He Struggled to Sell 200 Books, Then Became a #1 Bestseller and Coach essay

He Struggled to Sell 200 Books, Then Became a #1 Bestseller and Coach

by Steven C. Roberts

My name is Steven Roberts.

I am a leading nationally recognized college finance expert, #1 Bestselling author, guest on over 600 radio stations and podcast, and have had impact on millions of people. 

But I didn’t start out that way.

When I arrived at college age, my sister was involved in a car wreck. My parents, paying for her medical bills, came to me and said: "There’s no money for college. if you want to go to college, you'll have to pay for it. Good luck." 

I can remember how it felt to want to go to college and not have the money or means to pay for it. I felt scared and anxious because of the uncertainty of not knowing where or how the money would be provided.

After spending literally thousands of hours and putting forth a lot of effort, I was able to finish college with 11 scholarships and grants, 2 prestigious scholarships, being a research assistant and teaching assistant, and other resources to pay for college. I was actually paid more money than what college cost. I had found along the way resources anyone could use. If they followed a specific sequence, anyone could greatly increase the odds of success.

Shortly after finishing college, I was invited to be a scholarship judge. I got to see firsthand the concepts I had come to learn through research and trial and error were actually the very things that judges used to evaluate applications. It was really eye-opening to me to learn both sides of the application process.

My Own Efforts to Help People Learn to Pay for College Went Almost Nowhere

When I got to industry, it surprised me to learn co-workers were spending 15 years paying the equivalent of a second mortgage. I was certain I could help people by teaching them how to pay for college.

I started by writing my book: Winning the Money Game in College—Any Major and Any GPA Can Finish College Debt-Free or Better! I just wanted to make a difference.

I decided to go with a small publisher, where the responsibility to promote the book would fall on my shoulders. I was full of ambition, but I lacked direction (a dangerous combination). 

It's actually embarrassing to admit just how poorly I did at promotion. I contacted bookstores, high schools, and made attempts at radio shows. I was rejected over and over. While I did have some minor successes, I wasn’t making the impact in people’s lives the way I wanted. When a school invited me to speak, people would love my information and I would get testimonials about how the concepts I taught saved people massive amounts of money, but the audience would very rarely buy my book. I didn’t know how to sell or present a presentation to encourage people to buy!

I did have a website, but it was a jumble of ideas I saw other people do. I was spending hundreds of hours but only helping a small number of people. I was spending more time and money than I wanted, and not getting the results I wanted. For all my efforts, I had sold approximately 200 books. I was unknown and definitely not making a difference the way I had anticipated.

I tried over and over to make things better. I kept asking myself, “I just want to make an impact and difference for others. I want to help them pay for college to change their lives. Why don’t people want my book? What am I doing wrong?” It was extremely frustrating.

To add to the misery, I was spending more money than I was earning. My ambitions were not sustainable. I continued to increase my efforts—somehow believing if I could just put more time and effort into the process, that something, anything, would change for the better. Actually, it became worse. The more effort I put in, the more I felt discouraged and like a failure.

Finally, I decided to get some help. That is when I decided to get involved in Bill and Steve Harrison’s Quantum Leap Program.

Learning How to Introduce Myself as an Expert and Use Media "Hooks"

As I was considering being in Quantum Leap, I was actually incredibly apprehensive. The money seemed like a lot, I didn’t know how it would work out, but the thing that made a difference was I found there were multiple coaches in different areas who could help me. Realizing I needed more than help in one area, and that there would be experts that I could speak with personally, that to me seemed like the best course of action. I signed up and decided to take the plunge.

When I flew out to Pennsylvania, I met with Steve Harrison, and one of the very first things he taught me was to introduce myself as an expert. He helped me craft the statement I still use to this day: “I am a leading nationally recognized college finance expert and author.” Steve said we first had to give ourselves a title that would reflect our expertise: "The title is one of the things that sets you apart from others." It honestly felt weird to be announcing myself as an expert when I certainly didn’t feel like one at the time.

The next thing Steve taught was that in order to get the media’s attention, you have got to give them a hook. “What’s a hook?” I asked myself. “A hook,” Steve explained, “is a way to help catch the media’s attention — something that will help draw them in. A hook separates you from the rest of the groups of people vying for the media’s attention.”

I realized I was greatly missing hooks in my own promotions. Up to that point, I had been giving long stories and statements to organizations trying to get their attention. This realization greatly changed my perspective in how I approached organizations.

One of the last things I learned was the concept of “Quantum Hops.” Several audience members talked about hops they made. Steve said, "If you get enough ‘Quantum Hops’ you can make a ‘Quantum Leap.’”

Honestly, I wondered if I would even be able to make a "Quantum shuffle!"

Using Quantum Leap Principles to Get "From Zero to Hero"

After attending the initial Quantum Leap meeting, I had the “Now what?” problem. Now that I am on my own, what do I do? That is where the coaches came in.

I started speaking with Quantum Leap’s technical coaches about improving my website. Brian taught me every activity I do outside my website is to direct people to my website. He reviewed my website and told me several things needed to change. Honestly, I didn’t want to hear this. I had spent lots of time and effort; I didn’t want to lose my pages. However, swallowing some of my pride, I realized that what I had been doing wasn’t working. I started to reluctantly accept the suggestions given. (Quantum hop.)

Realizing I needed to make more money than what my book was providing, I made some "big ticket" items. As part of the Quantum Leap program, I decided I needed to have more than my book. It took me about two months to create my major offering and I would get frustrated with what I didn’t know and have to go back to the coaches. (Quantum hop, hop, small leap.)

Realizing I needed more exposure as a missing key to success, I asked some of the publicity and speaking coaches to help me. I was told to approach the media with hooks. I made this a priority, and with the coaches' help and exposure in Radio/TV Interview Report, was invited to over 600 radio stations and podcasts with large audiences. I consistently did this throughout my time in Quantum Leap and started making continued success. (Quantum hop, hop, leap, leap...)

With the coaches' help, I was able to make my book the #1 bestselling book on college financial aid. Often, it was just a minor change that made the difference in results. I wish I could convey what it felt like to go from "zero to hero" with my book. Large volumes of people purchased my book and increased my impact. Additionally, I was able to create a new book series to supplement the first. (Quantum LEAP, leap)

Also, the coaching I received in being a paid speaker led to me being the featured and paid speaker at several events. Not being a paid speaker prior and becoming a paid speaker is really nice. I only give strategic free speeches now. (Quantum hop, hop, hop, leap, leap...) 

Success in the Midst of Life's Struggles

My book became a #1 bestseller.

I was a guest and interviewed on over 600 radio stations and podcasts, and featured in over 300 other media outlets.

I have been featured in Yahoo Finance, Morningstar, Wall Street Select, Dow Jones Market Watch, Reuters, Bloomberg Business, dozens of local news stations, military publications, and more, with exposure to millions of people.

I started getting multiple paid speaking engagements (my previous presentations were free).

I created a "big ticket item," an online individual coaching program to help students to get money for college. I have helped people make hundreds of dollars an hour.

At first, when people hear these results, they may assume, "Oh, he is one of those types of people who is able to focus strictly on his projects without interruptions from having a full-time job. He's free from many of the challenges that arise in life, has full family support, and otherwise has ideal conditions to bring about all of his courses and products."

Let me tell you what actually happened. 

During this same time, I was working 50-55 hours a week in a demanding and stressful job.

An extended family member was being abused as a minor, and I decided to help remove him from a harmful situation. 

My wife’s and my property was broken into and was vandalized—thousands of dollars of damage was done.

Right as I was getting ready to launch a major advertising campaign and project, my website was hacked and I lost all of my previous work and designs.

I was asked to be a volunteer and unpaid teacher in my religion, and I am extremely involved in teaching congregation members.

And my three-year-old and one-year-old child often required attention after work, or would wake up in the night. causing me to be tired and unmotivated to continue with my projects.

So, I was spending hundreds of hours speaking to the FBI, police investigators, child protection agencies, criminal investigators, and other agencies to help protect a child from abuse and correct the vandalism, in addition to the challenges of raising a family and starting a business.

In reality, my challenges increased while I was trying to make the most improvements to change my family’s circumstances and help other people with the resources and strategies I knew to help pay for college. I had such limited time, I was only able to spend between 10 minutes to 1 hour per day. I was greatly blessed by God to accomplish as much as I did.

A major reason I was able to accomplish as much as I did was because of the direction I received from the coaches and courses in the Quantum Leap program. Going from where I was to where I am in so many areas was due to thousands of "Quantum shuffles," multiple "Quantum hops," and several "Quantum Leaps."

Thank you Bill and Steve Harrison and all coaches for helping make some Quantum Leaps!

This post is adapted from an essay Steven wrote as his entry in our "How I Made My Quantum Leap" contest, in which Quantum Leap members wrote about the difference the program made for them and their careers.