Episode 49

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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.



What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • 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


The Golden Nugget:

“Read your book out loud to hear mistakes you don’t hear in your head.” – @anthonypaustian Click To Tweet


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Speaker 3:

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 McLellan:

Welcome back to another episode of Build A Better Agency. I am your host, Drew McLellan. Today I’m excited because we are going to talk about a topic that I discuss with many agency owners. Many of you hunger to be authors and to write a book. Today’s guest is going to 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.

15 years ago, Dr. Anthony Paustian had an 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 Info World 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-111’s, 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.

On top of all of that, Tony has built a business around helping entrepreneurs become authors. That’s really where we are going to focus our time and attention today.

Tony, welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Thank you, Drew. I appreciate being here.

Drew McLellan:

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?

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Let me tell you how this transpired. I have a number of books that were published by Simon & Schuster, which is a big, traditional publisher. The publishing model has changed a lot over the years. It’s kind of like the music industry, how that industry went away from the big music producers towards small, indie albums.

That’s how the publishing business is looking, as well. I had my books published through Simon & Schuster, although Simon & Schuster did a great job. The problem I had with Simon & Schuster was a lack of control. I had no control anymore. Once you sign over the copyright to your manuscript, you lose all control.

So, I wrote a book on creativity. It was the least creative cover I’ve ever seen in my life. It was boring. It didn’t inspire somebody to want to read it to be more creative. I had a predetermined 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, “There’s big chunks of this missing.” So instead of working with me to get the page count to where it needed to be, they just started chopping stuff out of the manuscript.

The part that sent me over the edge was, I wanted to donate 50 copies to a charity fundraiser where I was speaking and I had to buy my own book, even though it was donated. So that sent me over the edge.

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 could get my hands on related to the industry. You know what they say. You’ve got to read 10, 12 books on any topic and you become somewhat of an expert on that topic.

Drew McLellan:


Dr. Anthony Paustian:

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, so I did that. And a side note, ironically enough, having full control of this book, I had far more success with this book. I’ve made more money on this book than I’ve made with all my other books printed through Simon & Schuster combined. 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, “Tell me about Bookpress.” So I’d tell them about Bookpress. These are usually young aspiring authors. They wanted to write a book, 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 into the can and we’ve got five more we’re working on currently.

It’s kind of become a business despite itself. I never intended to do this. I had no long-term business plan for this. It just happened and it’s growing fast. I realized, the more I got into this, that there were a lot of hungry people out there who wanted to write, 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. It’s a huge difference between wanting to write a book and actually writing a book, to start with. 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. I always promise all my authors that by the time we are done with this process, I promise them that 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 we don’t [inaudible 00:06:45] the traditional model where we take the rights; we do everything; we pay you a measly 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 or aspiring author become a better writer.

Drew McLellan:

So, I can say from my own personal experience, having my first book published by a traditional publisher. Then after that, publishing the next couple 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?

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Oh, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. 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.” 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? Because 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?

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Lack of focus and dedication, honestly. One thing I realized is, people have all these aspirations and dreams, but the reality is, we have to start doing it. This is where people get into the swimming part. They’re not disciplined about taking 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. Going there, unplugging, disconnecting from the world, and basically just start to put their thoughts on paper.

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, so they struggle over form and structure. It’s like, “No, no, no, no. Just start writing.” Just write. Whatever comes to mind, just start flowing on paper. It will start to flow, and then you go back and you edit it later. 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 never sat down and said, “Hey, this is how this book’s going to look. These are the seven topics, 10 topics I want to cover.” These 10, seven topics, I’m going to break into these sub-topics, and start to put some flesh on the bones, and start to outline this book and what it’s going to look like.

I will tell you, if you have a very well thought through outline of what you want to cover in the book, going back and filling in the blanks, just writing the pieces of it becomes a whole lot easier than just starting to think, “Okay, I’m writing this book,” and start writing.

Once you’ve got the pieces and the structure built into place, then you just pick a topic; a topic that you probably know a ton about. Then you start writing about that topic. Then you go back and you start editing the formation, all the structure related stuff later.

That’s the biggest challenge, people staring the process.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think for a lot of authors, or for a lot of agency owners, one of the experiences I have is that 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.

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 five pages written, or an outline done, or a chapter 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.

What agency owners spend their lives doing is running from fire, to fire, to fire. Well, the book is never going to be on fire.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

I’ve been accused of being the world’s worst mother because I think I’m a real nag. One of the things that I have found, when people sign with me, I tell them right out of the box, “I’m going to hold you accountable and I’m going to nag you to death to get stuff to me on deadlines, so on, so forth.”

They don’t believe me. Sure enough, I start making the calls, sending the e-mails. They’ll try to avoid me a while at times, and then I’ll just keep nagging and harping on them. It does force the issue at times.

I will tell you, every author I’ve ever worked with to this day has been very appreciative of that fact. Even when they hated it during the process, they’ve 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 McLellan:

Yeah. I have been called The Nag more than once myself, in my role as coach and consultant. So, I understand it.

I think that when done respectfully and a little bit of a sense of humor, but also, “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.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Let me back up. Before we jumped online, or before we hit the record button, you and I were talking about the difference between writing a piece of crap versus a good book. In the authors 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 being so intimidated that they don’t have anything to say. Quite honestly, most of the agency owners that I know that want to write a book, it’s not that they’re so arrogant that they think their book is going to 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 asses that? How do you move along that continuum?

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

The first thing I have to always ask authors is, “Why are you doing this? What is the purpose?”

If a person comes to me and says, “Because of arrogance, I think I’ve an idea for a national bestseller. I’m going to make millions on this and be famous.” I will tell them point blank that the odds of that are awesome to none. You could also become President of the United States, but according to the Book of Odds, that’s a one to a million shot. So, go for it, but the chances are, it’s not going to happen.

You’ve got to be realistic in your goals. So when people come to me and say, “Hey, listen. I need a book for this purpose.” For instance, in 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 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. A book will 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 then to define the project. Once we define the project, the reality is, there was a lot of steps along this way.

The first step with working with me is getting past me. I’ve got fantastic editors. I’ve got editors that, they write for the Harvard Business Review. They teach college composition, and creative writing, and all kinds of things. 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 got to 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 effectively. In other words, don’t waste that entire decade of your life putzing around like a lot of them do.

So, he wrote this book. Well, he started writing by just spewing stuff on paper, which is just fine. He tried to write edgy, thinking this is how a 20 year old talks, and so on and so forth. The reality is, that book, great content, terrible everything else.

So, I made him rewrite that thing with me. He and I went back and forth. We met at length. We talked about it. We went through a number of conversations to get to the point where the content and the worthiness of the material, I felt good enough giving it to an editor at that point.

So that book really became 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 and defining, what is the purpose of this book? Who are we trying to reach, audience wise? What needs do they have that they haven’t met? How does your idea or how does your concept meet those needs?

Until we get to that point, the book goes nowhere. That helps to ensure that when the book is all said and done, and you have an end, you have a purpose for it, and it has a legitimate need out there that people will actually gravitate towards because it’s important for me, personally, that when an author has a final product, that, that product can be successful.

There’s a lot that the author has to do, yet. Are you a marketing person? Your audience is all marketing people and [inaudible 00:16:43] 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 in the hand of the consumer. That’s a whole different discussion after that.

Drew McLellan:

So, in terms of, and you’re right that marketing is a whole different ball of wax. 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.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

In theory. But I’ll tell you, it’s kind of like anything else. It’s kind of like healthcare. 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 crap because they’re so focused on the external that they have a tough time gravitating and putting it onto themselves.

Drew McLellan:

Yup. I think it’s an ongoing challenge for a lot of professionals.

Let’s talk about the practical process. If somebody who’s listening to us is gung ho that 2016 is the year that they’re going to write a book. Walk me through the process that, and give me 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 use as a giveaway when I speak, or whatever my purpose for having the book is.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

If you want to write a book on your own, without a whole lot of guidance, so to speak, or hand holding, here’s how I would go about it. Like I said before, you’ve got to flesh that concept out. Having an idea for a book, “I want to write a book on this,” is one thing. But that overreaching topic makes it very, very hard to actually write then because it’s too big.

As a strategy for instance, the [inaudible 00:18:50] they do is, when I want to write a book, I force myself to write on a deadline. In order to do that, I frequently will take my book concept; let’s say I want to write a book on personal leadership, personal [inaudible 00:19:03].

I will then basically stretch out that book concept into an outline. Whereas I’ll say, to create personal leadership requires understanding of this, this, this, this, and this. I’ll create that basic outline, which becomes a chapter outline in a way. Then I’ll break those sub-topics into even further topics. I’ll flesh it out. It should be fine.

The tool I use, the strategy I used 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 out into, literally, I’m going to write 52 blogs, one each week, I’m going to break my outline into 52 pieces. I’m going to schedule that out over the course of, say a year or whatever. I’m going to say, “I’m going to write this book this next year.” Chapter one, or subsection one, or whatever, on this topic. This is my blog topic for this week. I will only write about that topic, that’s it. I’m going to focus on that one topic. I will do this each week for a period of time, until it’s obviously done.

But over the course of doing this, you’re actually building your book one piece at a time.

Drew McLellan:

So 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. 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. They don’t give themselves permission to do it over that long of a period of time.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Oh, yeah. But the ideal part of the strategy is, what works for me is that I then take this blog, and when I put it out there, I ask for feedback.

Drew McLellan:


Dr. Anthony Paustian:

So you get immediate feedback from people saying, “I liked this. I didn’t like this. This concept, I struggled with.”

Drew McLellan:

Or they tell you stories that you could incorporate into the book.

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Absolutely. But people are afraid to use this approach because they feel like, “I’m giving away everything in the blog. Why would they buy a book?”

Well, you have to understand and most people don’t. Most people assume that if you have a blog, A, everybody reads that blog; B-

Drew McLellan:

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

Right. B, they’re going to read it on a consistent basis every week, which they won’t. You get some will, some won’t. Some will read it once a month or whatever the case might be. Even if they have read every blog that you’ve written, once you repackage all those into a book, it’s a whole different reading experience then.

Drew McLellan:


Dr. Anthony Paustian:

They’ll still enjoy it the second time around.

So, it’s okay to give it away. It’s okay to get feedback immediately from your writing, so you can get inspired to keep writing and keep doing this. But the biggest thing to this is, by putting it in blog form, if you commit to writing a blog, a simple blog, I’m saying maybe 800,000 words, tops, which is not a ton of writing.

If you can commit 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. 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, say, “Okay, this is my writing time,” and I will block off my calendar. I will write just during that time.

That’s the discipline that’s required to do this is, unless you can commit to writing time, and not have to deal with fires, and all the different stuff that comes up in your life, and disconnect, it’s never going to get done. That’s true of anything out there. You’ve got to schedule time for it. That, to me, is a huge key in writing anything; blog, or regardless of what it is; is actually block off enough time that you can actually sit, and relax, and write without distraction on those topics.

But for me, the easiest way to start a process, like I said, is break it up into a very detailed, comprehensive outline, and just start to write on little pieces over time.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So, let’s assume that somebody has followed that advice and they have blogged out their book over the course of a year or a year and a half. What’s the step of knitting all of those disparate pieces together to put a cohesive book together?

Dr. Anthony Paustian:

The easiest way to start with that is to get all the blogs, put them together in the proper order as per your outline in one document. Then start to read it. You’ll see where the massive transition problems are. You’ll see where, I’m actually now missing a piece in between this step and this step, or this section and th