How to Get Started with Digital Publishing
If you’re serious about creating a digital platform as part of your strategy to rebuild, you’ll need to be methodical. Start by following the same process that our team at Prison Professors uses to teach all our clients.
Since this will be a long article, you may want to use the table of contents below to follow along. I’ll insert the table in various places so you can scroll through each section:
First: Define Success
What is the outcome we’re striving to achieve? Make certain that you can articulate that vision in both the short term and in the long term. Building a digital platform will require significant amounts of time, energy, and resources. But it’s an investment that can yield results for the rest of your life. The more clarity you can bring to success, the better off you will be.
Second: Put a Plan in Place
It’s one thing to talk about overcoming adversity. It’s another matter entirely to succeed.
If we know what success looks like, we know what we’re striving to achieve. We can create a plan. Our plans should take us from where we are today, and lead to success as we’ve defined it.
My name is Michael Santos. Through the series of articles on this page, you’ll learn more about how our team developed this course to teach strategies we’ve used to recalibrate and rebuild.
Third, Set Priorities
Although I don’t remember where I heard it first, I recall someone telling me that the right decision at the wrong time is the wrong decision. Not only do we need to know what to do, we need to know when to do it.
For example, when I went into prison, in 1987, I set a three-pronged set of priorities:
- I would strive to improve my education and earn academic credentials,
- I would work to contribute to society in meaningful, measurable ways, and
- I would work to build a strong support network.
I completed my sentence 26 years later. When I returned to society, I set a goal of building my first million dollars in assets. I’ve written extensively about how I strove to accumulate those assets during my first five years of liberty. Publishing my story throughout the journey was a tactic I used to succeed. Anyone can use the tactic of writing to open opportunities.
By 2018, I exceeded my financial goal. Then, a bad investment led me into a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission. To avoid further litigation, I settled the lawsuit by agreeing to walk away from the $3 million in equity I had built since my release from prison.
When the FTC sued me, I felt compelled to litigate the case. Since I was a limited investor in a real estate project, without any decision-making authority, I believed I could prevail in a civil trial. But lawyers warned me about the dangers I would face:
- To prevail in the case, the FTC would only have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence,
- The preponderance-of-the-evidence standard meant that the FTC would only have to prove that I either “knew or should have known” that others used deceptive marketing tactics.
- The lawyers convinced me that as a result of my background of having been in prison, the FTC would have an advantage. They would be able to allege that I should have known the allegations the FTC had made against the general partner. A federal judge would likely agree with the government attorneys, lawyers told me.
- If the FTC prevailed, and I did not settle, I would be liable for a judgment of $140 million.
- That judgment would cripple my ability to rebuild businesses under my name.
- Although litigating may have been the right decision, at 56 years old, it would have been the wrong time to expose myself to a judgment of $140 million.
- I concluded that it would be better to walk away from the $3 million in equity I built, forgo my claim to $5 million in assets I owned, and start my life over.
Publishing helped me build financial success after my release from prison; publishing would help me recalibrate, recover, and build millions of assets again.
The articles that accompany this page of our website at Prison Professors will show you the priorities I put in place to resume my pathway to prosperity. I may have struggled with a major financial setback. Yet as a result of deliberate strategies, and tactics that include publishing, I had absolute confidence that I document a pathway to new levels of success.
Regardless of what setbacks you’ve had, a disciplined plan that includes publishing could help you get back on track, too.
Fourth: Execute the Plan
Once we know what steps we need to take, we move forward in clear, decisive, and methodical ways. As mentioned previously, I never ask anyone to do anything that I’m not doing. Follow the remaining articles in this series to learn how publishing can change your life. I’ll show how I use digital publishing platforms to restore my credibility and rebound from the setback of surrendering $3 million in equity.
If you’re not ready to do all the work to publish your story, considering using our team to help you. The next article in the series will explain the process our team uses to gather information from clients that collaborate with us.
Since a genuine client may want to keep our collaborative working relationship confidential, I’ll use my own experience as an example. Through the example, I’ll show:
- Our process for interviewing a client,
- Our process to create an annotated outline,
- Our process to create a fully developed plan,
- Our process to gather data from an audience,
Through these efforts, you’ll learn how digital publishing strategies can help you overcome challenges and reinvent yourself—just as I am doing. I use digital publishing tools to widen my reach and to open new relationships.
You can do the same!
By clicking the next link in the series of articles that will show how publishing can change your life. And if you’d like to discuss it more, I encourage you to take action with one (or both) of the following steps:
Client Intake Process:
When a client chooses to collaborate on a digital publishing project with our team at Prison Professors, we begin the intake process. The first step is for a member of our team to work with the client on an intensive interview. From the interview, our team learns more about what our clients aspire to create.
The client may or may not have an idea of what he or she wants. As writers, collaborators, or publishers, our team does not know anything about the client until after we conduct the interview. We have to learn how we can serve the client best.
Digital publishing is an investment. It can serve as a tool that will help us achieve our objective. Our team works together with our clients to define success—to get clarity with regard to what the client wants to achieve.
Think of the intensive interview as a kind of feasibility study, the same type that an investor might use before developing a plot of land. The investor knows the land has value. Yet without a feasibility study, the investor may not know how to extract the highest value. Should the investor use the land to develop a shopping center, a multi-family apartment building, or a warehouse?
To answer that question, the investor may retain an engineer. A plan would require the engineer to learn more about what resources the investor has available, and what the market would support. The investor may want to build a hotel, for example. But the time may not be right. A study may show that the area isn’t yet mature enough to sustain a hotel.
A comprehensive feasibility study will result in a plan on how to make the best use of the land at a specific time. Rather than starting with a hotel, it may make more sense to start out by building a mobile-home park, or even a parking lot. That plan would generate revenues while the surrounding area matures. Once the area matures, the plan would be to convert the land into a hotel.
Without a feasibility study, the architect could not create a plan.
Similarly, without an intensive interview, our team would not know what to build. The client may not even know what to build. But after that interview, we both would have clarity. We would be able to define success, with clear timelines.
The intensive interview process usually requires a total of 30 hours to complete. It starts with a series of telephone conversations.
The client can be anywhere as long as he has good phone connectivity. When conducting interviews, we keep a Word document open. We ask a series of open-ended questions. For example:
- Walk me through your family background.
- How would you describe your parents?
- What motivated or inspired you during childhood?
- What prompted you to pursue your line of work?
- Describe some of the influences that led to your current career?
Interview questions may or may not have anything to do with the ultimate products we create. We’re looking for themes in the person’s story. As the client responds to questions, we probe, asking further questions.
Through this interview process, we get to know more about the client. We learn about the past. The client’s past decisions led to current circumstances. We learn more about what the client values, and what the client wants to accomplish through the publishing effort.
- Some clients aspire to build a digital publishing effort that will grow an existing business;
- Some clients want to launch a new business, and the digital publishing initiative may be an integral part of the plan;
- Some clients want to create a digital product that will help them extract value out of intellectual property;
- Some clients want to use digital publishing as part of a comprehensive plan to restore their reputation.
Without an intensive interview, our team could not architect the plan. As stated in the previous article, we have to follow a multi-step process:
- First, we have to define success.
- Second, we have to create a plan.
- Third, we have to set priorities.
- Fourth, we have to execute the plan.
The intensive interview is one of the first steps in the process.
For a typical client, the intensive interview results in approximately 10,000 words of detailed notes. Although undeveloped, the notes reveal a raw, chronological structure. We study those notes to frame a story, a product that will help the client achieve what he wants.
The client knows his story. But our team does not know anything more than what we learn from that interview. It is the intensive interview that helps us articulate a plan. We’ll use the plan to create the product to help our client succeed.
From the notes we gather, we’ll have the raw material we need. We’ll have an idea of how many hours we will need to create the project. Since we have to learn everything as we go, even small projects typically require 100 hours to complete. Larger, comprehensive projects require more than 1,000 hours to complete. The longer the project, the more time it takes to edit, format, and publish.
Until we complete the intensive interview, we do not know whether we’re building a brochure, a pamphlet, a book, or a fully developed digital process that includes ongoing marketing campaigns. That process can include a book of 25,000 words or longer, an interactive course, a podcast, a video program, and an automated system that would be capable of collecting data from users.
We budget 30 hours to complete the intensive interview process. This budget provides us with the time we need for the comprehensive phone interview, the note taking, the structuring, and creating the plan.
The next step in the process would be to create the annotated outline, or the blueprint for the digital product we would create.
How I’m Using this Process:
Earlier, I wrote that I never ask anyone to do anything that I’m not doing. Since I’m the author of my project, however, I do not need to conduct an intensive interview. Although I don’t know my client’s story before I begin the interview, I clearly know my story. I’ve lived it. I also know how I intend to use the digital products I create.
Although I don’t have to complete an intensive interview to develop a digital product of my own, I still need to adhere to a plan. I need to develop an annotated outline that I can use as a tool to build my project.
An annotated outline will guide the publishing project. Below you will see a sample, as I’m creating an annotated outline to teach about my experiences with the FTC. It’s the same type of annotated outline that our team would create for a client. The outline would allow us to define success.
This process gives a client a good idea of what to expect. And the client can hold me accountable each step of the way.
The Annotated Outline
To people that have never written long-form content, the idea of authoring a book—or a course—can seem daunting. Other than people that work in careers such as law or journalism, few people have the need to write documents of more than a few hundred words. In contrast, a book-length manuscript may range between 20,000 and 150,000 words. The process requires hundreds, or potentially thousands of hours to complete.
Writing projects in excess of 10,000 words require time, planning, and work. Authors need time to architect the project and to draft the project. Then they need time to edit the project over and over again. The process includes time for rewriting entire chapters. Jim Collins, the well-known author of business books, including the bestseller Good to Great, wrote that he tries to stick to a budget of finishing one page per day for books he writes.
Why so long?
Writing the first draft of a manuscript is only the start. The real art is in re-writing, editing for flow, and removing redundancies. By the time an author gets to the eighth chapter, he forgets what he wrote in the second chapter.
Like any other complex project, a plan can help to complete the task of authoring a book-length manuscript. That plan should provide a clear understanding of what the author aspires to accomplish.
Our team creates annotated outlines us stay on course. The more time we invest to outline the project, the more effectively we’ll be. Our outline should give us a good idea of what we will have once we complete the project.
When we collaborate with clients, we rely upon notes we gathered during the intensive interview. Those notes give us ideas. We develop those ideas into building blocks that become chapters for a book, a course, or both.
As an example, I’m using this module to show the annotated outline I created to write:
- Resilience: How to Recalibrate After Losing $5 Million in Assets to the FTC
I’ll use this digital product as a tool to rebuild. It’s an example to show others precisely how the tools we create lead to new opportunities. The side bar of each module includes an opportunity to download a copy of the finished book that grew from the annotated outline.
Below is a sample of an annotated outline we would provide to a client before starting a project, as if I were the client:
The purpose of this project will be to memorialize the series of events that led litigators from the Federal Trade Commission to sue me. Although the settlement did not require me to admit or deny liability, to avoid a potential judgment of $140 million, I agreed to surrender all of my “positive-value assets.” With that settlement, I walked away from assets valued at approximately $5 million. I also lost $3 million in equity that I had built during the first years of my liberty, after release from 26 years prison.
Return on Investment:
I’m not writing for the purpose of selling a book to make money. Rather, I want the book to sell me. By documenting the entire story, I will have a resource to counter mischaracterizations that the FTC has made about me. Further, the book will allow me to show others how to rebuild after a struggle.
Regardless of what successes we build, at any time we can suffer a setback. When that happens, we must be resilient. I intend to use the book as a resource. It will help me teach others the power of using digital assets to restore strength and launch the next phase of the journey.
Resilience: How to Recalibrate After Losing $5 Million in Assets to the FTC
Point of View:
First person story, showing readers thought process and mindset necessary to overcome struggles of rebounding from a financial loss.
- Manuscript: Approximately 20,000 words
- Course: Approximately 15,000 words
- Chapters: All chapters 2,000 to 2,500 words. Include links to supporting documentation to verify statements. Conclude each chapter with critical-thinking exercises
Let the reader know that regardless of where we are, in a moment’s notice we can go from prosperity to struggle. Our mindset can help us overcome, or it can lead us into cycles of despondency.
Show the power of resiliency, offering full transparency that reveals how I use these techniques to overcome. Describe the settlement and why I agreed to sign. Outline the assets I agreed to surrender in order to move on.
Explain the journey, with reflections of imprisonment. Describe the goals I set at the start of the prison journey and how Socrates influenced me. Talk about how a deliberate plan led to earning university degrees in prison, a publishing career in prison, and building an income stream in prison.
Show how I leveraged those resources to open income opportunities upon release. Clear goals influenced career decisions and commitment to community contributions.
Reveal how digital marketing tools helped me to accomplish those goals in prison and beyond. Introduce readers to the investment I made that led to my struggle with the FTC. Show, the intention of building the new brand, and then the devastation of a lawsuit.
Conclude with series of critical-thinking questions to empower readers.
2: Mindset to Invest
Show readers the mindset driving my initial adjustment that led to my investment career. Describe the various deals. Show how publishing opened opportunities. Describe the various steps that led me to grow from a 0-0-0 credit score, to building a portfolio of assets. Leverage led to building equity through a sustainable debt-reduction strategy.
Talk about income opportunities and adjusting to the world. Job opportunities, career development, and business development.
Starting with Global Property Alliance. What did I see?
Creating the Straight-A Guide to identify capable job candidates. Writing the Buyer’s Guide. And launching live-event strategy.
Moving on with Prison Professors and new ventures.
Conclude with series of critical-thinking questions to empower readers.
3: Opportunities to Invest—2018
Invitation to join Buy International as Director of Business Development. Visit Belize in February. Reveal what I see. Link to videos with owners. Describe influences that led to investment ideas.
Show images of the development. Discuss mindset to launch Airbnb initiative. Conversations with Andi lead to Costa Rica. Include testimonials from David Heiman, Darren Christian, Chan Martin, Geoff Richstone, and my sisters.
Discuss entire plan for alternative investments, with videos, book, website, seminars.
Conclude with series of critical-thinking questions to empower readers.
4: FTC Raid
Tell story of the raid. Show how I responded. Conversations with lawyers. Agreeing to sue Newport Land Group to recoup investment.
Introducing Andi to Pierce Bainbridge.
Anger the FTC. Threatens contempt. Subpoena for documents. Show how I complied, and commitment to transparency. Provide links to financial statement and my response. The intervening weeks.
Carole’s reaction to the proceedings, and her fear of losing all. Reducing debt.
Amending the complaint. Securing creditors with deeds of trust.
Becoming a defendant and asset freeze.
Conclude with series of critical-thinking questions to empower readers.
Changing law firms. Lawyer concerns about exposure to criminal charges. Documenting the story of litigation and what I learned from the process.
The cost of litigation, and the value received. Preparing for depositions. Choosing to go pro se.
Story of depositions. Strategy to gather evidence. Show the questions I asked and the responses received. Publish the motions filed and the responses received.
Summary judgment preparation, with link to the filed motion. Help readers understand strategy of summary judgment.
Scott Tucker appeal, and Seventh Circuit decision. Discuss other defendants and Supreme Court. Issue of disgorgement and penalties and injunctions.
Also discuss backup strategy in the event of judgment.
FTC efforts to claw back resources.
Conclude with series of critical-thinking questions to empower readers.
Conversations with lawyers about various options. Risk of further exposure with ideas to isolate my resources. They tell me about laws pertaining to hiding assets, and “straw man” accusations. Exposure to $140 million judgment.
Contemplate pros and cons of trial. Must decide.
Walk away from assets or go forward. Weighing the risk at 55. How to prepare going forward.
Agree to sign. Send the check and move on.
7: Prison Professors and Government Investigations
Planning for crisis management. Writing courses to teach. Using courses to help others understand the methodical approach. Rebuilding assets.
Creating processes to generate leads. Digital marketing strategies to convert those leads into customers. Using social media effectively.
Teaching the market place the value of authenticity, transparency. Have a response ready in anticipation of mischaracterizations. Show how documenting the story can lead to a rebound.
8: Documenting Road Ahead
Full story to show how I was developing a model that led to my being sued. Keep an ongoing journal to show the steps to rebound during the first year after settlement. Offer full transparency to show how digital publishing strategies led to a new career. Teach others how to same.
Launch Your Publishing Project
After our team completes the annotated outline, and the client agrees to advance, we present a fully developed plan. That plan becomes our scope of work. It will result in a written agreement, showing specifically what we will accomplish by the end of the process.
Good agreements make for good collaborations. Bad, or incomplete agreements, lead to misunderstandings. Our team aspires to create good agreements so our clients know what to expect, and our team understands what to deliver.
A clear understanding of what our clients want to accomplish helps our team allocate time to:
Visualize: Understand the project as the client described it.
- (achieved through the intensive interview)
Plan: Engineer the project
- (achieved through the annotated outline)
Prioritize: Build the project
- (work through the step-by-step building blocks)
Execute: Manage the project
- (include the client with agreed-upon updates)
The fully developed scope of work should include agreed upon timelines and accountability metrics. Through this process, the client can hold our team accountable.
Clients may choose from any different plans. For example, some clients task us with:
Creating an annotated outline
A client may have confidence as a writer. He may want help in creating an outline to follow. From the outline, the client may want to take the initiative to write the individual chapters. This limited scope of work will require approximately 30 hours of our team’s time. We allocate that time to conduct our intensive interview, do preliminary research, and draft an outline that the client may follow to write the project.
Writing the Manuscript
In order to write a manuscript, we must conduct the intensive interview and get an agreement on the outline we will follow to write. We must have a word-count budget. Some clients want practical books, in the 20,000-word to 30,000-word range. Others want more comprehensive books, with word counts in the 30,000 to 50,000 range. Some want fully developed books of more than 50,000 words. As an example, Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term is 140,000 words.
The longer the book, the more time it takes for every aspect. Just to read a 50,000-word book would take about five hours. To read for editing and to make changes requires at least 50 hours, and sometimes more than 100 hours. Why? Because the client may require multiple drafts.
Formatting the Manuscript
After writing the manuscript, someone must format the manuscript. We can embed images, media, or interactive elements into digital books. Those tasks require more time. We can publish in paperback so it’s available from an Amazon store. We can publish in PDF so it’s available to send easily. And we can publish online, so people can access the book with the click of a link. Each type of publication requires additional time and may require a different skill set. Our team at Resilient Digital Publishing is prepared to manage the project for clients every step of the way.
Creating an Accompanying Course
The book may be a first step. Some clients always want to have an interactive course to accompany the book. The course may be a way to monetize intellectual property. For example, a client may have a lucrative real estate business. He may have created effective processes to acquire properties, raise capital, manage properties, renovate properties, and flip properties. Others would pay to learn that information.
This person could create a book that highlights successes, and he could create an accompanying course that others could use to replicate the process. He may use a combination of the book and the course to launch a seminar business, or online business.
On the other hand, some people may want a course that they can use for other reasons, such as reputational management, or community service. Our team works with clients to create courses, or we ghostwrite courses that will help the client reach objectives. Those courses can include automated assessments that allow us to collect data on course participants.
Audio / Video Production
The book or course may also include media features. We can create audio files or audio books. We can create podcasts. We can create videos to accompany courses. We can create entire YouTube channels that allow you to provide a more comprehensive experience for your participants. Our team is available to assist you every step of the way, and you can see examples of the work by working your way through the Prison Professors website.
Our team will assist you in creating automations to stay connected with your audience, or including customer relationship management programs (CRM), like the one we use at Prison Professors.
For example, we can create a series of assessments to gather information from the people you serve. Those automations may help your team understand how to serve your customers better. Our team assists people that have been charged with a crime. We create assessments that ask the prospective visitor what stage of the proceedings they’re in. Those assessments help our team send messaging that is more appropriate, given the prospects specific stage in the process. We can also create automated email campaigns. Those campaigns may go out in sequences, or they may be broadcasted instantaneously in response to a current event.
Our team works with clients to manage social-media campaigns. If we can profile your prospective customer, our team may be able to help you find that person on the Web. With Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and YouTube, people may click a link and learn more about your products. With Google Adwords, people may search for a specific subject, and come directly into your funnel. With television or radio, we may be able to broadcast your message to a wide net. They may visit your digital platform that we design with hopes of converting those people into customers.
Our team is available to collaborate with our clients. We aspire to deliver the product they want.
For an example of a fully developed product, click the free sample book that is available in our sidebar. Or visit our store and order one of our books. Your order will provide you with a sample of how our team can work with you to:
- Design a digital product to accomplish your goal
- Create a digital product that exceeds your expectations
- Build a platform that allows you to monetize your intellectual property
- Integrate your platform with an Amazon store so that others can find your product
- Create automations that allow you to stay connected with your customers
- Create campaigns that will bring more customers into your funnel
If that makes sense to you, contact us our team today.