Day 112 of Self Quarantine Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.: 131,000
“The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.” – Benjamin Disraeli
“Self-publishing is akin to launching a startup. Entrepreneurs must create a product, test it, raise money, recruit talent, and find customers at the same time.” – Guy Kawasaki, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book
I started writing Know Now two months ago. I tentatively titled the book Minimum Viable Business.
I wasn’t making much progress. I constantly tweaked my outline. I wandered in circles trying to identify my target audience.
Randomly, an email appeared suggesting that writing a non-fiction book is like doing a startup. My hand moved rapidly to slap my forehead.
I remembered Guy Kawasaki’s book APE.
I realized the first thing I needed to do was a draft Lean Canvas.
My original thought was to write something for product managers. A quick Google search estimates that there are between 100,000 and 200,000 product managers in the United States. I like to do quick back of the envelope revenue projections to see if there is enough potential revenue to support writing a book with a startup mindset.
- $100,000 Digital books (10,000 x $10)
- $100,000 Online Courses (1000 x $100)
- $100,000 Personalized Zoom Consulting (100 x $1000 per hour)
- $5,000 Medium Blog Posts royalties ($5,000)
- $0 Stock option value realization ($500,000 in Year 4)
- $50,000 POP Your Value Solution kits – package of Zoom, Otter, Attenuated … (5% of revenue from partners for $3000 per year per product manager – 1000 kits)
I check to see how many entrepreneurs there are – 27 million. How many of those are in high tech? >150,000 I like these numbers a lot better.
Now it is time to do some user research.
I reach out to several product managers (early stage startups, Nuix, Microsoft, Facebook and Google) to do a 30 minute interview with these questions:
- Why did you become a product manager? What attracted you to this career?
- What were the most important topics or concepts that you had to learn at the start of your product management career?
- What do you know now that you had wished you had known when you started as a product manager?
- What would you like to learn more about?
I wanted to understand what were the important things to learn and whether product management was different in a startup versus a big company. My favorite quote came from a product manager who has worked in both a startup and a large tech company:
“In a startup you spend 80% of your time doing product management work and 20% of your time persuading others to do the right thing. In a large company you spend 20% of your time doing product management work and 80% of your time persuading others to do the right thing.”
In parallel with this research effort, I started mentoring five startup CEOs in digital marketing, Jupyter like notebooks extensions, biotech, and legal AI. I quickly realized this work was action oriented user research.
In the middle of this research, Professor David Socha, asked if I would do a guest lecture for his University of Washington at Bothell Computing & Software Systems Evidence-Based Design course.
CSS 572: Evidence-Based Design
Provides a foundation in evidence-based user-centered design theory, methods, and practices for creating innovative software-enabled products.
We decided that the topic would be about the importance of Outcomes thinking for human centered design rather than features based design prevalent in the high tech industry. As part of the preparation for the lecture, David required his students to submit five questions they would like to ask of me about outcomes – before the lecture. What a precious gift this was.
I used the presentation to synthesize what I was finding from my experience and user research. I compared my synthesis to the questions that the Masters degree students generated from their reading about Outcomes. I also provided written answers to each of the 50 questions that were submitted.
In my view, the presentation “failed.” My synthesis, while helpful for me, was too abstract for students in just learning about human centered design. However, the presentation succeeded as I realized I needed to be specific as well as providing thinking frameworks.
I reinforced through the action oriented research that I am most interested in working with early stage startups where the product and company are one and the same. Intrapreneurs have the same characteristics in a large company – their product idea and the business case are one and the same.
I want to write about and share the benefits of human centered design, outcomes orientation, and value (monetary value, supporting human values, and valuation capture strategies).
As my wife and I have self-published a couple of books and there are lots of resources for how to publish and the business model for self-publishing, here are introductory resources:
- Guy Kawasaki, APE
- Kindle Publishing Guidelines
- Bookworthy Self-publishing Tools
- Just Publishing Advice Tools
For me, the more interesting option is combining the book with online learning. I attended several boot camp free online teaser courses from Jeanine Blackwell and Danny Iny. Both offer “master classes” for $2,000 to $6,000 to help you put your course together. Jeanine was immediately credible as I had purchased courses on painting fundamentals from two of her students.
While I was interested in the “how” for creating a course, I was mostly interested in the business models and the how to market your courses. I was surprised when both experts recommended writing and distributing a free book in order to promote your course. Blackwell even has a course on how to write your promotional ebook in a day.
The potential of the combination of the eBook and a “master class” caught my attention during the free bootcamp from Danny Iny and Abe Crystal (Ruzuku) that answered the question “can you just build the whole course for me?”
Iny was adamant in his three day free bootcamp for his master class that only the student can create the course that is related to their core transformation. However, he realized that building an online teaching business requires having lots of content. He reached out to Abe Crystal to co-develop a collection of almost ready to go courses that a core course creator could surround their product. The idea is that Ruzuku would host courses that were almost ready to go. All the student had to do was record in their voice or in video the transcripts of the content that was already created in the Ruzuku system. The student experts could then use these courses as teaser material or sell them for a nominal amount. Each of these additional courses would always point back to the core course of the creator.
Iny and Crystal shared that it would take $100,000 and three months to create 20 instant courses to augment the student’s core transformation course.
The instant course idea was great and the methodology to self fund the course development was great. Out of the 500 students who attended the free two hour bootcamp, Iny and Crystal only needed 30 to sign up to pay the costs of their projected course development. I am guessing that at least 100 students signed up. The benefits were pretty clear:
I did not sign up. I just couldn’t figure out how Iny could get 20 quality courses created in just three months for only $100,000. Then it hit me. Iny already has moved >1,000 students through his master class on creating core transformation courses. He has the content developed from his previous students. All he had to do was select the best courses and switch out the “expert” who developed each of the 20 courses for a script that the instant course purchaser could replicate in their own voice.
Like that, a new multi-million dollar revenue stream for Iny’s online course business is created and Crystal now has another 1000+ lifetime customers for his online course platform. Neither Iny or Crystal needed any additional investment. Further, Iny has spawned many hundreds of expert core transformation entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs can then be added to his network of expert coaches for his master class students as well as adding to his instant course library.
My initial estimate for where the revenue is with my book is too low. I can envision $ 1 million per year in this online learning category alone.
With a book and the online courses, the path to monetizing professional expertise is clear. By doing both the book and the course, they provide leads for private coaching, consulting engagements and for paid speaking opportunities. The courses and the consulting provide opportunities to recruit other professionals to be able to teach my core transformation material – for a royalty fee.
The path to monetizing my content is clear:
- Write an eBook in a day
- Create a core transformation course in a day with Ruzuku
- Surround my Know Now “book” with instant courses
In a week, I will be on my way to $1 million a year by creating the above content and enrolling in Ash Maurya’s Leanstack Academy:
While the promises are over blown, the path forward is clear.
I just have to keep my “butt in my chair.”
The “What is a book?” series of posts: