In 2007, you self-published a book titled, Goal Digger: Lessons Learned From the Rich Men I Dated. Why did you choose to self-publish?
I shopped it around to literary agents and was told I didn’t have a big enough platform to sell a book, so I did it myself. I thought the whole literary agent/traditional publishing route was a block, and I was on a roll. The book was done, and I just wanted it out. The publishing of the book created a certain platform for me.
How can a book be used to build your brand?
I didn’t make money with Goal Digger, but because I published that book, in my first full year of coaching, I made six figures. When I wrote the book, I figured, okay, I wrote the book, how am I going to make money? Because I wasn’t making money selling $15 books. So I started picking up the phone. I called other authors who specialized in wealth creation for women—Loral Langemeier, Christine Comaford, and Marci Shimoff—and I decided to create a seminar. I did it all myself, but I had 13 speakers. I thought I’ll charge $300 and everyone will come—and they didn’t. I got totally burned out, and I think I was in the red. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was doing everything myself. I marketed the seminar, and a week before Loral Langemeier was in San Jose. I, along with a thousand other people, paid $1000 to see her. And I could hardly give tickets away to my seminar. That was in January, 2008. I wasn’t on any of the social networks. Facebook and Twitter were just getting popular in the business and networking community then.
How many copies of Goal Digger did you sell?
2500. I printed 3500 and I have about a thousand left. I found that it was tough to sell books, and it’s tough to be in the book peddling business. Writing the book is the easy part. Selling it it hard. You have to have an audience—whether your book is fiction or nonfiction. For fiction, it has to be damn good. For nonfiction books, you have to have a marketing plan in place, people following you. Whether you sell financial products or you’re teaching people how to clean their houses in ten minutes flat, you need to have a following.
You have to build an audience first and then release the product. Before you even write the book, you sell it first. First you create the cover of the book and start promoting it—start marketing it on Twitter—before you even write it. Then when people say, “I can’t wait to read it” you say, “Oh shit, I better write this book.” Because why create a product and have it sitting in your garage? The marketing of the book is more important than the book itself. You want to produce quality work, but you also want to know that the marketing is important.
What tools have you found to be the most useful in building your brand? Facebook? Twitter? Podcasts? Newsletters?
Marketing is a wheel with different rungs. There’s social media, TV and radio publicity … networking and word-of-mouth is huge. There’s traditional marketing, there’s having a blog, and there are press releases, but Internet marketing is the way to go.
They all feed into each other, so you have to have everything. If you’re on View From The Bay, you put it on YouTube, you put it on your blog, you put it on Facebook. One of my clients was on an extremely popular national TV show and sold only 423 books. I’ve had clients who’ve sold thousands of books by marketing them online. Because who’s watching daytime television? People are at work. They’re on the Internet. So you have to take that content and repurpose it. It’s all about repurposing.
Being a guest blogger or being on a podcast is important. People are looking for content—for topics and for products to review. Things don’t die on the Internet. After View From The Bay is over, it dies. Your blog articles can be book chapters and your book chapters can be blog articles.
How do you earn your income? Working as a business coach?
I operate as a business coach, but I help business owners become bestselling authors. I help them use their book as a core for their business. Once they create more revenue streams to their core business and their book builds a platform for their brand, they can create new revenue streams, such as speaking. They can earn online revenue or become high-paid speaking consultants. I prefer clients who already have a business and then they can make a book. For example, there’s a clinical psychologist who has a clinical practice. He’s so specialized in his business that he creates a book and sells the book. People want more from him because they can’t go to his office because he’s in Seattle, so I sit down with him and create an online membership package so people can have access to his most recent research findings from Hoboken, New Jersey. He’s creating a business where he’s making an hourly salary of $150 and now getting speaking engagements for $1000–$2000 a pop, selling his book at those speaking engagements, and getting thousands of people to download his package online.
What effects have you seen of the recent changes in the publishing industry?
There have been extreme changes in the publishing industry. People who have a built-in audience should self-publish. There are two reasons to be in the traditional publishing business—distribution and name recognition. It would be great to have Simon & Schuster or Harper or Penguin publish you, but you still have to do the marketing hustle. Distribution is something you can attain by going to a vanity publisher or becoming your own publisher. There are a lot of people who have pretty significant audiences who are self-publishing because they can make more money.
What do you think of e-books?
I think e-books are good for a lead generation tool to give away a special report or an excerpt from your book, but I think you have to have a real book to have credibility. To get on TV and get publicity, you have to have a physical book. A book being available on Amazon is a big thing.
Is there an e-book version of Goal Digger?
I do have an e-book version of Goal Digger, but it’s not in a Kindle version yet. I just haven’t done it yet.
Tell us more about your networking events.
I have a seminar this Sunday: Authors Who Mean Business—how to write and publish your business nonfiction book, how to market your message, and how to make more money. It’s a full-day seminar where people are going to leave with an outline of their book, a title for their book, everything they need to get them started. I’m going to walk them through marketing and monetizing. For $95.
Do you have another book planned?
I have thoughts of writing another book, but I’m going to do things a lot differently. I’m going to make sure I have my audience built out before writing it, plenty of pre-marketing. I wouldn’t write it until I knew what people wanted me to write about. The thing about Goal Digger is that it really needed a marketing push and I didn’t have time because I needed to make money. So I went into Plan B mode—consulting and coaching. I feel like there’s a lot of good content in there and if I put any kind of effort into it, I could sell a lot more. I marketed it for about three months and then stopped. I think you need a good three-to-six months lead up and then a year afterwards. In fact, rather than writing another book, I was thinking about doing a revised and expanded version of Goal Digger.
What are your long-term career goals?
To be retired by the end of this year. (She laughs) To continue to coach business owners and people who are passionate about what they do. I want to continue to support business owners, I want to build my business to a seven-figure-a-year business and expand.
Who are your inspirations?
Victor Cheng, my business coach. Tim Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek. Daniel Pink. The Three Cups of Tea guy (Greg Mortenson), Leaving Microsoft To Change the World (author John Wood), anyone who is doing social entrepreneurship. I think when you focus on doing good, it automatically comes.
Have you read Free by Chris Anderson?
No. Everything that’s valuable is free, but costs time. You can sit on Twitter all day and it’s free, but you haven’t done your grocery shopping or done your job.
What’s a typical day in the life of Alicia Dunams?
I wake up, get my daughter ready for school and get her off to school. I come back, write my e-mail newsletters—one I write daily and two I write bimonthly. Then I’ll write a blog entry, or have someone on my team help me research and write a blog. I have a virtual assistant who does administrative and marketing initiatives for me and who also does client work. She writes success quotes and she helps me with setting up appointments. I have a team of ghost writers, editors, and graphic designers who help me on all my client projects. I connect with my team and then I do two or three client calls a day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I usually go to two networking events per week—either in person or social networking. I’m in some networking groups in San Francisco and I go to one-off things and talk business with people. I meet up with friends who are business owners. It’s all about building and sustaining relationships. I end my day around 3 and pick up my daughter and I try not to work at night. And I usually take Fridays off. And I try not to take things too seriously.
Do you have any marketing advice for unpublished authors?
Really starting their marketing strategy is important, either by getting a team or doing it themselves. Provide really great content and value to your subscriber list. Don’t publish your book and expect everyone to buy it. Give them value. Share your life with them for years and years and years. You’ve got to romance them a bit. Give a lot of things for free—speak for free, give content out. I give a lot of knowledge. And you definitely have to start marketing before you write the book. The only thing you should write is the title and the subtitle. If you’re a nonfiction author, write the book, but don’t expect to make money from the book. Think about what your business is, how you’re going to monetize your book. Unless your book is really good or becomes a bestseller, the way you’re going to make money fast is through your business.