Year 2022 was turbulent for Resurrecting Books, but also rich into milestones.
I hired two more people.
We got our first ever customer, for whom we do the real advertising – only targeted ads, pouring tens of hours into campaigns for one book every month.
We moved into quarterly calculations of results, which allowed me personally to save some time every month.
I quit my day job and delegated out a chunk of everyday customer service activities.
In June 2022, I attended the 20Booksto50K conference in Madrid, and for the first time heard of the virtual marketplace for authors called Reedsy. I met with one of the founders, Ricardo Fayet, and he mentioned there is a huge demand for ads specialists on Reedsy. It took me several weeks before I created my Reedsy profile and got it approved. I had the impression that my interaction with Ricardo and good words spoken by Marc Reklau into Ricardo’s ear made the whole process very smooth. My Reedsy account was operational on the 26th of July.
Till the half of November 2022, we got 16 clients on Reedsy. 13 of them for the 1-book offer, a couple of coaching clients, and one client for the mini-project for targeted ads (which turned into a small disaster).
I got also recommended to the Christian Indie Publishing Association by one of my customers. It took me several months before I finally submitted my offer for CIPA, but at the end of August it was accessible on their website. So far, we got one client from there.
Thanks to Reedsy, we have a steady trickle of new prospects. Some of them can turn into recurring customers or do more than one project with us. For example, I sold the 1-book offer to a prospect, then he also requested a book description, then the same service for another book, and recently he hired us to upload his books on Draft2Digital. We haven’t yet set the accounts, but I guesstimate this one prospect will be worth about $750.
Also, it is definitely easier to collaborate on 1-time projects on Reedsy. Normally, I communicate with our customers via email, and finding all the threads turns into a nightmare, especially that I’m so reluctant to process my inbox regularly.
On Reedsy, the whole project history and communication are neatly organized within the platform. It takes just a few clicks to find whatever I need to find. This allowed us to create some processes and Guadalupe is assisting me a lot with customer service on Reedsy.
In April, I got a new customer, interested in growing his sales with real ads. For the first few months we worked on the time & material basis. We amped his book sales on Amazon from about 135 sales a month to over 700 in July. Since September, he pays us $1,100 a month for our services. So far, we sold well over 2,500 copies of his book via our ads.
But the most important thing is that we learned how to do the real advertising right. Now, we can offer the same service to new prospects (I’ve already had a couple of inquiries about it, and they may be finalized soon) or employ the techniques we learned for our profit-split customers. In fact, we moved from random to targeted ads with four books, starting from November. The random ads weren’t especially effective anymore, so we had not much to lose.
One of the above-mentioned inquiries regards building a whole system to generate business leads from the book sales.
Obviously, it takes targeted ads to drive qualified leads to one’s book, but it doesn’t end there. We need to be able to measure the conversion from getting the book to getting into our customers’ funnel to becoming a paying client for my customer. It takes dedicated landing pages, unique links and a CRM system.
Part of the trouble in finding customers interested in such a service is that very few authors – and business owners – have clue about all the above elements. Thus, I need to educate them (and that’s not my core activity) or simply work with those who have the clue.
Our Values in Action
We have five core values in Resurrecting Books: trust, win-win-win, impact, autonomy, and peace of mind. Let’s illustrate them with specific stories from this year.
We could have easily made another $1,000 a month on Reedsy, if I accepted all the requests. But that would be against our values. On Reedsy, I decline 2-3 requests per one that I sent the offer for. Why?
One reason is, I can see from the request that a prospect is not good material for cooperation – demanding, entitled, or having totally unrealistic expectations. For the sake of mine and my team’s peace of mind, I don’t even try to engage with such individuals.
The second reason is that I don’t believe our services can make a lot of the difference for a book. It applies especially to fiction books. We could’ve charged a customer, do our thing and the customer would sell just a handful of copies. That’s definitely not a win-win-win.
Autonomy mingled with trust means that both sides can finish cooperation at any moment. We let go a few customers this year because we saw we cannot serve them anymore. A few customers quit on us or decided to run their ads by themselves.
And it wasn’t the slightest issue! In fact, I had a 2-hour call with one customer explaining them why I think they are the best choice for running their own ads. We made some housekeeping and keyword research for them as a farewell project, and they paid us over $500 for that.
High trust between us and our customers allowed for a smooth transition from monthly to quarterly calculations with our profit-split customers. Everybody accommodated to the modified process, and we ended up dedicating less hours to it.
In the spirit of trust, win-win-win and the right dose of impact, in 2022 I withheld many invoices for our recurring customers. Whenever I noticed we aren’t generating enough book sales, I skipped the invoice for a month or a few.
Our revenue grew by about 4%, which, considering the inflation, is rather a decrease, than an increase. We separated with quite a few of our older customers. The ads stopped working for them or the performance degraded so much that it wasn’t really worth our fee.
We aggressively upped some of our prices, for example, the 1-book offer jumped from $100 to $200, and there is still a demand for this service. This one move saved me a lot of frustrations and time. Time, because prospects who cannot afford this price point do not engage with us. Frustrations, because I personally still spend 2-3 hours per each project, so, I was working for less than $10 per hour.
Celebrating the team
I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful team.
I hired Fretz in January 2022; first it was a half-time position, but he appeared to be the ideal man for this job. I quickly offered him the full-time position, and he agreed. He is the only person in the whole Resurrecting Books working full-time (even I barely work more than quarter-time in the business). Fretz pours countless hours into keyword research and campaigns optimization. He is always hungry to learn more about Amazon ads, and how they relate to the publishing side of things.
Mitchele is my personal assistant. She helps me with anything and everything, including Resurrecting Books. Thanks to Mitchele, I finally got a handle of my calendar! Initially, she managed all the events in it. With time, I built a habit of referring to my calendar, and nowadays I’m living by it.
And I didn’t miss a call or an appointment in months!
Also, this year, we finally hammered out a way to pitch to podcasts that doesn’t require much of my time. Thanks to this, I was interviewed on more than a dozen podcasts in 2022, and more episodes are on the way.
In August 2021, I hired Guadalupe from Mexico to help me with customer service. She is now in charge of all recurring communication with our customers and the ratio of messages which remain without response greatly diminished. However, we discovered that Guadalupe’s superpower is in the realm of processes and organization. Well, at least it’s the superpower by Resurrecting Books standards; everybody else hates documentation and processes, including me 😉
My family is still helping me a lot with the business.
My eldest son, Krzysztof, attends a university, and still does a lot of odd jobs for us. He never ceases to amaze me how fast he is getting what I teach him. I need to explain any task just one time, always.
My eldest sister, Asia, has the role of ads creation manager. She supervises the whole process of starting ads for new customers and recreating the ads for old ones. And she works full time in her day job!
My father is retired, but he still helps us with the ads creation. In the busiest periods, we have to create a few thousand ads in a matter of a week or two, and every pair of hands counts.
My son Nataniel and my daughter Olga are helping me out with accounting. Frankly, they both are pretty terrible at this job, but at least I don’t have to download all the invoices and payments from several different sources 😀
The broad vision didn’t change a bit: I want to build a business that will serve everyone to inch toward their dreams – me, my team, our customers, and their readers. I guess, we will even inch Bezos’ dreams forward by leveraging Amazon ads system 😉
For my, VAs it means creating a stable business model, which can function well without my direct involvement. For me, it means I can work even less hours in Resurrecting Books. For our customers, it means we serve them better and better, selling more copies with lower budgets.
The above constraints get us to our immediate targets:
1. Double (or triple!) the revenue.
We made just $2,800 a month on average in 2022 in RB. I need to hire more people. And to raise current team’s salaries, I’m paying them pennies and they are worth more. In 2021, I gave everyone about 10% raise, but that’s about the inflation level.
2. Get me off the 1-book projects.
They made a huge chunk of new projects in 2022, but we are making only $173 of net profit per project. Sounds not too bad, right? Yet, I’m investing 2-3 hours into each of them. I would rather coach instead. I love coaching, and it pays minimum $100 per hour.
3. Hire more people.
In order to delegate out 1-book projects I need to hire someone to do my job: providing the feedback about book pages and creating the final reports. That’s one person. But we are spread too thin, we need another person for ads management, and one more staff for customer service.
4. Get more long-term projects for targeted ads.
This is the only sustainable way to grow. The margin on those projects is higher, plus, they bring more stability to the business.
All those targets are interlocked. Every $1,000 more in revenue will allow us to hire a new team member. Long-term recurring projects will secure employment for new team members. Also, we will be able to dedicate more attention to particular projects. I’m considering hiring a half-time person for each book under targeted advertising. When I get rid of 1-book projects, I will be available to get new clients with those long-term projects.
As turbulent as 2022 was for Resurrecting Books, it was also fruitful. Some dreams inched toward making it into reality, including my dream of removing myself from day-to-day operations.
We have stronger team, better processes, and more avenues for finding new customers. All we need to do, is to keep going. That is the way for inching dreams toward reality.