In this bonus episode, we revisit Hal and discuss how his life has changed in the interim, what he’s learned since we last talked, and what his plans are for the future. He’ll also share his thoughts about not only writing a bestseller, but what it takes to go beyond the bestseller.
Bestselling books usually enjoy a brief time in the spotlight until their hype wears off and people move on to the next trend; if you’re an author, you probably wish you were in Hal Elrod’s shoes. He’s not only succeeded in writing a bestselling book, but he’s enjoyed its increasing — rather than diminishing — success over time, which is the opposite of typical publishing market tendencies.
Can this be chalked up to dumb luck? A happenstance fluke? Not hardly (well, maybe just by half). Hal set out with a strategy that’s snowballed the influence of his first book, The Miracle Morning, into a blossoming literary empire. Not only has it gained the residual effect of making its inspirational author more than a little spare pocket change, but its message has changed the lives of thousands for the better.
If you’re going to go through the trouble of writing a book of your own, why aspire to the fleeting fame and limited fortune of hitting the bestseller list? Aim higher. Aim to go beyond the bestseller.
On board with this mission? Great! Hal says there are three elements to going beyond the bestseller that you can employ when you’re in the planning stages and mapping the trajectory of your inevitable success. They are:
If you want to write a book that creates a movement, earns you a fortune, and changes the world, Hal says this is the number one nugget of advice he has to offer: center your content around changing behavior. A typical bestseller is good at grabbing momentary attention from a large enough segment of the populace that buys books to register a noticeable — albeit temporary — boost in sales.
But in a month, those readers will have moved on to the next batch of bestsellers. Even the ones who obsessively latched onto your bestseller may be hard-pressed to offer details about whatever story or message you were trying to convey. People are fickle. What can you do?
“If your book adds long-term value by changing a person’s behavior — ideally their daily behavior — then they’ll never forget it,” says Hal, “and they’ll continue to share it with others.”
While we’re here, we may as well look at The Miracle Morning as an example. Here’s Hal’s brief introduction:
“Whether you want to make significant improvements in just a few key areas, or you are ready for a major overhaul that will radically transform your entire life — so your current circumstances will soon become only a memory of what was — you’ve picked up the right book. You are about to begin a miraculous journey, using a simple, but revolutionary process that is guaranteed to transform any area of your life…all before 8:00 a.m.”
Enticing, no? Even for the happiest and most motivated among us, who doesn’t want to improve their current situation? In a nutshell, Hal is teaching us how to make the most of our morning rituals as a springboard for the rest of the day. Even if you have the initial reaction to write it off as another self-help book that isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know, its word-of-mouth reputation and endorsements from lifestyle heavy-hitters like Robert T. Kiyosaki demand that you give it a second look.
Building a “pay it forward” element into your content is another way to ensure its self-perpetuation. Have you ever read a book that moves you in such a way that you just have to share it with others? It contains such mind-blowing knowledge that it would feel wrong to keep it to yourself, so you pass it along to someone you think would benefit from its lessons. If you can write a book that compels others to do the same — by paying its wisdom forward to others — you may very well make it beyond the bestseller.
“If you want your book to go viral,” says Hal, “you should plant those seeds about sharing the book and how to share the book and why to share the book and who to share the book with.”
In The Miracle Morning, Hal introduced the idea of having an accountability partner — sort of like the self-improvement version of the buddy system. “If we’re just counting on ourselves,” says Hal, “we know it’s really easy to let ourselves down. So I talked about the value of accountability in my book…I encouraged people to get an accountability partner.” He then invited people to join his community’s Facebook page to seek each other out as accountability partners.
“I try to not talk about it in a pushy or ‘salesy’ way,” says Hal. Information that genuinely pays it forward will sell itself among the right audience.
Once you’ve got your content together and ready to publish, the much-anticipated launch day arrives. But Hal advises against waiting until the last minute to drum up interest in your book. Well before launch, it’s smart to have a launch pad. Without this important stage of preparation, your project won’t make it very far.
Hal says, “I learned this from Dan Kennedy: the most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your email list. I don’t know if that stands true, but it’s ultimately your community. Start building your community now.”
“Before I even wrote the book,” Hal says, “I recorded a 60-minute audio on a free conference call line where it didn’t cost me anything. I just outlined on audio for the content of my book, and then I recorded that audio — I had a friend interview me — and I put up an opt-in page for people to download that audio. That audio went viral; that’s actually what kind of prompted me to write The Miracle Morning.”
“Before the first word of the book was written, I already had hundreds, and then thousands, and then over 10,000 opt-ins to get the audio that taught people The Miracle Morning. So I had thousands of people around the world doing The Miracle Morning before it was ever a book — not to mention they were all on my email list…and then when the book came out, they were chomping at the bit; they were excited because all they had was this one-hour audio that taught them how to do the practice.”
Hal also recommends collecting physical mailing addresses. While he says it’s not a must, he points out that email is becoming less effective every single day due to filters (particularly with Google’s ever-popular Gmail service) that push promotions into folders that may never even be seen. Having alternative methods of contacting the people who have opted in to receive your content ensures that you can bypass email if it ever becomes completely obsolete.
As people opt in and your list of contacts grows, inviting them to interact with one another and form a community is the logical next step. You don’t even need to have your own website to make this happen; use a social network like Facebook — which most people already belong to — and spare them the hassle of signing up for yet another “thing” they have to keep track of. They’ll thank you for the convenience.
It has the added bonus of attracting random outsiders who might stumble upon your page as posts are shared by existing community members, and polling the overall community for valuable feedback is easy. Hal says he’s had a response rate of about 10%, which is admirably enviable from where we’re sitting.
Hal says: “The Miracle Morning community, when I launched it, was like me and my family members and close friends — like 20 people. And now we’re at 15,000 members and it grows by about 100 every day.”
Another launch-related tip that Hal recommends: assemble a launch team. Like the big-picture community, this is composed of a dedicated number of people who are devoted to the idea of spreading awareness of your book, but limited in number (Hal usually cuts off signups at the first 100 applicants). Those lucky enough to make the launch team should be rewarded with certain benefits (maybe a free PDF copy of your book a week before the official launch, for instance) in exchange for helping spread word about the launch on social media and writing reviews in advance of availability for the general public..
Once you have the content down and the launch in place, ongoing marketing is the third element to going beyond the bestseller. “This is really where,” Hal says, “a movement is created.”
“The first month when The Miracle Morning came out, December of 2012, we sold 1,400 copies on Amazon. December of 2014, we sold 7,000 copies on Amazon. Obviously, that has nothing to do with the launch; it definitely has to do with the content — all of the elements we’ve talked about so far in the way I engineered the content — I would say that it’s half content…but it’s really [attributable to] the ongoing marketing efforts.”
What’s Hal’s best tip for ongoing marketing? Podcast interviews! He calls them “the new talk shows,” and much more effective, in his experience, than attempts he’s tried through traditional television networks.
(On an Art of Charm-related note that supports what Hal is saying: being a guest on this podcast sold more books for bestselling author Tim Ferriss — according to Tim himself — than MSNBC and The Today Show put together.)
When Hal gets feedback from his Facebook community members about how they discovered him, the majority tell him that it was through one of the 160+ podcasts he’s done over the past two years.
If you’re a new author, you may not be able to land the more well-known podcasts at first, but there’s value in pitching to smaller podcasts, too. “A great way to find small, but mighty podcasts,” says Hal, “is [by going] to the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes; those are new shows that just launched…that’s a great place to start.”
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about how to build your content to take you beyond the bestseller, what the power of the ritual has to offer the daily routine of you and your readers, the benefits of creating supplemental content that invites reader participation (and a growing database), creative ways to entice a ‘pay it forward’ attitude among your readership, ways to generate useful feedback in your Facebook-based community, how to get on podcasts as an aspiring beyond the bestseller author, and lots more.
THANKS, HAL ELROD!
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AJ Harbinger - author of 1111 posts on The Art of Charm
AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality.
Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.
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