Entrepreneur: Jen Mann

Biz: People I Want To Punch in the Throat

Tilt: Anti- “mommy blogger”

Primary Channels: Substack (15K), books

Other Channels: Facebook (32K), TikTok (13.7K), Instagram (6.7K), X (10K), website, blog

Time to First Dollar: 8 months

Rev Streams: Books, paid newsletter 

Our Favorite Actionable Advice

  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules: Jen took her book to a popular author’s book signing and gave it to their representative, hoping it would lead to a book deal.
  • Follow up: She thought leaving the book was enough. But after her sales professional husband encouraged her, she followed up and realized the worst thing they could say was no.
  • Listen to your audience: Jen’s first self-published book came at the urging of her audience. If your audience asks for something, they will probably buy it, too.

The Story of Jen Mann

Jen Mann was a typical mom living a crazy, busy life with two kids in early 2011. She wanted to write but not the popular “mommy blog” content that proliferated the market. 

Her husband had a suggestion: “Look, I know you love your kids, but you also want to punch people in the throat. You have to write the anti-‘mommy blog’ because I can’t listen to you complain anymore.”

In April 2011, People I Want to Punch in the Throat was born. Jen bought some website domains and typed in “How do I start a blog?” on Google.  Blogger came up first. Luckily for Jen, she figured out the intuitive platform.

Anti-‘mommy blogger’ Jen Mann turns @Throat_Punch blog into big success with books and Substack. #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

Then, she wrote. No schedule, no promotion. The blog’s early days turned into a personal online diary for venting. She posted some blog articles to her personal Facebook page, mostly for friends and relatives.

Elf delivers big break for blog

The first week of December 2011, Jen forgot to move her Elf on the Shelf. For the uninitiated, the popular holiday tradition involves an elf doll that goes to the North Pole every night to give Santa a report on the children’s behavior and returns to a different, often sneaky, location in the children’s house every night.

Getting out of bed to move the elf at 11:30 p.m., Jen wrote a Facebook post and asked if she was the only one who forgot to move the elf.

A woman immediately commented with a link to an article about 101 ideas for Elf on a Shelf. Jen felt rage building as she read the response. “I am a good mother. My kids are happy and healthy. I don’t need to make a parachute out of underwear for the stupid elf to prove it,” she tells The Tilt.

Jen Mann's elf blog post image (picture of elf sitting on shelf)

Jen sat down, wrote her response, and published it an hour later. She went back to bed feeling much better. 

A week later, the post crossed over 1 million reads. Jen breathed into a paper bag to calm her reaction. She had no clue what to do next.

While Jen wanted to let the Elf on the Shelf virality run its course, her husband noted the increased readership of her archives and encouraged her to write more. 

Reluctantly, Jen created a Facebook page using her blog title – People I Want to Punch in the Throat. She gained over 17K followers that night. Jen’s first revenue – $4K – came from the AdSense spot on her viral blog. 

Growing an audience and business

From that night on, she wrote five days a week. The blog gained popularity, and the Facebook page grew. By the summer 2012, her readers asked Jen to write a book. 

“I was like, ‘I can’t write a book. I don’t even know how to write a book,’” she says.   

A forgetful #ElfOnTheShelf night and a subsequent reader response prompted Jen Mann to launch @Throat_Punch. #ContentBusiness Click To Tweet

Prompted by a friend’s suggestion, she started a book with that Elf on The Shelf and wrote new Christmas-related stories to turn into a holiday book. She had to work quickly because it needed to be in bookstores by October when some people start their Christmas shopping. 

Slightly miffed that no one in the publishing world reached out to ask the author of the viral Elf-on-the-Shelf post, Jen returned to Google and researched how to publish a book. She discovered the route to self-publishing on Amazon. 

By Oct. 5, she had the 20K words done. She didn’t have an editor or a clue about how to design the collection of essays into a book. She published Spending The Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat and told her Facebook followers it was ready. Her early fans made it a success, pushing it to the top of the charts on Amazon.

Getting the call she wanted (kinda)

Finally, Jen got the call she had been expecting. She was invited to a book signing for Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. She went and broke a cardinal rule in the publishing world – she gave her book to Jeff’s publicist. 

Though she didn’t want to follow up on her brazen act, her husband, who has a sales background, said she must. The worst that could happen is they say no, he explained. She followed up, secured an agent, and signed a two-book deal with Penguin Random House Publishing in March 20213.

Jen says she earned good money on those two books, but the three-year time span of the contract wasn’t ideal. Random House passed on her third book. Jen knew that she needed to go back to self-publishing

Building a content brand

Self-publishing meant Jen had to do more work, but it also gave her control over the process, her revenue, and access to her fans.

Over the next several years, Jen grew her audience and expanded her revenue streams, adding novella-style books, e-books, and anthologies.

The first anthology, I Just Want to Pee Alone, was a collection of short essays from various female authors. She priced it at 99 cents, and it eventually became a New York Times bestseller.

Jen explains this short-story book worked as a marketing strategy to generate interest in buying her other books. It’s a model she’s used in publishing six anthologies of Just a Few People I Want to Punch in The Throat. 

“Always listen to your audience. I wrote those short stories, never thinking they would be a book. I’d written them thinking they would be a good way to find new readers. And now they are selling like crazy,” she says.

Becoming a full-time content entrepreneur

Despite her success as an author, Jen continued to sell real estate until she went full time as a content entrepreneur in 2020. That move also prompted her to diversify her revenue streams.

Jen published the book How I F*cking Did It to satisfy her audience’s curiosity about her process as a self-publishing author. That book – a second content tilt – led to speaking engagements and new blog content to help other authors monetize their content. 

Jen’s book tours look a little different in the self-publishing world. She asks fans interested in hosting an event to find the venue (think restaurant or bar). The result is more of a book party with the author. “It’s almost like a Tupperware party for books,” Jen says.

In 2021, Jen started a podcast, No Pants Required. She stopped it after a year when she realized it wasn’t working for her. The content, though, remains on her website and still attracts listeners.

In 2022, Jen turned her blog into a newsletter on Substack, where she has free and paid versions. It’s grown to 15K subscribers. Jen uses Instagram and TikTok to grow her newsletter audience. 

Advice for content entrepreneurs

Jen offers the following counsel for creator entrepreneurs in any stage of business:

Don’t be afraid to collaborate with other creators, authors, and entrepreneurs. Create an anthology of work or collaborate on a project. Pulling from multiple sources can enhance the content and provide a wider audience for all parties involved. It can be something as simple as a daily journal filled with advice.

Not every project, product, or piece of content should be monetized. Create an e-book, a notebook, or a journal to grow an audience that is more likely to buy later.

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About the author

Marc Maxhimer is the director of growth and partnerships at The Tilt. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and mathematics education and a master’s degree in educational administration.  He previously taught middle school for 16 years.  Marc lives in (and loves all things) Cleveland with his wife, two daughters, and dog.