Ron Douglas shares how he turned his simple recipe ebook into a New York Times Bestseller and an info marketing empire that generates millions of dollar in sales.
- To learn more about Ron: rondouglas.com
- To learn about Ron’s Facebook Ad business: fivedollarposts.com
- To learn about Ron’s writers website: writerappreciationweek.com
Transcription Episode 74: How To Turn An eBook Into a New York Times Bestseller & Info Marketing Empire – With Ron Douglas
Welcome to Project Ignite Podcast. A podcast designed to skip all the hype, skip the BS, just give you guys real actionable tips and strategies from real successful digital entrepreneurs that you could use to grow your business and income on the internet.
This is your host, Derek Gehl, and I’m really looking forward to today’s interview. Our guest is a really incredible entrepreneur who I met for the first time back in 2011, when I was co-hosting the Underground Online Seminar with Yanik Silver.
He was actually one of our keynote speakers, he’s a New York Times best selling author who has sold over 1.5 million books, this guy has been featured everywhere: Good Morning America, Home Shopping Network, Fox, NBC News, People Magazine, the list goes on.
He’s got a really cool story, 2011 he left a Wall Street job, a six figure job so he could spend some more time with his kids. He went on to earn millions in both online marketing and traditional book publishing.
Today he teaches students around the world his strategies for not only creating success but creating a lifestyle business, you can earn more while working less which is really the ultimate goal here. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Ron Douglas to the show today.
Ron, thanks for being here.
Hey Derek, thanks for having me, awesome intro.
Totally looking forward to this. When I saw you talk back in 2011, everybody was on the edge of their seats, it was fantastic. You’re a wealth of valuable information, you’ve done so much and you’ve done so well, we could talk for hours.
We’re going to drill down into some specifics and with the success you’ve created with publicity and stuff like that. Before we get into that, can you expand on my introduction and just share your journey, how you went from Wall Street to creating a business, a best selling author with a cookbook, to making millions as an entrepreneur.
That’s a long story though.
Coles Notes buddy, Coles Notes.
I’ll give you the short version. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur since way back. I went to business school and I was working for JP Morgan Chase at the time. A friend I’d met at business school got hired after we graduated by a company that did direct marketing for cell phone contracts. He introduced me to email marketing which was the department he was in charge of.
I was blown away that you could make money that way, you could build email lists, give away free things, get them on your email list then sell stuff and you could make money just by pressing a button and sending out a broadcast email and reach thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands of people just by doing that.
Back then you could also tell people to forward those emails onto other people. The marketing reach you could have for free once you had an email list just blew me away.
That’s what I got involved in early on was list building and I struggled along trying to find my niche. I was an affiliate promoting other people’s products and I started out selling information marketing related products and entered the marketing related products. I didn’t really do that well because I didn’t have much of a background or much credentials back then, this was 2001.
I figured I’d jump into something that I dominated in, be a big fish and one of my hobbies was cooking. I figured, “Okay, what can I do in cooking that was different?” I eventually stumbled upon the Copycat recipes niche.
I would teach people how to make their favorite recipes, their favorite dishes from restaurants like: Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, chain restaurants, Red Lobster, T.G.I. Friday’s. I would come up with my version of these recipes and I started a blog and started a email newsletter about it. Then started a digital cookbook, an ebook, put that on Clickbank.
At the time I was doing this part time, I was still working for JP Morgan Chase full time when I was starting this little business part time and it was a hit. People started buying it, affiliates started promoting it, before I knew it, I was at the top of the marketplace for Clickbank for the cooking category.
One of the best things I did was offer people free recipes, five free recipes, free sample recipes if you don’t want to buy, “If you’re not interested in buying, here’s the free sample recipe.”
Everybody that left the page, if they didn’t buy they were offered that and I started building up a huge following for that, started getting momentum and more affiliates promoting it.
I started really investing heavily in Google AdWords which back then was my big breakthrough because with Google AdWords you can get clicks. This was 2003, 2004 at that time. Man, you can get traffic for five to ten cents per click. Long story short, I built this big following, I sold over sixty thousand self-published books, I had over a hundred and fifty thousand subscribers, I had my own platform.
Left my job in 2007, I got a book deal in 2008 with Simon & Schuster mainly because I could sell books and I was a proven entity. I started getting a lot of publicity for it, got on all these different shows especially for a version of a KFC recipe that I had.
I was the guy who had cracked the code on KFC’s secret recipe. I got a lot of media attention for that, ended up on Home Shopping Network a bunch of times and it just dominated and took off from there. Today I’ve sold over 1.5 million books along six titles.
I’ve done six cookbooks, 1.5 million total … It was crazy, it’s like one book in every one hundred households. One out of every one hundred households has a book in the United States where my face’s on the back of it. It’s just such a crazy thing.
When you put it into perspective like that, the numbers are staggering really, incredible. What does your business look like today? Let’s start there.
My business today, I still have the books and bookstores that are selling and I still get royalties from that. I have a bunch of different businesses: I have a publishing business still in the cooking market, where I have an email newsletter and I have advertisers who pay me for ads for that.
I have different products and membership sites related to cooking and my wife pretty much runs that business for me these days. Then I’m focused on two other markets in information marketing: one of them is Facebook ads, I teach people how to profitably run Facebook ads. I do it as like a case study as I’m running Facebook ads for my own niche product in the cooking market.
I share my results and show people what’s working for me and I have students that are paying me for that. I’m also in the market where I teach writers how to build an audience, how to make money from their writing skills, how to get publicity, how to publish a book. I teach people topics related to that, I do coaching and webinars and things like that related to those three markets.
Effectively your entire business right now is information marketing. Your progression was learning how to publish a book, effectively launching the book, becoming successful as a writer and now teaching people how you became successful as a writer and how you mark yourself as a writer, is that correct?
Yeah. That’s pretty much it. I also do some other stuff, I take the money I earn from online and I do real estate investing, I buy income properties. That’s taking on a whole other business of its own. Yeah, essentially I just teach people to do what I do, it’s a bit good formula.
It is a great formula and that’s the whole message I’m trying to get to our listeners here is, so many times people are sitting on something, some kind of knowledge or something that they’ve done well that they could teach other people to do. I’ve watched so many people write books and become successful in this little niche of publishing but then not monetize these other areas around it like what you have with teaching people how to become successful as a writer.
There’s a lot to be learned from how your business has progressed by teaching people doing these different things. Of all the things in your business, what’s your favorite section? What are you most passionate about?
I think I’m most passionate about helping people succeed because I spend a lot of time in the cooking market. That’s more of an entertainment related market, granted people will make the dishes and give you props and say, “Oh, this came out great.” You’re not really helping anybody directly with that. You’re just selling products that are entertainment.
With the coaching and the information publishing that I do to help entrepreneurs and writers, I have more gratification from that because I’m directly helping people when I see how I’m changing lives directly, financially and just helping people overall. It’s more of an impact I believe.
We’re going to shift gears and we’re going to totally jump around here because as you’ve been saying things, little questions have been popping in my mind.
Now, I want to talk about the publishing deal that you got with Simon & Schuster because you said something interesting there and that was you were a proven entity.
I know there’s lots of people out there that have ideas for writing and stuff like that but they have no idea how to publish a book or how to get the attention of a …for example … a Simon & Schuster to get published in that. Tell us more about that and that process.
How did that go? How did you get that deal? When you say proven entity, explain that.
Big publishers like Simon & Schuster and some of the other ones are really getting their lunch eaten right now by Amazon. Their business model was old and antiquated.
They don’t really want to take a whole lot of risks on authors who are not proven or don’t have a high probability of them at least getting their investment back because when they do a book with somebody, they put their own manpower and they put their own resources into it. They have to pay for printing and all these stuff they have to pay for, they have to pay for the advance for the author, it’s an investment for them.
They don’t really want to invest in you unless they’re pretty sure about you. The way you make them sure about you is to show them you’re somebody worth investing in, you’re somebody that can sell books. Once the book comes out, you’re somebody that could move some units.
By being a known entity, being somebody who has credibility, being somebody who’s known as an expert in the field and being someone who has a platform, it’s a lot easier to get a book deal. Like my first book deal with them, I got a hundred thousand dollar advance, that was my first one out of the gate, a hundred thousand dollar advance to do two books with them.
All they really did was take the books I’d already done then put them into their own collection and started putting them in bookstores and stuff. I went through an editing process but it really was just the books I had already written.
They took it and made it with their own distribution and I was able to get four more books also because they saw that I was getting a lot of publicity. I got two more book deals after that first one because of that. It’s just a business arrangement where if they feel they could make money from you, they’ll go with you.
It doesn’t say anything like whether or not you should self-publish, you can sell a lot of units you sell self-published. If you don’t have a book that has a mainstream type of appeal like I did, I had a cookbook featuring restaurant recipes. I was leveraging on the backs of these restaurant names and it was already popular, it was easy to market that right?
Learning chicken recipes from Olive Garden, Red Lobster. It was just a really good niche. That had mainstream appeal, I was able to get into … The book entered Target, into Walmart, on Home Shopping Network, on Scholastic Book Corp, who buy thirty-forty thousand books at a time and sell them at their book fairs.
If you don’t have that type of appeal with your book, there’s no shame learning how to publish a book and self-publishing and using your book to build that credibility that way and establish yourself as an industry expert.
A question for you, when Simon & Schuster, when you did that deal with them obviously they came to you because they saw, “Hey, this guy knows how to sell books. He’s got a channel.” Was there some promotional commitment you had to make where you said to them, “Yeah, I’ll promote this to my database as well?”
Not a written commitment, it was just a general understanding once the book came out I was going to get on board with promoting it. We pitched the book deal to them, we had a literary agent that put together a book proposal … that’s how it usually works.
Then they listen directly to the literary agents. You just pitch your why they should publish your book and within ninety days we contacted a bunch of publishers and we had that book deal with Simon & Schuster within ninety days of pitching it.
That’s incredible. Let’s move from how to publish a book and talk a little bit about the publicity because you’ve had I’d venture to say millions and millions of dollars in free publicity. From what you were saying there, you were generating your own publicity, this wasn’t a Simon & Schuster thing. Or who was generating the publicity there?
I hired a publicist when I first got started, when I first got the book deal. Actually, before I got the book deal, I hired a publicist and I had gotten on Fox Business before I even got the book deal, this was just on my own with a self-published book. This was in 2008, right around a time of the great depression and financial collapse and Lehman Brothers.
They loved the story of former Wall Street guy leaves his job on Wall Street to pursue his passion of cooking. They just absolutely loved that story because it tied right into the theme of what was happening at the time. It was very timely.
I was able to get that first interview with them then I was able to leverage that interview along with my platform that I had to get the book deal, that was a big part of it as well.
It was really timely. What are the lessons that you took out of that that would be applicable to our listeners here in that process?
Publicity wise, the media is always looking for new stories and anybody could get on as long as you could tap into the stories that they look in to cover. If you could fit your story and create an angle for your story that fits what they’re looking for and if you’re an established expert on that topic … you can be just by having your own book.
You can self-publish a book and all of a sudden you’re an expert on that topic, “Derek Gehl, the expert on this topic.”
It’s not as difficult as it seems, the opportunity is there and it’s such a powerful opportunity. A lot of people don’t even think in those terms, don’t even pursue it because they say, “Oh, it’s not for me.” Or they have stage fright or they just don’t think big like that.
One of the people that really got me to think big like that was Tom Beal, I don’t know if you know Tom Beal?
Yeah, I know Tom.
He was one of the guys I used to talk with a lot back when he worked for Mike Filsaime. He opened my eyes because he was doing some stuff with a football player … I forget the guy’s name, a famous quarterback from the Bills … He was doing some stuff with him and helping him get publicity and he told me like, “Your story has legs man, you should really try to get it out there.”
That’s one of the big lessons, just try to pursue that opportunity if you have a story that fits into what the media is looking for, what the media is currently covering.
With that first story, that first one, you didn’t have a publicist at that point, you landed the Fox one yourself?
I had a publicist, I had hired a publicist to get the Fox one, I didn’t have a book deal yet.
Got it. If you want to go that route, is a publicist required?
It helps a lot mainly because the publicists have the contacts. Have the correct contacts, you could make the contacts yourself or you could pay them a couple thousand dollars. Twenty five hundred or something like that depending on who they are, to try to get you in the door.
I guess this is the big unknown for most entrepreneurs especially when they’re getting started is when you say, “Hire a publicist.” The immediate gut feeling is, “Well, I’m not a celebrity, how do I hire a publicist?” What does that look like? Can anybody go hire one? What cost are you looking at?
Yeah, anybody can hire a publicist, it’s up to them to determine whether they want to work with you and whether they think they can get you publicity.
It’s just that if you’re an expert at something, you can hire a publicist to try to get you spots on television and local radio and newspapers related to the topic that you’re an expert in.
You don’t have to be a celebrity. If you look at the people that get on TV, how many of them do you not recognize at all? If you watched the new show and they just introduce some guy and you’ve never seen him before but he’s the expert.
I’ve been on TV a few times and I’m pretty sure most people have absolutely zero idea who I am, but if you’re that expert … Question for you, when you get that publicity, you’ve been on a big show, what is the immediate result or impact you feel from that? Is there an immediate result or is it more of a credibility long-term thing?
Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t, I’ve had both. I’ve been on shows for instance I was on Fox & Friends a couple of times. One time in particular they took the recording in Fox & Friends and it got syndicated right on Yahoo News, I was on the front page of Yahoo news and that generated a ridiculous amount of traffic.
The publicity helps as well especially if you’re on shows related to your product. I had a direct product which was the book that I was trying to sell and I was on these shows, I had that brand awareness.
I couldn’t see the immediate tracking of if someone watches the show then goes to the bookstore and buys the book. All I know is the months that I was on TV were some of my biggest sales months in book stores. That’s having an impact and people say, “Oh, I’m going to get this book.”
Or people see the show then they happen to be by the book store and they ask for it, “You guys have this book?” It’s top of the mind awareness that helps them buy it. People could just go to Amazon too and order it as they’re watching the show.
Let’s shift gears a little bit more and get back to how to publish a book. I want to talk about the process of creating the book, marketing the book and turning that a little bit into a business because I know you work with a lot of writers and a lot of authors who obviously want to model the success that you’ve had as an author.
Publishing has changed so much, as you said Amazon, stuff like that, for the average person who has an idea … Let’s say it’s not a mainstream idea that’s going to get that kind of America’s most wanted recipes publicity, what does the process look like today?
What do you coach people to do? Obviously we can’t go into the minutia but where’s the opportunity for writers? How are they building followings? What are you advising?
I don’t really advise fiction writers to be honest, I don’t know much about fiction. It’s mainly non-fiction and it’s mainly writing a book about a topic that you want to be an expert or perceived as an expert in.
I tell people to look at their background, what do they know more about than the average person? Use that as the basis or either that or you could partner with an expert on a topic that you’re really interested in then you could use the book as a form of lead gen is what I really typically … because not everybody is going to have a home run with their book.
You could put it on Amazon, sell a bunch of copies but really you could use the book or at least a chapter of the book in terms of getting people on an email list, getting people in a group on Facebook or getting people just to follow you in general.
Use that as lead bait to attract a certain type of person. If you’re a golf instructor, you might write a book on how to improve your golf swing then you use your secrets as lead gen to get people on your email list or interested in improving their golf game.
Now they’re on your email list, they look at you as the expert. Then you can sell other type of information products where they’d be: a home study course or some type of online workshop or some type of offline seminar or summit or you could package it together and sell coaching or you could have some type of master mind group, hire ticket items than just a book, you’re limited.
You can always sell it for maybe fifteen bucks, unless it’s some magical book or something, some type of special book but usually ten to fifteen bucks.
You really want to use that as a front-end lead gen to build a following and establish yourself as an expert is the main thing I teach people how to do.
I think that’s a powerful message especially as you said we’re not talking fiction, I should have made that clear. I never talk fiction, it’s all in more the education, non-fiction if you will, that is what we’re talking about.
The big message there guys for all listeners here wanting to learn how to publish a book is it’s not about making money selling books, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about lead gen and it goes back to I think Ron what you talked about initially, the lesson you learned very early on.
The opportunity that you saw which I don’t believe has changed much over the past however many years, decade plus you’ve been doing this and it’s a way to build the list then monetize that list going forward which is absolutely key.
Just as we start to wrap things up, my last question for you is for people that are just getting started down this path, what are the biggest opportunities you see online today with what you’re doing? Where should people be spending their time? Any final words of wisdom?
I would say spend your time learning how to capitalize on one traffic source: just find one really good traffic source and learn everything you can about it, learn how to build a following, learn how to reach your target market with that traffic source.
Then really learn your market and what makes them tick and what they really want, what their problems are, what type of solutions are they looking for. Learn what they currently spend money on, what are they currently buying?
You don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel, you can position your product as different and better or faster or more efficient or less expensive, less cumbersome, some type of competitive advantage but you can base it on what people are already buying in that market place.
I would say when you combine those two things and really known your market, really knowing how to craft an offer that your market wants then mastering one traffic source, it could be mastering how to get affiliates to promote your product for you.
How to go to events, meet people, have an affiliate program, get people who already have email lists to promote your product or it could be mastering how to run Facebook ads and how to reach a target market on Facebook and how to do it profitably which is one of the things I teach people to do. I have a course called Five Dollar Post which teaches people how to do that affordably.
When you combine those things, you can always make money, it’s like those skills that I just mentioned are skills that ten years from now you’ll still be making money using those skills. It’s just a core basis of direct marketing I suppose and how to do it online.
I totally agree and I just want to go back to that point of find one traffic source and master it because that’s such an important message particularly today because I’m sure you’ve experienced this right now, it feels like every week there’s something new, whether it’s a Snapchat or a Periscope or a new this or a new that or a whatever.
All of a sudden we’re doing too many things and we’re not doing any of them well, I’m watching people spread themselves so thin and as a solopreneur which so many of our listeners are, you could only do so much, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Where’s my market? Where’s the biggest opportunity?”
Let me ask you Ron, if you were going to pick one place today to focus your time entirely on traffic gen, where would it be?
I would have focused on Facebook to be honest. Facebook also encompasses Instagram, that you can run Facebook ads and reach Instagram as well, I really think that’s where the hot market is.
It also depends on what you’re selling too, if you’re selling something that reaches more professional people, maybe lengthen is your thing, selling something business to consumer, you can’t go wrong with Facebook for sure.
When you just look at the shared numbers of the people that are on Facebook, what are they at now? 1.5 billion or something, crazy like that. Chances are your market is there, it’s a case of whether or not you can reach them.
When you’re talking Facebook as well, are you focused primarily on Facebook ads paid advertising or are you also using the free component of it?
I do a little bit of both but it’s become increasingly difficult to reach people for free on Facebook and they do that by design because they want people to advertise.
When you run ads on Facebook you build your own following organically as well because people would just see your ad and like your page after seeing your ads, so you build an organic following from that and the more ads you run, the bigger that gets. It’s really a lot cheaper to target people who you have an affiliation with, who like your page or people who follow you than it is to target complete strangers on Facebook.
I’ll just give your audience a tip, one of the things I like to do is to find splinter markets. If I was targeting somebody in make money online market, I might not go for that directly, I might not target people who are fans of Ryan Deiss and you or Yanik or any of the top guys because everybody is targeting that.
I might find a splinter market like writers for instance, I can sell writers, I probably shouldn’t be giving this away.
Never mind, I’m writing. This is great.
I could sell writers like they need a blog, they need a list building, they need traffic, they need all the same stuff that make money online people need but they are a lot cheaper to target.
The same thing with fitness, it’s hard to run fitness related ads on Facebook because they have all these restrictions of how you can’t make fitness related claims, you can’t show before and after pictures and promise people they’re going to lose weight.
It’s like the hater rule, Facebook doesn’t want people to really be persuasive with their ads, they just want generic stuff, they really just want people, sending people to content and sending people to blog post and information then trying to market them on their own site instead of on Facebook.
In general what they want, people keeping their users right on Facebook and getting them to like your page and stuff like that.
I was talking about the fitness market, with the fitness market instead of targeting fitness people, you could target people who are into cooking, which is another one I probably shouldn’t have given away but the cooking market goes right into fitness.
I can’t tell you how many of my advertisers that advertise with me are fitness folks or diet, health and weight loss because I like to tell people that I get people fat with the recipes then I sell them weight loss solutions, I’m the problem and the solution.
Guys what you just heard that was an absolutely brilliant Facebook strategy there because it’s such a powerful way to think and again so many people say, “Oh, I got to target people who want to make money online, I’ll go directly after that.”
If you can go after what Ron called a splinter market … I love that term … If you can go after these splinter markets not only are you going to lower your cost of advertising, you’re also going to be able to create a far more custom message that really speaks directly to them which is going to get you a much higher result as well which is fantastic.
That was a huge tip and thank you for sharing that, that was awesome. Before we wrap up, Ron where can people connect with you? Where can they find out more about what you’re doing with writers? What you’re doing with Facebook? Stuff like that.
If you just want to go to my personal blog, it’s at rondouglas.com.
If you’re interested in Facebook ads, I have a whole program for that, it’s at Five Dollar Posts … Five spelled out … fivedollarposts.com where I teach people how to target Facebook ads with little five dollar ads that target different interests related to your market, how to laser target in and save a lot of money.
Because the main thing is you don’t want to target everybody, you don’t want to target 1.5 billion people and you don’t want to target all the freebie seekers, you just want to target the people who are interested in your product or your service or your email list and I’d teach you how to do that as well.
If you’re interested in writing and writing for a living and writing books and how to publish a book, we have this great resource we recently launched that’s going on right now, it’s called writerappreciationweek.com where we have a bunch of free stuff that we’re giving away to writers to help you monetize your writing and we also have a special offer there where you can join our writer community.
A lot of people have succeeded in that community just learning from each other and learning how to best monetize their writing skills.
Just to be clear guys for the listeners here, when he’s talking to writers, he’s not talking fiction, he’s not talking you have to be writing the latest romance novel, correct?
You’re talking about people that are writing information products.
Yeah, information marketers. We cover a little bit of fiction related stuff related to Amazon, Kindle; how to put on there but we’re more catered towards people who are non fiction and just using their book to establish themselves as an expert and sell books that way, and use as lead gen.
Ron, thank you so much for taking the time to be here and sharing so many tips, strategies and some real awesome ones there on Facebook then that was fantastic. Again, thanks so much for your time here today Ron, it was a pleasure having you.
Thank you Derek, my pleasure.
All right everyone that was best selling author and digital entrepreneur Ron Douglas.
As always any links that Ron mentioned there will be included in the show notes, if you head over to projectignite.com/podcast and you’ll find Ron’s interview featured there, if you don’t find him just search Ron, you’ll find him and you’ll find all the links to the resources that he just mentioned.
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Now it’s time to take the tips, tools and strategies you learned here today and apply that final, essential ingredient that’s going to make it work for you and that ingredient is, you got it, action. Go for it, take action, apply what you’ve learned and stay tuned for more info-packed episodes of the Project Ignite podcast.
This is your host Derek Gehl, signing off.