Joe Pulizzi is ‘the godfather of content marketing’. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of five books (one every two years), he has a clear vision of how books fit into a content strategy.
It all starts, he says, with the platform, and his sane advice will be music to the ears of any entrepreneur struggling with the overwhelm of multiple channels and messages.
‘We’ve been built our advertising around our products and services when we should really build around: “Who’s our audience? How do we love them? How do we know better than anyone else?” Deliver value to those audiences, great experiences to those audiences on a daily basis, and if you do that you will be rewarded in multiple ways outside of what you can even fathom today. That’s the potential and that’s why it’s the best time to be in marketing that’s ever been right now.’
On a personal note, this episode is dedicated to the memory of Lorraine Keelan, a great friend and former publishing colleague lost way too soon.
Joe’s site: http://www.joepulizzi.com/
The Content Marketing Institute: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/
Killing Marketing: http://killingmarketing.com/
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: https://alisonjones.leadpages.co/proposal-challenge/
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
Alison: Hello, and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. I’m beyond excited because I’m here today with Joe Pulizzi, who is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and podcaster of course. He’s the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, which is epic, and the author of five books, and the latest is called, I think it’s just brilliant, Killing Marketing. Welcome to the show, Joe.
Joe Pulizzi: Alison, thanks for having me. I always wanted to be on a show that was extraordinary.
Alison: Well, here you go.
Joe Pulizzi: You’ve got it in the title, and that you also said epic too, which is one of my favourite words of all time. We’re already hitting it off. This is fantastic.
Alison: That’s awesome. I hadn’t really thought about that. I would have checked out that kind of thing, but I just got lucky. Extraordinary Business Book Club is a name that I utterly love, but until Twitter changed it to more than 140 characters it was a bit of a bind, I’ll be honest with you. I’m really pleased that they have now-
Joe Pulizzi: Exactly. Now you could add another adjective or adverb or something that really … I think you’re good. I wouldn’t change-
Alison: Long adjectives have suddenly become much more enticing in marketing, haven’t they? Let’s talk about marketing, neat segue: you obviously, you are the daddy of the content marketing movement. I mean, you were talking about content marketing before it was a thing. How did that start? What got you so passionate about it? How have you seen it developed over the last few years?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, I got a lot of lucky breaks, Alison. I started in a publishing… 2000, I started at a business to business publisher working in their custom media department, which basically was most of the business sold, trade show booths and sold magazine advertising, but what we did is basically they pitched these clients over to us and said, “Okay, well, they don’t want a trade show booth and they don’t want magazine advertising. Can you sell something to them?” We would sell them custom magazines, custom newsletters, and then that moved into webinar programmes, and ultimately blogs. That’s when I sort of learned, “Hey, there is this whole thing out there that I had no idea.”
My background was communication, but I didn’t know this was actually a thing, and then as I started to … I took over the department and started to sell this. I started to go to more chief marketing officers and I’m like, “Wow, this is going to be big,” because as Google came along, and as social media channels came along I realised, “Look, we’ve got to understand how to tell better stories and not just talk about our products and services all the time, and we actually … if we’re going to do this right, we should build an audience.” Once we build an audience that knows, likes, and trust us, we can actually see more revenue. I wanted to do this thing as a job, and in 2007 … I had some fits and starts and things like that, but in 2007 I started what became the Content Marketing Institute, and we just started to train and educate, and talk about the practise of content marketing.
We were able to grow an audience and we were lucky for the fact that people started to come to our event, Content Marketing World and sign up to our magazine, Chief Content Officer. I’ve been doing this now for 10 years, but in the industry for almost 20 years, but kind of just fell upon it in a way that said, “I think people … I think businesses need to communicate better and if you’re just going to talk about your products and services all the time it’s not going to work very well.” This whole thing called content marketing came around and now it’s one of the fastest-growing areas of marketing itself.
Alison: Absolutely. Do you remember where the name came about? When did you first go, “Huh, it’s almost like it’s content marketing,” how did that name attach itself?
Joe Pulizzi: Content marketing, when I started it was called custom publishing, and then we were at Penton, we called it custom media, and some people called it branded content. In Europe, it was called customer media, everybody was calling it something different, but as I would go and I would pitch these services to chief marketing officers and try to sell them things like custom magazines, if I would say custom publishing or custom media they were already sleeping. They were like … it’s like, “What?” They’re like, “Custom publishing, that’s got to be the most boring thing in the world,” but when I said content marketing they sort of sat up in their seats a little bit. They’re like, “Yeah, content marketing. Wow, I think we do that.” Well, they didn’t have a clue, but it made sense like, “Oh, we’re going to market through the creation of content.” They didn’t know what kind of content that was but that intrigued them.
I kept sort of throwing that out there to different audiences and seeing if it stuck, and I really believed that when I launched the business in April of 2007 there was … I didn’t thought it was going to be a big thing, but nobody was calling it content marketing and I said, “Well, what if we just went out and said this is what it is?” My first blog post on April 26th of 2007 was Why Content Marketing?, and I went through why I was going to call it content marketing, and I never mentioned it again, Alison. I just, that was it, I was just, “From here on out it’s going to be called content marketing and nobody’s going to know the difference.” Then we have people like Brian Clark from Copybloggers that are calling it content marketing in 2008.
The press started to call it content marketing and it was this whole revolution that took place, and by 2010-2011 it was the term for the industry, and we got lucky… I mean, a lot of hard work, a good solid strategy, Alison, but more luck than anything else that we came across. I mean, we were … by the way this was through the recession. Other media companies that were focused on marketing like Adage and Adweek, and some of the international folks as well, they were hankering down and they were just… This is a really tough time. A lot of people weren’t spending on media. They weren’t focusing on content marketing at all, and that’s all we were doing and we were able to get a lot of subscribers over that time, because we were really the only ones talking about it.
Alison: That’s a really nice example, isn’t? Of just finding that phrase, the phrase that lands with people, and it kind of tells them what it is. You said, “Well, I kind of get a sense. I know what content marketing must be, even though I’ve never heard of it before,” but it’s distinctive enough that you can own it. Very clever.
Joe Pulizzi: Well, that’s with any content marketing programme, you’re trying to figure out … we call it the content tilt. What’s something that can separate you that you actually have a fighter’s chance to break through all the clutter? We have to find an area of little competition, that was a really good thing, it’s like, “Hey, we could separate ourselves by name.” If you look at a marketing automation company HubSpot, they did the same thing with inbound marketing, it’s like this stuff has been talked about forever. I mean, article marketing and magnet marketing, those were used for years before we got to inbound marketing, but they said, “All right, we’re going to call it inbound marketing. We’re going to write a book. We’re going to claim ourselves to be the experts of this.” It worked out fairly well for them, now they’re valued at like $3 billion for something like that, which is amazing.
Alison: That worked.
Joe Pulizzi: That’s where I think a lot of people that are going into content marketing, they don’t stop for a second and say, “Where can we be the leading experts in the world? How do we really differentiate ourselves?” There’s a lot of ways to do that, and most of the time we just start creating content that we think we should create, but we need to take the next step and a lot of people don’t do that.
Alison: Yes, that’s a great tip, and the power of naming as well. I mean, really consciously thinking about what it is you’re doing and giving it a distinctive and memorable name, that’s really-
Joe Pulizzi: Well, that’s why I’m a fan of really boring brand names, like Content Marketing Institute, you can’t get anymore boring than that, but you know exactly what we do.
Alison: It sounds so official.
Joe Pulizzi: It does. It’s like we’re like a thing, and it’s just … I’m a serial entrepreneur, I’ve started a lot of different companies and that was the … I finally learned after the third business just call it what it is. Call it something, so I don’t have to spend a lot of money on branding and actually telling people what … like yours, Extraordinary Business Book. I know exactly what you’re doing. This is fantastic, but if you called it something that you had to put a lot of money behind you have to explain what you do. You and I are on a really good position because we don’t have to explain what we do, it saves a lot of time.
Alison: I think also a lot of this is driven by getting the URL, isn’t? We have to make a ridiculous name, because all the other URLs have gone.
Joe Pulizzi: Which is funny because it’s not as important, the domain thing is not as important as it used to be, but still.
Alison: Let’s go into it that because that’s really interesting, because I think domains… One of the things I always tell people is have they got the title of the book as a domain name, because when you are Googling you want to have it there. Tell me why you think it’s less important than it used to be.
Joe Pulizzi: It’s less important because I can get … Let’s take Killing Marketing, the new book is called Killing Marketing. We did get killingmarketing.com, but honestly we could have done killing-marketing.com, we could have done killingmarketing.net, killingmarketing.us, because as long as you have a substantial content presence behind it Google or other search engines like Google, right? They’re going to look-
Alison: Other search engines are available…
Joe Pulizzi: The domain name is not as important as it used to be, what’s more important is that it’s a reputable site, you’ve got credible links going to it. You’ve got ongoing content presence, that’s the most important. If you can’t get the .com, you’d get something close to it you’re probably fine, but I used to sweat over that. I didn’t launched some businesses specifically because I couldn’t get the .com, and I couldn’t buy it in any way, but now today I would be a little bit … No, it’s still important to me personally, but from a execution standpoint it’s not as important as it once was.
Alison: Because Google rewards the content and the links, and all that good stuff?
Joe Pulizzi: The Extraordinary Business Book Club could be abcd.com, but if you have your tagging correct and you have your ongoing content, and you have people linking to that content and sharing your content, and those types of things you’re probably going to be fine.
Alison: That’s really interesting. Talk about the developments, 2007, which seems like a lifetime going into that age, doesn’t it? It’s only 10 years, but how have you seen content marketing as a practice, as an industry, I don’t know what we’re going to call it, but how have you seen it develop over that period of time?
Joe Pulizzi: Yeah, I call it a practice area within marketing, and in 2007 and let’s say 2012 it’s just a bunch of dabbling, a bunch of experimentation, you had … Obviously you’ve got the YouTubers that were born in the mid-2000s and they sort of started a little bit of a revolution there. You had a lot of businesses that were testing blogging and felt like, “If I just put out a lot of content then I’m going to start to get followers,” and it was all about search engine optimization. Well, because of the fact that we can’t control a lot of those channels now, what’s happened is, is we focus today less on getting social media followers, less on … Search engine optimization is still incredibly important, but not as important because you can get found a lot of different ways today. What we focus on now is that owned media experience, and believe it or not more than anything else, like the most important subscriber type is e-mail today.
Alison: I totally get that.
Joe Pulizzi: You think it would be … I don’t honestly care if I get a Facebook fan, because you getting a Facebook fan doesn’t mean that they’re going to see your content because Facebook shut down the majority of organic reach. You’ve got to pay for placement on Facebook. Twitter is going that direction. Linkedin is going that direction. They are the like ABC, NBC, and CBS of our time. That’s the way we need to treat them, they’re paid placement. Now what we’re focused on is how do we build an expert presence on the web, whatever platform that is, is that a blog? Is it a podcast? Is it a YouTube series? Then how do we build e-mail subscribers that gives us their information, so that we can have their permission to communicate with them ongoing? Then once we get that, that’s when we can monetize.
When I say monetize whatever behaviour change you’re trying to see. Are you trying to generate direct revenue? Are you trying to sell more products and services? Whatever you’re trying to do we believe that if somebody actually starts to engage in our content, we will see favourable behaviours and that’s obviously that’s marketing, that’s what we want to see. That’s how it’s really changed. I think the biggest thing, Alison, is probably in 2007 to ’10 we felt we had to publish everywhere our customers were. I remember this thing called Ping.fm, if you remember Ping.fm, you could do a social post and you could simultaneously send it to a hundred sites at the same time. That was the thinking back in 2007, like we think, “Oh, this is just great. We’ve got all these free sites, let’s just blast it out to everyone.”
Well, now it’s less is more, you don’t really have to have a Facebook page today, depending on what you’re trying to do. You really just have to be superbly amazing at one way, one … we used to call it content tilt, and one-type business or one-content type if you will, and one channel, and that’s where you can really gain success. That goes for whether for you’re the small to small businesses or whether you’re the largest enterprise around.
Alison: Which sounds much less exhausting, actually it sounds as though this is going in a positive direction.
Joe Pulizzi: Well, what’s great is, is when we go in … At Content Marketing Institute we work with mostly billion-dollar companies, they’ve got millions and millions that they spend on their budget. You go in and you see that they’re doing everything, somebody got this big story idea and they’re like, “Oh, we got the videos going over here. We did the podcast and here is all the blogging, and we’re doing the curating of the content. We got e-books and we’ve got a documentary.” They’re doing 11, 12 different things and they’ve got all the … they got three Twitter sites for the different segmentations and whatever, and what we do is we do a content audit, and usually the number one thing out of that is, “You need to stop doing some of these stuff. You need to like, kill these eight things and do this one thing really well, and become the best in the world at it, and build an audience there, and then once you build an audience then you can diversify out.”
What generally happens is we diversify too quickly. When I say diversify we’ll do the blog, the podcast, and the video series all at the same time. That never ever, ever works. You need to pick one and then once you create what we call a minimum viable audience, for us it’s CMI, that was 10,000 for a small to small business. It could be 1,000 for a large B-to-B company. It could be 1,000 depending on the buyer behaviour, and then you can say, “Okay, once we do that then you can launch the podcast or then you can launch the in-person event, and then you can launch the YouTube series.” Because the book … Then we do that because we believe the more things that people are subscribed to the more positive behaviours they have, and the more we’ll see monetization, whatever that is.
Alison: Or moving the needle.
Joe Pulizzi: Moving the needle in some way.
Alison: That’s really heartening, I think to a lot of people listening, who probably do feel overwhelmed by the, “Oh, what do I do first? Do I do the blog? Do I do the podcast?” I’m sure there’s a lot of people sighing with relief as they listened to that.
Joe Pulizzi: I love the model and people absolutely love the model, because by the … I mean, I’m a historian, and even the podcast that we’ve done, this whole marketing, we focused on very old case studies, and what we found is that, that’s the model. If you go back to the 1700’s to 2017, that same model worked, one content type, one platform consistently deliver over time. It takes about 12 to 18 months to monetization. That’s it. Stop doing all the other stuff, focus on doing this and then once you’re successful at that one thing then you can do all those funky things you wanted to do, because you have the audience and they’ll follow you in those directions.
Alison: Is this the premise behind Killing Marketing?
Joe Pulizzi: The idea … Yes, actually. The big promise behind Killing Marketing is it’s two things. One is buying behaviour has changed, we know this. We went from before 1990, eight ways that we could get information, eight different channels of television, radio, and magazines, to now hundreds if not thousands today, but yet in most companies the marketing department has stayed absolutely the same. We haven’t change the marketing department structure of corporate communications, marketing, PR for 75 years, which is crazy. We just keep doing the same thing over and over. We built the marketing department based on interruption, based on advertising, that’s how we’ve done it. Our contention in Killing Marketing is, “Let’s just rethink the function of marketing.” Robert Rose, my co-author and I, we really believed that marketing itself should be a profit centre, that you should be able to generate multiple types of revenue from marketing itself.
Now, you can’t do that through advertising, you have to do that through building and audience like you’re trying to build, Alison, like the same thing, right? That’s how we do it. That’s how I’m trying to do it, you’re trying to do it. Once we build an audience we can monetize on up to 10 different ways, that’s the potential of this and that’s what we’re seeing. If you go to what Red Bull Media House is doing, what Pepsi and Mondelez both came out recently and said that they’re trying to create stand-alone marketing … a for profit marketing operations, Aero Electronics, one of my favourite case studies of all time, big Fortune 190 companies, BB Electronics distributor, they have 51 different media properties. They reached 76% of their total addressable audience through opt-in subscribers.
These are the types of things we’re starting to see, and by the way it’s a for profit entity. They’re actually generating substantial profit ongoing. These are the things we’re starting to see and I don’t think a lot of people are aware that this is the future model for most market. I’m not saying that advertising is going away. It’s not advertising or content marketing, these things work together, but we’ve been built our advertising around our products and services when we should really build around: “Who’s our audience? How do we love them? How do we know better than anyone else?” Deliver value to those audiences, great experiences to those audiences on a daily basis, and if you do that you will be rewarded in multiple ways outside of what you can even fathom today. That’s the potential and that’s why it’s the best time to be in marketing that’s ever been right now.
Alison: This is so interesting because the title, Killing Marketing, it’s great. It’s so arresting, you know, “Oh, what the hell does that mean?” It’s got that implicit kind of shock and question in there. Actually, here we go, where did that title come from?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, the original title was this horrible … We talked about before about calling it what it is, it was called Marketing As A Profit Centre, which by the way I’m already sleeping. I’m already like, “That’s a snooze thing.” It’s a great … It’d be a great text book title. Robert and I are talking I’m like, “You know, let’s call it what it is. What we’re trying to do is saying the correct marketing function as we know it needs to die, and we need to resurrect it with this new structure.” That’s what we talked about, killing marketing, “Let’s kill it. You know, let’s kill it and do something else,” and of course and a lot of people are familiar with Bill O’Reilly, and Bill O’Reilly has … what has he done? Killing Lincoln, Killing Jesus, I think he’s got a new best-seller called Killing England. Well, I don’t know what he’s doing. He is killing everything.
Alison: But you hooked on to that formula.
Joe Pulizzi: Well, and the thing is Robert and I were talking about it and I’m like, “Well, before Mr. O’Reilly gets to marketing and kills marketing, we’re taking it.”
Alison: We’re going to kill it first.
Joe Pulizzi: If he would come in and start killing marketing, I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s it. There is no way Bill O’Reilly is coming in on our turf and going to take our title.”
Alison: It sounds like a Tarantino thing, “We’re going to kill it before he kills it.”
Joe Pulizzi: Absolutely, it’s like, “No way is he coming in on our turf.”
Alison: That’s hilarious.
Joe Pulizzi: That’s why … and it’s worked really well because the book’s doing great. I think one of the reasons is, is because people are like, “Do you really want to get rid of marketing?” Like, “What are you saying?” There’s a double-meaning to it as well.
Joe Pulizzi: But, yes, we do want to get rid of … We love … Robert and I, we love marketing, we don’t want to … We think that we need to be better, so we started the whole book off with saying, “Maybe what we’ve learned in marketing is what’s holding us back.” I believe that’s so true, what we’ve been taught in school about marketing, the four P’s, it’s holding us back because there’s a different model that’s focused around audiences that we don’t know yet, is that it’s the future of how we’re going to communicate with our customers.
Alison: That is such great illustration of how you do the whole thought leadership thing as well, isn’t? You shock and provoke and come up with something new, and break down what’s already there and point the way forward. I love it. Is it aimed primarily at professionals or just generally people in the industry or small business owners? Who do you have in mind when you wrote that book?
Joe Pulizzi: It’s my fifth book, believe it or not, and because I have a goal, a personal goal, a career goal to write a book every two years. For the last 10 years I’ve written five books, and Killing Marketing is aimed at CEOs, chief marketing officers, senior leaders that simply don’t get it, like they’re stuck in, “This is the marketing we always do.” They can’t get out of their own way and they don’t see that there’s a better way. When we tell our audience at Content Marketing Institute, they are the doers, the content creators, they’re marketing directors, we want them to take this book, give it to their boss and say, “Read this, please. For the love of God, read it because you’re killing me because you don’t understand why we’re trying to do this, why we’re trying to do this podcast or this blog,” or whatever they’re trying to do. That’s that.
For small businesses like if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re a small business, that was the book that I wrote in 2015, Content Inc, that was the book that … when I had to struggle as an entrepreneur and went through this whole thing, how do I really do this with no resources, and how do you build an audience and go through. That’s that. Depending on who’s listening, if you’re a senior level marketing leader read Killing Marketing, if you’re a small business entrepreneur read Content Inc.
Alison: Really lovely, he knows exactly who he’s writing for each book. I hope you’re listening, my bootcampers, have you got this? Now I can’t let you go without asking you about the role of books in your business, because of course a book, ultimate form of content marketing really, how do your books link in with your other activities, your products, your revenue generating stuff? What do they make possible for you?
Joe Pulizzi: They’re critical. I cannot tell you how … One of the best marketing tools you could have, now notice that, and you know this, notice that I said marketing tools, if your goal is to make money off of books then you should probably try something else. It’s very, very hard to be JK Rowling, it’s very hard to be James Patterson, it’s very hard to do those types of things, especially in B-to-B. You’re not going to make a heck of a lot of money. Now I do have a thought on that, and I’ll share in a second, but what we try to focus on is, “Where is there a gap in the marketplace, around the audience we’re already building that we can help take that audience to the next level?” We’re targeting content marketing people that are interested in content.
In 2013, I wrote the book Epic Content Marketing. Yes, did we make a little bit of money off it? Sure, but the goal of Epic Content Marketing is to ultimately get people to go to Content Marketing World, our event or sign up for our content marketing training. It’s another marketing tool, because what we know about our data, as a business we know the people that sign up to three different content things we have. Let’s say that they sign up to our e-newsletter, they buy the book, and they sign up to our free training or free webinars. We know that those people are the most apt to spend money to go to our big event Content Marketing World, which is our most valuable customer. That’s where books come in, it’s a great marketing tool and we find to say, “Okay, we’ve really got to tell a detailed story about this. It will help us in our marketing to get more people to do this, this, and this. Fantastic.”
That’s where we love the books in the mix, and by the way they become great blog posts, great e-books, great pieces of overall marketing. I can’t tell you how many different blog posts that we’ve created from the different content, and I believe in the blog the book strategy by the way. A lot of content that’s in the book itself we started as blog posts, we get audience feedback on those, edit them up a little bit and they make become a half of a chapter or a chapter. I’m a really big believer of that kind of thing.
Now from the money standpoint, the money, at least for B-to-B, I’m not a fiction writer so for nonfiction the money is in audio books. The majority of the money that I’m … I make a good … I’ve got a lot of books out there, you make a lot on print and the eBook, and as well as the audio book. The vast majority of revenue that we’re getting is from the audio books, are from Audible. It’s amazing to see that transformation and in every book that I publish, more and more goes comes from Audible.
Alison: That’s so interesting. Digital audio is huge, it’s such a success story of publishing these days. There’s very few success stories, but I think business books particularly lend themselves to audio so well, don’t they?
Joe Pulizzi: What was amazing to me is that first of all, that so many business books don’t have an audio component, which is simply hard to believe, but the other thing that’s hard to believe is I’ve talked to people who bought Epic Content Marketing, Content Inc. or Killing Marketing, is they buy both. Usually somebody that buys the eBook or the print publication they actually buy the audio book as well, I’m like, “It’s crazy,” but they do. I don’t get it, they use one of the workbook and they listen to one as they commute. I don’t get it, but that’s where if you have more options available they actually buy multiple options. I didn’t think that was a thing until … I saw that happened with Epic Content Marketing I’m like, “Wow.” Because we released the audio book later than we should have for Epic, and then for Content Inc. we released it right at the same time as the release of the print book, and the same thing for Killing Marketing.
Alison: Do you voice your own books or do you have a-
Joe Pulizzi: Absolutely, yes.
Alison: I think that’s part of it…
Joe Pulizzi: It’s really tough to do.
Alison: Tough work, isn’t?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, I mean, Epic Content Marketing, that was a long book, that was I think 11 hours of time that it took me two or three days to do that one. Killing Marketing was great because Robert and I could do 50% apiece, it was wonderful… but yeah, we hired a producer, we go in and produced it. Killing Marketing was done in one day, we have an expert producer that takes out all the ‘um’s and the ‘uh’s and where we messed up, and we produced it, and it’s just been simply fantastic. It’s actually relatively easy if you’ve got an expert behind it. I know a lot of people have tried to do it themselves, just don’t. Just spend the money, get somebody that knows how to produce it, spend a couple of thousand bucks and you’re done.
Alison: Audible has become so well established as a route. It’s one of those areas that people are prepared to spend money. I don’t know quite why they’re so prepared to spend so much more on an audio book, but I think if you have an Audible subscription you’ll really feel like you’re getting your money’s worth with a long business book.
Joe Pulizzi: It’s crazy, isn’t? I mean, it’s so funny to see the average yield and you see people spending $15 to $17 on average for the audio version, and they’re spending $13 for the print book. Just think about that for a second, all the costs is against the print book, there is literally no production costs after it’s been done for Audible to send that all. That’s pure profit. That’s why Amazon-
Alison: There’s no shipping, there’s no warehousing, really interesting.
Joe Pulizzi: Come on, and by the way, I mean for those of you that don’t know, you already know this, but when I released Epic Content Marketing I received 60% of the royalties of the audiobook. Now it’s 40%, for the last two books it’s been 40%, but I’m with the traditional book publisher and I’m making anywhere from 15% to 20% off the eBook and the print book, so that your numbers are a lot better. If you are in this to make money, audio book is the way to go.
Alison: Well, you say that, but with a traditional publisher at least they paid to do the thing. You paid to do the audio and then they’re taking … The economics are a bit screwed for the audiobooks [crosstalk 00:27:59].
Joe Pulizzi: Well, you know, but the one … No, it’s a great point, but the one thing that I didn’t realised is, and since 2013 I always negotiated for the rights to the audiobook. A lot of people don’t do that, they leave it with the publisher. You should always negotiate your own rights to the audiobook as long as you possibly can.
Alison: A good tip.
Joe Pulizzi: That’s where … That’s basically because in … Then you’re really driving more revenue that way to do it directly, and there’s no reason why you can’t.
Alison: Really good. Now I’m going to … One more question, as your best tip for business, I mean, that’s a good one. Any other really good tips, particularly for people who are kind of in the trenches, they’re ploughing on, writing their book at the moment, what would you tell them?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, I guess it depends on what kind of book that you are writing, but whenever I get … I do a lot of speaking and I get a lot of book publishers coming up … writers coming up to me after and saying, “What should I do?” The best advice that I could give you is, is that you have to consider your book as a marketing tool and not the product. That’s very hard to do, a lot of people consider it, “Oh, I’m working toward the book and I want to be a writer, and I want to make my money that way.” But what I say is, I’m like, “Build your platform,” and it’s not the book ends up being something that you can sell and something that you can offshoot from the platform, but it’s got to be a blog, it’s got to be a podcast, it should be a YouTube series, where you’re going to build an audience for the people that would ultimately buy your book.
Do that, and then you can sell the book ongoing like … Who is it? I forgot … It’s Andy Weir, author of The Martian. How did he do it? He built an audience around his fan fiction-type stuff and people were just engaging in his blog posts, is what they were on the discussion board. He started writing chapter and chapter and chapter, and he wrote all … rewrote the whole thing, and then he built this great amazing audience that was engaging in his content, and then they said, “Andy, could you put this like a book format?” He wasn’t even going to do it, he’s like, “Oh, okay. Well, I guess I can.” He took all of it, copied it, put it into a book format and it just took off, and within a week he sold the rights for the book and for the movie. Well, what did he do first? He built the audience first.
When somebody came up to me and they write fan fiction, and they’re writing this book, and I said, “Well, focus on building that audience, of people that love your fan fiction and then when you release the book you’re going to have a line of buyers already ready to go.” By the way that’s the best way to get a book deal, is if you have an audience, if you have a Twitter following, if you have e-mail subscribers, the most important one, if you have those things already, it’s very, very easy actually to get a book deal. Because as we know publishers don’t market, publishers distribute, they want you to market, is what they really want to do, and if you have that then you can easily find a book publisher. You probably don’t need an agent, that’s the easiest way to go depending on what you’re trying to do.
Alison: Awesome advice, and for business books particularly it’s not even just about the platform, it’s about the backend, isn’t? It’s about, “Okay, where are you going to make the real money from? Where are you going to bring people from the book?”
Joe Pulizzi: That’s exactly right. That’s the first question, if somebody wants to come out to me and asking for advice about writing a book and I would say, “Do you plan on making money off of the book?” If their answer is, “Yes,” we have to have a long sit down where alcohol is probably involved, like we really have to talk about this thing.
Alison: “Let me explain something to you.”
Joe Pulizzi: “I’m going to tell you right now. I’m going to try to get you to not make the greatest mistake of your life,” but yes, if it’s a part of something bigger, an integrated business model, then we’ve got something where the book can play a role. Then you just have to decide when it makes sense for you to release that book, have you built that audience. I might say, “Look, don’t release the book yet. Let’s get some of those chapters going. Let’s build the audience and then we’ll release the book later once you built the audience.”
Alison: Awesome advice. Thank you so much. Now I always ask my guests to recommend another guest to the show. Who do you think would be a really good guest for the Extraordinary Business Book Club? One with something interesting to say about business and business books.
Joe Pulizzi: I love … There are so many people that I could recommend. I’m lucky to have a great number of friends that have written books and have been successful, but one of my favourites is, his name is Andrew Davis. He ran an agency, he’s written a couple different books, his most recent book was Town Inc., which basically is how your town can position themselves properly from a marketing standpoint, so you can be the leading expert at something. Like are you the town that can get … you’re the greatest ball, the biggest ball of twine or town, and how do you leverage that type of thing to get more people to your town, those types of things. He has written that. He’s one of the greatest keynote speakers I’ve ever seen. I would put him in Top Five Best Keynote Speakers Ever, but the thinking behind him is just tremendous. I would say that your listeners would absolutely love to hear a conversation with Andrew Davis.
Alison: He sounds amazing, and I don’t know him.
Joe Pulizzi: He used to work with the Muppets and Big Bear, Big Blue Bear in the House, and those types of things, he comes from that background. Then he’s parlayed that into marketing expertise, and then of course that just is the whole thing, and he’s got … He has some of the best takes in marketing around and I can’t recommend him enough.
Alison: You had me at the Muppets. I’m sold. Awesome. That is brilliant. Joe, it has been such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much. Now if people want to find out more about you, I’m going to have put a picture of you on the blog with your orange shirt on as well, obviously.
Joe Pulizzi: Absolutely.
Alison: I meant to ask you about the orange shirt, maybe another time.
Joe Pulizzi: Maybe another, yeah … I always wear orange, that’s my colour, like it or not. I’m stuck with that.
Alison: I guess we can’t wear it because you copyrighted it, right? But find your colour.
Joe Pulizzi: No, I like other people wearing orange. I don’t want to be by myself. I just have to wear orange myself, but yeah, it’s so I’m easiest to find. You can find all my finds and ventures that I’m in at Joe Pulizzi, P-U-L-I-Z-Z-I.com, and then we even talked a lot about Content Marketing Institute, you can go to contentmarketinginstitute.com, and then the latest book is killingmarketing.com.
Alison: Fantastic, and I will put all those links up on the shownotes, if you’re driving you don’t have to fret, you just go there and find them at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com. Thank you again, amazing, I’m going to listen back to this because there’s so much stuff in here for me as well. Just a joy to talk to you, thank you.
Joe Pulizzi: I had a total blast, thanks so much, Alison.