Today on the More Cheese Less Whiskers podcast we've got something quite different. Normally we have a business owner who has a business up and running, and we apply the 8-Profit Activators to identify the target audience, get them to raise their hand, educate and motivate them, make irresistible offers, and deliver a dream come true result.
Today however, we have Randall Floyd with us who writes books for young adults. He has his first one out right now and he's just getting started with a handful of sales. So we had a really great conversation about how to think of applying the 8-Profit Activators to a fiction book!
This is a really interesting episode and we actually went a little long because by the end of the call, the ideas were just flowing and we'd expanded the idea from just a book into a much bigger vision for the whole of the idea.
I really enjoyed this one and I think you're going to enjoy it too.
More about Randall: Randall Floyd
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Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 116
Dean: Randall Floyd.
Randall: Hi, Dean. How are you?
Dean: I am so good. How are you?
Randall: I'm good.
Dean: Well, I am excited to talk to you today. I think it's going to be a very interesting conversation.
Randall: I'm super nervous.
Dean: Oh, really, wow! Wow! I think this is an interesting thing, because I've never had a fiction author on More Cheese Less Whiskers, so it's an interesting thing, because I want to have a really great conversation about it and about the process here. How would you apply the Eight Profit Activators to this kind of pursuit here? Can you tell me the Randall Floyd story here and paint the picture of what we're working with?
Randall: Yeah, sure. I have a regular job, too. I'm an attorney by day, but with my fiction writing, I write kids' books, between the ages of anywhere from seven years old all the way up to middle school. For the most part, I live in a little bubble, I do a lot of my work from home. In order to spend more time with my family I've been doing fiction writing, so that I can jump onto being able to not have to be tied down as much with my job as an attorney, so I've been writing books for the last couple of years.
It's been fun, it's just I've been trying to figure out how to get the Eight Profit Activators and stuff like that, just to try and frame it around this venture that I've been doing right now with the book.
Dean: Well, I'm interested to hear how you even came into knowing about the Profit Activators or me. How did we end up connecting?
Randall: It was actually three or four years ago, I had a really long commute to work and I stumbled upon your I Love Marketing podcast. I probably listened to probably 150 episodes. I just really enjoyed listening to it. That was really done just through the podcast. Then 2016 I heard you were doing the More Cheese Less Whiskers podcast so I started listening to that as well. Then I just shot you an email just to see if this was something you'd be interested in talking about because I hadn't seen anything specifically for fiction writing. I didn't know if this was something that you'd even want to look at. I guess in a nutshell that's how it started.
Dean: Got you. Okay, well, that's fascinating. How many books do you have published so far?
Randall: I'm just about ready to publish the second book in my series. I’ve done a little bit, so it takes me about six months to write each one. Number two will be probably about a week or so after I launched it.
Dean: What's the genre? What are the books about?
Randall: They're young adult fantasy. These ones are set in just modern time in Sacramento and the Pacific Northwest. There are several other authors that I really enjoyed reading when I was a kid that I'm just writing toward that. There's Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan, and then there's a couple of other authors that are in that niche. It's mostly just young adult fiction and fantasy.
Dean: I got you, okay. Are you self-published, or are you with a publisher?
Randall: I'm self-published, yeah.
Dean: Okay, you publish on Amazon?
Randall: I do, and I'm trying to publish on the other platforms as well.
Dean: How's it going so far with the first book?
Randall: I'm selling probably one to two novels a day right now on Amazon, but that's really without any external forces driving the sales to them. I've only had a few reviews and stuff like that, but I guess the people that have read them have really enjoyed the book so far.
Dean: I've got you. How many books have you sold, or does Amazon ... I guess you would know that, wouldn't you?
Randall: Yeah, yeah. 350.
Dean: Okay, so 350 books. I guess part of the challenge, right, is that these are people that are invisible to you, right? They buy the book and you don't know who they are. It may be that the parents have, effectively, is probably who bought the book.
Randall: Right, right.
Dean: Is there any invitation for people to connect with you, to join in some way, so you can know who they are? Is there something that you offer to have people share their email address?
Randall: Yes. In the beginning with the Amazon books I have an offer for them to get a cut of the next book in the series, because it hasn't been written yet, I don’t have it completed and published yet. They have the option to get a copy of that by clicking on a link that sends them to my page, that tells them about the next book and offers for them to download it so that I can get their email address.
Dean: Okay. How many people have done that so far?
Randall: Well, my email list has about 230 people on it right now.
Dean: Did they all come from the book or is there something else that you've done?
Randall: No. Some of those came from a free promotion that I did. Honestly, I've only had a couple, maybe five or six people sign up through my book. That's the hard part is just because Amazon, they don't give that information out so getting people to jump from reading my book in order to let me know that they've read my book and stuff like that is a little bit of a struggle.
Dean: I got you. Are there any restrictions on what you can do to encourage people to leave their information?
Randall: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, there are certain restrictions on the kinds of things, I guess, that you can put in the book, you can actually link to a page on my website. It's not a big deal. You just can't be misleading at all.
Dean: I got you. Do most of the people buy the Kindle book or physical?
Randall: The Kindle book.
Dean: That's the biggest. What would be the breakdown?
Randall: Yeah, probably 95% buy the Kindle book.
Dean: 95% buy the Kindle book, okay. Okay, then what do you do with the 250 people that you have now? What happens with those?
Randall: I send them sometimes monthly, sometimes every couple of weeks, just updates on news and the next book and stuff like that. I'm going to be having somebody do an audio book version of this and send an email that lets people know the voices. They can email me back and see which ones they wanted to actually narrate the voice and updates on the next book and insider, just information about how the process is going and when the next book is going to be coming out.
Dean: Do you have any sense of whether it's the parents or the kids that are on the email?
Randall: Honestly, they're all parents and funny enough, the books are written for kids, for those grades and stuff, but a lot of their parents are actually the ones who are reading the book.
Dean: Well, that's probably not untrue of the whole young adult genre, right, that that's probably true. The whole Twilight series was considered young adult, wasn't it?
Randall: I think so, yeah.
Dean: Hunger Games, all those, that's where they all came from, right?
Randall: Right, yeah, yeah.
Dean: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's an interesting segment of the market, that seven to what would you say would be the top range for you?
Randall: Sorry, what was that?
Dean: The age group, the primary focus for you?
Randall: Yeah, seven to just right at the end of middle school age.
Dean: Okay, yeah, seven to 12, 13, right, exactly. Okay, the end of middle school, yeah. Okay, let's think about the dream come true experience that a seven to 12 or 13-year-old is looking for from a book, because if I'm going by the approach that I would take to apply the Eight Profit Activators here, it all has to begin with what would be a dream come true for your audience? What would be a dream come true for them? If you imagine what's the peak examples of what is most popular in that age group right now is what you would aspire to.
Randall: Right. Well, they get it and read it, meaning they enjoy it, then tell, because I have my contact information in there, let me know that they liked it and obviously they would tell their friends about it or their parents or whatever. I mean, the books themselves, they're fun. They move from one thing to the next, they're fairly action-packed and stuff like that. I just want them to blast through the book as quickly as possible, I guess, and really enjoy it, would probably be, I guess, a dream come true.
Dean: How is that actual category of readership doing? I look at it right now, like what's changed even in this crop of seven to 12-year-olds? I mean, it seems like what's happening right now is Fortnite and online things is where that's going, or certainly what has their attention now compared to 10 years ago, let's say, where the way that kids were engaging their imagination 10, 20 years ago, it feels like there was a bigger role for something like Harry Potter to have that kind of phenomenon happen.
Now it feels like some of that audience, attention has gone to the online games where it's more interactive. I don't have any data to point to whether that's true. Do you? Do you know? Is it a shrinking audience or are more kids than ever reading, or is it a struggle to really get kids engaged in books?
Randall: Well, I know that their attention is divided now more than ever between so many different things they have going on, including all the stuff that they're doing online and stuff. I mean, they obviously, if they are reading, more than likely they're reading more digital books. In looking and thinking about how I wanted to market this, I do believe that the kids themselves are probably doing less reading than they were before. Somehow the books are still selling.
My own conclusion to that is, because I'd love it if kids read my books. They did that and things like that on the weekends, did messages, but I think honestly the majority of the people that are going to be reading my books and a lot of the books that end up getting read in the young adult genre, are getting read by adults. That’s based on my research of looking at thousands and thousands of movies and stuff like that.
It's adults that are reading the reviews and there's a lot of adults that are reading them and a lot of them read the young adult books because they don't like the tones and some of the other things that come in, in the more adult genres that are written for an older audience.
Dean: Got you. If you were looking at what would be considered the best practices for marketing fiction books in this genre, what would be the textbook things, the things that would be what everybody would say to do?
Randall: Really the successful self-published authors, a lot of them, they have their free book, but they also have an intro to a series. A lot of the really successful fiction authors do series and then they draw traffic to that either through Amazon ads or Facebook ads, because those are the most cost-effective because the overhead on it is really, well, I guess the ads depend on how much books are selling for. You've got to have lower priced ads. We used to do that on Amazon.
Facebook if you do it right you create either a page that shows the book or to the Amazon page of whatever you're selling and giving that book away for free, and then getting that book. In order for them to get the book, then they have to get their email address. Then do a lot of marketing, specifically through Facebook ads and Amazon ads.
Dean: Yeah, and have you done any of that? Have you done any Facebook ads?
Randall: No, I haven't done Facebook yet. I've just been predominantly Amazon ads. My reason for doing that is mostly just because when people are on Amazon, they're already in the mood to buy books and in Facebook I have to take them every week through whatever I do to Amazon and convince them to buy a bunch of stuff, one last step in order to get people to buy my books.
Dean: Yes, I got it. I mean, if I was looking at this, it feels like in this series, how deep do you think this series could go? Do you have an arc for it that it could be 10 books, or is it an ongoing thing?
Randall: The arc for this one is five books, and I want to get all those finished within the next year and a half, the last two books, because I'm just finishing up this one. I do have plans to make it bigger than that, but I wanted to get an initial five-arc series taken care of first.
Dean: I got you, okay. How much do the books sell for?
Randall: $4.99 for the ones that are below 75,000 words and then if they go over 75,000, they're 5.99.
Dean: Okay, is that a policy of Amazon?
Randall: No, that's just how I'm doing it.
Dean: Okay. Of that, then, just so I get a sense of the economics of it here. Of that, if it sells for $5, how much of that do you get after Amazon?
Dean: Okay, you get 3.50 of it and they get 2.50 of it, is that right, or no, they get 1.50 of it, right.
Dean: Okay, yeah, I get the idea there that that doesn't leave you much room there, if you're looking to make it profitable, but the reality is, that the thing that would make a series like that work is to have a lot more people invested in the first one, right? If you look at, in terms of A, a capital investment in terms of not looking at it as an expense thing. Part of the thing that I think people struggle with, when you're trying to break into a new audience as for any artistic endeavor, right, it's just like music in a way.
Trying to break into music is that people don't know you, right? They don't know Randall Floyd. They don't know the series or they don't know it even exists, right, and there are so many options for them out in the world to choose from. That's why all of a sudden if you were to get on Ellen or Oprah or something where all of a sudden everybody knows about you, then that's going to draw people in to give it a try, right? Then if it continues, then people are hooked.
What's going to be really interesting for you is to know what level of uptake you get on the series kind of thing, right, whether people will buy the second and the third and the fourth and the fifth book in the series. That's really where all of the money comes from, right, if you think about the long-term or the lifetime value of this, where if we're looking at that there's ultimately five books in the series and you can make $3.50 per title, you're talking about $17 lifetime value of a new reader, if they buy all five, right?
Dean: It has to be high volume there to make that happen. Now, is there any desire on your part to have any deeper experiential thing or any multi-media for this, or anything else along with it? What would be your dream come true? I mean, would your dream come true be to just write these books and then magically people buy them and you just get to keep writing the books, or what is it about this that gets you excited?
Randall: Well, I enjoy reading books and writing them, but I guess in the future, I mean, there'd be a little bit of interaction. I want to have stuff related to the series available for people to do on the website for them, just like information about characters and things like that, and artwork and things like that. I guess my ultimate goal is this. Just for a little bit of background, I've got four kids, and they all really enjoy writing.
My ultimate goal would be to create some kind of platform where people see the authors and I could help other young authors. I wanted this also to coincide with being able to help young authors to get their feet wet and jump off. I guess ultimately where I wanted it to go, is something like that, but with the book series itself, I would love to be able to have something on a website.
I don't know, I haven't really thought about doing a whole lot of media or interactive stuff because I don't really know what there is. There are all kinds of things that the people could do. I mean, the more people that are staying on my website and interacting with the characters and stuff like that, I mean, the more exposure I'm ultimately going to get but I haven't gone beyond just having more information on the website about the characters in the book and things like that at this point.
Dean: I wonder, about building this community, might be the real thing. I wonder, is there a main character in the book, a lead, what do you call them, protagonist?
Randall: Yeah, the protagonist, yeah.
Dean: Tell me about the protagonist.
Randall: He's 14, just a young kid. He lives in Sacramento. His Mom, who is the only parent because his Dad has died several years before. He's just trying to figure out how just to be a normal kid, and as he's going through trying to figure that out, he finds out that some mythical creatures like griffins and dragons and stuff like that turn out to be real. It's him trying to explore this new world of these creatures, and trying to figure out what's going on and how it applies to him, I guess, in that respect.
Dean: What kind of adventures do they get in or what does that lead into? Does he have a group of friends? What's the story line?
Randall: Yeah, he works for the museum. He's at this museum, there are some shady things going on and this girl who's visiting shows up and he's never met her before. She talks him through what's going on in the night. They join up together to try and figure out what's going on at this museum. The story is him with her and some other characters as they're trying to ... First he has to figure out what's going on with all these mythical creatures.
Then, when he finds out they're real then he's going to interact with each one of them, the different main types of these creatures, and try to help them to stop fighting along with each other and trying to help them interact with the rest of the world in a way that is probably better than they've been doing in the past. I mean, I don't know how specific you want me to be.
Dean: No, I'm just trying to get a sense of where this could be, so that what I'm looking for is how could this carry out of the pages into an online experience or on to almost everything else. You think about the other phenomenon, the Pokemon Go. It seems like these things, I don't know whether that's still going strong, Pokemon Go, but for a while it was like, all everywhere. Everybody was Pokemon crazy when they just dropped it and it came out. Is it still a big thing?
Randall: Yeah, there are still a lot of people that use it right now.
Dean: Pokemon Go, yeah.
Randall: Yeah, and I was thinking of some other things. I know that with Harry Potter, she does certain things where one of the ones is, what wizard house would you be in, and you can take surveys. You get specific information if you're in one of those houses, because these mythical creatures, they can assume their form. They can be humans as well.
I thought it would be fun to set something up where people could do something and they could become pretty much which mythical creature they would be if they were in this world, a survey or something like that, and then give them specific emails and things like that, different things that would apply specifically to them if they were one of those.
Dean: Yeah. It's really an interesting thing. I wonder, part of my thinking around that is how you can get their attention, get the attention of the kids or the parents. I guess I'm wondering who drives the decision. Is it the kids hearing about this and coming to their parents and saying, "Hey, can you get me this one?" Or is it the parents saying, "I think you'd like this" or "I wonder how that happens"? Do you know? Have you had any kind of feedback or conversations or engagement?
Randall: It's both ways. I mean, this is mostly just anecdotal because it's from the kids in my area where I live in Portland, but it goes both ways. I mean, the kids read books and stuff at school and then, for whatever reason I'm getting parents every week or so that send me some kind of email asking for book recommendations for their kids because their kids are looking for more books to read, because they don't have enough. It's both ways.
Dean: Well, that's good. I mean, when you start looking at that, how many pages is a typical one of your books? I don't know what 55,000 or whatever words breaks down to.
Randall: They're generally between 250 to 350 words, just a regular novel.
Dean: Pages, you mean.
Randall: Pages, yeah, sorry.
Dean: Okay, one of the things that I've been observing is to see what's happening with the James Patterson books. He's been pioneering what he calls BookShots. They're 130-150 page books that are fast-reading, fast-going. Where my thoughts would go on this is, if it takes you six months to put one out in the life of a seven to 12-year-old, that's a lifetime in a way, right? Part of the thing that I would wonder and look at is, could you put out the series, instead of breaking it into five, having it be 10, that could double the number of books but it could also double the revenue that you could make as well.
Randall: Right, well I guess if they're shorter I'd be able to put them out quite a bit faster.
Dean: That's what I'm wondering, right? It keeps that momentum going. You could keep that engagement going, plus they're going to be tighter linked to the continuity of it. Each one is going to feel like it's left off where there's a real strong continuation into the next one, or are they all self-contained?
Randall: No, they're all continuations.
Dean: Okay, it is a continuation. I'm just thinking about how I would look at it as an opportunity to build that audience momentum faster. It feels like, boy, if you had two or three of them in series, it wouldn't almost make sense to put a lot of money into advertising the one book, because it doesn't make economic sense to do that right now, unless and until you have the next ones.
If you had three in the series, then it would feel like somebody could gather some momentum on it, while they're really looking at it, especially since we're as a society, becoming this binge culture, right, where all of a sudden a new season of something drops 10 episodes in Netflix and there's your next two weekends gone, right, watching all of these episodes, binging all the way through.
One of my favorite things, especially on Netflix, is to find a series that you can go into. I'm in the middle of it right now. We've been watching a series on Netflix called Better Call Saul and I don't whether you've seen that. Funny enough, he's an attorney. Have you heard of it or seen it?
Randall: I've heard of it but I haven't seen it.
Dean: It's very well done, really great. There's three seasons. I love to get engaged in the series where I can continue to bask in that environment for a while here. That's been a few weeks that we've been watching this series now, right? We're half way through season three, which is the last available season on there right now. I'm already mourning the end of the series, but I'm also looking forward to the next one, you know?
Dean: I look at it that nobody's going to know what a prolific or great or impactful author you are until we're looking back at it over the body of work that you have. Have you got ideas a minute? I mean, after this what was five, now 10 book arc here, have you got the next series in mind, or the next things, or has this been floating around and you just had to get this series out in the world?
Randall: No, I've got at least four other series all planned out.
Dean: Okay, I think that's a really interesting thing, that I think the velocity of this is really going to help. I think I would definitely look at shortening them, especially with that age group, right? It feels like an accomplishment of finishing the books as opposed to not finishing them or feeling like they're making that progress and it also builds in that progression there, you know?
Randall: Yeah, well, I think honestly after talking, I'm probably narrowing the window, redo a little bit and I'm probably going to break my first book up into two books-
Dean: That makes sense.
Randall: ... now, because I can, and I can break this one up into three books, the one that I'm just finishing right now. I can have five books done in the next month.
Dean: That would make a big difference, because now all of a sudden you're like, "Oh, wow, look at this guy." When you see that there's more available, that changes the thing. It's like, "Oh, okay, this is a series. I can dive right in here." To keep that momentum going, because right now if somebody finishes your book and they absolutely love it, you have no way of knowing it until you release the second book.
Whether you've got the relationship with them yourself or through Amazon, that's going to be the fastest indicator, is to watch the sales of the second and the third and the fourth. That excites me to think that in one month from now you could have the first five books in the series out there. That now makes it much more viable to turn new people onto it.
Randall: Yeah, well, and there's so many things out there that would be a really good option too just to get people to purchase the book.
Dean: Yeah. I think that could be an exciting thing, and then the question becomes, how do you get the word out about this? How do you now get it out there? Even though there are millions of seven to 14-year-olds out there, that you can't reach them all initially, so we've got to put some constraints on there. I would look at how you could get a full immersion impact in a specific geographic market.
The thing about seven to 12, 13, 14-year-olds is that they're very, very clustered locally. Their world is local. They're not traveling, they're not even driving. I was just having a conversation about this. Right now at this moment, I look at my life and I look at my global community. I look at it as having this conversation. I did a podcast with James Schramko and we were talking about this idea that I go to Australia every year and I go to Toronto and London and Amsterdam, and we've got these great communities built there.
I have some really great relationships with people in all those places, so my footprint feels more global, or my neighborhood feels global. We were talking about how when you're seven, until you get a driver's license, right, when your world is at seven until middle school, your world is really your neighborhood, immediate neighborhood where you can be within eyesight of your front door and wherever your parents take you for play dates or people at school.
In middle school it expands a little bit because you probably have a bike now, and you are moving around a little more into the neighborhood, not so much just on your street, so your world expands a little bit because you don't need that constant supervision there. Where I'm going with that is that I wonder if there's a way that you could go all in on taking over the hearts and minds of the seven to 10-year-olds in Poughkeepsie or somewhere, some specific area?
How could you expand an audience? It's a thing that movies do when they're independent movies that can't afford a wide release. They'll start and they'll go in limited release in Boston and New York or in one particular area. They'll focus all of their advertising and all of their awareness and stuff in that one area and then take the profits from there and go to the next city.
Back in the old days they would call that in the film business four walling, right, where they would go and rent the theaters and get the word out and sell all the tickets and stuff like that. I'm curious about and would approach this with that same kind of mindset, right? The reality is, there's been 300 people who've read your book and you don't know where they are, right, because they're all over the place, but it would be an interesting thing if you took an approach that ... Where do you live right now?
Randall: I'm in Portland.
Dean: You're in Portland, okay. If you just took Portland, for instance, you wonder how many seven to 13-year-olds are there in Portland right now, that are looking for something to read.
Randall: Yeah, there's a lot. I mean there are a couple million people just in the Portland area. Then there's also, I mean, on the other side of the Columbia River in Vancouver, there's another 200,000 people.
Dean: In Vancouver.
Randall: Yeah, so there are a lot of people from the area.
Dean: Right, I look at that and I start to think that's really where I would start with this. It may start with Happy Valley or Clackamas or something, just to start with one, even an area of that. How do you get in front of all of the people there? I think that on Facebook right now there's a targeting feature where you can target parents of kids in a particular age group, right?
You can't target the kids themselves, but the presence of kids, right? It's an interesting thing, that that might be a way to get in front of potential readers there, but you also start to think, how else could you, from the ground up, too? If the kids are hearing about this, how can you create this awareness about, curiosity about and enthusiasm for checking out something new?
Randall: Mm-hmm, I don't know. I mean, that's a really good question.
Dean: This is the thing. This is why I was excited about talking to you, because in most business things, where I can say, "Here's what to do," but this is an opportunity that I was excited to maybe have the conversation and to think how I would think about this, right? How I would approach this is that, if you're going to have the number one selling young adult reader series, that it's got to start with all of the kids in Portland, you know?
Dean: I don't know whether you heard the episode that Joe Polish and I did with Daymond John on I Love Marketing. He had his book called The Power of Broke, and one of the things we were talking about was this idea, because I've been fascinated by it, if you think about everything that is global and dominant was at one point local and brand new. When you look at the fact that Oprah was a local Chicago or some Mississippi weather person. That's how it started and the Oprah Winfrey Show was a local show in Chicago.
You can't hide greatness. That's really the thing. It's like you have to focus on that. All these bands that become the biggest bands in the world started out as the best band in their local area. I've joked with Daymond, there's a movie about U2, their early days. They were billed as the second best band in Dublin, which is funny when you think about that, that the second best band in Dublin went on to become the biggest band ever in the world.
You start to think about this. What if we took this thing, and almost, I don't know if there's a way to blur the lines of reality on the existence of your protagonist, of whether you really can personify that person, I don't know.
Randall: What do you mean?
Dean: Well, I just start to think about it, what would it be? I'm just thinking about the convergence. If I'm thinking with my full, creative, green light hat on, of just brainstorming ideas, thinking about what comes to the surface for me is, if there's a way to converge all the things that are going on right now. What has the attention of these seven to 13-year-olds right now? If I were to list the things that we talked about and maybe some other things, if I would just say Fortnite, for sure, Logan Paul and Jake Paul probably are right up there, that whole phenomenon.
Even that blew up a little bit but that audience is still there, fastest growing audience ever, and you think about Pokemon, in that world, and that would start to look about, how could you almost marry those three things? What would happen if your guy, your protagonist was actually a real YouTuber, for instance, if you start to think about how this could go?
Randall: Oh, well, that's interesting. I mean, I know I'm going to create at least a Twitter handle for each of the main characters, but going above and beyond that would be even better. That sounds like fun.
Dean: It's fantasy and reality, we're definitely getting into that world where the YouTubers are. Kids do not know real celebrities from YouTube celebrities, right, if you were to list the most famous people? How old are your kids?
Randall: Six and then nine, 10 and 11, and it's totally true. My six-year-old thinks there's a YouTube channel called Dude Perfect, and all these guys do is trick shots. He had me send them an email asking them to create a Dude Perfect Land so that he could go and do trick shots in Austin, Texas. I totally understand.
Dean: Right, I mean, the nine, 11-year-olds, those probably were deep in the Jake and Logan Paul situation, I'm sure, or Fortnite. I don't know what your policy on gaming is or whatever in your family, but aside from that, that would probably be a good guess, right?
Randall: Uh huh.
Dean: Yeah. I wonder if you're either embracing that and trying to merge and be adjacent to it, or in your mind are going opposite of that, an alternative to that. This is what role are you filling in this experience for people, right? Are parents or kids, the kids who are reading your book is your audience, your ideal audience? As an alternative to gaming and to YouTube, are the parents who are encouraging their kids to read your books romanticizing the past of using your imagination the old-fashioned way, right, or the traditional way, versus this artificial stimulation and limiting screen time and all that stuff.
Is your audience embracing that and maybe giving the vegetables along with some ... You think about where you fit in this, and I don't know where you stand philosophically on the role of this in a child's development, or whether you even give that any thought or whatever.
Randall: Well, it's right down the middle as far as what parents think. They've read my book with their kids as far as ... I know a lot of parents really do want to have other ways for their kids to spend their time other than being glued to whatever device they're using. I think that my ultimate goal is, I really just want to give parents and kids just an option. This is really stemming from another company that I'm fairly familiar with, called VidAngel. What VidAngel does is, they filter movies so that they make them cleaner for families.
It's not the filtering part that I'm interested in, it's the fact that they have over a million people that subscribe to their service, that really they want cleaner content for them. Really that's where I'm going, because I know that one of the biggest concerns that I have when my kids go to school, they check out the libraries and stuff like that, is that they're going to read books that have content in them that I, one, either don't think that they're mature enough to read, or two, don't want them to read in the first place.
I wanted to give parents the opportunity to have those kinds of books for their kids, whether it's creating some YouTube channel that would enforce that same idea, or just having a whole ton of books that just give parents that opportunity. That's the market, really, that I'm going for.
Dean: Yeah. I think that almost you've got to really embrace this ... If I were to look at this idea, I would be totally looking to embrace that convergence of being it so that they can carry the passion that they have online or on YouTube or on into the book, then, right, when the kids are ... As soon as the parents say, "Okay, turn off that and get ready for bed," we often encourage that the kids can read. Go to bed and you can read for 20 minutes or whatever. Then they can carry that now and get to read but stay in the same thing, you know?
Dean: I think there might be something to this idea of making your protagonist a real person.
Randall: Yeah, no, I agree actually. That's a very good idea. I'd have to look at, I don't know, I'd need a younger boy. I don't have one, but I'd want to do something like that. I think that would be fun and interesting, because I mean, the books are based on mythology for one, and really scholarly papers that have been written by other people about where these creatures came from in mythology. I thought maybe I could do little mini-series, and this could be video or whatever, and stuff like that.
Dean: If we were to say J. K. Rowling took the fantasy element to the peak that you could take it kind of thing, right, that the interesting thing that she did was framing the context of it as Harry's school, that the arc of the books went from him at a young age all the way through each year at school, so somebody could grow with him.
Part of the challenge of your protagonist being 14 years old is that he's at the top of the age range of what you're looking for, right, as opposed to being able to take a five-year journey from seven to 12 or eight to 13, or whatever and develop that. It's like if you have a 14-year-old right now then, it has to be like Bart Simpson, that it's the same age for 30 years. I don't know, just thinking out loud here, how that-
Randall: No, that's good, I think that would be good. I could totally lower his age. I mean that just takes finding a place on my Word document.
Dean: Yeah, right. The good news is that you've only got 300 people that know, right, and that could build the legend of it in a way, right, that those would be collectors' items, the original ones. The fact is there's not very many of them in print that way. That kind of thing feels like that could be an amazing phenomenon if you took that journey from eight to whatever, and not knowing what I know, that you then would have to maybe sacrifice that 14-year-olds or 12 or 13-year-olds aren't going to be as interested in reading about a seven or eight-year-old, right, maybe?
That could be the unintended consequence of it, right, that you would aspire to read about someone older, because you can put yourself in that thing but at that age I don't know that they ... Maybe that's where you start with and grow that audience. That way you have a five-year window that you're growing with the same audience. If you could get exposed to all the seven-year-olds right now, you have a five-year window with them to grow with them.
That becomes a thing and then, like the Harry Potter books in a way, that the parents start the kids on. It's almost like at each age they're ready for the next book in the series kind of thing, you know?
Dean: It's one of those things where this is the way of thinking it all the way through and luckily you're at the point where you could shape it any way, any way you wanted to. When I say about blurring those lines of making that real, is making that YouTube situation almost like then it's almost like the books could be field guides almost, right, for whatever his adventures are that he's happening. Then you could build almost a community of people that way.
Randall: Yeah, yeah. A lot of the young adult books, the kids, some of them are a little bit younger, but I think they usually start right around age 10 or 11. I know Harry Potter started when he was 11 and a lot of the really popular books, the kids are right around the 10, 11, 12-year-old age and they follow them along right from the beginning. Starting there, I think I'm definitely going to do that. That's a really good idea, and then creating something that goes alongside it.
I mean, my ultimate goal would be to be a media company, where I could have all kinds of different things and the hub of it would be the books and then all the little spokes around it would really help make it turn, but yeah. I'm just trying to think of different ways that I can bring something into the video aspect for YouTube and stuff like that. I mean, there's lots of things I could do like, I don't know.
I mentioned doing little mini-documentaries coming from the perspective of James, and talking about why he loves certain creatures or his favorite things about them, or stuff that he'd recently done with them or things like that. I guess they only have to be three to six minutes long, honestly. They don't even have to be really long videos either.
Dean: Right, yeah. I think that could be a really interesting thing. You're starting to think now about what other things then it could be. Then you'd get into things where some of these mythical creatures and stuff become T-shirts and stuff that kids can wear as well, you know?
Randall: Mm-hmm, yeah, that would be fun to have a merchandise line.
Dean: Well, exactly, yeah.
Randall: My kids are already coming up with ideas for T-shirts and stuff for them anyways and it's so easy to just drop ship and have somebody else do all that stuff.
Dean: That's exactly right, but I think to get that level of engagement, you've really got to think that through and it's got to be more frequent than one book every six months in order to build that kind of thing at that age to get that level of attention.
Randall: Yeah, well, I'm definitely going to…
Dean: I love that we've gone from five books to 10 books. We've just doubled your revenue right here ... Hello?
Randall: I think all the other books would be able to break up into three books each.
Dean: There we go. That's really a cool thing now. I think it would be encouraging because we're not talking about kids buying a $300 something that they lose interest in after a few months or a few weeks. We're talking about a $5 book, right? What parents are going to deny their kids wanting to buy another book, right, especially those parents if that's the thing?
"Dad, can you buy me this book? I want to get this. I really love this series. Can I get the next one?" They're going to feel proud that their kids are enjoying reading and that they successfully steered them around this abyss of the electronic canyon of death. "My kid loves to read. He can't get enough. He reads them so fast. He's in this new series and he just can't put them down. He's already on the fifth one," you know what I mean?
It's like that's a thing that the parents are going to think that their kid is a voracious reader if he's racing through these at that pace rather than getting through this 250 or 300-page opus, or think that they have to get through.
Randall: Yeah, I totally agree. What are you asking the parents to do anyways? They just forego one Starbucks coffee.
Dean: It's too low to even register, that's the thing, right? No, I mean, honestly, that's what we're talking about, that it's not there for their kids. What else are their kids doing, right, that is so much more? They're spending so much more in app purchases, on games, I mean, whatever. You've got a cool opportunity there. Well, this is all very exciting. I've had a really enjoyable conversation. How is this landing for you? What are you thinking about the direction or whatever that we went in? What was your take here?
Randall: I really, really enjoyed it. I mean, first off I appreciate that I only had to be nervous for two seconds because I've never done something like this before. Secondly, though, I mean, I've gotten so many good ideas just from listening to you talk about other people's stuff, specifically addressing the needs and the launch and stuff of what I'm looking to sell in my target audience. It's been spot on to what I was looking for. I mean, some of the stuff, well most of it, I hadn't even really thought, so just the fact that I was able to put a bunch of new thoughts around trying to just sell the same thing, it's really been really, really, helpful.
Dean: That's awesome, expands your vision for it in a way, right?
Randall: Yeah, that's an understatement for sure, but yeah.
Dean: Well, this is all very exciting. You're going to feel a sense of completion and accomplishment too, when the books are coming out faster than one every six months, and you get some feedback and reward for that.
Randall: Well and honestly, what I'm going to start doing probably is, I'm still going to do the six months, but it'll be releasing three books at a time. I much prefer the Netflix model where I can watch and get some closure at the end of it. I mean, you still have to wait for the next series, but at least you're able to get in with the characters and see what they're doing and stuff, so that's definitely what I'm going to start doing.
Dean: Yeah, I love it. Well, this is all very exciting. I'm going to watch this unfold here. It's going to be really interesting to see where it takes, but I would give some thought to how you could constrain your awareness campaign to Portland and Vancouver initially, to become the most popular series among that age group in Portland. When you get them talking, reverse engineer. How would that happen, right? It's an interesting way to think about things.
Randall: Yeah, it is, I mean I'm thinking about doing stuff. I don't have any contacts, but doing stuff at schools or libraries and somehow getting in the local news, just so people can see that there's a local author who's written books for kids that X, Y and Z in them, and maybe interviews with kids and stuff like that about how they liked the books and things like that.
Dean: Yeah, very cool. Well, it's been very exciting. I appreciate your being willing to share and coming on, and I can't wait to watch it all unfold.
Randall: Thanks, Dean. I really appreciate that you took the option to talk to me as well. It really means a lot.
Dean: Thanks, Randall. I'll talk to you soon.
Randall: All right, have a good day.
Dean: Bye. There we have it. Wow, what an exciting adventure to go from "Hey, I write these books" to starting to think about, how can we create something that is going to be a convergence of all of the things that have the attention of the target audience, right, of seven to 12, 13, 14-year-old kids. How can you use all of that already existing momentum or attention and build something that they could grow with.
A lot of really interesting concepts there and I can't wait to see how it all unfolds with Randall. You can see there our thinking about applying the Eight Profit Activators here is really about envisioning what would be a dream come true? That's really what we spent our time focused on, right, is what will be a dream come true and who is the ideal target audience for that. Then we talked about constraining or trying to reach them to a specific geographic area and to build from that foundation.
I can't wait to watch it all unfold. I love having a variety of businesses like this. We talked with New York Times bestsellers and in business books and this was a very different approach here, but I would love to talk to you. If you've got any kind of a creative business, or anything that you would like to apply the Eight Profit Activators to, you can communicate with us by going to morecheeselesswhiskers.com and if you download the More Cheese Less Whiskers book. If you'd like to be a guest on the show, just click on the Be A Guest link, tell us a little bit about your business, and then we can get together and hatch some evil schemes for you. That's it for this week. Have a great week and I will talk to you next time.