This is going to be a polarizing interview.
It’s going to be polarizing because you’re about to meet a founder who’s basically gaming Amazon, turning it into a lead generation machine, and using it to just create a fun lifestyle for himself.
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Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner, founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. I’ve got an interview here that I think is going to be a little bit polarizing. Actually, I can’t say a little polarizing. It’s going to be polarizing. Because you’re about to meet a founder who’s basically gaming Amazon, turning it into a lead generation machine, and using it to just create a fun lifestyle for himself. Hollis Carter is the founder of Velocity House, a publisher that takes people with big audiences, and big ideas, and turns them into authors who can capitalize on those ideas. I invited him here to talk about what he does. Hollis, welcome.
Hollis: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor.
Andrew: All right. Let’s see. It’s an honor to have you on here. I know you’re not the kind of person who usually does interviews like this. Let me see if I understand this. Average internet user goes to Google. I want to understand the whole process here before we get into your story. Average internet user goes to Google, types in what kind of search. Give me a sample phrase.
Hollis: Something like fat burning.
Andrew: Fat burning. OK. First result is?
Hollis: There’s going to be a variety of results that come up. What we’ve found is we can actually rank an Amazon link much better than we could rank, say, our own sales page. It’s a much more friendly relationship with Google and Amazon. Because we’re not sending them to our website. We’re actually sending them to a credible third-party site. We actually call it a parasite site.
Andrew: Call Amazon a parasite site?
Andrew: Okay. Average internet user does a search for fat burning, comes across a link for Amazon, clicks that link, goes over to a book that is published by?
Hollis: That would be one of our published books there that would be on the topic of how do you eat foods that help you burn fat. The way you view that is that’s our sales page. Instead of having a sales page that we’re running, we’re doing the hosting and taking care of all that stuff. Amazon’s already got a great platform that they’re driving traffic to that we use that for, and put it at the right place.
Andrew: Okay. Now the average internet user has done a search and landed on a credible site. Amazon actually gets them to get the book.
Hollis: The beautiful part is they do it with one click. They’re not having to fill out their credit card information. They’re not having to make any decisions. There are a lot of other sources than just Google. People might be in their Amazon app, but the great part is that one click sale. They’ve already walked into the store and they’ve already said, yes, anything I touch I’d like to buy.
Andrew: Now if all that was is this process as you described it, most people would think boring, and then click off this. There’s more to it than that. You don’t just want them to buy the book because you take them a step further. What do with the average internet user at that point?
Hollis: The big part here is that we came from a world where we were giving away a lot of free information for an email address. That just got so saturated. So many people just kept seeing these pages over and over, put in your email for this free report. A book has this value. Publishers have been nice enough to produce this value that surrounds a book, because it’s a book.
Really, they’re just reports, now that they’re on the Amazon platform. They get this book. They consume the information, and they build this ‘know that I can trust’ with our client who we published. The good part is we spend immense amount of times diving into the psychology of the reader. What’s the next logical step for them? We actually take them online and engage them, so they’re getting more than a book.
Most of our books that come out have a 12 minute video summary, so right when they get to the book, it says, hey, you don’t have time to read this, go check a 12 minute video summary of this. That’s where we’re getting the email address, and starting to build the relationship. We’ll spend as much time as writing out a 60-day follow-up email sequence that start really engages the customer, builds a relationship based off of on where they were and where they want to go and doing that process.
Andrew: OK. So right away you say ‘Hey, don’t have time to read this book? Go watch a video’ and to watch a video they have to give you their email address. Throughout the book if they say ‘Hey, I’m not that lazy, I want to actually read this book’ you have other ways of getting them over to the webpage to collect their email address. And what percentage of readers end up giving you an email address?
Hollis: So we like to make our base on around 50% is the [??] be satisfied with. We had it up in the 60′s and higher there as well. [??] people opting in for a free report on a page. That was a great result still. 50% opting rate. But now that this person is actually consuming information and was willing to pay for it, the quality of his leads are so much higher that our [??] rates and stuff like that are less than epic in proportions to what we were experiencing.
Andrew: I see. So not only are you getting more than 50% of the people who read the book to end up giving you their email address on a page, you’re also getting more click for the follow up emails that you send those people. That’s the model here. And then those follow up clicks end up upselling them on the author’s products, on related products that the author is promoting with an affiliate deal. That’s essentially the model we’re talking about here.
Hollis: Yes. So it’s just really high quality [??] essentially a reverse [??] which is the book. And it’s all about quality over quantity and the environment in which we’re playing with has what I would consider more mass market consumers. So when you’re going to do Google ads or Facebook ads or having people promote via email, you already know that these people are interested. They’re already targeted.
In the Amazon environment, when you get up on that Bestseller list, we’re exposed to this mass market of what my partner calls the Homer Simpsons of the world, people who might not be out looking for this information but were put in [??] and we test the information that’s put out there so we know we get close.
Andrew: I’m a book lover. What do you say to people like me who say to you ‘Amazon’s supposed to be the place where I avoid stuff like this. Where I go in for quality ideas. Books are supposed to be the place where I get my mind broaden, where I get deeper understanding of topics then I might find on the web through the specialty reports.
Hollis: So that is like a huge point, which we might not have given enough credit. [??] describing it in the beginning but it has to be a higher quality book. And that is where it all starts. That’s why the people we partner with we know as marketers that it’s not our job and not our specialty to be able to kick out this amazing content that’s going to blow people’s mind and broaden their horizon books and give them these books that change their lives.
But there’s a lot of folks out there who [??] that content that might not be able to market it and could never sustain a living to deliver this content to you without having a marketer help them turn it into a way to actually raise some income. So that’s where we see ourselves coming in, as that gap between someone can’t afford a publisher and who wants to self publish. Many people who get to publish by themselves, they spend a lot of time and effort but they just don’t have any marketing background so they can’t make any money and they’re so concerned with turning their passion of their content into a living that they lose track of what they really want to do, which is deliver this amazing content.
So it does have to start with quality content, there’s really no way around that. And that goes back to the main principle. It has to be a high quality [??]. So you want the information they consume to be relevant to where you want to move them to along the path.
Andrew: All right. I’m going to come back to that later on. I’m also going to come back to that statement that I said at the top of the interview which is that you do this for a specific lifestyle for yourself and you and I have met over dinner and over drinks a couple of times here through friends. And every time I talk to you, you tell me about this need for a specific kind of lifestyle, about skiing, about how your friends end up going around in circles, like idiots chasing failed business tactics where you just want to open up their minds and say ‘Hey, look. There’s a process that works and there’s a lifestyle that will make you feel happy about living on this Earth. I’ll come back to both of those.
But first let’s get to know, and I’m going to ask you prying questions about your revenue, because I’m curious about that myself. But let’s get to know you. You’re a guy who is a salesperson entrepreneur from an early age, starting from the time when you mowed lawns. Now, everyon’s mowed lawns. Lots of entrepreneurs have come on here to talk about lawn mowing businesses. But you did it differently because you studied a guy names J. Abraham.
What did you learn from J. Abraham?
Hollis: Yes. That’s actually good. I didn’t know anything about marketing [??] 12 year old who just moved from downtown Atlanta and my dad moved to the suburbs and let me know that everyone in my town was going to be getting cars from their rich parents and that wasn’t going to be happening to me. I woke up one Christmas morning and instead of a nice, shiny toy I had a lawnmower. At first I was like oh, no. Then he gave me this pamphlet. It was the J. Abraham pamphlet. He was like just look at this and see if this resonates with you. I took it and it was actually a roofing letter of how to get people to sign up for roofing maintenance.
Andrew: He wrote this letter, this sales letter that he made for roofers to get new customers. That’s what your dad gave you?
Hollis: Yeah, he gave me that. We took it and we rewrote it and did it for mowing lawns. Where it was like hey, we’ll give you this first one free if you’ll sign up for x amount of weeks then we can do that. I remember printing a ton of them out. Getting into mom’s minivan and riding around stuffing every single mailbox in the neighborhood. It only took a little bit of time until I had about 30 lawns on a reoccurring. They were paying every month. I was like I am not going to have to get a job now. I remember my mother telling me that every time you’re mowing a lawn that’s one bolt on the car. That’s one piece. You’re just building up to that. Then once you get a truck you can get people to help you. It kind of grew from there all the way until I graduated. It’s always just been like kind of a driving spirit. The fact that you could turn it into a continuity thing was a big, big…
Andrew: Continuity is the big one. I take two things away from that. First of all, the power of a good sales letter. Actually three. The power of a good sales letter. The second is learning from somebody instead of just going out and trying to figure it out on your own you went to learn from J. Abraham. The third thing that I need to emphasize is the recurring billing process. That’s your biggest take away from J. Abraham’s process.
Hollis: Oh, exactly. It was amazing because I wasn’t out trying to get the next lawn the whole time. We did this one little run around the neighborhood and then it grew organically from there. Then I was able to predict my schedule, my time, and my income from that.
Andrew: OK, OK. Now, I’m a person who grew up admiring successful business people. I always liked when they didn’t take their foot off the gas. They just kept building and building and building. What I see about you is you build and then you take some time off and you just go and enjoy life. You build and then you go into the wilderness. Which I don’t get. Talk about the three months you spent living in the woods. Just to give people a sense of the lifestyle that is as important to you as the business that you work on.
Hollis: Yeah. Honestly, that’s been the biggest battle for me ever is that I kind of consider my lifestyle, my job and business my hobby, is what I’ve come to center in on. It’s actually been a battle for a long time for me is I enjoy working and I enjoy growing these businesses. But what I really enjoy doing is being out in nature, skiing, exploring, and exploring myself more. I find that I run out of time to do that when I’m working too hard. Sometimes I will just go, go, go, go, go in full mode and then I’d like to set things up to run so I can go do that.
The example you gave was right after I finished the landscaping deal, I had graduated high school and was like I need to check out for a little while and reset here before I make my next big decision. Because when I do dive into things I do it pretty go, go, go, heavy on the gas like you said. I found this thing called National Alger Leadership School. I figured if I was going to continue doing business being a leader was going to be pretty important. I looked at it and to be an astronaut you had to go through this course. I applied and I got in. It was the most I’ve ever learned about myself. Going out and literally the only things I had to do were focus on making sure that I kept my spirits up, I was fed, I was warm.
It was one of the most enlightening periods I have. I just went through all kinds of phases from being homesick and sad to did I make this right decision living up here to being just completely content on this was the right decision and not wanting to even go back to society. It was a lot of that stuff. It was a pretty eye opening experience. Everything from there seemed so much simpler and easier because I could see if I could deal with this then all of these other things were pretty simple.
Andrew: What’s the point? What’s the point? You’re living out there in the woods. Why not come back and say these are three months that I could be productive. These are my productive years. I’m going to keep building and building and building until I own every piece of property that I possibly can. That I build up the biggest internet company that’s ever been around.
Hollis: Then I would kind of counter that with what’s the point?
Andrew: What’s the point of this? Because then you end up having big houses. You end up having lots of cars. You end up being able to fly anywhere in the world.
Hollis: Yeah, and for me that is not something that drives me at all.
Andrew: You get more respect from people in the industry who say hey, look at him. They whisper behind your back about the business that you built. They tell each other about how successful you were and about how they went to your house and they got to try some drink that probably cost $1,000 per bottle.
Hollis: I totally get why a lot of people do that. It’s very gratifying, and I’ve experienced some of that. When I had my first success, I went a little over the top with a house and things like that. But it did not satisfy me in any way. I find when I’m happiest is in my little cabin hanging out on my own, skiing and enjoying my life. The things that money buys is very different. The experiential part of life is what really drives me and keeps me going.
I set my deadlines. Like right now I have to have a goal to be working towards. And mine is for this next helicopter skiing trip I’m going on, not for this house I’m trying to buy. I think everyone has different priorities and where you put them. I’ve been lucky enough to find something that drives me and makes me feel so balanced and passionate that I can put that so high upon a pedestal that I know what I’m moving toward. So the point for me is to achieve that clarity and that balance that I get knowing I’m doing what I love.
Andrew: Let’s go into the next business that I’d like us to talk about and my first opportunity to pry into your finances. This is a business that you created. It was a site for students I think, right? K through 12?
Andrew: And this just set you on a path. What was this site that you created?
Hollis: It was actually a college project that we secretly did for real. My roommate in college and I were both just hanging out and doing our thing about to finish business school and we thought, I’m going to get the smartest people in my group. We’re all going to make an A, and they’re going to put all this work into it. But we’re going to actually do the business while this is happening.
Andrew: Hang on a second. So you said I’m going to get them to think of the idea, them to research it, them to put together the plan for it. And then my buddy and I are secretly going to do this as a real business?
Hollis: Essentially, yes. They knew that we were going to be doing it too. That’s why when I raised the question, “Who wants to make an A?” I was really thinking who am I going to be able to get, so I can do the least amount of work so I can keep climbing or skiing or whatever and graduate. But this time it was, “Oh, market research project. We’re ready. College is coming to an end. We need our next step.” Facebook had just come out in our college. It wasn’t even available to the public yet. Why we actually worked on this idea was because we saw people who were actually having their relationships being broken up. And people not going to school because Facebook’s inter-connectivity was so powerful. We said, “There’s something here.” We didn’t know quite what to do. We thought let’s try something on social networking. So we scraped together about $2000 and hired some guys off of oDesk I believe to build us a social networking platform. At the same time for the project we were working on in class we had them start researching what platforms existed for school systems. Because that was the niche in college we had to stay within. So we did some research, and there was only one other competitor. They weren’t really doing it well. So we ended up with a thing called School Bridge. And we actually put together a site just like Facebook that would connect with parents, the teachers, the students, the administrators. We got down and dirty, and for me that’s putting a suit on which is the opposite of what I would ever want to do. Jogging around the heat, going to monastery academies and every private school we could. And it turns out they really liked this idea. That was really fun, but honestly that was a big learning lesson. We found that we were not building a business that was going to give us a lifestyle in any way. We were producing more and more work. We had to be driving around and talking to these teachers and students who were not the best people to be trained on internet savvy stuff. It was very support heavy.
Andrew: And they had to pay you per student to use School Bridge or software?
Hollis: We would sell not per student but per school.
Andrew: Per school. So you sell it to the Montessori school. They pay you on a recurring basis, and then you have to go out and find another school. What’s the problem with that?
Hollis: We were having to drive around and do a lot of face-to-face. We had to train the school people a lot. We wanted to have a larger impact without so much of our time. So after sitting back and thinking about it more we said we could apply the system that we did to tons of other niches. There’s everything you can imagine.
Andrew: A social network for a company, a social network for a soccer league or team.
Hollis: Yes, exactly. It’s funny. Once this idea came to fruition the first thing that was looked up was RV’s. A bunch of RV-ers putting this together. And funny enough a lady who was actually able to go full time with the project thought of a sewing site, for mom’s at home sewing. And so I had made a 30 minute video explaining this idea and put it on the Internet.
Andrew: Were you giving the software, too?
Hollis: Giving the software?
Andrew: The software you had built for you on oDesk. Were you giving people the software also? Or, just creating a video showing anyone online how they can create a social network and sell it.
Hollis: So that would include the software, too. It’s like, here’s the software, here’s how we did, and here’s how you could apply this to basically anything.
Andrew: Got you. So, we went and did door-to-door sales on Montessori[SP] schools, you go door-to-door to RV camps and you sell the software to them and you’ll get money on a recurring basis from them, and we’ll show you our sales process and how we convert a stranger into a customer. That’s what you were selling them.
Hollis: Yeah, we were selling them a business opportunity before we even knew what that meant. I do now, after the roller coaster that that took us on. And we were like, “Oh, we could just let other people do what we did.” But it turns out that is a much bigger market than we ever knew. And it was a really fun experience to see other people apply their ideas to our concepts.
Andrew: All right. So, you offered it for free or you sold it?
Hollis: We sold it. It was $500 upfront to get- or $497, you know, marketing prices- so we put that up, it was $497 and to host it and support was $20 a month. We put that on the Internet and it just sold a lot better than we had ever predicted. It was a pretty big life-changer.
Andrew: How long did it take you to make more money from selling this software and video and recurring hosting than from the process of actually going door-to-door to schools?
Hollis: Basically overnight.
Andrew: We’re talking about literally? Let’s not say literally overnight. Within a week?
Hollis: From concept of idea to implementing it and having it happen, it took us about two weeks to get all that put together. But the income that was created over one night was more than everything we had going door- to-door and doing all that. From one person finding our video and telling his followers about it.
Andrew: And then you discovered affiliate programs.
Andrew: Affiliate programs where someone makes a commission from selling your product.
Andrew: How did you discover affiliate programs?
Hollis: So actually, someone saw our video and was like, “There’s a lot of people who would like to promote this and could make money.” I didn’t quite understand what they meant, so we did some research, we found a shopping cart, we signed up for the shopping cart, figured how to set up an affiliate link, did it all in one night and then that was the night that changed everything. We put it up and someone naturally, without us even really reaching out, found the affiliate program signed up and sent an E- mail out to their list. We were offering 50% commissions on the front end sale to anyone who would promote this video. They promoted the video and we got this E-mail back like, “This is the highest EPC I’ve ever received.” And this was before we knew what a video sales letter even was, it was all so new and fresh. And it really just kind of blew our minds that this guy did hundreds of sales in one night through his affiliate link that he promoted. And we were like, “what if we get more of those guys?” So then, we made a video saying, “Hey, do that.” And we went on this recruiting spree of affiliates and things like that. It was six figures within the first two months, then seven figures within the first seven months, and it grew on to even more than that.
Andrew: Give me numbers, not figures. Seven figures just tells me it’s anywhere between a million and ten million. What kind of revenue did you earn from that surprise affiliate who ran you and told you, “Hey I did a great EPC.”
Hollis: Right, so I don’t remember the exact… I knew it was around $150,000 in sales for the first two week period we did. Which, sleeping on an air mattress to that was one of the most mind blowing things I’ve ever done. I remember my roommate and business partner at the time did a back flip when I showed him in our little office in his house.
Andrew: The air mattress was you literally went to sleep, you told me before we started, on an air mattress and you woke up to hear that you did hundreds of units in sales.
Hollis: Yeah. It was a mind blowing thing that that kind of thing could happen on the Internet that fast. So that just led us down this path, we didn’t want to get complacent. We had our big “happy joy-joy” time and then we were like, “Alright, now what’s next?” That’s when we decided we needed to scale what obviously just worked really well. We went and did the whole Internet marketing launch style, recruiting affiliates and getting them to push our products. That first launch really set a precedent for us, where we saw the system, and in a way kind of saw the matrix of how people move through the Internet, how sales are created, and put us into networking with a lot of different people, just learning how it all worked. I learned more in those first few months than I did in the entire college experience, because we were actually doing, and we’re seeing results from those processes.
Andrew: That launch is something that Shaun Malarkey came to Mixer G Premium and taught that process. If you guys are Premium members, go to Mixer G Premium.com, and check that out. Overall, how much money did you bring in, in sales from this product?
Hollis: From that product, I believe, in that merchant account, we probably brought in around $2.2 million in revenue.
Andrew: $2.2 million in revenue. And you had to split that between yourselves and the affiliate, which is roughly 50/50, so, $1.1 million. Did you have a partner on this, or more than one?
Hollis: I had two partners on this.
Andrew: OK. So, you guys divided it three ways?
Andrew: Did you end up with $300,000 plus?
Hollis: I think it was more around $250,000. But here’s another great lesson to learn. I didn’t know how to do taxes correctly, because I just set this stuff up. So, I can’t tell you how much of that I actually kept. But, I could tell you what I learned from that has led to many more along the way. Which gets back to, once a gain, I don’t buy a lot of fancy houses and cars. I enjoy learning this stuff, and everything that has happened to me from that. But that’s actually very quick math.
Andrew: Was that your biggest success to date?
Hollis: In speed, I would say it is. As far as income over night.
Andrew: OK. How about overall income?
Hollis: Overall income, we’ve generated what will be coming from the future from this publishing company, quite a bit more. But it is …
Andrew: A loss? Sorry, go ahead.
Hollis: But it is a much longer turn. I’ve took all that we’ve learned about the speed money, if you will, from these launches and things like that, and applied it to a more longer term process with quality content that we can deliver over a longer period of time. And the big thing I learned there was what markets I was picking. And that market seemed like this big open field, but very quickly I learned that it’s actually a very small market place to be playing in. And then, I started talking to some people in health and fitness, and personal growth, and relationships, and things like that, and realized that those were big markets. These were problems of the mass market. “How to make money online” was a very small market.
Andrew: The online business opportunity market is not as big, it’s not a active, it’s not as easy to generate revenue from, as “How to burn fat”?
Hollis: I would say, without a doubt, because of the amount of people who are actually out there, actively, looking for it. When you go to look at the real model, once you being to buy traffic for your offers, then put it in to somewhere, that’s when I think there’s something real. The amount of sites, media, and places that you can go build traffic for fat burning, a lot more people in the world are concerned about “how to burn fat” , than there are wanting to make money on the internet.
Andrew: How much money have you made with Velocity House?
Hollis: With Velocity House, so, it’s only been around for around six months right now. And I know that going to the bank, it’s been pretty significant. It’s not to a seven figure point, yet. It’s just under that. But in future funds that are on their way because of the list, I can average out that about $1 per user, per month for these lists. And these lists are growing by the hundreds every day. The thing about Velocity House, and the reason why I can’t really share revenue numbers is, I don’t really know exactly what this is going to produce yet, but we know it’s going to be a lot more, based on the list volume that we’ve seen.
Andrew: But it’s about a million for your company in sales?
Hollis: In sales, yes.
Andrew: And part of that has to go to the authors?
Hollis: So, this is actually a good time to reduce how we funded this business. I looked at two options. We laid it all out, and we’re, like, we can publish these books or these authors with great content and good platforms and get it out, and we’ll split everything down the middle with them, since they’re used to publishers taking the lion’s share, and not really doing much for it. We figured it’d be a pretty easy pitch. But we needed money to hire the writes, to buy split-testing traffic, and do all this stuff. So, I went back to exactly what I knew, which is selling products. Which is almost two steps back. But we didn’t want to get investment money. So, what we did was, was actually created an eight week course that we could get our employees to understand what it is we’re doing, and we did another launch with that.
Andrew: So, you did the course to train your employees, and then you sold it online to anyone else who wants to go through this process themselves.
Hollis: Who like to have their own bestselling book, as well.
Hollis: And that’s how we funded this business. So, that’s where a lot of the revenue comes from. Right now we’re mostly investing all of that into the author’s books right now, building up the platforms, and going for, what we call, the big player. We’ve kind of got it all on the line, now. And the pay out window from Amazon is actually, I’d say, the biggest downfall of this model is long term of the money.
Andrew: 90 days to get your cash from Amazon?
Hollis: ways to get your cash from Amazon, but, once again, we only consider that icing on the cake. The real cash is coming from this list that we’re building and the products that are being promoted there.
Andrew: And that also takes some time. Let’s continue with the story and we’re going to come back. I also want to hear about split testing because you do split testing on Amazon. I want to hear more about this whole part of the process. But first, anyone who hears us talk about Velocity House is going to wonder what happened to the previous business, so you did something pretty dramatic, I hear.
Hollis: Yes, it was one of the crazier things I’ve ever had to do in my life. It was emotionally consuming, financially consuming. We had the social networking product I started with my best friend since senior year of high school. We lived together all through college. We had started quite a few businesses after that. We had a site with the same model we did for daily deal sites. We had a lot of different software as a service companies that served the business opportunity market.
Andrew: So you created software for daily deal sites and you sold a package that taught people how to make money by building their own daily deal site and you sold a software that will power that idea and you also have recurring revenue from managing this whole model that you duplicated to other businesses.
Andrew: See, how much money did that make?
Hollis: That was pretty close to the other one. I don’t have the exact number. The Launch basically did about the same when we did it.
Andrew: Let ask you a question I’m not supposed to be asking as a human being and a friend but as an interviewer I get away with this. Do you have a million dollars in the bank in cash?
Hollis: I do not.
Andrew: You do not. But these ideas worked and if you kept at them wouldn’t you have at this point a million dollars in cash at least?
Hollis: Yes and probably more.
Andrew: But something bothered you with this relationship that made you say I have to get out. What bothered you about it?
Hollis: It just wasn’t where… I did not wake up with a fire under my bed and I have that now and it feels amazing. Money can’t buy that feeling, I don’t think. I was running in circles, kept pushing and found myself having to… I called it chasing the crack bunny. We’re getting these affiliates to promote these offers to people. The amount of people who were actually seeing success from something I know worked was driving me crazy.
Andrew: Oh, I see. You were making money off of them but you were looking around and you said hey there aren’t all these Groupon clones that are now making money because they bought my software and learned from my system. There aren’t all these people who now have social networking sites for the RV industry that are now making all this money and you felt a little bit like a fraud?
Hollis: Yes. It was eating me up inside and the fact is there were people and then I talked to my partners about it like there are people having success. You can’t make them pick up the pamphlet and follow the steps. You can’t make them do it. But 10 percent of people was not enough for me. It was really bothering me. Everyday I had to get a new source of traffic to come and sell more. I’m like, oh, you people will do something with that. And that was honestly one of the biggest things that bothered me in my quest in those businesses. One day I was actually reading The Optimist. It kind of spurred a lot of this stuff on. I just called up and I was like, I feel like I’m going to bottle-neck this business because I’m not in it anymore. My mind’s not in it. I was fully in it when we started it. I loved the idea, but something has passed and changed. I would like to, basically, step out here and do that the best way we can.
Andrew: And so, how did you and your partner split up the business?
Hollis: Well, went through talking about a lot of different stuff. I had 2 mentors kind of helping me through who, literally, had polar opposite ideas. One guy wanted to do a Texas shotgun buyout. The other guy was like, just let him have it. Everything you do works. It will be fine. It’s like, somewhere in the middle of both of those. Then I actually about half way through just decided, screw it, I’m out. I need the head space and they are now currently running that company and still doing great. They’re having great successes there. It’s gone down some different changes since I left. It was just something I needed the head space to work on something else. That was, without a doubt, probably the most difficult thing. I feel like I can now relate with someone who just gone done with a divorce. It was very, very similar.
Andrew: Because you and your partner shared… I guess all 3 of you guys shared bank accounts?
Hollis: Yes. With the partner I originally started with, his brother ended up a partner too. We shared a bank account on projects from as little as booking bands in college. We would share a bank account for years and years and were completely almost dependent on each other. It was a very interesting process to do that.
Andrew: Could you put Skype on Do Not Disturb so the pop up sounds go away?
Hollis: Sorry about that.
Andrew: No problem. I stopped telling people to do that before interviews because I’m noticing more and more people actually just have it on do not disturb or don’t have that noise pop up.
You read The Alchemist and it made you cry. Is that OK for me to say publicly?
Hollis: Yeah, it’s just fine for you to say that. I’m trying to find the do not disturb here.
Andrew: Oh, I can tell you where it is. Top of your screen, to the left of the clock there’s a bubble that probably looks green and has a check mark in it. Click on that and go to the red bubble with the line.
Hollis: Yeah, red bubble.
Andrew: We are now red. OK.
Hollis: Yeah, so…
Andrew: I read The Alchemist. I was waiting for my life to change. I was waiting for everything to be different. To have like a PA and a BA life, like pre-alchemist and post-alchemist life. Didn’t happen. What was it about The Alchemist that made you cry and change your life and give your business to your partners?
Hollis: Well, a big part of it was just seeing signs. There were things in front of me that were right there that I wanted to achieve and there were things holding me back from that. It was just like you have everything you need. You can sell these sheep and go on to the next step. I had to have the mental space and it really just clarified with me that I had this possible partnership on this book deal that was going as well as my involvement with this other ski company. I didn’t have the mental space to handle all three of them. If I wanted to do them I had to do them right. I’d have to clear that mental head space.
Something about that book resonated with me so intensely. I was riding back on an airplane when it happened. I remember landing and it was just clear as day that what had to be done was I had to go down a new path completely on my own. I think for some reason that book, just if it was timing…
Andrew: You wrote this down in long hand on the plane?
Andrew: You have that anywhere in the apartment right now?
Hollis: No, I don’t. I have a picture of it on my phone.
Andrew: You do?
Hollis: Yeah, I took it.
Andrew: Would you pull that up? Let’s take a look at that.
Hollis: I think I do have that. Yeah, some crazy things happen on a plane. I also really like working on airplanes.
Andrew: See, I do too. No distractions and you’re forced to sit there.
Hollis: Oh, I must have gotten a new cell phone since I took that picture so I don’t have it on here. I’ll send it to you guys so you can slice it in here.
Andrew: You’ll allow me to show that publicly?
Hollis: Yeah, that’s fine.
Andrew: All right, I’m going to ask the audience in the comments to ask for it. That way I’m reminded to do it and also what I’ve found is after the interview entrepreneurs who I interview often say oh, I can’t believe what I just said. I need to just take a space from Mixergy from a bit and then come back in. They forget to send to me what they said in the interview they would. I’m going to let the audience ask. If they want it you’ll come back and give it. If they don’t then what’s the point? What’s the point in pushing you?
All right, the ski thing we can hold off on. The book thing you talked about is Velocity House that you wanted to focus on. You said I have these three things, I need to give them their part of the business and go on in a new direction. The new direction that you discovered came from watching Johnny, right? Excuse me, came from watching, yeah, Johnny Andrews. You saw him, the guy who you partnered up with on Velocity House do something. What was he doing that you saw? Let’s keep it simple so that we can follow along and then we’ll dive in deeper.
Hollis: Yeah, what I saw was him producing these amazing results. The way I processed those results were I had met Johnny at a few events and we had some drinks together and talked. I had always wanted to try to do something. I was like just keep me abreast of what you’re doing. He just started sending me these text messages of screen shots of hey, my book on personal finance is beating Dave Ramsey. Hey, my vampire book is beating Steven King. Hey, this other book that I wrote is beating James Patterson.
Andrew: Beating meaning rising up higher in the Amazon ranks?
Hollis: Being the better sales rank on the best seller list on those. And then the one that really set me off was that he sent me someone who he poached had a book that was Dinners for Two. It was just a simple cookbook. On the Amazon paid best seller list was Hunger Games, Hunger Games, Hunger Games, because the movie just came out, and then their book. They were number four on the whole thing and it was a cookbook.
I was like you’re doing something that I need to look at. We’ve got to figure this out. Then we dove down into this whole thing and it turns out he had spent the last three years just studying and seeing how these books and looking at it as an ecosystem. He really lives in this ecosystem and has figured out how to really, I don’t know if manipulate is the right word but manipulate it is the word I’m going to use.
Andrew: What you’re saying is, sorry I was moving away from the mic because I think my stomach and body are making all these noises because I’m starving. I’ve been recording, I’ve been working all day and I just haven’t had a chance to go get food yet. I’m going away on a meditation retreat on Friday so I figured I was out of the office on Monday, I’m going away on Friday. I won’t have my usual office here, and unfortunately that means that I just don’t have food here. I said that because I want to call myself out. I don’t want to be the kind of person, who at the end of the interview goes, “I think there’s a sound coming out of like, my stomach.” And I’m going to go back and edit it out. No, we’ve got to have the full, real thing; because if I edit out my stomach, you’re going to come back and say, “Andrew, edit out my crying, I don’t want people to think that I’m a girly man.”
Andrew: So, I have to let this stuff stay in there. We don’t edit. How do I understand what Johnny did? Because this is what you ended up putting into a program, 6-week-program that you sold and you generated revenue to fund your business, this is what you’re building Velocity House on, but if we say too much it becomes overwhelming. Break it down for me, so that I can understand it in a simple way, my audience can understand how this guy is beating top authors by outselling them in the Amazon store.
Hollis: Yeah. So, I will do this in the simplest way I possibly can, which is, we took what we learned from years of direct response, internet marketing, the stuff that I couldn’t handle, and basically figured out how to get customers, how to generate leads, how to do that. A lot of it came down to testing and realizing that, we are not our customer, and the Amazon environment was just a new ecosystem we had to learn. So, a lot of people are focused on Google, a lot of people are focused on Facebook, and I saw Amazon as an environment that didn’t have as much pressure, but I saw it as an equal, if not better, source of traffic. And the way we view it, is when you’re trying to get traffic from Google or Facebook with ads, you’re putting up an ad and that’s just like the billboard on the side of the highway, and you’re hoping someone sees it and take an option. The way we view Amazon, is a different environment. It’s like they walked into Walmart or Costco, checked in with their credit card, and everything they touched, they buy. So our ads are actually shelves within the store, people are touching and with one click they can grab the product, and it’s not just an ad, it’s a book, it’s a product that they’re buying. So we would move passed an advertisement, to the purchase of a product being our first interaction.
Andrew: OK. So, if you said, “I’m going to put my ads, which will be basically, my book, all over the Amazon store.” Now, you compared it to Google a moment ago; Google, you get to do A.B. testing. You told me before we started, that you found a way to do split testing on Amazon. You tell me, how you guys do split testing on Amazon.
Hollis: Oh yeah, because we do it in Google and Facebook, for outside testing. So we want to find out what titles get placed, what covers get placed, what are things that make our books stand out in this platform.
Andrew: So you run these tests before you get to Amazon and then pick the winner and you put that in the Amazon store?
Hollis: Correct. So we’ll…
Andrew: So how do you do those tests?
Hollis: We run it in Google AdWords for our title testing, [??]. For the fat burning one that we were using as an example, we probably ran 60 different title tests to see what would get clicks, and Pure Fat Burning Fuel was without a doubt a winner, by far. After testing lots of different titles, we basically just find out what titles get the best clicks and we’re sending those either to a book we have, or to a book through our affiliate ring.
Andrew: Oh, I see, while you’re testing, you’re buying ads with this headlines that basically are the book titles, and you’re linking them to books that you sell or the sales pages you guys have for your products. But, I’ve seen this before. Tim Farris talked about that in the 4-hour work- week, Guy Kawasaki did a variation of it to come up with his book title, Abe talked about that in his Mixergy course. I get that for headlines, it is expensive, but I get it. Right? What do you do for design?
Hollis: So for cover design, it is very interesting, so we run that. Obviously, we can’t do Google Ads doing the images, so that’s something we tested in Facebook, to run ads on Facebook doing that. But, funny enough, I’m also, this is an example, of how we look so scientifically at testing, but I want to see what it looked like in the real world. And I actually went and worked at a coffee shop that was combined with a bookstore, in Boulder, CO and had a few of our books printed up in physical form, and put them on the shelves compared to other books, and actually was sitting there working, watching and running almost tests, of seeing what people were gravitating to grab off the shelf.
Andrew: You put two different books and multiple books up on the shelf, and you watched as people reached for them?
Hollis: Yeah, we would see someone come up and look at the wall, and I told the lady at the front, “hey, would you mind if I just put this up there just for today? I’ll sit here, I’ll buy a copy, I’ll even buy a book, I’m just really curious to see what people were going to grab my book over the other ones on the shelf, and then actually sit there and see how it stands out against other designs. That was just a fun test to see how it worked in the real world, and solidify it for me.
You can actually do this on Amazon. It’s just not as timely as it is where you doing an AB test in Google. You can easily put your cover design up on Amazon, and see how sales do naturally there, without any promotion, and then change it and see what happens. You can dynamically keep changing and updating your book profiles there. You just want to monitor what you’re doing for promotions, and you’re not skewing your results.
Andrew: Have you bought ads on Amazon? They sell ads to outside sites. Would that work?
Hollis: I wouldn’t say that we found anything really predominant. Not yet. It’s still an area we’re playing with. We put a little budget on it each time. We already have that ecosystem running.
Our main goal is getting it into the natural eyeballs of Amazon, and they’re promoting it. Honestly, where we mess around with a lot of this stuff is in the Quickbook niche, because we’ve seen such dramatic results change. I have a case study with, if anyone asks for me to show this in this interview, I’ll be happy to provide this too. There was a book that one of our clients had written that was a fiction book about some crazy space story or whatnot.
All we did is change the cover, and then he went from making single digit sales a month to making hundreds of sales of month. All we did was do a professional cover design. We tested three or four of them until one was making predominant sales. It’s really not rocket science.
Andrew: Then you tested it by running ads on Facebook?
Hollis: We tested it by literally changing the cover of the book on Amazon . . .
Andrew: I see.
Hollis: . . . and seeing what happened. It turns out it went from his simple not so good-looking cover to our design cover that we made. We ran those on Facebook real fast to see what got the click. Then when we put it on, it was like night and day.
Andrew: What does it cost you to have a book written?
Hollis: We have a team of about 14 ghost writers now. Our costs on that, because of full-time employees and things like that, before it was probably running us about $2,000 to get a book written.
Andrew: So now you have a team, so the price has changed. But 2,000 bucks to have a professional writer write a book for you.
Hollis: Does ghost writing and editorial.
Andrew: That’s basically what I’ve seen. There’s another entrepreneur who didn’t want to talk about how he was doing a business where he was selling books through Google natural search. He told me that he was able to hire top writers, people who worked at well-known newspapers and magazines to write a book for 1,000 to 2,000 bucks. It blew my mind.
Hollis: Yeah. This is a funny thing that people who listen to this want. A quick funny way we’ve been driving traffic, if you will. It’s the same concept. When we put Craigslist ads up for writers, I get more traffic from those ads, than when I do from when we’re running ads for products and stuff that we’re promoting. I think we got something like 80 applicants in the first hour when we put an ad up in Boulder for editorial writing positions.
There’s a lot of writers out there trying to figure out what to do. I don’t know if it has to with the way the publishing industry is, and people who used to write for newspapers who are out of jobs now. That’s been one of the biggest learning experiences we’ve had in this whole process is to hire amazing writers at very, very reasonable costs. [?]
Andrew: I wanted to start off easy, so we understand how the business works, and then go harder and harder and get a fuller and richer understanding of it. Now what I’m seeing is, it costs about 2,000 bucks to have a book written. You play around with tests on Google, on Facebook, in real life, in your case, you did it once, and other places to figure out what the right title is, and what the right image is for the book. Now it’s time to start driving. You figured out the magic formula, you’re in the Amazon Kindle store. Should you do Kindle or also paper?
Hollis: We do both.
Hollis: I can explain why real fast. We actually did only Kindle at first because our whole model was built around getting these [?].
Hollis: Then I realized our other model is about getting traffic, and in order to get the traffic, we get that from the bestseller lists. Somehow, which shouldn’t have happened in real life, I found out after our Fat Burning book, that we made the Wall Street Journal number two bestseller. You shouldn’t be able to do it without a physical book, but I guess we made so many sales that week, that somehow it happened. I had someone call me and go, oh, look at the Wall Street Journal. You’re number two on there with a book. I was like, oh, this is great. But then, we called some people who have done New York Times and they’re like, we don’t have a physical book. That’s just going to really hurt you in getting those rankings. So we switched to physical as well, and we just do that through Amazon as well with their CreateSpace program.
Andrew: So you just send them a digital file, they turn it into a book that they then ship out on your behalf.
Andrew: OK. So now you . . .
Hollis: That’s kind of . . . as to rank in those bestseller lists properly.
Andrew: What’s the name of this book they had got to the second place on second place on Wall Street Journal’s booklist?
Hollis: It was Pure Fat Burning Fuel.
Andrew: Pure, Fat, Burning, Fuel and Wall Street Journal. I want to check this out. Online bestselling books, it worked for me, Colin Powell, the Amateur . . . let’s see Pure . . .
Hollis: Well that was the same . . .
Andrew: . . .there it is. Non-fiction E-books, son of a b****, by Isabel De los Rios, Velocity House. It’s number two this week. Number nothing the week before. This is on June 8th, 2012, on their bestselling books. OK. All right. So . . .
Hollis: That would be with the experiment and then somehow, you know, we didn’t even know that happened. It was an interesting test . . .
Andrew: Somebody else reached out and said, ‘hey get this.’
Hollis: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: OK. So now we understand how the book’s written. We understand how it’s A/B tested. We understand how it’s in the store. Mostly, just because it’s got a good headline, I mean good title, and good design, it doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere. You still need to get kicked. To give that traffic a kick, what do you do?
Hollis: OK. So that is where our value comes in for clients, is that we’ve actually a process. [coughs] Excuse me, a process that insures that you start from the best point possible. So not everyone has a huge platform they can reach out to and say send an email and drag me up to the top where a ton of friends who can buy tons of copies of your book. But you want to stack the deck in your favor. So we do a few weeks before we actually officially launch the book and start promoting it, we get as much free and organic traffic as we can. So first, we actually go to review seating. This is the kind of an editorial process . . . I’ll gift it to 10 or 15 interns and say, ‘I want you to read the book, any feedback you guys have but make sure . . .all I’m asking is that you leave a review.’
Hollis: It’s very important to have the reviews for the algorithm.
Andrew: It’s called review seating. You’re seating the reviews so that there is never no reviews on the book.
Hollis: Right. Because it’s just like, you know, someone asks you to comment and no one has done it yet. It’s like if I give you the on to do it, we want to insure that people are [??] to leave reviews. Remind me when we’re done with this, to explain when how I lost 3000 five star reviews in a day.
Hollis: But anyways, we did the review process. We actually go through about five more phases of different natural, free traffic and I’ll touch on some of them but it would drag on a long time if I went through all of them. But one of them is called the pulse. So, when we pulse the book, we actually would go to the select program which means they’re not promoting this on iBooks and other platforms. You’re putting it specifically to Amazon. But the number natural eyeballs that Amazon has compared to all the other platforms makes that a very, very, very easy decision to make. But when we do that we’ve compiled relationships and lists of tons of other social media sites that are just for people who want to know about free e- books. We do a big media reach out to them saying ‘hey tomorrow, we’re going to be putting this book that normally sells for this, up for free for 24 hours.’ That’s when we even got 20, 30, 60000 downloads in a day, of these books which now raises our gravity within Amazon and put in the select program. Now one amazing thing that a lot of people don’t know about this select program is you actually get paid for these free books lent within the Prime environment. There is a kiddie pool in the back of the KDP which was at that time when we’re doing Pure Fat Burning Fuel was about $700,000 that they had in there. Every lend and borrow that your book gets, you actually get paid. They would divide it evenly . . .
Andrew: So all the authors get a piece of this based on how often their book was lent for free to Amazon Prime readers?
Hollis: Yep. At one point I can pull up the numbers better but I remember at [??] before we had something like 10000 shares that ended up averaging out about, like, $2 per share. The customer got it for free but Amazon has this pot of money that pull out and distribute evenly. As of a couple days ago, they’ve increased it to $2.2 million this month, that is in there to be divided evenly. So the whole thing . . .
Andrew: OK. But in addition to the money that you get from it, you’re also increasing your velocity. You’re rising up the ranks higher because more people are reading it, and Amazon then is showing it as a more popular book because of that. What else are you doing in this period?
Hollis: In that period is when we are actually really trying to leverage this new list we’re building. Get that early [??], tell your friends about the book, building that relationship with the author so people are engaged and are coming back. So, we do the review process, then we go into the pulsing process, and then we actually spend a lot of time going to other traffic sources that seed into Amazon, like Google. We spend quite a bit of time and energy on our press releases and our SEO of the book. So that’s why we really focus on what is the key word that we want to rank for, for this book. That’s a little more time consuming process, but we’ve been able to [??] there and now we’re getting traffic from Google for free back to the book. That’s one organic source of this traffic. In the benefits to our client, it isn’t always that that produces sales, but it raises their credibility. When you search out that person, them being a number one best-selling author, number one on Google, whatever things we can do to make it quick and easy for them to be in the face of their customers in that marketplace is going to benefit them. We would like the book to be a catalyst for whatever they would like their business to go. Whether that’s producing more leads, then that’s the best for us, because we’re in the business of building these lists.
Andrew: And you get to share the leads, so I click on the first link in the book that says, “Hey, you’re too lazy to read this, click here and go watch a video instead.” I click it, I give you my E-mail address, my E-mail address goes both to the publishing company, which is Velocity House, and to the author who is… I guess it could be anybody, I’m looking at this book and I forget the name of the author. So that’s what happens, and then you have a big list of people that you can promote other diet books in the case of pure fat burning fuel.
Andrew: OK. Why do you call it Pulse, why isn’t it just a wave of it that takes all the attention and power that you guys have and hits it all at once, why do you put them some, and then other, and then more and more and more a little at a time?
Hollis: So actually, the concept of the Pulse came from buoyancy, which is what we try to achieve with the book. So the goal is we do the least amount of work driving traffic between us and our partners as humanly possible to keep it continuing to sell. So, if you looked at Amazon kind of like, you know those tests for the breath where you blow into a tube a ball floats up and down? Well, there’s a certain sweet spot that you get to where you’re just naturally making sales without you having to do anything because it’s in that environment where someone’s on their phone looking at their Kindle app and they’re like, “Oh! Book, book, book, best-selling book, best-selling book,” they’re clicking it, they log on the site, it’s already up naturally, it’s people who bought this also bought this, but there is a time when we watch that fall. And so whenever it falls, we send a pulse of traffic to it to ensure that it stays high. So we’re more in the business of keeping things floating in that area in which they’re naturally making sales, and when they don’t make sales, we go back to the traffic Internet marketing stuff and figure out how we can pulse it back up into that atmosphere.
Andrew: To get authors, you went on a ski trip, right? You said, “Hey, I’m going to participate in this business, I see a guy who’s doing well with this gaming of Amazon, I’m going to create a business around it, now it’s time for me to do my part,” and one of the things you said was your part was finding authors. Can you talk about the ski trip you took and why you needed a ski trip to get authors?
Hollis: Right. Well, one, I really like skiing and it was a good excuse. But the other part was these were two people who I had really looked up to. I wanted to learn more about what they were teaching, because, obviously, they were teaching some really high quality stuff and I wanted to learn that. At the same time, I knew this was happening and I wanted to get their input on it and I thought, “What would be better than spending ten days locked in a cabin with these guys?”.
Andrew: You said, “These are two people I want to learn from, I admire, I want to get to know them, and they would be good authors, I need to get them in a room together for an extended period of time.” So what was the idea that you had for that?
Hollis: We ended up going on a helicopter skiing trip up in Canada. That was extremely out of my budget at the time after just leaving this one company, but I knew that it was going to be worth it. So I put myself in that situation and I went. Over the course of that week, Johnny’s[SP] at home doing all kinds of magic on the Internet that I don’t even know what he’s doing, but getting screen captures and showing it to them, they are asking me very intuitive questions. “So how did you do this? Why did you do this?” And it actually really helped us to round out our business model while we’re having these successes in-house, having them dig into and kind of be the first guinea pigs in a way. We explained this concept to them.
Andrew: Oh, I see, you wanted to see, “Can I explain this concept clearly to somebody else who I might want to recruit.” Were you trying to get them as authors? Do I have that right?
Hollis: I thought it would be awesome if they would. That wasn’t my full intention. My full intention is this, something that they would even be interested in? I want them to ask me the tough questions. I want them to dig into is this a business I can turn into a real business model? It was evident after a few conversations that they’re like what can we do to get this?
Andrew: Ah, and so if you just had a coffee with them or a meeting in their office you’d only have a short period of time to get some questions. You and Johnny would have to go and figure out the answers for them. You’d have to try to get back in front of them to pitch the new, adjusted pitch. Because you did an extended ski trip you could learn more in depth and you could come back with updates and updates and updates because Johnny would be back home working. If they had a question or they found a bug or they found a bug in your idea Johnny could fix it. You could back and say hey, look, we did this. What do you think of that?
Hollis: Yeah, it was really a [inaudible] of the system. Looking at it and saying, because we didn’t know how we wanted to work with authors, exactly. We didn’t know what would be the biggest benefit to them. That’s what was uncovered in this discovery process. It was talking to them and saying hey, here’s this cool stuff we are doing. How would you like us to help you? We just worked through that until we found out a model where they’re like if we could work evenly as partners to generate leads from this ecosystem then I think we’d have a huge win here. We came up with an idea and executed it. It worked out really well from there.
Andrew: What did you learn from them that you wouldn’t have known otherwise?
Hollis: Well, I think we might have gotten very much stuck in following what other publishers had done. Which is they invest money and time and effort and I feel like they gamble a lot. They pick a lot of authors and they go for it and hope some of them pay. We would have only had that to follow. Where these guys actually already had books that they were publishing and spending six figures a day sometimes, six figures a week on Google ads for their book.
They had figured out the publishing in another ecosystem. I wanted to figure out how we could take what they did so well and just be their clone inside of another ecosystem. They really taught me the importance of how to buy traffic, turn that traffic into leads, and where it goes. What’s the long term play outside of this traditional publishing world? Even though we were going to use books as the…
Andrew: I see. That’s how the business became more developed than just an Amazon play.
Andrew: Who were these two people?
Hollis: This was actually Mike Geary and Jeff Seagle. They run some health and fitness businesses. We actually all, since that trip we all have moved now to Utah where we’re involved in this crazy project.
Andrew: I’m going to write a note here to talk quickly about that crazy project. Because I think that gives people a sense of how you think. But the reason that you got them on this trip was it wasn’t just an average ski trip. What kind of ski trip was this? What did you do to make it such a lure that these guys would want to spend so much time on it?
Hollis: Well, funny enough is Mike Geary lived about two hours away from me Colorado from where we were. We had kept trying to go ski together. We knew we did some online business stuff and we keep trying to plan this epic trip. When all these things came together it was like this will be the happiest, euphoric moment of all of our lives, I’m pretty sure, if we do this. That’s where amazingness usually is born, when we’re operating on this just complete other level.
It only took me a few minutes to look at it. I’m going to get to not only spend some time with some really cool, smart people who can help me out and I enjoy their company already. But we’re going to be able to experience, like, there still hasn’t been a ten days that’s been that good for me ever since. They’ll say the same thing too. It was the best ten days of our lives. I was so happy I was awkward. It was, like, it was just an amazing experience. To be involved in that, that’s what it all comes back to is the hook when actually Jeff said, he goes we could take a lot more helicopter trips if we sell a bunch of Amazon books with you. You know, it kind of led itself down this path of why are we doing all of this? It wasn’t to make money, it was to have those experiences.
Andrew: A helicopter ski trip means you’re going up in a helicopter. You’re put down at the top of the mountain that no one else has skied, that’s pure because you had to get up there with a helicopter and you ski it?
Hollis: Yeah. The trip was just, coming from where I came from in Georgia and learning how to ski only a few years ago. Having it bite me so much and feeling so lucky to have found that passion. It truly is, I meditate and do things like that, but it is the most clear brain I ever receive when I’m in that moment. But the whole experience we had. We’d come in and we were having meals served and hot yoga in the morning. They’d bring us food out in the field. But we’re just skiing spaces that no one else has ever done. I just, it was beyond all belief, the experience on top of all of these cool things kept cultivating all at once.
Andrew: All right. It is fun and you are on an adventure here. But there are also challenges along the way, including the time that your credit card processing was frozen. What happened there? When was this and what happened?
Hollis: Actually, I know what you’re referring to from when we talked before. Actually, it wasn’t even frozen. What happened is we had someone on our end who had a technical error. They deleted all of our credit cards. This was in that period of time where I had launched the social networking product, and was kind of hanging out, learning how to speed, living off of all these people on reoccurring billing. I literally remember the morning, heading to the post office and getting the call. ‘You know those 5,000 credit cards we had on reoccurring billing? Well, we lost all of them.’ And I was, like, ‘Oh, no.’ But it was just a lesson we had to learn. It sucked. It was 20 minutes of panic and then it was like, ‘What do we do next.’ And that’s actually when we decided to roll into the daily deal business.
Andrew: I see. That’s the way you take things. Just stay calm, ‘What do we do? What assets do we have that we can figure out how to make more of what we just lost.’
Hollis: Yeah. I honestly can say that that is the one thing that has gotten me through a lot, is staying calm and continuing to move forward, because running businesses can be very stressful.
Andrew: You don’t seem stressed my friend. You seem to me like a guy, long hair, long beard, relaxed. I was looking into your eyes when we met in person to say, ‘Is he stoned right now?’ I couldn’t see anything. You just seemed like a relaxed person.
Hollis: Yeah. I think that staying relaxed is a key.
Andrew: Were you smoking when we met?
Andrew: Are you smoking now?
Hollis: Not right now.
Andrew: Not right now. Do you smoke?
Andrew: You do. Yeah, you don’t look like someone who’s smoking right now. You just seem like a guy who’s just, ‘Chill, dude. I’m enjoying my life.’
Hollis: Yeah. Well, I went skiing this morning.
Andrew: You did?
Hollis: Yes. Yes.
Andrew: That explains it. You’re not going to ask me after this interview, to edit out the whole smoking thing, are you?
Hollis: Oh, no. That’s fine.
Andrew: Good. Is there anything that’s made you uncomfortable so far in this interview that you’re going to want to ask me afterwards to edit out, because you’re being professional?
Hollis: No. I think I’m totally transparent. I think that is something that has been extremely helpful for me and for getting from where I started to where I am now, is being transparent with people, not trying to do this whole, where you’re, like, faking this business attitude that I don’t have. Because I love creation and that’s what really drives me. I love creating these businesses. I love getting involved in them. Taking an idea and turning it into a reality that we can see and give people the ability to do things from their ideas. But I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not. Being humble, I think, is a very big key. The business world I find very scary because of some of the people. I feel like there’s so much, ‘Are you telling me the truth? Are you not telling me the truth?’ That part scares me quite a bit and I try to do my best to stay . . .
Andrew: Being open is what you’re comfortable with.
Andrew: Can I ask you a question that’s person, that has nothing to do with business, that might ruin our whole friendship? And you can say no. You can say, ‘Andrew, keep this focused. I’m here to do an interview. Keep it focused.’ I’ll completely understand.
Hollis: Go for it.
Andrew: You’re sure?
Andrew: It’s such a small thing, but I got to ask you, because every time you were gesturing, I saw that your nails, you’ve got dirt under your nails.
Hollis: Yes, I do. I was out this morning, actually getting ready for a trip. We were setting up a bunch of stuff in the woods and, yes. So that’s . . .
Andrew: Because you were doing what? How do you get your hands dirty like that.
Hollis: Well, I was out in the mountains from 7:00 this morning until about 10:30, building things for this upcoming ski trip we have. We’re working on a project out here. We’re actually building a community from scratch out here in these mountains.
Andrew: All right. So I’ll use that opportunity to get back to where we were earlier, which is this community. What are you doing? This is the crazy project that you mentioned earlier.
Hollis: Yeah. So we’re actually in the midst right now of working with Summit Series, a really cool, amazing group of folks who have put together this amazing community of entrepreneurs. I was looking up, with the two authors I mentioned earlier, that I went heli-skiing with, like, ‘You’ve got to come out and check out what’s going on in Utah.’ I got out here and realized that between the passion for skiing, working with this partner in this ski business, and with wanting to meet amazing people, doing really cool things, so I can help them publish, that I can quit traveling and they’re all going to come to me, here. And I was very fortunate to be asked to be one of the founding members. They are pretty strict. They turn away a lot of people and it’s a very cultivated community. It’s just an interesting experience to be involved in the creation of a town, almost. Trying to, something where it’s a cultivation of some amazing entrepreneurs, musicians, and people all moving out here to live at the ski mountain. To be perfectly open, again, I was 95% here because of the skiing and about 5% here because of the project.
Andrew: Oh, you were 95% into the skiing, 5% into the goal project.
Hollis: Yeah, which that keeps growing more and more as the project grows but I always go back to my priorities of, you know, the skiing is the reason I’m doing a lot of this. I want to keep that in check as much as I can.
Andrew: I’m glad the question went that way. It could have gone a whole other way, me asking you something completely unrelated to business. It could have come off like a jerk off criticism. I’m just so curious.
All right, I have a list of things we said we’d get back into it that I want to quickly go over before we end the interview. Because I promised the audience we’d talk about it. First is you said how you lost your reviews, right, in a day? I promised I’d get back to that. How did you lose your reviews in a day and what did you do about it?
Hollis: It was another [inaudible] situation. Everyone’s probably heard of getting Google slapped. You’re running ads on Google, you’re having a great day. You keep spending money, you keep making money. It’s going all well and dandy but you’re operating in an ecosystem in which you have no control. Same thing happens in Amazon. We had, within that really nice, tight funnel we built within the book hey, go leave us a review and we’ll send you these eight cooking videos. We were getting such a high rate of reviews, positive reviews, we weren’t telling them to be positive. We would say leave us a review. Good, bad, ugly, we don’t care. But about 10% of our buyers were leaving reviews so we were quickly on the radar. They’re like why are all these people doing it?
We did it fine for a long time. We had over 3,000 positive reviews. Then I was actually down in Mexico and I got a call from our Amazon rep saying Hollis, you’re really going to hate what’s going to happen in the morning. I’m sorry, we’ve been fighting for you but there’s different compartments of organizations within Amazon and a new rule has passed where you cannot ask for reviews or incentivize for reviews anymore. They’re going to make an example out of your book so they show that they’re taking action on this.
Basically woke up the next day and what she told me happened exactly. We went back down. Those reviews mean a lot in Amazon for getting sales. It’s a big social proof that, you know, we could be on this conversation right now you’d be like oh, wow, I know that you’ve sold tons because there’s 3,000 reviews here. That disappeared over night. What could we do about that other than just keep moving forward and assessing the situation?
Andrew: You have an Amazon rep who calls you about this?
Andrew: OK, are you going to ask me to edit or remove this interview because at the top of the interview I said gaming Amazon? And you have a relationship with Amazon?
Hollis: Well, our relationship is great with Amazon. We teach everyone that gaming Amazon is not a bad thing. That’s exactly what they want you to do. They’re in the business of making money too and selling more products. The key is you’ve got to sell good stuff. If you are selling bad products and trying to game up using private label rights and all of these different things you’re going to get banned and you’re going to get banned for life.
Andrew: What’s private label rights?
Hollis: There was a phase when all of these crazy internet marketers, they’re like I’m going to game Amazon, I’m going to game Amazon. Amazon is a very trustworthy, solid company that does some really good stuff. They took some diligence on it and they went and they just started slapping accounts where people were buying [inaudible] books that you could buy the rights to sell on your own, putting a new cover on it, slapping their name on the author’s name and using it to do marketing stuff. It was just an overwhelming amount of crappy content just hitting that was being marketed very hard. It was really cool to see Amazon actually step up. We actually go way above and beyond to be above the terms of service.
Andrew: But if the quality of the book is good then you have a solid place to talk to them about and they can respect the relationship. The reason, by the way, I keep asking are you going to ask me to edit this, I get a lot of, at least in the old days, less and less now, entrepreneurs at the end of the interview would go Andrew, please don’t run this. Or edit this part out.
What I’ve learned over the years is I used to do two steps, one before and one after each interview. The first was I would do a pre-interview, which was unusual. The second one, after the interview was over I would have to do the talk down. Like don’t worry, I know you said ‘um’ a lot, it’s not a problem. We don’t need to redo it because of ‘um.’ Don’t worry, I know you said this one thing. We’re not going to have to redo it or pull down the interview because of that.
It never has been a big thing. No one, to my knowledge, has ever got in trouble for anything they’ve said here. They did get in trouble for not saying enough here. When they hide stuff people in the audience will call them out or their friends will call them out in private.
Back on track here. We’ve gone into overtime already but just do quick, let’s complete this quickly. We talked about reviews, talked about revenues. Friends who go around in circles with failed business tactics. What is that entrepreneur who’s just constantly going around in circles, what’s the mistake that he’s making?
Hollis: From what I’ve seen, the people that I’ve been able to help and also my own experiences, it’s just that fear of not, of what people are going to say when you fail. It’s just go for it. What I’ve found to get out of that situation is to commit to something that is so out past your realm of thinking and understanding but it’s where you want to be. But commit to it in a way that there’s no going back.
Really doing that, the example that I have is actually this Utah thing that I’m doing out here. The other founders that are in this group are playing on a level where they’ve been doing business a lot longer. They’re the ones who do have millions and millions in the bank and things like that. Where I had to really put some things together because I’ve been more just driven by lifestyle, not stacking chips in the bank. I get money and I spend it on a heli trip right away. You know, I had to put myself in that position to go on to this next level. To be in this next step I had to commit to something that was far out of my realm because I knew I would get myself there.
I think people get too scared of well, if I can’t do it. I think you can pretty much do anything you put your mind to in this day and age. It’s very easy, you just have to break out of the mold and do it. I think there’s a lot of old thinking. It might not be even friends that are in broken business cycles but they’re stuck in I went to college and now I’m entitled to a job with benefits and $100,000 a year and blah, blah, blah. I think you have to go out and get that for yourself. I don’t think that any of us are entitled to that. It’s a very old way of thinking. Things are changing so fast right now. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. You push for the success of tomorrow as best as you can.
Andrew: Jeremy asks you what did he not ask you in the pre-interview and you said, you told him about this weird, stupid human trick that you have where you can easily and effortlessly connect people to powerful people. Or you get yourself connected to powerful people. What’s the trick, how do we use it?
Hollis: I wish I had an answer for that. It just seems to happen naturally by truly listening to people and humbly explaining how you can help. I just find, I’m almost addicted to having conversations with interesting people who are doing interesting things. I just have this overwhelming to want to connect them to someone who might be able to help them. Or give them direction or inspire them to do things. It seems the more and more I’ve been listening and not going for my personal benefit that it seems just by trying to connect other people and not trying to benefit in any way, shape, or form it keeps coming back time and time again.
It’s really weird, honestly. All I’m doing is saying hey to this guy, you should connect with this guy. The more and more I do it the more I find people are doing it for me on my behalf. It’s this reciprocity, or who knows what it is, but it’s been an overwhelming life experience to have that keep coming. You know, everyone just wants to have a good time I think. If you’re pushing too hard on the business side, trying to get that big house. People want to talk to humans. The whole business facade I think has kind of faded away a little bit in this day and age and you’ve got to be really real with people in order for that kind of thing to happen.
Andrew: I just recorded a course with Bob Berg, the author of the Go Giver. He’s all about this. He says just find ways to give people but don’t be a doormat. He talked about the process of doing it. I can totally see it in you. The other thing I can see in you is we only met a couple of times but you’re such a relaxing person to talk to. I feel completely unjudged by you. I mean right here it doesn’t, right here no one judges me. Everyone’s judging themselves. I don’t see that in you either but most people don’t judge me, they judge themselves. I don’t see you judging yourself.
What I mean, in person it’s so much harder to just let people be themselves and to be yourself. In a conversation with you, even though we talked over drinks for a little bit, I felt that. There’s an easygoingness to you. I don’t even know how to explain it. I’m feeling like I’m tripping myself up in trying to just express this. Maybe people who see the video understand what I’m talking about. I don’t know about audio or text. I’m looking at you and I just instantly feel comfortable.
Hollis: Maybe I should just be a therapist or something.
Andrew: I think you should actually do more speaking. That’s the thing. One of the things we talked about is how you don’t want to do public speaking. You don’t want to be a guru. You don’t want to be like these guys who are experts. I would like you to not be like them but I would like you to talk more because you’re open. Because you’re comfortable with talking.
Hollis: It’s something I like to do, but I definitely have my predispositions the ones I’ve seen, and it seems there’s always a motive behind speaking and I think that’s the same way with selling products that only a few people can succeed with. Maybe my expectations might be too high. Yeah, it’s been- this is like my second experience doing something like this and it is definitely- It’s different. I was a little nervous, getting on.
Andrew: How do you feel now?
Hollis: I feel good. It didn’t go in any of the directions I thought it would, it was just more of a conversation which was very interesting.
Andrew: What direction did you think I was going to take it in?
Hollis: I thought we were going- stay as much on the business, like how much did you make, what did you do? Cause that stuff just seems to be a by- product of creation, is what I really enjoy. And you know, we did the pre- interview stuff before and we were just laughing and talking about stories and it was really great. It’s a great experience and I would love to continue to do more of it. I feel I need to do this again and re-start from the beginning so I can do it better.
Andrew: No, that’s what every entrepreneur feels. Do not. This is good. And here’s what I’m going to ask the audience. Hollis doesn’t do this often. Find a way to say thank you to him and connect with him. I think it’s important for you, Hollis, to know how good this interview was. And if people want to connect with you, what’s a good way for them to say “Thanks, I learned something, I was moved, I had my mind opened to a new approach”? What’s a good way for them to do that?
Hollis: You guys can just contact me directly. [inaudible] They can go over to holliscarter.com. All my contact information is there. Or if people want to Facebook, that’s good too. And I did talk to my business partner before I came on, I knew I was doing this and we had a good audience, and if you guys want to learn more about the publishing stuff in depth, cause that’s- I know what I know, but he knows it on this evil genius, crazy level, but it requires more time. Is that- He is doing basically about once a week a two-hour webinar explaining what we’re doing for people who are interested.
Andrew: Where, what’s the website for that?
Hollis: That is perfectpublishingsystem.com
Andrew: What is it?
Andrew: Publishingsystem.com And they can learn directly from him in the webinar. What about if they want to- oh, I see. You guys frickin copied my layout.
Hollis: They’re changing it right now.
Andrew: Everybody copies my layout! I don’t mean to . . .
Hollis: It wasn’t that before we got on the call, either.
Andrew: Oh, is that right? So during the call you said Hey, wait a minute, let’s try Andrew’s in an A/B test.
Hollis: [inaudible] and I wanted to be able to send him some more content, and set up a page.
Andrew: Oh, you mean, there wasn’t even a page up there before!
Hollis: Right, they’re like making something so that there’ll be some good content-
Andrew: I would have said, I would have mentioned it ahead of time at the top of the interview so you guys could get some traffic to it. It’s perfectpublishingsystem.com And of cour- What about this. If someone wants to be an author who says, hey, you know what, I don’t want to figure this out for myself, you guys apparently have a business, I have some traffic, I have a list, I want to, I want you guys to do it all for me so I can focus on my business. You do that?
Hollis: Yeah, without a doubt, you know, we’re trying to stay focused on a few key missions right now but if someone has something they feel is really good quality content and want to get it out to the world and not wanting to go down the route of having all their money taken by the publishers and not get the- If they want to do that, we’re more than happy to talk to people about that. If you’re in heatlh and fitness, if you’re in personal development and relationship stuff we would love to talk to you because that’s our main purpose at the moment. But we’re always happy to venture out too.
Andrew: All right. Hollis Carter, thank you so much for doing this interview. Everyone else who’s out there, thank you for watching this and being a part of it. Bye guys.