I'm excited to share the story of two-time MSH Alum Ben Edwards today, whose big goal was to "help people get out of debt by publishing a motivational and informative book." Ben's book has had an incredibly successful run on Amazon, peaking at #2 among books in the personal finance category. At just $2,99 a pop, it's a steal, so let's see if we can help him meet his new über-goal of landing the highly-coveted #1 spot! Keep reading because he's doing TWO awesome giveaways today . . .
May Mastermind Reminder
Before we get to the Q&A: for those of you who are considering the Build Your Business monthlong mastermind program for side hustlers and solopreneurs, it's not too late to sign-up! You'll get crystal clear on what you want to create, how much you want to earn and who you want to work with, and I promise to share my very best tips and tools for building a sustainable, profitable business.
What we'll cover: Mondays at 3:30pm ET, with recordings sent out within 24 hours
- May 6: Vision: What *does* your ideal business (and life) look like?
- May 13: The Financials, Ideal Clients and How to Find Them
- May 20: Profitable Platform-Building, Book Deals and Authentic Marketing
- May 27: Action Plan & Next Steps
The format includes 4 content calls, 4 open office hours, an accompanying workbook and an optional accountability group. Check out last week's post for a full program overview and FAQ refresher. Enrollment is open until midnight on Sunday, May 5 and costs $75. We have an amazing group assembling, and I'd love to work with you if this sounds like just what you need!
Made Sh*t Happen: Ben Edwards, Author of Debt Heroes
ABOUT: Describe your goal in more detail — what did it involve? What inspired you to go after it?
My friend Jeff Rose is running something called the Debt Movement. It’s a challenge to help consumers pay off $1,000,000 dollars in debt in 90 days.
We were brainstorming about the movement and agreed it would be great to have something that would last even after the challenge was over. Jeff had a lot on his plate so he didn’t have time to put together a book by himself.
Not only did I want to contribute to the Debt Movement, I also wanted to learn about the world of self-publishing I offered to be the co-author and run with it.
VALUES: Why was this goal important to you? What purpose did it serve? What underlying values did it honor?
I’ve been blogging about money for 6 years now. The nice thing about blog posts is that they’re relatively short so that reduces the barrier to getting it done and published. The downside is that you feel like you’re not comprehensively covering a topic. I worry that people read my posts and are informed but don’t necessarily have enough there to take action. I wanted to put together something that was more comprehensive.
I hope we’ve done that with Debt Heroes. The book actually walks readers through their own “hero’s journey” to pay off debt and helps them figure out where they are in the process.
FEAR/DOUBTS: What were your biggest fears, doubts and insecurities before starting? What barriers (real or imagined) were in your way?
My two biggest barriers were finding the time to put the book together and my lack of knowledge of the self-publishing world. I was under a tight deadline so the time I spent learning about how to get a book out on Amazon took away from hours I really needed to be writing.
I had two main fears: 1) That I would put out the book and no one would read it 2) The book wouldn’t be any good.
To overcome those barriers and fears I had to spend money on training and experts. I bought Guy Kawasaki’s book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur and enrolled in two online courses about self-publishing to learn 1) How to get a book on Amazon 2) How to get people to read the book.
I hired a cover designer to start working on the “face of the book,” found an editor to help me make sure the quality of the book was up to par, and ended up hiring a PR lady to help me with a press release and to reach out to her contacts in the media.
I also relied on some of my readers to help define and refine the content of the book. I worked with the members of my email newsletter to help choose the best cover design and to get feedback on some of the earlier drafts of Debt Heroes. As a result of their feedback I added several sections to the book that I think helped make it a better resource for readers.
COURAGE: How did you build the courage to actually do it? How did you know it was time?
I did it by just taking one step at a time and tweaking as I went. I started by making a list of people who I wanted to be in the book. The next step was reaching out to see if I could get enough people to make a book of it. Once I had a critical mass then I started crafting the message of the book.
It was definitely an iterative process. After I sent the first draft of the book to the editor she politely told me I still had a lot of work to do. She gave me a lot of good feedback and I got back to work.
SUPPORT: Who held you accountable to your goal? Were friends and family supportive, or did they think you were crazy? How did you build your support network?
It really helped that I had a deadline. The Debt Movement was scheduled to begin January 1st so people with New Year’s resolutions of getting their finances in order could participate. I knew Jeff was depending on me to get it out for the Debt Movement.
I did have a lot of support. My wife put up with me working nights and weekends to get it done. I’ve built a close circle of blogging friends over the last 6 years and they were helpful in giving feedback. It was also nice having Jeff as a co-author to turn to for help with the direction of the book and to bounce ideas off of.
THE DIP: Was there ever a moment/period if time that you felt you had hit a dip (felt like a failure and/or wanted to quit)? How did you persevere and/or what helped you continue your goal & stay on track?
The biggest challenge in putting together the book was just finding the time to work on it since I have a full time job and 3 little kids. I never felt like quitting but I was definitely worried it wouldn’t be ready by the deadline. I wanted it to be quality so I didn’t want to rush through just to get it done.
After talking to my co-author Jeff about my time shortage we came up with an obvious answer. The first month of the Debt Movement was designed to let people know about the movement and to get them signed up for the challenge. Since the actual challenge to pay down debt didn’t start until the beginning of February, I could spend most of January finishing up everything that needed to be done for Debt Heroes - so I got a 1 month extension!
My darkest moment was actually after launching Debt Heroes, the evening when the book got it’s first 1-star review. I knew right away I needed to address the issue the reader had with the book so I stayed up all night working on plans to make the book better.
SUCCESS! How did you feel after accomplishing your goal? What did you learn about yourself in the process? What are you most proud of?
The thing I’m most proud of is what I hope the book offers readers. There are lots of good books on paying off debt but most of them suggest pretty specific steps. I’ve know people that followed one of these systems to but it didn’t work because the suggested steps didn’t all make sense for their situation. So sadly they were still in debt, but really discouraged and down on themselves because they felt as though they had failed.
We wanted to address this problem in the book. So Debt Heroes profiles 21 different people that got into and out of debt in various ways. Our hope is that people will read through all the profiles and connect with the “Debt Heroes” that were in a situation most like their own. The goal is that they’ll see what worked for those particular Debt Heroes and apply them to their lives.
So what I’m proud of is that the book offers readers a chance to find the debt reduction tips that best fit their life. In terms of what I learned about myself in this process, it’s that I need to get better at what Seth Godin has called shipping. I think one of my strengths is coming up with good ideas but in the past I’ve had trouble getting my projects out the door.
Having the deadline of the Debt Movement forced me to “ship” this book. Seeing it make an impact on people is a great example of what can happen when I bring closure to projects and will be a reminder to me going forward.
ADVICE: What advice would you give to others in pursuit of a similar goal?
I've learned two main things that I can share.
1) Make some progress every day.
You may have heard a variety of quotes about overnight success years that was years in the making. The premise is that the success stories we hear often leave out a lot of the work that happened leading up to the success.
That hard work doesn't necessarily feel like a big success when you're doing it. It's not like you're in movie where the screen goes to slow motion and plays the Rocky theme song when you publish a blog post. However, those small steps you take are still important and do add up over time. So when you're feeling discouraged a good way to get out of your funk and move forward is to just focus on getting one positive thing done that day.
2) Community is huge.
The launch of Debt Heroes was pretty successful. It was ranked as the #2 Kindle book in Personal Finance books behind Dave Ramsey, the Godfather of debt reduction - which was pretty exciting for us.
But the only reason that the book was even created, let alone reached a lot of people, is that I've spent the last 6 years as part of the personal finance blogging community. I've seen it go from 8 guys in a online forum sharing blogging tips - to a collection of hundreds of blogs that meet annually at the FinCon conference. Being part of a community where you share similar goals, have shared meals and laughs, and share daily tips and encouragement is huge. Your community can offer inspiration, encouragement, and support that make your project much better than it could ever be if you work on it solo.
Don’t limit yourself to one community. I drew a lot of support from my money blogger buddies but I also turned to the Make Shit Happen alumni group and to several Indie Author groups for advice and support.
Ben has graciously offered to give away 3 digital copies of his book AND one 30-minute jam session for a lucky winner who is interested in self-publishing on Amazon. Enter to win (no later than Friday) by answering one of the following questions in the comments:
For a copy of the book: What are the biggest barriers you have faced in getting out of debt? What strategies have helped you overcome them?
For the Amazon self-publishing jam session: What are your biggest barriers to getting a book out on Amazon? What would you most like help with?
More About Ben
Ben Edwards started the website Money Smart Life in 2006 to share his lifelong obsession with personal finance and now he’s the co-author of the Debt Heroes book, a kindle finance bestseller. You can follow him on Twitter @moneysmart.