afternoon including some writing for FlynnCon, finalizing a contract for a designer we are on-boarding this week, typing up our podcast production workflow in preparation of transitioning our audio production to Music Radio Creative, and getting started on this post. By the time I checked Dropbox again, the comment feature was back to normal—WHEW! I called the designer to let her know and now I’m going to take a break!


11:00 a.m. Every other Wednesday morning our team has a sprint review meeting, where we present and review the work that we completed in the previous sprint (past two weeks). This week is not a sprint week, and so I had a quick check-in with my colleague, Karen, to ensure we’re keeping each other informed on overlap between content and marketing and what we need from each other for our respective projects. I also took a call with a contract writer/editor who I’ll be on-boarding next month to help with some of our ongoing content production, which is additional support we need with one of our team members moving on at the end of June. Now I’m looking forward to some quiet, focused time for the rest of the day.

1:45 p.m. The first half of the day flew by and I am just now taking a break for lunch, which I usually try to do around 1:00. This is what happens when I have uninterrupted time to get deep into planning and strategy mode, and I’ve made good progress on a plan for the 2019-20 content strategy I presented a few weeks ago. I’ve also updated CoSchedule, the tool we use to manage our content production schedule, with some changes to upcoming podcast guests.

6:10 p.m. One of the things I appreciate most about being part of a distributed team and working remotely from home is the flexibility it affords in my schedule. I go to yoga at 4:30 in the afternoon two to three days a week and it’s not disruptive to my coworkers or our workflows. As soon as I get home, I check back in on the computer for any messages and to get my work to a place where I can easily pick it right back up first thing tomorrow. I’ll spend about thirty or forty-five minutes wrapping up before dinner.


10:00 a.m. Just wrapped up a meeting with Music Radio Creative and I feel really good about their team taking over our audio production. I think this is the long-term solution we’ve been looking for, which will help to alleviate some capacity issues for our internal team. I’m expecting an email from Izabela at Music Radio Creative tomorrow to finalize a few details and then we’ll be all set. The rest of the day now is clear for more focused work.

11:00 a.m. I had to take a couple of phone calls about the Superfans book, which is in the hands of our publishing partner for print layout corrections. There were a few corrections that I needed to clarify, and then I also talked with my contact who’s handling the book distribution. He called to tell me about two promotion opportunities for getting the book into airport bookstores, which is exciting for Pat and SPI because we haven’t had this opportunity with any of the previous books we’ve published. It’s fascinating to learn how all of this stuff works, because for self-published authors this type of distribution is usually not something they have access to. It’s super interesting to learn about how the industry is changing, and how the playing field is getting more and more level between traditional and self publishing.

3:00 p.m. I’ve spent most of the day finishing up the content strategic plan that I started yesterday. Using a trick I learned from Pat, I’ve got a bunch of hot pink Post-it Notes up on an empty wall in my office so that I can visualize when projects in the plan will launch and when the work will need to start. I move them around to keep too many from stacking up all at once. After the Post-it exercise I input everything into Airtable, where it will be easy to keep track of and share with the rest of the team as soon as it’s ready. We started using Airtable about a year ago for project management (anything that isn’t ongoing content, which we manage in CoSchedule), and it’s now one of my favorite tools. Think of it as spreadsheets on steroids, with a dynamic and modular interface that is more user-friendly for moving things around and manipulating the data to display in various ways depending on how you want to sort and organize. The content plan is almost in a spot to share, and will be ready by our sprint review meeting on Wednesday next week. I’ll spend a few more hours working on getting this organized before I call it a day.


9:00 a.m. Every Friday starts with our team retro, which is first thing in the morning for me being on Pacific time. I grab my smoothie and tea to take with me to the computer and boot up for the call. Although it is another meeting, this is a great way to end the week as a team. Each person takes a turn to share their highs and lows, both work and personal, for the week, and it’s an important team and culture building time for us because it gives us a chance to hear what everyone’s got going on both at work and outside of work. I think it’s more important for us as a remote team, because we don’t interact in person on a regular basis, so this is a time when we can really get to know each other and connect on similar personal interests beyond the work we do together.

11:30 a.m. I took a couple more calls regarding the airport store promotion for Superfans. We’re going to move forward with the opportunity, and I’m excited to see what comes of it. We have to think of it as paid advertising for the book, but there is also the chance that books will sell and then the stores will continue to order it on their own. I could definitely see that happening; Pat has a way of activating and moving his superfans to action. We’ll see what happens come August when the book is out.

4:00 p.m. It’s been a long week and after putting in a couple of longer days, I’m wrapping up a bit early today to hit the road. I’m driving up to Nevada to visit a writer friend of mine and we are going to have a writing retreat at her house. I’m working on a book of my own, and since the beginning of 2018 the way I’ve been able to make progress on it is to block off dedicated weekends, get out of my house, and focus solely on the project. I should get in somewhere between eight to ten hours on it this weekend, which I find much more productive when I’m able to batch the time in to dedicated blocks like this rather than trying to sustain an hour a day over an extended amount of time.


4:00 p.m. I’m back home after my weekend writing retreat. I was near South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, and ended up driving through snow over the mountains (not usual for late May in California)! Getting away from home for dedicated writing time is a strategy I started last year, and it does a couple of things for me: 1. When I know I have dedicated writing time planned and scheduled, it takes away the pressure I feel during the work week to find time for my personal writing, and 2. I find that I’m much more productive when I can dive deep for eight or ten hours at a time rather than short spurts of an hour or less during the week. The one challenge for me is that I do use my computer to write and work on my book, which means that I won’t have a true break from screen time for twelve days or more. It sometimes makes me feel like I have been working all weekend, which I have been, just not on work for my job. I know I will feel it for the next couple of days, with lower energy and being extra tired. Regardless, it’s my heart work and I have to make time and sacrifices for it, just like I do with my job sometimes, and ultimately I know that it’s a small price to pay for the reward I’m working toward.

End of Week Retrospective

Grade: B+
Summary: Even in spite of the Dropbox snafu that caused a mini panic attack, it was a solid, productive week for me. Things with Superfans are progressing, and we’re still on schedule. In fact, I’m pretty proud of how I handled the Dropbox issue. It’s something that would normally throw me off course for the entire day, and instead I took the time to shift my focus, take my mind off of the issue, and complete other important items while waiting for the issue to resolve. Yes, I had a couple of late nights, but I compensated for it by prioritizing my morning routine and my weekend writing retreat, both of which always help me to feel like I’m able to give my full attention to work when I sit down in front of the computer each day.

The post A Week in the Life of Janna Maron, SPI’s Content Director appeared first on Smart Passive Income.

How to Start an Online Business

How to start an online business: It’s a giant question, one that’s loaded with lots of ins and outs. And it’s one that I (with a little help from someone on my team) will attempt to answer for you in this post!

I’m first going to share what I consider the crucial first three steps you must go through (plus a couple more key tips) before building an amazing online business. Then I’ll hand it over to SPI’s “integrator”—Matt Gartland. He’ll introduce some of the things we’ll be talking about on the blog in the near future about the less sexy but still super important parts of creating a business that will stand out and stand the test of time.

Step 1: Ask the Most Important Question—“Why?”

Today, we have this thing called the internet that allows us to build a platform, create a business, grow an audience, generate an income, and do it all in a way that supports the lifestyle we want.

In my opinion, starting an online business is something that everybody should attempt to do. Why? Because it can provide new freedoms in your life. Freedom financially, freedom with time, freedom to be creative, so that you can live a happier and more fulfilled life.

These are big-picture whys. But you also need your own, personal why. That’s why before getting into the how of starting an online business, you need to understand exactly why you’d want to start one.

You Need to Have a Destination

Why do you want to create an online business? The answer should not be because you want to make more money and gain more fame. Those are potential byproducts, but they shouldn’t be the main goal.

Instead ask yourself how you want an online business to support your life. What kind of life do you want? Whenever anybody asks me, “Pat, how do I actually start an online business?” I always ask the question, How can an online business support you?

I want you to think about that really quickly now. You need to be able to answer the question, how do you want your life to be?

A lot of people start businesses because it’s fun and exciting. Being an entrepreneur is really cool now. But many of them jump into it without knowing the direction they want to go. And just like driving a car or a plane, you might have freedom to go whichever way you choose.

But if you don’t have a destination in mind—an address in your GPS, or an airport where you’ll land—then all you’re doing is burning gas. You’re potentially moving yourself further away from where you actually want to be, and it’s very dangerous. It’s especially dangerous because, yes, while you can make more money, you can’t get time back.

I repeat: you can’t get time back. And that’s why this is really important.

In a way, building on online business can actually help you get time back in your life. It can help you generate more income so that you can have more time to do the things that are more meaningful to you.

But you first have to understand why you want to do this. That’s why in my book Will It Fly?, the first few chapters contain thought experiments to help you understand more about where you want to go and what you want to do.

So I recommend checking out Will It Fly? as a first step if you haven’t already. This book will also help you with the next step, which is identifying the right niche and target market for your business.

Step 2: Identify Your Target Market

After you figure out why you want to create an online business, you need to figure what that business is going to do. Another way to think of it is, who do you want to serve? What is the target market you want to help?

It can be a target market you already know how to help, one you perhaps already have experience with. Or it can be one you have a lot of care and passion for but don’t have experience with yet.

As I often say, the riches are in the niches. In episode 337 of the SPI Podcast, I talk about the advantage of niching down, and why actually being small to start is a great way to go about your new online business.

I was interviewed once on a podcast called Mixergy by Andrew Warner, where he asked me about a lot of the smaller businesses I’ve built, like my LEED exam study site,, and my security guard training site, These businesses were a lot smaller than the businesses Andrew typically featured on his podcast, and he asked me why I would dabble with those things when there are much bigger problems in the world. Why not create the next Excel, something every person in the world could use?

My answer was this: there are people out there with specific problems who I can help much more quickly. These are people who I can help because either I care about them a lot or I already know how to help them (or can at least figure out how to help them). Although I can’t create something that changes the entire world, I can create something that changes their world.

And that’s what I recommend to people who are thinking of starting a business. Don’t think about creating the next fidget spinner or the next Uber. Think about creating a version of that, meaning a very specific solution for a very specific group of people’s problems.

Create Your Market Map

In Will It Fly?, I share some exercises that can help you validate your idea and determine if it’s a good one to pursue.

In the book, I talk about creating something called your “market map.” This is where, after you select an idea or a passion, you go into that market and do some research. You don’t quite yet know what your specific product or solution is yet because there’s no way to know it without doing some legwork. You have to first know what people’s problems are.

The idea of the market map is to find the lay of the land so you can figure out what your position is. How can you start helping people in that space?

Let’s say, for example, you’re targeting people who play tennis. You like tennis, you know how to play tennis, and you think you have the ability to help others who also like tennis or want to learn to play.

Now should you immediately go into coaching people online about how to play tennis? No. Because you don’t know if that’s actually A) what you want to do, and B) if there’s a need there.

Unmet Needs Are Your Opportunity to Serve

Instead, what you want to do is find where there’s a pain, and thus a need. So you might do some research using the market map exercise where you dive into the people and the products that exist in that space to find those people’s unmet needs.

You might find that there’s a pain for people who have tennis ecommerce stores whose biggest problem is they’re getting completely derailed by Amazon. So, for example, you could go in and consult with tennis store owners on how they can use their tennis knowledge in different ways on a more local level.

Or you might find that there are people over the age of fifty who love to play tennis but are now dealing with arthritis. So you could focus your business on helping tennis players over fifty who are dealing with arthritis.

These sets of people have very different pains: one is a business pain, while the other is a very real physical pain. And each pain requires a very different solution.

You have to go in there and see what already exists to see where people may need help. And again, you don’t need to invent something completely new. You can create a better version of something that already exists, both online and/or offline.

Building Community Is Often a Great Solution

Sometimes people doing their research determine that one of the biggest pains is that people are just lonely. So the solution is creating a community, whether through an online forum or events. They decide the best product or service is creating a space for people, facilitating conversations so that they can all connect with each other.

Human connection is hugely important. And if there’s a need or a lack of human connection in a particular niche, it’s something that a lot of people will pay for. Just think about how many people go to LEGO conventions or Adult Fans Of LEGO (AFOL) meetups. That’s a big niche, and one I talk about in my new book, Superfans.

Starting Small Means Less Competition and More Authority

Starting small is totally okay—and even recommended!—because it makes it easier to stand out from the competition, and it makes it easier for you to understand what the specific problems are.

When there’s less competition, it’s easier for you to become an authority. And when you’re focused on a narrow target market, it’s easier to understand the language those people use.

Let’s say you wanted to start a fitness business—that’s a huge industry. If you wanted to create a successful fitness website today, how could you possibly do that? Yes, it may have been possible before, but today you’d need a lot of money and a lot of time to break into that industry.

However, if you wanted to help new moms with their fitness, they have a very specific need and a very specific set of circumstances that are different from men who want to compete in CrossFit competitions. And each audience would require a completely different set of solutions. So if you were to create a website that helped both those people, it would actually help neither of them.

Instead, you need to pick one audience and focus on it. Niche down.

Step 3: Experiment and Iterate

Before we talk about the third step, let’s backtrack a little. You’ve identified the why behind what you want to do and how you want this business to fit into your life. If you just wanted to create a business that will sustain your current lifestyle, think about how much money you’re making and then how you might create a business that could replace that income.

What I don’t want you to do is what a lot of people do, which is to say, “My goal is to make seven figures a year because I hear everybody else is doing it.”

But do you actually need that? First, you need to be very clear with your goals and destination. Second, you need to pick a target market and a niche, and you can use the processes in my book Will It Fly? to do that.

This post has been all about how to start an online business. But have I said anything yet about building a website or starting a social media campaign or creating Facebook ads?

No, because you haven’t yet learned the most important things you need to know before you start building your business. First, you need to know why want to do this and what your business might look like. How big might it be, and how might it be structured? Next, you need to figure out who you’re serving and what their needs are.

With all that out of the way, we’re onto the third step, which is all about experimentation, conversation, and iteration. You need to experiment with creating different solutions for the group of people you’ve identified and start having conversations about those potential solutions with them. Through this process, you’ll start seeing what works and what doesn’t. You’ll also start to understand that failure is a part of the process.

You need to let them guide you toward that potential solution. Then once you figure that out and you start to gain a little bit of interest, you can either pre-sell a product like I teach in Will It Fly?, or you can create a website to start building an audience and bringing people together around that particular topic and group.

It’s only then after all that should you actually start to create a brand and an identity for your business. It’s very simple to start a website. It’s very simple to create a business card. But those aren’t your business. The business is all the stuff that happens beforehand.

You Need a Reason to Take Bold Action

When you build your business in a way that fits into your lifestyle, that’s when it becomes sustainable and something you’ll fight for. And that speaks to my next point, which is that you need a reason to do this—a deep, burning reason, one that will get you off the couch and taking action.

When I got laid off in June 2008, I had a reason to start my own business—and that reason was essentially survival.

If you speak to other entrepreneurs, you’ll find that there’s often some piece of their origin story that involves a ton of pressure that got them to take bold actions they weren’t taking before.

If you assume that just starting a website and trickling into a space is going to get you results, you’re wrong. Yes, it can happen. It’s happened before. And because these are the stories we hear about in the media, we think it’s the way to go for everyone, but it’s not.

Businesses start because of bold actions, and bold actions only happen when there’s a reason to get outside your comfort zone. For me, I had been laid off. For you, it might be something similar, or maybe things have just gotten unbearable at your current job.

Here’s a thought experiment: If your family needed you to start a business to survive, would you do whatever it takes, 100 percent? So if you’re at that point in your life where you are in desperation, but you’ve been fiddling with things without taking bold actions, then you might as well look for another job.

You have to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and make things happen. You need to dig deep to find the courage to take bold action.

The Next Stage: Building a Brand and Website

Now there’s obviously a lot more to starting an online business, and in a moment I’m going to hand it over to Matt to share some of the less sexy parts of business building.

But before I do that, I want to take a moment to talk about creating your brand and building a website. I know it may seem like I’ve downplayed this part of building a business, but it’s still really important to get it right, as long as you’ve done the legwork and gone through all the steps we’ve talked about so far in this post.

When you get to that phase, my free online course Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) will help you build a brand and website that matches your business and helps you stand out. Over 25,000 people have already taken this course, one that will help you walk through every step along the way to creating your brand and building an awesome website for it.

The Unsexy Side of Starting a Business

There’s a lot more to starting a business that a lot of people don’t like to talk about—things like finances, taxes, incorporation and business formation, among many other things.

It’s with that in mind that I’d love to introduce the person I call my “integrator,” Matt Gartland.

Matt is a crucial asset to Smart Passive Income, because he works to ensure that the business runs smartly and smoothly. As the chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO) at Smart Passive Income, Matt deals with a lot of the “unsexy” side of running the business, from legal and financial to business formation and insurance, among many other important things.

The reason I call him the “integrator” is he takes the vision I have for the business and integrates it into something that can work on the ground. There’s a great book I highly recommend by Gino Wickman called Rocket Fuel (Amazon link), which talks about this kind of relationship, one that exists in a lot of successful businesses: a visionary plus an integrator. [Full disclosure: I earn an affiliate commission if you purchase through the Amazon link.]

Although Matt and I have worked together in various capacities for a long time, I didn’t have him onboard as my integrator at the start—and you definitely don’t need to have an integrator in the beginning. But I definitely recommend bringing one on eventually, especially if you see yourself as more of a visionary type who may need help with more of the nuts-and-bolts, ground-level (i.e., boring) parts of running a business.

Over the next few months on the blog, we’re going to be talking more about our business goals and some of the other things in our business that are not sexy things very necessary. We’ll link back to those things here as they’re published.

With that in mind, I want to introduce Matt now to share a bit about the super important guidance he’s going to be sharing on the blog over the next few weeks relating to the less glamorous side of building an incredible business.

So Matt, thank you so much. You’re amazing. Here’s Matt.

Why Great Ideas Don’t Make a Business (with Matt Gartland)

Matt: Thanks, Pat.

Partnering with Pat on the future development, growth, and evolution of the SPI business is such a remarkable and humbling opportunity: because our collective work helps entrepreneurs like you overcome obstacles, discover breakthrough opportunities, and develop the wisdom and skills needed to successfully start, sustain, and grow your very own startup company.

I use the word “company” with great intention here. As Pat teed up, distilling your vision into a specific addressable market (your niche) is far from enough. Identifying a product or service concept to solve that market’s principal pain point is also not enough. Even developing relationships with folks in your industry that may be able to help you is not enough. Why?

Because those ideas—however great, refined, and unique they are—do not constitute the necessary elements to actually begin operating as a business. Furthermore, even if you have a phenomenal network in your industry, if you don’t have an operational business, then the business development potential of that network will never be harnessed into real, tangible results.

What Are You Building? A Real Company

That’s why the term “company” is instructive and powerful in this context. When you make the mindset shift to thinking about your idea not just as a “side hustle” or “project” or even “startup” but rather as a “company,” then you immediately begin to take yourself more seriously. Others will also begin to see you and your efforts through a more professional lens. That’s a positive perspective and energy shift, and it’s the very shift all entrepreneurs need to successfully avoid the “talk is cheap” trap and actually start taking action as a serious businessperson.

When you begin thinking about your ideas as the beginning of a real company, you’ll begin to see the value in topics such as:

  • Business formation documentation
  • Business development skills and resources
  • Negotiation and contracts
  • Fundraising
  • Product (or service) research and development methods
  • Data and derived business intelligence
  • Performance metrics
  • Cash flow management
  • Communication standards
  • Workflow methodologies
  • Talent recruitment and retention
  • Culture building
  • Legal strategies and tactics
  • Compliance safeguards
  • Insurance programs
  • System automations

For someone like me with a long leadership career chiefly building and running high-performing teams and companies, these subjects are quintessentially sexy because, when developed well, they sculpt your company into a smart, strong, and lean specimen that others will admire, be attracted to, and wish to learn from. What’s sexier than that?!

That said, I admit that this stuff can be dry at times. I also admit that, relatively speaking, marketing work is almost always perceived to be more glamorous. That’s okay with me because I’m motivated by, and grateful to have, these unsexy subjects as special, secret weapons that can help us stand out from the crowd and succeed in a way that takes others by surprise.

Coming Soon: A Deep Dive into the Unsexy Side of Business

I’m excited to pull back the curtain on these subjects and discuss them with you and the rest of the SPI community. If you’re already tingling with anticipation for this stuff, woohoo! If not, I simply ask that you deactivate any preconceived notions you may have about these subjects and approach them with an open mind.

While not all skills are suitable to all people, developing a healthy respect and knowledge about these subjects is fundamental to successfully leading a company—even if it’s a company of one. And if you have a business partner who’s more the “integrator” type, all the better because that person can lead on this work consistent with his or her hardwiring for it.

And if you’re a visionary type like Pat, you must still learn to appreciate and respect this stuff.

This Friday, you’ll see an article from me titled, “How to Set Up and Incorporate a Business.” I’m pumped to publish that article for you. It’s an epic read that will be a true foundational asset as you think about establishing, operating, and growing your company.

To prepare for that article, and the future arc of these subjects, I’d also like to invite you to read my article “10 Timeless Business Lessons I Learned During My 7-Year Agency Career (And Why I Sold Mine).” It provides a useful big-picture context to key themes and insights as an entrepreneur and business leader that shape how we need to think about these subjects.

This is fun stuff—although probably more nerdy fun than party fun. Get ready for it!

The post How to Start an Online Business appeared first on Smart Passive Income.