Jeffrey Shaw of the Creative Warriors podcast is an amazing host. Before the episode, he sent over a document that provided his tips for preparing for the interview. It was helpful to know some of the questions to expect and to prepare my messaging. This isn’t a surprise, this kind of coaching is his thing.
These are the highlights from our talk, as listed by Jeffrey:
Choice is power.
The “good life” can come with being rich in ways other than money.
If you’re going to have a business that’s ‘big enough’ you have to come to terms with the money that is just enough as well.
Having your financial house in order gives you the power to choose what size business is enough.
Gamifying your spending and saving can help put it in perspective.
Studies show that making around $80K/year is where most feel satisfied with their lives whereas making over $200K/year often provides less satisfaction.
Deciding on constraints up front can drive you to end with the business you truly want.
Having a Lifestyle business doesn’t mean it’s not scalable.
Self-employment brings more personal development than you might expect.
Big Enough will be officially published in 30 days, on September 15th. As you can imagine, the book is constantly on my mind and taking up hours of each day. Here’s what I’m doing right now:
Today is a beautiful Saturday in August and it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside. Our friends are sending us photos of themselves on the beach and having an afternoon cocktail. But for me (and Sachi) it’s a workday. On Monday, the pre-order campaign will begin and I’m doing everything I can to prepare. My goal is to sell as many pre-order copies as I can because all pre-order sales count on launch day. If the number is big enough, it can create a splash that earns attention for the book.
Creating videos to go along with Big Enough has been a joy. Making media is a passion of mine and the book gave me an opportunity to create a live-action video as the trailer that includes videos shot with a drone. Two other videos are more Common Craft Style. I’ll be sharing them all soon. At the moment, two videos have been finalized and the third will be done later today. We’re adding captions and uploading them to the sharing services in the next two days. Yay!
The book’s web page on leelefever.com will be the home of the pre-order campaign and we’re shining up the last bits. For example, we’re offering incentives for pre-ordering. If you pre-order the book and send me a screenshot of the receipt, I’ll send you three stickers. If you buy five, I’ll send you Big Enough socks. Making all this clear is a challenge and we’re so very close.
Authors in my position can make their book more successful by directly contacting people in their network. I have a list of a few hundred people that I will email individually next week with a request: please pre-order the book or share it online. It will take time, but I really enjoy connecting with everyone.
Social Media + Blogging
I have been increasingly active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with book messages, so I post a mix of things in addition to book updates. When I write blog posts like this one, I usually share the link on Twitter and LinkedIn. I started blogging on leelefever.com in 2003, but I admit, I let it languish for a few years. Now, I’m motivated to make it one of my most useful resources and that means consistent blogging.
I expect the book to raise the visibility of Common Craft and in the past week, we completed some much-needed development work. This weekend I’m reviewing the changes and making final tweaks so that it will be ready for prime time.
I’m recording a few podcasts next week and preparing by reviewing previous episodes of those shows. I’m also working on outreach to podcasts hosts who might be open to having me as a guest.
In the past, I’ve struggled with self-promotion. With the release of Big Enough, I’m working to overcome my anxiety about it and doing everything I can to help the book be successful. If I’m going to be an author for the long term, I have to be ready to promote myself. Every day, I remind myself that I’m doing the right things and learning. Sachi’s ongoing support is essential.
Needless to say, we have a lot in motion and I’m honestly surprised by how good I feel about it. I’m excited to contact friends and can’t wait to be on podcasts. Once the launch arrives, the bulk of my work will be done and the book will be out in the world.
One of the first big challenges of marketing a book is getting endorsements or “blurbs” from influential people. It’s stressful because you are not only asking favors of people you admire, but you’re sharing the book for the first time. It’s easy to feel nervous about their perceptions.
I made a list of about 15 people and contacted them via email. To my surprise, nearly everyone responded. Some didn’t have time, but the majority agreed to read an early version of the book and provide an endorsement that’s used in at the beginning of the book and in marketing on bookseller websites, my website, and more.
I took on this project in February of 2020, expecting the book to come out in May. With the blurbs approved, I asked for each endorser’s mailing address and planned to send them a thank you card. Then, the pandemic hit, and the book’s release got pushed to September. I wanted to send them something as a thank you, but a card didn’t seem as safe as it once was.
So I made an animated gif for each person, using Common Craft artwork, and included it an email. Along with the gif, I included a photo of their blurb in the book. Here’s how it went:
I hope you are well. Normally, I’d send a card to say thanks for endorsing Big Enough, but I think we’re all better off using bits instead of atoms these days. So, I made this as a thank you:
Closing the loop on the endorsements is one more thing off a very long list. So, hooray for that and the people who took time to work with me on the blurbs.
While it’s probably true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, most people do. Covers can have a big impact on sales and getting the cover right is a big priority. Here’s the final front cover for my book Big Enough:
I had the help of Page Two Books and designer Peter Cocking. We worked together over a few weeks to give it the feel we thought was appropriate. While it’s a business book, I really see Big Enough as a book about a business. It reads more like a memoir or autobiography and we wanted the cover to feel personal and engaging. I wanted it to send the message “this is a business book that doesn’t seem like homework”.
The dog helps. It’s hard to look too serious with a cute dog on the cover. I thought the French bulldog was an iconic symbol for Big Enough: small in size, big in attitude. We call the dog “Big-E” and he has become part of the book’s marketing. Here’s a sticker I had designed for pre-orders that uses Big-E as inspiration:
I’m so thankful to those who provided endorsements, which are quotes about the book by influential people. There is one on the front from Auston Kleon, three on the back cover, and eleven endorsements in the first few pages of the book. It meant so much to me that they would take the time to read an early version of the book and provide a quote.
The Back Cover
The back cover is meant to help people get a quick feel for the content of the book. Along with endorsements from Seth Godin, Tara Hunt, and Jason Kottke, the back has a finely-crafted description of the book. Jessica Werb was a big help in getting it right.
One of the side-effects of being known as an explainer is the tendency for people to pay close attention to how I explain ideas large and small. I can imagine them asking a question and then waiting to see what amazing analogy I can pull out of my hat. Of course, like asking a comedian to be funny, it doesn’t typically work that way. The explanations that support my livelihood take many hours to craft.
Now that I have a book coming out, I’m facing another kind of explanation challenge in the form of explaining Big Enough. It seems like every time I write about it, I take a slightly different path and I’m constantly wondering if I’ve stumbled upon the one explanation that works best.
Common Craft Co-founder Lee LeFever has a new book arriving in May 2020. The book is called Big Enough and it tells the story of building Common Craft to be an intentionally small company over the last decade. If you’re curious about the company behind the videos and saner, healthier approaches to entrepreneurship, you’ll love it
Like so many before it, this little promotion will come and go. And that’s the problem. I could craft the best, more productive summary and never know if it hit the mark. Further, because it’s for a specific audience, there’s no guarantee it will work in other contexts. Such is life as an explainer. I find solace in the fact that each time I write about the book, I’m practicing and hopefully, getting better each time.
I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.