Today we are interviewing Angela England, author and speaker. She works for Element Associates as a content and social strategist. She has written numerous books, launched numerous websites, and shared her wisdom at conferences and workshops around the nation. Today she’s sharing how she used digital marketing techniques to sell physical books.
Tell us a little bit about how you grew up and how that impacted what you are doing today?
I grew up as the oldest of eight children, and homeschooled starting in the 80s before it was known or popular. I remember wanting to be so many things growing up – a marine biologist, a veterinarian, a midwife, a naval academy graduate, an actor, a concert pianist. My parents always encouraged us in whatever we wanted to learn, and as a result I never doubted by ability to learn to do something. If I couldn’t do something it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it – it was simply because I hadn’t figured out how yet. I believe that this attitude, and this love of learning, as carried over into my adult life in very positive ways.
Because I was the oldest of eight, I also learned out to delegate efficiently. It is absolutely a skill I use almost daily on the job today. My parents were both entrepreneurs so much of my formative years were spent assisting my mother on training meetings, workshops, even newsletters for her downline. I learned the pros and cons of running your own business and wasn’t caught off guard by the less-than-glamorous portions of this lifestyle.
Do you have children? How do you prioritize all the elements in your life?
I have five children and working from home was a very intentional decision on my part. When we started having children I was working as a massage therapist at a pain management clinic – a job I loved very much. I quit that job in order to be home with my children full-time and have loved being home. Writing a book, for example, isn’t something I ever would have tackled with a normal punch-the-clock type of job.
One of the biggest reasons I can do everything I do from home is because of my supportive family – my husband and parents and in-laws. If I leave for a weekend to speak at a conference I know my kids are in good hands with people who love them. That’s so important.
Another important part of prioritizing is keeping my family in the loop when a particularly time-consuming project makes itself available. For example, when I began writing Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles Into Your Landscape, the timing was a bit rough. We had just moved to a new home the week that the editor called me about the book. So even though the timeframe was reasonable for a book of this length, I knew that it would impact my ability to be busy unpacking if I were using spare time to write this book. So we sat down, my husband and I with the kids, and discussed the pros and cons of me taking on the book project and everyone voted to do it. This helped tremendously to minimize any feelings of resentment when we all went to the library yet again for more research.
Tell us more about Gardening Like a Ninja. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
The phrase, Gardening like a Ninja, is a phrase I used in a teeny-tiny section about Edible Landscaping in a (much) larger book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less)(Alpha Books 2012). This book covered everything from chickens, to building fence, to gardening. And the phrase appeared in a section about gardening in small spaces. Readers loved it! I got so many comments about that phrase compared to any other section of the book, I realized that the self-sufficiency mindset is really reaching far beyond what you think of as a typical “homesteader” and encompassing even regular home owners.
I was approached by Cedarfort Publishing, a smaller publishing house than the first publishing house I wrote with. Backyard Farming was published with one of the largest houses in the US so they had a very set system and way of doing things. I decided to work with Cedarfort because their smaller size gave me a lot more flexibility to show my personal creative viewpoint. I also knew that this project in particular had to be full color to show the beautiful plants in all their glory.
What are some of your top marketing tools? How are you most effective reaching new potential clients?
With this book I wanted to see if I could better blend my traditionally published book, “available at a bookstore near you” with the online work I have been doing the past ten years. With the publisher’s hearty permission, I developed an online course that expanded on the principles shown in the book. I even had an extra garden plan developed and illustrated to give the online course something unique that wasn’t included in the text of the book.
Readers can purchase just the course, or for a small amount more purchase the book and the course. The price point is designed to encourage purchasers to choose the course + book option and so far it’s worked like a charm. Not one person has chosen to order only the course without also purchasing the book. I use the $$ from the sale of the book to simply order the book off Amazon and have it sent as a gift to the purchaser. This boosts my sales ranks with Amazon, as well as makes it much easier for me to fulfill vs dragging five kids to the post office every day. (Anyone with kids knows what a joy taking them to the post office can be. Especially with arms full of book packages.) I could maximize the profit by fulfilling and shipping myself but the convenience factor makes it worthwhile for me.
How do you use digital marketing techniques to your advantage? Was it difficult to set up the course?
It was surprisingly easy to create the online course. I already had WP eCart plugin so it was easy to add on the Membership plugin as well. In fact if you get the eCart, Affiliate and Membership plugins as a bundle you save a lot. By purchasing the plugins upfront it’s a one-time payment with no additional costs to me – the plugin paid for itself the first WEEK. Seriously simple.
As far as creating the content it was easy. I worked through the book and expanded content I had to cut for page-count. I added the hand’s on activities I couldn’t photograph in time for the book, or that there wasn’t room to include. I created an exclusive garden design beyond the 7 gardens I made for the book, and then took step-by-step photographs of my creative process enabling my students to make their own garden designs with ZERO software costs or expenses. By thinking about how a reader would want to apply what they were reading in the book I was able to create a lovely little course rather easily.
What recommendations do you have for entrepreneurs starting new today?
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to getting your message out to the people who need to hear it. My readers were grateful for the extra garden design and hand’s on tips on how to create their own. By empowering them to do it themselves, I found they were enthusiastic about sharing their results with their friends.
Don’t be afraid to pause an idea until the right partner comes along. My first publishing house was interested in my edible landscaping book, but wouldn’t print the book in full color. I knew in my gut that the book needed to be color so I waited until the right fit for a publishing house came along. I had a tremendous amount of input into the creative process, the cover design, even my personal blog branding being included, as a result.
How do you overcome the challenges facing female entrepreneurs?
For me, one of the challenges I see women facing is the lack of support from those around them. There seems to be this huge misconception that women can be either a loving mother or a successful businesswoman. I reject that idea outright. One of the Bible passages that meant a lot to me as a child growing up was Proverbs 31 – this woman was astonishing. Not only did her children “rise up and call her blessed” but she did business on an international level. If she doesn’t have to choose one or the other, why should I?
Seeing my children every day is a huge part of why I quite the traditional work environment. But that decision said more about the traditional work environment, than about me and my abilities as a savvy entrepreneur or creative writer. I can still be quirky, witty, love-to-learn, buy-too-many-domains me AND raise my children in a supportive environment.