Why I Shut Down BookPop

I’ve had a lot of job offers over the years from authors who want help marketing their books. I turn down 90% of these offers; usually because I didn’t help create the book (most of the marketing foundation is laid during production).

I also just prefer to focus on my own projects, so dividing time on other people’s work isn’t all that appealing. What’s easier and more fun for me is to just hop on the phone and do a strategic consultation call for an hour or two. I’ve been doing that for select clients for a while now, and it’s worked pretty well…

Then I kinda messed things up.

Mid-last year, my friend Zach Obront — a brilliant guy who is great at getting things done — mentioned he was doing marketing work for authors. He wanted to know what I thought about being the face of the company. His proposal: He’d do all the hard work I didn’t want to do, while I would just have to do an initial strategy call with the author to get them onboard.

It seemed like a win-win. My role was basically to bring in more clients while Zach handled the operations and the workload. We’d split the revenue, and everything would be great. But it didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped.

Even though we had a cool website with a list of people we’d advised over the years…

We were still too busy working on other projects, and rarely did great work for our clients.

This was one of biggest my concerns from the outset. I’d done a fair amount of freelancing (remote client work) for two years after college. Generally speaking, I suck at freelancing, which is why I try to avoid it. It’s so hard to stay motivated when you’re doing a complete stranger’s work – especially when it’s work that isn’t fulfilling or fun — and you’re never seeing or speaking with the client… It’s a real grind if you have zero emotional investment. Plus, the majority of authors can’t afford to spend much money, and they’re not going to leverage their book into a big speaking career or convert them to a higher cost product / course / service. So the money isn’t great either.

What’s worse is that clients are inclined to criticize your work. They rarely appreciate what you turn in, unless the quality is exceptional and near flawless. I’m not making excuses for our work at all; this dynamic is normal and expected — I turn into a critic whenever someone does work for me — but that doesn’t mean it’s not exhausting. Instead of feeling gratitude and relief that my freelancer completed a task, I become a scrupulous editor who searches for all the mistakes they made (i.e. what I have to fix).

And if the work you do creates additional work for your client, then your client is going to be annoyed. Or pissed off. People want things done for them, which is why the best businesses remove all of the hard work for the customer. BookPop wasn’t doing that well, and it was going to hurt our reputations.

BookPop’s value proposition was that we would handle the author’s grunt work, so their launch would be as painless as possible. But the work we were churning out wasn’t great and the clients had to do a lot to fix it. Plus, we weren’t always able to deliver our work on time because of other commitments. As a result, clients were less than thrilled. It was a lose-lose.

After we had two unhappy clients in a row, Zach and I had a long talk. We could either re-work our process and focus on catering to rich clients who wouldn’t care as much, or we could just shut things down.

At the end of the day, the work we were doing wasn’t worth the investment for our clients, it wasn’t fun or fulfilling for us, and it didn’t pay enough to make it interesting. The whole dynamic was stressful. When I realized the most positive thing about the company was that it was an ego-stroke, I made the decision.

That’s why I shut down BookPop. I still offer private book-marketing consultations, where we’ll discuss your goals, how best to achieve them with your given resources. I’ll also save you time, money, and energy by stopping you from pursuing activities that won’t make a significant impact.

And if you’re an executive or professional business coach who’d prefer to have a professional write your book on your behalf (for a bunch of money), check out Book In A Box. Two of my friends run the company — Zach (former head of operations for BookPop) and Tucker Max. Just tell them I sent you.

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This week, I’m speaking alongside Tim Ferriss, Chase Jarvis, and other awesome speakers about entrepreneurship at Fort Presidio of Monterey for American Dream U. If you know a soldier in the area, tell them to attend!

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Author Marketing at Book In A Box. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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