Episode #15: The Proof of Concept Stage (Intro to Book Writing Mini-Series, Part 2)

DRIVEN: A podcast for modern entrepreneurs. The Proof of Concept Stage (Intro to Book Writing Mini-Series, Part 2)

In today’s episode, we’re bringing you the second of our 3-part mini series on an introduction to book writing. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive on the most important part of book writing: the proof of concept stage! We’ll then finish the show with a weekly actionable tip!

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Welcome to Driven; a show about business, life, and wellness from two confident, curious women who are pulling back the curtain on what it’s like being an entrepreneur. Each week, join hosts Diane Sanfilippo and Cassy Joy Garcia talk about being your best, showing up for your dreams, and kicking self-doubt to the curb.

Diane is a business whisperer, best-selling author, and plant-hobbyist based in San Francisco. Cassy Joy is the founder of www.FedandFit.com, best-selling author, and casserole enthusiast. She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Diane Sanfilippo: In today’s episode, we’re bringing you the second of our three-part miniseries on an introduction to book writing. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive on the most important part of book writing; the proof of concept stage. We’ll then finish the show with a weekly actionable tip.


  1. What’s on my plate [2:24]
  2. Shop Talk: Book writing proof of concept [15:46]
  3. Shop Talk: Application of proof of concept [24:36]
  4. Shop Talk: What to do if you don’t have a large audience [38:55]
  5. Shop Talk: How to know if your concept worked [45:09]
  6. Shop Talk: What if your concept falls flat [46:43]
  7. Tip of The Week: Mini eBook [57:35]

Cassy Joy: Today’s show is brought to you by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners by focusing on bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes a whole-food, properly prepared, and nutrient dense diet as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s innate ability to heal.

Throughout their programs, students learn a wide-range of educational tools and techniques to identify and correct nutritional imbalances and deficiencies in their clients, and to launch a successful career in holistic nutrition. The NTA produces like-minded practitioners and consultants that we endorse and consider colleagues in the health and wellness space. Registration for the February class is now open through January 31st. And seats are already filling up quickly. You can learn more, and save your seat by going to www.NutritionalTherapy.com. Don’t forget to mention our name, The Driven Podcast, on your application.

1.  What’s on my plate [2:24]

Cassy Joy: Next up is What’s on My Plate. In this segment, we’re talking about what’s happening in our businesses, and in our lives for the week. What do you got going on, Diane?

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, as I look at you, looking at me looking at you; it’s sweater weather! And I feel like that’s an SNL skit. I definitely saw a meme or a video going around about it a couple of weeks ago. And Cassy and I; we both sat down to record today in our respective states across the country, and turtleneck sweaters. So I’m feeling cozy. I bought a bunch of new sweaters. And yeah, I’m getting into it. I feel like I haven’t gotten new sweaters in a few years.

Cassy Joy: Where did you get your sweaters from?

Diane Sanfilippo: I went ham at Banana Republic.

Cassy Joy: Nice.

Diane Sanfilippo: I just have a thing with their colors and their fabrics. I just kind of go in there, and I’m like; what do you got for me today?

Cassy Joy: Have you ever shopped Everlane?

Diane Sanfilippo: I have followed them on social media, on Instagram, and it’s been on my mind to do that. Because isn’t it a sustainable type of brand?

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: But, it was an impulsive; I want sweaters today, vibe.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Go with what you know.

Diane Sanfilippo: And they had a 40% off sale. And I was like; ok, I’ll take this. But, I saw that you got a bunch of sweaters from there. And I was interested.

Cassy Joy: I did. I love them. The sweater I’m wearing right now is Everlane. I also got a couple from Nordstrom top shop, had a couple. Which is the opposite of sustainable. {laughs} As long as I keep it for a long time and wear it for a long time. The only problem with Everlane is, if my husband tries to be helpful and do the laundry, then they turn into sweaters for Grayson. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Feel free to donate any to Harper, as she is now wearing clothes.

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s our dog. For those listening.

Cassy Joy: I will.

Diane Sanfilippo: she looks larger on social media than she is in real life; don’t we all.

Cassy Joy: She’s teeny.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing} People always think I’m going to be really tall, just because I’m loud and bossy. But I’m 5 foot 4. So anyway, what’s going on over here; I mentioned, I think, last week about our latest round of Balanced Bites meals going in for testing and the scaling process. Did I talk about that last week, I can’t remember?

Cassy Joy: You touched on it.

Diane Sanfilippo: So, then in the past week since we last spoke, the stage that we were at was I was providing mockups for how I want; we call them trays. Each little container that the meal is in. How I want the food to look in the trays. So the kitchen is asking how should this look. And it’s two separate kitchens. So they need a standard so that each kitchen can make something that looks almost exactly the same. I mean, it’s real food and real people putting it in the tray, so there’s going to be some slight variation there. It’s not coming off of this machine line, stamp it and whatever. It’s all very hands on.

So I had this day last week where I went into the gym; my body was not agreeing with me, and I got really angry about it and I was basically like; I guess I’ve worked 5 days in a row. I should probably take a day off. That’s what happens to me; I kind of get forced into the day off if I don’t take it. And what I ended up doing was mostly watching Bravo. But also, at the same time, working on these little mockups of how I want the food to look in the tray. And it was really fun to kind of pull my graphic design skills up to the top, and draw this. Draw for the kitchens; here’s how I want it to look.

And they’ve actually gotten a kick out of it. I had somebody message me who works in one of the kitchens, and she was like; oh my gosh. This was so cool, how did you do this? I’m like, well I was a graphic designer many years ago. I can’t draw on paper. I couldn’t draw this stuff for you by hand. But I can make the little shapes, and make it look like food, and color it in, and all of that. So that was really fun. And I’ve shown people sneak peaks on social media.

But that’s actually part of the process; saying, this is my vision for how this dish will look when somebody gets it. Because a lot of it is kind of out of my hands. I can’t dictate every little detail, because they’re going to scale a recipe that we might make 4 to 6 servings, they’re going to make 100 servings. And then they’re going to multiply that every week by however many they need to make for the orders.

So, it’s a really interesting process. So this week we should actually be getting, towards the end of the week, two boxes. We’ll be getting a box from each kitchen of the first round test of this next 10 meals. So I’m really excited. We did not buy a ton of groceries because we knew we’d be getting, essentially, 20 meals into our house at some point this week. I think it might not be until the end of the week. But very excited to see where we land on the first shot with these. We’ll provide feedback. We’ll get a second round, etc. So that’s going to be happening this week. And it’s just really fun, and that’s part of the process.

And then in some other news, quickly, the Healthy Holiday eBook; that’s something that I created years ago. I think I made an eBook called Healthy Holiday Recipes or something like that. And then I think we called it Practical Paleo Holiday for a minute. We’ve just kind of converted it to Healthy for the Holidays for all encompassing. It’s a bunch of recipes. Some of them are from my existing books. Some of them are totally new holiday recipes. There’s like a ham, and some ginger carrots and things like that that I made exclusively for the eBook. Then there’s a bunch of tips for being around friends and family who might not agree with what you want to eat and all of that. And that’s a really fun thing to be able to offer at the holiday time as something free that people can come and get who are going to become part of our Balanced Bites insiders email list.

And the note I want to give you guys about that is; if you create a resource, even if you made it 5 years ago, you can reuse it. You can improve upon it. You can expand upon it. You don’t need to just say; well, I made it five years ago, people already have it. Most people who are paying attention to your work today probably don’t have it. So, that’s something that I’m really excited for people to get their hands on. I actually printed a copy of it; and it was very expensive to do that, so I don’t recommend doing that. But I printed a copy of it so I could show people on social media; here’s what’s in the eBook. So that’s kind of fun.

And the last thing; we have our team retreat coming up. So that is for team Balanced Bites. It’s going to be a group of, I think, 6 of us altogether here in San Francisco. We’re mostly going to be doing team building, relationships, enneagram work. Our team is essentially me as an 8, two 6s, and three 9s. Which is so fascinating. I can’t wait to see how this kind of plays out. But it’s going to be really fun to have us all talk about how we all work together. So that will be fun. And we’re going to do some planning for the year, which I think I mentioned before. And we’ll talk more about that after we do it, as well.

So, what is going on over in San Antonio?

Cassy Joy: Well, we are getting ready to hire; I just posted the job application today. So if you follow me on social media, you’re going to know what day we’re recording this. But we are hiring a junior copy editor! Magical unicorn.

Diane Sanfilippo: Wohoo!

Cassy Joy: I was chatting with the team yesterday. So this means we’ll close out the year. There will be four full time team members. And at Fed and Fit, I started off with everybody as a 1099 contractor. We can talk about this one day and expand upon it, but I would want to know if I were listening right now. Everybody comes in now as a W2 employee, and this is a full-time position. It’s unique; I know a lot of new, younger companies, very in my vein, are doing a lot of remote work. Something that is really important, though, to the culture of our organization is we’re local. We’re here in San Antonio, we like to look at each other. Really, we have found that it improves our work a lot; the quality of our work.

So, the application is probably still up on www.FedandFit.com if you want to read through and just see how we write job applications. I mean, if you’re looking for a job, you’re welcome to read it and possibly apply. But just to get an idea of how we put those descriptions out there, you’re welcome to see it. At the very top bar on www.FedandFit.com, I think it says join our team.

This is an interesting conversation; and I think it would be something neat to talk about one day, Diane, here in depth. But in this process of hiring now a third full time team member, I am giving the mental space and preemptive planning to direct report structure of Fed and Fit. Because what I have seen is, I’ve seen a lot of companies go through major periods of growth, and then have to rewrite the book. And let’s say the CEO or the founder, which is myself. That’s you. They get to a point where they have too many direct reports, and they spend most of their triage and management without necessarily; the phrase, “I was so busy doing my job that I wasn’t doing my job.” And so then they have to reorganize their work chart, and people who used to report them directly feel like they get a demotion.

So, in order to; I’m trying to learn lessons from afar from my friends and colleagues and other businesses who are currently going through this, and try to just build that with intention from here. So this junior copy editor, for example, will not be a direct report to me. They will direct report to Amber Golden, who is our managing editor. And it just makes sense to go ahead and start building out a work chart in that way. If it were very much a free; everybody’s friends, we’re all in this thinktank together in practice. But I want to make sure I’m clear with that from the beginning so we maybe hopefully can avoid some of those pains later on.

We’re also, on a personal front, interviewing personal nannies here at home; professional nannies, I should say. I meant to say professional nannies. When Gray was born, we really just went the babysitter route, and we kept hiring the babysitters we liked over and over again. Sometimes between 20 and 25 hours of childcare, especially me writing the book. Sometimes it was a little bit more. And it’s just time. It’s time for a nanny, time for a real house professional. Someone to come in. And they will also be doing house management, so that’s really exciting. Things like grocery shopping, meal prepping.

We had an interview recently, and she said; “You know, it’s really helpful if you could give me an idea of what you would like me to cook for the week.” And Austin gives her a copy of Cook Once, Eat All Week.

Diane Sanfilippo: Funny you should ask!

Cassy Joy: {laughing} He gave her a copy of Cook Once, Eat All Week, and was like here you go. Cassy will probably just pick a week, and then the shopping list is ready for you. The prep is ready for you. It just makes it so easy.

Google SEO efforts are starting to pay off. I know we talked about this on a previous episode, but I wanted to give a quick recap. So we’ve been putting into practice some of what we learned in that SEO class with, of course, triaging old content but also in the new content that we’re putting out there, we’re being really purposeful with it. And Diane, we had a major OMG moment. My heart actually stopped for a second, because Amber messaged on our Fed and Fit team thread. She goes; oh my gosh! And then she didn’t elaborate very quickly, and I was like, “What’s broken!” She’s not an alarmist.

We published a recipe and 24 hours later it was ranked number 10 on Google for chicken and rice. Which is a major category. And at number 10, it has 22,000 organic searches a month. Which I think that’s at number 10; maybe it’s number one. Either way; an unbelievable amount of opportunity there. And it was just so affirming that we’re on the right track and we’re doing the right things. Google game will constantly change, but we’re using it as a way to make sure we’re answering questions even better than we were before, not necessarily trying to hack the system.

So that’s about it. One really last quick note; we’re launching a new secret project, all about self-care. And it will be a club. It will be private. It will be super fun. And I’ll tell you all about it when it’s ready! But that’s taking up a bunch of my mental real estate right now. And I just can’t wait to tell you about it.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. I had an update that I was supposed to share about Google stuff. I’m still not; I don’t know as much as Cassy does at all about all of this search stuff, because she went to school for it.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: A couple of weeks ago, and I did not. But Candace, who is on team Balanced Bites, she set up the Google search console, and it will be a few days before we can get to analytics. But she was listening to our episode, and it reminded her to let me know. So we’re getting on top of that for the meals and the spices websites. Because, like you, you’re making a new site for Cook Once, right?

Cassy Joy: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: Once you then expand to multiple sites, it’s like; wait a minute. Now I have to deal with {laughs} figuring out what people are finding us for through all these different sites. So it’s really; whoo. I’ve been like a freight train and we’re building some tracks now.

Cassy Joy: That’s so exciting. Build some lanes, try to not compete with yourself. I love it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really good. So thank you for being on top of that, because it pushed me to get on top of it.

2.  Shop Talk: Book writing proof of concept [15:46]

Diane Sanfilippo: Now it’s time for Shop Talk. In this segment, we talk about topics that are on both our minds and yours. We’ll cover all sides of the issue, and hopefully land somewhere concise, actionable, and helpful.

Cassy Joy: Today, we are talking shop about proof of concept for writing a book! And if you missed the first part of this series, we really strongly encourage you go back and listen to it. Part one, which is episode 14 of Driven. We covered a birds’ eye view of book writing, along with, Diane and I had a really honest conversation about the pros and cons about the entire book writing process. So I would definitely listen to that first. We’re jumping into the conversation partway here.

So today we’re diving into what is arguable the most important part of the process; the part that can really have the biggest impact on the success of your book and the massive efforts to pull it all together and breaking it up into two stages, the proof of concept and workshopping.

So to kick it off, the proof of concept stage. Part one. I wrote these notes down, and I just really want to hear Diane’s take on it. Diane; could you tell us, if someone is listening and they’re like; ok, I think I know what you mean by a proof of concept, but I’m not quite sure how that applies when it comes to book writing. Could you describe it? What is a proof of concept?

Diane Sanfilippo: So the way that I approach this; and I know we talked about this when you were talking about Cook Once, Eat All Week. And it’s something that, of course, I considered with Practical Paleo and the 21-Day Sugar Detox books and Keto Quick Start. The proof of concept is just; am I solving a problem that people have and that people at large have identified themselves is a problem they want to solve. Because you might think that you’re solving a problem, but if other people haven’t said; hey, I have this problem. Then that’s going to fall flat, right? Because it’s a great idea, but you haven’t proven that somebody is saying; I have this problem.

So, that’s really what the proof of concept is. It’s this moment where you’re able to see that you’ve got a solution and there are people. And hopefully many people, not just yourself. Truthfully; if you have the problem that you’re going to solve, chances are there are lots of people out there that also have it. And we’ll talk about this more as we go on. But there’s, of course, this part of it where you do need to make sure that you’re able to communicate with those people. Because if you’re in a little bubble, and you’re not able to reach those people, that’s going to be challenging.

But just the proof of concept is; am I solving a problem? Is it a problem that other people have? Hopefully a lot of other people have. And have those people identified for themselves? Have they said; I have this problem?

Cassy Joy: I love that. I love the way that you put that. And we did touch on this in the first episode in this series; was, why would you write a book, and if you’re not writing a book to solve a problem just don’t expect it to go anywhere. Give a copy to your mom, and that’s probably about it. Because if you really are writing it to be a business tool that’s going to monetize hopefully. Right? You’re going to earn a profit off it, and it’s going to help you launch new areas of your business, you have to be seen as a trusted resource who is solving new and innovative problems. So I love that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right. And it sort of has to have the ability to have legs aside from your own voice and your own platform. So in thinking about what it is; can someone else quickly and easily describe it to someone else? So for example, with Cook Once, Eat All Week, someone might say; this has been an amazing resource for me to make meal prepping so much easier. Just a very simple way for someone to describe it to someone else.

With Practical Paleo, I did not create this name, but other people said; this is the paleo bible. If you’re getting one book about paleo. Or if you have any interest in paleo whatsoever, this is the book that you get. It’s like; what’s the language other people would use to describe it? Perhaps you won’t know that day one. Of course, I didn’t think of Practical Paleo as the paleo bible, but that’s what other people decide to call it. So then you can listen to what other people are saying; how they’re sharing it with others.

So Cassy, why don’t you let us know; fill us in on how you start proofing a concept. Because you are much closer to this whole process right now. With Cook Once, Eat All Week, you’re writing the second in that series right now, right? You’re kicking that off. So when you were proving the concept, what does that look like? How do you start doing that?

Cassy Joy: So, to prove a concept, how you start doing this is you really need to start getting this content and this idea that you have out in front of people. And in the two stages we’re talking about today; the proof of concept stage and the workshop stage. The proof of concept stage is actually the wider net that you’re going to cast between these two. And you’ll know what I mean when I talk about the workshopping. But at the beginning of this, you want to cast as wide of a net as possible. You want to get as much feedback as possible. You want to get it out in front of as many people as possible. How do you do that?

So let’s say you have a brand-new idea on how to take care of your house plants, and you want to write a book. And I’m sure this exists. I didn’t do any research on this beforehand. But let’s say, you say my pain has been that I don’t know how to navigate the houseplant world. I’m super overwhelmed by it. The resources that are out there are way too detailed for me. It’s more than I ever want to know. I just want to know how often should I water these plants, what kind of pot should I put them in, how do I troubleshoot it, what room should they go in. What are the benefits. Which one should I put in the baby’s room? Which one do I not put on the floor if I have a dog? Right?

So you want this kind of resource out in the world. It’s a super passionate hobby, or passion of yours. So the way that you prove this concept, and you think; maybe this could be a book one day. That’s the beginning stage. And yes, I want to put the energy into it. You would get the information out in front of as many people as possible. And with this book, you want to give them a tool that helps them figure out the right houseplants for their home. That actually helps them go through a process; some sort of an assessment. At the end of this book, we’re going to help you figure out the three plants that you need in your life that are perfect for you.

So maybe your proof of concept is an eBook. Where you giveaway maybe an outline of this concept. It doesn’t have all the details that you would eventually put into the final thing. But an outline of it, and you give them the assessment. Maybe it is an email series. If you have a sizeable email list, anywhere between 100-plus people, I would consider sizeable. Especially if you have a reliable large segment of those opening your email. I think you could do an email series there. You could say; hey, hop on, because in January I’m launching this houseplant guide. It’s going to be five emails, and I would love to know what you think about it. I put a lot of work into it.

Maybe it’s an Instagram campaign. Maybe you don’t have a big email list. Maybe you don’t have a blog with a whole bunch of web traffic. Maybe it’s an Instagram campaign, and you’re like; “Hey, I’m teaching you about houseplants. We’re going to do it. We’re going to all feel confident. We’re going to take care of our plants. And then we’re going to be here to support each other once we buy our three plants.” So maybe it’s something like that. You give it a unique hashtag. You give it a rallying point. And you help people through this process. Or maybe it’s a web series on a blog, or your website.

And that’s what Cook Once, Eat All Week was. We had accompanying eBooks that went along with it, but that’s what we did. And like I said; you want to cast as wide a net as possible. At this point, you’re not telling people; I think this could be a book. Right? At this point, you’re saying; hey guys. I have a great solution for you. And I want to give it to you. Maybe you’re selling it. Maybe it’s a program; a nutrition program you’re selling. Or maybe you’re giving it away; either one, it’s up to you. I tend to do all of my proof of concepts as free. That’s not fair; my first book, my proof of concept was my nutrition practice.

But for the most part, if you’re casting as wide a net as possible, you’re going to cast a wider one if it is free or very affordable.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

Cassy Joy: So, I think that this is when you’re like; here is an idea and you just see where it lands. What do you think; is that fair?

Diane Sanfilippo: Definitely. Yep.

Cassy Joy: Ok. So, the next part; I kind of want to just give a little bit more actual examples, not just made up ones about houseplants. I would love it {laughs}.

Diane Sanfilippo: Which I was like; I’m buying that book.

Cassy Joy: Right? I would buy that book.

Diane Sanfilippo: Who is writing that?

3. Shop Talk: Application of proof of concept [24:36]

Cassy Joy: {laughs} I know. I would love to chat about how Diane and I both worked through a proof of concept for; I have two books on the market. I was going to ask Diane to pick two of her many books that she could focus on where she has a really good rallying point around her proof of concept. Do you want me to kick it off, or do you want to go first?

Diane Sanfilippo: I could do that.

Cassy Joy: Go for it.

Diane Sanfilippo: So the two that I’ll pick will be Practical Paleo, which was my first book, and the most successful book that I’ve had. But the rest of them have been very successful, just comparing them is not apples to apples. But I’ll talk about Practical Paleo, since that was the first and most successful. And I’ll talk about Keto Quick Start, since that was the most recent.

With Practical Paleo, how I proved the concept for that; I would say that was kind of a multi-pronged thing. So we’re going to be talking about the idea of workshopping a concept later. But I would say that a lot of what I did with Practical Paleo was through actual workshops where I was teaching around the country.

Initially, I was blogging about different topics that were kind of in the paleosphere. Talking about why bacon is not bad for you. Touching on all the points. Really taking my voice and applying it to this paleo world. So this was back in 2009, 2010 that I had started doing that with the blog. And that’s part of the proof of concept. Is my voice a voice that people want to hear? Is this point of view something that provides value, that provides a touch point that makes sense for people? Am I able to explain things to them about this thing that I’m passionate about in a way that they understand and that resonates? So blogging can be part of your proof of concept. Is it something that people share? Is it something that they say thank you for writing this, this helped me understand; etc.?

So that was part of it for Practical Paleo. Part of my proof of concept was also looking at what existed in the marketplace and identifying my sort of special, I say with air quotes, “gifts”. What I am best in the world at; which, again, that does not mean the actual world. This is like, if you worked at Lululemon, and you go through the whole personal development stuff that they make you do, and you do this hedgehog. What is your special sauce?

And part of my special sauce is taking complex topics and boiling them down into something that’s easy to understand along with simple language that my mom can read and understand. I made my mom read Practical Paleo before the editor was done with this. Do you understand this, mom? No, this part I don’t understand. I’ll rewrite it. And also doing that with some visual aids, because it’s really important to me that people can see what it is that I am explaining, if I think that will help.

So seeing what was out there in the world, there was a lot of science on paleo, and books. Like Loren Cordain’s book, and Rob Wolf’s book had come out. I think Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint; {laughs} I almost called it the Primal Solution; the Primal Blueprint was out. And then the first paleo cookbook, Everyday Paleo, was out. So what I was seeing was this kind of wide-open space of a person who would be able to marry those two things. Someone who could stand in a room and explain both, how food works in your body. How your blood sugar is affected, your digestion, etc. And also, how to chop an onion, and how to make your food taste good, and how to meal prep. So it was kind of this sweet spot of; I’m noticing that people want to know some of the why. But mostly want to know the how. And if I can provide both of those angles in one resource, then; I don’t know. I think that will be a good thing. I think people will find that useful.

So that was part of the background of that. I was just feeling like there was a way to teach people both of those things at once so that they could feel like they got the why and the how. And even if they only wanted the how; and then in six months they wanted to understand the why, they could kind of flip back in the first part of the book. So a little bit of that is just my own; I don’t know, I was playing into my strengths and saying; I think I can do these two things at once.

So, a lot of it was in the workshop stage, so we’ll get to that. So that was some of the background on Practical Paleo. And also, leaning on my education and experience as a nutrition consultant, creating month-long or even week-long meal plans for people. Focusing on the nutrients that they need for different health concerns, how to find those nutrients in food. How to find them in supplements if you’re not getting them in food. And that was definitely a little piece of; I don’t know. Just a very unique offering that I don’t know that that’s in many books period. What I did in the meal plans for Practical Paleo, whether or not you eat paleo. I’m not sure that that exists at large. These therapeutic meal plans for 14 different potential goals, you know? I don’t know that that exists. So that was something I just had a vision for.

So then with Keto Quick Start, in terms of proving the concept for that, I was definitely on the tail end of what I would call the wave of people looking for keto resources. So very different angle, or very different approach. Because with paleo, I was one of the first paleo books. Maybe within the first 5 or 6. And with Keto Quick Start, I’m; I don’t know, I would consider one of the last in this last wave. So that released in January 2019. And the trend is definitely on the downfall.

But I saw the space, and I saw the questions that people were asking me and the sort of complaints or arguments; the folks who were out there talking about what it is. So in proving that I had a concept that was valuable; a solution that people wanted. You were part of this, too, Cassy. You were like; I know my dad wants to eat keto, but he thinks that eating kale is going to be a problem. And I was like; well, there’s my proof of concept. I have known about and have executed on eating a keto diet almost as long as I was eating paleo. So what I know of keto is real, whole foods. It’s leafy greens. It’s beef and ghee and any other types of proteins and fats, and tons of greens. And this negligible amount of carbohydrate from a lot of leafy or crunchy vegetables is not the problem, and we can still be in ketosis.

So I saw, again, that it was this opening of a perspective that was not being served in the space. So to me, what I kind of have as a note here, is in the paleosphere, this was different. I could see the questions that people had, and I could hear what they weren’t getting answers to up front. And then with the keto space, it was more; I’m listening to what the behavior is, and what the holes are after lots of folks have already helped people on this topic. And now I’m kind of coming in and saying; ok, here’s a puzzle piece that is missing. This perspective, and this approach, I think it’s missing. I think I can provide that. And I would never have spent the amount of time and energy on this book if I didn’t think that it really served a need to put that puzzle piece in there and be a resource that specific people could find and use.

And you and I have talked about this; nutritionists who want people to know about keto, if they recognize that it has a therapeutic approach or intervention for some folks, they’re not going to refer people to a cookbook that never addresses a lot of the underlying health questions and challenges and concerns. That’s just not a comprehensive enough resource. So if I can create a resource that solves a problem in a different way after what I put in air quotes “listening” to the behavior that’s out there. I’m watching the way people are executing the keto diet, and I’m like; that’s not how it has to be. I’m not going to tell people, you know, you’re doing it wrong. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Especially if there are people out there saying; this doesn’t seem healthy. I’m like; well, that’s because that’s how they’re choosing to do it. But there is another way.

So it was kind of these two really different angles on approaches to these ways of eating. And that’s how I approached it with each of those books.

Cassy Joy: I like that. You saw a pain point. A very distinct pain point in both of those arenas. And your proof of concept was really a culmination of your years of experience and research and presenting and then just being out in front of the community and asking great questions and researching; what do people need and want?

Diane Sanfilippo: Right. And being in that community is helpful, right? I wouldn’t say I was in the keto community, necessarily, as an educator for the last several years. But I was part of it personally long before, actually, most of these books came out, I was executing on that way of eating. So I had a unique perspective, and a unique way that I approached it. And I think people undervalue often their unique approach to something. And I think if that worked for you, and you found it helpful, there’s a good chance lots of other people will, too.

Cassy Joy: Yep.

Diane Sanfilippo: So what about for you with the Fed and Fit book, and now with Cook Once, Eat All Week?

Cassy Joy: So with Fed and Fit, my proof of concept, I was really slow to press go on that book. Because there were; there were so many, and there are right now. If you’re listening and you think you have a nutrition book in you, there are a lot. There’s a lot out there that are answering a lot of great questions. And I did not want to just publish a book. I did not want to just put more noise out there, having an idea of the amount of work involved, I wanted to make sure it was really going to be useful and unique. So I spent over four years practicing, as a nutrition consultant, working with clients one on one, helping them to figure out. Because I learned the hard way; I learned the long, hard, slow way, personally in my own health journey. And I wanted to spend time helping to coach people to arrive at a confident place of health and wellness where they wouldn’t yoyo out of it. Mostly around mindset work. But realizing the rest of the lifestyle factors that went into it.

And what I did was, in my nutrition practice, I used that one on one coaching as a way to prove the concept. Because what I wanted to figure out was; is there a way to boil down an 80% solution that will work for everybody, and then be able to give them a tool or a compass to allow them to fill in the custom 20% to get them to where they need to be. So that was my goal. That was what was on my heart. And that’s what I was researching and trying to figure out.

And in the four years, I started to see trends in my clients. In their successes. I started to put together; what does this 80% look like for everybody, and then how do I help them figure out that extra 20%? So that turned into the Fed and Fit project. So the concept started to prove itself even more. And this, again, goes into the workshop stage, which is the next part. But that’s when I really started to put the rubber to the road, and said; let’s do a beta group, and see if I can do this at scale with a large group of people and expand past a one on one coaching. So that was Fed and Fit.

For Cook Once, Eat All Week, the proof of concept was really; like Diane is saying, if you have a problem, and you have a solution for it and it’s working for you, there’s a really good chance that it will work for other people. Meal prep and getting dinner on the dang table was a pain in the neck. And it was hard. And I love to cook. I love to cook. And I understand the importance of healthy, home cooked meals. I’m not missing any of those pieces. But why is it still so hard and so overwhelming? So I had to be more efficient in the kitchen. And that’s where this method was really born from. I was studying meal prep. Studying the methods that were out there, thinking; that’s just not going to work. It’s still too much work. It’s too much work. I’m going to be so bored with all that food, and it’s going to cost me too much money.

So I solved the problem for myself, started testing the concept of a really efficient kitchen in also like a holiday eBook is really where it really started. We had the holiday feast eBook, which also came out about; I guess, four or five years ago now. And we’re going to rebrand it; to your point of reusing content. But we’re going to rebrand it Cook Once Holiday. Because it really is a very, very similar concept. But I started testing this idea of being really efficient in the kitchen. Wound up on meal prep. I wound up then building it in as a maternity leave.

I’ve talked about it here a few times, but we did four weeks of this meal prep on www.FedandFit.com. And again, I was giving it away. I was casting a wide net. At the end of each week, we gave away an eBook with shopping lists and all the recipes complied. This was an email opt-in; the main goal in this activity for us was yes, to solve a unique problem on meal prep. Thinking; honestly, we thought this might work for the four weirdos that are just like me. Really! I really genuinely; I hoped it would be a unique solution for everybody, but I didn’t have massive expectations. And I thought; maybe we can grow our email list by giving away this really great gift. And we did. We had almost I think 8,000, 9,000 people join our email list in one month. Which was phenomenal for us. That was record breaking.

So we did that; and how I knew that it was, we’ll talk about this, how do you know if it’s a success in a second. But I knew it was successful and needed more attention when we had that email growth and our readers started saying; more. This cannot be over. You can’t just give me four weeks and a bonus week and call this done. Because I think this could change my life, and I need more. So that’s definitely how we proved that concept.

4. Shop Talk: What to do if you don’t have a large audience [38:55]

Cassy Joy: Ok, I’d love to know, Diane. Could you tell me; what if; you and I have the luxury of 8, 9, 10 years in this industry. Right? We’ve been out there. We’ve been building our email lists. We’ve been cultivating a large community now for years. But what if you don’t have a large audience to poll or tests? What do you do then?

Diane Sanfilippo: OK, so I am digging deep and remembering what it was like when I first started out, when I created the 21-Day Sugar Detox many years ago. I believe it was 2010 that I first created that. And it’s the same approach; you’re just not going to expect thousands of people to respond. You kind of have to assume that your pool of 10 people that you might talk to are still a representative of a larger pool of folks.

But here’s the thing. I think it depends on what kind of business you’re in. And I’m going to approach this from; we are nutrition professionals first and entrepreneurs and all of that. But here’s what I did in the beginning. So take from this what you will. I was working with clients as well, one on one, and I was teaching very small classes. I was teaching anywhere from 10 to 20 people in a room, talking about how to eat a protein rich breakfast so that your blood sugar won’t be all over the place all day, to busy professional women. Or teaching how to read labels to folks in a gym. Again, about 10 or 15 people, maybe.

And I think this comes down to; and maybe this is a bit of an entrepreneurial skill, but being able to dial in and pay attention to the questions that people ask and the level of their awareness or attention to a certain topic. So to your point, Cassy, when you were talking about that plant book, and maybe somebody is a gardening, horticulture, I don’t know the term, expert, and they’re like; how do I prove this concept when I am an expert on this, and I want to tell people about the four types of diseases that can attack your pothos plant. And we’re like; listen. You’re clearly an expert; but the disconnect is in communication, and recognizing that you need to meet people where they’re at.

So if you don’t have a huge audience to poll or test, you need to put yourself into a situation where you have some kind of audience. And I think; this is something I talk about with nutritionists all the time. In particular, nutrition coaches, NTPs, etc. And it’s true of any businessperson. But you need to be interaction with real people in real life in everyday situations who might have the problems that you’re trying to solve.

So if you are like; well, I just got this nutrition certification and I don’t have any clients. You need to pound the pavement. You need to get out there and talk to people in real life. Because the other part that people don’t think about is; even if you have 300 people who might be following you on social media; unless you really know all those people, which you might. You might be teaching fitness classes, and you might actually know all those people. And they might all watch your Instagram stories. But what if you really only know like 15 of them?

You need to get into a situation where the people that you’re talking to are ready and willing to give you feedback and to actually have a conversation so that you can find out what it is that would help them. And I think this is where a bit of a self-audit is important. It doesn’t matter how much of an expert you are on a topic. If you’re not able to effectively communicate solutions to people in a way that they can understand them, then you won’t be creating a resource for them.

So if you notice that your mom doesn’t understand why butter is a better choice than margarine, but you’re trying to talk about the molecular structure of the saturated fatty acid, and that’s like; listen. People are experts on all different things. They are not foolish, or not smart, or any of that just because this is not something that they know. They may not have been passionate about that topic. They may be very passionate and expert level education level on other things that we don’t know about.

So it’s just important that we find that connection of my expertise, and I can communicate it in a way that lands properly. So I guess the long story short here is; you have to get in front of people and be in real life, talking to real people, so that you can see, to your point Cassy, where the rubber meets the road on your ideas. Because if you’re not able to make that translation, it’s not going to matter.

So I don’t actually think that having a huge, large audience to test something with is that important. I think that, of course, getting your message out there to more people always feels great. But everybody starts with one follower. Everybody starts with our mom as our email subscriber. Or our aunt. Or our best friend. Or whoever it is.

So, that’s kind of; you know, that’s what I would say. Just get in the room with real people. And what that’s going to look like for every different person is going to vary. Because your business is going to be a different type of business. So, I gave an example that I think has wide appeal for folks who may be listening to the show. But please feel free to write in if you’re like; here’s the industry that I’m in. Can you give me some ideas of ways that I can be working and in front of people, etc., to try and prove some concepts? We’d be happy to give you ideas. We’re never short on ideas, we just don’t always know who is listening.

Cassy Joy: That’s great.

Diane Sanfilippo: What do you think about that?

Cassy Joy: I love that. That’s a beautiful answer. Because what I really want people to understand is you don’t have to have 8, 5, 6, 3, 27 years of experience, or a cumulative audience to prove a concept, like you said. If you have three people with the same problem as you, and you’re like; I want to solve this and I want to make a business out of it, you could make that work.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it really is all about problem solving. So how do you know if your concept worked?

Cassy Joy: I think that it’s; if people tell you that it helped. If it used the words “life-changing.” And if it’s different from something else out there. That kind of tells you; you’ve got a slam dunk. And be prepared; and we’ll talk about this again in the workshop stage. But be prepared for people to say; oh my gosh. It’s amazing, but… Right? This is not the stage where you’re going to hit a home run. It’s not going to be perfect, and don’t take some of that feedback as a sign that you missed. It just means you might be onto it; you just have to tweak it. So I think you know that your proof of concept works when people are asking for more. They tell you that it helped solve the problem you thought it would help them solve.

And also be open to new problems that you didn’t realize you were solving. With Cook Once, Eat All Week, we did not realize we were solving the grocery budget problem. Didn’t really realize it. Because, we were efficient in the kitchen, our primary goal was being efficient on time. I wanted to give people as much time and mental energy back as possible, while still getting a health, homemade dinner on the table. And in an effort to be efficient in the kitchen; roasting chicken and using that in three different ways, we were also giving them the ability to be really budget conscious. And the notes that have rolled in on that topic have just blown our socks completely off. I mean, the amount of money people are saving with this is just amazing. So be open to other problems you didn’t realize you were solving. And then use that. Build that into your product.

6. Shop Talk: What if your concept falls flat [46:43]

Our last question on this quick section is; Diane, what do you do if it just doesn’t go as planned? You put a concept out there. It falls on deaf ears. And you just; you don’t really know what to do next. You feel like this was it. And it kind of falls flat.

Diane Sanfilippo: Am I the right person to ask? {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I wanted you to answer. {laughs} I know it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Admittedly, not everything that I create turns to gold. I think I do a pretty good job of identifying what it is my audience and readers and whoever; listeners, etc. I don’t like to call people followers. Because the people who follow me on social media are not there because they’re just following. Most of them are readers. Anyway. I think it’s a more respectful term. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: I do too! I don’t really like the term followers or fans. I use readers.

Diane Sanfilippo: Don’t call me follower.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, readers. So, if it doesn’t go as planned. So 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide; I don’t know that I think that went as planned. I mean, I always have bigger expectations for myself and what my work will do, for the most part, than it ever does. I mean, Practical Paleo being the exception to that. It was my first book, and I could not know what it would do. And that, of course, blew my expectations out of the water because I had zero expectations.

But with the 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide, I definitely felt like; and look. It’s an amazing resource. It helps a lot of people. And people are buying it every single week, and using it, and they love it. I don’t know that they’re using it as I intended. A lot of people don’t want to write in the book, because it’s kind of printed on higher quality paper, and it’s a little; you know, they feel a little precious about it. So, I wanted people to get a little more down and dirty with the book. But because of the nature of it, they just weren’t doing that as much.

I was hoping that people would use the prompts that we added for social media, and would use them and post to social and tag us and show us. This is day 7, and this is what it says in the book, and here’s what I’m doing. And I think it just didn’t go as planned because our audience for that program; the generation of people who really flocked to it I think are a bit older. And they are on Facebook; they’re not as much on Instagram. We have huge communities on Facebook, and we don’t really have this huge of a community on Instagram for that program. So, I think I was trying to encourage that engagement, and it just didn’t pan out as I planned or expected.

So what do I do? I just pay attention to what it is that people are using it for. I try my best to honor the people who are there. Because just because it wasn’t many hundreds of thousands of people in the first year buying the book doesn’t mean that the tens of thousands who bought it are any less valuable. So if this is 5 people who bought something instead of what you were hoping as 50 or 500, you have to honor those people. And we’ve talked about this with social media where; if 10 people are watching your Instagram stories; that is 10 people. Those are real people. You know?

So I think you just have to honor who is there. Remember that your ego is not what’s important here. The work that you’re doing is really intended to help people and focus on who it is helping. Don’t worry as much about the people who you didn’t get to help who you thought you would help. And listen to what those people who are there and loving it are saying they love about it, and what they would love more of and what’s working for them. And how it suits their needs.

This is true of, I’m sure, any book on Amazon, for example. You’re going to have negative reviews. It’s not going to be for everybody. Some people are just not going to like it. They’re not going to jive with you. They’re not going to like the way you cook, your flavors. They’re going to disagree with the concept. They’re going to disagree with just paleo in general, or whatever it was, right. That can’t be the part that you really tune into.

I do read, and listen to, what the criticism is to figure out if there is some value in there. Is there something I can learn from it? Is there something this person didn’t understand because I didn’t explain it well? Is there something I could do about that? Or is it just a mismatch? And if it’s just a mismatch, then it is what it is.

I always like to assess the situation afterwards. And if something didn’t go as planned, I like to be very realistic about; were my expectations a little bit out there? Was there something I could have done to do it better? And if there was, I learned that for the next time. And if there wasn’t, then it is what it is. And I also have to take the wins as they’re there. And like I said, value each individual person. If I helped one person get off of their diabetes medication with this book, then it probably was worth the effort. Do you know what I mean?

I think we sometimes just create these real; we’re so focused on the outcome that we really do have to honor the journey and the process and value what we learned and the process of creating this thing. And that’s part of; if it didn’t go as planned, typically that means it didn’t create the result we thought it would, right? But if we could look back at; what did that journey create in me. What did I learn? What am I now better at? What will I do better next time? I think that is what allows us to be in a mindset of growth instead of; I failed. I didn’t sell X number of copies. People didn’t buy the thing, or whatever. We can’t dwell on that very long.

I think you and I are really good at having our moment of a little bit of disappointment in ourselves, and then we really quickly just pull ourselves up and we’re like; moving on. Next.

Cassy Joy: Amen. I think that’s great. I think that’s really, really good. Also, to add onto that. I would say, if your proof of concept didn’t go as planned; like Diane said, it doesn’t mean that you’re not the right person for the job. It doesn’t mean that your idea is wrong. It may mean that you did not identify the problem as succinctly as you thought you had. And you hadn’t really chosen something that was as big of a problem as maybe you thought it was.

So I would use it as an opportunity, then, to ask those five people who did engage. Honoring the folks, to your point, that who are there, who are purchasing, who are participating. If you want to continue; if you have it in you to carry on and improve this, and make it better, and make it even more successful, and offer a better solution for people in the next round and the next rendition, then you need to be able to ask them and say; ok. I know that this was helpful for you because of this, but where could it have been even better. And really allow your audience to help you see what you don’t’ see. We don’t know what we don’t know.

And part of offering a unique solution to a very distinct problem is deciphering some of that dark space. Filling it in and understanding the context. You’re only going to understand it. You’re only going to understand the context and the problems that your readers are actually facing, and your audience is actually facing, is if you ask them. And it’s such a great opportunity to be able to put a tool in their hands that you put time and effort and energy in, and say; ok. I thought I was solving this problem with this tool. What do you see as missing here? And I’ll be they’ll be able to give you some insight that will really enlighten you to the rest of the context. Or at least another piece of it. You’re putting together this huge puzzle.

So I would definitely see it. It’s a process. You might go through this three, four, five times before you may be ready to press go on the next stage of this project. So I would keep that in mind, as well. When you get to the end of it. You could look at my work at Fed and Fit as; we are constantly proving concepts. We are constantly trying.

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally.

Cassy Joy: Right? I know you are too. Constantly trying new things. Every new eBook that goes out. Every new web campaign that goes out; we’re proving a concept on overnight oats right now on a mini format, right? On www.FedandFit.com. It sounds so silly, but we really are. We went in with intention. We think our readers are confused about overnight oats, and they want to know from our perspective; what’s a great, easy, healthy way to get this on the table. And so, offering that as a resource. And who knows where that blossoms. I have no idea what that’s going to turn into. And if it flops, I want to be able to ask people; what did you need from me? How can I improve upon this? So I think that’s a really great work around.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. And the topic of these episodes being around a book; but this proof of concept is something we iterate on all the time with books, with blog posts, with small resources that we might turn into larger ones. And those of you listening; if you’re like; I’m not ready to write a book. The proof of concept really applies to everything. You put out an Instagram post, and if it’s one of your largest, most engaged with post, that’s proving a concept of people who are here want to learn more about this from me. You know? So I think that’s something that’s valuable to use as an iterative process, whether you’re writing a book or not.

Cassy Joy: I agree.

Diane Sanfilippo: It looks like we’re going to have to take the whole workshopping stage into another episode, because doing what we do best, talking shop and filling an hour of time. So I think we should probably give you guys the workshop stage of this in our next episode.

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7. Tip of The Week: Mini eBook [57:35]

Cassy Joy: Next up is Tip of The Week. In this segment, we give you one tip that you can take action on this week to move your business or life forward.

Diane Sanfilippo: OK, this week since we’re talking about writing a book and proof of concept, what I want you to do; don’t get too scared. {laughs} What I want you to do is write a mini eBook. So what this can look like is essentially something that is; oh, how many words? Somewhere between 1000 and 5000 words. That sound good Cassy?

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: She’s nodding along. 1000 is a very comprehensive, non-overwhelming blog post length, I would say. These days, most folks aren’t probably writing always 1000 words. But pretty comprehensive. So that’s several blog posts length type of thing. 1000 to 5000 words. I want you to create a resource that answers questions and solves problems for people that you think you’re trying to answer questions and solve problems for in whatever industry you’re in.

And the reason I’m giving you this action step; this tip, is that for a lot of people, writing down all the stuff that’s in your head, it’s actually a lot harder than it seems. We all think; oh, I have this whole idea for a book. And then you go to sit down to write it, and you’re like; ok, that was only about 2000 words. {laughs} You’re like, I have many more pages to fill.

Or for some of you, you may think you don’t have a lot to say, and then you go to sit down and you’re like; oh my goodness, I filled up those 5000 words already. So make an outline of what it is you want to solve for people. A really brief way to outline this would be an introduction, maybe you have a concept and it has three parts to it that you’re going to cover. And then you’ve got a way to wrap it up with a little conclusion. So maybe it has five little sections; introduction, point one, point two, point three, and then a conclusion. Do you like my writing tip there?

Cassy Joy: Yes, I do.

Diane Sanfilippo: But really get it out there. So if you’re going to teach people about something, and you want to start proving the concept for something like a book, this is a great way to do it. And we both talked about eBooks that we’ve put out in the past. This could be something that you end up using on your website that people decide they’re going to sign up for your email list, and then they’re going to get this resource. Maybe it’s tip about swapping nontoxic products in the home. Three areas you’re going to swap them in the kitchen, your bathroom, and in your pantry. Something like that. Or whatever it is. Just outline that. Get something on paper about 1000 to 5000 words.

And I really would love to see what people are doing with this. So tag us on Instagram. If you’re getting it done, you’re creating something, send it in to us. We will get an email address up soon. So if you want to send something, you can send it just to either of our websites and we will corral it and find it and make sure that we’re getting our eyeballs on it. But that’s the tip of the week.

That’s it for Driven this week. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe in Apple podcast, on Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow us on Instagram @TheDrivenPodcast. Cassy is @FedandFit and I am @DianeSanfilippo. Tune in next week for more on writing a book. We’re going to dive in to talking about ways of workshopping your idea and the time that that will probably take. We’ll see you next week.