Periodically I will write a blog post on a subject that I have to discuss with people a lot so that I can just point them to it instead of me taking another 20 minutes to explain the same thing I’ve already explained 30 times. This will be one such post. If you are not interested in my marketing strategy or the foundation behind the approach of my advocacy work, you can skip this post.
I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to explain to people that there are no hidden catches, pay walls, or any other such crap on my website. Quite a few people do not believe that my reasons for doing this are just as much for myself as for other people. And I can understand that. We live in a pretty selfish world in general. “Well, why would you spend all of this time and effort for free?” “Why are you going to offer your e-book ‘What They Don’t Tell You About Bipolar Disorder’ for free after you release?” “Shouldn’t you be trying to make money from your effort?” “What’s in it for YOU?!”
Technically, yes; and I actually do. But let me walk you through my marketing strategy…
I am no one. There is no reason anyone should listen to me.
My “product” is not my body of work. My product is me. Everyone and their grandmother writes about Bipolar Disorder, their struggles, observations, and what they’re trying to do. But the problem with that is there is no reason anyone should really listen to me. I am not a doctor. I’m not professionally trained. I’m a random mental patient. The burden is on me to demonstrate to other people why they should give a shit about what I have to say.
I chose to do this via the Oprah approach. Oprah built her empire on making herself the product. Oprah magazine, Oprah network, Oprah Oprah Oprah. The strategy she employed was to build herself as her brand as opposed to building off of a single product. She offered many goods and services all propagating from – you guessed it – the Oprah Winfrey Show.
In the various areas where new people are most likely to land on my website and other internet spaces, I introduce myself first and foremost. “I’m Dennis. I’m a 35 year old High-Functioning Autistic, Type 2 Bipolar with severe Bipolar-Depression. I have seven suicide attempts under my belt, including putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger on a dud round, and I’m here to tell you that you can recover and have a decent life with Bipolar Disorder.”
That introduction is my sales pitch of myself. I’m piquing the reader’s interest by demonstrating what makes me, as a person, different than the hordes of other people that write about mental illness. I’m not telling you my writing is awesome or that ‘omg, you really need to read this’. I attempt to hook the reader immediately. I’ve been as low as you can possibly go with the Disorder and I publicly disclose it right out of the gate; something a lot of people do not want to do.
Now that I’ve piqued a new reader’s interest with what sets me apart, I can allow my writing to “sell” itself. I strongly believe that quality work will be rewarded, but I can’t tell other people that my work is ‘omg amazing’ without sounding like a pretentious douchebag. So I let my work speak for itself by putting it out there for people to consume.
My Secondary Product – My Writing
There is a common belief in writing that every idea has already been written before. We must find a way to make the subject our own. This is the root of the belief to “write what you know.” No one else can know what you know and express it the way you can because no one else thinks like you.
In my case, I have the problem that many High-Functioning Autistics do where I sometimes lack tact and am far too blunt and straight forward. At the same time, I recognized this as a deficiency in a lot of the information on mental illness that I was digesting. The doctors who are not writers were essentially writing textbooks. The doctors who are writers spent so much time on flowery bullshit that it would become tiresome trying to figure out their point. Then there are the hordes of people that are producing work that essentially serves no purpose past their own therapeutic needs (which is fine!). And lastly, the people who don’t know what spell-check is.
Here’s a free writing pro-tip. If you want people to actually read your writing, proofread that shit and use a spell-check. With how much I read in the course of a day, I’m not going to invest the time into figuring out what you have to say if you can’t invest 2 seconds into pushing F7. I know that my writing isn’t always perfect, but I at least make the effort to ensure it’s fucking readable.
Moving on. When I was a teenager I read a book about writing believable sci-fi and fantasy. A tip the author gave was to “answer the question ‘why?’ 5 times.” It helps you flesh out an idea and provide depth to it.
As a high-functioning autistic, I found that applying this methodology to social interactions and the world around me gave me greater clarity in why people make the choices they do. I also began to turn this methodology to social and mental health problems and solutions.
“Why is mental illness so common, yet so misunderstood?” Because normal people do not have the context to understand it, in the same way that you cannot ask a man what it feels like to give birth to a child or a woman what it feels like to be kicked in the balls. You can make an educated guess; but if you want understanding you have to ask someone that experiences it.
“Well how can I make people actually understand?” By putting it in terms that normal people can relate to. So when I describe depression to a normal person, I don’t describe it as the pointless, hopeless, hell that it is. The listener is going to equate that to their own idea of what depression is. Instead, I did my best to identify something that a normal person can relate to and express it in a way that they can understand.
“Well, think back to the last time you were really sick with a cold or a flu. How did you feel mentally? Probably completely shitty, lethargic, not all happy or positive. You may have grinded through your work day or went to other events because you had to; but we all tend to crave the peace of our bed and sleep in those times. That numb feeling is very similar to what depression feels like; except it can last 24 hours a day for fucking years with the added bonus of people telling you there’s nothing wrong with you, you just need to smile more, or that life is good. Little to nothing feels good. Sex? Promotion at work? Awesome spouse? None of it matters. It’s all muted by the depression. How long do you think it would take for alcohol or suicide to look like good solutions to that problem? And like that bad flu or cold, it is caused by a physical problem in the body that can be corrected.”
The other aspect of my writing is acknowledging the responsibility of standing in the space that I am. A lot of people ask me questions about a lot of very difficult, confusing shit; some of it not even related to mental illness. The two phrases I use most often are “you need to tell your doctor everything you just told me” and “I’m not qualified to speak about that.”
The overall goals for my writing remain the same. I strive to give people information so they know what questions to ask and make better decisions for themselves. It is not my intention to “save” anyone, but to enable people to save themselves. I strive to demystify mental illness, portray it as a challenge that can be confronted and overcome for many, yet still represent it for what it is.
I hate the softening of mental illness. I hate the flowery, romanticized bullshit that so many writers try to console themselves and their readers with. It’s not realistic. Mental illness is a miserable bitch of a destructive force that can fuck your life inside out. But… many mental illnesses are treatable and can be managed if we are willing to make the sacrifices to get there.
Target Demographics and End Game
When I launched Bipolar Manifesto, my original intention was to reach people that were at their lowest and disenfranchised with life and the system. As time has gone on, I have reached several of those people and acquired other demographics along the way. There are people that are simply interested in my perspective. And then there are the loved ones of mentally ill people who have no idea what is going on, what to do, or how to meaningfully help.
Still, my original goal remains the same. But how do you reach people that have been dealing with the chaos and misery of mental illness alone in their mind for years? So many of us convince ourselves that our experiences are totally unique and impossible for anyone else to understand. The truth, however, is that there are other people that have gone through nearly the same shit. Believe me, I know. I get emails and comments that prove this on a regular basis.
I do this by being totally open. I can’t point to a “Doctor” before my name and say “this is why you should listen to me.” The burden is on me to prove to people why they should give a shit what I have to say.
That is why there are hundreds of pages of free information available on my website. That is why I will run free promotions for my e-book as often as Amazon allows. As I move onto the Kindle platform, I am once again needing to prove myself to a new audience of potential readers. I have put together an e-book that addresses many points of confusion that I run into on a regular basis. I provide actionable information that anyone can use to make better choices for pursuing wellness or staying intact while trying to support a mentally ill loved one.
But ultimately, what I have to say about my work and my e-book is irrelevant. What matters is what you have to say about it. I am always considered to be a biased source because it’s my work.
That’s why you are such an important part of this total equation and my advocacy work. Word of mouth advertising is the strongest form there is. People believe their friends and family over an advertisement or some random Bipolar guy on the internet. So whether you decide to pay for it or pick it up during a free promotion; your HONEST reviews and feedback help me reach more people. Whenever you decide to pick it up, I hope you will take a few minutes to write an honest review. If it’s great, tell other people why it’s great. If it sucks, tell other people why it sucks. Honest feedback helps me find the right path and create a better, useful product for other people to benefit from.
The simple truth is that many of the people that reach out to me are not in a position to contribute financially. And that’s fine! I’m thankful for the people that can and do. Much of the time, it is the people that do have healthy lives and decent jobs that contribute a sizable financial contribution here and there that allows me to defray the costs associated with running my website, investing in marketing, and the hours I spend providing meaningful answers to the comments and emails I receive. If you’ve ever emailed me or commented to me, you know that I always try to provide meaningful information and not some superfluous bullshit.
And ultimately, that’s the way I prefer it. It’s not exactly a sustainable model for this to be a sole income stream, but I would rather do that than tell the mother trying to find resources to escape an abusive relationship or a person teetering on their life falling to shit that, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for you since you can’t pay me.”
But, good intentions don’t pay bills, which is why I’m transitioning again to offering quality information through e-books.
So – if you’re suspicious of my motivations or wonder why I give so much of my “product” away for free – these are the reasons why. It is how I demonstrate credibility to people who have no reason to trust a word I have to say. It is how I bring in people and contributions that help defray expenses and invest in reaching more people.
And it is how I keep myself accountable in not getting too up my own ass and arrogant if I swing hypomanic.
My strategy is long-term. I’m not so much concerned with right now as I am where I will be six months from now. Sacrifices now should (hypothetically) pay off in a much larger way in increased range six months from now. In turn, that should hopefully bring in more people needing guidance, more mentally ill people that are isolated, and more people in a position to financially contribute or buy an e-book.
My first e-book, ‘What They Don’t Tell You About Bipolar Disorder’, is available for paid pre-order and will be available on August 14th. If you want to read it before making any kind of contribution or are broke, I will be running a free promotion for it shortly after release (entirely dependent on Amazon’s restrictions and policies). It will only be available via Amazon Kindle. Don’t worry, there is an official Amazon Kindle reader for mobile and PC.
Consider making a financial contribution if it is within your means to do so. Every dollar counts and it not only helps me, but helps me reach more people.
Should you have thoughts or questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . I read and reply to everything that I’m sent. I also have many more original articles available on my main website www.bipolarmanifesto.com .
Want to help me out? Consider making a financial contribution. A majority of the funds contributed I turn around and use in marketing efforts to put my body of work in front of more people. Even $1 can put my work in front of a couple dozen more sets of eyes.
Liking and Sharing my content and website on your favorite social media platforms is another great way to help me towards my goal of reaching other people that suffer their mental illness in silence like I did for so many years.
Thank you for reading my work. Have a great day!