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Episode 331: A Play-by-Play Breakdown of How Rachel Hollis Launches a Book

Oct 07, 2020


Today I'm doing one of those breakdowns of how the experts launch their books (check out my previous one on Tim Ferriss here). And this episode analyzes the moves made by the icon to middle-aged women across the globe: Rachel Hollis. 

Rachel has had extraordinary success, by any standards. Her book, Girl Wash Your Face, sold three million copies JUST on Amazon. She hosts a huge conference, has a Netflix documentary and has millions of followers on social media.

But this sprightly little thing didn't just waltz into stupendous success. In this episode, I meticulously break down what I believe are the four main reasons she's had such an impact:

1) She knows her audience

2) She makes it about them

3) She's consistent

4) She listens to that audience

To understand how she's done that and hear more of my analysis of her many bright moves, check out the episode.

Speaking of the I promised in it, here's the link to the story I read about doing a sales page for a book and here's the link to my sales page for Make Your Mess Your Memoir). 


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Hey there. Welcome to Launch Pad, a podcast hosted by me, Anna David I'm a New York Times bestselling author of many books. I'm now a publisher, and this has been historically a podcast where I interview the world's bestselling authors and entrepreneurs about how to launch a book and what a book can do for your career, but how I've discovered this other secret passion of mine that I didn't know existed, which is to talk, to do a bunch of research and then talk to you guys directly. And I did it with a previous episode on Tim Ferriss.

That was episode 330 for anybody who likes to be a good student and know exactly what I'm talking about and may have missed it. And I'm now doing it today. And just a brief intro. Basically, I'm obsessed. I became obsessed with the show Reply All because I realized I just liked people telling me things, especially if I found them funny.

And maybe you find me funny, but I'd like personally, I want to, you know, spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. I want to be entertained when I'm learning things. So today I am breaking down Rachel Hollis and I don't mean breaking her down emotionally. I mean that I, I have learned everything that is possible to know about Rachel Hollis so that I can tell you how on earth somebody has maintained a spot in the top 10 bestselling books in the country for seven months, sold 3 million copies of one book on Amazon alone, gotten 1.8 million Instagram followers and done a billion other things. And my research comes to you because I've actually heard her speak twice at two different conferences. And I've read the book and I have bizarre things in common with her. So if you don't know who Rachel Hollis is, she's an American author, motivational speaker and blogger.

She is published by a Christian imprint of Harper, but it's like low-grade Christian. There's like nothing too freaky for anybody who's like, eh, that freaks me out. Obviously she has widespread, crazy appeal and she's this little thing she's real cute. And she was this picture. Perfect. she has this had, that's what I'm getting to this husband, Dave Hollis, who used to be a Disney executive. They have recently divorced as of this recording. But it has not slowed her brand down, even though she was just like, I'm them, I'm the mom and the wife. And we're so happy. And we have this lifestyle brand. It doesn't matter. They got divorced. This happens. And the reign of Rachel Hollis continues. So who is this woman? And how did she do this? Well, she decided she wanted to move to LA from the Midwest, decided she wanted to move to LA.

And guess why? Because she dreamed of marrying Matt Damon. Now, here's what: I dated Matt Damon in college. I talk about it plenty. I mean, honestly, like almost any, any chance that I get that I could slip it in, I do. He was just a really cute guy who I met at a party who had a lot of ambition who was a super talented actor. And I would tell everybody, Oh, my boyfriend is a super talented actor and we were 20. And no one really cared though. He was rising. He was making this movie called School Ties when I was with him. Anyway. So not only is she dreaming of dating my ex-boyfriend, but she publishes a book called Party Girl, which is the name of my first book. And when my book was going out to publishers, my agent said, there's this book called Party Girl, but this woman, Rachel Hollis, we got to change the name of your book.

And then it was, she came back to me and said, you know what? That other book didn't make any waves. Don't worry about it. We'll keep your title. And I was like, I'm the reigning party girl? Well, joke’s on me. While all of that was happening. Rachel Hollis was an event planner and she was going around planning events. And then she started blogging in 2008. She started a blog called my chic life that started, you know, just about, about these events and what was going on. And then by 2016. So that's some serious years she put in, it had 600,000 users a month, which is a lot, then her big move. Yeah. Don't you just love modern day life. This was her big move. She showed a picture on Instagram in 2015 that showed her stretch marks. Suddenly The Today Show, NBC News, all these places are covering it, but here's the thing you can be like, Oh, she just got lucky. She was well, set up luck comes to the prepared. And she had been building and building and building and was very well prepared when this, you know, quote viral moment happened. So when I heard her speak for the first time at Traffic and Conversion, which is a conference in San Diego this was in 2018. I heard her speak, and this is something she said, I took notes. So I thought this was really interesting because here I talked to writers about how do they find their audience? How do they know who they're writing for? And she said, I know my girl. And that's what she calls her reader. She is not trying to get men. She says, I know my girl because I've hung out with her every day for 15 years.

I'm actually going to break down the four things Rachel Hollis has just done to perfection. Number one, she knows her audience. She told USA Today about five years ago. I used to mostly talk about food on her blog. I was a mom of young children. I was just trying to figure out what to feed them for dinner. Over time, I started to do a lot of work in personal development and really cared about my own growth and how I was becoming a better version of myself. As I went on that journey. I just sort of took the fans along for the ride, and that has led to where we are today. So I think that is a very interesting idea. The pivot, I will tell you for me you know, I sort of accidentally got branded as the sex dating and relationship expert.

When I wrote a story for Playboy in 2004, and then went on this show, Attack of the Show. And, and I thought, you know, after a while, like, I'm just not interested in this anymore. This isn't me. Can I pivot and start talking about addiction and recovery? And I was able to, and then I was like, okay, I feel like I've done what I can there. Can I pivot and talk about writing? And it turns out, yes, you can. So if you say, well, I want to write this book, but I don't want to be categorized as the woman who, who only writes about being adopted. And that's my brand. No, once you are out there and you get used to being out there sharing about yourself, you can pivot because it is all about your audience. That's what it's about. Back when I was talking about sex, standing in relationships, I had all the media, you could dream up, The Today Show, Fox News, in all the magazines. Today, I don't get that media coverage, but I am a billion times more successful because we now live in a world where it is better to have an audience.

It is not about the gatekeeper. So what she said back to Rachel, which she said is, this is at back at Traffic & Conversion. It needed to take 15 years. I didn't realize then, then that I was building the infrastructure I have today. Now I don't say that to discourage you, to make you go, Oh my God, it's going to take 15 years. By the way, if all of us could be so lucky as to have Rachel Hollis's success in 15 years, that would be amazing. I'd happily build every day, 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. But it's just look at what you've been already doing. We live in a world for better or worse, where we are audience building a lot of us all the time, whether we're aware of it or not, but you don't have to know exactly where it's going.

You just have to see that there are people there and that you make it about them. I'm going to get to that next. That's another Rachel Hollis tip that I've, that I've decided she gives a tip that I have learned from studying her. Let's just say, so Rachel Hollis knows who her readers are. She said at Traffic & Conversion, "I have three types. I have the diehard fan who has known me since I was a food blogger. I have the Target mom who doesn't work. And I have the hustler who has her own business." So here's something interesting. People will say you have to just, you have to have an avatar. You have to know what that person drives, what they read, what they, you know, podcasts. They listen to what books they read and know. Rachel Hollis shows that you can actually have three types of fans, but I will tell you, you might notice those three fans are not that different. They're all women. Somebody who's a diehard fan could easily be a hustler or a Target mom, but they are three and distinct. And she knows who they are. So as you are building your audience and your fan base, think about who they are. And if you don't know who they are, ask them, ask the people who follow you on Instagram. They're there. And once you have a bigger audience survey, your newsletter audience or whatever it is.

So I alluded to this before, but tip number three from Rachel…Oh, sorry. This is tip number two. I'm switching the order. Don't judge. She would never do this. Or maybe she would that's. Her whole thing is she's scrappy. She makes mistakes. I happened to be recording this while I'm in my pajamas, so that a Rachel Hollis move, maybe back to the tip, she makes it about the audience. Now in my stalking, I saw a Facebook post that she wrote on November 22nd of 2017. And she said, #ChicTribe. That's a hashtag. So she has named her people after her own brand—brilliant: chic tribe. "We're looking for people." I'm sure she didn't write this. Someone on her team wrote this. "We are looking for people to spread the word about my new book, Girl, Wash Your Face and to say, thank you for helping me out, you'll get all types of goodies, including an advanced copy of the book before it comes out in February. So if you're interested request to join this group and connect with the rest of the GWYF launch team." But back God knows how many people were probably trying to get into that group and joining that group—well, enough to make the book sell 3 million copies on Amazon alone.

Now she had a book tour and she didn't just kick back and let her publisher set up a tour. She sold tickets and the event was called #Rachexevereve. Yeah, that's a hashtag. So if you bought a ticket, you got a hardcover of Girl Wash Your Face before anyone else, you got cocktail hour and nibbles and a sweet gift bag. You got signing and photo opportunity with Rachel Hollis and you got 15% off all ever Eve. That's her line of products. You got a shop and sip party, plus personal styling opportunities from the ever Eve staff, which sister is how Rachel figures out, what to wear. See sister, like we're talking to our girl, plus you'll get the most fun night ever with your girlfriends. So she has made what is about her all about you, the reader.

And interestingly, if you go to her website for Girl Wash Your Face now, what is there? Ah, this is genius. It's a thank you video. And what it is s a video showing people's Instagram posts about Girl Wash Your Face. So her team, you know, took screen grabs of I don't even know how many women holding up this book. And she's saying, thank you for doing this, but it's brilliant because she's just also showing how many people love her. You know, it just is great social proof and great, a great way to make it about the audience. Totally gonna steal that. I just realized that now here's another thing that she said at the Traffic and Conversion event, which backs up this whole idea. Somebody asked her, cause she's got a documentary on Amazon Prime about her Rise conference. And somebody asked, "Why did you start this conference and this documentary and all of these things?"

The Rise conference as of last time cost $650 for a few days. And she said, "I was running into all these people who were saying, "I wish I could go to your conference, but I can't afford it." So she said, "Let's make it an Amazon documentary." God, it's pretty cool. I'm going to go slightly backward. You don't know I'm going backward, but I'm going backward in my notes. Tip number three, Rachel Hollis is consistent. She said at Traffic and Conversion: it is not about production value. It is about consistency. And that means as a back then at 8:00 AM central time, every single day, she got on Instagram and she would entertain for five minutes and then she would get in your face and issue challenges.

You know, that's kind of her vibe is she's not going to let you sit back and be ordinary. She is going to push you to be your best. That's her whole thing. Now I'm number four of what she does. These are all connected. She listens to her audience. So she's got that breakdown of who those three types are. And she says, cause now she's got a whole line of products, a whole bunch of other stuff. She says, "If your audience isn't buying, that's because you haven't explained it right." Now in terms of a book that is really, really interesting because sometimes we can be so close to our material that we don't see what we don't see.

I will tell you a really good exercise for me with Make your Mess.

A marketing person I knew said, why don't you write a sales page for your book? You know, because for previous books, I'd always just had here's about the book, here's the cover on a website. And I thought, and this person said…I'm actually totally lying. It was an article I read that suggested doing a sales page for your book. And so I looked at this example and actually I can link in the show notes to this example, cause it was awesome. And it basically said break down what this is, why the reader should be interested, who your reader is, break it down into sections. 

But my point about telling you about this sales page, because I still have it up. I can actually put a link to that in the show notes too. But basically it showed me that there was another way to explain my book that wasn't the book summary that we were putting on Amazon. It was how, if I encountered my ideal reader or my ideal client or whatever it is, how would I break it down? What would I want someone else to tell somebody about my book? And so the example that she gave it trafficking conversion. She doesn't try to sell a jacket but she shows her—that's her audience—10 ways she can wear it. You have to educate your audience. So if your audience is not buying your book, it could be that they do not understand it.

And so you need to educate them about why it's important and you can educate them on Instagram, on your blog, on Facebook, wherever you want. She says, your audience will tell you how to make it better. And this is something that you know, I may have talked about before, but basically there, there are a lot of very successful authors who talk about testing covers and titles. Now, a lot of people, when they, when they hear that, they're like, Oh, okay, I'm so guilty of this...they post on Facebook in your group or on your thing, "Hey, you guys, which title do you like better?" Or, Hey, let's do a poll. Hey, what cover, what title, all of these things...the experts will tell you don't bother with that because what people say they like, and what they actually buy are completely different.

If you are going to test something with your audience, the best way is not to ask them, but to say, design a cover four different ways and run Facebook ads to that cover and see which does better. If you're doing a title, do the same thing, that, that people will show you how to make it better rather than tell you how to make it better. Maybe if you're Rachel Hollis and you've got 1.8 million people on Instagram and a separate, or maybe the same 1.8 million people on Facebook, you can just ask them. But most of us need to see what they're going to do. Cause there's far fewer people. Now, she also recommends talking about your product for months before it’s out. That's, you know, we have different, I've employed different strategies, lots of times for lots of my books.

And what I recommend for clients is to do the Beyonce drop, where you don't talk about your book at all, and then you just drop it. And it's already number one in all its categories. And it's got all these reviews.

Everybody's got a different strategy about that, but I will tell you that as of this recording her book, she has a new book, I Didn't See That Coming, coming out. And she has on her website, preorder this book to get an exclusive hour-long class and 16-page workbook personalized by Rachel. It's all about rebuilding your life. When you're going through a hard season, you learn to set intentions and how to take the necessary steps required to build the life you always wanted. So the exclusive hour-long class, when it's someone like Rachel Hollis who is paid a lot of money for an hour, that's a super valuable thing. Any Rachel Hollis fan is going to say, absolutely that is worth it, plus this workbook. So that is definitely something, a lot of people do.

I did plan to do that with Make Your Mess You Memoir, but I never got it together. I mean, I did a launch thing online, but, but really giving your audience a chance to preorder and incentivizing them is a good thing. If that's the strategy you've employed, okay. She said about her audience when 10 people say the same thing, listen. A big part of being a creative person is you give your work to people and you gotta know who to listen to and who to ignore. I am very careful with who I get feedback from, and I am very careful too. And I'm very clear about what sort of feedback I want. When a book is published, I do not want people to give me notes on it, but I will pick a few very select people very carefully. And I will say, this is what I want.

I don't want you to sit here and tell me, it's great cause that doesn't help me. If you really like certain things, great. Tell me, but I need to know what needs work, what isn't clear, what is over explained, all of those things.

And the final thing that I learned from Rachel Hollis when she spoke at Traffic and Conversion is you want scarcity. She said, selling out is key because of FOMO. This is really only relevant if you have, I mean, a book you can't sell out, cause it's all just going to be on Amazon. But, but you know, just that concept. And I think the FOMO and the scarcity is really good. If you're going to do a preorder campaign or you or you're giving bonuses…the one thing that I did for Make Your Mess Your Memoir is we had an advanced reader team that I had someone on my team organizing and we wanted to get over a hundred people in it.

And then what we said, we said, do you want to be an elite messenger? And if you are an elite messenger, what you have to do is you have to recruit three new people to join this group. Once you've done that, then once the book comes out, you got to do these extra things, which is like post this on Facebook, do this, whatever it is, not many things, but the big thing was recruiting through other people. And then you're an elite messenger. And then those elite messengers, I sent them, not just signed copies. Everybody who was in the advanced reader team got a copy, but they also got shirts that say, make your mess your memoir. They got canvas prints that say that, they got all of this stuff. So you cannot pay people to review your book, but you absolutely can reward and thank them.

And whether that's with the free course, like Rachel Hollis does, actual shirts, whatever it is. I love my readers so much that I actually go to the post office, which in Los Angeles is pretty much the most hellish place you can possibly go, but I do it. And so that's the Rachel Hollis breakdown. How Rachel Hollis has been able to become the massive success that she has using these very specific and easy to follow, not easy to do, easy to follow tips and techniques to break it down. Finally, one, she knows her audience too. She makes it about them. Three she's consistent and four, she listens to them. So that is it. Your breakdown of Rachel Hollis. And if you like this way of breaking down the show, I find this super, super fun. If you listen this far, I hope you found it fun or entertaining or both. Please let me know in the form of an iTunes review. And that is at Anna David signing off. I'll see you next time.