J.D. Roth recently released the Get Rich Slowly guide. I sat down with him (over email, of course) to learn about the development of this new product offering and get some takeaways for you guys. Here’s our interview:
Why did you decide to work with Chris vs on your own? Do you recommend this type of collaboration, and how can the average blogger execute on a partnership like this?
Chris Guillebeau and I have been friends for a long time. He has an established brand (Unconventional Guides) with a successful affiliate program. Folks are much more likely to promote the Get Rich Slowly course if they earn a 51% commission on sales (as Chris has set it up) than if they earn nothing. See, that’s something I would never think to do. Or know how to do. So, he handles the business side. I produce the content. I’m happy with that.
The truth is, I hate marketing. I hate self-promotion. I’m not good at it. And I’d rather be writing. I’m glad Chris is my partner on this.
I do think most bloggers can pull of something similar. From my experience, people at all skill levels have different strengths and different weakness. If you’re just starting out and you’re a writer like me, you can probably find another person just starting out who’s more of marketer like Chris. For instance, way back when I first started, I partnered with Ramit on his 2007 guide to kicking ass. I was a raw beginner, but I was still a writer. Ramit’s blog was young too, but he was more of a marketer.
(To be fair, both Chris and Ramit are great writers too!)
Putting together a book or course like this must have taken a lot of time. How did you get the work done? Was there a schedule or daily quota? Any tips for other writers here?
Haha. Hell yes, this took a lot of time! I’ve been working on the project on and off for almost a year, and full-time since September. How did I get the work done? By focusing on one step at a time. Any time I tried to look at the Big Picture, I panicked. So, I paid attention to only what needed to be done on any given day. I didn’t have a schedule. I just worked.
The biggest problem I had was wasted effort. There were three false starts while writing the guide the resulted in months of lost time. (To be fair, I’ve been able to salvage a lot of this “wasted” material for content at More Than Money this year.) Part of the problem was lack of focus. When you begin a big project, it’s vital to have a roadmap. When you write a physical book for an actual publisher, they generally demand a book proposal. Why? Because the book proposal helps guide the entire process. (When I wrote Your Money: The Missing Manual, I didn’t have a proposal. I only had an outline. The outline helped, but when I was finished, I understood why publishers demand book proposals!)
Bottom line? When you start any big writing project, take the time to hone your focus and plan your path.
Many bloggers don’t act on a project like this because of the fear of wasting time and failing. Since you didn’t have a publisher, like with your book, did you perform some type of calculation on the number of hours you could contribute based on expected sales? How else did you lower your risk?
Believe me, I’m afraid of failing too. I’m afraid that this year of work will amount to nothing. In some of the pitch emails I sent to people, I said as much. What if other people don’t think the content is as good as I think it is? What if nobody buys the course? What if they do buy it but hate it? This is another reason book proposals are valuable when working with an actual publisher. The publisher can correct possible problems before they occur.
In this case, I didn’t perform any calculation before producing the Get Rich Slowly course. I simply trusted that Chris knew what he was doing from the business end. To this day, I still have no idea how successful this will be. Will 100 people buy it? 1000? 10,000? And how much money will I make for my effort? $800? $8000? $80,000? And what about the affiliate program? Will that help my profit or hurt it? I mean, giving away 51% of sales to affiliates seems like an awful lot! But you know what? I’m just going to go with it.
Why not launch this on Get Rich Slowly? Did you have to get their permission to launch this elsewhere?
Well, when we started this project, I was still “retired” from Get Rich Slowly. Our plan was to not have it associated with the blog in any way. We were going to call the course Master Your Money. Then it was called something else. Then it was called Be Your Own CFO (which is now the title of the written guide that anchors the course). Then Master Your Money again. It was only near the end that we decided to see whether Quinstreet would be cranky if we used the name Get Rich Slowly. (They couldn’t stop us, but I didn’t want to piss them off.) They didn’t mind. In fact, they liked the idea! The GRS audience has flagged in recent years, and I think they see this as a way to attract new readers.
Is this a one-off for you or do you foresee updates and future products?
I can certainly foresee updates to the Get Rich Slowly course. But after doing this, I think I’d like to try producing products on my own. For instance, I’d love to bundle the material I’m creating at More Than Money this year into some sort of guide to overcoming fear, choosing happiness, and finding freedom. In the short term, however, I’m ready for a vacation! 🙂
Thanks to J.D. for being so candid in his responses. If you found this helpful, let J.D. Roth know by sending him a Tweet.