Episode 315: Tyler Wagner on How to Hit the WSJ and USA Today Bestseller ListsJun 10, 2020
Anna David: 00:01 Hi Tyler.
Tyler Wagner: 00:04 Hi, how are you?
Anna David: 00:07 So, okay, so before just now before I hit record, I was saying how it's amazing to me how many people do kind of the same thing like we do and how no one's a competitor, that it's all about collaboration over competition. Would you say that's true in this publishing, this wild, wild West?
Tyler Wagner: 00:29 Yeah, I do. I think for the most part, I think it is that way. And that's the way, like my mind works that way in business. Like I don't really see anybody as a competitor. I think there's always a way to work together. You just sometimes got find it.
Anna David: 00:47 Yeah. It's interesting because I remember I was thinking about it this morning, Michael Dash is the person who connected us and he showed me your website and I go, no, no, no, no. Don't connect me to him. He's my competitor. And he's like, well, no, he wants to talk. He's open to being connected to you. So maybe you're not. And, and somewhat people like you really opened my eyes to what's possible, how much further we can get by collaborating. Right?
Tyler Wagner: 01:12 Yeah, no, of course. And I'm so glad Michael did. Cause I mean look, stuff has already come out of me and you, you know, collaborating. So, and I think there's going to be a lot more in the future.
Anna David: 01:23 So let's talk about your journey and well first of all, let's talk about you were a college student and then you became a bestselling author. How did that happen?
Tyler Wagner: 01:36 Yeah. So well it could be really long, but I'll shorten it for you. So basically, so I was 20 years old in college and that was two years in and I pretty, after two years I realized that the path, like the end goal of me graduating would basically be me working in a corporate environment, which was not actually of interest like to me. And what it came down to is in my mind, I was like, I actually would rather live at home with my parents being broke, then work a corporate job. And I think that's kind of like the switch that an entrepreneur kind of needs is like, it's like, I'm either going to make it or I'm going to die trying. Like that's it. So I had that mentality, I drop out and I wanted to do public speaking and what I did to basically keep learning cause I had dropped out of school was I was reading books and then reaching out to conference coordinators and asking them if I could help out in any way. Because I was an aspiring entrepreneur, but I was also $80,000 in student loan debt and I did not have five or 10 grand to give to come to your event.
02:50 And surprisingly I literally got to like a hundred plus events for free. I mean I did put sweat equity and I ended up meeting people like Tim Ferris. Like it was, it was crazy. And I basically just connected the dots on all of these public speakers that were successful, they all had books and most of them were also like bestsellers. So I decided to write my first book at 28. Either came out in my late 20 or 21 in that area, and it hit Amazon bestseller. And then from there I did speak here and there. But what took off a lot quicker was people kept asking me like, dude, I thought you were going down a bad path. Like you just dropped out like six months later. You're like a best selling author. Which is the way it goes when you grow up in a small town. It's like everybody kind of knows everybody's business. So either way, that's how it all happened. I helped a few people for free and then they gave me testimonials. They got similar results to me. And now eight years later we've helped almost a thousand people become authors.
Anna David: 03:55 And Tim Ferris was a huge inspiration to you, right? Wasn't it reading the Four Hour Work Week that kind of got you going on this?
Tyler Wagner: 04:03 Yeah. Yes, I did. That's pretty crucial part. So when I read that book in college, that is what basically equipped me, I felt mentally, to be able to succeed as an entrepreneur. So that kind of, I knew I wanted to drop out, but I felt like that was my compass. So that gave me the courage to drop out.
Anna David: 04:23 And what's interesting is, you know, that book is like goes down in book launch lore because everybody who's in this field knows, and many people who are not even in this field know that, he didn't have a platform and he knew he wanted a bestseller. And so what he did is he strategically went around to conferences, kind of like what you did, like you went to South by Southwest, he got these influencers to support him. Is that, so was he an inspiration in terms of how he launched as well?
Tyler Wagner: 04:52 You know, when I launched my book, I actually didn't know how he had launched his, but now that you're saying that, that's definitely similar because what had happened is I was building all of these relationships with all these conference coordinators and a lot of them were already pretty successful or very successful entrepreneurs, and I never asked them really anything. Right. It was, you know, obviously to come to their event, but it was more me just helping for free and building a relationship. And then six months later when my book came out, all of them were willing to support me because I had supported them along the way and that they were mentoring me. So it was definitely mutually beneficial. But I feel like it's the Gary V type thing and you just keep giving. Then every once in a while when you ask, it's pretty easy to get a yes. So I had a very big launch team when I launched my book because of that.
Anna David: 05:46 And speaking of Gary V, you've had him on your podcast.
Tyler Wagner: 05:51 Yeah. That was crazy. That was crazy too.
Anna David: 05:56 How did you pull that off?
Tyler Wagner: 05:56 Yeah. One of the things I say is the more people I interview, the better my life seems to get. So that was a little bit random is I actually, I interviewed this woman and then at the end of the interview she was like, Hey, do you, is there like, who is your, like, what guests would you want to have the most? And I said, Gary V. And then like two hours later she sends me a screenshot of a tweet. So she tweeted out and was like, Hey, you got me on this guy's show. It's a short show. When I first started my interviews were like 15 minutes and he tweeted back, it was like, fine, like schedule with my assistant. And I was like, okay. And I reached out, I was going to do it, you know, like over the web. And then one of my buddies was like, dude, even, even though it's just 15 minutes, you should like try to go in person, like see if he'd be down to me in person. So I reached out, they said yes. So I actually flew to New York to his office and interviewed him in person. Which was cool cause him and Tim Ferris are like my two biggest entrepreneurial inspirations and I was able to meet them pretty early on in my career.
Anna David: 07:03 Wait a minute. So this woman, she didn't even know him. She just was going on your dream guests and tweeted at him and he responded.
Tyler Wagner: 07:12 Yeah, I don't believe she knew him. I don't think so. She may have interacted with them before on Twitter, here and there, but I don't think they were like close friends and yeah, literally it just must've been like, you know universal, just timing or something, you know, like he must've been on his phone and she basically asked him for like 15 minutes of his time to come on my podcast, that it would make my day. And like immediately after he just said fine, like hit up my assistant here.
Anna David: 07:45 Amazing. Well, so how many books have you written or co-written at this point?
Tyler Wagner: 07:54 It's probably actually around a dozen, but I want to clarify that some of these, a majority are kind of like smaller Kindles. I probably only view probably like four of them as like real or five as like legitimate books I would say that are like paperback as well. And that's my first one when I was 20. And then I've also done four co-authoring books, that have actually 99 other people in them. So those are pretty thick books as well.
Anna David: 08:24 Oh yeah. So let's talk about those. So it's kind of like the chicken soup for the soul, way of doing a book. So, cause I'm my company is actually now doing something like that where basically, you give people the opportunity to buy a spot in a book that you guarantee you will be a success. Is that how that works?
Tyler Wagner: 08:48 Yeah. So that's what I did. And I think it's actually, so this is what I'll tell you about the journey of it is, it was definitely worth doing and it was an amazing experience. It's definitely a lot of work to manage like a hundred different authors. So I will say just be prepared that it's awesome. But after four I kind of was like, I'm personally not going to do them anymore, but it was definitely very helpful and it was really cool to like, kind of, as you know, working with one author is incredible and like, it's kind of like, it's their child, like it's somebody's book, it's a very personal experience. So to do that with a hundred people at once, it's very fulfilling once it's finished. But I, I'm just, you know, making sure people are aware, it's definitely a bumpy road. Like all hundred never turn in their chapter on time. That's never happened. I don't think it ever will. So it's a fun experience.
Anna David: 09:47 Okay. For the record, what I'm doing, we're aiming for 20 spots and that sounds like so many, I cannot imagine trying to corral a hundred people.
Tyler Wagner: 09:58 Yeah, yeah. Not easy. But definitely better.
Anna David: 10:03 So, and so the idea is you are allowing people to have the credibility of being a part of a bestselling book without having to do an entire book themselves. Is that what it is?
Tyler Wagner: 10:15 Yeah. That was kind of the selling proposition and the way that it kind of works from like my, the business side. Right. Cause on that, like what I did is there was a hundred people in each book. I charged $300 per spot. So I really didn't like, I didn't profit much like on the upfront, but what did happen going back to relationships is they got to see and be involved in the experience and see the results, I was able to get them all. And then actually a decent amount of them. I'd say out of each hundred I probably had 15 to 20 those hundred that then converted and became like one-on-one clients in our higher end services. So it's definitely, it's a great top of [inaudible]. It's really fun to do it in a community. You know, it's definitely a fun experience.
Anna David: 11:01 Fun being a relative word. It sounds like a nightmare on a certain level. And were those books, okay, so your artistry if you will, is you know how to make a book, a wall street journal and USA today bestseller. Can you tell me how you do that?
Tyler Wagner: 11:20 Yeah, for sure. So the process to doing it, so those lists, they are recorded basically from BookScan, right? So it's, they are a hundred percent based on book sales which is, you know, very good things. So it's very measurable. So we promote from Sunday to Saturday. And what I've done over the past eight years is just build up relationships with people that have really learned to email lists of readers that have basically opted in saying they want to be notified when books are discounted and in specific niches. So most of the books we do are nonfiction, like business, personal development. We can also do fiction. It's just most of our clients are nonfiction. And we will do these large email blasts from Sunday to Saturday. And the one of the tricks is you don't want all of your sales to come from just Amazon. You want them to be diversified.
12:13 So we have, we promote Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. Most people probably don't even know what Kobo is. It's the Walmart bookstore. So it typically pans out, let's just say on average 10,000 sales are made during that week and say like 8,500 are on Amazon, a thousand are on Barnes and Noble and like 500 are on Kobo. And you know, depending on the competitiveness of the week, each week's different. Another kind of tip is summertime seems to be way less competitive. We got somebody number two, Wall Street Journal and I think they only sold like 6,500 copies in a week and they were number two. And then whereas you know, if you kind of launch first week of January, you know, you're probably looking at more like needing like 12 to 15,000, something along those lines.
Anna David: 13:08 And one of my clients, I think, you know, she used your service and I think she was, I don't know number 10 on those lists. I don't even know.
Tyler Wagner: 13:18 I think she got, so I think she was number six or seven on wall street journal and then she was number 75 on USA Today. So that's, that might be another thing. If you want me to kind of explain how like a lot of people think that Wall Street is harder because it has less spots. The way Wall Street's actually done it though is they have, it's like six different lists. So it's like a hard cover list, an eBook list. And then that's for just nonfiction. Then they have a fiction list and some other ones in there as well. But USA Today, there's 150 spots, but it includes all the genres. So you're going up against, you know, the 50 Shades of Gray, Harry Potter, all those types of books. And people might not know this, but like fiction books get sold way more than nonfiction. So it's just, it's a whole other league to go against. So either way you know, number 75 on USA Today equated to number seven on the Wall Street Journal. And that's very, very typical. We've actually, we've done a little over a hundred of these launches and only one actually didn't hit both. They hit number eight on Wall Street and missed USA Today completely. All the other ones are usually top hundred on USA Today. And then top 10 on wall Street Journal.
Anna David: 14:45 And they must hit other lists too. Do they sometimes hit the New York Times list?
Tyler Wagner: 14:51 So [inaudible] you've had a New York Times is the New York times is a little different and I think like 10 years ago or more, it used to be like even more different. So I'll say no to that. We are actually working on a New York Times campaign right now. They have an audio book list. So I don't know, it's kind of like a beta version right now. So in a few months maybe we'll do another interview. I'll have an update for you. But it's an opinion piece. So that's the problem is I, we always tell our clients like, there is a chance, but it actually, it has to be the paperback or hardcover sales, not the eBook. And it's also, even if you get the sales of like top 10, they could choose not to put you on for whatever reason they decide because it's an opinion piece. So that one's a little trickier.
Anna David: 15:46 And so talk about this. You built relationships with these people with the big email list. What does that mean? Who are these magical people?
Tyler Wagner: 15:55 Yeah, for sure. So basically over the years I wasted probably over a hundred thousand dollars, like a lot of money on like trying out all these eBook sites. If you go online and type in like eBook sites or something, there's actually websites out there that have blogs that like list like hundreds of thousands of them. There's a ton of them. The thing is, is that most of them, I don't know if it's that they're, I don't want to say they're big. I don't know if it's that they're fake or they just don't work well it's one or the other. But from trial and error, you know, you pay him a hundred bucks, they say they're going to mail their list of like 70,000 to 80,000 people. And this is just an example of one. And then typically you get like five to 10 sales, you know, which to me is like something's off with that ratio, like that's very low conversion. So either way I tried a bunch of these and then I found like 10 to 15 depending on which niche it's in, that actually did perform well. They got me like a thousand sales, got me 2000 sales and then it kind of clicked because I knew how Wall Street and USA Today worked. I just didn't know how to get that amount of sales basically to hit it. So then, then it just kind of clicked. I was like, if I bring all like 15 of these email lists together, we will be able to hit those lists. So that's, that's how it happened. Trial and error and then bring them together.
Anna David: 17:27 And so basically you pay them. And you have them send it out all at once and you've got it down to a system.
Tyler Wagner: 17:37 Yeah, exactly. And just to give an example, it's like if, cause a lot of people know BookBub that they're not one of our like direct partners, but it's almost as like, it's kind of like having like 10 to 15 BookBub's in a sense. Right. All, all lined up and like all ready to fire during one week.
Anna David: 18:00 Yeah. And for anyone who doesn't know, BookBub is, this is the site where you can apply to have your book featured and it's pretty expensive. I mean, it's like $800. It's not cheap and it's incredibly competitive. I will admit, I have been rejected by BookBub, but I don't know anyone who hasn't been. So nobody really knows how they pick or what their, you know, what their criteria are. But I've heard anecdotally that it just, it doesn't result in as many sales as you might think.
Tyler Wagner: 18:29 Yeah. See, I've heard it's, and that's kind of the difference I think with our services. Like, we're actually, and this is how all of our services aren't just the way that my brain works with doing business. I just think like if you want something and I can provide it to you, I'll guarantee it or a full refund. So that's just the way we do things for everything. But with BookBub, I've actually heard kind of both sides of the coin. There was a fiction author that I spoke to who did not end up becoming a client, but he was a potential and he said he used BookBub, I think he paid 800 bucks and got like 3000 sales. So you know when I told him our fee to get like 10,000 sales, he was like, okay, that's way off. Like no way am I doing that. And I was like, that's fair enough. But he didn't hit a list. So even though he got 3,000 sales, he didn't hit USA Today with his fiction book. And so either way. And then I've heard, like you said, people pay the 800 bucks and it just doesn't convert well with their list, and they get like a hundred sales or something, you know? And that's kind of, that's a miss.
Anna David: 19:32 So tell me what, and your website is chock full of these, but what can a book do for your career? What have you seen your clients, what has transformed? What has this done for them?
Tyler Wagner: 19:46 Yeah, a good recent example is the Bezos Letters. That one's really going on and obviously, you know, just to bring it up quickly the COVID did mess a few things out. As I think it did for everybody. But I was actually speaking to the coauthor of the Bezos earlier this week, I think it was on Monday. And so we launched their book, they hit number two, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. I forget which number on USA Today. And then from there they worked with a publisher, Morgan James. They basically leveraged those accolades to then pitch it to foreign publishers to like sell foreign rights. And now the book is like, I think it's in like 25 different languages. It was all on, there's pictures of it like on billboards and Tokyo and stuff like it's just so crazy. And I don't know much about that specific world of foreign rights, but it's like the foundation is built. Then you can go to foreign rights and then media opportunities open up. You know, they've been on top 20 books of 2020, in a Forbes article, they'd been in a CEO magazine with Michelle Obama and some other.
20:54 Elon Musk's mother was in, it was like top nine books of this year. Like, so it's the foundations laid, then media starts to snowball and then they actually booked, she said they had three really high end speaking engagements because the Bezos Letters, what it's about is how to grow your business like Amazon. I think that's the exact subtitle. So they had conferences and companies that hired him to speak. I believe it's multiple, I don't know the exact amount, but I think it's tens of thousands of dollars and, but all of them got canceled because of COVID. So but that's the way it can go. Right? So it does it to just conclude that you don't stop at bestseller. Bestseller is really where it all begins. And then you leverage that accolade to really grow it in all these different paths. They also have a membership course, you know, some membership course, speaking, consulting, book sales, foreign rights, like there's so many different avenues of revenue from it.
Anna David: 21:55 And I saw something on your site that says something like this person has a, I just remembered the number cause it was very random and very high. $237,000 a year, freelance writing career, things like that. Who has a $237,000. I used to be a freelance writer. That's a really, most freelance writers have a $27,000 a year career. So like, who's that? How did that happen?
Tyler Wagner: 22:18 Yeah. So that's another podcast thing is so I interviewed her and I was blown away by her story as well. I was like, I was like, this is great. I will tell you, she's written over like 10,000 blogs for people. So just realize she is a writing machine. Like it's wild, but either way I interviewed her and I was like, Hey, look, I think if you did a course, you know, we can partner up, we'll do the marketing, you do the content. And I think this could help a lot of people because I do see a shift in like the economy, especially now I get, you know, just cause I think it was happening either way, but people are starting to transition to become freelancers and entrepreneurs rather than working in corporation. And writing is a very good place to start. And in her case, you know, grow to multiple six figures. So that's how it came to be. And I actually think last year she did like 350K from it, which, and this is literally using Fiverr, this website called Fiverr. And she's a pro seller. She charges like a hundred dollars a blog. And then she writes small eBooks, writes press releases, she has like 10 different gigs and it's, you know, it's all automated cause she's built up her profile now like with all these good reviews and she has a system and yeah, either way she's just crushes it. But she definitely writes all day, every day. A lot of writing.
Anna David: 23:44 10,000, shit. Yeah. Okay. So what are some other, so aside from speaking from courses, from consulting, from coaching, what are some other possibilities for people once they have a book?
Tyler Wagner: 24:01 Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'd say it's, I think media is really the next big move. And then also I'd say to continue writing, right? So I actually interviewed Mark Victor Hansen like last week he was the cofounder of Chicken Soup for the Soul. And he has 59 New York Times Bestsellers. And one of the things he said, and this is like pretty basic when you think about it, but every book he does now, he puts all of his other books in the front page. So it's almost like they're all intertwined in this own little like funnel that he's created. And what was interesting to hear that he said, he said a lot of his book sales came from partnerships, right? So they would look at like who has an audience that's really large, and would also be a good fit to be a reader of this book. And then, you know, they would reach out and create these partnerships with them, and then, you know, they get promoted to like thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in one push from a partnership.
25:04 And so yeah, that's, he has a whole other strategy, but that's one of them. So I'd say, you know, keep writing and then like, think about how you can turn the content of that book into other services and offers, which is, you know, kind of what we've already said. But there's always ways to like make the content into different formats cause some people don't like to read. Like they'll pay 300 to a thousand dollars, $300 to a thousand dollars to watch a course and some people just want it done for them. Right? Like a lot of the clients, you know, when we do wall street USA Today campaigns, they're just you can teach me, but I don't want to find all these partners. Like I don't want to deal with all that. Just here's the money, just do it. You know? So I think it's like building, building that value ladder all the way from a $20 book all the way up to a $50,000 done for you offer and then everything in between and you know, then you can't really miss out on any potential customers.
Anna David: 26:06 And what are some other secrets to a successful launch aside from these newsletter partners you spoke on Paul Brody's summit about pubby.com.
Tyler Wagner: 26:18 Oh yeah, Pubby School.
Tyler Wagner: 26:20 Let's talk about that. Cause I tried it after you suggested it and I'm a little bit confused by it. So basically it's a website where you write reviews and you get reviews. I signed up, I didn't really get what was happening and I missed my deadline. So meanwhile someone did a review of mine. But like are people even reading the books? Like what is this service?
Tyler Wagner: 26:42 Yeah. Yeah. So again, this comes from the podcast. So I interviewed this girl Kristen and I'm interviewing her and she's the cofounder of Pubby and she's telling me about this and I'm like, I have never heard of any, I've been in the space for eight years. Like this was pretty recent, six months ago I think, or something like that. And, you know, I've tried all of these things where basically you'll pay a website and then they have these like lists of people that want to read your book and they'll blast it to the list and they're like, Hey, on average you'll get 10 reviews from this, but no guarantee. And none of them have really worked well. So then she told me about this and the way that it works, from my understanding, is that so her brothers, the coder or developer, which I'm not a tech person, so excuse me for anybody listening, I'm going to try my best here. And so you go in and it's a community of readers and authors, and you post your book on there and then the more books that you review, the more like points in the community that you get.
27:51 And then you can use those points to basically advertise your book to the community. And then they choose that they want to get the book and review it. Are all of them reading the whole book? I'd say probably not. Well definitely not. Definitely not all of them. Some of them I think read it all. Some of them probably just look at the notes cause I think, you know, when you put your book up there, you sign up and you can put little, like the description of your book and you know, little pieces. So some people were definitely taking shortcuts I'd say. But you know, I've seen people, some of my clients get up to 40 reviews in like a month from this, right. So it's better than anything I've ever seen as far as getting reviews.
Anna David: 28:33 Oh wow. Okay. Yeah, I'm going to try again. Like I said, I screwed it up and I felt guilty, cause I got a review, I didn't give one and I got reprimanded by some bot on the site.
Tyler Wagner: 28:47 So, and just to clarify, from my understanding, I think the work around that they created is that I believe Amazon's terms, you cannot like swap reviews. So like if me and you, we're not allowed to be like, Hey, I'll review your book, and you do mine. That's against the terms. So this is like a developer who's way smarter than me when it comes to this. He created, he put a piece of code in there. So any book that you review, it will automatically cancel out that author and they will never see your book on the platform. So there's no chance of swapping. And so it's all honest reviews and you're just, and there's no chance on the swap. So it's actually totally fine. In regards to the terms of service
Anna David: 29:32 And can you talk about, well, we got to get close to wrapping up. This has been awesome, but what is the significance of reviews on Amazon? How important is that for a book launch?
Tyler Wagner: 29:44 Okay, so for a book launch, right, like the hit bestseller, I'd say it's not extremely important. Like we like our authors to have anywhere from like 15 to 25 reviews on their book when we're doing like a bestseller campaign. But as far as, it's more about the overall sales, like over a year of time of time. If you look at all the best books out there, they all have like at least hundreds. Most of them have thousands of reviews, like the top, top books. And to me it's just, you know, kind of basic psychology. Like if you go to Amazon and you're looking for a book or any other product or even a service, right? Like, that's why our website has all of our customer, well not all, but some video testimonials and all these reviews. Cause that's, I think people, that's how they make a purchase decision. It's not just what the person selling is telling you. They want to hear about other people that have experienced your offer. So you know, just very quickly you go to an Amazon page, you see a thousand plus reviews, like a four to five average rating. Trust is immediately built. If they're interested in the topic, I think they'll make an impulse purchase very quickly. Whereas if it says like two reviews, they're going to be like, what is this? This is not proven. I don't want any of this. So that's what I think.
Anna David: 31:00 And speaking of impulse purchase, how much does pricing matter? Do you advise people on pricing? Should eBooks always be 9.95 and paperbacks 14.95 or do you have any sort of ideas around that?
Tyler Wagner: 31:13 Yeah, so what we've seen, like when we do our launches, we discount it to 99 cents, right? Just for that week. And that, you know, works very well. Just to get that first like 10,000 people into your book. And then from there, 3.99, is a 2.99 or 3.99 for an eBook is a pretty good sweet spot. It does also depends, how I do it is a little bit on length. Right. So like a 300 page book I think would look a little bit weird at 2.99, but your average, you know, like, I don't know, a hundred to 150 page book, 3.99 in that range is good. And then paperback, we either do 14, 14.99 or 19.99 depending on length.
Anna David: 31:59 Well this has been fantastic. If people would like to find out more about you and use your incredible service, is authorsunite.com the best place to go?
Tyler Wagner: 32:12 Yeah, that's the best spot. And then if they have any specific questions, my email is [email protected]
Anna David: 32:18 And he answers emails and is a total delight. So Tyler, thank you so much. You guys, thank you so much for listening. This guy is the real deal, and I'm so happy to be a work partner with him. So as usual, if you like the episode, please throw up a nice review. Don't throw up, put a nice review up there, you just heard Tyler talk about how important reviews are. Same as true for podcasts. Thanks you guys. I will see you next time and thank you, Tyler.
Tyler Wagner: 32:44 Of course.