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MaiStoryBook - Creating for Kids, Selling to Teachers

Creators can find value in marketplaces, Teachers Pay Teachers is a thing, and TikTok looks more lucrative than it is

The Creator

Maya Lê aka MaiStoryBook

Maya Lê is a teacher by training, with a Masters in Education and 3 years in the classroom, but found her calling online. As MaiStoryBook on social, she educates in bite-sized snippets, brings the joy of reading to parents and kids, and producing fun book crafts that the teachers in her audience eagerly snap up to augment their own curriculum.

Maya is my brother’s sister-in-law, and after hearing about her business as a Creator, I wanted to learn more.

Those of you who follow me on LinkedIn or work with me as a consultant know - I love the diversity and breadth of the Creator Economy. Maya is a wonderful example of how a creator in well-understood niches - bookfluencer, kids, education - can have a completely unique business model.

Let’s get into it!

The Business

Breakdown

MaiStoryBook Audience and Revenue Breakdown - March 2023

Observations

Maya produces content across five different platforms - and the content she makes is different for each, which (to me, struggling over here to write LinkedIn posts and a newsletter) is bonkers.

  • YouTube - Interactive readalongs - audience is mostly parents and children, some teachers who use them in the classroom

  • Instagram - Children’s book reviews and educational resources - audience is mostly teachers

  • TikTok - Fun facts about people - audience is mostly tweens

  • Pinterest - Book craft images - audience is mostly teachers

  • Website / Blog - Book crafts - traffic funneled from Pinterest

Maya’s business model looks diverse, with five (5) different streams of revenue.

  • Two of those streams- Digital Products and Brand Deals - account for 90% of her income.

Despite the concentration on two revenue streams, that revenue is driven from six different audience / customer sources, and none of them account for more than 30% of her revenue.

  • Losing one would hurt but not break the bank. Isn’t diversification great?

  • Adding another one that performs at the median would have a meaningful impact on her income.

TikTok is by far her biggest audience, accounting for ~85% of her total follower base.

  • It accounts for the bulk of her brand deals.

  • It drives none of her digital product sales.

I’ll dig deeper into this today in Superlogic. Moving on.

Maya sells digital products - her “book crafts”, which are reading lessons for kids couched in crafting exercises designed for specific books - through a teacher-to-teacher marketplace called Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either.

  • The platform is owned by a private equity company and is estimated by Zippia to do $84M in annual revenue.

  • Aside - it’s kind of sad and telling about our education system that this exists and does so well.

Teachers Pay Teachers is the marketplace for her book craft digital products.

  • 25% of her overall revenue comes through discovery on the marketplace itself.

  • This is a good data point supporting creators joining marketplaces: if a creator’s product is good, it can find a significant customer-base.

What I like about Teachers Pay Teachers is that it already kind of has a built-in audience. Teachers are already going there, like it's very well-known in the educational field. So it's almost like you don't have to get people to get to the site. They're already going there and so I guess it just matters what they search, and if your stuff comes up.

  • She goes into more specifics around how she sets herself up for success on TPT, and we’ll get into that on Thursday.

  • The rest of her TPT revenue is driven from her website (via Pinterest - also super interesting, so we’ll talk about it on Thursday) and Instagram, where it’s featured in her bio link.

I used Socialblade to look up an estimate of her monthly YouTube views, which is 21.3k.

  • Despite her YT views being 2x her monthly website page visits (10k), her website is responsible for around 3x the ad revenue her YouTube channel is.

  • I wonder why this is - more inventory per viewer? Higher CPMs? Both?

Next Time

In today’s Superlogic, we’ll talk about content-audience fit, as it relates to Maya’s TikTok content (and why this platform, with 85% of her audience, only drives 30% of her revenue).

On Thursday, we’ll dig into insights and takeaways from Maya’s business breakdown around her use of Pinterest to drive TPT sales, as well as how she set herself up for success in the TPT marketplace. We’ll then dig into her operating stack next week.

Thanks for reading, see you Thursday!

My mission is to liberate millions of people from dependence on wage-slavery by enabling them to benefit from the emergence of the Creator Economy. I believe that the more successful both Creators and the companies that serve Creators are, the better off humankind will be.

Superlogic subscriber, click through for 1 additional insight, on how Pinterest is an underinvested revenue driver for Maya.

Content-audience alignment determines what revenue looks like.

We mentioned above that Maya’s TikTok doesn’t drive any of her book craft product sales…but why is this?

The reason is obvious - she doesn’t really make book-focused content on the platform. The reason she isn’t making book content for TikTok is worth digging into: while she got onto TikTok as part of an educational creator acquisition program, and it eventually became her biggest audience, the algorithm required her to shift the type of content she created on the platform in order to grow:

I got onto TikTok initially because TikTok actually launched a creators program where they were looking for creators to make more educational content. They found me on Instagram.

There was a certain quota of videos you had to post per day, with a certain kind of content. At the beginning, I thought ‘Okay, I'll share some reading tips and information about how kids learn to read.’ And then I would do a vocabulary word, and then I’d do a nonfiction fun fact video. With those 3 main categories, I would alternate every day so a little pattern emerged. Eventually, though, it was the fun fact content that I noticed was really taking off, and was getting more of the views, so I kind of started gearing more towards that.

While her brand in general is known for book- and reading-focused content, her TikTok is more about fun facts that are mostly unrelated to reading. That wasn’t what she set out intending to to - it’s what the platform guided her towards.

Over time, she adapted her content to the audience the platform sent her, in order to acquire a larger audience. It’s not surprising she did that - platforms are designed this way. When you see views spike, you get a dopamine hit, which then causes you to want to chase more spikes. For many creators, that means changing what you’re making to fit. I’ve done it myself.

But was this the right move for Maya?

TikTok accounts for 85% of her audience, and 30% of her revenue, through brand deals. The downsides are:

  • Only drives one revenue stream

  • Brand deals are unpredictable

The upsides are

  • Diversified away from reliance purely on book craft sales

  • Diversified away from reliance purely on book content

  • Different, larger audience that might monetize in some other way in the future

If Maya stuck to book crafts on TikTok, and had a smaller audience there as a result, would she still make as much money? Certainly she’d sell more book crafts. Whether or not the revenue would be greater is impossible to predict, as the variables would include

  • Audience size

  • Conversion rate

  • Pricing

  • The difference in inbound brand deal interest

However, she wouldn’t be as diversified, and diversification (in my opinion) is the long-term path to freedom for creators.

Remember - audience-content alignment is a two-way street. If your goal is all out reach, then adapting your content to the audience the platform sends you works. If you strategy is to find the right audience, to sell to them or for some other reason, then don’t be discouraged by lower growth - keep making content that is meant to resonate with the audience you want.

And either way, there’s a revenue opportunity, so take diversification and scale into account when you’re deciding your strategy!

Thanks for learning with me! Upcoming interviews include:

  • Jay Clouse - One of my favorite metacreators, Jay and his Creator Science business help aspiring creators go from amateur to professional. His approach to his stack is one that would make Jeff Bezos proud, so you’ll find the discussion valuable!

  • Bryce Adams - One of the top creators on OnlyFans, generating over $6M in annual revenue with a team of 20. Her story and approach is absolutely fascinating!

  • Tejas Hullur - Tejas is Gen Z’s metacreator, educating an emerging generation of entrepreneurial creative minds through his own journey. He tries to be a “non-regrettable view”, which I love, and there’s a more lot to learn from him!

I’ve already done these interviews, but still have plenty of time to follow up with additional questions.

If you have anything pressing you’d like to know from any of these creators, please email me at [email protected]. I can’t promise I’ll get every question answered, but I can promise that I will do my best to get the most relevant, interesting ones!

Thanks again for being part of this community. See you next week!