The Haitian-American author, publisher and entrepreneur explains how he managed to secure bestseller status for his poetry books.
The Haitian-American author, publisher and entrepreneur explains how he managed to secure bestseller status for his poetry books.
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SPS-228: How to Make a Million Dollars Writing Poetry – with Pierre Alex Jeanty
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Pierre Jeanty: I had no particular plan. I just wanted to express. I just needed to get this out there. And when they asked for the book, I pivoted to where I was a blogger to now I became an author.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join Indie Bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Yes, hello. It is The Self-Publishing Show with James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: We're still locked down in the U.K. and you've been out and about though, flexing the new slightly looser rules with your new electric bike. Tell us how that's going. You got a bit of traffic, a bit of a notice about that last time we mentioned it on the podcast, but you've actually taken delivery of it now and been out.
Mark Dawson: I've been out twice, yeah. Saturday and Sunday. It's amazing. I went out Saturday I think I did about 25 kilometers I know that. And then yesterday I did about 45 and it's really, it's fantastic. You should definitely get one.
James Blatch: I'm quite excited about it. Of course within my little cycling group, they are frowned upon.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's quite funny though. I went into the New Forest, which is a really lovely part of the world. Not too far from where I live. There's a very long stretch of fairly flat road, and I saw I think a club cyclist ahead of me, so I just, I thought I would laugh, so I turned the bike on and just destroyed him. It was hilarious. I whizzed past him.
And then coming back again, there's some really steep hills. It's amazing. You've done 40, 45 kilometers, your legs are going a little bit, mine certainly were, so I had half the battery left, so I just put it on to full boost and it basically helped me get home. It's really, it was fantastic.
James Blatch: Well, that's what you wanted it for, wasn't it? For that and it does sound really cool. Are you uploading these to Strava? Can people follow you on Strava?
Mark Dawson: I am on Strava now. Yes, I am.
James Blatch: You've got thirty thousand publishing show listeners following you.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's really good fun. I thoroughly enjoy myself. There are a few moments, because it's lovely weather here at the moment, there were a few moments yesterday where I was whizzing through the New Forest, going up hills and things. Even I found some lovely ride aways through the countryside. No one anywhere that I could see, as far as I could see. It was lovely. There may have been a few kind of whoops of enjoyment-
James Blatch: Um, a few whoops.
Mark Dawson: -as I was whizzing.
James Blatch: Endorphin whoops. Wow.
Mark Dawson: It was good.
James Blatch: Well, to try and circle it back a little bit to the core topic that we're here to talk about, I think looking after your mental health is important. There's lots stuff going around at the moment about particularly during lockdown. And sounds to me like a pretty good way of trying to give yourself some breathing space and thinking time. I think you and I both enjoy exercise for that reason actually because it gives us some thinking time away from this.
Mark Dawson: Walking is good for thinking. On the bike I didn't think of anything. It was nice.
James Blatch: Well, that's good.
Mark Dawson: Just not to think about anything. And I don't normally get that kind of opportunity. That was really nice. I said that to Lucy as I came home and she was like, she gets that when she goes horse riding. You can't really think about other stuff, because you've got to concentrate on not falling off your horse or not falling off your bike. So, it is just an opportunity to be somewhere completely different. I strongly recommend it. Exercise is good.
James Blatch: Yeah, very good. That reminds me of learning to fly, which I did in my 30s. Same thing, once you're in that environment for a couple hours of prep and flying and debrief, you can't think of anything else, and it's quite a refreshing holiday from your mental life when you have to absorb yourself. I would like to get my flying lessons back. Saw a Tweet this week about a fast jet experience in Florida.
Mark Dawson: I saw that.
James Blatch: One of our listeners sent it. Her father is the instructor pilot I think on the L39 Albatross out of Ft. Lauderdale. I'm all up for that, definitely.
Mark Dawson: I know.
James Blatch: That's three thousand dollars well spent.
Mark Dawson: Is that what it costs?
James Blatch: I think so, yeah.
Mark Dawson: Ouch.
James Blatch: But I want to get my flying license back so that I can make the most of it. Get some instruction up there rather than just a joy ride. Yes, I could see the color draining from your face at the prospect.
Mark Dawson: It's never happening. No way. I wouldn't even go with Nathan Van Coops.
James Blatch: No? Well, you should do it. It's fun. It's beautiful.
Mark Dawson: I know I should. I probably wouldn't do that.
James Blatch: You would enjoy that. I'll fly you. Nathan will-
Mark Dawson: No, no. That's not happening either. One thing we, that interview last week, we had an email from someone, I think I intercepted it and I was quite rude in response, saying it was seven minutes before we had anything that was relevant for writers and who had time to listen to that nonsense. You might have seen that.
James Blatch: I didn't.
Mark Dawson: That came and I think I picked that off the queue before you got to it, because I was, I don't know, people are just rude.
James Blatch: I consider everyone who listens friends and we're catching up with each other and with our friends who listen to this-
Mark Dawson: Exactly.
James Blatch: -who'd like to know what's been going on this week and it our little community. It's part and parcel of it for me. We're not a boring here's the next bit of learning, here's the next bit of learning, end of learning.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: I don't know if you watch The Good Place?
Mark Dawson: No.
James Blatch: Yes, the Neutral Janet for people watch The Good Place, the Neutral Janet, end of conversation she says. She says everything completely neutrally. Beginning of conversation. Goodbye. End of conversation. So, that's not what this podcast is or what this show is.
Okay. Look, we've got a couple of things to mention. We do have a webinar where there is going to be intense learning going on on June 9th, just a few days time, and you can sign up for that if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/sixsecrets. S-I-X S-E-C-R-E-T-S. And that is going to be with Janet Margo fresh from the Amazon advertising operation in Seattle.
So it is going to be really from the horse's mouth stuff about under the bonnet at Amazon advertising. So, it's going to be a very useful session. It is going to be, I'll tell you now, we both know this market is going to be oversubscribed on the 9th. So, you want to register and you want to get there early.
We have a plan in place if you don't get on in the evening, but you probably will want to be there live if you can so you can put your questions directly to Janet. So, if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/sixsecrets and sign up for that webinar.
We should also say that our Advertising for Authors course is going to be open possibly for the only time this year sort of roughly the plan at the moment is it will open again in January '21. I think we may bring that forward, but I can't guarantee it. So, it might be the only time this year depending on what else we're doing and what place the course is in.
The big addition is Janet Margo's new Amazon Advertising course, which we are heads down in the moment to bringing to fruition. It's going to be a complete revamp of the existing Amazon Ads course. The existing Amazon Ads course was the smallest sibling of the Facebook Ads course within Ads for Authors. These are going to be alongside each other now.
In fact, if anything, I think this course is going to be even more comprehensive than the Facebook Ads course is going to be. Very modular, very easy to dip in and out of, very easy to set up those campaigns, listen to an expert on the subject. So, that's being added this time.
Ads for Authors also includes Facebook Ads for Authors and a plethora of other courses. That's going to be open on Wednesday.
Mark Dawson: The third. Wednesday the third.
James Blatch: Wednesday the third. There you go. Ten p.m. U.K. is the traditional time we open that course. And if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors, you will be able to read all about it, find out exactly what's in the course, and whether it's going to be good for you.
And as always with our courses, we understand they're an investment. There's a 30 day money back guarantee. So, you get full access to everything in the course for 30 days and you can ask for your money back if you don't think it's for you, if you don't want to continue. And also just because of where we are at the moment, and we understand that for some people money is tight, we are going to do a two year payment plan on the course this time. So, you'll be able to spread that payment over 24 installments.
Okay. We have an unusual interview today. A really unusual, really interesting and unusual guy. But we often get, well not often get, occasionally we get an email, don't we Mark? From someone who says, "I'm a poet. How can you advise me to make money?"
What is your standard response to someone who says I'm a poet. I want to make money from my poetry.
Mark Dawson: Sorry about that. God help you. Move on.
James Blatch: It is tempting to say that, because there aren't a lot of examples of people making poetry as a commercial success. It's just one of those areas that you don't often often see people perhaps sitting on the tube reading poetry in the way that you would a genre novel; however, that doesn't mean you can't make money from poetry.
And our guest today has done exactly that. His name is Pierre Jeanty. Excellent name I couldn't help saying quite a lot. We're going to hear all about it. Of course he ran an absolutely fantastic episode in his broadband connection, but it's a really interesting way he's gone about this. He has done very well indeed selling his poetry, which is up there on Amazon doing fairly well in the rankings as well, which is, as I say, an exception and something for us to learn about.
So, even if you're not into poetry, I think some of the way he's used social media, he used his platform to market and collaboration are all things that we can learn from. So, let's hear from Pierre.
We are delighted, bien venu, to Pierre Jeanty, which is the most French name I think we've ever had on the air podcast. We even have French people on who don't have a French name like Pierre Jeanty. Jeanty. I love it.
Pierre Jeanty: That's interesting.
James Blatch: We were just saying how it's a Haitian name, because they speak French in Haiti.
Pierre, a very warm welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. We're delighted to have you on here. I'm slightly nervous as a reserved Englishman who never talks about his feelings to have you here, because you are the guy who's going to unlock the secret of the man and the woman as it turns out.
But we're going to talk a bit about that as we go on. We're here to learn from your big non-fiction success stories about the various channels that you've used to get where you are. I think that there will be some learning in there for all of us, not just non-fiction people. That'd be great for them, but also fiction authors as well about using social media channels and so on.
So, why don't you give us a little background of who you are now and how you got here?
Pierre Jeanty: In terms of my background, I guess I could get started into the whole my entire writing journey. So, as I mentioned, I'm Haitian. I entered the States in February of 2000. I had a journey of learning English and trying to learn how to communicate.
When it was hard for me to graduate from high school and go to college one of the things I focused on is learning more about the language. And somehow also poetry was in the mix. It was a lot of, okay, how can I learn how to write poems? How can I learn more about the language? It was quite complicated.
There's a background to why I'm mentioning it, but it led to me going on to college and wanting to be in physical therapy, which did not work out. But I had the background of constantly taking writing courses, English courses, and also poetry, a lot of poetry classes. So, I actually did not complete college. I came back home and started working to where I found a love in I guess the entire non-fiction world.
I started off Twitter where I would share a lot of my thoughts with people. I would share things that keep in a positive state of mind. Things expressing a lot of my religious views. It grew to where we started getting a lot of attention, my Twitter account. This is the early days in Twitter where they did not even have a re-Tweet button.
James Blatch: Right, yeah.
Pierre Jeanty: We would make a trend to the top pages. It started where it birthed in me this idea of how can I communicate to people and be more on a positive note. How could I put poetry into the mix?
I had a hard time with that because poetry itself was hard for me to understand, but I didn't say I created a new niche, but during that time, when I released my first poetry book, was this entire, I want to say revolution, it's just a new angle where the modern poets I would say, a lot of people were expressing themselves in a more simplified format where it's just some type of motivation and so forth.
That led to me coming up with the idea of why don't I mix the self-help with the poetry. I try to say quotes, but you know, I do have a lot of poets who get offended by us modern poets because they're like, you simplified this art form and to me it's always as I expressed, there are times I do write things that people need to decide how to motivate people.
So, that gave the birth to my most popular book, which is Her. But before that my whole idea of writing being inspirational was my first book Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman, the focus of that was to express how men, we do not communicate. We do not emotional communicate enough, especially in relationships because a lot of us don't know how to and we haven't been taught that.
I noticed after many failed relationships how that was a big issue in my life to where I decided to write about it. Initially when I quit my job, which I skipped over, initially when I quit my job, I went to be a blogger, because again, it was all about whether we were inspired or writing on the relationship topic, and that went extremely well to the point a lot of people started asking me for a book. When I launched Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman, which was in December 2014, that was the beginning of everything.
James Blatch: Was that the name of the blog as well? Or was that the book that resulted in the blog? The Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman?
Pierre Jeanty: It was related to the blog. The title of the blog, the name of the blog was Gentlemanhood, because the whole idea was how can you talk about men? I can get them to be more vocal and I can get them to be more loving. And that's why the name of the name of the book is Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman.
James Blatch: Let me just pause there and talk a little bit about that as a non-fiction area how you approached that. Was that simply you, I mean, it's a good subject, obviously. Men generally aren't very good. I don't know how universal this is. You said your Haitian. You live in the States now. I'm in the U.K. I think it's the same in all those three countries from my personal experience. Is it like a global thing? Otherwise, this is a perfect universal theme to dwell on.
Is there any culture somewhere where the men are much better at speaking about their emotions?
Pierre Jeanty: It seems like it's a universal theme. I know culturally for men in Haitian culture, that is a big issue, but moving into the States, having lived there for more than half of my life, I've noticed that something also here. The more I started speaking about it, I started to see it's more of a global topic.
Because you're talking about, I started gathering support from people from all different countries. Nigeria, different places in Europe, and they all would voice that, okay, this is important. Now, I wouldn't say I have too many French men approach me on this. I've never had anyone from France mention that.
James Blatch: Maybe that's the one country that's got it right.
So, you have this area which does resonate I think for lots of us men and a lot of women probably listen to this as well think, "Yep. That pretty much is the case."
Did you just simply start expressing your views on this, giving hints and tips, and stuff, with no particular plan as to where this would go commercially?
Pierre Jeanty: I had no particular plan. The idea was I just wanted to express. I just needed to get this out there. When they asked for the book, I pivoted to where I was a blogger to now I became an author. From there on I continued just really pushing my books.
The great thing about it for me was years prior I had experience with just being on social media. I mentioned that I was on Twitter when Twitter first came out. I got on Instagram when Instagram only allowed iPhone users to be on there. So, it was fairly new. Everything was fairly new.
So, with me also having experience marketing on Twitter, that launched where I implemented this different strategy to get that book out there.
When I became an author it was, okay, I'm going to express, express, express, but I'm going to make sure this is getting to the people who would appreciate it. Interestingly enough more women were gravitating to the content. I've had men really appreciate it and feel like it's needed, but that's why also you notice I went to mostly writing for women, because a lot of women felt like, okay, men do need to hear this, so I have a lot of wives buying it for their husbands. A lot of girlfriends buying it for their boyfriends or buying it for their brothers and sisters. Even I have attention in the prison system.
Where a lot of those men who have more time to reflect, more time to understand. You know, go through the, think back and they've gravitated to the book of saying, okay, this is needed. Thank you for voicing this. In the beginning the book itself was in plan, me becoming an author was in plan, but everything else, I planned around it in terms of the exposure and the changes, the business model, and so forth.
James Blatch: Okay. I don't know how I'd feel about being presented as a gift from my other half. It's a bit of a barbed gift, isn't it? You get that, right? Any way. I'm sure it was.
Pierre Jeanty: It sparks some interesting conversations.
James Blatch: Yeah, I believe that.
Pierre Jeanty: It was, wow.
James Blatch: It's like buying your wife sort of a self-help book. I wouldn't dare.
So you wrote the book and I guess you repurpose quite a lot of your blog writing and maybe wrapped it a bit and produced it in a more narrative form. How was that process?
Pierre Jeanty: Actually, I did not. I literally transitioned from being a blogger to just an author. The only thing I changed on the blog was we simply added a shop to it. I kept blogging about the same thing. They're somewhat relevant to each other, but initially I just gravitated to where I never blogged. Even now I haven't blogged on that particular site for the last probably two, three years.
I think the idea was blogging also was becoming, it's not like an old form of content marketing, but it's more of ... Social media was here. Instagram was getting popular. It was a lot easier to share and send people to a direct page to purchase. So, I didn't put my focus much on the content. The book became my focus for me.
James Blatch: So, you had a bit of a platform when you wrote the book.
Pierre Jeanty: Oh, yes.
James Blatch: How big was your tribe?
Did you have an email list at that stage? Or was it simply follow us on the social media platforms?
Pierre Jeanty: It was mainly followers, because as I mentioned, I was there on Twitter early ages. When I created Gentlemanhood on Twitter, I grew it to have 500,000 followers on Twitter.
James Blatch: Wow.
Pierre Jeanty: So, then when Twitter started going on the decline, I made the choice of going to Instagram where before I was on Instagram for personal use, but I created Gentlemanhood on Instagram.
One of the main reasons that I transitioned even to Instagram was the whole plagiarism factor, because as someone who liked to express things about men, one thing I would find was I was very familiar with the popular folk pages a while back that was the popular thing. They would just take my writing and keep streaming it and it would go viral.
I had an issue with that, so I quickly transitioned to Instagram with the idea everything I write I can actually add my name to it. So, it became where I spent most of my time to what we grew the audience significantly.
I think when I wrote the book I had about 30,000 followers on Instagram. So, it became easier to do anything.
I did not have an email list, because during that time when I transitioned to social media, I had this idea that email is outdated. People wanted everything direct. Although they came back, my first hundred purchases came directly to my site from an email I sent out on the launch date, but somehow I still thought it was outdated. It wasn't until about two years ago, mainly last year that I went back to emails. It was mainly my social media following.
James Blatch: How did you market and sell the book?
Pierre Jeanty: One I started obviously using my followers. Constantly sharing excerpts and just talking about the book. And also creating different content that was around the book. So, when I'm talking about men, talking about relationships, and at the bottom of every caption there was my book is available here. Grab it through the links on the bottom.
The other technique that helped me a lot was during that time we were getting a lot of celebrity attention. I had people from the entertainment business, I had athletes that were following me, and I came with this idea of how about we message celebrities? To see if we offer them a free book, would they take up the offer? And believe it or not, it worked.
I started messaging some of the ones that were following me and also the ones that weren't following me to the point where a good amount of them received this book for free and they ended up posting about it, showing their favorite excerpt from the book and reading it to where that started to grab a lot of attention, giving the book a lot of attention.
James Blatch: So, you've got to tell us who some of these celebrities were.
Pierre Jeanty: Actually just messaging them. When I message them, surprisingly. Being around the internet for a while, and again, I having some marketing background was whenever you approach them differently, it's like when you say something that's out of the ordinary, they will open at the end.
It would be something, one of the angles I took with my poetry book was that are you a friend of modern poetry. No one at the time is asking that, because usually if you are a female model, you have a lot of guys giving you compliments or asking you for random things. If you're a celebrity, they're asking for just a picture or "Hey, can you help me with this?" My thing, I always approach everyone with the idea, I would like to give you something, nothing in return, but if you do like it, I would appreciate it if you tell someone. I never ask them to share it or any of that.
There was a popular show named 106 & Park, Rosie Diaz. There's a popular group with Beyonce and they had a song, I'm a Survivor. So, Michelle Williams, just different people. It's just the list started adding on.
We just would look to see who's an influencer or obviously a celebrity. I had an assistant during that time, a virtual assistant, and that's what we would do. We just sent out the message, make sure it's different. Once they respond, we get their information. We protect their information, but we get the book over to them.
James Blatch: And in terms of the platform, Pierre, you were using Amazon or other platforms to sell the book? Or selling it direct?
Pierre Jeanty: I transitioned to Facebook Marketing. That's why late 2015 after my book tour, I had a book tour for the Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman. The funny thing, a lot of people who attended were couples. Believe it or not, when you talk about life, I've had couples there and I had to tread lightly, because I'm like, I don't want any arguments.
I transitioned to Facebook because during that time it was really useful. So, I got into Facebook Marketing late 2015. We started just using the excerpt, a popular excerpt that one of the celebrities posted and it was speaking to the woman saying how it's not your responsibility to change a man and try to keep on with a relationship.
Even though the book was for men, it's also telling them men must be accountable especially if they're in a relationship. We should be making the changes necessary. It's not a woman's job to do it for us or it's not a burden that the women should take upon themselves. So, we used Data Serve and we boosted posts. We boosted posts during that time. It was effective.
With that we launched straight to Amazon and that was one of the ways. Within the last four years, we've just played with different things. Twitter Marketing, Pinterest Marketing, Facebook, and Instagram, those were the main platforms.
James Blatch: And was it selling as an ebook or as a print version?
Pierre Jeanty: It was print. Believe it or not, that's another thing where I am getting late into which is selling ebooks. I always had it as an ebook format, because it was a thing to do, but I never pushed anyone to an ebook. So, I started selling on my own website so all I needed was physical copies.
When we pushed people to Amazon, the book was climbing up the ranking to simply us just selling physical copies. Weirdly, I don't think we even sold much ebook version of that book.
James Blatch: Okay. But you were making money?
Pierre Jeanty: Yeah. Not too much of it.
James Blatch: It was going well. So, the mechanics of this. Did you do the print run, because this was before, I guess it was the Createspace days.
Was this print on demand?
Pierre Jeanty: Yeah. The first thing I did when I launched on my own site, I found a local printer which was in Miami and they printed the book. They give you all the information. Back then I didn't know anything about formatting or anything around the book world to where their graphic designer and that team helped me understand a lot of this where they formatted everything for me to put on Amazon.
So, from there, Createspace did all the work. Then we transitioned to Ingram, but that's later on in my career when Her is introduced.
James Blatch: So you did Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman. And this off the back of the platform you'd built just organically and because you were enthusiastic about the subject and it ended well, and then you decided to write a follow-up book.
Pierre Jeanty: Yes.
James Blatch: Which was Him?
Pierre Jeanty: Well, no. So, after Unspoken Feelings, no. Her was the first one that I wrote. I was thinking back. I had so many books, I was thinking back.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Pierre Jeanty: So, I wrote Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman, then To The Women I Once Loved was my first poetry book, because after Torn, what I realized was that a lot of women, and when I mention that women were bringing their partners, a lot of them asked, "Well, now that you have something for men, we do enjoy it and we do get to get some insight about how our partners feel. Why don't you have anything for us?"
So, that led to me writing To the Women I Once Loved, which is a poetry book more about the things I learned from women and the things that men do learn from women whether we voice it or not.
From there, you know, it's been Unspoken Feelings II, and then Her, which is what I've built everything else on top of which is the prose, poetry book.
James Blatch: When you were putting these together the poetry is quite different from a self-help book about relationships.
Pierre Jeanty: Yes. That's why I said we kind of, when I say "we", there's a group of modern poets, called insta-poets. I can't speak for them, but for me, it was merging the two, because it was me giving advice but in a poetic way that I feel like it can be received.
Ideally when I wrote this it was for a younger audience because I had a lot of young males reading my books and obviously more in high school and early in college. So, from there on I felt like, okay, maybe I should help the girls growing into young women. I should help them. So, we mixed the two. While we still speak to you, but it's somewhat poetic.
James Blatch: It's a bit of a holy grail making money from poetry. We do get emails from people saying, "I write romantic poetry in the style of the 19th century. How can I make money from this?" We often say get a job at Woolworth's or your local bar or something and then do that in the evening. It's very difficult. I don't have the heart to say to someone, "Yes, you made a good commercial choice there." It's something that you do for love in your heart.
But here you are bucking that trend, which is really interesting.
Pierre Jeanty: Yes. I always say first it's a blessing, but a lot of it I think, I can't say we, because when I say we, just to explain. There's a young lady named Rupi Kaur. She's very popular. She wrote Milk and Honey. She's a New York Times Bestseller. Between her and there's an author named Ann Drake and R.H. Sin and myself, we're pretty much at the front end of this.
When you look at the poetry sections on Amazon or even on a bookshelf, at Barnes and Noble or just different stores, we found a way to connect with the younger audience. Where we thought it was a younger audience only in a poetic way and that led to so many people appreciating it. Now I have people who are between the ages of 45 to 60 purchasing the book and I can't even understand it. But what we did was we found a way to connect with the audience while also using poetry.
When we talk about relationships, which is a topic that a lot of people gravitate to, and then we have the poetic side of it, it ended up being just the perfect mix. It's been quite a journey because even with IngramSpark, when I joined on board with them, and even when I got into Barnes and Noble, the poetry section was small.
And now I walk to my local Barnes and Noble, because again, since I released Her, it has been in the top 5,000 since it's been released and now currently today it's like number 300 or something like that. That's because I'm doing a lot of direct marketing now. I sell mainly through my warehouse.
But since we released it, it's been there and I've seen the poetry section in the book stores grow from this to this. A lot more authors or just different people started considering the genre especially now. I'm not saying we made it more respected, but more people are willing to do it, because there's a possibility to build a career of this. I've been able to build up a publishing company. The possibility is there.
James Blatch: Do you think you would have been commercially successful with poetry without the audience you'd built as a platform?
Pierre Jeanty: I don't think so. There's no way. Because a lot of my platform and everything we built has really gravitated everyone to it. Before I don't think I had any way of even finding out if there was a need before. Readers reading this out of content, because again, we thought of poetry as hard to decipher. It takes days to understand. It could be just different topics. Never from the relationship perspective as much and I don't think it would have been possible.
James Blatch: Are you finding new readers now? Are you advertising your poetry books?
Pierre Jeanty: Yes. I'm wearing the shirt that says Facebook Advertiser. The last three years I focused a lot on becoming a marketer beside. I had the knowledge in terms of how to market, how to build strategies, how we get a following of celebrities.
We use hashtags obviously to sell and things of that nature. As things changed, I've been changing more. So, now we solely ... Although my old one has like 290,000 followers and the brand I created for the poetry book, it has 690,000 followers on Instagram, and five million on Facebook, we've shied away from using, not shied away, we just have priority types. We have a platform.
We've prioritized using social media advertisement as the backbone, as the main thing that drives the business. What I realized as an influencer in that space, eventually you cannot get consistent sales because the algorithms keep changing, which is an issue a lot of people are having. Between 2017 and 2018 there was a huge wave over to just okay, there's possibilities here, let's write these books and they were getting traffic through Instagram.
But what happened when Instagram and Facebook made their changes, it just all fell flat on its face to where I made a big change. I could be more direct when it comes to Facebook. I had a book tour for my Him book that came out in September of 2019 I believe. We could not get any traction at all. Although I have over a million followers on Facebook, over 500, 000 followers on Instagram, people would not see the post because the algorithm would pick and choose what it shows.
So, that's when I was like, first, we have the priority email list. Because a lot of authors were using it. I have author friends which I market for which were having tremendous success by just sending out email blasts.
Then we started pivoting to where we were using the same advertisement boasting poets and getting people to, you know, this is during this time my poetry just got into Target. I made it there with Target. Target picked up Her, Her II, and Him, which was newly published.
James Blatch: How did you get into Target?
Pierre Jeanty: So, okay. We will get to the market after.
James Blatch: Okay.
Pierre Jeanty: But I think this is important. It's something I really wanted to discuss because when we started selling, obviously we were using blog posts. We were using Facebook Marketing still. We started selling so many books, I started working around just different marketing angles where one we will go and take pictures of the book in the store and tell people they can grab it in stores like Barnes and Noble.
That drove a lot of traffic to where they were not carrying it in the stores. They were like, "Hey, maybe we should start having this book, because so many people are asking about it."
So, when I joined IngramSpark and by the way, I got a seller's rep. Then finally we got into a Barnes and Noble. The book was just, they would have put in an end cap into all the marketing opportunity they offered, they were just coming to me for free, because we were just pushing people to the stores.
What that led to many more stores getting it to where Target came to IngramSpark, although it's not a distributor they came knocking and said, "Hey, we need this book." I got the email and I was like, "Who could it be?" Because they didn't tell me, and it was Target. They wanted 5,000 copies of the Her book. It was like, wow. I'm not in a position to do this now, because you're talking about we're getting paid every 30 days and now we're at a point with 5,000. Well, they increased it. They made it to 10,000.
James Blatch: Wow.
Pierre Jeanty: And we're like, okay. But fortunately I worked out something with IngramSpark, but we were able to get the deal out, do the print. The initial print one ended up being 20,000 books. To where they picked up Her and Her II, then later as I'm finishing the tour for Him, they're like, "Hey, this is the perfect package." It's going to make it work to where also the main reason too is again, it sells. I've been always working on marketing. Facebook has been at the backbone of this entire business. So, whenever it got into the Target, we made sure we pushed people to that store.
James Blatch: I just asked about Target. We should say actually for U.K. and others, Target, if you don't know, is a big supermarket chain in American. They tend to be very big stores. I guess they did drive a hard bargain.
People talk about some of the supermarket sales of books only generating pennies for authors. Were you able to make money from this deal?
Pierre Jeanty: I was able to. I think what I even learned from the experience, whenever you get into large supermarkets or the large retailers, the focus has to be volume, because you're giving at least 55% off the retail price, then there are plenty of costs. You have returns.
There's so much to it where it was not a hard lesson, but it was different, because we're talking about it came from Createspace to making at least three, four dollars a book to where now I have to make a dollar on the book while they're making more. But I focus more on volume, because I thought the main thing that came to mind when this opportunity presented itself is just the ideal buyer.
I try to study my buyer's behaviors and so forth. A lot of women just go to Target, my wife being one of them. She just goes to Target and finds random stuff to buy. She spent a lot of money there.
So, I would walk in the store and look at the ideal person. They just browse for stuff to buy. And I said, this would be worth it. By the time we got in there between me driving, traffic, and just people covering the book, they loved the cover and so forth, I could have became the number one selling poetry book even beating out all the major publishers and that's where I was able to see profit.
But it is something that I think any author whoever gets this opportunity, they should apply a lot of wisdom. You have to look at the long term goal, because all done, it could be a great opportunity, but on the backend I ended up to where they ordered resell books. They returned 21,000 books.
James Blatch: Wow.
Pierre Jeanty: Let's say in total I think they ordered about 60,000 books, so I was fortunate enough to sell 40,000 books through them. But when it came time for the contract to end, they just say, "Oh, here's your book." Which is now it's founded, built an entire new business for me, because once they returned those books, I had to do something with them.
But to stay on the topic of Target and retailers for authors, you have to try to negotiate. Do not try to do anything that you can't afford to do, because a lot of the time it could come on the backend where it hurts you financially, because no one expects returns, but they happen. Even as successful as it was in the store, I could not believe they still returned that many books.
James Blatch: Yeah. So, you've got a part of a book somewhere which I think you said you were direct selling now.
Pierre Jeanty: Yes. So, after Target returned those 21,000 books, I had to figure out something. I couldn't keep driving people to Amazon, because of that fact that again, I have books in stores, so there's something to do. Fortunately, Ingram, you know, I'm very close to the team there. I'm one of the top sellers. So, you know, we get to communicate a lot.
Ingram said, "Okay. We have a warehouse." Because they were the middleman between that whole deal. So, they have a warehouse and will hold the book until you figure out what's going to happen.
So, I have a staff working because I also have a publishing company where we actually do take authors who are poets and we sell their books. So, I'm like, "Look. I have to figure out something." We didn't have the space here. This is a building here, a publishing office. So, I said, "Let me try selling it myself."
I started selling on Woo Commerce on my own site. We got a small storage unit. In America, for a storage unit, you pay a certain amount per month and you have it. Its obviously AC controlled. So, I put the books there and my focus was let's try to sell that direct, then I could make most of the profit and pay back everything and how to do it.
It started going, my site wasn't the best. It started going, then I went into selling my ebooks, because that's when I see the importance of ebooks, emails. Like, now that everything blew up in my face, I was like, okay. I need to figure things out. So, I started selling my ebooks. I created new ebooks. I was selling them direct to where we needed a better system to deliver the ebook. I was using SimCard.
So, then I switched over to Shopify. I had a few people tell me more about Shopify. I decided, well, let me test out the books on there. It was the best thing I've discovered for a while. I knew about Shopify before, but never used it. I just hated the idea of selling through it, but we built a shop on Shopify. Pierre Jeanty. Switched all my traffic to there and then I got, again, earlier I was talking about getting deeper into Facebook.
I focused on being a Facebook expert per se to where I had experience since 2015, but not I focused on how we can sell direct with what other retailers are using to sell. So, we started driving enough traffic and running ads specifically for sales. So, we're now selling, we're doing from 500 to 700 orders a day.
James Blatch: Wow.
Pierre Jeanty: And Facebook is on the backend of Facebook, which we run conversion ads, where actually we do find the buyers. We do a lot of upsale. Just different things to make sure we get the most out of our platform, but since then I've had, I think I posted 20K to 50K books. Not too long ago we done over a million dollar gross.
But the last eight months have been life changing, because me putting our focus on having more control has been the best thing after everything blew up in my face for better words.
James Blatch: Last question on the physical side. How do you do the fulfillment?
Pierre Jeanty: Everything started in this building here. I work by shelves, have shelves and I had my niece and existing people who were the employees here already. We have them work by envelopes. This website called uline.com. The envelopes come even at ten cents. In terms of books, I had no problem. I had 21,000 of them. So, we would get some books from the store, came here and would fulfill.
Just put them, print labels, because they're already paid for. To print the labels and we try to find decent labels. So, as soon as we find that, we just put it on the envelope and take up the envelope, take it to the post office. From there the building we started in a different room. In this room, there are shelves all around here. It looks completely different, but shelves all around here, so while we pre-mail the package. Like, if it was just Her, we have it here, so whenever someone orders, we can just put labels on there.
Eventually we started growing way too fast and having to order a lot of books. So, about three months ago, we just got another building. It's a warehouse. This morning we ordered books from IngramSpark. We do bulk. You get them for a dollar a book per se. In most cases I get them 90 cents, but we order bulks. They drop the books in the warehouse and then the warehouse has a shipping table that processes everything.
A lot of it is I had to hire a team, but I really appreciate the process because I came to redo it to my way of doing it. Along with my assistants we now have a team of six people who work in the warehouse. I don't even show up every morning.
James Blatch: That's where you want to be. A four day working week. Where you set things up and it runs away.
Look, we're coming up on time, which has been amazing, Pierre. Almost feel like we've only scratched the surface of what you've achieved over the last few years. But the stand-out thing for me is being commercially successful with poetry. It's not that usual to find somebody like that. Really.
I think it's going to be inspirational to some people who maybe have given up hope trying to make money out of poetry, but building that audience first, being yourself on social media, doing it for the love of it is a good starting point.
Pierre Jeanty: Yes. I definitely say the one thing about poetry and even just any self-help whether it's relationship or any topic, just establishing myself as an expert per se. It's like I write poems daily and I share them to where it peaks more interest and put it up there.
Of course, learning the market and what works. Facebook marketing, we invest quite a lot, but if one thing I believe more to building all this, there's a niche for everyone. It's a matter of you getting whatever you write, getting it out there and then finding that niche.
If they ask me the one thing about this journey that someone would recommend or what was the most important thing about this journey if they ask more of, pick a lane and whether it exists or not, just take it. Because the whole idea of modern insta-poets didn't exist two, three years ago and now being one of the people on the forefront, I can't even believe it. Just mixing the self-help to where again, the success is there.
And always learning to also adapt, because the last eight months, as I mentioned, changed me. Believe it or not have launched everything to where my Amazon sales are better. My iBook sales are better. Mobile seller. Everything else is better. So, there's a lane for everyone. It's just a matter of finding it. That would be my big takeaway. Just write your heart out and someone will enjoy it.
James Blatch: We got to the interview in ten minutes before ramble. Are we going to get an email saying that was nonsense?
Mark Dawson: If only.
James Blatch: Saying that was nonsense you talked about.
Mark Dawson: We often get emails, but yes. Who knows.
James Blatch: So, there's Pierre Jeanty. You should look up the books, Mark. I do love the branding of Her and Him, the two main poetry books.
Mark Dawson: I saw his story on 20 Books. I reached out to him, because I thought he'd be a good, interesting guest. He has a different angle that we wouldn't normally have. I've seen his branding. I know what he does and he's doing a really good job. I feel it is more difficult than others to make money and he's not just making a little bit of money, he's doing very well.
Also things like shipping directly and off-site sales and things like that are all being induced by Facebook Ads. So, he's definitely an interesting study of an alternative way to sell your words. A good one.
James Blatch: Yeah, and some people do think about the print side of things, which is a whole different discussion really, but Pierre does explain in the interview how you can automate that process. You can set it up so that you can physically distribute your books, which does save you some money. Allow you to keep more of that profit. There's a bit of effort involved in that, but it is doable.
I think that is probably it. I'm going to wait for it to cool down a little bit, then I'm going to go out on my bike without a battery. I'm going to have to use my legs to pedal. There's a couple of hills on the route I'm going to do this afternoon and I'll think of you Mark.
Mark Dawson: Next time you'll have to come down to Salisbury and I'll show you just how fast the bike is.
James Blatch: I would like to do that. I have cycled a hundred mile circuit race actually in the New Forest. I did that a couple years ago. It was surprisingly hilly. I don't know, because I come from Cambridge. Everything is surprisingly hilly compared to around here. But yeah, I can tell you the back 50 miles of that was very, very hard work.
Mark Dawson: I bet.
James Blatch: Yeah. Good. Okay. Enough waffle from us. I hope you've enjoyed the interview. I hope you enjoyed meeting Pierre Jeanty, as Mark said, he does lurk in the 20Books group if you want to reach out to him directly and ask him some more questions. I want to say thank you very much indeed to Pierre for coming along.
Don't forget that webinar is on Tuesday, June 9th at nine o'clock p.m. U.K. time. It's going to be about Amazon Ads, how to use that platform, how to get it working for you, and the instructor is Janet Margo who comes straight from the Amazon Ads operation inside Amazon itself. So, don't miss that. You go to selfpublishingformula.com/sixsecrets. S-I-X secrets. All one word. And we'll hopefully see you. I think it's going to be a very, very busy one. Looking forward to it.
That's it. Mark, thank you very much indeed. All that leaves me to say is that it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And it's goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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