Back in 2012, I was driving back from a friend’s house one summer’s day when I had to stop at a crossing to let a small child and his grandmother cross the road. The child was a young boy, probably about 3 years of age and on top of his shoulders was the biggest, fluffiest head of creamy white hair you’ll ever see. He reminded me of a sheep.
As I stopped the car and waited for them to cross, the boy stopped in the middle of the crossing and looked up at the sky to the big black cloud that was heading our way. For such a young boy, I was actually quite impressed that he seemed worried about the weather. The memory I have most of that brief encounter was his head of white hair and the big black cloud.
The boy and his grandmother crossed the road safely and off they went. I put my car in first gear and pulled away, unaware that from then on, my life would be changed for the better somewhat.
The reason for this is because as I made my way home, I kept thinking about the young ‘sheep’ boy and the big dark cloud and before I got home, I’d come up with the idea for a ‘blog’ about a weather forecasting sheep. His name would be Derek, named after a popular weatherman we have here in Wales.
Derek the Weathersheep as he became known, didn’t even start out as a blog. I set him up as a Facebook profile and started adding a few friends. I updated the daily weather forecast on Facebook and before long, I was introducing new characters to his posts, creating a whole new world of farmyard animals that lived on an imaginary farm. For some reason, people seemed to love the concept and I got lots of friend requests.
Derek’s popularity grew and grew. By the time Christmas had arrived, he had thousands of Facebook friends (none requested by me) and when the snow arrived, it went ballistic. Derek reached 5,000 Facebook friends and he was on top form.
But then disaster struck. Facebook, in its infinite wisdom, blocked me as I wasn’t using my real name. I couldn’t even log in to tell my new friends what had happened.
Not one to give up, I set up a Facebook page (as opposed to a profile) and started all over again. One thing I was going to do this time was to buy a domain, run a proper blog and use Facebook as a tool to get people to my blog instead of hanging out on Facebook. As word got out, my Facebook fans picked up slowly but by getting people off Facebook and onto my site, I was able to build up some traffic.
Things were going well but then disaster struck again. Facebook (again) banned me for posting a picture of someone’s bare arse. For the second time, I’d lost my fanbase. But I still had my website.
For the third time, I had to start again from scratch. I had to find a way of securing a fan base and the best way I found was to capture people’s email addresses on my website. I set up a ‘Subscribe’ box on my blog so that people could subscribe to my daily weather forecasts. If Facebook decided to ban me again, I could easily reach my fans and tell them where they could find me.
What I didn’t realise was the creating a mailing list over time was one of the best things that I could have ever done. Not only was I able to keep in touch with my fans at the click of a button, but I suddenly realised that I could also use it to sell stuff.
So somewhere along the line, I decided to write a spoof book called ‘Fifteen Grades of Hay’ (Fifty Shades of Grey was doing the rounds at that point in time). It was a daft book based on the erotic goings on of some sheep on a Welsh farm. I know – it was rubbish. I self-published my book and set it up on Amazon using Createspace. I set the price low and I then emailed all my fans and told them about my book. Naturally, they all bought the book at the same time, rocketing it to the top of its relevant Amazon charts. Once it was there, it sold itself because it was top of the charts. It’s paid for holidays, Christmasses and I’m still getting royalties.
So if you have a book that you’d like to sell, using your blog is a hugely powerful tool to make it success. There are a few things that you’ll need to get right along the way (I got a lot of things wrong!) but put simply, here’s the basic formula I used:
- Set up a blog
- Create a band of loyal followers by writing engaging content
- Capture their email addresses (I use a plugins on WordPress that add people automatically to my Mailchimp mailing lists)
- Write a book and self-publish it on Createspace for paperbacks and Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks. There are other alternatives but these are the ones I used
- When you’re ready, email your lovely long list of email addresses and get them to buy your book all at the same time.
- If you get to #1, remember to get a screenshot of your achievement. Then start selling yourself as an Amazon best-seller.