Entrepreneur: Ruby McConnell
Tilt: Outdoor life
Rev Streams: New book deals, book sales, paid content pieces
Our Favorite Actionable Advice
- Find your audience first. Ruby ran a Kickstarter to validate what content people would pay to read before she ever approached a publisher.
- Don’t just scream into the void. With what she calls a “conscious social media practice,” Ruby engages with people who are most likely to purchase her books.
- Know your motivation. Know why you do what you do and use that to inform your business model.
Content entrepreneur Ruby McConnell has held a wide array of jobs, from a staff geologist and college instructor to a dancer and circus performer. Since 2016, she has been building her content business, starting with the publication of her book, A Woman’s Guide to the Wild, which has sold more than 20K copies. On the heels of that success, she wrote A Girls Guide to the Wild for younger readers accompanied by a nature journal and activity book.
In 2020, she published her latest work, Ground Truth: A Geological Survey of Life, which examines how landscapes impact families, communities, and lives. She is a passionate activist whose end goal is “to feel like I’m really heard and feel like people change their behavior. That I helped them reach the conclusion that they could and should do that,” she says.
Ruby’s ideas for her first book, A Woman’s Guide to the Wild, can be traced way back to 2006. However, she knew she needed financial support to make the leap to work on it in earnest. “I was working all these jobs, and I knew I had to quit some of them if I’m ever gonna get this book done. But I was poor, so I didn’t need a lot of money to quit a job. And at that time, Kickstarters were brand new, so I did a Kickstarter,” she remembers.
“I made this video and was like, ‘Hey, this is my work; this is who I am, and this is what I’m writing, and I need to be able to take some time off to get this done and pitch it to publishers.’ And people supported it,” she says. “That made it easier to go to independent presses as a first-time author with no social media platform to speak of and say, ‘I have concrete proof that this is a viable product that people support because they’ve supported this Kickstarter.” Her campaign raised more than $5K and had 88 backers.
And it worked. Those presales caught the attention of a publishing house, Sasquatch Books. “I submitted without an agent and got pulled out of the slush pile from the first publisher that I submitted to,” she says..@RubyGoneWild did a #Kickstarter campaign for her first book. That became the social proof to secure a publisher. #contentbusiness #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet
Practice conscious social media
When asked how she has found her followers and readers, Ruby cheekily replies, “Yeah. Um, well, you scream like a voice in the wilderness, into the void.” But actually, she has a really neat philosophy.
“I practice what I call ‘conscious social media’ or ‘conscious engagement,’” she says. “Numbers of followers don’t count. It’s the quality of the follower. With book sales, word of mouth is everything. That’s how books make it or don’t make it. So the idea is to consciously follow and consciously engage with the people that I think also have my audience, are my audience, are being listened to, or who can connect me to these things.”
She used tools designed to help people optimize their Twitter feed. “If you’re an influencer in (the topic of) shoes, they’re gonna help you find who’s talking about shoes and who’s listening,” she says. Though the tool she used has since been acquired, several are out there like it, including BuzzSumo, Upfluence, and Heepsy.
“And it really actually works. I don’t have a lot of followers (3.3K), but I get really high response rates, and I get a lot of direct messages. And I get a lot of people that are dedicated,” she says.Though she doesn’t have a lot of followers, @rubygonewild gets a high response rate and a lot of direct messages. #contententrepreneur #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet
Advice for content entrepreneurs
To Ruby, the why behind what she does informs every business decision she makes. “Be able to articulate why you’re doing it, and be able to articulate tangibly what you want from it. And then, be really honest with yourself about what you’re willing to do to get it,” she says.
“It’s easy to chase other people’s business models, and it’s easy to chase Twitter followers, but if it’s just people that aren’t going to buy my book, what’s the point,” Ruby says.
“I think it’s OK to be honest if what (you) want out of this is to feel pretty or (you) want to feel successful. But you have to ask what success looks like for you? Is it followers? Is it influence? Is it publishing? What’s going to satisfy me? People waste a lot of time and energy chasing other people’s dreams,” she says.
As you figure that out, she reminds content entrepreneurs, you also should be asking what you’re willing to do to achieve that.#ContentEntrepreneur advice from @rubygonewild: Figure out what you want (your business goal) and what you’re willing to do to achieve that. #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet
About the author
Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was 6 and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 26 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. Currently, she is based on Maui and, when not writing or parenting, she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.