Aron Levin, entrepreneur and co-founder of marketing technology company Relatable, never thought he would write a book. After his company sparked the idea behind The Influencer Marketing Handbook, Aron turned to Blurb’s Large Order Services team with the goal of sharing insights, knowledge, and expertise on a more personalized basis. We caught up with him to chat about his experience of making a book, the book’s success, and scoring a publishing deal with one of the largest business book publishers around.
01 What inspired the idea behind The Influencer Marketing Handbook and why, in a digital industry, did you decide to go with a print project?
At Relatable, we have a very collaborative sales process, built around establishing trust and expertise as we navigate our clients towards what we believe will get them the best results. A huge part of that is to share insights, knowledge, and expertise. But that’s very hard to scale beyond a one-on-one interaction. Writing a very transparent and tactical book was a great way to expand beyond those one-on-one meetings. Going with a physical book instead of a digital download increased the chances of getting the content consumed with attention, and was also a great way to differentiate. A real printed book is also, for some reason, perceived as more legitimate and valuable than, say, a PDF or ebook.
02 What was it like to make your book and how did you design it?
The truth is, it was never meant to be a book! I’m a big fan of David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising”, and the old school copywriters. He created this iconic, long-form piece of advertising for his own agency back in 1982. So, I wondered, are there ten things we have learned in the last two years that we could share with our clients in a similar format?
I struggled at first, but ended up with a list of fifty things. Then I wrote a few paragraphs on each insight and, reluctantly, found myself halfway through writing an actual book. I enjoyed the process as much as the outcome and taught myself about book formatting best practices, typography, layout, and more along the way. In hindsight, I spent as much time on typography and layout as the actual writing process. Unless you enjoy the design and layout process, I’d recommend outsourcing or using a ready-made template.
03 How did you decide on the size, format, and type of book you created?
I went with a somewhat serious and professional look, in Trade Book format, to establish that it’s non-fiction and very domain-specific. It’s more of a field guide and handbook rather than a comprehensive business book, which led me to the title, The Influencer Marketing Handbook.
04 Why did you decide to self-publish rather than seek out a traditional publisher?
You often hear stories about how authors are turned down by a hundred publishers before eventually signing a deal. That turned me off big time. I didn’t want to be turned down a hundred times before having my book published. At the end of the day, I wanted to get the word out. So I decided that self-publishing would be a lot easier than turning to a publisher.
05 What goals or insights helped to guide your order size?
I hoped for the best and planned for the worst. I set an ambitious goal of selling 10,000 copies in 2018, but prepared myself mentally for selling maybe 100 copies. Ambitious goals are important to me, and the more unlikely they are, the more fun the challenge. I think the first batch was around 300 copies. The reason I went with a bulk order at that size was two-fold: 1) commitment to success and 2) the lower cost-per-unit versus the option to print-on-demand.
To soft-launch the book, I published a post on LinkedIn promoting the book to my connections. I held my breath, didn’t know what to expect, and the first sale came through in less than 10 minutes. We have a sales bell in the office that we ring whenever we close large B2B deals, but I proudly rang the bell that day to celebrate the $27.95 book sale. It felt just as good as closing a million-dollar deal. The first 300 copies sold out in a few days, and I immediately ordered another 500 copies.
06 How did Blurb’s Large Order Services team help with your project?
Publishing an actual book felt like a hard and challenging thing to do initially. I wanted it to have a really professional look and feel without hiring a team of professionals or finding a publisher. The Large Order Services team has been responsive and helped out along the way with any questions I’ve had. I was able to test print multiple proof copies to get the right look and feel and then immediately, with the press of a button, order a few hundred copies.
07 How are you distributing The Influencer Marketing Handbook and why did you choose this method?
The book is sold directly on our website, relatable.me, to combine book sales with lead generation. When someone buys a book on the website, they’re immediately sent a survey where we receive feedback and questions from hundreds of marketing professionals. This helps me shape the content we create to provide even more value and goodwill in the marketplace. We also give book readers immediate access to email me questions and build a long-term relationship. We keep copies of the book across our four offices in LA, NYC, London, and Stockholm for visitors and clients. An added benefit has been to use the book for on-boarding new hires in our rapidly growing team.
08 How did it feel to unwrap your book and see it for the first time?
I ordered proof copies before I was finished to get a sense of what it could look like, but the really good feeling came when the first 300 copies arrived. There’s something special about creating something “analog” in a world where 99% of what we do is digital.
09 If you could go back and give your 5-years-ago self some advice, what would you say?
They say the best time to plant a tree was yesterday, so part of me wishes I had written and published the book earlier. Another part of me recognizes that I didn’t have the insights back then. With that said, I’d tell myself that distribution is more important than positioning or brand building. Focus on building an audience and a strong relationship with that audience first. The business part will take care of itself (as long as you focus on providing goodwill and value for them). In my experience, I committed and started building an email subscriber base about a year ago.
Also, never be afraid to show your personality. It’s okay to polarize your audience and write the way you talk. Don’t get “professional” mixed up with “boring”, and remember your objective. My goal was to use the book to land more leads and business, and it has contributed to that in a really meaningful way.
Thank you, Aron, for taking the time to provide all of the insight behind your book! We’re inspired by your initiative and hard work.
Printing 100+ copies of your own book? Talk to Large Order Services about your design, printing, and distribution options.