Case Study Overview

  • Name: Lyle McKeany
  • Craft: Writing; personal creative non-fiction/memoir
  • Niche: Special needs parenting
  • 2021 Target: 10,000 email subscribers
  • Current Subs: ~400
  • Links: Substack newsletter, Twitter

An Introduction from Lyle

My north star is to create writing that moves people every week. Writing that's raw, vulnerable, and taps into universal human themes and emotions—even though I'm sharing my personal stories.

As my wife put it, "Your writing is like a male version of Glennon Doyle." Glennon is one of my writing role models. I also look up to David Sedaris, Cheryl Strayed, Mary Karr, and Dave Eggers.

My two main goals for this year are to grow my email list to 10,000 subscribers and to complete the first draft of my memoir book project.

10,000 subscribers is ambitious, so that's my stretch goal. I'm thinking about it like this: 5,000 would be a good year, 7,000 would be a very good year, and 10,000 would be a great year.

Since I'm looking to publish a book eventually, I will be focused on growing the email list. That will give me the most leverage and options once I'm ready to start thinking about how or where to publish the book.

Making money this year is not a priority for me. I know if I can build an audience of loyal fans, then there will be plenty of opportunities to make money in the future.

The Starting Line

I've been publishing a piece of original writing on my Substack publication, Just Enough to Get Me in Trouble, every Thursday since mid-September 2020.

At that time, I started with zero subscribers and have built up my list to nearly 400 subscribers in four months.

I don't have a background in creative writing, so I'm somewhat green. I used to blog in the past about business and marketing-related topics, but found it hard to stick with since I wasn't all that passionate about the topics. I recently re-discovered writing as a way to not only create art, but to express myself and tell my unique stories. In particular, my story about being a dad to my daughter Em who has cerebral palsy and the challenges involved.

First Steps

I will start off by going through Rob's Audience Accelerator modules and tailoring the techniques in them to my needs. Specifically, I'm digging into the niche research process, and looking for promotional opportunities in the parenting space.

I have a theory that most of my initial audience growth will come from parents, in general, rather than parents with special needs kids, specifically. So I will be looking for opportunities to get in front of parents through guest posts, features, podcasts, and other mediums.

Initial Thoughts from Rob

I'm excited to work with Lyle partly because he's a super talented writer. Seriously, check out some of his recent posts on his Substack. But this is also a challenge for me, because he breaks the mold of my typical client.

Usually, I help people identify and commit to a niche (or sometimes create their own niche). But Lyle is explicitly aiming at a more mass market audience, which gets me out of my comfort zone. He's hoping to one day be a best-selling memoir author, and for that he'll need a larger, more diverse audience than I'm used to cultivating.

So, our challenge here is using the tools of niche marketing to build a more mainstream audience.

Here's the hypothesis: Each recurring topic Lyle writes about is a potential entry point into a niche market. We can use those markets to strategically grow Lyle's audience, instead of haphazardly trying to reach the mass market all at once.

For instance, a lot of Lyle's writing touches on the challenges of being a dad to a daughter with special needs. So to start, we're exploring the parenting niche, and using that as an initial avenue for growth, even though his writing will expand far beyond that. The hope is that people who initially find Lyle through his parenting content will like him so much, that they'll come on the journey for the rest of his work.

So the goal isn't to build a "niche audience" per se. It's to create fans of Lyle more generally, so that he has the leeway to write about whatever he wants. It's a challenge, but certainly not impossible, especially given how good Lyle's writing is.