Minimum Viable Marketing

Brandi Johnson

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Feeling marketing overwhelm?

Author and marketing expert Brandi Johnson joined me on the show today to talk about her publishing experience and to help children’s authors with the big marketing B! (‘B’ stands for beast, of course 😜)

Marketing your children’s book when you have no background in it, feels so overwhelming. Most of us end up doing what we see others doing – posting on social media with our fingers crossed, a hope and a prayer!

I was thrilled to stumble on Brandi’s book ‘Minimum Viable Marketing’ in August, and immediately reached out to ask her if I could use it for a book club, in the group I host on Facebook.

Not only did she agree, but she joined the group, and came on the podcast with me, too!

Brandi’s approach:

I wanted to be able to help people get out of the overwhelm on marketing. Because there are so many gurus out, there are so many corporate marketers that say, if you’re not doing X or not doing Y, then you’re not gonna make it. And my tact on it is very different, about really sustainable and achievable marketing.

Brandi Johnson

The part of the book that speaks to me the most is about measuring your metrics. Hands up – who does this?

Yes, you post on Facebook, but does it work to move the needle at all? Does it drive traffic to your website, does it motivate people to buy your book? You simply can’t know for sure unless you track it. Consistently.

What do you really need?

That’s why you need your website and you need a website because, and an email list, because when you’re building all of your stuff on social media, which don’t get me wrong, I love social media, but you’re building on someone else’s land. So when the algorithms change, your visibility can change. Right? And that’s the other reason for an email list.

Brandi Johnson

I hope you enjoy this episode and really take what Brandi has to say to heart. There are a lot of missed opportunities out there, and they’re missed because not enough of us really KNOW what to do. Grab her book, check out her website and get started TODAY.

Contact Info


Need to get started on your marketing? Start with Brandi’s book! Grab it from Amazon >>> HERE <<<

Joining me for the first time?  Start at the beginning HERE

View episode transcript

Brandi Johnson – Marketing your children’s book

Laurie: [00:00:00] Hello writers. Welcome back to The Writers Way podcast. I’m here with Brandi Johnson. Thank you so much for coming on today. Brandy. 

[00:00:09] Brandi: [00:00:09] Yeah, no problem. Thanks so much for having me, Laurie, 

[00:00:11] Laurie: [00:00:11] You are welcome. So Brandi I’m so excited to talk to you about. Brandi is a published author, but not a children’s book, which is who we usually talk to on the show.

[00:00:20] But she’s written a book about marketing that in the writer’s club, Facebook group, we’re actually using for a book club. But right now, September might not have been the best time to start. The book clucb, I’ll be honest with you because it’s so busy with school and stuff, but, can you just talk to us quickly about like your journey as an author and what you’ve learned about as an author?

[00:00:40] And then we can get a little bit more deep into the marketing stuff. 

[00:00:43] Brandi: [00:00:43] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So my journey as an author. Oh my goodness. So I have been a reader and a book lover my entire life. My mom tells stories about when she sent me to preschool and they would say, I’ll read you the book.

[00:00:57] And I would say, no, I’ll read you the book. So like, I always knew in some way that books were going to be part of my future. But, unfortunately, I, or maybe fortunately, I was told very sternly when I was in high school that, don’t get a degree in literature because it won’t pay the bills. Yeah. So, um, I started with a degree in biochemistry wanting to do gene therapy, and then I switched over to marketing because I didn’t want to spend so many years in the lab.

[00:01:31] And I went into marketing with the intention of helping people. I ended up getting a job in B2B tech magazine publishing. Right out of college. And then from there I went and worked at a company that a few of you may have heard of, they actually  Writer’s Digest magazine. So we published writer’s digest magazine, ‘Writers Market’, ‘Children’s and Illustrators Market’.

[00:01:55] Laurie: [00:01:55] Oh I always talk about that book. 

[00:01:57] Brandi: [00:01:57] Absolutely. So. I actually did all of their eCommerce marketing for about six years. And so that woke the bug up. The, you need a, you know, you’re going to write something. Yeah. So fast forward, But what was great about that is I learned so much about the publishing journey and how long it takes and all of that kind of stuff.

[00:02:19] What, and I learned about it from the inside of the nonfiction publishing business, as well as from everything that I was studying to market children’s and writers, you know, children’s writers market and all of that stuff. So, um, after my daughter was born and I was starting to run my own business, I just knew that there was this book in me and I did not want to wait until I went through that whole process of pitching and publishing and agents and all that kind of stuff.

[00:02:52] And I said, ‘I’m a smart girl. I am just going to go self publish this guy.’ So nights and nap times I wrote my book, Minimum Viable Marketing. I hired an editor. I hired a cover designer. I figured out how to get my ISB and all of that crazy stuff. And I self published my first book. like I said, Minimum Viable Marketing.

[00:03:18] So I really wrote it. It was a labor of love. but I wanted to be able to help people get out of the overwhelm on marketing. Because there are so many gurus out, there are so many corporate marketers that say, if you’re not doing X or not doing Y, then you’re not gonna make it. And my tact on it is very different, about really sustainable and achievable marketing, 

[00:03:41] Laurie: [00:03:41] Which is why I totally fell in love with it.

[00:03:44] And I read it. It’s not directed at authors per se, but so much of it. I mean, all of it applies. And I, I just felt like, okay, we’re not doing this to be doing this. How long has the book, but out.

[00:03:57]Brandi: [00:03:57] I published it. My goodness. It came out in January of 2019. 

[00:04:05] Laurie: [00:04:05] Okay. So coming up to two years. Cool. And has it been received well?

[00:04:10] Brandi: [00:04:10] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, everybody who has gravitated toward it, absolutely loves it. I get messages from people on a regular basis who say like, Ooh, I’m rebuilding my website. And I went back to what you talked about in X, Y, Z. And stuff like that. So, yeah, it’s been really well received in the market. and people have really liked it.

[00:04:29] And what I love best is when people say to me they actually say like, ‘I get my marketing now and I’m not overwhelmed by it anymore.’ I love it.  

[00:04:40] Laurie: [00:04:40] And we appreciate that! I think as children’s authors, it’s like the rare unicorn amongst us that has any marketing or business background, right?

[00:04:50] Largely we’re teachers, counselors, moms who just saw a need and were just writing about something I’m going to apologize for. My dog is going crazy. I hope you don’t hear it. Um, Yeah. So, so I really, um, I was just, I just really appreciated your book. And then also, if anybody looks up the book and maybe it’s from your website, but, um, you have some free resources that go along with it, which also like, are so valuable and appreciated.

[00:05:21] Brandi: [00:05:21] Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I really wrote the book and created the resources because there are so many business owners, book authors, course creators, um, My daughters, toddler music, class teacher, all of these people with these passions that they want to bring to the world. Without that business background and knowledge on how to do it.

[00:05:45] Right. And so many of the things feel so scary and so overwhelming. And the other thing that’s really interesting, like with the children’s, with the author space children’s authors and otherwise is because of the competitive landscape in marketing or in publishing. if you want to go down a more traditional publishing route, they’re going to ask questions about what’s your website, traffic, what audience have you already built?

[00:06:10] What are you bringing to the publishing house to help promote yourself? so even if you’ve gone down a self published route for your first three books, and you’re starting to get noticed and picked up, that’s a question that publishers are asking is what audiences. Do you already have that we can leverage, because that’s gonna, that’s gonna play a factor, right?

[00:06:31] So you need to know and have something in place and you can’t just say, well, I posted on my Facebook. Right, right. They’re going to want to know, what size is your email list? Right. And all of those things, having those things in place are going to work in your favor. Right, which is why we need to do them.

[00:06:48] So, so easier to start in the beginning, like when you’re doing it while you’ve got that enthusiasm, I’ve talked to a lot of people who want to wait and, I always tell them like, don’t wait until it takes off because you’re missing that big burst of opportunity and enthusiasm. Right. So busy, it takes a ton of time to set up or ideally I’d like it anyway.

[00:07:11] Yeah. Yeah. So that’s the goal is that you’re too busy to set up your email list or your website or whatever, when the book comes out because you want to be doing. You know, talking on podcasts or doing events in your town and all those kinds of things. Do you want to be spending your time doing that? Not figuring out Squarespace or active campaign or whatever that, yeah.

[00:07:34] That stuff is, it feels overwhelming. It can, yeah, it really can. 

[00:07:39] Laurie: [00:07:39] So let’s say I’m a new author, brand new, my books just come out are coming out. Where would you suggest I start with my marketing?

[00:07:47]Brandi: [00:07:47] Yeah. So with your marketing, and I talk about this, a minimum viable marketing. I always say that any business owner, and that’s you authors

[00:07:59] Owning your little business of your book. You need a website and you need an email list. And the reason for that is your website is essentially the storefront.  It is your welcome mat for your business and it doesn’t have to be super complicated. It doesn’t have to be a $10,000 website. You can go sign up on Squarespace, use one of their templates.

[00:08:23]In the book I outline a very simple like five page website. You need a home page. You need an about page. You need a contact page. You’re going to need a price, privacy policy. You’re gonna have an email list, but you don’t need a lot, but you need a place for people to come. When they talk about your book and, or, you know, for you to be able to add free resources, let people connect with you.

[00:08:48] That’s why you need your website and you need a website because, and an email list, because when you’re building all of your stuff on social media, which don’t get me wrong, I love social media, but you’re building on someone else’s land. So when the algorithms change, your visibility can change. Right? And that’s the other reason for an email list.

[00:09:10]People get really intimidated when we talk about having an email list. Yeah. but it’s funny. Actually, my email newsletter that went out today was about, The most takes are so hard and they take so long. And the fact is it’s like a, you don’t have to email every week. You certainly don’t have to email every day.

[00:09:26] You can email every couple of weeks, maybe even once a month, depending on what you have. But it’s the ultimate in permission based marketing. And that’s where people who love what you’re doing are going to sign up and connect with you. And that’s where you can get so many more sales. Because you’re showing up right in their inbox.

[00:09:46] Yeah. email marketing has between a 41 and 43% return on investment. Usually. Wow. I’m like, it’s huge. It’s the highest return on investment that you can have. And if you’re only doing it once a month or once every two weeks, you’re not writing 14 posts a week, like you do to keep up with social media and stay visible.

[00:10:11] Right? So those two things, the website and the email list again. Squarespace is great for this. do you recommend that over Wix or do you have a preference for the, so I haven’t worked as much with Wix. What I have found in my research, and kind of historically is that, Squarespace has a few more advanced SEO options.

[00:10:32] Okay. so it’s a little bit easier to work with in that regard. They also have more integrations with email service providers to make that process more seamless. As a matter of fact, Squarespace has even released their own email marketing. Stuff built in. It’s not going to have as many bells and whistles as a third party, like a mailer lightweight.

[00:10:55]But I mean to get started, even that works just fine, but I found that they have more advanced, like more integrations that are just built. Yeah. Cool. Okay. I like that plan starting at something like $10 a month. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So, um, at least the last time I looked so like there, you’re not looking at yeah.

[00:11:16] Oh my goodness. I have to spend. I guess thousands of dollars on my website and because you can do everything through them, you also don’t have to worry about where’s my host and what’s my DNS and all this crazy like scary technical stuff. 

[00:11:31] Laurie: [00:11:31] Well, that sounds easy enough. 

[00:11:33] Brandi: [00:11:33] Yeah. Yeah. And so I’ll drag and drop to that.

[00:11:36] So you pick your template. I mean, it’s as easy as working in Canva, it’s probably easier than figuring out kdp to be really honest, huh?

[00:11:46]Laurie: [00:11:46] Oh, okay. Well, there you go. Everybody, if you can figure out KDP enough to get your book out there, you can figure out Squarespace and get a website up. Yeah, I’ve heard some people say, well, Facebook, a Facebook business page would be a great alternative to a website.

[00:12:03] Where do you stand on that? 

[00:12:05] Brandi: [00:12:05] So, um, I consider social media, like a Facebook business page, and consider it a great auxiliary add on, but I don’t think it’s a good replacement. the reason for that is that Facebook makes the rules. Alright, well with your Facebook business page. So a few years ago, Facebook business pages were doing really well.

[00:12:27] They were going gangbusters. And then, but Facebook, what looked at their algorithm and how people were engaging. And they saw that people wanted to connect with people more than they wanted to connect with businesses. So Facebook deprioritized, Facebook pages in the algorithm. which meant that people’s visibility went down.

[00:12:52] Yeah. So it was harder to find their audience with their Facebook page. Even if they were posting the same amount, they had the same number of fans, it became harder. So then as a business owner of a Facebook page, you had to choose you either. Basically turned to running paid ads, boosting your posts, and then you’re spending money, which who wants to spend money.

[00:13:15] Let’s be honest, you know, like cheap marketing and free marketing, or people started building Facebook groups. As groups, we’re not deprioritized in the algorithm. So you still have that visibility because the concept of the group is you’re bringing people together around a shared topic. So it’s more person to person as opposed to business, to person.

[00:13:36] Right? So those people who had built everything. On their Facebook business page struggled just like a flick of a button. And all of a sudden we don’t have any control over that. As marketers, as business owners, we are at their mercy. I’m old enough to remember when my space was big and popular. at one point my space at their, in their heyday had.

[00:14:06] I’m going to have here. If I get the numbers, right? Like 2.5 billion user sessions, that seems like that’s a lot, that’s 2.5 billion people coming to their website in a month, nine years later, which I mean is a long time, but that dropped to 2.5 million. Wow. It was a drop of 99.6%. So if you build your business on Facebook and then the new hot thing comes in, you gotta be on whatever that new hot thing is capturing.

[00:14:44] That if you’re, if you’re really dependent on that social media stuff. Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I love social media. I am part of Facebook groups. I engage, I post about my stuff. I don’t focus on it. I focus in other places in my business because I don’t want to build. My business on somebody else’s land in that regard.

[00:15:08] So you’ve got it. We convinced. No. And like I said, like it’s, they’re, they’re really cool and they’re a good way to create conversation and they’re great for like impromptu. Oh, I had this idea. I want to post it. I want to do a go live. It’s the same thing with Instagram or any of those social platforms.

[00:15:28] Like there is a place for them, but that’s not where you want to only put your attention. And so you add those, you layer those on, on top of it, the foundation, your email list and your website, because then you’re sending everybody back there. And capturing them though. So you use your Facebook and your Instagram and your social media to send people back to your main platform, which is your website or your email.

[00:15:53] Yep. Okay. That sounds doable. I mean, it makes it, it makes it pretty simple to write. So, you know, when you’re thinking about a call to action, like, Hey, here’s this new book that I’m working on. If you want to get the sneak peek, make sure you’re on my email list. Or here’s one page of the book that I illustrated.

[00:16:16] I’m going to share three pages with my email list. Make sure you’re there. Like that’s not exclusive content and you know, more behind the scenes and it doesn’t sound like salesy spammy at all. Cause I know a lot of people are like, I don’t want to tell people to buy my stuff, but that doesn’t sound pushy.

[00:16:37] No. And, I am not a salesy pushy person at all. I have ended up in sales because I ended up being friendly. but you know, the goal is to get people to know like, and trust you. And how do we make things, make it easy for them to say yes. And in particularly with children’s book authors, there’s a lot of competition out there for parents attention.

[00:17:05] I mean, I’m a parent, I’ve got a three year old. I buy a lot of kids’ books. I read a lot of kids’ books. Yeah. Okay. So I can tell you, I mean, I am your target customer a lot of ways and, You know, when I’m at the bookstore, when I’m at Amazon, like there’s so much coming at me in that space. But when I find something and it’s like, Oh, by the way, you can sign up for my email list and I’ll give you three do at home craft ideas.

[00:17:37] Based on this book, I’m like, Oh my gosh, you just saved me because now I have an activity and a book and I can tie it together. I know I have a whole day, maybe a whole, right, right. I’m going to thank you for that. You just made my life easier. And now I can recommend you to my friends and my mom group, because you made my day easier, which is what we’re all looking for.

[00:18:03] And so, you know, whatever those things are, whether it’s, you know, if you’re writing for a little bit older kids that are reading on their own, gives the parents some discussion questions. Yeah. As the author, like you can create that stuff. You can generate that stuff to like increase the longevity of the book.

[00:18:20] And as a parent, We’re going to sign up for that, because again, you’re making it easier for me. Right. And if people don’t know you offer that. Yeah. And by saying like, Hey, I offer X, I provide value after you close the cover. That’s a great way to put it value, being able to book. Yeah. Yeah. so I think, and there’s a lot of ways to do that without being salesy as BME gross.

[00:18:51] Laurie: [00:18:51] I think so, too, if you don’t want to 

[00:18:52] Brandi: [00:18:52] be spammy, don’t be spammy! We’re 

[00:18:55] Laurie: [00:18:55] writers, we don’t have to be. 

[00:18:59] Brandi: [00:18:59] If it feels spammy to you, do it different, do it differently. Yeah. Right. Or wrong way. I mean, unless you break the law, I want to bring the laws please don’t but I thought I Lori’s podcast, you know, like it’s. It’s all about being authentic to what’s going to work for you because of it feels spammy to you.

[00:19:23] It’s going to come across as spammy and people. Aren’t going to engage with it. 

[00:19:26] Laurie: [00:19:26] I love that. Thank you for sharing about that. I think that’s an important message that I hope people really internalize in the book. And I think the second chapter you start talking about branding a little bit. So if other writers out there are like me with no sales marketing background, like how do you.

[00:19:46] Brand yourself. Like what’s the basis of that. 

[00:19:50] Brandi: [00:19:50] Yeah. So a lot of people think brand is going to be stuff like your logo. And you’re totally, that’s a little bit of it. I mean, that’s, that’s your visual branding. so with your visual branding, you want people to be able to glance at it and say, Oh, I recognize that.

[00:20:06] You want to deliver a, a continuity if you will, across that. how important is that? How important is the visual continuity? it’s not like, so it depends on which pieces you’re looking at. So you want a visual continuity between your website, what you’re sending in your emails, and then like any branding that you put on your social media platforms.

[00:20:30]so like your header images, your a little thumbnail icon, like your thumbnail photo, be consistent across those things. When you’re really getting into the meat of your posts. What I suggest is if you’re doing something that’s like a quote, have a couple of templates that you use for that, so that when I’m scrolling and I see it, I’m like, Oh, okay, that’s the color scheme that’s got there a little.

[00:20:58] You know, icon on it, whatever that is, you can have three or four of those that you rotate through. So you’re not like Yon every time you go to create one, but we are pulling out. And then, I know it was, Instagram is so popular where we want to share like our lifestyle images and stuff like that, which is totally fine and great.

[00:21:16] Those are not going to be on brand from a visual thing. Like I can’t be like, okay, Laurie, it looks like your brand color is maybe that beautiful, like slate blue behind you. So I’m going to need you to only wear slate blue shirts and all of your photos. Okay. It would make getting dressed easily easy.

[00:21:38] That’s not what we’re going for, but like, what you want to do with that is just make sure, you know, not the things that you can and do. Create for that tend to be a little bit, standardized. So if you’re always posting trees, then you know, it’s going to be hard. If all of a sudden you’re like, here’s a seashell.

[00:22:02] Like I’m not going to be like, Oh, that’s, Laurie’s wait who who’s posting seashells. Right. So again, it’s just that like basic continuity. Okay. The other thing that’s really gonna help is, and this hopefully is a little bit easier for the writers than it is for some of the others, is having a continuity of your brand voice.

[00:22:21] And I think this is where a lot of people struggle. so your brand voice, or is just how you want to communicate with people. and this goes back to what was, we were just talking about, about being spammy, salesy gross. A lot of us and myself included. I still get into this mode when I’m writing salesy posts.

[00:22:45] Cause I write them. Yeah. is as soon as we feel like we’re promoting something, it’s almost like we put on the gross jacket, like from like the old plaid used car salesman kind of thing. And we’re alike. Hey, a little Missy. I can get you in this ride for just five or something. Like it’s totally true though.

[00:23:11] Laurie: [00:23:11] Is it like the influence of everything we’ve seen? Even if we don’t like it, like we’re just channeling it cause it’s all we know. Yeah. I think it is. I think we’re channeling it because, it’s probably worked on us. Yeah. It’s worked against us before and I think we think we have to talk differently to some yes.

[00:23:30] Brandi: [00:23:30] So we don’t. No. Well, you don’t. I mean, because again, in the way that I like to approach this is from that helping standpoint, I’m hoping. Right. And so, so I always encourage people, particularly when they’re writing sales posts and they’re not comfortable in that space. Yeah. It’s like, pretend that you’re having coffee with your ideal client.

[00:23:53] And you’re like, they’re lamenting about the problem that you solve. And you’re like, Oh, I saw something that could really help you. Here’s what it was, which is to maybe what you would do to a friend or say exactly like you would do with a friend and you can even take out the, I created this side of it and talk about it.

[00:24:16] Like, I just found this and it is great and don’t make it about me, like, right. And that’s going to help you get like that authenticity back in your voice in talking about it and being enthusiastic about it without getting, slightly like slimy, sleazy, salesy, gross, no car salesman speak. and I think that’s going to make people feel a lot more comfortable creating those posts to when they think about it.

[00:24:46]In that a, the helping me way and be like, they’re just having a coffee conversation. I think you’re struggling with Latin. You can also read the, read your post back out loud. You will sound like a crazy person. If you were in a public place, don’t do it in a coffee shop. Don’t do it at a coffee shop, go to the car.

[00:25:04]but like read those posts back and like, see how the words feel in your mouth. Like, we all know you guys write children’s books. A lot of them get read out loud. You’ve read them out loud to yourself. I’m sure. Totally. see how it feels. See how it, how it feels when you say it. How you hear it. If you’re uncomfort, like if you’re not sure.

[00:25:23] Ask a friend. I mean, you guys have that great network that Lori is putting together, or you guys, you know, reach out to somebody in there and say, Hey. Give me, give me some feedback. You guys, on my blur, like I’m, I’m trying to achieve X. Does it get there? Yeah. and it sounds something you’ll do forever.

[00:25:41] Right? You’ll do it for your first few posts to sort of like you said, establish your voice so that you get the hang of it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You won’t get, you won’t do it forever, but particularly while you’re warming up and building up those muscles, think of it like a spotter at the gym. Nice. Not going to need a spotter until you go up in weight class.

[00:25:58] But in the beginning, it’s nice to have that personal trainer show you how the gym works. Totally. I just have, you know, another person tell you, like, You’re good. You’re not a us. I needed a salesman today. Yeah, this, yeah. There’s no reactants happening. Yeah. Thank you so much. I feel like we could go on and on.

[00:26:18] So would you come back and talk to me again again? Maybe in a month. Okay. And then we’ll be a little bit more deep. Okay. Thank you so much, Brandy and it’s is it Brandy johnson.com. Do I have that right? brandi.com. Hey randy.com. Randy, super easy. It’s Brandi with an I, so yeah. You Brandy. Oh, I love that.

[00:26:40] Okay, cool. Well thank you so much. Absolutely. Okay. Bye. Bye.

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Laurie Wright

Laurie Wright

Teacher turned author, turned children's mental health advocate. Laurie has given a TEDx talk, gives workshops for parents, teachers, and children, and has published five books in the Mindful Mantras series, all to help combat the crisis kids are currently facing. Teachers can't stop the urge to teach! A course for creatives who want to write for kids is coming soon!
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