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Exciting news! I just signed Undisruptable’s first international deal through the nice people at Penguin Random House.
Getting it released in another country has been a long-term dream. I did not expect that first country to be … South Korea.
I love it all the more for its unexpectedness. How did it happen?
It’s been quite the journey, and instructive if you’re thinking about putting a book out. Or trying anything new and difficult.
The worst person you know just made a great point
I read a pile of business books over the holidays. I haven’t had much time to read in the last year. It’s important to keep an open mind, so I made sure to include some writers whose work generally makes my skin crawl.
Among the worst is Grant Cardone, a real estate hustler with a massive social presence built on nonstop posts of his’n’hers pimped Bentleys and Gulfstream G550s.
I listened to Cardone’s book The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure. I came away from it with two main points:
1. What a dick.
2. Cardone’s main point is … right.
Time to roll out the useful meme The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point :
Cardone’s core message is that everything is much harder and takes longer than you expect. So it will need ten times the effort you first thought, and you must smash into it with that expectation.
There’s no “hack”. You will have to do a lot more work than other people.
So much work, so little result
Launching a book into a pandemic is at least a 20x effort.
The book got epic PR coverage at launch in June, around $400K worth of media including full-page appearances in The Australian and all the Newscorp dailies.
We went into lockdown that week, and all that PR benefit went in the bin. During lockdowns, nobody wants new authors or business advice. They want something escapist from writers they know.
So I spend the second half of 2021 mapping out rescue plans. My God it was a grind.
I remain eternally grateful to the blog readers who responded to my request for online reviews to crank up the algorithm. That got the book to #1 business book on Booktopia’s review ratings, where it’s stayed. But the sales there remained tens rather than hundreds.
I spent my entire book advance money on digital marketing. People clicked in their thousands, went through to the site and … did not buy the book.
My digital marketing guy, who has delivered solid campaign results across all our other businesses, remains mystified at how hard it is to get people to buy a book. The funnel fills up nicely. Then nothing comes out. It remains an ongoing mystery.
I tried a bunch of labour-intensive capers, like Fathers Day video shout-outs. 85K people watched my ibis video, but few copies sold.
Where many small steps gets you
As soon as the stores opened I visited dozens of them, signing copies and doing a sales pitch to the floor staff. I think it’s important to do projects where you have to go back to the bottom of the ladder.
In our own businesses I don’t do sales prospecting any more because we have better people to do that.
With the book, I’m just an inexperienced travelling sales rep. And I loved it. Book store people are my people. Getting direct feedback from the coalface was informative and energising.
All of this takes a ton of time and energy. There was not a moment I was awake during 2021 when I wasn’t thinking: HOW THE FUCK CAN I GET PEOPLE TO BUY THIS, IT’S A GOOD BOOK.
Not a single one of these tactics moved the dial much at all.
And yet the cumulative effect of all of them has been … nowhere near what I expected or hoped for.
Sorry that wasn’t the inspirational lesson you thought I’d drop there, was it?
The experience eats at away your entire sense of self-worth. Strong flashbacks to my Unpopular Kid At School years.
The people who like it, really like it. My spirits are lifted when I see people put glowing reviews on LinkedIn or wherever. The strength of that feeling is a good validation of the 1000 True Fans theory. I deeply appreciate every online share, every time you mention it in a conversation.
Random stuff you didn’t plan will happen
And yet, other random things that you hadn’t planned will happen. A big plug from Zoé Foster Blake was a major unplanned win.
I should have known it would be this way. Looking back, it was pretty much the same with our businesses. You have the grand vision. You put maniacal effort into all the tactics you think are going to get you there. And they don’t work much at all.
But then, after an eternity of stifled hopes, a trickle of other, random wins from no discernable source. And eventually it gets momentum if you keep working because Grant Cardone is right.
You can track the individual results of everything along the way and get really depressed. Be as accountable as you can, but you have to have faith that your efforts will be returned from strange directions.
Why South Korea bought the book
Anyway, South Korea! How great are their bookshops and libraries?
I love it, it’s so much cooler than being published in some regular whitebread country. How did we land the deal?
There was no strategy at all. The South Korean publishing team just got in touch with the Australians and asked if they could publish it.
I asked why they liked it. I imagined South Korea to be a great place to earn a reliable salary with one of their many huge global brands. Not so much any more.
Okhee Shin, the South Korean publisher, said:
“Lately, young people in South Korea tend to start their own business with low investment, since the mass unemployment became extended. Moreover, the number of people who retired early surges due to restructuring. The young generation literally cannot help but start a business. No matter what the initiative is, they have to be responsible for the outcomes. We find this book offering mindsets ranging from management to relationship skills.”
Not many Australian books make it to South Korea, which is an honour. Izzy Yates, Head of Penguin Publishing Lab, said:
“We are always thrilled to sell international rights to any of our books and it’s especially great to see an Australian business book transcend our market to find a home overseas. Having a book picked up in South Korea doesn’t happen every day, but I’m not surprised the publishers there loved Ian’s writing and colourful entrepreneurial tales.”
I’m so excited to learn more about South Korea.
Why I do the writing
I don’t care about building my personal brand or whatever name you want to give it. From the start the two reasons for the blog/book have been:
1. I like writing
2. It will lead to meeting interesting people and unexpected adventures
South Korea ratchets the unexpected adventures up to 11. So many questions. Will the Australian humour bits in the book translate? Will I ever know? What will the PR experience be like?
As a friend pointed out,
“It’s essential you become massive in South Korea so that your posters will be all around the airports, and you will become their De Rucci man.”
South Korea, I’m ready to stand next to your bed.
If you’re not a blog regular and you haven’t bought a copy of Undisruptable, get in before you get replaced by smarter, more motivated talent from South Korea.
It’s still the #1 business book by Customer Review rating on Booktopia, check it out.
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