Almost every agency owner I know wants to write a book. How about you? Is this the year? If so, where do you start? Where do you go? How do you do it? How do you stay disciplined enough to get it done? There’s a huge difference between wanting to write a book and actually writing one.
Enter my guest, Anthony Paustian, who in addition to writing many books himself, both through the traditional route and as a self-publisher, coaches busy professionals to produce great books. He takes aspiring authors from concept to final product with as little pain as possible but just enough nagging to get the job done.
Anthony and I cover the step by step process for how to write and publish a book by answering:
- Why Anthony decided to become an author and a coach
- What keeps someone that wants to write a book from actually doing it
- How to get past the thought that your book won’t be valuable enough
- The process for getting a book from your head and into an actual book
- How to turn your blog into a book
- How to successfully proof your writing
- Why you need to speak about the topics you write about
- What the editing process is like once your book is in the hands of an editor
- What you need to have for your book to appear in a library
- Why you don’t need (or even necessarily want) your book to be on shelves at Barnes and Noble
- The best way to sell your book
- What kinds of e-books you should sell
- First steps people can take right now to get going
Dr. Anthony Paustian was given a rare opportunity in life to create and design a technology-focused college campus from scratch. That was fifteen years ago. Since then the campus and its innovative advances in technology-based instruction have appeared on CNN, CNBC, Wired, USA Today, NPR and other national media and won numerous awards for leadership in innovation including being featured on the InfoWorld 100 List (#51) of the nation’s most innovative organizations.
In 2006, Anthony created the Celebrate! Innovation Exhibition; a new type of campus learning environment where students are surrounded by the stories of great innovators through larger-than-life visuals, technology-focused exhibits, and through an annual Celebrate! Innovation Week (ciWeek) where the people behind the stories come from all over the world to tell those stories firsthand. The Celebrate! Innovation Exhibition is currently on the Iowa Department of Tourism’s list of places to visit.
From his Air Force days on F-111s to building national brands to coaching a very talented group of educators, Anthony has developed a unique skill set that is quickly apparent in every aspect of his life as a leader, educator, entrepreneur, inventor, designer, author and speaker.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://www.agencymanagementinstitute.com/anthony-paustian/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- What Keeps People from Writing and Publishing a Book?
- Advice on How to Write and Publish a Book
- Piecing the Book Together
- Marketing Basics for Promoting Your Book
- Action Steps to Get Started
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25-plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew: Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am your host, Drew McLellan. And today I’m excited because we are gonna talk about a topic that I discuss with many agency owners. Many of you hunger to be authors and to write a book. And today’s guest is gonna talk to us about how he coaches and helps busy professionals produce a great book. So let me tell you a little bit about him. Fifteen years ago, Dr. Anthony Paustian was given a rare opportunity in life. He was asked to create and design a technology-focused college campus from scratch. Since then, the campus and its innovative advances in technology-based instruction have appeared on CNN, CNBC, “Wired,” “USA Today,” NPR, and all kinds of other national media. They have also won numerous awards for leadership and innovation, including being featured on the InfoWorld 100 list of the nation’s most innovative organizations.
In 2006, Tony created the “Celebrate! Innovation Exhibition,” a new type of campus learning environment where students are surrounded by stories of great innovators through larger-than-life visuals, technology-focused exhibits, and through an annual Celebrate Innovation Week, where people behind the stories come from all over the world to tell those stories first-hand. This event is currently on the Iowa Department of Tourism’s list of places to visit and is well-known throughout the land.
From his Air Force days on F-111s to building national brands to coaching a very talented group of educators, Tony has developed a unique skill set that is quickly apparent in every aspect of his life as a leader, educator, entrepreneur, inventor, designer, author, and speaker. He has written a number of books, including “Imagine!” “Bridging the Gap,” and his most recent book, “Beware the Purple People Eaters, A Personal Look at Leadership.” And on top of all of that, Tony has built a business around helping entrepreneurs become authors, and that’s really where we are gonna focus our time and attention today. Tony, welcome to the podcast.
Tony: Thank you, Drew. I appreciate being here.
Drew: So what made you decide to shift? It sounds like you have plenty to do. So what made you decide that you wanted to add author coach to your list of accomplishments?
Tony: Let me kinda tell you how this transpired. You know, I have a number of books that were published by Simon & Schuster, which is a big, traditional publisher. And you know, the publishing model has changed a lot over the years. And it’s kinda like the music industry, how that industry kinda went from working with the big music producers towards small indie outlets. And that’s kinda how the publishing business is moving in this as well. I had my books published through Simon & Schuster. Although Simon & Schuster did a great job, the problem I had with Simon and Schuster was the lack of control. I had no control. Once you sign over the copyright to your manuscript, you lose all control. And so I wrote a book on creativity. It was the least creative cover I’ve ever seen in my life. It was boring, and it didn’t inspire somebody to wanna read to become more creative.
I had a pre-determined page count that was created for the book that nobody told me about until after the fact when I read the book, and I’m like, “Well, there’s big chunks of this missing.” So instead of working with me to get a page count to where it needed to be, they started chopping stuff out of the manuscript…and the part that sent me over the edge was I wanted to donate 50 copies to a fundraiser, a charity fundraiser where I was speaking. I had to buy my own book in order to donate it. So that kinda sent me over the edge. So as a result of those experiences, I started to research the publishing industry at length. I spent probably a good 18 months reading everything I can get my hands on related to the industry. And you know the saying, you gotta read 10, 12 books about any topic to become somewhat of an expert on that topic.
Tony: I probably read about 30 books and materials in this area, and I learned a lot about the industry. So I decided to build a company really around my next book. It was actually meant to be a publisher of my stuff. And so I did that, and as a side note, ironically enough, having full control of this book, I’ve had far more success with this book. I’ve made as much money…I’ve made more money on this book than I’ve made with all my other books printed through Simon & Schuster combined, and it’s been a great experience. Well, I never intended to move into the publisher mode for the world, originally. But what happened over time was people started saying to me, “Hey, tell me about bookPress.” So I’d tell them about bookPress. And these are usually young, aspiring authors. And they wanted to write a book, and so I started working with them on a one-on-one basis, coaching them, helping them go from the concept to a final product. Next thing you know, we’ve got about 20 books in the can, and we got five more we’re working on currently. So it’s kinda become a business despite itself.
I never intended to do this. I had no long-term business plan for this, it just kinda happened, and it’s growing fast. And I realized, the more I got into this, that there were a lot of hungry people out there who wanted to learn how to write and publish a book but really had no idea where to start, where to go, how to do it, anything. So basically, as a coach, I help an author literally go from point A to point B. I mean, it’s a huge difference between wanting to write a book and actually writing a book, to start with. So I work with a lot of writers, or aspiring writers, I should say, who have ideas and concepts, but they’re not sure where to go with them. So we literally go from concept to final product. And I always promise all my authors that by the time they’re done with this process, I promise them they will be very, very proud of the end result and the book they actually hold in their hand.
We are a partnership publisher, meaning that, you know, we’ve don’t follow the traditional model where we take the rights, we do everything. We pay you a measly, you know, 10% off wholesale price, which is diddly. And we take all control. We work with authors hand-in-hand, side-by-side, literally babysitting the process as well as helping the writer sign off and become a better writer.
Drew: So I can say from my own personal experience, having had my first book published by a traditional publisher, and then after that, publishing the next couple of books that I co-edited, it’s a very different process in terms of control, no doubt about that. So as you’re working with authors, I’m just thinking in my head, clearly part of your innovation is, “necessity is the mother of invention”, right?
Tony: Right, oh yeah.
What Keeps People from Writing and Publishing a Book?
Drew: Yeah, yeah. So as you’re working with authors…and again, a lot of the listeners, I suspect, are the people who have said, “I want to write a book.” And they may already have the idea for the book, or the book may be in some way aligned with the way they position their business or their agency. What do you believe is the biggest stumbling block for people…again, I think you’re right. I think there’s a huge difference between people who want to write a book and people who are actually authors. What’s the biggest stumbling block that keeps someone who wants to write a book from becoming an author?
Tony: Lack of focus and dedication, honestly. One thing I’ve realized is people have all these aspirations and dreams, but the reality is we have to start doing it. And that’s where people get into the stumbling part. They’re not disciplined about taking the time, setting aside time, planning to write, going to a spot where they feel the most comfortable, the most energized, the most motivated, the most creative, and going there, unplugging, disconnecting from the world, and basically just start to put their thoughts on paper. And this is the biggest challenge to get most people past, because they think they have to start writing like a Hemingway right out of the box. And so they struggle over form and structure, and it’s like, “No, no, no, no. Just start writing. Just write, and you know, whatever comes to mind, just try to plan it on paper, and it will start to flow. And then you go back and you edit it later.” And once I get people down that road and they actually can get past chapter one… But I’ll tell you, even before that, just having a good outline is necessary.
I’ll sit with people who have great ideas, concepts, a great shell for a book, but they’ve never put it in a structured form. They’ve never sat down and said, “Hey, this is how this book’s gonna look. These are the seven topics, ten topics I wanna cover. And these ten, seven topics, whatever, I’m gonna break into these sub-topics.” And start to put some flesh on the bones, like the outline, you know, of this book and what it’s gonna look like.
I will tell you, if you have a very well thought, thorough outline of what you wanna cover in the book, going back and filling in the blanks, just kinda writing the pieces of it, becomes a whole lot easier than just starting to think, “Okay, I’m gonna start writing this book and just start writing.” And once you’ve got the pieces and the structure both into place, then you just pick a topic, a topic you probably know a ton about. Then you start writing about that topic. And then you go back, and you start editing the formation, all the structure related stuff later. That’s the biggest challenge, to get people started in the process.
Drew: Well, and I think for a lot of agency owners, one of the experiences I have is that, you know, the greatest thing about owning your business is that you’re not accountable to anyone. But the worst thing about owning your own business is you’re not accountable to anyone. And I think that in an endeavor like this that’s not mandatory, it really does help to be accountable to someone to accomplish something. To get, you know, five pages written, or an outline done, or a chapter, you know, reviewed. Whatever it may be, it does help to have a coach in something like this that you want to do, but it is not mandatory to your business. Because you know, what agency owners spend their lives doing is running from fire to fire to fire. Well, the book is never gonna be on fire.
Tony: Well, I’ve been accused of being the world’s worst mother, because I think I’m a real nag. And one of the things I have found that when people sign with me, I tell them right out of the box, “I’m gonna hold you accountable. I’m gonna nag you to death to get stuff to me on deadlines, so on and so forth.” And they don’t believe me, and sure enough, I start making the calls, send the emails. You know, they’ll try to avoid me for a while at times, and then I’ll just keep nagging and harping on them. And it does force the issue at times. And I will tell you, every author I’ve ever worked with to this date has been very appreciative of that fact. Even though they hated it during the process, they whined and complained about it and bellyached and thought I was a real harp. They actually, when it was all said and done, realized that had I not done that and held them accountable for it, they wouldn’t have done it.
Drew: Yeah, I have been called the nag more than once myself in my role as coach and consultant, so I understand it. But I think that when done respectfully and with sort of a little bit of a sense of humor, but also a, “Look, I’m trying to help you be your best,” I think you’re right. It may not be welcomed the day of, but it’s probably welcomed the day after.
Tony: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Advice on How to Write and Publish a Book
Drew: Yeah. So in terms of writing…so let me back up. So before we jumped online, or before we hit the record button, you and I were talking about, you know, the difference between writing a piece of crap versus a good book. In the authors that you’ve worked with that…and I know you well enough to know that you would only end up with an end product that was of value. How does someone get from a mediocre idea to an idea that is meaty enough and valuable enough that it belongs in a book without sort of being so intimidated that they don’t have anything to say? Because quite honestly, most of the agency owners that I know that wanna write a book, it’s not that they’re so arrogant that they think their book is gonna be the next Mona Lisa. It’s that they’re a little concerned that their book won’t be valuable enough. So how does someone assess that, or how do you move along that continuum?
Tony: Well, the first thing I have to always ask authors is, “Why are you doing this? What is the purpose?” I mean, if a person comes to me and says, “Hey,” because of arrogance, “I think I’ve got an idea for a national bestseller. I’m gonna make millions on this, be famous.” And I will tell them point-blank that the odds of that are awesome to none. Again, you can also become President of the United States, but according to the book of odds, that’s a one in ten million shot. So go for it, but the chances are it’s not gonna happen. You gotta be realistic in your goals. So when people come to me and say, “Hey, listen. I need a book for this purpose.” Like for instance, in the case of an agency, maybe they want their agency to be perceived as more credible or to be perceived as an expert in what they do in a certain area or a specialty or whatever the case might be. Or an author wants to do speaking, and in order to do speaking, they have to be perceived as a credible person. And so a book will help give them that credibility.
Whatever the goals might be, we will actually go through those goals first so we’re all on the same page in terms of knowing exactly what the outcome of this should be. That helps a lot because knowing the outcome helps them to define the project. And once we define the project, you know, the reality is there’s a lot of steps along this way. And the first step with working with me is getting past me. I got fantastic editors. I got editors that, you know, they write for the “Harvard Business Revie.,” They teach college composition and creative writing and all kinds of things. And they’re fantastic people who do a fantastic job. They can make any mediocre writer sound absolutely wonderful. But before we even get to that step, it’s gotta get past me. In other words, I have to be able to read this thing and feel like it’s worthy of going to an editor. So we will work back and forth for a long time.
I had an author here recently who wrote a book that was targeted at 20-somethings to help them get past their 20s, you know, effectively. In other words, don’t waste a lot of time in life bouncing around like a lot of them do. So he wrote this book…well, he started writing it by just scribbling stuff on paper, which is fine. He tried to write edgy, thinking this is how a 20-year-old talks and so on and so forth. But the reality is that was great content but terrible at everything else. And so I made him rewrite that thing with me. He and I were back and forth, we met at length, we talked about it, we went through a number of number of conversations to get to the point where the content and the worthiness of the material, I felt good enough to send it to an editor at that point.
And so that book really turned 180 degrees from the time it started to the time it ended. It’s a fantastic product now, but because we had to spend a lot of time structuring it and defining, you know, “What is the purpose of this book? Who are we trying to reach audience-wise, what needs they had to have met, and how does your idea, how does your concept meet those needs?” Until we get to that point, the book goes nowhere. And that helps to ensure that when the book is all said and done and you have it in hand, you have a purpose for it, and it has a legitimate niche out there that people will actually gravitate towards.
Because it’s important for me, personally, that when an author has the final product, that that product can be successful. There’s a lot that the author has to do yet. I mean, you’re a marketing person, your audience is all marketing people and agency people, they understand that having a product is step one. You have to do something with it ultimately after that, and you have to get it out and hand it to the consumer. And that’s a whole different discussion after that.
Drew: So in terms of… And you’re right, the marketing is a whole different ball of wax. And in theory, agency owners are uniquely positioned to do that well, because they have all the resources and the skills and the knowledge that most authors don’t have. I will say from personal experience, what happens is often that also gets lost in the shuffle of the fires. But in theory, they should be great at it, no doubt.
Tony: Well, in theory. But I’ll tell you, it’s kinda like anything else. You know, it’s kinda like healthcare. You know, I know tons of healthcare professionals who are absolutely horrible when it comes to their own health. I know people who are great marketers who just can’t market themselves worth a crap, because they’re so focused on the external, that they have a tough time gravitating and putting it onto themselves.
Drew: Yep, yep, I think it’s an ongoing challenge for a lot of professionals, yeah. So let’s talk about the practical processes. Somebody who is listening to us is gung-ho that 2016 is the year that they’re going to write a book. Walk me through the process, and give me a step-by-step, and then I’m sure I’ll have questions about each step. So walk me through the process of actually getting a book from my brain to having it printed and ready to share with family and friends and sell, or you know, use as a give-away when I speak, or whatever my purpose for having the book is.
Tony: If they wanna write a book on their own with not a whole lot of guidance, so to speak, or hand-holding, here’s how I’d go about it. Like I said before, you’ve gotta flesh that concept out. Having an idea for a book, “I wanna write a book on this,” is one thing. But that overreaching topic makes if very, very hard to actually write then, because it’s too big. And a strategy, for instance, that I personally do, is when I wanna write a book, I have to force myself to write it on a deadline. And in order to do that, I frequently will take my book concept…let’s say I wanna write a book on personal leadership or some other topic. I will then basically stretch out that book concept into an outline. In other words, I’ll say, “Okay, so great personal leadership requires an understanding of this, this, this, this, and this.” And I’ll create that basic outline, which kinda becomes a chapter outline, in a way. Then I’ll break those subtopics into even further topics, and I’ll flesh it out extremely far.
The tool I use, the strategy I use to actually write is I do my blogging around my book writing. So, if I want to write a book on a topic, I will then break it up into…literally, if I’m gonna write 52 blogs, one each week, I’m gonna break up my outline into 52 pieces. And I’m gonna schedule it basically out over the course of, say, a year or whatever. And I’m gonna say, “I’m gonna write this book this next year, and in chapter one, or in subsection one or whatever on this topic, this is my blog topic for this week.” And I will only write about that topic. That’s it. Only gonna focus on that one topic. And I will do this each week for a period of time, you know, until it’s obviously done. But over the course of doing this, you’re actually building your book one piece at a time.
Drew: So you know, that’s a great point that I think a lot of people don’t think about, is you just talked about writing a book over the course of a year in tiny, little weekly increments. And I think a lot of people, one of the reasons why they talk about writing a book, but they never actually do it is because it’s a big chunk of time and task. And they don’t give themselves permission to do it over that long of a period of time.
Tony: Oh, yeah. But the ideal part of that strategy is what works for me is that I then take this blog, and when I put it out there, I ask for feedback. So you get immediate feedback from people saying, “Yeah, I liked this. I didn’t like this,” you know, “This concept, I struggle with.”
Drew: Or they tell you stories that you could incorporate into the book.
Tony: Absolutely. But people are afraid to use this approach, because they feel like, “Well, I’m giving away everything in the blog. Why would I write a book?” Okay, what you have to understand, and a lot of people don’t assume that if they have a blog, A, everybody reads that blog. B…
Drew: Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Tony: Right. B, they’re gonna read it on a consistent basis, like every week, which they won’t. You get some will and some won’t. Some will read it maybe once a month or whatever the case might be. And even if they have read every blog, you know, that’s you’ve written, once you’ve repackaged all those into a book, it’s a whole different reading experience then, and they’ll still enjoy it the second time around. So it’s okay to give it away, and it’s okay to get the feedback immediately for your writing so you can just be inspired to keep writing and keep doing this. But the biggest thing of it is by doing it in a blog form, if you commit to writing a blog a simple blog, and I’m saying maybe 800, 1,000 words tops, you know, which is not a ton of writing. If you can commit to doing that on a weekly basis, first, your book will grow and prosper over the course of that time period. But it forces you to write on a deadline.
And this is the key, is I know…for instance, I’ve got a blog due every week at a certain time, so I have to literally schedule time out of my life to say, “Okay, this is my writing time.” And I will block off my calendar. I will go someplace, I will write just during that time. And that’s the discipline that’s required to do this. Unless you can commit to writing time and not have to deal with fires and all the stuff that comes up in your life, and disconnect, it’s never gonna get done. And that’s true of anything out there. You’ve gotta schedule time for it. And that, to me, is a huge key in writing anything, a blog, book, regardless of what it is, is actually to block out enough time where you can actually sit and relax and write without a lot of distraction on those topics. But for me, the easiest way to start a process, like I said, bring it out to a very detailed, comprehensive outline, and just start to write out more pieces over time.
Piecing the Book Together
Drew: Okay, so let’s assume that somebody has followed that advice, and they have blogged out their book, so over the course of a year, a year and a half. What’s the step of knitting all of those disparate pieces together to put a cohesive book together?
Tony: Well, probably the easiest way to start with that is take all the blogs, put them together in the proper order as per your outline in one document, and then start to read it. You’ll see where the massive transition problems are. You’ll see where the…like, “Wow, I’m actually now I’m missing a piece in between this step and this step, or this section and this section. It doesn’t flow right, and I can see myself jumping ahead.” You start to see it holistically by putting it all together into one document. And when you start doing that, then you basically pull it out a section at a time. Instead of a subsection or a blog at a time, you’re pulling out, say, a chapter at a time. You bring it all together, you read it.
I have found personally, and this sounds very, kind of almost juvenile, right, but I have found that when you take something you have written, and you sit there and you read it out loud to yourself versus just reading it, you know, with your mouth closed. But really read it out loud to yourself. You will hear a lot of things that you probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Drew: Yeah, that’s an old agency proofreading trick too, that there’s something magical about hearing the words out loud. I think you’re right.
Tony: Out loud, yep. So you read it out loud, and you sit there making notes on paper, like, wow. I will also suggest this too. I mean, this comes out of old school. Print the thing off, read it out loud, write on paper. There’s nothing wrong with writing on a laptop, but there’s something magical about having it in paper in your hand when you’re reading it out loud. And you can actually make the notes on the paper. You can make it faster that way as you’re reading through it, and you can make changes quicker. And then you go back, and you make them on the computer. And then you print it off again, and then you read it out loud again. You keep doing this over and over and over again. And you’ll find this thing will start to magically start to flow and come together much better than it would have otherwise.
Now, I understand this is all pre-editing. But this will help you feel comfortable about giving it to somebody at this point, because you’ve read it so many times out loud, on paper, that you’ll start to see the piece start to stitch itself together. Then after you’ve finished with one chapter, you pick up the next group of blogs, then they’ll all come together, and you start the process all over again.
Drew: Well, I think too, I think you’ll also notice where things that you thought were in order are actually out of order or they need some context or a story or, “Boy, this is getting a little dry. I need to pep this up a little bit.”
Tony: And Drew, you mentioned storytelling. I would suggest to any author, I don’t care what topic you’re writing about, I would suggest that that topic be presented in 80% stories, if not more. People gravitate toward stories, and if you’ve got stories, experiences, that makes a much better read to people.
Drew: I mean, when you think about how we are taught in school, you know, with the exception maybe of math, most of the courses that we took, especially in grade and high school, were really conveyed to us in stories. I mean, whether it was history or social studies, it was stories about people or you know, even English, you know? I think we’re sort of hard-wired to learn from stories, so I agree with you. Plus, I think it allows people to connect to the concepts you’re writing about, because they can connect to the people in the stories.
Tony: Yeah, another strategy for how to write and publish a book I might suggest too…this one has worked for me as well, is commit yourself to speaking about a topic in some location before you’ve written about it. And I say this because I have found that…you know, I do a number of keynote addresses all over the country, and if I’m gonna do a keynote on a topic that I may have maybe even not written on yet, I will literally write all my notes out for this presentation. You’ll find that by doing all the preparation for a presentation, you literally do all the preparation for writing a chapter or a piece on that topic. It forces you to engage yourself so much into that topic that by the time you’ve written your speaking outline or your presentation outline, you’ve actually kind of outlined that piece you’re gonna write too, and it makes it a lot easier to write it once you talk about it as well. So they kinda work hand-in-hand.
So commit yourself to actually agreeing to go speak someplace or do some conference or whatever and put yourself out there and say, “Okay, I’m gonna suggest that I speak at this thing,” or, “I’m gonna volunteer my time to speak at this event on this topic,” even before you’re prepared for it. And that forces you into saying you’re committed to having to speak on it.
Drew: Well, and I think the other thing it does, much like the blog post, is you get instant reaction to the different content, and you can sorta see what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t.
Drew: Yeah. Okay, so I’ve done my self-editing. I believe, no matter how many rounds that is, I believe that my book is good. I’m happy with it, I’m proud of it. At that point, I’m assuming I need to have someone else read and edit the book, yes?
Tony: Oh, yeah. Well, at this point, once we’ve…it does get in the hands of the editor. And the way the editing process works for us, by the time that book gets in the hands of the actual editor, I feel good as a coach in the guidance process that the book is now worthy of editing. Once it gets to the hands of the editor, the way this process works is as follows. The editor will take the book, and the editor will go through the book with a fine-tooth comb, obviously. And we’ll fix any grammatical problems that even exist. But any ideas they have, like, “Wow, you know, this section’s okay. Here’s a different way of writing it.” Just for example. “Perhaps think about it this way.” Or, “I’m not sure…”
Drew: “Boy, it takes you awhile to get to your point here.” That sort of thing.
Tony: Right, right. Or, “I’m not really sure what you meant by this. I’m a little confused by this.” Or “Perhaps this section would be better located over here, because it makes more sense over here.” And my editors are brutally honest, and so they basically will mark this document up big time, in Word, using mark up. They have tons of notes, tons of ideas and things that the author has to take to heart. After it’s gone through that process, that whole thing will go back to the author again. The author then has to take to heart all those notes, all those idea, all those thoughts…but again, in my world, the author has total control. I’m not gonna dictate that you have to do this, because you know what? It’s still yours, and you have to feel like it’s yours all the way to the bitter end on this. So the author makes a decision what they’re going to accept, what they’re not going to accept, what they’re gonna change or not gonna change, or go, “I agree. That is a better way of saying that than the way I’ve said it.”
Because a lot of times, people can say the same things 16 different ways, and although all 16 are correct, there’s always a better way of saying it. So the editor helps a lot for that. The author makes all the changes to their manuscript, however long it takes, and then it goes back to the editor again. And the editor starts from scratch all over again and does the same exact thing. He fixes any minor errors, makes all the notes, all the ideas, throws all that stuff back to the author again, and it goes back to the author yet again. And this process continues…you know, I have found that usually twice is enough. But sometimes, it takes three or four times, but not very often.
Usually, by the time the editor gets it, it’s good enough where two complete full edits will get you there. But then I find that, okay, even after it’s gone through the edited phase and the editor’s done, you know, it’s like anything else, when you stare at something long enough and you are so deeply invested in it mentally, you’re not gonna see things that are there, and you’re gonna see things that aren’t there. And that’s true to the editors. You know, the same editors are gonna go through this book numerous times, so by that point, they’re not seeing everything either. So once that is completely done and the book is formatted to print, it goes in the hands of at least six, usually up to about ten, twelve proofers.
These proofers that I use are intelligent people. I try, depending on the context, like if it’s a book on leadership, I’ll put the book in the hands of a lot of intelligent, educated business leaders, managers. If it’s a book in, say, children’s book, I’ll put it in the hands of school teachers, all kinds of people, and have them read the book. Just read it and then say, “You know, if you see something that’s not correct, just please make note of that for me.” And you’d be shocked. I’ll put this manuscript, this book out in the hands of a dozen people, and I’m getting a dozen different views of this book that are all different. In other words, people will see things that nobody else saw. And nobody’s going to see this book as the same, so I’ll get 12 different versions of proofing that’s like, “Wow, I would have never picked this stuff up when I saw it.” Because you have all these fresh eyes on it. And having said that, the reason why I say this is, even going through all of that, it is very, very, very difficult for a book when it comes out the first time, to be error-free. National best-sellers through major publishers still have errors. And you have to understand that that’s just part of the process.
My wife is a hawk when it comes to this stuff. She’s one of my proofers every time I get a book, because I know she’ll find most errors in the book. She reads constantly, and she reads, you know, best-sellers that have sold millions of copies that have been many times a best-seller, and she’ll read this and say, “Read this sentence for me.” And it’s wrong. It’s missing a word or it’s got two different words repeated. You know, major errors. And you think, “Wow, that’s a major book.” It happens.
Drew: It’s still human beings.
Tony: It’s still human beings. And when you look at something, I said, you’re not gonna see everything. So you have to understand going in, it won’t necessarily be perfect, but no book is. So to go on from that, basically, then once we get through all that, and the book has been designed, and the cover and laid out and everything else, it’s all signed off, ready to go, then it actually goes to press at that point.
Marketing Basics for Promoting Your Book
Drew: So even though the listeners are expert marketers and they help other businesses grow and sell and do all the things that agencies do, I suspect the listeners are a little fuzzy about what it actually takes to promote a book. And my assumption is, and I know for me, personally, it also kind of depends on why you wrote the book in the first place. So you know, if you’re writing the book as a credibility, proof-point so you can kick off your speaking tour, that’s one thing. If you wrote it to be a thought leader in your space to attract clients, that’s another thing. If you wrote it because you want people to hear the story or to learn, that’s a different thing. But are there some book marketing basics that are sort of true, regardless of what your end goal is?
Tony: Absolutely. But before I get into that, I’m gonna backtrack one step. I forgot a major thing in this whole process, and that is there are a lot of little things about books that the average person would never know, and this is where the research came into play. For instance, you gotta have a catalog in publication data block inside the book in order for a librarian to ever show this thing. So if you want your book to actually appear in a library someplace or be shelved in a bookcase in a library someplace, you’ve gotta have this block. This block requires a librarian to do the block. You know, we have librarians will do all of this for us. This is a massively important step in any book, because even though…you know, there are a lot of books out there that don’t have this. But again, you want your book to be readily available in a lot of different contexts.
And libraries, from a marketing perspective, buy a ton of books in this country. They all have annual budgets, they all buy books. There are massive library conferences and book expos for librarians. And this is how they can get their archives or their collections current and up-to-date, because they go and buy these books at these shows. But if you want your book to actually be in a library, be it a university library, school library, public library, whatever the case might be, you’ve gotta have this block. That block also requires the Library of Congress control number aspect to it, as well as the ISBN number, which is also part of the book process as well.
From a marketing perspective, I will tell you that books are kind of in a funny space right now. You know, most recently, I get the updated sales breakdowns of books that are being sold for the most part. Now right now, about 6 out of 10 of every book out there are being sold through Amazon. And of course, getting an Amazon account is pretty straightforward and easy. Every author can do it themselves, to sell their books through Amazon. Really, pretty brainless and mindless and simple. The only major bookstore that’s actually in existence around the country as far as national chain is Barnes & Noble. And Books-A-Million that’s actually owned by Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, from a traditional book sales perspective, they’re actually not doing very well. They’re suffering badly.
The only part of Barnes & Noble that is doing well economically or financially for them is their college textbook and college book division. Otherwise, their stores aren’t doing well. And they’re suffering badly because of Amazon and other means of getting books.
Drew: Yeah, and that makes me sad. I love being in a bookstore. But I see it. I see how many Barnes & Nobles and some of the other chains that have already closed down, I see them fading away.
Tony: I reckon what happens with Barnes & Noble, people will go to Barnes & Noble, because they’ll look at a book, and then not buy it there. You know, they’ll sit there and look at it and read it, whatever, for a little while, and then they’ll buy it on Amazon.
Tony: That happens a lot. So but that’s okay, because here’s the problem. And this is what I try to tell people a lot is the fact that, you know, Barnes & Noble will only buy their books through a national distributor. And there are only two or three of these that are big enough for them to buy through. Ingram is one of those, for instance. The problem with Ingram…and I try to steer my authors away from all of this, because it is a real headache. You know, the reason why Walmart’s prices are so cheap is because Walmart really strong arms their distributors as they grow, and their manufacturers. And so when you wanna sell a product at Walmart, you really give up a lot to sell your product at Walmart. You’re hoping to make a few losses, it’s inevitable. So Walmart will require you to take back all product returns, regardless of condition.
So literally, you can go buy a thing at Walmart, use it for a month and a half, beat the crap out of it, take it back to Walmart, return it. Walmart’s gonna return it back to you, and you have to return Walmart the money, I mean refund Walmart the money for that product, regardless of condition. That’s how the book business is as well. So Ingram, you know, will buy say 100,000 copies of your book to send to Barnes & Nobles throughout the country. Well, people go to Barnes & Noble and do what I just said. They’ll sit there, go look at a book, they’ll read it. Kids will look at children’s books, whatever the case might be. They will literally beat the crud out of this book on the shelf. And then when it doesn’t sell in a certain period of time, they ship them back, and we have to totally refund these books, regardless of condition. Not to mention the fact that they strong arm you so bad on price, you’re really not making much in the first place.
So since Barnes & Noble only equates to about 20% of books sales in this country right now, I really try to steer authors away from thinking that, “Hey, my book’s a success only if it’s in Barnes & Noble.” That is so not true. And they’re such a pain to work with, it’s not even worth it to have the time and hassle. The other aspect about Barnes & Noble too I wanna throw out there is the fact that like any seller of anything, they’ve got limited shelf space. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of books come out every year. There’s no way that Barnes & Noble’s gonna put ’em on the shelf. And even if you get your book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, if it’s not moving off the shelf pretty rapidly in the course of four weeks, it’s gone, regardless. So even if you can get there, there’s no guarantee it’s gonna stay there.
A lot of people that write books are niche books anyway. Niche books don’t typically sell in bookstores. It’s actually a lot easier to get your book into like a Target or a Costco or a store like that than it is a Barnes & Noble anyway. But from a marketing perspective, I keep telling people that the best way to sell a book, in all honesty, is through your own means, your own website, your own avenues that you control. Because everybody already has a network. If you’re in social media at all and you’re doing social correctly, you’ve already got a network out there to sell to. And most of them will go to your own website and buy from your own website. If your book is a specialized niche book where… You know, I’ll do a case in point here. I have an author that, you know, he was worried about stepping into this process and this model and making the investment, so on and so forth. He’s worried about selling his books. And I said, “Listen, we’ll get there. Don’t worry about that. It will happen, because I know you, I know your network. I know how you’re connected.”
So sure enough, we worked together, and we created all of the marketing of his book through social media so he could pre-sell the books even before it came out. He sold a couple of 200, 300 copies of his book even before it came out in press, long before that. He donates a portion of very book to a charity that he’s passionate about. And of course, he’s got margin to be able to do that, so the beauty about that is people love knowing they’re giving money towards not only something they’re buying, but part of that goes towards a cause they support. That’s a win-win for everybody. But it’s through your own means, your own avenues of distribution is probably the best way to sell a book. And I’ve had authors that have gone through thousands of copies in two months just because of their own personal marketing approaches, social media. Amazon is a viable way of selling books, obviously, because Amazon is where the bulk of the books are sold.
There are strategies related to doing a Kindle version. By the way, speaking of Kindle versions, I will tell you that having done basically the iBooks, the Nook and the Kindle are three distinct formats of books. The iBook and the Nook are pretty close. But they’re all different formats amongst the three distributors. I have found since doing this the last few years that literally 99% of all eBooks sold are sold through Kindle. And that’s because if you have an iPad, you’re more likely to buy a Kindle book for the Kindle app than you are an iBook through iTunes. It’s just where the sales have fallen down.
Drew: Yeah, everyone just gravitates to Amazon. Yep.
Tony: Right, right. So we always suggest just the Kindle version only. But there are strategies where you can give a one-year Kindle book as a pre-promotion. Many of my authors have done that. They basically start off by saying, you know, “Hey,” through social media, etc., saying, “My Kindle version of this book is available free for the next two weeks,” and then we jack the price up to, you know, 50 cents and then 99 cents over the course of time. And people will say, “Well, why would you give a book away for free?” Well, you’d be shocked at how many people who get a free Kindle version of a book, when they go to Amazon, buy the actual hardback version of it, or the paperback version of that same book. It happens a lot. And it also gets word of mouth going about the book. People talk about it. You know, if they give you a review on Amazon about it, the reviews translate into books sales as well.
Many of my authors who have written books in the business context, you know, be it a book on networking or leadership or whatever the case might be, find that because of their strategies that they use to sell the books through, like I say, ebooks or through the social media promotion aspects, colleges and universities take notice…
Drew: Well, you know, from a marketing world, we know the power of sampling, and so it makes perfect sense that that would be a formidable strategy in getting your book out there.
Tony: Well, absolutely. And I had one author that literally…his book’s talking to 20-year-olds. I mentioned this story before. He basically data mined all the email addresses from every college professor in this country, at every university, sent them all an email promotion of himself for his book. He’s got to date…he started this process two weeks ago, he’s gotten 400 inquiries back from college professors. And already the last two weeks, he’s got 10 universities in the country to adopt his book as part of the required reading for classes. And that’s just through an email that he did himself. So it’s very, very easy to sell books yourself. I say that because just so many people just think that, “Oh, my gosh, my book’s gotta be in Barnes & Noble, otherwise it’ll be a failure.” That is just so not true.
Drew: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, and as you said in the beginning of our conversation, this is a world that has been completely turned upside down, and how everybody used to do it is how very few people are doing it. You know, unless you’re a, you know, John Grisham or somebody like that, I think a lot of authors, and particularly the kind of authors we’re talking about with sort of niche books that are more business based in most cases, you know, I think there’s a whole new way of doing it. So…
Tony: You mentioned John Grisham. Ironically enough, Grisham and Stephen King are both now doing their own thing.
Tony: Yeah. They don’t use a big publisher anymore. They realize that, you know, they don’t need that stuff anymore. In fact, Stephen King, as a side bar, did something genius from a marketing perspective. Stephen King came out with an eBook version of a new book he was writing. He said to the public, you know, that he would…this is gonna be an honor system book. He’d throw a chapter at a time out there. It was 99 cents a chapter. As long as people were still paying the 99 cents as per the honor system, we can take it free. But he said that as long as people were paying for it, he would keep putting chapters in the book out there. And sure enough, what happened was everybody at first started paying 99 cents per chapter. Then by about chapter 4 or 5, people were just starting to take it. They weren’t paying for it anymore, and although the downloads were the same, were stable, the sales were declined rapidly.
So he basically threw an email out there and note saying, “I’m done with this book. People aren’t paying for it in an honorable way.” The next thing you know, the people who were really hooked on this book now are out there paying more than 99 cents a chapter. They’re paying $5.00 a chapter in order to keep the book flowing. And it cost him nothing to do this, and he made millions.
Drew: Plus, he probably got a ton of publicity. Of course, let’s keep in mind, he is who he is.
Tony: He is Stephen King.
Drew: Right, right, yeah. That probably helps. So most of the listeners, probably that may not be a strategy.
Tony: No, that’s not a strategy for the listeners. But it does show, in today’s world, that it’s all upside down and different today. And you can do different things like that, you know, unique strategies to get yourself out there that you couldn’t have done 10 years ago.
Drew: Well, and one of the things that I do think plays into this, from the listeners of this podcast, is I think book marketing has gotten much more personal. And I think, given that most of you are probably thinking about writing a book because it’ll help build your business or your speaking career, or whatever it is, that bodes well for you. Because then people have a connection to you, the author, and they feel like you’re accessible. And I think not only does that improve book sales, but I think it also moves you further along this spectrum of why you’re writing the book in the first place.
Tony: Right. And of course, I would encourage any author or aspiring author out there who’s going to write that book for those reasons, you know, to help support your business or speaking, whatever the case might be, that you also have a website that you create dedicated to that book. You put continued information out there on the website that relates to the book, be it a blog or some other, you know, additional information that people can go to. Because once you start to develop a tribe around your book, a following related to the fact that people who have read your book and like your book, they thirst for information. They want more. And as long as you can keep providing them more of that, you definitely will start building a following for your writing. And next thing you know, next book to come out, well it sells even faster and easier.
Action Steps to Get Started
Drew: Yeah. So this is a complicated and fascinating topic. But I wanna be mindful of both the listener’s time and yours. So as we kinda wrap this up for today, if people are fired up and, you know, you’ve broken it down into some really bite-size pieces. And so maybe for somebody who had always thought they wanted to be an author, but it felt too daunting, is now sort of re-energized around the idea of doing that and that this is the year they’re gonna at least start it, even if they don’t finish it. What are one or two sort of first steps that they should take after they are done listening to this podcast on how to write and publish a book to actually get going?
Tony: Well, you know, our lives are busy. If you don’t control your life, it’s gonna control you. You know, I can’t over-stress the importance of managing time. And you know, I say this, because I know how entrepreneurs are. People work themselves…especially, I’m the worst at this. And it’s easy to let what happens throughout the course of your day control your day. You’ve got to, first of all, commit to setting aside time for this. You’ve gotta say, “Okay, I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna commit to spending this much time every week, or this much time on this given day is writing time. And I’m doing nothing else but that.” That’s the first step. You have to do that, you have to.
I have friends of mine, friends that you and I both know, that are working on books now that struggle with this, because things just happen in life. You’ve gotta commit yourself to setting aside a time to write. That’s step one. And then actually do it. It’s kinda like a New Year’s resolution. The reason why they never actually work out, most people is most people aren’t disciplined enough to keep them going. That’s why I see the health club in January is jammed-packed and you go by in March, and it’s a ghost town.
People just aren’t committed enough to continue the process. You’ve gotta make a commitment to the process, and until you’ve done that, you won’t be successful in writing the book. That’s step one, and the most important step. And then just start writing. Just start banging out stuff. I go back to the outline aspect, you know. And this might be something where you need to just flesh it out with somebody else. Talk through it verbally with somebody. Sit down with a person you trust or an expert, you know, that you’ve worked with in the past or somebody who understands what you do, and just kind of flesh it out together. It’s always a lot easier to do stuff like that with somebody else than it is just to do it on your own. Kinda talk through an outline, talk through the structure, you know, the shell of the book.
And once you’ve got that, I’m telling you, I believe this whole-heartedly that once you’ve got a detailed structure and shell outline of the book, you commit the time to writing this book and actually sitting down and doing it, once you get past that very first section…if you can get that first little piece written, it becomes easier as you go. The second piece is even easier, the third piece is easier than that. And as you go, it just naturally builds upon itself. It’s like any incremental goal. Once you’ve chopped a small piece of it, then it motivates you to do the next piece, and so on and so forth. Those are the keys. It’s very simple. It’s not rocket science, quite literally. You have to commit time structure, build structure, and just start writing.
Drew: Yeah, a lot of it, I think, boils down to the commitment. And so, you know, to your point earlier in the conversation, whether you hire someone like Tony, or you buddy up with another agency owner who also wants to write a book, I would also suggest…and I just know this from all my work with agency owners, that you create some sort of accountability outside of yourself so that you actually honor what matters to you, because it’s easy to allow the fires to get in the way.
Tony: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
Drew: This has been fascinating and really helpful, Tony. So I thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. If folks wanna track you down, wanna learn more about the work you do with authors or any of the other things that you do, because you know, you do fascinating work across so many facets, what’s the easiest way for them to find you?
Tony: Just go to the website, bookpresspublishing.com. I will tell you that at the book press publishing website, there is a very nice outline comparison between the traditional publishing model and the partnership publishing model, it will show you what the differences are, both from a structure and economics aspect. And you can learn a lot from just looking at some of that information.
Drew: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing your expertise. I appreciate it very much.
Tony: Any time. Thank you, Drew.
Drew: You bet. Listeners, thank you for joining us again for another episode. Hopefully, this was really helpful to you. I would love to hear about your book project or anything else that you would like to chat about around agency life. So as you know, you can reach me at [email protected] Hopefully, you subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. I will be back next week with another guest who will help you build a better agency. I will talk to you soon.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency on how to write and publish a book. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free eBook, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients, and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.