STEP 1:  Create

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Married Man Sex Life: The Marketing Plan

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The elevator pitch is that I write a blog (Married Man Sex Life) that teaches how Nice Guy husbands can add a little bit of Bad Boy to moisten the wives panties, without turning him into a Total Douchebag and ruining everything.

Obviously I want to make money from this though, so here's my approach so far....

The blog is the a marketing platform for the book(s), the book(s) = expert, expert = the golden goose of coaching/speaking/whatever. The first two years of this project have been to simply break even, by which I mean earn about as much as I would have earned if I had an extra part-time job instead of blogging. I started MMSL on 1/1/2010, so coming up to the 2 year mark. $15,000 net for the first book so far... might hit $18,000 before it's life cycle ends, so that is a win and meets the first two year mark goal.
I always assumed the books would be stolen to some degree, but I'm also a unique product for the moment as well. No one else writes about application of pick up artist a.k.a "Game"theory for marriage. I purposely priced at a very reasonable $10 kindle/PDF and $20 print which Amazon discounted to $14.39 for ages. (Game stuff is usually that whole $199 value, but wait discounted to $129, and if you buy it right now it's $79 for a 80 page eBook!!!!! bullshit.)
I also purposely tried to intimidate any potential competitors in the marketplace that I was (1) first to publish and was the best and brightest on this topic, (2) going to revise my flagship book annually, (3) plan to do this for the next 30 years. The inspiration for this was the book "What Color Is Your Parachute" which makes up 93% of all job seeking books sold year after year. As yet, no one else has dared to publish anything in my tiny little niche within the larger Marriage/Sex market.
The flagship book is called "The Married Man Sex Life Primer 2011", or Primer 2011 for short.The plan is to drop the price for the 2011 edition down to $0.99 Kindle/PDF a few months before the 2012 edition is out. So the 2012 Primer sells at $10 and the 2011 Primer at $0.99 side-by-side on Amazon.Then rinse repeat that process for 2012/2013, 2013/2014....  Thus anyone can steal my 2011 Primer *now*, but it's devalued to $1 in a year and zero value in two years.  And yes it does require a meaningful upgrade to the Primer annually to make this work.
Then every year I plan to release a new book that stands alone and doesn't get annual updates. So ten years from now, I have the 2021 Primer, plus a backlist of ten other books. This is where I really start getting concerned about piracy. I can keep ahead of the curve with the Primer updates, but if someone rips off a backlist book, that's going to hurt me.
My primary problem for the moment is time - I still have to work full time. I'm 41, wife, two kids, the whole nine yards. So everything I'm doing with MMSL is evenings and weekends. The books really do have to pay over the short term, or I can't keep doing this.
Also I've had a period back in May where life was crazy - Jennifer (my wife) and I were on Inside Edition, and you would *think* that would have resulted in an epic influx of interest... nope, just an extra 1000 hits to the blog. I. Shit. You. Not.  All the mass media stuff has proved worthless to me, the blog > all.
Anyway, all this is in process. The 2012 edition is slated for Feb 1st 2012 release, and I'm squeaking out a second book "before Christmas". So how well my book model works will be roughly known by April 2012. 2012 might be huge, or less than 2011, I won't know until I'm there. Seriously, even another $10,000 means life is vastly easier for me and I can throw some money at book covers and so on.
The big win is that I've had around 500 emails from people saying MMSL saved their marriage from divorce / restarted their sex life / averted marrying the wrong person. So that's an epic win. I need more money for a better computer, better product presentation and not to have to go to work anymore so I can do this full time. Sure there's an element of personal greed, but it's really about getting to do the work I want.

So my basic questions are...

(1) Is this a viable plan for book sales long term?

(2) What can I do to increase sales/profitablity of the individual books?

(3)  Obviously I am bridging toward a speaking/coaching aspect of the business, but concrete ideas for doing that are something I'm struggling with. What's the next step?

(4)  What don't I know that I should have a question about? Seriously any ideas would be great. I can create content all day, but marketing I'm lost on.



initiated Oct 17, 2011 in Business Models by Athol Kay (710 points)   2 3 6
edited Oct 17, 2011 by Athol Kay

28 Responses

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Although this creates some extra work, what about creating a condensed guide that you can sell for 99 cents as a push to the full work? It should by no means summarize everything - just take a healthy sampling of certain aspects and present them with less detail, while including some really catchy practical nuggets - the kind that a guy can put into practice that very night. In fact, you could even market it in that exact way - call it a "Quick Guide" or some-such and use the word "Tonight" in the title - and end it with a push to the real book. Potentially this would be a way to get the best of both worlds in terms of ebook pricing - or the short guides might prove so popular that you decide to release a new one of those every year alongside your updated edition.
response added Oct 21, 2011 by Leigh Beadon (2,650 points)   5 14 22
@leigh I'm working on a variant of this in that I am culling everything down into a rule book similar in style to say the Ferengi book of "The Rules of Acquistion". Not sure exactly when it's finished though.

I'll just pray you watched Star Trek and got the reference!
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Also, right now you are positioned to begin taking in clients.  The model here should be the counseling profession where somebody pays $50 - $120 per hour to talk to you.  Except you're not a counselor, so you should call it 'Coaching'.

I can tell by the comments that you're already thinking that way.  Put a button up on your website right now.  Make the price big enough to make it worth your while.  Put a quick tagline at the end of all your blog posts that quickly describes what you offer.  MMSL Primer - $30, Ten Page guidebook - $.99, One on one or couples skype counseling sessions - $120/hour by appointment.  ---- Whatever you decide to offer.

But don't sell youself short here.  Do you want to know why going to law school at University of Chicago, or Yale is such a pain in the ass?  Its so lawyers don't feel even a microsecond of a twinge of guilt for billing $400/hour.  Same reason there is a fairly sizeable barrier to entry into the counseling professions.  (I'm not discounting the training either profession gets.  They have something of value.  Usually.  But they want to get paid too!)  --- You have something of value.

You've been giving away a lot of things of value.  That's been a good idea.  My understanding is that you get email asking for help all the time.  You probably have a list, or can go back and re-create one.  Email those people and ask them to write a thank you letter - either in print, or by email, describing how you've helped them.  Use these personal letters to promote your coaching business.

There can be lower priced (for the customer) group therapy meetings.  Instead of paying $120/hour for one on one, you can do it via webex and people can join in and only pay $50/hour.  But if there's 5 people in the meeting now you get $250/hour.  Different strokes for different folks.  Some people will want the one on one, some people will prefer the group.

You are very well positioned to do live workshops for couples.  You could develop a web-course, or series of videos for young adults on how to prepare for marriage.

Some of your material can be repurposed:  Surviving divorce, avoiding divorce, preparing for marriage, etc...
response added Oct 22, 2011 by Jay Bryner (300 points)   1 1 2
Another idea.  Your website should have a button to "Refer to a friend"

Same thing goes for your coaching business.  I'm not exactly sure how to do this.  But coaching referrals.  Customers like me are already in the mindset of spreading the word.  I already tell the younger guys in my orbit to not even think about getting engaged without reading your book/blog.  Same goes for the married guys I know who aren't getting any.  The Bro-Network.

There is a similar, and even more powerful spread-the-word network among women.  Especially for someone like you who has specific answers, and strategies to make marriages better.
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As it keeps coming up, "pay to have a question answered" looks like a good avenue to explore.  I understand the difficulty in having a set price for answering questions of varying complexity.  What about letting people bid on an answer?  A fan could say, "I have a question, and I'll pay $10 to have it answered".  You look at the question, realize it's really a five hour answer, and don't accept.  The next guy bids $25 for a question you answered six months ago, and you happily accept.  I would send an electronic copy of the book along with any answer, too.

This way, you only answer questions that are worth your time, and any questions that don't get answered are free.

To make this work you'd probably need a custom website to handle it all (As a software engineer, I'm liable to forget that this is not trivial for someone who doesn't build websites for a living).  But lots of people, yourself included, think it's a good idea, so it becomes a question of how to make it work for you.
response added Oct 22, 2011 by Jonathan Renaut (180 points)   1 1 2
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Mr. Kay. I'm an avid Kindle user and reader, and I want to let you know I would not have purchased your book at the $9.99 price point. That's not to say that the product isn't worth the price, but that, as a consumer, ten dollars seemed too steep for an author I've never heard of who wrote a book in the "anybody can find a publisher" self-help category. When I read the story on Techdirt, I was intrigued mostly by your willingness to look at the "new media" phenonemena objectively and try to figure out how to make it work for you rather than suing as a first course of action. When I saw you'd dropped the price to $3.99 for the electronic edition, I purchased your book immediately; I felt that $3.99 was a very reasonable price to "vote with my wallet" even if the book was a pile of steaming crap (and it most assuredly isn't), and maybe get a real bargain to boot! Your current price point is, I believe, perfect. I'll be recommending the book to at least ten of my friends and coworkers. Had I not caught the book on Techdirt, the price would have made me ditch the sale, and I wouldn't be advocating your work for another potential ten sales without a personal recommendation. Kudos to you for taking a chance rather than attempting to use the courts! I'll be following your future works with anticipation. -- Tim
response added Oct 23, 2011 by Tim Adamec (180 points)   1 1 2
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Day 2 and 3, sales are up, but profit near where it was before now due to price decrease. Still hard to draw conclusions.

Cover design is tricky for a book. I tried getting help from fans for that before and not a single offer was workable, so really have to go pro with that.

I believe questions will stay free and a forum will help absorb some of that. The personal contact will eventually be coaching, sometime early next year.
response added Oct 24, 2011 by Athol Kay (710 points)   2 3 6
@atholk You can do group coaching using webex, or goto meeting (I prefer).  The smaller packages for individuals are pretty reasonably priced.
Sales day 4 and 5 profit marginally dropping below baseline.
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Have you considered offering access to an online community?  While your time is finite, I am willing to bet that some of the questions you get are sometimes variations on the same theme that often have a similiar response.  The online community would also let you invite those who have sucessfully used your tools to share their story, you could invite spouses into another area so that you can show the success is not just 1 sided.  They can share stories of not being convinced but the results are convincing.  You can use the community to also help your future editions with people contributing their stories and if you see a new wrinkle popping up for some people it might be something worth working on and covering it.

I would suggest that if you consider this, try to avoid the pit of  "must crush bad stories".  Don't shoot each person with the well you didn't try hard enough bullet, but point out sometimes the issues are bigger than what a book can fix quickly.  This lets you test the waters for response to you offering more hands on things on a limited scale.  Being able to add new successes to new editions, and showing that sometimes it doesn't work but its not the end of the world, sometimes it is for the best.
response added Oct 21, 2011 by John Doe (170 points)   1 1 1
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I want to weigh in and disagree with all the talk about reducing the price of the book.  If anything, the Married Man Sex Life Primer 2011 (2012 etc...) is worth more than the current price point, and you should consider INCREASING the current price.  Seriously.  The book is gold.


Here's a link to someone who has carved out his niche, and reaps the dividends year after year in repeat and referral sales. -- He says that of course you want to sell more books, but we are in an age where the current distribution chains suck out too much of the profit.  Print your book in batches of 500 or so, keep them in the garage, and hire  your oldest kid to ship them out.  She can fund her Roth IRA first, save some for college, then spend the rest on whatever.  --- Point being, its worth the $30 to at least listen to John T Reed's point of view on this one.  He makes six figures per year on book sales.

Having another offering, or two.  Even something that is a giveaway - trade for being on the email list.  That is a good idea.  Maybe even a quick handbook, or 'top fifty mistakes married couples make' or whatever for .99 cents.  But MMSL Primer is your flagship product right now.  Don't leave money on the table.

Having an email list is a good idea too.  I would suggest modeling the email list usage off of Gary North.  Seriously, its worth signing up and getting his weekly email just to watch a master at work.  I've got his weekly email sitting in my in-box right now, and it always has something of value to say, and every week I'm sure hundreds of people consider signing up for his subscription service, without being annoyed at the weekly reminders.
response added Oct 22, 2011 by Jay Bryner (300 points)   1 1 2
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First 24 hours of the price drop in the Kindle and PDF. There's been a near doubling of net profit today compared to the average of the prior three weeks. My question being how of that is price difference and how much is Techdirt/Step2 extra visitors. Either way it's a win though.

The recent drama has also created two side effect contacts from current MMSL readers - a senior designer and Internet Marketer. One offering assistance for "whatever I can afford" and "free" (I helped his marriage a great deal, so this is returning the favor)
response added Oct 22, 2011 by Athol Kay (710 points)   2 3 6
@atholk I had been meaning to mention that as a possibility: I saw some people on your site complaining about the design, and wondered if you might be able to get fans of yours to chip in with design help -- perhaps in exchange for a free copy of next year's book or something.  But, sounds like you may already have that covered...
@atholk You are witnessing "Connecting with Fans" at work. Interesting huh? As @Masnick says, you can organise a design contest too. "Design the next book's cover and get your copy free" or something along those lines?

Also, even if your profits are up because of extra Techdirt visitors, it's still extra profits gained by reaching out to your potential readers online. Do more and you may see the profits rise even more.
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Three ideas:

Idea 1: Offer tiered levels of the book.

  1. $1 for a mini-book (a couple dozen pages) that has the meat of it. This version may even make people realize they like your stuff and convert to a higher level.
  2. $3-5 for the newest version of the ebook.
  3. $10 for the the newest and all future versions of the ebook
  4. $20 for lifetime ebook and lifetime membership to your email reminder list (see idea 2) or whatever other infinite perks you can think of.

Idea 2: Offer a paid membership to an email list. $3/year to get on an email list that sends reminders/tips to do something sexy for your wife. Reading a book is well and good, but I'm fricken busy and can forget to take care of even myself. Getting little reminders injected into my busy life would maybe even be worth more than the book to me.

Idea 3: Finally, if you are afraid about getting inundated with questions with a "pay for question" model... set up a weekly (monthly... whatever) group voice teleconferences. They last two hours. $1 to listen in, Top 10 bidders get put on the discussion list (those ten people get talking privelages). If it flops you don't have 10million questions you feel like you have to answer. Your true fans will be stoked about talking with you.

response added Oct 25, 2011 by Jim (270 points)   1 1 1
@lbgator  An author can't offer lifetime sales when there's production costs involved yearly.

At the moment the blog is updated near daily and you can get a free feed.
@atholk You say "an author can't offer lifetime sales when there's production costs involved yearly". I thought you said you were going to be putting a book out every year anyway; if you're already going to be producing the book every year and distribution cost is near zero then why not have people pay some extra amount for all future copies of the book.

If it's the $10 that's bugging you then bump the number up to where you think it's reasonable.

If you're afraid that you are signing up to a lifetime project... just make it clear that you don't promise annual updates.

You seem to think that you're going to convert a bunch of people into repeat buyers. I could be wrong, but I suspect that very few people are going to buy the 2011 version this year and then turn around and pay for the 2012 version next year. Why not get some true fans to essentially prepay for future versions?
@lbgator  You're completely confusing being a book retailer with a book publisher. Amazon/Kindle takes 30% of the cover price as a retail fee, which is nowhere near "near zero". I can't control Amazon and ask them to let "this list of 2000 people have a free download".

There's absolutely no way I can get into being a book retailer, without either trying to compete against Amazon, or avoid the primary marketplace for book sales.

Seriously, I cannot direct sell my own book without losing money compared to an Amazon sale of my book. Amazon discounts and offers free shipping. Who wants to run about like a hamster packing, shipping, customer service, billing etc to lose money comapred to Amazon sending you a check every month while you write the next book?

Not all the 2011 buyers will buy the 2012 edition. But they might buy the 2014 or 2015. Or the 2028 for their son. It's about being the constant pillar of the genre. It is a lifetime project and I do promise annual updates.
@atholk You can't beat amazon in packing up and shipping books, but do they give you a way to contact the people who have bought your ebook?

If you don't want to do it because you think it's a bad idea that's absolutely your choice. But the internet makes it incredibly cheap to give out 10K electronic copies of something. That's what you're trying to capitalize on. Once your book is written, the cost to give out a billion copies is damn cheap.
You guys have got to stop saying "ebook", the main dish is very clearly Kindle, it's controlled by Amazon and you either give it away free to absolutely everyone, or pay 30-65% of the list price to them.

Amazon is a retailer and they aren't going to give customer information to anyone.
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The good news is I finally have power back after five days without power. Connecticut a total mess from that October snowstorm.

The bad news is I am definitely losing money with the book at $3.99 as opposed to $9.99. Unit sales have increased about 50%, but I'm only making 40% per copy of what I was so profit is down 40%.

I'll probably announce a return to the prior price point to kick in shortly. I'm also tossing around the idea of increasing the price to $20 for both Kindle and PDF to see what happens. I suspect by dropping to $3.99 I've in fact damaged the perception of value of the book.
response added Nov 3, 2011 by Athol Kay (710 points)   2 3 6

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