Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 2
Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 2
Go HERE, to listen to part 1 and for the full transcript.
“You’re not doing marketing wrong, you’re doing the wrong marketing.” – Russell Nohelty
In “Episode 65. Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 2” host Beth Barany, creativity coach, teacher, and science fiction and fantasy novelist, talks to bestselling fantasy author, publisher, and podcast host Russel Nohelty to discuss in more detail the different types from the author eco-system and the biggest problem authors face when building their career.
Author Ecosystem: www.authorecosystem.com
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Russell Nohelty (www.russellnohelty.com) is a USA Today bestselling fantasy author who has written dozens of novels and graphic novels including The Godsverse Chronicles, The Obsidian Spindle Saga, and Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter. He is the publisher of Wannabe Press, co-host of the Kickstart Your Book Sales podcast, cofounder of the Writer MBA training academy, and cofounder of The Future of Publishing Mastermind. He also co-created the Author Ecosystem archetype system to help authors thrive. You can take our quiz to find your perfect ecosystem at www.authorecosystem.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and dogs.
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Transcript for Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 2
Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of How to Write the Future. I am your host Beth Barany.
Just want to remind you that this is the podcast for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to create positive, optimistic futures because when we vision what is possible and we put that into our books, we help make it so for the world. This podcast is also for anyone who cares about the future.
Listen to part 1 first!
Just a quick heads up. If you haven’t already listened to part one of my conversation with Russell Nohelty and the author ecosystem, I highly recommend that you go back and listen to part one now, before you proceed with part two.
All right. Let’s dive in.
Think Like A Grassland
Mm-hmm That’s fascinating because when I fell in with the futurists big time last year and I’ve been slowly making my way to them, but I finally got to be in a room with a bunch of futurists and foresight practitioners, I, I felt like I had come home in a way I hadn’t before. They’re an international bunch, which was great.
Plus, there are people who are seriously 30 years out, 50 years out, and then I’m writing a hundred years out. So I was further out than them, but they’re all future facing and all these wonderful detailed ways from all these different cultures. Yeah, I can see that in the way I operate.
Plus this marathon way of showing up, showing up, showing up every day for the thing, little by little, and tons of content marketing. And I haven’t successfully done a membership yet, but it’s actually on my plate to build that out for the nonfiction, for the courses that I have. And then I was just toying with the idea of going back to Patreon or I’ve been looking at Ream you introduced – I found out about Ream from your newsletter– the subscription service for authors that’s being built specifically for authors.
So I haven’t decided yet ’cause I don’t want to do extra work, so I have to just build it in, but I’m actually already naturally, like maybe a lot of Grasslands, building a lot of content every single day. There’s like 10 pieces of content that fall out of me.
Yeah. And it’s very true. When I started my Substack, I had to think like a Grassland. I had to say, okay, What is it that I want to get out of here that can fulfill me? And that’s why I didn’t like Patreon. I didn’t like Ream.
I specifically was on Substack. I was like, Oh, well, you are still gathering subscribers every day. And some of those are becoming paid subscribers. At all times they’re getting the content and coming in and you don’t really know. You have to be very good at doing data analysis because you have to know if you put out X number of posts, Y people will come over Z timeframe.
But I don’t know where they are coming from. I mean, you can literally look at each person I guess, and see what link they click. But in general, you have to be comfortable building this head of steam almost forever and know that once it picks- like it took forever to get the first couple of subscribers, but then like every week I get a couple more. I look back three months ago and I think I have something like 60. I got two today. It’s like 67 subscribers without really even doing a push or anything for it. So it naturally works for Grasslands. It doesn’t actually work for a Tundra.
“You’re not doing marketing wrong, you’re doing the wrong marketing.”
We always say, “You’re not doing marketing wrong, you’re doing the wrong marketing.”
And people are like, oh, I hate marketing. And I’m like, okay, well, describe a normal thing a day that you like. And they’re like, oh, well, I post on social media, and I do this, and that’s like, all of that is marketing. it’s just you don’t consider it marketing because you’re enjoying doing it.
So, we need to understand that marketing is not the enemy here. The enemy is doing marketing that you don’t like. And what we need to do is find out how to make the marketing that you like work. And it is way easier to figure out how to make a piece of content work better than it is to start doing TikTok, which you don’t like.
Author Ecosystem: Desert, All About Optimization
In the same way, if someone loves social media, they’re probably a, a Desert because they’re like, oh, there’s a game. There’s a game to optimize here. There’s like, how do I get my things up? if you’ve ever seen the people be like, I don’t understand why people don’t love tech. You just like follow this and do this Y and Z.
And then you’re like, I don’t know. It’s like, that’s because they’re a Desert. Like they are looking at the platform and being like, It’s not about me. It’s about the game of how do I get the best BookTok today. And it doesn’t matter if they like me or hate me.
I need to know how to optimize it. And yeah.
The Author Ecosytem Type: Aquatic
Yeah, that’s great. So the five ecosystems you’ve drawn up are Desert, Forest, Tundra, Grassland–
And the only one we haven’t really talked about is Aquatic.
Aquatics are brand managers. So, they are the George Lucas’s of writing, where they are format agnostic. So if you’ve ever met someone who like, has a book, and then also has a cereal brand and a lipstick line and – it’s about servicing the intellectual property, so it’s about servicing the world. They may have an AR game; they may have all of this stuff and so their interest is in expanding their reach by expanding their format and accessibility to different people.
So, for instance, I don’t care so much about audio, but I have friends that like audio, video, this, that, the other thing. They’re in 50 formats. And then they expand out.
They do like a a radio play or something when they launch and like they do a commercial and you’re like, That sounds exhausting.
Their idea is that they can take ten people who like radio plays and five people who like books and eight people who like this. And over time, it creates this world that feels lived in and that’s why, in general, Aquatics have the highest percentage of superfans in their audience.
Because how I think about superfans, I’ve always thought about superfans, and I did make a course called Build a Superfandom, so I know something about it– If you can get somebody to follow your work across multiple formats, then every time they do that, they’re making an affirmative gesture towards your work.
So if someone is just a book person, then they might not be as devoted as if they also do your audio play and do this, then this, and this, and this, and this, and this other thing.
I could make a book for 400 dollars and like make 4,000 dollars. I’m like, cool, y’all like books, and I made ya some books, so it’s great, but when someone is doing that it usually takes just a lot more scope, and their audiences are not fragmented across their world, they’re fragmented across the formats.
Yeah, I have a friend like that. It’s hard to understand who she is, and it took her a long time to understand who she is. You know, the plays, the writing, the parties, the poetry, the being a poet laureate, like she’s just all over the place. And then over time, she has developed her voice, her brand, her way of showing up where like she says, Hey, I’m doing this cool thing. You’re like, Ooh. Cool thing. Kristen’s doing a cool thing. You know, let’s go check it out because it’s gonna be cool.
So we may have already touched on this, but, when you talked about how there isn’t bad marketing, there’s just, this is how I would say it, bad marketing for you or the wrong kind of marketing for you.
But you had this question, what’s the biggest problem authors face when building their career? You want to touch on that? Maybe weave together what you shared?
The Biggest Problem Authors Face When Building Their Career: Step One
Yeah. So, the biggest problem that people make is– so there’s two big transitions in most authors. Well, three.
The first is they absolutely start trying to monetize their work too soon. They’re like, Oh, this book is not profitable. So I can’t write it.
And I’m always like, no, you can. You’ve only written like two books. You should write that weird book. You probably won’t make money from it but you might. I don’t know.
I’ve drawn comics and I’ve done all this other stuff to become a better writer. And I think if you start thinking about monetization too soon, you end up becoming not as well-rounded a writer. Because you are then only focused on writing one thing, and one type of thing, and reading one type of thing.
And so I really respect people that go through the writing programs at a college, because they understand that for four years they’re just gonna dick around and write some weird stuff. And like, at the end of it, they’ll have a voice.
I don’t think it’s the going to college that is the thing. It’s that commitment to being like, Oh, well, I know for the next four years, I’m probably not going to make any money on this. And in fact, I’m going to invest money into it. And in doing that, you are like, okay, well, I’m just going to write whatever weird thing.
When I was starting writing, they said, Um, your first 10 scripts are going to suck. And I was like, cool, I’m just gonna write 10 scripts then and they’re gonna suck. And like, I don’t know, like, I’ll write all sorts of genres. And I wrote a comedy and thrillers. And a lot of that stuff ended up in my books. And then even when I started to monetize my work, I was like, okay, I want to write this series, but I’m not really great at romance. So I’m going to write a book that’s that’s the crux of the whole thing. I’m not really known for YAs, so like, I need to figure out how to write these books that are action-packed but not as violent as my other work.
And so, I started to incorporate these ways to get me to be a better writer instead of just how to make more money.
And so, the first transition is, I now have a voice. I now can consistently make a good product and I can reliably make something and finish it. And even if I don’t know how it will look at the beginning, it will all end up- By the time it’s over, it has that standard of quality in voice that I look for. So that’s step one.
Step Two on The Biggest Problem Authors Face When Building Their Career
Then, most people come in, and they are not in the right ecosystem for them.
And they’re told to do everything, or they’re told, I call it the stack, which I wrote about in a post on my Substack called The Author Stack.
They’re told what the thing is. They’re told by Deserts, and they’re a Forest.
And I should mention: there is nothing wrong with a Desert teaching the thing that they want. You just have to know: I’m going to go to this Desert to learn optimization.
Like you’re not going to go and learn community from a Desert. You’re going to learn community from a Forest because they are the best at community.
Like you’re going to go to Pat Flynn to learn about community because he’s very clearly a Forest. Or you’re going to learn about brand building from an Aquatic because they’ve had the most success there.
But what ends up happening is people say, I’m going to go learn from X, Y, and Z person how to learn publishing. And you’re like, Ooh, no, no, I can teach you how to launch well.
Monica can teach you how to make evergreen content and memberships. And because of how much work we do in direct sales and evolution we’ve done, we can now teach a lot. We are like full-stack people. Monica, a little more than me because she also does retailers and I don’t, but you want to learn from the people that are going to teach you the thing.
Some writers are Deserts. And so when they learn from Deserts, oof, man like they take off like a rocket. But most people are not deserts. And so you have Forests writing like a Desert.
You have Grasslands who are trying to not go deep, but go wide and that’s just not good. That’s not how they succeed.
The next transition is like making your ecosystem healthy.
Making Your Author Ecosystem Healthy
Mm-hmm. Tell us about that.
So when you make your ecosystem healthy, it means: imagine bringing a cactus to a tropical rainforest, or vice versa. They’re not going to succeed.
So if you are a Desert and you’re getting rain constantly, you’re going to just be mud. If you are a tropical rainforest and you get no rain, you’re going to wither and die.
In both ways, your ecosystem is wildly unhealthy.
So the first step after you have put out some work and it is consistently, because we do get this thing: it seems like your system is more geared towards people who have released some books.
And I’m like, that is factual. It is a sales and marketing archetyping system for writers.
You must be at a place where you are selling and marketing your work to get the most out of it.
But the way that you can maximize this before you’re like, let’s call it pre-monetization is know who you’re going to learn from and why and learn which things resonate with you and what might be the cause for that.
So the first step is like I go from unhealthy ecosystem to healthy ecosystem.
So like I’m a Grassland and now I get I have a couple of trees stood up, like money is coming in. Like, I know that when I put $5 into my business, $10 comes out. Like, this is the topic that I talk about.
I got it. I, I don’t just get what I want. Like, I can then go back and say, okay, this is my assumption. And then when I test that assumption, I am right.
This is one of the hardest things is people do the next step too soon, which is evolve.
Don’t do this too soon: Evolve beyond their natural ecosystem
Evolve beyond their natural ecosystem, which is when you look at someone like Neil Gaiman, who’s a Forest, but he’s also directing movies and doing all this other stuff and all these things.
Now imagine you have a healthy ecosystem but it’s not stable and you try to introduce a different element into it.
Or you introduce that element into the wrong place in your ecosystem or like the wrong place in your environment.
So you have to then go from: I am unhealthy to: Oh, I see the light. I am a Desert and I know I’m a Tundra and then you have to build it, so that it functions properly.
So with Tundras, they need to go on like a rolling hill launch cycle. Well, what’ll happen is they’ll launch and be like, this is great. And then without doing any of the other actions like hibernating, audience building, like building up the thing, they’ll just be like, I’m now going to launch eight books this year.
And you’re like, okay, but you’re launching eight books to the same thousand people or 500 people. Like part of it is there’s a cadence of like, You have launched, you are now here, you’re now creating, and now you’re building your list, and you’re doing all these list-building activities. So the next time, there’s 2,000 people.
And if you’re not doing this part, you’re gonna keep overextending the audience, and you’re gonna maybe make more money, but across more projects, it’s gonna feel like less money. So you have to know your Grasslandiness and be able to know how to sustain it because an ecosystem that can’t sustain, can’t grow.
There’s several steps in the evolution process
And then step two or step three, I guess.
So you are pre-monetization to like healthy ecosystem, unhealthy to healthy, and then it’s from healthy to evolution.
There’s several steps in the evolution process, but I’m going to just break it down real simply for you.
You are basically taking the things from each other ecosystem that work for you and incorporating them into your business one at a time, probably one a quarter or maybe one even a year.
So if you are a Grassland, you probably have a membership going that’s going well, or you have courses that are going well. There’s something that you’re doing that is funneling that money into you in the way that works as a Grassland.
And then you’re like, cool. I now want to have a big launch. I don’t want to learn to Tundra because that seems to be the next evolution. I want to stand up. We call it again, we call it “standing up a tree.” So like standing up a tree takes a long time. So it’s like, I want to do a short burst to get this.
Like the Kickstarter book. We did a Kickstarter book and Get Your Book Selling On Kickstarter on Kickstarter. And we were like, we want to make the Kickstarter thing.
And so we like, boom. We stood up the tree in a month and then like we did that all the stuff around it, but like we had the tree-ed-ness of it from the Tundra.
Monica was able to incorporate that.
Or I am a Tundra, but I have a membership that’s going, I don’t know, pretty decently for the first time, but only because I know what to look for in that ecosystem. Or okay, so now you have one or two launches a year.
Let’s say one launch a year. In general, a Grassland is not going to be like, yes, heck yes, I want five launches a year.
Let’s just say one. Everything’s the membership. But then once a year you put out a new book or a collection of essays or like something, I don’t know.
So you then are like, my audience is really getting into like pins or workbooks. Let’s just keep this as a nonfiction thing. I really want to do workbooks. So it’s like now you’re moving into an Aquatic zone because you’re changing formats, you’re changing things in that nature. And then you’re like: You know, I really want to do ads like I’m at a place that I just can’t grow organically anymore. Like I need to learn ads and now you’re like, I need to figure out what the optimal thing to do is. It’s not my whole business, but I need to optimize the ad part of it, so like I get the best ROI.
Well, you’re incorporating some Desert in this in it.
It’s just that process of saying, and really like identifying that you have a deficiency in, I’m going to go back to ads because most people have a deficiency in ads and being like, I can’t deal with ads now, but that’s like my Q2 concern.
Or like I’m going to hire Mal Cooper, Mal, and Jill Cooper, who wrote Help, My Facebook Ads Suck and do Facebook. And they’re like, I know it’s going to cost a ton of money, but I don’t care because the rest of my business works, it’s profit. I can afford to spend – two thousand, whatever their cost is, 2500, 3000 dollars a month on their ads because I don’t want to deal with it.
Which is a piece we don’t talk about that much because most people are not at that level, but since we’re here, I’m almost like I’ve almost capped out on what I know about the author ecosystem at this point.
Then the part of that, when you’re evolving, is also saying, okay, I need to build a team because what we have found from talking to just business owners is people are terrible at hiring and getting the best from their teams.
So like a Grassland is great at your content marketing and thought leadership and research, but you shouldn’t have them on your social media team. You’re not getting the best from a good person by making them do that.
Like your launch team should be probably full of Tundras because they know how to build excitement and pull that thing back.
Like an Aquatic is really good at brand expansion and business development.
And a Desert is great at optimizations, like your social media team, your ads team, all of that, that stuff.
So it’s not just about adding that which makes you stronger, but also saying, how can I build a team that does the things I hate doing, but they actually love doing?
So that’s it for part two of my conversation with Russell Nohelty.
Stay tuned for next week. We’ll dig into his upcoming Future of Publishing event a big mastermind, happening in 2024 in New Orleans in February. So stay tuned for that.
And just a quick reminder, if you have any questions about this work that Russell and Monica are doing, be sure to check out authorecosystem.com and take their quiz.
All right until next time.
Write long and prosper.
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Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”
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