USA Today best-selling author and founder of the Complete Creative Russell Nohelty gives us his tips for how turn your art or hobby into a successful business.
Russell Nohelty of The Complete Creative
Website: The Complete Creative
Facebook: The Complete Creative
YouTube: Russell Nohelty
Russell is a USA Today Bestselling author who thinks of himself as Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, John Green, and Chuck Palahniuk’s love baby. The goal of his writing is to combine entertaining plots with thought provoking ideas and he hopes to incite conversations with the stories that he tells, but without the impossible density some literary novels face when dealing with difficult subjects.
The great mission in Russell’s life is to help all creators, but especially writers, build better businesses through his podcast, The Complete Creative, which interviews creators, writers, and artists in an attempt to help them build better businesses. He also has two non-fictions books: How to Build Your Creative Career which is all about how to make great content, learn the fundamentals of sales, build your audience from scratch, profit from live events, and launch product successfully; and How to Become a Successful Author, which is all about how to build a successful author career, both as a self-published and traditionally published author.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- The difference between “creative selling” and “pain point selling”
- How to learn your art in a compressed time-frame and become “good enough”
- The value of appearing on panels at conventions
- The importance of trying out lots of different things and “do the reps”
- Why you need to find people who like you but not enough to lie to you to give you feedback on your work, and how you go about finding them
- How you don’t need a large audience to generate a decent income
- What it takes to be top in your genre and what you have to sacrifice to do so
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
- 1000 True Fans, Kevin Kelly
- Cory Huff, The Abundant Artist
- Jeff Goins
- The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
- Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon
- Show Your Work, Auston Kleon
- Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer
- Derek Murphy, Creative Indie
- Your First 10k Readers
- Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula
- The Godsverse Chronicles, Russell Nohelty (get Book 1 for free!)
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 48: Turning your art into a business - with Russell Nohelty of The Complete Creative
Jeremy Cline 0:00
Have you ever thought about making a career out of your hobby? Maybe you write fiction or maybe you paint or sculpt, and you enjoy it so much that you've thought, I wish I could do this for a living. In this episode, we talk about what it takes to do exactly that. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:33
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now many of you are going to have some kind of a creative hobby. Maybe you write books, maybe you write poetry, maybe you paint, maybe you create sculptures - and I'm going to bet that a fair few of you have thought about what would it be like trying to turn that hobby into a career. Is this something that you could get paid for? Well, this week, I'm joined by Russell Nohelty of the Complete Creative who has done just that. He's a USA Today bestselling author of both fiction and non-fiction, and he hosts the Complete Creative podcast. And if you look at the list of names of the people that he's interviewed, there are some really, really top interviews on there so do check it out - there's top authors on there so do check that out. Russell also teaches other authors what they need to do in order to become successful authors. Russell, welcome to the show.
Russell Nohelty 1:28
Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:31
Aside from the introduction that I've just given, perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about what it is that you do.
Russell Nohelty 1:37
Sure. As you mentioned I'm a USA Today best-selling author. The main thing that I make my money on is my fiction. So a lot of times the first thing that people ask me when I go to train them as well, are you the kind of person who is making your living teaching other people how to be a creative or are you a person that actually makes their living on their creativity. And I've been very blessed for the last five years that my main source of income has been the actual creative part of my business. Not that it's not very nice to then also go and train people. But I have been a writer, officially I think I wrote my first movie script in 2006. I wrote my first comic book in 2010. And I've been doing this full time since 2015.
Jeremy Cline 2:16
In terms of the teaching, what sort of form does your teaching take?
Russell Nohelty 2:21
Sure. My site The Complete Creative has a couple of components. I try to give 99% of what I learn for free, so what happens is Wannabe Press is where I test everything - so I'm kind of my own test subject - and then The Complete Creative is once I've mastered something or even as I'm working through something, I will post it on my blog. And then I have these free courses that I take that I have - free business course, free Kickstarter course, a free novel writing course and a couple others, and then I have paid courses as well which will teach you. The paid courses are really the marketing side of it. So how to build an audience from scratch, how to run Facebook ads, how to do like viral builders, so you can build your mailing list very fast. And there's a couple of other components of what it takes to do the marketing side. It's sort of my unfair advantage of being able to teach the marketing side of it in a way that creators and creatives understand and can actually implement. Most business courses are made for pain point selling and unfortunately, creatives are not pain point sellers - the things that we make are edifying to the soul. You're not going into the library and saying, I really need to edify my soul today, so I'm going to pick up this book. It's just a very different kind of selling. So I kind of bridge the gap between entrepreneurial business and then creative business.
Jeremy Cline 3:41
How did you get into creative writing, and how did you get into creative writing as an adult because I mean, everyone at school writes stories - and certainly I remember grandly telling my relatives when I was about nine years old that I was going to be an author. But then real world happens and most people don't have time to write books. So when did you start and why did you start?
Russell Nohelty 4:02
I actually started in high school wanting to be an actor and then wanting to go to film school to direct, like a lot of people. It's so interesting to look at friends that I used to have that all wanted to direct or write or do something. And now that we're 20 odd years out from school to see that, I'm kind of the only one that is actually still doing that thing full time. I just assumed that that was what you did - you said you wanted to do a thing and then eventually, magically, you would do it. I didn't realise just how hard it would be. So I went to school for journalism. And then when I graduated, I worked on Capitol Hill. And then after that, I bored of that in about six months, and I started a photography company called RPN Photography, where I did fashion photography, and I shot movies and TV shows and I was - I wouldn't say I was rubbish at it, but I was I did not have the drive and desire to learn everything about photography. I didn't care that much about equipment. I didn't care that much about learning new angles or taking courses on it. I liked it, but only in so much as its service to me. Whereas with writing, I will just take every course. I will read everything, I will do the boring stuff because I desperately want to do better in writing. So I went from photography, I directed, I was an executive producer on a television network for a little bit. And then in 2008, I got into a car accident, and I could not do photography, I could not direct, I basically was in a neck brace for six months, and all I had was a computer. And that's really when I fell in love with writing. I heard a statistic that your first 10 scripts are going to suck. So I set out to write my first 10 things as quickly as possible so that I could stop sucking as quickly as possible. And weirdly, that sort of doing stuff in a compressed timeframe kind of became a theme for the rest of my career. So then I moved to LA to be a writer, and I started making comics and then writing novels. It was this slow, incremental progress. I can't pinpoint one moment, it's just that aggregate and accumulation of it has led to what happened now - and just having the desire to get better and better and better and keep writing.
Jeremy Cline 6:10
That's really interesting what you say about your first 10 scripts will be rubbish. So you set out to write your first 10 as quickly as possible. That's a brilliant way of thinking about it. It takes me back - this is quite some time. I think this was one of those museum cinema things - it was in the US, it was in Washington, and it was all about pilots in the Air Force - and they said, how if pilots can get through their first 10 hours of combat flying, then that greatly increases their chances of making it to be frank, and so the training is there to give them that controlled non-lethal environment. Yeah, I love the idea of kind of manufacturing your sort of learning curve in that way. When did creative writing become something that you first kind of made some money out of? What led to that?
Russell Nohelty 7:00
It was comics, was the original thing. Wou can see some of my comics behind me. I know we're just doing a podcast not video, but I try to stand up some of the comics that I've done because I'm most well known for my comic book work, not for my novel work. Although I've written more novels than comics. In comics, there's two ways you make money. The first way is you go to conventions. And the second way is you do kick starters. And so I did both in 2014. I had finished my first book Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, and I brought it to my first show in May of 2014. And I made $100 on it. I paid for the table and the costs of producing the books and I basically broke even on the whole weekend and my mind was blown. Oh my god, you can do this, a human being could do this. Then from there, I did my first Kickstarter for Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, and a couple of months later I had do a big run, so I printed about 25 copies for this little show. In order to really make money in book you've got to print at scale - you've got to print like 1000, 2000 books and then kind of bring them around the country or sell them in bookstores because the cost of producing each extra issue is aggregately less than the previous one. So it might cost you $8 to print one book, but it could cost you $1 to print 5000 books per book basis. I wanted to print at least 1000 copies of a Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter. And so I went to Kickstarter, and we made $5500, which was mind blowing at the time, because I never made any money on a creative project. I'd been hired to do other people's creative work. I had done work as an executive producer using other people's money, but I've never taken my own work, and then gotten paid for it. And it was sort of this incredible moment of Wow, I could actually do this. People actually want this thing. I know it's only 160 people, but that's a huge amount of people to give me money for a book.
Jeremy Cline 8:58
What was kind of your next stage after that? So after you'd had this successful Kickstarter, was that the point that you realised yes, I can do this - or did you still need a bit more convincing that this was something that you could do as a career?
Russell Nohelty 9:12
Because I had a history of working in film and television, you kind of are drilled that you're going to have to have your own company. There are not many full time workers on a movie set. So I always kind of understood that I would have to have on some level, my own company. And the same thing is true of entrepreneurship and the authorship space. Most authors are paid as contractors for making a book. I always knew that I would always have to have a company, but I assumed - I had a job at the time - and I assumed that like I would, for at least the next couple of years, have it as my side job. I mean, that's what I was doing anyway. I was working all day and then coming home and doing comics and doing shows on the weekend and all of that stuff. I just kind of assumed it would take me at least two years once I started to really build up a head of steam and be able to quit my job. Unfortunately, time has other choices for you and you the best laid plans of mice and men and all of that. The next June, I had a very non amicable parting at my company. I was a sales manager for a cellphone reseller, and I was doing quite well at that job, but they did some things I was not very happy with and ended up with me severing my ties. And suddenly I was on my own again, about a year and a half earlier than I had planned. I had to basically sink or swim myself. I chose to start doing as many conventions as possible because now I had nothing but time, and work my way through the slog of starting a business instead of getting another job. Because what happened is I left that job, and I had a pallet of books and I was like, well, I've got 1000 books. My friend had offered me a space at his booth at San Diego Comic Con, which is one of the biggest comic conventions in the country. And so I kind of had this palette of books. I had this space at Comic Con. And I had a couple of books that I had finished. And I was like, well, I just got to figure out how to make this work. And the worst case scenario is I have to go back to sales and there's always a job for a salesman.
Jeremy Cline 11:13
And then when did it become something that you also taught other people to do. And why did you decide that you were going to start teaching people as well?
Russell Nohelty 11:23
All of this kind of evolved organically over time, but when you're doing conventions a big part of doing conventions is speaking on panels. When you have thousands of exhibitors, one of the best ways to stand out is to be on a panel and then you set yourself apart for at least those people that are in that panel room and you end up making a considerable amount of money from the people that are in that room, increasing your authority and meeting other creators. So it's a great way to do a bunch of stuff at once. My friend actually told me when I started doing conventions that the best way to stand out and make a name for yourself is to do panels and he was quite successful at conventions so I just trusted him. And so I just started doing them. And that led to people coming to my table and asking me about how to do the things that I talked about. And I kind of found this weird niche. I realised that look, you could go online and find way better instructors than I, way more famous instructors than I had to talk about style or writing or character or dialogue or any of that stuff. I think that like, I'm quite good at those things, and maybe even world class at them. But I don't have Stephen King's name. But what they didn't have was someone to teach them how to take their art and move it into a business in a way that they could understand. Art schools, writing schools, creative writing disciplines, or creative disciplines - they spend all of their time with the creative part and no time or very little time with the entrepreneurship part. So I just started to have panels on how to build an audience from scratch and how to run a Kickstarter and again, teaching all of the things that I'd already known. And that led to many, many more people coming to my table and finding me online to the point that it stopped my ability to sell my work. And so it really started with, I had a podcast called The Business of Art. And people would ask me all of these questions and the same questions started coming up. And so I created a book called How To Build Your Creative Career. And I said, Okay, so these are the biggest questions that you had - put it in book form. And what happens whenever you're talking to somebody is you forget stuff, right. It's very hard to pitch a perfect game and tell everyone the important things they need to know on the fly. So I wanted to have a resource that gave people all of the resources that they need, and t was well laid out, well thought out, and it was sort of my perfect game. It was like, here are all of the pieces that you need to know. Here's all the things you need for your content. Here's how to set up your sales funnel step by step. And I figured that would be the end of it. But then people read the book, and they asked me more questions. Great, how do you implement this? Well, here's a course on how to implement it. And then they started paying for that and they said, Great, now I need that. Now how do I run Facebook ads? Or how do I do all of this other stuff? And because I had been sort of successful at helping authors create their brands and helping authors build their own mailing lists, just like I was building my own, because I had a big mailing list at the time, people just kept coming and asking me questions. And eventually it became all of these scattered ideas that I had to bring into one place. So in 2017, I took all of the sort of disparate information that was around and I quarantined off a part of my website, or part of my company at Wannabe Press, just for nonfiction help work, and it became The Complete Creative. And as I was building my authorship brand, I started getting a lot of people in that mailing list and in that brand who were just readers - they were not creators. When I was small, they were all the same. But when as I grew, there were people who wanted to hear about my writing and had no interest in how to build their writer career and then people who cared about how to build a writer career and didn't care about my work - so it made sense to sort of branch those off when they used to be all together.
Jeremy Cline 15:05
A lot of people are going to fancy themselves as the next JK Rowling, the next John Grisham, the next Stephen King, the next Russell Nohelty. Leaving aside that you might enjoy the process of creative writing, how do you know that you're good enough that other people are gonna like what you produce?
Russell Nohelty 15:22
There's a couple of things. I think that it's important first and foremost, to separate two parts of your career. The first is you are not good enough at the beginning. You suck, you suck at the thing you want to do. You just haven't put in the reps. Anything that you do, whether it's sales or whether it's literally walking when you're a child, you stink at the thing and then you become better and you become better by doing it but also exposing yourself to other forms. That's why in art school you do watercolour for a semester and you do impressionists for a semester and you do all of these things to kind of amalgamate your own style, and you pull sort of like the Sword of Griffindor, you've taken that which makes you stronger, and then you let everything else go. And that's sort of how you amalgamate your own style and taste and voice and what works and what doesn't work and moves you in the direction of your career. Some maybe it'll be memoir. I have a friend who said, Why would I make other worlds when I could just talk about myself and I thought that was quite funny. But also, I don't like talking about myself. I like helping other people and telling stories about my own career is a way to encapsulate concepts, but I don't have an affinity for talking about myself. I like building worlds. And I like not living in reality because reality stinks. So that's what led me to fantasy. But everyone's going to sort of have their own amalgamation of stuff. The first part of it is really doing the reps and trying a bunch of different stuff and writing a thriller even if you like fantasy. And writing long form and short form and doing it until you feel like you don't stink at it, or that you've put in enough work, you have a body of work that you could throw away now you've figured it out. Now, it's very hard to know when you're at that moment, and at some point, you're gonna have to start showing it to people. So what will happen when you show stuff to people. They're like, Oh, that's so nice. Yeah, it was good. It was good. It was good. It was good. Especially if they are doing it a bunch of times. Like it was good. Yeah, I liked it. That is pleasantry blow off. People are saying Oh, yeah, that was - good for you, good writing a book - wow, that's amazing. The idea of buyer intent is people move away from saying, Wow, that's very pleasant, what a pleasant experience or good for you and they're like, Oh my god, that was amazing. When are you going to write the next book? When are you going to write the next thing? What is this thing going to happen? When is that thing going to happen? And that sort of movement becomes when you can sort of tell that you're in the next stage of your career. The real next stage though, when you really know is if you can show it to a random person who also has interest in this product, likes you but not enough to lie to you. So this is how you develop your audience is that initially you start with people who like you, but not enough to lie to you. So for instance, I'm about to go to my 20 year high school reunion next year. And there are people on my Facebook feed who I've been friends with since high school, but not like friends. We're friends on Facebook, but we don't actually talk very much. And some of those people have actually become amazing fans of mine and really good friends. But when I started writing, they were the people that were kind of interested in my work, even though we didn't talk a lot. And so they liked me, they had an affinity for me, but they had no reason to like my work. They had no vested interest in my work. Those are the people that you're looking for, to really show it to and know if you're doing it the right way. So knowing if they're literally going to buy the next book.
Jeremy Cline 19:02
Are there any communities out there ready made for this, so like new Facebook aspiring writers where you can sort through something up to be shot down?
Russell Nohelty 19:11
Yeah, there are a tonne. But here's the problem - you do not want other writers looking at your work to know if you are good enough to write, because other writers are going to be a much more excited about your work than the average reader and they are going to be much quirkier generally. Usually a person who is a writer reads in a bunch of different genres. They are the most voracious readers. The people that you're looking for - much like if you're trying to find new people for your podcast - are people that are readers, and readers first, and specifically read in the genre that you want to write in because they are going to know all of the tropes. They're going to read voraciously in that genre, maybe not other genres and they're going to be able to tell you whether it's bad, whether it's pleasantly good or okay, whether they must buy the next one now. And the minute that they start saying, When is the next one going to be available and why can't I read it - those people are going to be able to determine that you're at the place and that you have the right story to really start opening it up to the mass market. The problem with any Facebook groups that are sort of ready made for this is they don't know you. They will download your book, but they won't actually read it. And the key is not just have been like, oh, cool, I'll download that book or like, I'll do it in like six months - general people who are already ready made for this have hundreds, thousands of books already, and they will never read your book. They love acquiring books, but they don't necessarily love reading them. So finding someone in your own community who already knows likes and trusts you, who has an affinity for you, you're going to then be able to leverage that to them actually read your book.
Jeremy Cline 20:57
I'm just thinking when you're completely starting out, how do you find this person? Do you just kind of pick on two or three of your friends? How do you find the right person who's gonna give you the right kind of feedback?
Russell Nohelty 21:08
This is my favourite topic to figure out. Do you know Kevin Kelly's Thousand True Fans?
Jeremy Cline 21:12
Yes, yes, I have heard of it, yeah.
Russell Nohelty 21:14
Okay, so if you haven't for anyone who's listening, Kevin Kelly's Thousand True Fans posits that if you can find 1000 people who are willing to give you $100 a year, you've got $100,000 business, which is a successful business. I sort of took that and I broke it down to how you would actually find your thousand true fans. That's kind of my big addition to the conversation. So here's how you find your first fan. And it goes 1, 10, 100 and then 1000 is sort of the system that I have. So to find your first fan, you're looking for someone who likes you, but not enough to lie to you. That is step one. Again, we're talking about somebody like my old high school classmates, somebody who knows, likes and trusts you, who comments on your Facebook posts, who likes your Facebook posts, but you keep going I don't know why you're doing this, because I have not talked to you in three years. Does that make sense? Do you have someone like that in your brain? Most people do. That is the first person that you want to talk to. Assuming they meet this other condition, which is they are not just commenting on your cat photos or your knitting patterns, they're commenting on the thing that you want to do. So if it's writing, or if it's podcasting, they are engaging you in that conversation. It is useless to engage a person who loves cats in a conversation about podcasting. When anybody is ready to do something new or they're exploring something new, they're naturally going to start talking about it on social media. They're going to like be sharing articles or doing some sort of conversing about that topic. And the perfect person to reach out to first is the person who is engaging, who fits that criteria of liking you, but not enough to lie to you, and is engaging you in the conversation that you're trying to have on podcasting or writing or any of that stuff. And if you just post enough about that topic - I'm not saying post 50 times a day, but talk about it for a week or a month - some of these people are going to show up again and again and again and again and again. You don't want to find your mother or your close friends or anybody who has that reason to lie to you. And I'm not saying they'll lied to you because of a malicious way - they think they're helping, but they're not helping because they're not actually giving you the data you want, which is, is this work good enough to actually sell.
Jeremy Cline 23:27
You've been through this process, you've got your one fan, your 10 fans, your hundred friends, your thousand friends. You now realise that you've got people who are prepared to read your stuff. I'm guessing that that of itself is probably not enough to start to turn it into a career. Maybe it's a great start, but I kind of get an impression that's probably just just the start to before you really ramp it up.
Russell Nohelty 23:51
I don't necessarily agree with that. I made about $60,000 last year on my big Russell Nohelty writing brand. Last year was the first time that I actually made the same amount of money on The Complete Creative. The Complete Creative, the mailing list I made all of that money on had a list of 300 people. I made $60,000 last year from 300 people. And then I made another $60,000 last year from a list of 20,000 people. You can have a powerful selling ability with 100 or 200 people. In fact, it took us three years to build a mailing list of 2000 people, but we were making $50-$60,000 a year during that time, it wasn't great money. We were losing money more than we were making it, but we were building that audience, even from the start. The important part is that you're making something with your audience in mind. What happens when you have let's say, 10 people in your audience - because you will have reached out to that first person, you've talked to them, you've figured out why they like you, all the psychographic information that you need to understand what your brand or you're going to be making is and you do that nine more times, you have 10 people - they sort of become your first focus group as you're trying to figure out like, should I make this, should I make this other thing- which book do you make? And as you're doing that you are testing it against making money on it. So you go and you say, I want to make this book about angels and fairies fighting each other. And then you ask your 10 people focus group, hey, I want to make this thing about angels and fairies fighting each other. How does that sound? They go, it sounds brilliant. You go, cool. Here is a PayPal link. Give me $20. I'll send you the book when it's done. And if they say yes, I will do that and they engage in that interaction, they haven't just told you what you wanted to hear - they actually will say, Yes, I desperately want that book. And that allows you to know that you're on the right track. It is at every stage, pinging your audience and making sure you're on the right track. The problem when we are building an audience is we will build a huge audience, but we'll never - not monetize it, even though it is monetizing it - we never test them to let them know if they are actually giving us the data that we need. So for instance, they might say that they really want a book about angels and fairies. But when you put up and say, hey, look, I'm gonna write this book about angels and fairies and here's a little bit of information about it. They don't buy, and then you'll know that they're just telling you what you want to hear. And then you'll be like, Oh, well, you don't actually want that. Well, let me go back and redevise what I'm going to make. And then you say, what about dragons and fairies? And they go, yes, that's the one and then they buy that book, you now know you're on the right track. And then you keep doing that at every stage. So you know that you're making the thing that the audience doesn't just say they want but they actually will take the tangible step to buy that thing.
Jeremy Cline 26:43
How would you get to the stage where you feel that you can start asking your audience for money because they've already got to like your stuff sufficiently that they think oh, brilliant, yeah, a book about dragons fighting fairies. Yeah, I'm definitely interested in that - here's 20 quid and I'll see you when it's written. They've got to already have a good handle that they like your writing style and they're going to enjoy what you're doing. So how do you get to that place?
Russell Nohelty 27:08
The most important thing at the beginning is that they like you, and that they like the idea and that they believe you will execute on that idea. The people that you're talking to who are in your ideal audience -let's talk about podcasting. Because podcasting is the thing we both do, right? You've got your 10 people, the 10, humans who have been talking to you about podcasting for the past year. You've been talking about you want to start a podcast, and you found 10 people in your existing network. So these are people who already know like and trust you. So the sales funnel, which is the thing that we're trying to create for all creatives is someone who knows you, likes you, trusts you, and then will buy from you. So those people who are in your network already who you've reached out to who form your little focus group, are the people who already know, like and trust you. So these are people that are going to like your taste already. And when you go out into interview them - because that is part of the step of finding these perfect people - they're the people that you found, and then you reached out to them and you did an interview with them, I think we may have missed that part. So you have you have found the person, you have now reached out to interview them. And you've said, Do you have an hour, I really want to start a podcast. I think you'd be the perfect kind of human to listen to it. But I want to make sure I'm on the right track. And usually 99 times out of 100, as long as you're picking the right person who already has some affinity to you, they're going to say, Yes, sure. I'll take a half hour or an hour of my time to talk to you about this. And you're going to then have a dialogue and conversation about what they like, what podcasts they listen to. What they like about you specifically, like what is it about your worldview that interests them, that gets them excited about following your work and liking it. What is it that you share that is so exciting to them? And all of that information is going to go towards your messaging and going to go towards the kind of podcasts that you make to make sure that you're on the right track and then you're going to get from from one to 10, you do nine more interviews to get up to 10 people who now are in the perfect audience, and you've interviewed them. So now they have a real vested stake in this podcast working because you're actually reaching out to them and trying to get it to work. I started the podcast thing, but then I realised it's not a good monetization strategy for 10 people on a podcast unless you're gonna make a course or a book. But let's just assume that there is for the sake of this argument, because these people now know, like, trust you, they've told you exactly what they like and what they want. They know that you have listened to podcasts, or maybe you're recording little interviews that you're sharing with them, or you're writing short stories or they've read some of your earlier work. They already know that you are the kind of person that they want to make the thing that you're going to make. Then most of the leap after that, is this a thing that they would want to buy? So you would go to these same people and you would say, okay, so I have a book now on how to change your work life balance, how to build your creative career. This is what I want to make. You've already said that it was something that interests you, would you buy this from me if I made it? Because I think there's a hole in the marketplace. They say, yes, that does sound interesting to me. So you've now created a bond with these people that are more than just having them interested in your work, or having them like a thing about you - you're investing them in the process. And the first step is making sure you find those right people who will take a chance on you, because they are going to take a chance on you. But then you will involve them in baiting the book or the art or whatever that thing and you will involve them in the process to make sure you're on the right step. And then once the book is delivered to them, or the POC is delivered to them, they will become your biggest evangelists.
Jeremy Cline 30:45
I'm conscious of time, and I think what I would just like to ask you is as someone who's kind of thinking, great, okay, I can see how I don't necessarily need that many people in my audience to turn this into something that I could potentially live off. I mean, those people who are kind of Yeah, but I want to reach tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. Can you touch on this briefly, what's the next level marketing that that person has to do beyond what we've been talking about?
Russell Nohelty 31:17
The easiest way to do this is modelling the most successful podcast that's out there, or the most successful book that's out there. So I usually tell people to try and find their minimum viable audience to make their company work because it's a lot easier to do that than it is to scale. Scaling is the hardest part of a business and few businesses can actually get scale and then be successful in it, which is why there's only one Dropbox and all of the other Dropbox-like companies have fallen away on some level. The way to do this in books is to go out and on Amazon, which is the biggest producer or seller of books in the world, and look at the top hundred books in any genre. They are going to all be on certain topics, they are all going to have a similar colour scheme, a similar style of how they write their blurbs, a similar kind of cover that they do, whether it's illustrated or photo manipulation, you're going to sort of start researching those books, because those are the ones that are most popular. You're going to take your genre, and you're going to read every book that's popular, and then you're going to sort of find the tropes that exist in that genre. And you're going to model them and make sure you include as many of them as possible. And then for authors, you're probably you're going to make three books, you're gonna commit to writing three books, getting three covers, and getting it very spot on in genre, as spot on as you can possibly make it - if it's paranormal romance, or if it's thriller, or like whatever the category is that you're trying to dominate. You are going to go and make a book that is exactly like the other books in the genre that are out there now. Now if you're sitting there going, but I want to make art I don't want to make commerce and I don't want to like do all that stuff. This is why I tell people to focus on the minimum viable audience and try and find an audience of other weirdos who grok the same thing you're doing. Because the way to scale in books is to do something in one of two genres - thriller or romance - because they're the biggest two genres. And because your books are going to have to be cheap, because that's what all the other books in the genre are, you're going to then have to model the kind of books that are out there and write books that are just like those. And you're going to have to write a lot of them. We're talking about like 10 to 12 books a year to have a shot of breaking through for about a year and a half. So most people that do this follow that strategy, are killing themselves to write 10, 12, 15 novels a year in that genre. Again, if you want to have a small lifestyle brand - you can do that with having 1000 people. I've made $180,000 on Kickstarter, for instance, and I have 3000 people who've ever bought a book from me on Kickstarter. And I make a very good living from that, but it is not a highly scaled living, but I'm able to write the exact books that I want, when I want them and have a fan base that loves the stuff and buys the stuff that I make. Pretty much can guarantee. Some of the books are more successful than other books. But my main goal is to make a thing that I love, not make a thing that makes the most money. There's nothing wrong with being the kind of person who wants to make the most money. But in order to make the most money, it requires you to be right in the middle of the curve and make something that everyone is going to buy. And most authors and most creators are less interested in that and more interested in how do I find someone that resonates with my book and scale up from there even more slowly than doing it at the scale. There's always somebody who's Michael Bay. Michael Bay loves big blockbuster movies, right? So Michael Bay's taste is right in the middle of the curve. George Lucas's taste is right in the middle of the curve - they love this thing that audiences love. If you're lucky like that, that's great. I've got plenty of fans of writers that I know who write romance and they love romance, or they love dark romance, or they love paranormal romance or they love thrillers. And if your taste happens to be right in the middle of the curve, more power to you, awesome. Or if you're willing to move your taste to the middle of the curve to make it work - awesome. If you've got weird tastes like most artists, and you just want to do your weird thing in your weird time, then I think that your goal should be to find those people that are rabid about your work, and then work towards scaling those rabid fans over time wherever they hang out.
Jeremy Cline 35:39
Russell, this has been absolutely awesome. In terms of resources that you can point people to, obviously there's everything that you've got on your website and podcast, but is there anything else - any other books or quotes or just something that you continually find yourself pointing other people to or that has really helped you that you can maybe mention?
Russell Nohelty 35:57
There's a couple of people who work in the creative entrepreneurship space. I like Corey Huff, Jeff Goins. If you're still trying to get more creativity into your life, then I like The Artists Way, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon - he also wrote a book called Do The Work. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is wonderful. The Art of Asking from Amanda Palmer is amazing. So those are the ones that I find myself going back to again and again and again. The thing that you should be conscious of is that there are a lot of academics who are not successful creatives who write in the creative entrepreneurship space. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who are not creative who write in the creative entrepreneurship space. But really the people that are working on the creative side of creativity and making their living from the creative part of that are the people that you're really looking for. Derek Murphy has a site called The Creative Indie, Neal Stephenson's First 10,000 Readers. Mark Dawson has Self-Publishing School I believe it's called. Mark Dawson is a massive thriller author, one of the biggest in the world. And he now has his own training academy for this stuff. There's a lot of people out there, but there are more people who are doing academic or entrepreneurship work. And you really want to find the people that can mould and do both of those things quite well.
Jeremy Cline 37:18
Well, I think you've given us a big enough list here to be getting on with! And where can people find you and all the information that you provide?
Russell Nohelty 37:25
Sure, thecompletecreative.com is where my podcast The Complete Creative lives. And if you want to do the work of finding your audience, I have a free webinar at thecompletecreative.com/audience which is about a 20 minute webinar that will walk you through everything that you need to start thinking about in building your audience. And then hey, let's give a quick plug - if you like magic mythology and monsters, I am very good at writing fantasy. And my biggest book is called The Godsverse Chronicles and the first book in that And Demons Followed Behind Her is free on all platforms.
Jeremy Cline 37:59
Fantastic. Links to all of those will be in the show notes. Russell, for someone who dropped the idea of being an author at about the age of 10 years old this has been quite inspiring. So thank you so much!
Russell Nohelty 38:12
Thank you so much for having me on. I look forward to hearing it when it comes out.
Jeremy Cline 38:16
So many great points in that interview, I just wanted to draw out two. The first was what Russell was saying about basically trying to get your rubbish - trying to get your practice - out of the way as quickly as possible. So he talked about how his first 10 scripts would be rubbish. So what did he do? He wrote down 10 scripts as quickly as he could. The second point that I think really bears thinking about was his idea that you don't need a huge fan base in order to be successful. He mentioned Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans, and how even with a subscriber list of say two or three thousand people, he could actually use that to make a pretty decent living and he didn't need millions and millions of copies of his book sold in order to make a living from his writing. I'm guessing that one of the perceptions that might be holding you back from doing this is that you have to be the next gigantic success of an author. And sure, you know, people do it, why shouldn't you be able to? But just because you might not get to that level of success doesn't mean that this isn't something that you can do and succeed at and achieve. I've put links to where you can get hold of Russell and all the resources that we mentioned in the show notes for this episode at changeworklife.com/48. And Russell mentioned the value of community. And well, you know what, I'd like to hear from you guys as well. I'd like to hear what in these podcast episodes is resonating with you. If you go to changeworklife.com/contact there's a contact form there, and I'd love to hear from you. I'd love to hear your feedback on the podcast. What do you like? What could be better? What topics would you like covered? What sort of guests would you like me to interview? Please do get in touch, this is your podcast and you guys make it, so please do get in touch. Next week's episode is a really important one. One of the comments that I see so regularly is from people who say, I have no passion, I have no purpose. I don't know what to do. How can I choose any kind of job if I don't have a purpose or a passion? And in next week's interview, we really dig into that, particularly into what it means to have a purpose and how you can use your purpose to work out what sort of job you should be doing. It's going to be a really, really great episode. Really, really important stuff. So do come back next week, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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