It turns out that the crazy idea that you have a book in you isn’t so crazy after all. A 2002 New York Times article stated that 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them. So we helped BookWorthy seize the opportunity and teach people how to write and publish a book that people will read.
Aaron & Jennifer Smith are self-publishing pros. Together, they have written and self-published 11 books, selling over 600,000 copies. They’d cracked the self-publishing code and wanted to create a way to teach others how to do it as well.
Becoming a published author was once Jennifer’s childhood dream. And now that dream had turned into a self-publishing empire. Along with it came a social media platform in the millions. Most people follow them for their marriage advice. But over the years, they’ve received hundreds of emails from aspiring authors who want to know how to do what they did.
Aaron & Jennifer came to us with an idea: teach other people how to do what they’ve done. So together we dreamed. We developed. And we launched BookWorthy, an online self-publishing course for aspiring authors.
Having their own publishing company and personal brand to manage, Aaron & Jennifer didn’t have the time to make their own dream a reality.
Furthermore, they were so close to the business idea itself that they had a hard time seeing the full picture from an outside perspective. They didn’t know what to name it, what the best product offering would be, how to talk about it, or how to bring it to market. But they wanted to see it happen.
We came in on day numero uno. In fact, Aaron invited himself over to dinner at my (Simon) house to hire me. And he did. So away we went, developing the idea and building something meaningful.
And we did. For real. I mean, just read the self-publishing stories on BookWorthy.com.
- “If it weren’t for BookWorthy, I wouldn’t be a published author. But because of their helpful guidance, I was able to do in 30 days what I had been trying to do for 20 years.” —Tiffany
- “I was stuck and unmotivated for years by the fear of the unknown. But when I found BookWorthy, I finally had a roadmap. Becoming a published author became a reality.” —Laura
- “Writing and publishing a book seemed like a bizarre dream that would never come true. Looking back, what I wish I would have known that all I needed to do was start. Thanks to BookWorthy, I am now a published author.” —Megan
And those are only three of the success stories we heard after getting the project off the ground. There are many, many more.
Here’s what Aaron had to say about the work we did:
“Without Structure, we would’ve never launched our online course. He helped us build the company from the ground up—from branding and product development to finding our first few customers. My experience with Simon is something I couldn’t get anywhere else.”Aaron Smith
By creating the brand proposition around the idea of “Your Story Is Worth Publishing,” we developed a story, product roadmap, and launch-plan built around the 81% of people who have a book inside of them.
Aaron’s original idea was to create an uber-technical course on the nuts and bolts of self-publishing. We started by calling it AdvancedSelf-publishing.com.
But it became clear that most everyday writers are creative—not technical.
So, we went with a different name that focused on inspiring belief in an everyday person to write a book. We wanted a name that didn’t show someone how to do it but make them believe that their book was worth publishing. So we called it BookWorthy.
We had been throwing around the idea of developing an online course from the beginning.
A close friend of Aaron’s had moderate success with an online course. We did some research and saw that it was a great way to teach and communicate lots of information. So we used the online course framework as a place to start.
After six months of content development, script writing, set building, and filming production, we had a course. It was a comprehensive learning experience: 16 video lessons on an online dashboard where students could watch lessons, track progress, and communicate with other students. We also designed a physical workbook to ship to each member’s doorstep a few days after they joined the course.
People can’t believe in something that doesn’t exist. So, for BookWorthy, we invested in a responsive website that wasn’t just informational but also transformational. It was something customers could believe in.
Since the product helps people write and publish a story, we focused on telling stories. At the top of the homepage, we start with a sales video that tells Aaron & Jennifer’s story. About halfway down we feature half-a-dozen testimonials from BookWorthy authors. We also created a Stories page to feature long-form stories from self-published students.
Why startups need brand strategy
Needless to say, this project didn’t take off like The Wicked Witch of the West. During the launch period, we acquired about 100 students within 72 hours. No bad if you ask me. But our super-duper storytelling powers only went so far.
It was difficult to get everyday writers to buy into a premium publishing course. The BookWorthy brand is beautiful. The product is effective. And thousands of everyday writers now believe that they can become published authors. But a startup is like a diesel truck. The engine will only work with enough fuel. And if it runs dry, it’s dead. In the same way, strong execution can only go so far without strategy.
We did some preliminary brand strategy work to understand BookWorthy’s competition. It helped us and better position them in the marketplace. We developed rough customer profiles. And we created character and personality traits so we could communicate consistently. We covered the basics of what Eric Ries calls a Minimum Viable Brand (MVB), but didn’t do enough market research to confirm whether our assumptions were fact or our hopes and dreams from Peter Pan’s Neverland.
Brand strategy is business strategy
A common mistake when building and a new company is ignoring strategy. The launch timeline was so aggressive that we settled for working harder to “get it out there” instead of working smarter and getting it right. But we learned a timeless lesson. When developing a product or service, there’s a difference between getting the right idea and getting the idea right.
When developing a product or service, there’s a difference between getting the right idea and getting the idea right.
That’s why copywriter Steve Bautista wrote: “When people talk to themselves, it’s called ‘insanity.’ When companies talk to themselves, it’s called marketing.” The trick is to make sure your company isn’t just talking to itself. Close the feedback loop on your company or product before you go to market.
Whether it’s pricing or packaging, the best way to spend your limited amount of time or money is on brand strategy. To better understand yourself and the people you’re selling to. Sure, it costs some money upfront but it’ll save you tons of money down the road.
We tell the truth
You may be wondering, “Why does he tell us what they did wrong?” “Isn’t he worried no one will hire him?”
I’m not worried. We tell the truth. Authenticity builds trust and develops deeper, more sustainable relationships. And, if you’re a potential client, we want you to know what to expect when you work with us.
We’re human and we screw up. We make mistakes. And we’re humble enough to tell you when we do. We’re trying to be different. The other consulting firms and branding agencies whose websites you’ll look at and whose stories you’ll read that only tell you what you want to hear. I share the things you don’t expect to because I want to create trust.
If you’re looking to launch a new product, validate growth opportunities, better understand your customers, or refine your business strategy, we can help. Contact us to start a conversation.