This one has been difficult to title. The inspiration comes from not one, but two different people highly respected in the self-publishing industry who have displayed a level of fear at losing customers for their “how-to” courses. “Lose to who?” You might wonder. A relative newcomer in the ‘teach the author business’ side of things, a Brit named Matthew Holmes, that’s who. His crime? Breaking the mold on how indie authors should run Facebook ads. I see a lot of parallels to the political world in how these big names have reacted to his sudden appearance. (No, I won’t say their names; yes, I still respect and [more importantly] learn from them.)
It’s easy to see when those in “power” get upset and attack the outsider. Unless, of course, you’ve been great at turning off ALL news and social media the last ten years. Rather than dive into this in another yawn-and-cortisol-inducing rant, let’s look at this thing I’ve noticed in the author business world—and maybe even learn something about ourselves, too.
First the setup. The two mentioned figures both have highly successful courses aimed at teaching up-and-coming authors about the business. Some of the niche topics include running ads and setting up great websites. I’ve paid for lifetime access to two courses from one of them, and a book from the other. Both run private Facebook groups for their customers, of which I’m a member. Now, there’s this third guy which I’ll name, because he, too, is highly respected as an SME in his area, and it was a guest column in his newsletter that got me started on this venture.
That guy, Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur, otherwise has nothing to do with this story. He had allowed Matthew Holmes to run a lengthy and detailed article in one of his newsletters and easily findable on the Kindlepreneur website. It talks a lot about how, through expensive trial and error, he was able to scale his wife’s sales ads on Facebook (she’s the author, he manages the ads.) He broke a few “unspoken rules” in the process and lays out a sound set of reasons in support of it. What he’s never done is promise it will be fast or easy. I went to Matt’s website and signed up for his newsletter, which gave me a three video overview of the course. I spent a day thinking about it and decided to pony up the $175 US for the sale price. I even upsold a few more bucks for some ad templates. He is also pre-selling a course he’s building to learn to sell direct from your website. I most likely won’t get this course, but it plays into the story.
The main rule “broken” in his system is to quit trying to target new potential customers by interest, (or other established methods like using your newsletter subscribers/page followers to make “look-alike” audiences), and just let Facebook’s AI do the work. The other, less contested piece is to use a feature they offer to allow them a few options of picture, main copy, and headline, and then they find the best combo of those to dump the most ad spend toward. There’s a lot more to the tried system, but in a nutshell, the targeting method has sent a nearly-audible (pun intended) gasp throughout the indie-author community.
The very next day after my purchase, I listened to the latest episode of a successful indie author podcast (by one of the course providers) while out getting my steps in. And though AI was the discussion and in the title, the author/teacher/podcaster began to discuss this exact Facebook ads targeting system. He had the grace (and good legal sense) not to name Matt or his course. But he detailed the targeting and the things Matt teaches perfectly as he tried to discredit them. A paraphrase: “I personally have never seen evidence that the Facebook AI learns from the graphic or the copy and then target the right people based on that.”
What he can’t deny is what Meta has done in the recent past to guide us down this path. They’ve removed the ability to target by the majority of interests we used to be able to. I can no longer target things like preparedness, preppers, shooting, self sufficiency, homesteaders, TEOTWAWKI, or hundreds of other keywords common to my readers. And they keep introducing automated tools you have to opt out of when setting up ads. Next to knowing who interacts with your business page, there is no better and obvious way for the ad AI to learn who to target than for it to study the graphic, headline, and main text. It’s so obvious it hurts. Honestly, my first thought (when he said that) that I actually said out loud on my walk while listening was, “Well aren’t you the jealous little b*$%h!” He spent a good eight minutes trying to discredit this line of thinking and any course that would dare to teach it as something to be very cautious about.
A week ago, in the Facebook group of an author (the other course provider) who specializes in teaching people to sell books from their own website, she made a post that stood out with the exact same butt-hurt as the podcast comment. (I have her excellent book and have studied it thoroughly as I expand into this type of selling; but she also has a VERY pricey course to sell, which I have not purchased.) She’d just “kicked out” (her words) a different course provider who joined under “false pretenses.” She then rambled for several sentences about being wary of the get-rich quick types who claim to have found the new secret sauce. And normally I’d agree with that. But then she mentioned something that not-so-discreetly showed her true feelings: (Again, a paraphrase) “When this person hasn’t even put in the work…” Ahhh, there it is. His crime was to “take a shortcut” because he didn’t follow your path… Got it. The truth is that he’ll soon be offering a competitive course for about a third of the price.
Now, there’s no guarantee either of them were specifically talking about Matt, especially the second example. And when their words are taken simply at face value, they make sense. We should be wary of get-rich-quick schemes. But when someone starts throwing around emotional statements like “I just kicked someone out for false pretenses” and then uses missing-context statements like “he hasn’t put in the work”, then you know what they’re actually saying is “I feel threatened.” Just because someone didn’t put in YOUR work doesn’t mean they didn’t do THE work.
In a way, this reminds me of the Rocky Movies. It’s one thing to get to the top. It’s another animal staying there. For the first time ever in my years, I’m finally running profitable Facebook ads and it was nearly instant for me. I invested in the course because he gave me great hooks, thorough free content, and a potential for great value for the cost. He never promised it will be easy. In fact, he warns it may be a bit costly for at least thirty days, and that we really need to put all of our ads effort into this for ninety days to truly give it time to learn and improve. And yet, in his own Facebook group, people post every day about why they can’t take this shortcut or that shortcut. “Why can’t we just [do one of these other 15 things I think is a better idea.]”
Whew… I guess I segued into a different topic there—patience. But I challenge myself and you to this thought: In what ways are we the one twisting context? Or feeling threatened by a challenger with a new mindset shift we don’t understand? We are not entitled to our customers and readers. We have to earn them, their time, and their money each and every day.