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Michael Light: World famous PR expert, author, speaker. She's been a journalist for over 16 years with articles in British national papers, The Guardian, Telegraph, and Independent, and we're going to be covering some very interesting things with intuition, writing, and creating all kinds of things in our business. How she wrote a bestselling book in 30 days, her secret method for getting into instant writing flow state, why she's relaunching her book this summer and is selling via her website more than on Amazon.
How you can end your writer's block right now, and it's not just for writing projects, folks. You need this whatever you're creating in your business. How you can eliminate the fear of being seen or being judged by others on the things you create in your business. How she creates ideas for new articles and knows exactly which journalists to pitch them to to get published. How she followed her intuition on relaunching her membership site to 100K recurring revenue in just two weeks, and she did that over Christmas, when people are usually busy. So I think that's really amazing. And how she decides what new products to create that people will actually buy versus just say they might buy.
So welcome, Janet.
Janet Murray: Thank you for having me.
Michael Light: So how on earth did you write your bestselling book on PR in 30 days, because I took like six months to write my book. I can't imagine doing it in 30 days.
Janet Murray: Well, there's quite a few factors at play. So the first is I've been writing for a living for 16 years. I've been writing and editing for national titles, like you mentioned, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, pretty much every national newspaper in the UK I've written for. Also online publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, that kind of thing.
So, you know, I am kind of advantaged in that sense that I have been doing it every day, and when you work as a journalist, there are no excuses. There is no writer's block. If it has to be done by five o'clock, it just has to be done. So that's kind of, you know, one part of my secret.
The other part is that I've been writing a blog for quite a few years which was all about how to do your own PR, so when I created the outline for my book and what I wanted to teach people in the book, the first thing I did was basically just go and find all the content on my blog that related to the chapters that I'd outlined, and just do a massive big kind of like content dump. And then, so part of the writing process was actually kind of editing that, or kind of working out where the gaps were and writing in between.
So I say I wrote in 30 days, but I wasn't actually writing from scratch, because I already loads of content, but there were lots of gaps to fill. There were some bits that worked really well for a blog, which may not have worked so well for books. So it was kind of part writing, part editing, but I don't think I probably could have done that for much longer, because my attention span's quite short, and I don't think I'm one of these people who could be slaving over a book for a year or two like some people are. I think if I'm going to do something, I have to do it quick. Anyway, so it really worked for me.
Michael Light: Mm. Why do you … Does doing it quick have other advantages than just keeping your attention, or … ?
Janet Murray: I think lot's of creative entrepreneurial types like I am, I think we do tend to have kind of shorter attention spans, and I tend to lose interest in things, so I think if we're going to do a big project like that, I think I need to kind of go all in on it and just kind of get it done.
I mean, you know, there was editing to do. I'm not saying that it was kind of polished and ready to go after 30 days, but I just like kind of made that commitment that I was going to focus on it because otherwise I just think my interest would have waned seriously.
Michael Light: Mm. So I love that idea of repurposing previous content when you're writing a book, because so many of us have blogs or podcasts that we could transcribe that would create content, and I certainly did that with my book. I took things I'd written before and fit them together, you know, into the outline I had, though I must admit, I was pretty ruthless about kicking stuff out that didn't fit.
Janet Murray: Yeah. I think you have to be.
Michael Light: So you know, I know you've had years of practice being able to just write stuff to a deadline. You mentioned you can write a 2,000 word article, and if anyone has not written a 2,000 word article, that's a lot of pages in a blog. You know, it's about six to eight pages in a blog. I don't know how much it is on paper, probably a similar amount, and you do that in two hours. So I want to know what your secret method is for getting into the writing flow state, because sometimes I can just churn out words. Other times, it's like, I feel like I'm pulling teeth out to get the words onto the page.
Janet Murray: Well, the thing is there's absolutely no secret to it whatsoever. And when I, actually I've worked with a lot of people on their writing. It's mostly helping people to promote themselves. I would say helping with their writing, the two just kind of go hand in hand, and when people say they're stuck, it's not their writing that's the problem, it's that they haven't thought about what they want to write basically.
So I've had experience of writing really kind of quite in depth investigative features for the likes of The Guardian. And so before I would have sit to write something like that, I probably would have had to interview, you know, six, eight people, maybe read six, eight research reports and various other kinds of research.
So what I would do, and it sounds terribly boring, but this is how to get into the flow state. Before I sat down to write that, I would review all of my notes, all of my transcripts. I would have interviews that I've recorded, and I put them all together, I put them in order. I might have 40, 50 pages, something like that. I'd number up the pages, and then I'd go through first of all and highlight relevant bits. I'd write notes in the margin. That would be my first step. My second step would to say to myself, “Okay, what themes are coming out of this?” So, and what I'd normally for a 2,000 word article would be that maybe five or six key things would come out, and then, because I'm writing a feature where I'm integrating sort of prose and it's quote quotations, I would then sort of map that out on a big piece of paper, map it out, and then start to bring quotes together and points that I wanted to make, so I'd pull my sort of five or six key points.
And then from there, it's like this magic could happen, and then you suddenly get a kind of sense of where the article's going and what the flow should be, then I'd take it into a plan, so that would be kind of starting to think paragraph by paragraph, what I'm going to say in the first paragraph, what I'm going to move onto, and then I might do that plan three or four times, all of this before I even pull up a Word document or a Google document or whatever it is and start to write it.
And I actually plan in so much detail, that I will know exactly what I'm going to put in my … So I'm going to tell a story in my opening paragraph, which is quite a common device that you'd use in a feature. I know exactly what story I'm going to tell, if I'm going to start with a quote, I'll know what quote it is, I'll know what page to find it in my notes, and basically, I will know every point that I'm going to make in every paragraph of that article.
So when you approach it like that, you write down, and the writing part of it is like a dream, because you're done with the hard work, and the words just flow out of you. So it sounds like quite a lot of hard work up front, but it makes the writing part of it so pleasurable. And I do exactly the same with blog posts. I've got like a handout that I give to all my students, which is my thirty minute blog posts, so if you got a place to write. And I've actually kind of got a formula that I get people to follow, and it's almost like kind of filling in the gaps, you know, or like painting by numbers, or something like that. And I think when you've got a framework, and you know what you're going to write, that doesn't sound very creative, but having that framework is what allows to be creative and allows you to get into that flow, and suddenly you find that the words are just coming out, and the other thing I think is really important is write without stopping and without censoring yourself.
So I will sometimes, in an article, if I can't remember somebody's name, or it's something that I can't remember, I would just put something Bob Bobbins or something like that, just so it doesn't interrupt the flow. So I might have forgotten the name of that person I wanted to quote, or I might have forgotten the name of the report I wanted to refer to, whatever it might be, and I would literally just put “Michael Smith's Report”, or something like that, just, you know, anything, just so I don't stop writing. And I think when you allow yourself to do that, you can produce a lot of words in a short amount of time, and then you sit back and you've got a draft, and I think we all know, those of us who do write, we all know it's much easier to work with a draft. It's much more easier to edit than to actually start from scratch.
There's a couple of things there. It's about planning, but it's also about just, just, it sounds awful, but forcing yourself just to write without stopping, and even if that means putting xxx or a gap or leaving a sentence or just kind of having something in there that doesn't quite read right. That's just so much better, and you end up with a really, really nice draft at the end of it, and then you've got something to work with.
Michael Light: That, I love that. And it's almost like there are three versions of my mind when I'm writing. There's the planning self, who can do all this kind of organizing and planning, and then there's the writing flow one, who's good with words and making stories, and you know, just getting it down, and then there's the critical editing mind who can come back and then wordsmith and improve the article.
Is that how … you already have some extra minds hidden away inside your head or … ?
Janet Murray: No, that's pretty much it, and the other thing as well is that, what I've learned from being a professional writer for over 16 years is that often we try to hard with our writing. I spend a lot of my time, see, I've worked as an editor on the likes of The Guardian. I'm just about to go off into a three week stint covering for somebody to keep my hand in, and as an editor, you learn so much, actually, from editing other people's work, and often, we're so busy sort of trying to kind of show off and look flash, and look big words, and reaching for that difficult word or phrase or thing that we think sounds fancy, when actually, that more simple word or phrase, and maybe just telling it as it is, just speaking in our own voice, just kind of writing like we would send an email to a friend, or something like that. That often is the place where we're at our best, and I think when people get stuck, it's always like they're trying too hard, and I think when you just write, I mean, when I help to write email marketing to, you know, that kind of thing as well, and I say to people, you know it's like you're writing a letter to a friend or an email to a friend or something like that.
When you're in that kind of lovely place, then your writing will just flow, and it's your voice, but when you're trying too hard, when you're pushing, when you're trying to be clever, or your trying to use big words or whatever, that doesn't the best copy, and as a journalist, I spend a lot of my time encouraging people to pull back from that kind of writing and to be simple and clear and really focus on communication and meaning, and that's usually where most of us are at our best, and we produce our best work.
Michael Light: Yeah, because the goal, you know, we get so tied up in writing blog articles or books or creating videos or whatever it is, and sometimes we forget the goal is to make it easy for the listener or the reader to get the ideas and get excited about it.
Janet Murray: Yeah. Yeah.
Michael Light: So doing all this planning it of organizing it so it's easy to read. The logic flows. The stories are in there, and you know, you mention, you plan out your first paragraph I think a bit more than some of the other ones. Is that true?
Janet Murray: Yeah. I will know exactly what I'm going to start with. If I'm going to tell a story, I'll know what story it is or what quotation I'm going to use. Often would start with a quotation. And the thing that I find myself saying a lot with all of the work I do is it's not about you, so when you write, it's not about you, it's about the reader. So there's a lot of ego I think bound up in writing, and when you let go of the ego, and you just think, well actually, what is this piece of writing about? What am I trying to do here? And when you think about who you're writing for and how you can make it easy for them, that's usually when we get into our best writing zone.
But when we're getting all tied up with the ego and trying to look big and clever and fancy, then that's often when we're not in our best place, and I had this conversation editing on something like The Guardian, and people will often, they'd come back, and they'd get quite precious, you know? They'll say, “Oh, you've changed this,” or, “You've changed that,” or, “What do you mean you don't understand that. Guardian readers will understand that.” They say things like that.
So well, actually, people are busy. They're reading this on the tube on the way to work, or they're reading this as they're trying to get their kids ready for school or make breakfast or whatever, and we need to make it as simple and clear for them as possible, and I think we shouldn't lose sense of the fact that writing is about communicating and helping people or their day easier or whatever. It isn't about us. Does that kind of make sense?
Michael Light: Absolutely. We have to connect with the reader and make their life easy. And it's not just reading on the tube. When people read blog articles, they're often distracted when they watch videos. They often have other thing on mind, even when they're reading books and things are happy in their life.
And I often think that the purpose of the opening paragraph of a book or an article is really to get them to read the second paragraph.
Janet Murray: Yeah. Exactly.
Michael Light: There are other purposes, but you've got to get people excited. I mean just as the title of the article, or the title of the book is to get them to read the first paragraph, you know? And you've got to kind of keep pulling them through, because they are distracted by other things.
Janet Murray: Yeah. I think it's just so, so important, and I spend a lot of my time editing other people's work, and basically scratching out the first one or two paragraphs, and I think most of us … I mean, obviously, I've been doing it for years, so I'm kind of very tuned into, but most people who don't write for a living, there's a tendency to over explain, and actually, it's much better to land people straight in the action. So whether you're writing a blog post, or you're writing a piece of email copy to promote a service or products, or whether you're writing a nonfiction book, actually the less explaining you do, and the more that you can take people to the good stuff, the better.
Michael Light: So just coming back to those three different minds, the planner, the writer, and the editor. Are they kind of incompatible, and that's why you separate them out? So if you let your editor have reign while you're trying to write, it kind of gets in her way?
Janet Murray: Yeah. I just missed that question actually, Michael. Would you be able to [crosstalk 00:14:48]?
Michael Light: Yeah, sure. So we talked earlier about having three different minds that you use. You have three stages writing. You first plan out and organize your article, kind of planning mind. You then get into this flow state where you just write the draft, and you don't try to, you know, even if there are mistakes, you just keep on writing and stay in the flow, and then you come back with that editor mind and improve the writing.
But those sound like three very different states of mind, and they aren't really compatible with each other. And if you let your editor loose while you're, or you try and reorganize it while you're writing, it just messes up the writing flow.
Janet Murray: Yeah. And it's a really good way … I've never thought about it like that. You just articulated my method in a way that I've been able to do, so thank you. But yeah, that's exactly it, and it's a bit like if you were trying to write something. Like, you know, if I was trying to write something, I was at The Guardian trying to write an article, and the editor kept coming over and poking their nose in and trying to change things while you're trying to write stuff. Well, that's not helpful, is it?
Or if you were trying to work on a plan for something, and someone was pushing you to start writing it, you know, these are, like, three distinct phases, and ideally, you want to leave a bit of the gap. I often will plan out an article the night before, go to sleep on it, and then get up first thing and write it the next day when my mind's almost have time to kind of ponder over it while I'm asleep. And if I can possibly manage it, and this can be hard in journalism, but just leaving your article to rest for an hour or two, and then going back and having a look at it. It's not always possible, but often when you come back to it with fresh eyes, you notice things that you didn't see before.
Michael Light: Yeah, and I definitely experienced when I was writing my book. That if I left it for a few days and came back and edited, I had fresh eyes for it, and I spotted thing that I wanted to improve that I hadn't noticed at the time.
The other thing I find when I get in that flow state is that it's almost like the article or the book is writing me rather me writing. You know, it's like the creative muse is just coming out through me. Do you ever have that experience when you're writing?
Janet Murray: Yeah, I do, but it comes off the back of a lot of planning, so I feel I can only be in that state if I'm put in the workup from the planning, and I know what I'm going to write. And time and time again, I see people who say, I'm stuck. I'm blocked. And so you're not blocked. The problem that you haven't sat down and thought about what it is that you want to say. So I will help people write opinion articles for example, and they'll sit there, and they can't get past the first paragraph, and it's because you haven't about what it is that you want to say, and if you're writing an opinion article, the key thing is that there's not like one takeaway point for people. You just argue one thing, really, and if you don't know what that thing is that you want to say, if you're not clear what you want to people to when they're finished, you know, what you want them to take away with them, then you're going to find that really, really hard.
So I think getting in that flow state is all about the planning. I think it's kind of myth to think that we might just sit down one day, and it will kind of flow out. We actually, you know, our brain needs help. It needs help to organize our thoughts.
Michael Light: I think that's definitely true. You know, we can create more when we have structure. It's kind of contradictory almost, but it definitely is some truth there. And part of that structure for me is turning off the distractions. I need to turn off my email, my Facebook, make sure my phone isn't going to be making noises, and just have an hour or two where I just write.
Janet Murray: Yeah, completely. I write best in the morning. In fact, I keep my morning. In fact, I keep my mornings as much as I possibly can. I don't speak to anybody or do any consulting or any talking with anybody until after midday, and I do that every day so that I've got time to write in the morning whatever it is that I need to write, and I've got that kind of head space to do it. Otherwise, it's just so hard.
Michael Light: I got a similar idea to what you're talking about from a book I read called “2K to 10K”, how you can write 10K words a day in your book. And she talked about planning. She also talked about finding the time of day that was best for you. You kind of keep a track of how many words you write each day, and where you did it. You know, did you go the café? Did you do it at home? Did you do it morning? Late at night? And you just see what works better for you, because everyone's individual. Some people are night owls. Some people like you, I find writing in the morning works good too.
Janet Murray: Mm. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I've written most of my best work between the hours of probably 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., I think. That's really my, that's my peak time.
Michael Light: Yeah. So I know that your book, you know, “Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart”, which I've really enjoyed reading, given me great ideas about what not to do and all the bad press releases I released in the past, which we'll ignore for now. And the good ones I'm going to write in the future, and not just press releases, you know, actually communicating with journalists and helping them with stuff that they're trying to write. So you're relaunching this book this summer, and you've also been selling it on your website as well selling it on Amazon.
Janet Murray: Yeah, well something happened to me that I've never ever heard of happening to anybody else at all, so I decided to self-publish my book, because I have just spend so much time around other authors who've been promised the world from their publishing house and then had to end up doing all the publicity themselves. And I thought, “Well, okay. I can do this myself.”
And also, I was impatient. I wanted to get the book out. You know, I didn't want to have to wait years to get the book out, and I wanted it to be able to do it in the way that I wanted to do it, and so that's why I chose the self-publishing route, and that's [crosstalk 00:20:41].
Michael Light: Yeah. I mean, I did, I made the same decision, and I read a blog article. I'll include it in the show, notes that James Altucher about why he self publishes his books now. He's had eight books published by publishing houses, and he's done I think six self-published. He's made 10 times as much money on the self-published ones, and he had far more control. [crosstalk 00:21:02].
Janet Murray: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. And I just, I've had so many friends who've had books published, and they've been promised this kind of help with their publicity and distribution, and then they've just been given a box of a books and said, “Hey, go out and sell those, or organize your own book launch, or organize your own PR.” And I thought I don't really need that. But also I was impatient and I wanted to get it out and had a real idea about how it was going to look and you know, the cover, and all of that kind of stuff, so I just kind of went ahead and did that.
So I decided to publish on Amazon, so to use their print on demand service, and all was going really, really well, so obviously, it was a bit tight. I did it all really, really quickly, but I, and I did all the things that I needed to do to get my book in the number one spot for my category, which is kind PR and marketing on Amazon.
So I did all the right things, and I launched okay, and there I was, number one. Fantastic, and then I started to get messages from people saying, “Um, did you know that I've ordered a copy of your book, and it's fantastic, but the B's and the D's are missing.” I was like, ‘What?”
Michael Light: [crosstalk 00:22:07] less important letters, Janet. You know?
Janet Murray: So anyway, and I'd even had some issues with people saying things like, “Oh, my gosh. Your proofreader. Like, who's your proofreader? You know. Um, the obviously missed it.” I was like, “Really, I think, I think I would have noticed that all of these letters were missing in the proof.”
And so anyway, I think what happened was that Amazon's print on demand service, they were using some dodgy print … It wasn't all of the books. It was just some of them, but they were using a dodgy printer, I think somewhere in Poland, so anybody who bought a book from Europe was getting a book printed from this place.
And it was just, I mean, it was so upsetting, because I worked so hard on the book, and Amazon being the massive mammoth operation that is, it wasn't easy to sort out. You know, I was passed around and spent hours sitting on phone calls trying to chat with people about it and get it sorted, and it took months basically.
And it was really disappointing because I'd had this big push. I'd done all the right things and, you know, sold loads in the first week or two, but I kind of had to pull back on my marketing, so I switched to … What I discovered was that when I bought the books direct from the US from the print on demands, I bought several boxes that absolutely fine. So I decided to switch to selling them from my website, and I just kind of said to people, “Look, you can actually put it on my Amazon page as well. I think, you know, you might want to come if you want to buy a hard copy, you might want to come and buy it from my website.”
So that was really disappointing, and I still sold lots of them. I still gained engagements and pieces of work out of it, and you know, everyday I get messages from people who say, “Oh, we enjoyed your book.” And they send me pictures on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, whatever, so but what's disappointing for me is that it isn't the number one book, because I think it should be in my category on Amazon.
So it's now all sorted. It took months and months to sort this out, but it's [crosstalk 00:23:56]-
Michael Light: What was the secret fix?
Janet Murray: Who knows? But they sorted it out in the end, and I think they managed to locate which printer, they were a dodgy printer, I think, and they managed to contact and sort them out, and [crosstalk 00:24:13]
Michael Light: Well, they probably bought their set of letters in Eastern Europe, and they didn't have any B's and D's in the letters they bought, you know?
Janet Murray: Maybe. Maybe. Yeah, but it was, I think it was in Poland, and they call it a cell, which makes it sound really sinister. So they were saying, “Oh, one of the cells that we're using,” which did sound really sinister.
So it's all sorted now, so I decided, you know, PR being my thing, well I'm not going to let this hold me back, and why not just have a second launch? So that's the plan for summer. I'm going to relaunch it.
Michael Light: Well, and if I put my PR hat on, I'd be like, okay, this is a bit of a PR crisis, but how can I turn it around into an opportunity and make a story about this, about how Amazon print on demand isn't always whatever it was set up to be.
Janet Murray: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I was just at a business mastermind event in the Philippines. It was Chris Ducker's Tropical Think Tank, and one of the speakers there, she's The Barefoot Executive, Carrie Wilkerson, and I was asking all the speakers there, they were great speakers, about you know, this how to do this second launch, and she said, “You know, you could really make something of that in your PR. The fact that the … You can kind of, as part of your marketing campaign, you can say, ‘And this time, you get all the B's and D's as well.' You can kind of, you can make this part of your email marketing and all of the stuff that you do. You can kind of use the story.” And I totally agreed, we're going to go with it
And it was one of those things that, you know, it's hard because there's much, I controlled everything that happened, but there's something that was just out of my control, and all I could do was kind of like, keep ringing up, and keep chasing them, and it's just one of those things that I had to just kind of live with, and I guess it probably happened for a reason, and there were things to learn from it.
But yeah, so I'm going to have a relaunch in the summer and get it back up in the the number one spot on Amazon, [crosstalk 00:25:59]-
Michael Light: And I think, to be honest, relaunching a book, particularly if you have a good reason for it, is a great way to help get the word out about it, because not everyone sees our original launch, so …
Janet Murray: No, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Michael Light: So people are busy, so [crosstalk 00:26:16]-
Janet Murray: Yeah, when I was at this event, Jeff Goins who's a very prolific writer, he was saying to me, “What is this thing about a book launch? What is a book launch? You should always be launching your book all the time,” and I thought it was a really good point to make, basically.
Michael Light: I think that's an excellent thing. Always be launching. Always be creating excitement from different angles. Don't just repeat the same thing, but your book has many different reasons can benefit from it. I'm sure there are at least half a dozen ways you could get into this book.
And in all books are all entrepreneurial project, because all we're talking about here, we're talking a lot about books and writing, but all this applies to any creative thing, any e-course, or membership site, or anything you do in your business. They all have the similar, we don't writer's block, but people have hiccoughs, people need to relaunch, people need to overcome their fear of being seen, or being judged by other on what they create, which, coming to that, how on earth do you manage to eliminate that fear of being seen or judged by others, because so many entrepreneurs get stuck on that.
Janet Murray: Well, I guess I'm lucky from this point of view, that having spent 16 writing for national newspapers, I've had my fair number of trolls and people who've written nasty comments on the bottom of things that I've written, and nasty emails and things like that, so I think I'm a bit tougher to it than others might be, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt. It doesn't mean that sometimes if I put something out there, and people don't like it, or they're critical or whatever, it doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt. I think I've just got a bit of a thicker skin.
But certainly a lot of my clients, a lot of people I work with, it's the thing that holds them back, so they come to me, and they say, “Oh, you know, I want to be featured in Marie Claire Magazine, or I want to be in The New York Times, or I want to be speaking at this event,” and then when we start to kind of walk through the steps they need to achieve that, they kind of almost get, like, paralyzed, you know, like sort of rabbit in headlights.
And then I, “Oh, hang on a minute. I didn't mean me. I didn't I had to be out in the spotlight. I meant, like, my book, or my service.” But the thing is, people aren't interested in reading about books or products or services. They're interested in people, and if you've got a business, and you've got a kind of personal brand, you've got to be willing to get out there and to tell your story, and I think it's something that, for most people, it just takes a little bit of time, and I sort of tend to sort of encourage people just to kind of take it gently. So if they're not used to being in the press, maybe start by being in the local newspaper, and get used to that, and then maybe kind progress onto The Huffington Post and get comfortable with that.
And I think for most people, it's like anything. The more you do something, and the more you realize that, you know, it's been like exercise or something like that, the more you realize that it didn't kill you to do that run. And so you go and do a little bit more and little bit more. Then gradually, people get a bit kind of tougher to it, but it's something I think that you really need to overcome. I don't think there's any kind of shortcuts to it. I think some people sort of think that they can just kind of bypass it, but I think if you've got a business, and you've got a personal brand, you really do have to get used to being in the spotlight.
Michael Light: Yeah. I mean, I went through that. That part of my writer's block on my book, and the reason it took six months and not 30 days, I'm not sure I could have done 30 days, but I'm sure I [crosstalk 00:29:39]
Janet Murray: Six months is still pretty quick for most people. I think I'm just a bit unusual.
Michael Light: Well, I had a writing coach and editor, so she really helped when I got stuck. She'd kind of give me ideas or help me get unstuck, or give me a more realistic point of view instead of the crazy, wacky thoughts that were going on in my head. And she also helped with reorganizing stuff, you know, to make it flow better. She was like the advocate for the reader, which I think you've got that internalized, that you are your own, your readers' advocate, and making stuff easy to read, which is one of those skills in writing an article or a book or creating anything.
Janet Murray: Yeah. I think getting other eyes on your work is so very important. I mean, I've been doing this for years, so it's kind of easy for me. It comes quite naturally to me. But I still show, you know, if I'm writing for a new audience or a new publication I haven't written before, I would still go to a friend who I know is more experienced in that sector and say, “Have a look at this, and tell me if you think it's the right sort of thing.” I'll still, if I'm writing for a new editor, I'll still say to them, “Can you send me an example of the kind of thing that you're looking for just so I'm on the right track?” I don't think we can ever kind of assume that we know it all, and I think with a book, working with an editor is a really, really good idea. And certainly when it comes to having that kind of like objective viewpoint is so, so helpful.
Michael Light: And I would encourage anyone who's writing to get your editor early rather than late. Have them in the beginning to help you organize that plan and give you feedback on the outline you come back with, or even to encourage you to actually have an outline. And instead of, like, waiting until the book draft is perfect before you allow that editor to do it, because you'll get it done so much faster with someone's help, and most editors don't bite. You know? I mean, they're somewhat sensitive. And most certainly a good is sensitive that writers have feelings, and they try to say things in a way that's not going to destroy you totally. They won't pull punches either, but they're on your side.
The other thing on feedback that worked for me is having a Facebook group of people who were interested in the topic where I could share early drafts of chapters and get feedback, and that helped eliminate my fear of getting out, because people had given me feedback and said, “Yeah, this is good,” or, “I don't understand this. Can you …” you know, helped me rephrase things.
Janet Murray: Yeah. I did exactly the same with my book, and I actually some people, I did the same with my covers, had some people who didn't like my cover, and so that was making a big mistake, and actually now, people tell me that, one of the, some people say, “I just bought your book because I love the cover.” Like, alone. But I think it's really, really helpful to get that feedback, and like you say, something that seems really clear to you will not be will not be clear to other people, and I think instead of seeing it as criticism, actually, it's kind of really helpful sometimes just to get a kind of objective point of view.
Michael Light: Yeah. I think it's, I mean, on some things it's important to follow our intuition, like on the cover, I certainly followed my intuition, and I didn't really do, you know, here are six covers, give me your votes kind of thing, because what people say they will buy and what they actually by are two different things, and I know you've had that experience on your membership site. Tell us a bit about that, because you managed to launch it in two weeks over Christmas, 200K recurring revenue level, which I think is, given how many people are asleep during Christmas in the United Kingdom and America is amazing.
Janet Murray: Yeah. Well, I had a membership site. I've had one for about a year, actually, and I, like many of the things I do, I am kind of quiet. I do kind of move quickly. When I decide to do something, I often just go right. I'm going to do this, and then I've done it, like in 24 hours or something. And this is kind of what I did with my membership site, and my membership site is to help people who wanted to get press coverage, so I had a coaching program where I worked quite closely with people, but obviously, that was more of a financial investment. I wanted a way to help more people.
And so generally, what people want me to help them with is how to get coverage in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV, and you know, how to get published in the likes of The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, those kind of places.
So I set up this membership site, whereby I had kind of courses inside it, but also, it was also just like I run in London every month where I get a journalist on a high profile who's come along to talk about what they're looking for so the members would get access to those videos.
But I just had this niggling feeling that was just bothering me that I'm the kind of person that if I want to learn something, I would just go and find the resources. I don't really need anybody to hold my hand or guide me, and I will just kind of go. I'll work out what it is that I need to do. I'll find it and I'll just do it.
But not everybody's like that, and this is what was niggling at me, and I was like, actually there's some people here who, they need some guidance. You know, I'm providing them with all these great resources. One of the resources is me. They can come along to a live call with me every week and ask me questions, but I just felt like there were people out there who needed more guidance about in what order to tackle their resources and just to kind of get organized in their business.
The other thing that was niggling me is that some people are coming to me asking for help to get in Marie Claire Magazine or whatever, and when I looked at their business, I said, “Well, you know, you actually haven't got a website that's … Well, you have got a website, but maybe it's not working that well for you. You're not collecting email addresses. You're not blogging or creating content regularly. You're not that active on social media, or if you are, you were inconsistent. So if you do get any press coverage, you could get an amazing piece of press coverage and a big title, but actually, if the other bits, in terms of your marketing PR aren't really happening, then the impact of that is going to be lessened.”
So I was kind of struggling with the fact that people were telling me that they wanted one thing, but I could see that they needed something else. It was that kind of, it was a sort of tension between what people were saying they wanted, and what I thought they actually needed.
So I just wrote this Facebook post. I've got a big Facebook community, which has got seven and a half thousand members, which is great. It's like a big market research place, and I just wrote this Facebook post where I said, “Look, this is my vision. This is how I'd like to help people. This is what I've noticed. I've noticed lots of you are coming to me asking for help with this, but actually, what's really going on is this. What I'd love to do is be able to work with you for a year. I'd love to be able to kind of guide you through, so you come to me, we talk about where you are in your business, and then I kind of guide you through the steps. So making sure you're creating regular content, making sure that you're collecting email addresses, social media, and then taking you into the press stuff and sort of getting your ducks in a row, basically.”
And this is my vision. This is what I want to help people with. And I can't remember exactly what I wrote in the post, but I just basically wrote what was on my mind. And I've got so many messages from people saying, “Oh my god. This is exactly what I want. This is the kind of program I want help with. Where's the sales page? Where can I buy?” And I was like, “Oh, right. Okay.”
And I do have a policy. I don't create anything upfront until people have actually got their credit card out, and debit card out, and have actually bought. I mean, we can talk more about that in a second.
So I went off and created a sales page, very simple sales page which was just my vision of how I wanted to help people in the coming year, and just sort of emailed a few people and just sent it out to my list. I mean, I've got a decent sized email list, but just kind of said, “Hey, this is happening,” and I did it in between Christmas and New Year. Which you would think would be a time that people wouldn't want to spend. And it was one of those things where I was checking my email every day, and it was just going up and up and up, and then it was, “Oh my god. Somebody else has joined. Someone else has joined.” And they were joining as annual members. You know, they weren't going for the month subscription, they were paying for a year.
And so I ended up picking up, I think it was 100, 110 members between Christmas and New Year. I already had some members anyway, and for a little bit of people who weren't moving on, but yeah. So it was just one of those things where my head was telling me one thing, but my heart was telling me that actually, this is kind of what people needed help with, and if I was just honest and just put it down on paper, and that people would see what I was trying to do.
And so that was was really, worked really, really well, and a really good example I think of just, of following your guts, I think.
Michael Light: Yeah. I mean. It's interesting how our rational minds can come up with this elaborate idea of what we think people want, or even based on what people say they want. But our intuition can often be much more connected with what really is going to work. And then I love that thing where you're just testing that the demand exists before you even create the sales page or build the product.
Janet Murray: Yeah.
Michael Light: You know, that's very much that seven day startup mentality, where you do the idea validation first.
Janet Murray: Well, I've got another example for you, actually, which I haven't mentioned the links to the book actually, but I had an idea in the beginning of November last year. I kind of thought, what is it that most of my customers struggle with, and basically when it comes to pitching into the media, but also creating content for social media and email marketing, that kind of thing. And it's basically coming up with ideas, and as a journalist, we work … I'm used to very much working with a diary, so basically, everything you do is kind of based around, we call it on and off diary.
So you'd have stuff marked up years in advance, new reports that are coming out, government spending reviews, the budget. It could be silly things like national pillow fight day, or whatever it might be, but you work very much on terms of kind of what's on diary, and then you deal with things, you know, breaking news as it kind of comes in. And I thought wouldn't it be great to create a diary for people for my clients that they could use to give them ideas, you know, like what to post on social media to help them plan ahead.
So I thought, “Ooh, I'd already created a media calendar the year before and given it away as a freebie, so I thought, you know, I might create this diary.” So as with all of my ideas, I don't create anything unless I've validated it. So I've made a sales page, I've got my designer to mock up what it would look like. We didn't make it, but I knew what was going to be in it, and I did a presales. So basically, I'm going to selling this for 30 pounds, but I'm going to pre-order, and if you order in the next few days, it's 19 pounds 50.
Now bear in mind this thing didn't exist at this stage. It was just like, you know, and somebody said to me, “What are you going to do if not enough people buy it?” I say, “We'll just refund people. It's fine.” You know, I just refund them, but the respond huge. I sold hundreds in pre-sales. That's kind of more than I probably could afford to sell at that price.
But that that validated the idea, and there was no way that I was going to go through the costly, you know, the cost of having it's an A4 diary. You know, hard copy of paying a designer to design it, of getting it printed without knowing that people actually wanted to buy it. So I sold hundreds and hundreds of this thing that didn't even exist, and then people were very upset because they missed out on their pre-order and then, obviously, that put the price up. And I sold it as a package with my book. So that was an idea that just kind of came to me. I don't know why I didn't think about it. But having a diary which helps you plan your content, and alongside my book, which is like how to get featured in the media. It's a perfect combo, so that worked really well as well.
But that was again just kind of following my gut. You know, what was it that would solve, really solve people's problems? And so this year, I've almost kind of seen it as a beta. So, you know, I've just kind of tried it out. I sold over 1,000. I've still got come to me every day asking if they can get one, even though it's March.
And so that's given me ability of much bigger and better, you know, for 2018. But that was another example, really of just kind like thinking, “Ooh. I think this is something people will want. Why don't I just ask them?” And but the crucial thing is, I think you have to get people to put their money where their mouth is. People will tell you that they want things, you know? If I could have put that out there, and could have said, “Oh, yes. I'd love this,” but nobody bought it.
I think the crucial thing is you only know when people actually get their credit card or their debit card out, and they actually buy.
Michael Light: I love that way you had a beta version, you got feedback, and then you iterated having improvements in it. And that comes back to the overcoming creator's block or writer's block that so many people get stuck that they have to make it perfect on all the sales page, and the product has to be there before they even know if anyone wants it, whereas if you're okay putting out something that's imperfect and getting feedback, whether it's writing or a course or whatever, you know, it's so much quicker to iterate it and improve it.
Janet Murray: Yeah, but like I said, somebody said to me, “What are you going to do if nobody buys it?”
Michael Light: So what? Refund them.
Janet Murray: And so, well, if not enough people buy it, I'll just say I'll just refund the who've bought it and say there wasn't enough demand. But a lot of people think, “Oh my god. Well, what will people think if I tried something and I failed?” And I just think, “Well, you know, [crosstalk 00:42:59]”
Michael Light: Some of them will be okay with it, some of them will be upset. So what? Next. Move on.
Janet Murray: Exactly. Yeah. And as it turns out, I've sold so many and could have sold so many more. It was just it was the first year I've done it, and there's loads of things that I think I would improve, and I've had lots of feedback from people about things I could improve for next year, but I just think if I hadn't done that, that's probably the best idea I've had yet, and it was one of those kind of open envelope, you know, you just suddenly think, “Oh, I might do that. That sounds quite good.” And it nearly killed us, doing it, I have to say, because my designer, nearly killed us, but now I've got a great a great idea for a product for next year, and so much, and just think if I hadn't acted that, if I'd been too scared thinking, “What if nobody buys?”
Michael Light: Yeah. I mean, I think when we get these intuitive inspirations, it's really important to act on them and get feedback. From my experience with my intuition, one of the ways I've improved how much I hear intuition, or how much it speaks to me, I'm not sure which it is, is when I hear something, and I get this knowing that this is the right thing to do, I act on it as quick as I can, and that seems to get the creative ideas and intuition flowing better. And when I, in the past, I'd kind of hold back and put it on a to do list, but not actually do it, I didn't get as much intuitive ideas.
And coming back to that writer's block or creator's block that entrepreneurs and business people have, you were talking about how people wanted to have a famous book or get published in a big magazine or whatever, but they didn't have all their social posts and blog, or podcast together. You know, I think that comes back to their fear about not wanting to be seen. You know, part of them wanted to be famous, but the other part was, “Oh no. Don't look. Don't criticize me. Don't look at me.”
Which, you know, for me on my book, I had to do a lot of clearing on that. I probably spent about two or three weeks of clearing that kind of stuff in different ways, about being okay being seen, being okay that not everyone's going to love what I write. Not everyone's going to love who I am or what I'm standing for, and that's okay. I think they call it polarizing, right? Where you get some people who love you and some people who hate you, and that's far better than being just bland, where everyone sort of thinks you're okay.
And you don't get any true fans that way, and you far less sales and passion.
Janet Murray: Yeah. I really believe you attract. You attract and repel, and if you feel you're really good at attracting people, there are also going to be some people who hate what you do.
I got an email from somebody the other day, and we always have a laugh about this, but he said … I've got this great cheat sheet that I've put together. I've been using it in my phase for capitalizing, and I've had like hundreds of emails from people saying, “Wow. This is really great. Thank you for this. I'm using it.” Email from somebody saying, “Well, this is a load of drivel, isn't it?” And I opened it, “This is a load of drivel, and why what a waste of my time,” or whatever. But you have to remind yourself that's one out of hundreds of people who've come back and said, “Wow. Thanks for that. That was really useful.” And you just have to able to kind of laugh and move on I think.
Michael Light: Yeah, take it light-heartedly. I was a told a story once in this kind of thing when you'll make, putting an offer out to people, it's like you're like a three-year-old little girl on her like red tricycle riding around the playground and saying, “Would you like to ride on my tricycle?” And one of the kids says, “No.” And she's like, “Okay.” And she rides off and goes to the next kid and says, “Would you like to ride with me on my tricycle?” And then she eventually finds someone who does. And she wasn't concerned that other people did or didn't want to ride on her tricycle. She was just enjoying what she was doing and wanted to share it.
And I think we get that beaten out of us in school, hopefully not literally these days. But schools teach us to, like, follow the rules, and don't stand out too much, and don't be seen. I've experienced this where some child is with their parents, and the child's all full of joy and jumping around and singing a song, and the parents say, “Be quiet.”
And I think that's where, for me, that's where a lot of this writer's block, not wanting to be seen came from, because I was afraid I'd get punished or told off for having a book that's successful.
Janet Murray: Yeah. No, I think there's a lot of that, and I think that, I think the fear of criticism is just such an epic thing, and the fact that we all, for every positive bit of feedback we get, we just can't help obsess over that one negative comment, or that one, I call it “eggy email” that we get. You know? It's just human nature, isn't it, that we focus on the negative, and then we forget all the lovely feedback [crosstalk 00:47:48].
Michael Light: Well, when we were cavemen or women, you know, if the negative was the growl of a saber tooth tiger in the grass, and you had to pay attention to it. But now a negative tweet is not going to eat you for dinner. But we still have that primitive brain that's like, “Uh-oh, danger. Better retreat.” But it's no longer a useful behavior, not in the modern world.
So this has been really interesting looking at the creative process and how to just get things to flow. Is there anything else you want to share before we wrap up, Janet?
Janet Murray: Ooh, that's a really good question to [leave your show on 00:48:30]. I just think I'd really like to encourage people just to take action. You know, I just see so many people who are paralyzed. They've got a book that they want to get out there, or they want to write for The Huffington Post, or they even just things like they want to start a Facebook group, or you know, really kind of simple things, and they're just so paralyzed, and I just love to see people taking action and just accepting that you might make mistakes, you might get things wrong, but that's okay. We're all human, and I hope that sharing some of the things that have not be great for me and have gone wrong, I hope that that's helpful for people to hear that.
Michael Light: Oh, it's very helpful, and I encourage people to use whatever energy clearing tools you have to clear any blocks you have in your business, whether they're writer's block or getting a Facebook group created. I've slogged through this in the past to get stuff done and kind struggled to get stuff completed, and I've also done it where I've gone back to the childhood or other stuff that I was carrying around that was getting in my way.
So that would be my tip on that, and it doesn't have to be my techniques. There are hundreds of different ways of doing this out there. Whatever appeals to you, use it.
Janet Murray: Mm, definitely.
Michael Light: So if people wanted to find you and your book in this wonderful community you have for getting your name out there through PR, how would they find you?
Janet Murray: So my website is janetmurray.co.uk. I'm also pretty active on Twitter, so it's @jan_murray, and I mentioned earlier I've got a very active Facebook community. It's my favorite place to hang out, and it's called the Soulful PR Facebook Community.
And actually, something I probably should have said I meant to say earlier on is that my brand, Soulful PR, is really all about kind of intuition and following your intuition and being understanding, and so it's really about kind of people often feel a bit uncomfortable about selling themselves and promoting themselves, and we touched on this earlier, but I sort of feel, if you're out there, and you're approaching the press or the media, and you're just kind of trying to understand journalists, or what is it that they're looking for, and in order to understand that, well I need to maybe read their magazine or listen to listen their radio program, or whatever it might be.
If you're just kind of out there kind of trying to understand people. If when you're writing, you're thinking about your audience rather than yourself, if you're just keeping it simple, that's really what it's really about. So that's my Soulful PR Facebook Community. That's kind of what we're all about is kind of how to do PR in a way that kind of feels easy, that doesn't feel you're kind of being pushy or selly or over-promotionalistic. It's kind of about understanding people and helping people.
That's kind of really what we're all about, so if that appeals to you, come and hang out in the Soulful PR Facebook Community, because I think you'll like it. I'm also over on Instagram at as well @janmurrayuk.
Michael Light: Excellent, well thank you so much for joining us today, Janet.
Janet Murray: Thanks for having me.