Kindle Relationship Building: What’s Your Origin Story?

Origin StoryWe all understand the importance of building an email list.

As a Kindle book author, this list can be the #1 generator of sales during a book launch.

The problem?

Many authors struggle with “what” to send email subscribers. They ask questions like: Can I promote my old books? How often should I send email? Should I focus on free content or ask subscribers to spend money?

Honestly, there’s a lot you can do with email, but your primary goal is to build relationships with subscribers.

When subscribers see you as someone real, they’re more likely to check out your books and potentially leave a positive review.

In today’s post, we’ll talk about a simply strategy for strengthening an email relationship. Specifically I’ll talk about why every author should add an “origin story” to their autoresponder sequence.

Let’s get to it.

The Importance of an Autoresponder Sequence

First off, you might wonder “what’s an autoresponder sequence?”

Basically it’s a way to deliver specific content to brand new subscribers. When a person joins your list, he or she receives a series of emails that can educate or promote a specific product.

As an example, an autoresponder might look like this:

  • Day 1 (message #1 delivered)
  • Day 3 (message #2 delivered)
  • Day 6 (message #3 delivered)
  • Day 9 (message #4 delivered)
  • Day 12 (message #5 delivered)
  • Day 15 (message #6 delivered)

(To learn more about email marketing, I recommend checking out the Authority Internet Business case study.)

What you put into an autoresponder depends on the individual author. However, the value of a sequence is to answer a few core questions: Who are you? Why should readers care? And how are you in a unique position to help them?

My advice is to use an autoresponder sequence to introduce yourself, lightly talk about your books and provide quality content. In other words, you shouldn’t barrage subscribers with one promotion after another.

I feel this “soft approach” is important because my #1 marketing strategy is to have a successful book launch (here’s the post where I figured this out.) The logic behind my autoresponder sequence is to provide useful content, then when it’s time to launch a new book, subscribers are more likely to open the email, click the link and select the buy button on Amazon.

In a way, this strategy is similar to what Gary Vaynerchuk recommends: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Each message in the sequence is a jab that builds a connection with subscribers. Then the right hook is saved for those times when you have something to offer—like a new book.

And what’s the best jab?

An honest story about why you’re interested in a particular topic.

What’s an Origin Story?

Last month, I did an interview with James Altucher where we talked about the importance of email marketing when it comes to publishing Kindle books. During this conversation, I mentioned this tactic and he compared it to the origin stories you can find in any comic book.

For instance, think of the popular comic super heroes: Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man and Superman.

Each has a unique background about how they gained their powers. It’s what makes them different from other super heroes.

Now I’m not suggesting that you have special powers. But odds are, if you write books in a specific niche, there is probably a reason why you chose this topic. It’s the one thing that makes you different from others in the market.

So an origin story is nothing more than a description of the who, what, where, why and how behind your choice to focus on a specific niche. To make it even more powerful, it should connect to a powerful emotion or a major obstacle that you’ve overcome.

Example of an Origin Story

To illustrate this point, here’s the origin story I’ve included in the autoresponder sequence for the Develop Good Habits authority site. It’s the second email, sent one day after a person subscribes (that’s why I open with a reminder to download the free report.)

Subject Line: How Habits “Saved” My Life

How are you?

One reason I’m writing to you today is to make sure you downloaded the report:

“77 Good Habits to Live a Better Life”

If not, here is the download link:

(The link is included here.)

Another reason I’m writing to you is to tell a story about what habits mean to me.  Perhaps it will explain why I choose to talk about them in my books and blog posts.

Normally I’m not someone who writes sensational titles.  But I truly feel that if it wasn’t for habits, I would be in a very bad place right now. I’d even go as far as saying that forming habits has saved my life.

This time 10 years ago (2004), I was going through a divorce (my fault, not hers).

The end result is I had to move from South Carolina back home to New Jersey.  At the time, I had no job. Plus, I was $15,000 in debt.

Where do you go when you have nothing else?

Yup, that’s right… I moved back home with my parents. (Ouch)

Don’t get me wrong-I will always be grateful that my family was there for me at my lowest point. But I never pictured being in my late 20’s and living my folks.

At the same time my 10-year high school reunion was coming up.

So let’s run down a checklist of my accomplishments at that point:

  • Divorced
  • $15,000 in debt
  • No job
  • Living with parents

Obviously, this wouldn’t be impressive to my former classmates.

So I decided to skip the reunion and instead go drinking with my buddies.  (Maybe I should have added that bad habit to the list as well.)

The night itself was uninteresting.

But I do remember having ONE clear thought…

This was the lowest point in my life.  In my head, I was such a loser that I was too ashamed to go to my own high school reunion.

Even worse…

It was all my fault.

I couldn’t blame anyone else for my lack of success.  It was all because of the decisions I made and the (lack of) action in my life.

Fortunately I also had a second thought…

I was in 100% control of how the rest of my life would turn out.

I could learn from this experience and grow as a person. All I had to do was figure out what worked for other successful people and practice it on a daily basis.

Ultimately this lead to my decision to make continuous improvement and habit development important two parts of my life.

It has been a long ten years.  There were a lot of challenges and struggles along the way.  But to paraphrase The Beatles, my life got better all the time.

Fast forward ten years.

Now I run a successful business. I share a nice apartment with my girlfriend (I don’t want the hassle owning a home). I go on vacation about four times a year to some pretty cool places.  And I’m 100% debt-free.

Ultimately I feel the *reason* I was able to improve my life was because I discovered and implemented three primary habits in the last decade.

Let’s briefly go over them:

#1. Do “the One Thing” Every Day

I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule.

This is the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.

You can apply this to ANY area of life.

Think of something major you’ve accomplished.  Odds are, there was a daily (or regular) activity that helped you do it.

My suggestion…

Consider a goal you’d like to achieve.  Now think of a consistent action that will get you there. I guarantee if you did this on a daily basis, you’d accomplish some amazing things.

As an example, I’m not a natural writer.  But in the last two years, I’ve implemented “the one thing” philosophy to consistently average 1,000 words a day. The result? I’ve published 40+ Kindle books and built an entire business around this platform.

#2. Try Stuff

How is “try stuff” a habit?

It’s simple… In our fast-paced, high-tech world, we’re constantly bombarded with great ideas and opportunities. Often we want to try something new.  Then what usually happens?  We fail to take action.

Why does this happen?

There are many reasons, but the biggest of them all is a fear of making mistakes.

I believe there are two types of mistakes:

(1) Mistakes when taking action

(2) Mistakes when not taking action

For my money, I’d much rather take action and make a bunch of mistakes, then miss out on something amazing. In fact, I’d say I average 1 “success” for every 9 “failures”. The only reason I keep going is because each mistake is one step closer to a major accomplishment.

My suggestion?

Practice the habit of asking this question whenever you feel hesitation at trying something new:

“What is the absolute worst thing that can happen?” 

Put a name to a subconscious fear and you’ll discover that the worst case scenario usually isn’t that bad.  And once you know that most mistakes aren’t that bad you’ll have the courage to take action.

#3. Practice Continuous Improvement

Why is my blog called Develop Good Habits? Because I believe habit improvement-and actually any type of success-requires an ongoing, lifelong process.

As a society we’re obsessed with the idea of the overnight success.  But if you closely examine the people who do well, you’d see they’re committed to continuous improvement.

10 years ago, I realized that I needed to change my life.  And 10 minutes ago, I also realized that I still have a long way to go.

My challenge to you…

Focus on making one small, positive change every single day. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental.  Actually it’s easier to stick to a habit that doesn’t require a lot of time or willpower.

As an example, last week I realized that I spend waaaay too much time on my Smartphone.

So did I commit to a habit where I never use my phone?

Heck no.

Instead I simply made the rule where I put my phone in the docket (far away in a spare bedroom) at 8 p.m. and I’m not allowed to touch it until 8 a.m.

Yes, this doesn’t completely eliminate the “bad smartphone habit,” but it’s a step in the right direction.

That’s the essence of continuous improvement…

To make small, incremental changes in your life.

So what’s the point behind this email?

Couple of things:

(1). To properly introduce myself. Odds are, you probably read one of my Kindle books or blog posts or watched a SlideShare presentation, but you might not know who I am and where I’m coming from.  Hopefully this email shows there is a real person behind the computer screen.

(2). To show that I don’t have all the answers.  In fact, I’m probably just like you-someone who has: dreams and fears…successes and failures…good times and bad times.

(3). To commit to growing as a person. One reason I write Kindle books on a variety of topics is because I’m always interested in learning new things. I believe in the old adage that if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

I’ve made the commitment to keep testing new things.  And as always I’ll be sure to pass along anything that I learn along the way.

Care to join me?


Steve “S.J.” Scott






As you can see, this story starts by describing my “rock bottom” moment (actually even ten years later, I still cringe when I think of this point in my life.) It also provides a few lessons that subscribers can use in their own habit development journey. And finally it subtly introduces the idea that I have Kindle books and blog posts that might be worth checking out.

How to Create Your Origin Story

It’s not hard to create an engaging origin story. Simply think about your experiences with a niche and identify a moment when you achieved a personal breakthrough. You can get started by answering one (or all) of these questions:

  • How did you overcome a niche-specific obstacle?
  • Have ever experienced a major “ah-ha” moment?
  • Did you meet someone who taught you a valuable lesson?
  • What was your lowest point in regards to a niche?
  • Is there a memory that makes you feel really uncomfortable? What did you learn from it?

Inside all of us is a powerful story. My recommendation? Take an hour or so this week to think of one that shows you’re a real person. Then schedule it as one of the first messages sent in your autoresponder sequence. I guarantee it’ll make a positive impression that strengthens the relationship you have with subscribers.

Questions? Comments?

Respond below with your thoughts.

Take Action. Get Results.

28 thoughts on “Kindle Relationship Building: What’s Your Origin Story?”

  1. I based my mailing list on the 100 messages with quotes (one day for each). It was supposed to teach my subscribers that I mean no harm and open my emails.

    Now I think, I should add another message at the end of 100 day sequence introducing myself more personally.

  2. Thanks for this post Steve and I really enjoyed the podcast with James last week. My issue is taking partial action. As an excuse, I already have a successful business, but its a time-drainer – 65 hours a week. I want to shift some business over to Kindle publishing, so I do write. But I get stuck in first draft mode. To the tune of about 5,000 words – all in first draft mode by daily writing.

    Part of me wants to really push to get that second business off the ground, and part of me doesn’t want to “risk” the first business or really find the extra time needed to make a go of publishing.

    Your post helps. I really need to quit making first drafts and work on other parts of getting something published. Of course, first drafts are also a very “safe” place to be. No rejection.

    Thanks again.

    • Kent — As much as I love Kindle publisher, I’m also a firm believer in focusing on making ONE thing great. If you already have a successful business, is there a way to streamline things? Are there processes that can be outsourced or delegated? Honestly, I’d focus on making the first business great and THEN when you have some extra time, you can sit down and write.

  3. Thank you Steve – well timed! After my initial emails go out, I don’t have anything regular. However, people ask me about me all the time. I suppose sharing my story as it can relate to them would be good. Thanks again for another detailed post!

    • Thanks for the comment Sean. Yeah, it’s hard to always know “what else” to send subscribers. I’m finding that mixing in the occasional personal story really helps solidify a connection with subscribers.

  4. Hi Steve,
    I just listened to your interview with James Altucher – fabulous – very generous! Thank you.

    I was wondering, would you recommend the same” personal origins” stories weaved into your blog posts to attract/drive traffic to your email list?


    • Thanks for listening and checking out the blog Andrew. Yes, I’d absolutely recommend putting in personalized stories into blog posts as well — actually those are the best places to have them. That said, this is an area that I definitely need to improve on my DGH blog.

  5. As always, this was an awesome post.

    I’ve been working on building an email list for some time, and after applying a couple of the strategies from our previous posts, my subscribe rates have bumped slightly.

    (It’s still pitiful, I only get 2-3 subscribers per day, but at least it’s something.)

    Maybe I’ll be able to keep more subscribers and encourage more future opens by implementing the advice in this post…

    I’ll let you know how it turns out. 😉

    Thanks Steve!

    • Sorry to hear about the low numbers. I’d say perhaps try another source of traffic. One idea that I’ve been meaning to do (forever) is to create short, actionable powerpoint style videos on YouTube, which all point back to a squeeze page. Perhaps that might be something you could do to increase the email count.

  6. Thanks for all your info & now “What’s your origin Story”.

    Still struggling to write that one !! Too much love & caring for my sick husband.

    Too many Challenges I have taken in life & succeeded. Now to put it out in the world / blogs / emails / book / kindle – Origin is good beginning I think what you gave a practical , useful & very clever , simple way , I like it Steve!!I need organised writing. Not just writing , which has piled up in thirty forty boxes – but how to put it out there- even started writing my blog – Block First line & stuck there !!! Pain / Chemo is draining me out myself too .But this Challenge of Disciplined writing is ok in bed / Ipad , but hasn’t got out there as yet – in the a cosmos !! Help!!! Anna

    • Anna — I agree. It’s a lot of writing to do. That’s why I’m sticking to a small autoresponder sequence. Like 4 to 6 messages. This is enough to introduce yourself and let readers get to know you. I imagine you have a lot going on with your life, so stick to a few core activities that get legitimate results for your business.

  7. Hi Steve,
    Speaking up for my gender here – I noticed you had no female comment-ers on this,
    so far anyway. Enjoyed the article & the concept- thumbs up.
    I lack focus – virtual assistant, managing the sites of others, writing eZinearticles and Wikihows. Every day I say I should be posting on my own blog. Have they invented an anti-procrastination drug yet? Soon, I hope. Love your work.

    • Thanks for being the first female commentator. 🙂 Yeah, it’s a lot to do. Honestly, what works for me is to write Kindle books and focus on the list building activities. Simply look at what’s working best for your business and keep doing those specific things.

  8. Hi Steve,
    As always you have encouraged and affirmed me. Thank you so much. Being a little-old-grey-haired-lady trying to get my head around the internet! what a challenge. Thank God for outsourcing…I am on track with 10 books to be published this year. 3 down 7 to go.
    Every day I am learning more – a lot of days wonder what I have done with my time – but all is good – getting there.
    All the best – keep healthy and happy. If you have health, you have wealth….barbi wildish

  9. I maybe the odd person out, but I guess the ‘my original story’ has limited shelf-life. For 3 reasons. 1) Too many sellers tell the same kind of ‘sorrow’ stories, 2) people in other countries have even more sorrow-er tales which they prefer not to share, and 3) after the story ends, what next?

    I feel the answer to engaging readers is to give truly valuable pieces of information or guides… and that surely is an art 🙂

  10. Hi Steve,
    a very timely post as I have just had my first email subscribers this weekl! Have been following your advice as best I can on both this site and DGH.

    Very inspiring post and I will definitely be working on my ‘story’ this weekend. Most of us have had some terrible or distressing things to deal with but the difference it makes to the story is how we dealt with it, what are the good things that came out of it? How has it shaped what we are today? This is why I like your story because it isn’t just a ‘sob story’ it shows the recovery and the ‘happy ending’ as well. Great stuff. Thanks.

  11. Hello Steve, I loved this post. I listened to your interview with James Altucher as well yesterday and it really inspired me – I almost wrote 2,000 words of a Kindle this morning and that’s a lot for me.

    So interesting to hear your back story both here and on the show. I never signed up to your Habits site, although I love the authority site challenge here, because I thought I couldn’t be helped in terms of good habits! I’ll sign up now and, who knows, maybe I’ll be writing 2,000 words everyday before breakfast soon!

    • Yeah, it’s hard to convince people to join both lists and I’ll admit some people don’t care about habit development.

      It’s awesome to see you’re committing to a high word count each day. It’s not often fun, but guarantee you’ll rapidly grow your content business by doing this everyday.

  12. Great one Steve! And what do you mean I don’t have super powers – we all do!

    This is great advice for the autoresponder sequence. I used to get frustrated listening to Joe Polish repeat over and over his down and out carpet cleaner story until I realized I should be learning from him!

    I’m off to rewrite some emails, my friend.

    • Definitely a lesson there. This is something I’ve had to realize over the years, that people love hearing about a person’s story. Good luck on your rewriting!

  13. An excellent blog post, Steve. You gave an excellent example of how you can tell others why habit is so important.

    I think I could talk about my passions in my first e-mail. I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Being an introvert myself, the book deeply influenced me and inspired me to write about my own experiences in my Law Firm days. This resulted in the creation of a book: Quiet Phoenix: An Introvert’s Guide to Rising in Career & Life.

    So, the point to talk to your subscribers could be to follow your passion (as an example).

  14. Hi Steve,
    this was an awesome post. a very timely post as I have just had my first email subscribers this weekl! Have been following your advice.


  15. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for valuable article about Build Relationship.Great useful points available here. It’s contents really useful for me and other too.
    I really appreciate your efforts..
    Great job!!!

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