Today marks the official birthday of both of my published books.
It’s the half-birthday of Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, and the official 2-year birthday for So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing.
Golly, has it been a journey! Read @JuliaEMcCoy's thoughts as she crosses the 1,800-copies sold mark for her two self-published books 📚 Click To Tweet
I always knew I’d publish a book when I started out on my journey seven years ago, dropping out of college to become a content marketer. Being an author was high up on my list of career priorities.
But, I didn’t know how hard it would be.
I’ve self-published both of my books, and all in all, have invested over 1,000 hours into both of them.
Well, probably much more than that.
The first one by far was the hardest, and the second one, while it took eight months, flowed much more easily after the learning curve of book #1.
But what I’ve found, years later from my first book getting published, is that it was totally worth it. And, that self-publishing is pretty cool. You’re in complete control of every part of your book, from marketing to earning 70% of all the book sales.
Those dollars have all gone back into building Express Writers and the Content Strategy & Marketing Course, so I’m thankful to each and every one of you who have purchased and read my books!
Read on for a look at where my books have sold, how many have sold so far, and two major benefits from two books written and published.
Celebrating 1,800 Books Sold! (So You Think You Can Write? and Practical Content Strategy & Marketing)
To celebrate the two-year mark of So You Think You Can Write, and the six-month mark of Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, I counted all my book sales on all channels today. This is as of today (4/30/18).
Here’s the lowdown.
My books have sold in more than eight different currencies, from Japanese Yen to British pounds. These are the major countries my books have been purchased in:
I’ve spent less than $200 to market both of these books ($100 on a sponsored tweet, another $90-95 on several sponsored Facebook posts).
99.9%of all of my book sales have come organically. I am also not counting the copies I’ve given away (dozens if not hundreds of copies, mailed and signed for free).
Two Amazingly Huge Benefits From Publishing Two Books
#1. I made some amazing connections in the industry through my book.
I chose to invest time and effort into getting a few industry leaders to write my foreword, and asked a group of 10-15 influencers to review my book and give me blurbs for a “Praise” section, before either of my books became published.
This took time, but it was a HUGE benefit to me in getting more eyeballs on the book, and making more connections in my industry.
We’ve even seen some long-term clients come in from the marketing firms of the people who reviewed my books.
Getting influencers to write my foreword was a major benefit for both of my books. My first book’s foreword was written by Sujan Patel, a leading internet marketer who runs multiple SaaS companies and is the co-founder of Web Profits, Australia’s largest marketing company.
My second book’s foreword was written by Mark Schaefer, author of more than eight books on marketing, and one of the top five marketing bloggers in the world.
I had built up connections with both of these amazing people via social media and by inviting them on my show, The Write Podcast. (Listen to Sujan’s episode and Mark’s episode.) I’d met both of them in person, too. Sujan lives locally to me in Austin, Texas, and I met Mark at CMWorld 2017.
So, building up a relationship prior certainly helped quite a bit. Once I officially “knew” them, it was as simple as asking them — and they both said “yes!”
I also met and connected with other self-published authors after my books came out.
Chris Strub is a self-published author that I had the honor of meeting in Austin, Texas this year.
He’s an awesome social media expert, and self-made entrepreneur. Chris is the first man to livestream in all 50 states, and authored a story about his journey.
We did a Facebook Live together outside of the Amazon Bookstore that had just opened up in the Domain in Austin, Texas:
What’s cool is that we connected over our books, and have been able to shout each other out for more exposure.
#2. I’ve built long-term industry authority.
I’ve had new prospects trust and buy 10x quicker just because they read my book before they became a client.
Because my books are very well-written, with much and thought put into them, they are in essence a “conversion vehicle” for my agency.
You read my books, you can tell instantly that I know and care about online writing – these books weren’t an overnight deal – you hire my writing agency.
Simple! It happens over and over again.
(We’ve even had some clients ask if they can have whoever wrote my books, assigned to their content. *cough* Since I actually wrote my books, that’s somewhat impossible. But, I train all of the writers I hire – and I guarantee our expert and authority level writers are just as good as I am! Some of them basically share my brain cells.)
I’ve also garnered some amazing opportunities, like leading MarketingProfs Marketing Writing Bootcamp, because I had a published book out. It qualified me in my industry as an expert “speaker”.
These opportunities would have never come my way without the books, so this truly made my time involved worth it.
(Note: You can’t expect these opportunities overnight, however. Many of the biggest opportunities rolled in with the second book, and others occurred months and months after my first book was out.)
Contribute to the Book Celebration!
You know, authors are basically nothing without readers, no matter how good we are.
If you haven’t, please leave a review on Amazon! It would mean the world, and it would also mean that we reach more people – as you can see from my Facebook Live with Chris Strub, it’s critical to Amazon and how they showcase books to the rest of the world.
If you did leave a review, please tweet/mention me so I can publicly shout you out and thank you! Follow me on Twitter.
Also, did you know? I’m writing a third book! I can’t spill too many of the details, but it’s a memoir about my life, with tragedy, bravery, growth, success and more woven in. As many of you know, I escaped a cult six years ago, and learned to heal from terrible mental abuse along my entrepreneurial journey. I cannot wait to share this book in all its rawness, realness and beauty! Stay tuned for more details coming on my latest book.
Let’s face it.
Getting traffic, maintaining traffic, and creating content they come back for—and keeping that cycle thriving for years—is hard work.
Yet this is something we’ve been able to achieve successfully, day in and day out, at Express Writers.
We’re a content writing agency that does what we do best for ourselves, before we sell it to others—creating winning online content that brings revenue, markets a business, and informs and helps an audience.
Since I launched my website with a $75 investment in May 2011, Express Writers has relied on creating content for ourselves and publishing it online, organically, as the #1 source of all our leads, marketing, and revenue. We’ve focused on creating content without a thought to a sales funnel: and we’ve never paid a penny to advertise our services on Google. (You heard that right. We’ve never, once, invested in PPC. And the publications I write content for, guest blogs, don’t pay me a direct paycheck.)
Instead, we’ve just focused on writing and publishing useful, outstanding content, on our site, consistently. Consistent guest blogging. Creating a Twitter presence that rocks out organically.
Call me crazy, untypical, you-name-it… but it’s worked for us—extraordinarily well.
I’m about to reveal it all to you, in a case study I sat down to create across a five-week span.
We Are Our Own Success Story: How We at Express Writers Dominate Online & Outrank Competition Through Our Content
Our major form of marketing is the actual service we sell: well-written, engaging, optimized online content.
And for the first time, I’m pulling back the curtain in a major case study where we’ll reveal exactly where we stand with content, how we fare against our biggest competitors, and much more. (I’m using a pro account at SEMrush to pull every analytic.)
Here’s a quick table of contents, so you know what’s coming:
Ready for this? Sit back—you’re in for a ride!
What does our organic online presence look like vs. competition?
A five-year-old company (launched May 2011), we outrank our major competitors on average by 5% on Google. Check out this graph:
We’ve climbed to over 4,100 total keyword rankings in Google. Our estimated worth of traffic and rankings is at $13,200 (what we’ve have to spend to achieve these rankings through sponsored ads).
(Don’t worry about that dip in traffic. I have an upcoming post, How I Lost 30% of My Organic Rankings & Traffic (On Purpose) & Added 25% Additional Monthly Revenue By Going After the Traffic I Wanted, coming out soon to explain.)
Over 300 keywords are indexed in the top 10 of Google (example in point, this is from the bottom of page 3, 100 results per page, in SEMrush):
Back to our competitors. Here’s what a real-life look at our keywords vs. theirs look like—on Google, two out of four of our competitors don’t even have a presence for the keywords we rank #1 for:
Overall, at first glance it looks like there is an extremely oversaturated market if you Google “writing agencies,” but only a few are worth really comparing ourselves to. Their funding: One of our two major competitors gained $700,000 and another $4.5 million for funding since launching in 2011; and the second competitor has been around for over 16 years, raising a private amount of seed funding in 2011. Our funding: We have zero investors. We don’t have a penny in outside funding. Yet we’re doing big things. I started Express Writers in May 2011 with a pocket investment of $75. It was a five-minute business idea born from a huge load of personal freelance writing I didn’t want to turn away. I learned how to code my first website; today, Josh McCoy leads our branding, building, and all our new upcoming development has been personally funded by ourselves. And without any outside funding, we’re launching a custom-built, 200% more efficient Content Shop that we’ve developed from scratch—coming out end of 2016/early 2017. Hand-in-hand with this will be the launch of custom writer team room systems we’ve built as well. (Get on the notification list for the upcoming launch!) And Josh is knee-deep in launching a boon to all content creators, Copyfind, which will offer the deepest content checking search for originality that’s on the web. (Get on that notification list here!) Yes, we have a lot about to launch. 😛
Today, we serve more than 1,000 clients worldwide, and we easily handle 300 pages in a given week. And we outshine most of our competitors’ quality because of a very personal, one-on-one mentoring environment we’ve given our writers—and because of incredibly dedicated, uniquely qualified experts I’ve been able to hire for our management staff.
I won’t lie: to stay personally funded, I’ve put in many an 80-hour work week on my part, and invested 65% to 100% sometimes of our net profits from the company back in. It’s been hard to find good people, but thankfully, today I have just those people. It’s all been worth the intensive hard work to see growth happen this way. Organically, from hard work, without a huge million-dollar bank account solely responsible for and behind the growth—as is the reality with many, many other VC companies.
How does our content perform?
We have over 785 published blogs on our site, with the first one published live on our WordPress site in September 2012. The average word count of each is 1,500 (with the highest blogs at 3,700 words, and the lowest around 500—we’ve actually been working on adding more content to the shorter ones now). Our two most-shared posts are a blog published in December 2015, on how to do a website audit—coming in at 1k shares. An episode on my podcast with Sujan Patel, published in March 2016, coming in at 800+ shares. (But I don’t think shares mean everything! Here’s why.)
The traffic, lead, and conversions that subsequently happen from our organic rankings bring in 90% of our company revenue. That’s right. That’s a six-figure gross yearly amount. The other revenue is brought in through cold lead outreach, a unique strategy I’ll be unveiling soon in another guest blog. We’ve seen five-figure clients (including big brands) walk in through our door of organic rankings in Google; we’ve created client relationships through organic connections on social media, and have seen four-figure client conversions come in without sales pressure from those that have read my guest blog content.
We’ve never bought a single PPC ad, we’ve never relied on sponsored content, and I’ve never created a single sales funnel—instead, our organic content presence brings in thousands of clients to Express Writers every year.
You might call me crazy for not making sure a sales funnel exists, but here’s the thing: I’m so busy creating relationships and the content that is behind those relationships, that I don’t have time or even need to worry about making sure a marketing or sales funnel process is there. My blog CTAs are as simple as a unique, well-written text link back to our Content Shop on the end of a blog post.
Curious as to how we do it? Here’s the organic content marketing process I’ve followed, fully unveiled for the first time!
Our #1 Source of Marketing & Traffic Is In Consistently Creating a Ton of In-Depth, Long Form Content
Full disclosure here. We create a lot of content to win in content marketing. The majority is on our site, but our publishing schedule includes guest platforms that I blog on, too. Let’s look at how and where we’re publishing content, and where it’s gotten us.
A Split-Focus and Total of 32 Long-Form Pieces/Month Across the Web: A Huge, Consistent Amount of Quality Content (Quality over Quantity)
For the creation part, I write over 30 blogs monthly (average of each post is 2,000 words) with the help of some of my best team members, who guest author on our site. Primarily, 20 of these blogs go to our site. (You want your best content to be on your own real estate!) The other 10-12 get spread across various high-quality, large audience guest blog networks.
In-depth, specific research is key to a great topic and a great piece, and the actual writing requires time and team effort.
For the research part, I’m always on BuzzSumo, and looking up keywords in SEMrush and KWFinder to see what’s being talked about and asked the most (questions on Quora) in our industry, consistently. I’m also in Twitter chats to see what people talk about and ask each other questions on. I use all this community/research activity to find the best questions, create blog topics and then focus on highly in-depth blogs that fully answer the question in the topic.
Here’s what our EXACT content amounts and publishing times look like:
1. 20 Blogs/Month: How We Publish Content on Our Own Site (A Blog A Day, Except for Weekends)
We publish a content piece every day on our site except for weekends (5 blogs/week). Every post goes live at midnight (00:00 on WordPress scheduling) the day of. Here’s the kinds of content that involves:
I post 2-3 times a week on our own blog, with posts that range from 1,500 words minimum to 4,000 (with custom created visuals, screenshots, and even GIFs included in each). Each post I write takes about a week. I backdate my content and stay a week ahead by devoting onefull dayjust to writing, planning, and creating content. I start a whole line of new posts instead of just writing one, and flip back between documents to pen down a flow of ideas that should go in various channels. I type fast, so I can finish up to five half pieces in a day, then wrap them all up the next full day of content creation. (Sound scary? This is a unique process that I’ve found that works for me—after five years of blogging every week. My typing speed is 150 wpm.)
We just opened our blog to internal team member guest authors only (no outside bloggers). We feature 1-2 intensive guest blogs weekly from our full-time copywriters, social media managers, and strategists.
Once/week, Rachel creates and posts our Twitter chat recap. It’s always near 1,000 words. Keep in mind it’s full of tweets, which are already indexed in Twitter.
You’re already heard about our organic presence with our site, but here’s a recap: we’re at 2,600+ organic visitors monthly from 4,100 keywords, more than 300 of which are in the top 10 of Google.
I audit and review our content in the rankings weekly. Once a week, I pop in to SEMrush and check out what ranks, for what keyword. If the content is at all crappy, it gets an update! (Case study coming out soon on how I’ve been successful at auditing old posts.)
2. 12 Content Pieces/Month: How We Rock Out Guest Blogging (The ROI Is Greater Than A Paycheck)
If you would have told me “blogging for free” was worth a TON of money, in the beginning I would have laughed at you. Because I needed the paycheck then, not the exposure.
But today, the exposure is worth far more than a paycheck.
And that’s why I guest blog for free. A lot.
Personally, I limit myself to about 12-13 pieces per month. I may take on one or two more channels next year, but not many more. I’ve learned that a guest blog on an amazing platform like Search Engine Journal (with nearly a million high-value, relevant readers) is worth more in potential leads that will buy our services, than if I dilute and post five blogs that week among other channels like Social Media Today, Business 2 Community, etc. And if I tackle more, I easily get overwhelmed and lose sight of devoting quality on each one.
Here’s where I currently guest blog—I recently got accepted to the HuffingtonPost, and go live on Copyhackers in October!
Social Media Examiner: 1 piece every other quarter (I’m working on improving that, a new piece here is coming out in October)
Grammarly: I guest blogged here twice. Didn’t see results from the audience at all, despite high shares (not a marketing audience), so I stopped last year.
Copyhackers: My first blog will be live in October!
The Life Cycle of One Impactful Piece of Content
To emphasize just how impactful online content really can be, I’d like to walk you through a real lifecycle of one organic piece of guest blog content I published. This piece of content returned 100x on the content investment.
Before I show you this, keep in mind one thing: my guest blogging isn’t just a one-time post, but most of the time, it’s an ongoing column. That’s preferential for me, because of the opportunity an ongoing presence affords: a much more sustainable, long-term way to build reputation, traffic, and leads, as you’ll see from this very example.
Let’s take a look at a $5,000 sale that happened five days after someone read my column at SiteProNews.
January 1, 2015: my article How to Create Shareable, Likeable and Organic Content goes live on SiteProNews.
2:25 PM: We received this contact form. (Names blurred out. We’ll call our lead Dave.)
By January 26, after several email conversations and custom project bids from our staff, Dave purchased expert copy, our content planning, and enough content for several sites at a worth of $5,000!
A Success Story or Two: How We Implement Our Own Success Strategies for Our Clients’ Content
The content success strategy I use for our own content marketing is something I take to the bank, teach my writers, and implement for use in writing our own clients’ content.
We write everything, from bulk SEO content for agencies to resell to their clientele, to expert copy for niche firms. And in every piece we create, we implement these strategies: I teach every single writer in my team with internal, exclusive guides at Express Writers built by my staff and I the essence of great online content. From writing a meta description that reads as well as an online ad (because hey—it’s the organic PPC of Google!), to writing a blog that is oriented to the audience and uses the keywords naturally. We don’t fail: we have a 99% success rate because of the exclusive, personally mentored quality of our writers and their content. I can bet you anything that no other agency treats their writer base like we do ours.
And it’s not just a nice theory. We hear time and time again from our own clients that the content we write for them returns on investment.
Here’s a success story from one of our clients, Tom Dean, IT at www.andersonhemmat.com. For this Colorado based attorney website, we wrote brand new site pages to refresh their site; blogs; and press releases. Their results after we rewrote their content? They went up ten pages in the SERPs! With the blog posts we wrote, they also saw steady and increasing rankings in the SERPs. Our content made a tremendous difference!
“We’ve seen a huge jump in web traffic because of the great content you’ve done for us. We’ve gone from page 12 organic to page 2 organic since the site update. The main reason I find the content a successful investment is ROI. It costs very little to have you guys write something but in the long run if it’s on the web and written with SEO in mind it will help our rankings and possibly go viral.”
SnapInspect was another client of ours. By starting their brand new blog out with a consistency of two blogs per week minimum across six months, we were able to help them grow from a zero presence on Google to a subscriber list, active readers, social media followers, and a presence in the top five pages of Google.
There you have it! Our own clients are succeeding online with the content we write that is specifically targeted to perform well. Not just in the SERPs, but with readers.
Now, how have we been able to be successful with our content? I’m going to delve into a few strategies before revealing the last part of how we dominate online—on social media, specifically Twitter.
How to Be Consistent with Great Content
I’ve heard an echoing statement among bloggers that consistency is hard.
But the key in all of this is staying fresh, being relatable to the audience in your industry, and being consistent.
The balance? Never publish rushed, but publish as much as you can while staying within quality.
Time is what you need. If you don’t have time, a resource you can trust.
Spend the extra day to proofread, if it’s late at night and you just aren’t proofing it as thoroughly as you’d like. I’d describe my consistency of publishing as a careful balance between two constant thoughts:
The Thursday I don’t publish content is a missed content opportunity. (Thursday is one of our best posting days: early in the morning, a lot of people seem to be reading blogs.)
The Thursday I publish rushed, non-proofread content, is the Thursday I should not have published content.
What has significantly helped me in creating amazing content is to set aside one day called my “content” day. Seriously. If you are a blogger or online content marketer, you need to do that. There’s no other way.
Till the day you can hand the process off to a trusted resource, you need to allot one day to content creation. Plan your topics then. Finalize drafts. Create new drafts. Never create and publish one piece in one day. You can take breaks and create new pieces of content to break it up, but never, ever write and publish one whole piece in one single day. I never knew how much a fresh eye really mattered till I spent four weeks on one piece of content! (This piece you’re reading—six weeks. Probably my longest to-date.)
How Do We Successfully Guest Blog? 4 Simple Strategies
How do I pitch to the right platforms, and perfect the right customized content for each one?
My “secrets” to guest blogging are fairly simple. It’s a novel in and of itself, but to sum up, top strategies: 1. Less is more: I’ve noticed that if I focus on less channels, I can present better quality on each. Plus, a few top channels are worth their weight in gold, and sometimes that’s all you need to bring in serious ROI from the blogging you do. 2. Find platforms that align with who your ideal online customer is: It’s all about the right platforms—find ones with a huge audience, and readers that align with your ideal lead demographic. 3. Make a relationship with the right person: This is key in actually getting through and being published on your ideal guest blog. Think of the blog as a person you need to connect with, not an entity. This is how I made all of my guest blog spots happen (all!), from my CTO Josh personally finding Kelsey Jones, myself being invited on the #MarketingNerds podcast, and getting invited to write for Search Engine Journal, to connecting with Joanna Wiebe by offering her a podcast spot, and then getting a “yes” on the guest blog draft I sent her. Never put time and effort in a contact forms—always find a person to contact! Sometimes starting the relationship can be as simple as finding the right “managing blog editor” to contact, following them on Twitter, and tweeting or DM’ing. 4. Always give your best, most in-depth, most useful content, oriented to the guest blog audience: If you’re writing for Business Insider, for example, you don’t want to be as conversational and story-like as if you were pitching to the Huffington Post. A technical voice might do better there. Find the guidelines for each platform, and follow them to a T. Go beyond by using the right tone that fits their audience! When making points, use screenshots. Don’t short any point you make. Be as in-depth as you can!
#2 Major Way We’ve Built Up Our Online Reputation: Domination on Twitter With #ContentWritingChat, Joining Other Chats, & My Best-Selling Book
Besides content creation, which is truly our fundamental source of valuable rankings and organic traffic, we maintain a strong presence on social media, specifically on one of my favorite social platforms of all time—Twitter.
Back in January this year, on the very first Tuesday in January, I made a resolution to launch a Twitter chat. I researched a hashtag for my chat, settled on #ContentWritingChat, and registered the hashtag to @ExpWriters Twitter handle on Twubs. I created a Twitter chat account specifically for the chat, @writingchat, as well, and started following everyone I knew, as well as major influencers, from that account. My key strategy was to a) hire help! I have had a social media manager run the chat since I started it, from @ExpWriters account. Our current one is Rachel. She’s been with me since the first month of the chat! b) remind everyone who is interested, via Twitter. Rachel takes care of that as well. Reminders are a huge way to get people to hop in your chat!
The serious evolution of our graphics, which you might notice—check out the first chat graphic, and then our last one in October with Joe Pulizzi—is because I was doing them in Canva at the beginning. Now, we have an amazing in-house graphic designer who creates our weekly featured Twitter chat graphics and the blog recap graphics. Our Social Media Specialist, Rachel, creates the Tuesday questions (eight total) on writing-related imagery backgrounds in Canva.
Our last Twitter chat was with Joe Pulizzi himself!
Here’s a short timeline of the fast-track success we’ve seen happen from it:
#ContentWritingChat day 1, month 1: we climbed to #42 trending on Twitter!
Month 6: we were trending at #9 and #11!
Month 7: we were #4 on Twitter! Major influencer Brian Fanzo said yes to guest hosting one session this month.
Month 9: Major influencer Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute joined our chat to guest host!
Month 9: We pulled in a sponsor! I traded a live sponsored spot during our Twitter chat for extensive discounts on tickets to a Search Engine Journal event.
We’re at 1,000+ tweets from people around the globe during our live hour now! Want to learn more about my Twitter chat strategy? Listen in to the podcast I recorded about it with our Social Media Specialist, Rachel.
A Presence in Other High-Ranking Twitter Chats Brings in the Leads
Another way we’ve significantly grown our presence is through joining other Twitter chats. Check out the guide from Rachel with 8 chats that we love. One chat that has a huge presence is Madalyn Sklar’s #TwitterSmarter. We’ve received offline chat messages from interested people clicking through to our site, like this one, from our participation in her chat:
Get in Twitter chats, if you’re a marketer! Or pay your social media person to join for that live hour. You might just find a potential client relationship. It’ll be worth your time.
How Do We Fare on the Other Platforms?
I won’t lie. Our Facebook is a bit dead: I’ve often considered following in Copyblogger’s steps of killing their Facebook page. I still might do it unless we can hand it over to someone who revives our Facebook. We occasionally get the interested writer and client who messages here, so I don’t want to entirely kill it yet. However, I do have a Facebook group, Learn Online Writing, which I’ve grown to just under 140 members. It’s a tight-knit community that mostly comes from my book readers, staff and writers.
Our Instagram, @expwriters, has grown significantly since I created it in August of 2015. We have over 1,800 followers, and we get about 50 likes and 3-5 comments per post. A lot of the traffic on Instagram comes from our Twitter chat followers! Rachel does a great job at summarizing our blogs with unique <100 word summaries and posting that in a new Instagram post, with a themed blog visual specifically made for Instagram, created by our lead designer.
How Publishing My Book Brought Us Organic Leads
I spent literally a year of my life (all of 2015) writing a book that’s out on Amazon, So You Think You Can Write? A Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing. It’s maintained #3 bestseller in it’s category since it launched mid-April, 2016—a feat because I haven’t been able to advertise it outside of emailing my list, sponsoring one tweet, and telling my social platforms about it!
Here’s what I’ve seen come through the forms… “I want Julia to write my content. Can I get her? She wrote her book really well and that’s why I’m here at Express Writers. I want her to write my book.” After a good chuckle, I told the lead he was in the best hands possibly with our mentored, trained writing staff! He was very pleased with the content results. We’ve had other leads that turned into clients because they read my book and were impressed, as well as writers come in to apply after reading and learning from my book. I’ve also used it as education among our own team writers.
I also have a podcast out, but it’s been hard to quantify results. I’ve had 4,000 downloads since launching it as well in April. I’ve had several appearance and interview opportunities occur because of it, and have gotten on the radar of some of my favorite influencers (an episode with Mark Traphagen will go live this October, and I’ve had the chance to interview Joanna Wiebe, Sujan Patel, and Steve Rayson)! If anything, podcasting has been a major tool in connecting with influencers for me.
Have We Spent a Penny on PPC Ads?
Not one. Ever.
We just started delving into Facebook and Twitter ads for the first time ever and have barely spent $75. (We’ll spend more when I launch our first-ever webinar, coming up soon.)
I belly laugh every time I think of the $75 we just started spending on ads, versus the huge organic results we’ve had so far.
Here’s what I’m going to tell you that’s solid advice to achieve a solid, strong customer base out of your online presence: it really isn’t about advertising anymore. It isn’t about creating a funnel and a sales process on rinse and repeat.
It’s about relationships. Creating meaningful content. Building a community, over time. Answering questions. Helping people.
And that’s what we’ve managed to focus on, and grown to be successful in, here at Express Writers.
Time, effort, and people (amazingly creative people) to help you out—these are the major tools you’ll need to replicate my process.
I’m really excited to share (more like ecstatic-gone-crazy) that one of my biggest passions and lifelong dreams is HAPPENING, today.
A book, written by yours truly, is now widely available for sale in print and Kindle on Amazon: So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing. (Click here to get on Amazon.) So You Think You Can Write? is a guidebook I’ve been working endlessly on the entire past year.
After this year of writing and completing my first book, you bet I have a newfound respect for authors…you bet.
Many 2 a.m. nights, an unhealthy sacrifice of social life, and an uncomfortably far-too-close-relationship with English grammar after rounds and re-rounds of editing, has resulted from the writing of said book.
(By the way. Modifying compound adjectives, oh how I hate thee!)
But, it was all worth it, because I’m thrilled to launch So You Think You Can Write today.
This book sums up everything I’ve learned to become a successful online content creator. (Not every single lesson; that would be a 10-volume series. More like the essential foundations that make up successful online writing.)
[clickToTweet tweet=”So You Think You Can Write? book by @JuliaEMcCoy: www.bit.ly/juliamccoy” quote=”Share ‘So You Think You Can Write?’ book link with all your friends!”]
Who I Wrote So You Think You Can Write? For
My ultimate goal in sharing this book is to offer a complete, one-stop guidebook that teaches any brand, business or creator how to write great web content, from the foundations of SEO to the factors that make up engaging, evergreen content; and, it’s for the writer that wants to take their skills from offline to online AND make money (see my bonus chapter on how to market yourself), and for the business owner that wants to successfully create and publish great online content.
Still… Why Buy My Book?
^That may help. Still wondering why buy? I’ll give you three good reasons right now:
#1. You’ll come back with better writing skills.
No matter WHO you are, I would bet money right now you will learn something you didn’t know about how to write online content. Whether that’s how to pick out your keywords, a new, awesome content tool from my Appendix and Resources lists, or an unusual way of marketing yourself online—you name it, I bet you’ll walk away with something to take away and use right now in your online writing. And if not, tell me what’s missing! I’d love to know, because I’m working on my next books.
#2. Learning the foundational skills of great online content writing now just arrived in one place.
OK, I’m not claiming to be the only one teaching all of this. I’m not claiming to even be the top expert. And this is by no means the only information you should read. (This is just one book out of several I plan to write on this subject, too, FYI.) But what I am saying is that all the foundations of good SEO writing, that I’ve learned to become successful and which took me years to teach myself, are now in one place in So You Think You Can Write. Wouldn’t you rather have one book in hand than hundreds of articles and downloadables to read?
#3. You’ll learn that there is a career in online writing, and you’ll know the foundations of how to make your own.
There’s a HUGE need for good writers today. I’m very passionate about sharing this need and teaching creative people how to take their writing skills online, so writers earn work, brands and websites get filled with great copy, more people are inspired…cycle repeats, getting better each time as writers hone their trade.
A serious need for creative online writers is happening this year more than ever. The past few months, we’ve seen a lack of writers available. (To note here: we’re in the middle of our biggest re-brand and new development launch that goes live this summer, which will include an internal pay raise for all of our core writers. I’m excited to be able to reward good talent better coming up very soon.)
As we hire, we’ve always had to employ writers that were already experienced and knowledgeable in the skills of online writing. We have a thorough online writing test that rules out anyone not capable of writing for our level of clients. We’re so fast-paced, we simply can’t stop and “teach” someone. (Granted, we have done that a few times, but very rarely, with extremely adept learners.)
So, I’ve always wanted to give every single capable writer that wanted to apply—or even just go make a career for themselves out of independent freelance clients, like I did—a way to learn the necessary skills in one place. And now, it’s happening, with So You Think You Can Write?
I couldn’t be more thrilled to share what I know.
BONUS #4: It’s out, it’s fully illustrated (fun things to look at), and it’s pretty.
My toddler was actually entertained with the drawings I have inside that represent the seven forms of online content.
Here she is–and FYI, it’s super hard to get a picture of her, she moves so fast:
Buy it for your toddler, or yourself, if you like cute illustrations.
Go buy it here.
How I’ve Gotten Here
So You Think You Can Write has been a journey—both in learning these life skills, using them in a self-made career, and writing this book to share my knowledge with others.
I like to think this career path chose me. Not to be cliché—young budding writer makes it big—but really, the path started way back. The earliest memory I have of a genuine love for writing was when I was 9. I was sitting in the back of my mom’s Grand Caravan and a plot, a character name, and an entire fictional world was in my head. Just there. I could not wait till we finished shopping and I could get home to write it down. That day, I started saving the document on a 3 ½ floppy disk, and I titled it The Knight of the Silver Lance.
Fast forward to age 12. I had a completed story about my knight of the pre-Dark Ages: a 200-page fiction novel, in tiny size 10 Times New Roman font, saved on that floppy. One morning, I inserted the disk to proof the book with my parents—an exciting moment, because we were talking about publishing it—and there was a loud BEEP-BEEP. A window of death appeared: the disk was fatally corrupted.
I started rewriting it, but something else began demanding my focus: the internet, and the new technology of computers. I ate up everything I could learn about the computer, joined different online writing and marketing communities, and started learning how to make money online (I was illegally doing surveys at 13—the minimum age was 14). I earned $300 in a month just doing my online surveys. By 16, I started three companies: a computer repair company, a cleaning company, and a budding surveys-for-cash pyramid company (complete with business cards to blast every unsuspecting stranger). The computer repair company was by far my most enjoyable endeavor. I helped several elderly people who lived in my small town learn how to connect to a router and use the internet—and then uninstall the viruses they unintentionally downloaded while surfing the web.
Fast-forward even more. I’m 19, working at McDonald’s full time, and trying to fulfill what I (and my parents) thought was a calling: full-time nursing school towards earning an R.N. degree. Short story there: I hated both, and researched my side passion of writing by night, teaching myself online writing and earning gigs through Elance and oDesk (now Upwork). At 20, I started my company, Express Writers, while still in nursing school. Things got crazy, I couldn’t keep up with everything—on one side, my writing company was flourishing (due to the fact I was a really good writer who stayed creative in the middle of an age of really crappy online content), and on the other side, I was failing in nursing school. Both lecture classes and clinical. I couldn’t keep up.
My lack of passion exhibited itself when my clinical teacher failed me in nursing school at 21: I was driven into building my business. So I did just that, and here I am. I’m now 25 years old, with a 70-person team of writers, and thousands of clients worldwide. I even launched a podcast in March that hit New & Noteworthy in iTunes within 36 hours. And I started a Twitter chat in January of this year that has consistently topped #45 on Twitter during its live hour. Beyond that, I’m working on our next big steps: new products, training and re-launch, complete with a year-long custom team room creation developed by our COO, Josh McCoy.
So What Happened To Writing Fiction?
I still love writing fiction. If you’re wondering what happened to my medieval fiction, when I was 12 years old: I never got it recovered, but I did actually rewrite the whole book before 16 and still have that book deep inside some Dropbox folder, where it probably won’t see the light of day. It’s just not my favorite area of fiction anymore. I’m working on a fictional story concept now that is more in the style of fiction I like: post-apocalyptic, worldwide, end-of-earth plots—think Hunger Games, The Giver, Chronicles of Narnia, Divergent). And, I’m working on the tale of my personal story—something that’s necessary for me both to write out, and to share.
I’m so excited to share my book launch with y’all.
Buy it, and please do leave me an honest review if it helped you! I’d love to know. (You can also view a sample in the Flipboard preview on my book page, or listen to me read a chapter on my latest podcast episode.) Click the book to go straight to Amazon:
EEK. My first-ever published book, So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Online Writing, launched TODAY on Amazon.
In today’s episode, I read aloud part of the Introduction, where I talk about how I got started in this crazy world of online writing, and the first chapter from my book, where I share a section I thoroughly love: starting grounds for the online writer. Enjoy!
In Episode 10 of The Write Podcast, Julia reads an excerpt of her new book, So You Think You Can Write?
Learn how storytelling is an underlying fundamental of great online writing
Find out which companies are leading the forefront in creative, spectacular online writing skills
Hear some of Julia’s history, from her early days as a content marketer to today
Be inspired as you listen to what makes up some of the great stories in content marketing today
If you like what you hear, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and it’s ranking in iTunes immensely. I appreciate it! Enjoy the show!
Transcript: Book Chapter Read of So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing
Julia: Hello and welcome to The Write Podcast! This is Julia McCoy, and today I’m really excited to share with you that my book So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide To Successful Online Writing is finally out. It went live today as print and Kindle on Amazon! This book is a summary of every skill I’ve learned and taught myself in the last few years to create successful online content, from blogs to webpages and much more. To buy my book on Amazon just go to bit.ly/juliamccoy. The direct Amazon book link will also be in this podcast description. I’ve had this book idea for years and I started working on, So you think you can write about a year ago. It’s been crazy just to get through this year of writing a book, I have a whole new respect for authors. Writing a book is no small task, especially if you really wanna make it a good and worthwhile book. Worthwhile book. So the section I’m gonna read to you begins at the Introduction and I will read you chapter one, so let’s get started. Introduction. As an online marketer, site owner and freelance writer I’ve been and in online consecrations since 2011. In a short few years I have seen the entire world of online content evolve for 100’s of businesses. The good news is that I’ve seen a great deal of progression, in 2011 I saw a lot of sub par online content do just fine then Giggle Panda hit the web a lot of duplicate cured stuffed poor content got struck down from the rankings. Every time a major Google update has come out I’ve researched it, written about it and watched marketers flinch and then adapt. Some of my favorite clients were the marketers who came to me with the need to change and fit their content to the new Google rules and regulations. I think I was on speed dial for some of them [LAUGH] It was simple really. Many of these marketers just needed higher quality content or they needed to replace the duplicate content on their site that they had copied over from somewhere else on the web. Yikes! So today’s overall online content direction is progressing toward a higher content quality and standard all over the web. And who’s the major driving force? Google. I’ve been doing this for half a decade now and I run a seven figure company with a team of talented writers delivering online content to businesses of all kind. This has been my self taught full time career path. Here’s my belief about succeeding in this field, you don’t need a college course to learn to be an online writer, the nitty gritty, hands on, real world skills of online content writing aren’t taught in college yet. I’ll agree that a foundational knowledge from college English 101 or 102 is applicable if it helps to refine your basic writing skills. Consequently a journalism degree does help if you choose to write press releases, but I firmly believe anyone could be self-taught in successful online content writing to create great content for themselves or earn a living doing it with the caviar that they have a passion and talent for writing because passion and talent will keep them going. I’ve seen this manifest in my own career. If you’re this kind of writer but you don’t know how to bring your talents online yet or you want to solidify your knowledge in creating good online content, then my guide is just for you. I am giving you such a thorough definitive guide on online content writing that if you find all of it, you’ll be ready to write any kind of content that will rank well online and be successful, whether it’s for your clients or for yourself. Chapter One: Starting Grounds. Success in online writing, both monetary and in the subsequent value and ranking of great web content can happen for any passionate writer and brand given the opportunity to learn the tricks of the online writing trade. The tough part is there’s no one easy course to sign up for it that teaches you all of the tricks you need to know to succeed. I was completely self-taught and I picked up some of my bet skills by learning them on the job as I wrote online content for my clients, not what I’d suggest for everyone. I think that essential writing skills are born from a passion that surfaces at a young age. This passion can’t be taught and it’s the starting point of what it takes to be a stellar content creator and copywriter. My stunning growth can be traced back to writing fiction when I was just 9 years old. Many professional copywriters, probably more than half, double in fiction When the mood strikes them. Writing fiction maintains and sharpens the base skills of creative writing. When we grow up telling stories it’s only natural that we incorporate pieces of them into our current writing, and guess what, fiction writing is the fertile ground where some f the greatest storytelling genius is born and cultivated. A passion for storytelling born at an early age can blossom into amazing online content writing skills at a later age and thus translate into well developed copyrighting chops for the world’s most successful brands. Ordinary writers doing extraordinary things. Storytelling comes from showing reality from a different perspective, it could be summed up that simply. An interesting, unique point of view can really draw a person in, and when you combine the identifiable point of view with a good story to tell you transform that story into an extension of someone’s life. A good story and advertising copy makes the person witnessing it subconsciously think – GEE, that sounds like or could be me! How was that emotion pulled out? By a story told so well that it became relatable and real. Very often that person goes on to become a customer for the company that drew them in and related to them on a personal level. Although story telling styles and media has changed over time, the idea that a good story appeals to the audience is timeless, it’s why we tell our kids stories adapted from 16th century German fairy tales. The story is in itself a timeless art form. Once upon a time stories were used as a means of promoting discourse. Socrates presented his thoughts to the public in the form of fables. Many ancient Greek and Roman philosophers such as Euclid and Plato used to couch their factual knowledge and Story telling, and you know what? Stories stick. Who remembers the first grade fairytale rather than the sixth grade Geography or Math lesson? Me too. It goes to show that a relatable story is often remembered far more accurately and much more vividly than drier content pushed down our throats as a road to memorization. This persistence of memory is also another reason why the story has taken root in modern day advertising. Storytelling allows us to bring the audience into the front seat and bad times make each person feel like the most important person in the room. Nothing is as memorable as a show put on just for you, unless it’s a show that is starring you. In our attempts at storytelling we try to put the audience in the driver’s seat and have them experience the feelings and emotions that an ordinary person would feel in such a position, like the myriad of writers that came before us, from Herodotus to Shakespeare. We continue to carry on the timeless work of telling stories. What are the online writers stories made of? Now obviously online copywriters don’t write the kinds of stories found in books. You just won’t see a guy staring at a full page ad and reading it like a novel enjoying its use of double entendre, maybe we’ll get there one day, whenever any single one of us enjoys the fabulous art of reading entire volumes voraciously, but I highly doubt that’s likely. Our attention spans are currently dwindling not growing according to research. So the way an online writer builds a story is a little different. While a fictional writer has a toolbox full of plots, devices and character portraits, the content writer has a trunk full of information about whom they want to reach and the most effective way to do it. We began by researching our audience first and foremost before we even start writing. A fiction writer starts with the premise and then finds the audience but the copywriter starts with the audience and then generates the premise, and they create a story that sells to that audience. There are a number of different success tales in businesses, both large and small that testify to the usefulness of this story as a marketing tool. Recent trends in marketing have shown that combining the idea of a story to teach the audience something has a far greater impact on final sales. As entertaining as the story is, if it doesn’t sell then it isn’t successful from a marketing perspective. So are there limits to storytelling? Will the story ever detract from a message you need to get across to a potential customer in order to sell him or her? Enter the following example, marketing storytelling so good it sold crap literally. An example of storytelling success in marketing: Poo~Pourri. Recently I came across an example of brand storytelling so good it blew my mind. It was an ad by the brand Poo~Pourri on YouTube. This 3 minute 5 second video captured me and held my attention the entire time. Yes they interrupted the writing of this book. The video opens with a beautiful, English, redheaded girl drinking tea and eating baked goods with her lady friends. She suddenly experiences the passing of gas, looks into the camera and says, my butt trumpet is about to blow [LAUGH] and when the eclairs spreads my hot-crossed buns no one will ever know. It’s time to go down the crappit hole, where smelling is believing. The viewer then proceeds to get flushed down a toilet, and to a music video where people are doing yoga and simultaneously singing about crap with their heads between their legs. Did that just make you say what? And then immediately you want to know more. The maker of this newer brand sold no less than 4 million products to date. And I think the magic of their story telling is their primary reason. Make your story educating and entertaining. Potpourri’s example is so crazy good it’s out of this world literally I haven’t seen a better tale in marketing. If you can nail a story that creative then my hat is off to you. Not every brand will be able to come up with that amount of successful crappy puns, pun intended. So even if you cant be the next Poo Potpourri here’s how you should be using the hugely important element of storytelling in your content. The overall aim of our online storytelling should be to educate and entertain and from that naturally to sell. Educating validates the idea of a value-based content system, what Google and readers love today. Success for the online marketer is found in copy that isn’t aimed at a hard sale, but instead offers useful and insightful information. Through visualized content that naturally attracts more leads out of viewers and entertaining is simply your desired and achievable level of creativity. However far you want to go to make your story entertain your fans on a one to Poo~Pourri level. With a truly useful educational, entertaining story line and consistent content output, regular blogs, videos or other content types you’ll draw and warm leads will keep reading your content because it gives them an answer or solves their problems, and these leads are much more likely to buy your product. Then the readers face with the cold sale. This is big news for us writers, since a whopping 40% or more of the world’s population now has access to the Internet, which means there are more than 3 billion people online, Internet marketing is the primary advertising avenue for all businesses. More than 8 new people get online every second and over 139,000 new websites go live everyday based on 2013 statistics. 46% of people read blogs more than once a day and 82% of marketers who blog daily gain a customer from their blogs. Adobe has reported that Internet TV will be replacing traditional cable television with Internet video viewing growing by 388% annually, and cable TV is seeing the lowest number of viewers today than it has ever seen. I could cite stuff all day long but the point is if you’re in business your best audience is found online and the foundation of all online marketing is good content. Fundamentally good story telling is the key to writing contents that excels then add too this strong underlying foundation it make as your knowledge research skills and the ability to thoroughly address all of your readers questions. Learning to create captivating headlines that correctly reflect what the content is about is another important tool in your skill set. This described process is also what I’m about to teach you in my book. This approach is already working, numbers don’t lie, companies such as General Electric RedBull have utilized the medium of story telling in a bold new way giving theirs viewers and readers stories informing as opposed to selling. Go read and watch some of the media on their websites if you want to be inspired, and as I showed there are brands like Poo~Pourri taking storytelling to the next creative level. and simply sewing through the power of an astoundingly fun brand. Providing useful engaging content is the new face of marketing. If you’re aware of this concept and can manage to blend storytelling with useful information then you’re well on you way to becoming a first class content creator, and when And once you’ve had some experience in storytelling, whether it is making up fables on the fly or your kid brother, eating up volumes of beautiful fiction tales at a time or writing a lengthy essay you actually enjoyed creating for your middle school teacher, then you probably have the skills for this type of content. Truth be told I personally find it easier to write from an ad or targeted online copy perspective than just writing from a fictional perspective. Fiction gives you a lot of freedom to experiment but too much of a good thing means you have no limits or boundaries and it’s very easy to wonder off message. In contrast online copy almost every time has defined guidelines to work within and although you were challenged to think outside the box where really good ideas are born, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up doing something wrong if you stay within the guidelines while exercising your writing talents and skills. In this type of writing once you understand the instructions it’s impossible to stray off the beating path, fall off the cliff or wonder into the weeds. End of chapter one. I really hope you enjoy this brief excerpt of my book So You Think You Can Write, The Definitive Guide To Successful Online Writing. Thanks for joining The Write Podcast.
To buy Julia’s book, click the Amazon button below: