Expert Interview: Design Strategy
Hey, welcome back to how to write and publish your ebook. We've just been talking about all the amazing options there are out there are for actually getting your book published now, getting it up on the web to sell, whether that's on your own website or whether that's on Amazon, all the different ways you can reach new people and wrap them up in the goodness of your idea. Really basically create community when it comes to publishing your books and all the different ways that you can do that. Well when it comes to creating community and thinking about getting people behind a particular idea, there is no one I know who does this better than Sarah J. Bray, and I'm very happy to say that Sarah is a good friend of mine. We are Mastermind buddies as well. But most importantly, Sarah is the author of Gather the People, and the creator of sarahjbray.com where she is doing some really, really cool and innovative digital strategy sharing and ideating and community-building really. So definitely ...
check that out as well. So let's bring Sarah on up. There's Sarah, hey Sarah.
Hey Tara, oh, our names rhyme. (laughs)
How's it going?
It's great, how are you?
I'm awesome 'cause we're on step four. (laughs)
Yay. So I'd love to kind of start off by, could you actually tell us about what Gather the People is all about? Because I think your book is relevant to the way we're thinking about our books right now.
Yeah, absolutely. It's a book about how to build an audience, basically, around your work. That's the people come first. The people actually, I mean, I wouldn't say to stop taking this class and start gathering people, but your book can actually be a really good opportunity at the very beginning when you first start, saying, I really want to write this, to go ahead and start telling people about it. So that's what Gather the People is about. It leads through that whole process from I have an idea to how do I bring people into this and make them feel like they're a part of it, so that when it comes out, I have all of these people who are really excited and supportive of my work. And so they do the talking for me which is a lot more fun than when you have to do it all yourself. (laughs)
Amen to that, so can you tell us how publishing Gather the People has affected your community and your audience?
Ah yeah, absolutely. It was my first book, and honestly, I've been writing it for a really long time. And so when I finally published it, I had a pretty strict deadline. And I shared that publicly with the people that have been supporting me. And it's been really amazing. I made some huge business transitions right before writing the book and I was basically starting over again. And it helped me to build a platform in the past year-and-a-half that got me from basically starting over to going back to making the income that I was making before I made this huge transition. So it's been really, really great for my community and for my business too.
Awesome, can you talk about some of the specific things that you've done to get people talking about your book and get people talking about you work?
Yeah, well one of them is, honestly, communicating as genuinely and as frequently as I can. Letting people in on the process, on what's really happening. And that can be really scary, especially because with me I had actually taken a job with a client of mine and they had a really hard year and I got laid off along with a bunch of people. And I had to be honest about that. That was hugely, hugely difficult for me because I had taken this huge leap, taken this job where I was already doing really, really well in my business but I, it was exciting to me and fun and so I had to do it. And then losing that, publicly in front of a lot of people. And so really, one of the biggest, biggest, biggest thing is to be honest about what's going on. Be honest about your story. And have a story, have a place where you want to go, something that you want for yourself, and something that you want for other people too. I think that's a really interesting thing to balance is that story that, here is where I'm at, and I want you to be here with me, but not because it's about me, because it's about you, and we can actually go to this new place together. So that's one of the big things is having that story in my mind and being aware of it all the time so that, it's like, this week, this month, what am I doing to advance this part of the story? And then the other part of that is knowing exactly what action that you want people to take to advance to that next part of the story. So if this month, I'm talking about, okay, well I've got all the writing done, it's all almost ready to go, and I'm gonna go ahead and take pre-orders for that. And the action is that I really want people to pre-order on my book. And so I set it up on Gumroad, I don't know if you all have gotten to that yet. I set it up on Gumroad, I'm ready to accept my pre-orders. And I know that with every piece of information that I'm sharing, whether it's a tweet, or a Facebook post, or an email, or anything, that that's where we're eventually going, is to that pre-order place. So every part of my story is tying into that action that I know is the next step for me and the next step for them as well. And making it really personal. I ask for feedback, specific feedback from people. I reach out to specific people and ask them for help. I ask them to, if they would be willing to give me edits. I asked designer friends that I knew if they could look at my cover (laughs) and tell me how to make it better. And really, if I know people to ask who have specific skill sets, and I ask those people for those things, I can ask for a really small thing and all of that together makes the collaborative process so much better. Not only that, but then all the people who have helped me along the way feel really invested in what I'm doing. So my approach works really well, especially if you have a small community and one of your goals for that community is loyalty and trust, and that everybody feels like they're in it together, which is a huge part of my heart. So those are three things that I am constantly doing, constantly aware of as I'm gathering people around my work.
I love it, I love it. You guys see why I wanted her to talk to you?
Yeah, for sure. (laughs) Okay, so one of the other things that I really love about your, Sarah, is that you don't let just good work sit, you're always looking at how to turn it into great work, right? And so I know that you're working on a second edition of the book. Can you talk to us about how you're approaching that, and why working on a second edition was important to you?
Absolutely, well, I got a lot of feedback that people wanted it in print, they wanted to hold it in their hands. And so that is really the first thing that made me want to do it. I didn't initially because I thought, ah, I don't know how to do this. It's kind of expensive, I'll need one of these classes, which it's so great CreativeLive is doing class on this 'cause I would need the class to figure out how to publish it myself. And so it seems like a lot of hurdles, where as a digital book, you know, you don't have the expense and all that. And I just have experience in digital products so I know I can do that well. So that initial feedback was really the thing that made me want to go for it. And now my process for getting there is of course really collaborative. My website, sarahjbray.com, has, my community signs up to be a part of my process as I'm building and making things. And this is a recent thing that I've developed since writing Gather the People, because all of that work in writing and all of the research, and everything that I know about community after 10 years of working with online communities, is brought me to the conclusion that I really need an easier way to collaborate with people. So I built that. And so I'm having conversations with people who are experts at, right now, iterating. This is the thing, I'm trying to choose like what do I make better? Am I gonna rewrite the whole thing or am I just gonna spruce it up a bit? Am I gonna add chapters? How am I gonna change this for the print edition, or am I gonna change it at all? So I'm actually asking people in my community who are software developers. Because software developers have a process for iteration and they understand that. So since I'm on that step, I am asking my community and sharing what I discover. And then one of my later steps is gonna be figuring out who's gonna print it. I'll probably watch this class (laughing) to figure out some of that stuff. And I also have people in my community who have done this too, and I'm going to reach out and I'm gonna ask them how did they deal with shipping, how did they deal with finding a printer? All of that stuff. So it's really great 'cause we can learn so much together and be invested in each other's work. And I love that about communities.
Awesome, well I'd love to open it up to our audience and find out what questions you guys have for Sarah. Who has a question for Sarah? Shannon?
Long time listener, first time caller. (laughs) Big fan of yours. So I work in the nonprofit space. So a lot of what you talk about, and why I love your work so much is because it's very similar to our own in terms of building social movements. And the key to that, like you said, is you steer the ship but really your community owns it. How do you keep the momentum going, like with Gather the People? How did you keep sort of that movement going once it was published, or around the second version that's gonna come out, or edition that's gonna come out? How do you keep it in their hands versus kind of taking it back? You shared some of those things, but I'd love to know just how you keep the movement alive.
Absolutely, well I try to surface as much as possible the things that people are doing with it or saying with it. And I try to let them speak for the work as much as possible because I get tired of hearing myself talk. And I'm less of a trustworthy source saying my book is really great, you should get it. But one of the things is that I actually don't worry so much about keeping something on the top of mind all the time, the same thing on the top of mind all the time. I like to do different things. And one of the things that's really exciting is when you figure out, we're gonna do something new with this, we're gonna do, have a new story to tell. That's the beginning of something when people are really excited about it. So I don't worry if things kind of ebb and flow. I really try to stay focused on having, being aware of that new thing that's happening, whether it's with the original movement that I started, you know, around Gather the People, or around something else, it always just feels new and fresh, if that makes any sense.
It does, thank you.
Any other questions for Sarah?
My question is around something you said about you invite people into your process so that they can be a part of a process that you're going through. And that sort of awakened something in me, but I'd like to know more about what that looks like for you.
Yeah, absolutely. Well I've made the whole way that I do it around me and my strengths. And I think that that's an interesting way of looking at it, as what are your strengths, what do you naturally like to do, what is your process? A big part of my process is learning and reading and research. And so, I like to publish what I'm learning, some new thought that I had around something. If I have a client call or something that gives me this epiphany, I really want to share that and take that to the next place. But I also really try to stay focused on the projects themselves and not trying to share all of this content and things around the project, but really make my process on the project a huge part of the content that I share with anything. So if I'm reading a book, it's actually for the project that I'm working on. I'm researching or discovering something or gleaning information that's gonna help me with the project that I'm working on. And so, that really helps me to keep that story really contained and focused on... It's very genuine but it's also, it is about what I'm making. It's not about all of these other things, even if it is about something else, it's in the context of what I'm making. So yeah, I share books that I'm reading, I share discoveries that I'm making, I share specific things that I'm learning in the process. I share conversations that I've had with people, I share other people's work. I try to be generous as possible. I want other people to meet these interesting people that I'm meeting along the way. But I do that all in the context of the project that I'm working on and making. Does that answer your question?
[Woman With Blond Hair] Yeah, definitely, thank you.
And just to be clear, she's literally doing that on her website.
I'll be going there.
Speaking of which, Sarah why don't you tell us again where we can find you online, what we need to do to kind of get into that digital workspace that you have now.
Absolutely, it's sarahjbray.com, and all you have to do, there's six questions, just because we're a tight-knit community, and I want to get to know you as you're coming into my space, and you're learning a whole lot about me and about my process and my work. And so you just answer those six questions. They're super simple. And yeah, sarahjbray.com, and you can also find me on Twitter. I'm there all the time, it's @sarahjbray. I hope you say hello.
[Woman With Blond Hair] I will.
Sarah, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your wisdom and insight, as always was really incredible, thank you.
You're welcome, thanks for having me, Tara.