Episode 377

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With agency ownership comes big ideas, a lot of creative energy, and infinite passion for your work. Chances are you have a million ideas floating around your head with nowhere to put them. Why not compile them into a book?

We’ve talked about why creative thought leadership matters for finding right-fit clients and aids in biz dev for your agency. This week, I’m bringing back Henry DeVries to discuss finally putting all those ideas into action and writing your book.

We have a fun episode planned today with tons of advice for creating the blueprint for your book, how to finally get started with writing (and get help doing it), and some of the common roadblocks we create for ourselves when it’s time to finally go to the printer.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
creative thought leadership

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Building the blueprint of your book
  • 7 questions to answer when creating the book outline
  • Why writing is a team sport
  • How to solo write a book in a way that’s manageable (if you choose to go it alone)
  • The best approach to co-authoring a book
  • Discovering your hidden assets and turning them into content
  • The roadblocks we create for ourselves in the final stages of publishing

“Writing's a team sport and you need somebody on your team to help you through the process.” @indiebooksintl Click To Tweet “Any business book worth writing is worth writing a first draft that sucks.” @indiebooksintl Click To Tweet “What makes your book different than any other book out there are your defining stories — and your stories matter. It's what people remember.” @indiebooksintl Click To Tweet “When working with agency owner authors, I help them find their hidden assets. I'm talking about intellectual property. Some don't realize the workshop or seminar they taught and recorded is an asset.” @indiebooksintl Click To Tweet “Your stories matter. Human brains are hardwired for stories. Your stories are what differentiates you from everyone else.” @indiebooksintl Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Henry:

Resources:



Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McClellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. If you are a regular, it’s nice to see you again. If this is new for you, welcome to the podcast. Our goal is to help you think about how you run the business, how you think about the business of your business, how you can make more money and keep more of the money you make. That’s that’s where we focus our attention. So today’s guest is a repeat guest who’s going to follow up on a conversation we just had about a month or a month and a half ago, but it’s kind of the part two to that conversation.

Before I tell you about him and what we’re going to talk about today, I do want to remind you that we have a great workshop coming up for agency owners and leaders. You are welcome to bring leaders with you, so COOs, CFOs, director of account service, folks like that. But the owner has to be present. So owners and team members are more than welcome. It’s called Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit. It is one of the precursors, so we have two workshops that qualify you for live peer group membership. So if you’re thinking about that, this might be a good one to get into. It is March 9th and 10th in Denver. And Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit looks at all of the ecosystem of behind the scenes. So HR people, money, biz dev, operations, systems, all those sorts of things. And we just teach you the best practices for agencies in all of those areas over the course of two days.

It’s a bit of a whirlwind of a workshop. Somebody called it drinking from a fire hose. We’re going to have a lot of content for you, lots of ways for you to improve, tweak, maybe change, maybe stop doing things inside your shop. But it’s a fun one to teach and the attendees always seem to enjoy it. So we would love to have you join us. Again, that’s Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit, March 9th and 10th in Denver, and you can read more about it and register on the AMI website. So just head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, and under How We Help, you’ll find all the workshops and you can register for it there.

Okay, so about a month, maybe six weeks ago, we had Henry DeVries on the show, and Henry is a independent book publisher and he works with authors to help them write their books, particularly business owners, agency owners writing a nonprofit book. So at the last episode Henry and I just talked about the importance, the value of having a book published and all the ways you can use it and all the ways that it creates a position of authority for you and how valuable it can be for your agency. So I said to him during that episode, “I really want you to come back and talk about how people get the book written,” because that’s a daunting task for a lot of people. Many of you probably want to be an author. You’ve maybe aspired to that for a long time, but you can’t figure out how to carve out the time and get it done.

So I asked him if you would come back and luckily for us today is the day. So we’re really just going to talk about the methodology of creating books and all the different ways you can get that done because there are quite a few ways, speaking from personal experience. I’ve done it many different ways over the course of my years as an author. So we’re going to talk through that and give you some best practices and also some things that get in the way and keep you from being successful at completing the book. So with that, I just want to welcome Henry back to the show and jump in. Henry, welcome back to the podcast. I don’t think I’ve ever had a repeat guest come back quite so quickly.

Henry DeVries:

Thank you for the opportunity, Drew. I’m so excited to tell people how, the tricks of the trade on how to get a book written. It’s not as hard as you think.

Drew McClellan:

Last time you were here, we talked about the power of having a book as that three-dimensional business card and establishing yourself as a subject matter expert or an authority. And at the time I said, “Hey, let’s have you come back and let’s talk about the different ways people actually tackle the challenge of writing a book.” It was funny, I was thinking over the books that I’ve written, I have never written two books in the same way. So I’ll be curious how many of my ways you come up with and then we’ll see if I’ve done something even more aberrant than that.

Henry DeVries:

I’m ready to go when you are.

Drew McClellan:

All right. So as you coach people into writing a book, what are some of the ways that you talk about… So I want to identify what they are and then I want to drill down a little deeper into the nitty gritty of how each methodology gets done. So what are some of the ways that people can get a book written and done?

Henry DeVries:

Okay, well let’s reject the first way, which is called the seat of the Pants approach. I’m going to sit down and inspiration is going to guide me and I will write out this book. That is just silly. If you were going to build a house, would you just start building a house, and I’m sure the materials and the plan will appear. No. So you go into it like building a house, you’re going to have a blueprint. Now there are different ways, though. You can hire a ghost writer, which I do not recommend for agency owners. It’s typically more expensive and they’re turning it over to somebody who doesn’t get their voice or wants their voice to come through. So there are better ways.

One’s called the developmental editor. So that’s someone who co-writes with you, does a lot of the heavy lifting, but they’re interviewing you, they’re pulling the insights and knowledge out of you, and they’re making the tone come through. There is another rejected way, you go up to that mountain cabin near Aspen and don’t come out until the book’s done. I call that the Misery approach, after the Stephen King novel and movie. Kathy Bates with a sledgehammer in the cabin is optional, but don’t do that. Writing’s a team sport. Get somebody on your team to help you through the process.

Drew McClellan:

So if I am going to write it with that editor at my side, I still have to have a blueprint. I still have to have an outline. I still have to know what I want to say. So no matter how I’m going to write the book, is the first step putting together the plan?

Henry DeVries:

I say the first step is there are seven questions you have to answer to put together the plan. So I walk people through the seven questions, in conversation, we come up with the answers for them, and then from there an outline. So what’s the working title, what’s the working subtitle, what type of story? There are eight types of stories that you can tell what type of story is your book telling, from monster problem to rags to riches to a mystery, a quest. So you pick one of the eight stories, then-

Drew McClellan:

And you do that even for a non-fiction book?

Henry DeVries:

Oh, well, yeah, I studied this and there are eight great stories that are in all works of literature and films. Hollywood only makes eight movies, by the way. And then I studied non-fiction, and the hundred greatest business books all followed these eight story patterns also. So you pick a story pattern and then you get clear on why this is important. Like Simon Sinek says, start with why. How to solve the problem in general. Then specifically how to solve the problem. Sell With Authority did this, you followed this format in your book, Sell With Authority. And then what’s next? Okay, after you’ve done all this, what’s next in your life? So we tell people the why, the how, and the what’s next. And then we give them end notes and we give them an index and we talk about the author and give acknowledgements. And altogether that’s a book. We start then writing the sloppy first copy. Any business book worth writing is worth writing a first draft that sucks. Now my on forbes.com column they don’t let me use that word, so sorry for using it on the podcast.

Drew McClellan:

It’s all right, podcast.

Henry DeVries:

So the magic is in the second draft. When you pull that together and you polish the stories. Oh, that’s the hidden asset that every agency owner has that they don’t know, I help them discover it, is their client mess to success stories. They’ve done great things for clients and we’re never going to be so boring as to call these things case studies. We’re going to tell a story about a real person, though we might need to disguise their name and industry and business for confidentiality reasons, but we tell that gripping emotional story, and by emotion I don’t mean tears and all that. I mean you feel noble when you hear the story, you laugh a little, maybe it brings a tear to the eye, and it makes you think. You hit those notes in your stories and that’s what makes your book different than any other book out there for your defining stories. And your stories matter. It’s what people remember.

Drew McClellan:

I know that even when I’m writing a presentation, or at the summit I always have to give a keynote. I figure out what I want to say, but it really doesn’t come together until I figure out the story arc of the presentation and what stories I’m going to tell at certain moments in time. At last year’s summit it was all… Really, the whole presentation was baked around the trip that my daughter and I took to Antarctica, and that story and parts of that story, and we were in a bad storm there. That story got woven through the book, if you will, and really did define the story. So I think you’re right. I think in a book it’s the same way. It’s the tales that we tell.

Henry DeVries:

Drew, you have a lot of great content, but after I met you and went away, I didn’t tell anyone about your great content. I told them the Antarctica story and the packet ice forming, and then your message to all of us there that you found a safe harbor, you saved the agency, but now you’ve got to go into the storm. We’re coming into a renaissance, like the renaissance after World War II or the Bubonic Plague. I mean, it’s just so memorable. I can tell your story because my brain is hardwired for the story, and as I’ve told it to people, I see them leaning in and they want to know what happens next. So that was great storytelling you did at the BaBA Summit back in May.

Drew McClellan:

And we can do it in books too, as I think your point is, that when we tell our stories… And I also think the stories that agency owners have to tell in their book are personal, their personal triumphs for them, their personal triumphs for their team, for their clients, or their horror stories. It’s when something didn’t go well or right. But they’re very personal and I think that’s part of what makes a great book, is that you get a sense of the author and what matters to them in the book that they write.

Henry DeVries:

It has to come through that when I read the book and then I meet the agency owner, I’m meeting the same person. They’re not this academic serious person here, and then they’re this gregarious storyteller over here. Those are two different people. I want to have congruity between the two.

Drew McClellan:

Okay, so I answer the seven questions, which are basically title, subtitle, core message of the book, why are you writing the book, what’s the problem you’re solving, an overview of the problem, and then what’s the problem you’re solving in detail, how do you solve the problem, and then what are the stories you’re going to pepper through the book to illustrate your points along the way, right?

Henry DeVries:

Exactly. You want to have hook leads into your chapters. So I’ve been a magazine writer and won some awards for it and teach people to do it, and what I teach is you need to have a hook. You need to have, it’s a story or it’s an anecdote, it’s an observation, a historical note, something that intrigues the reader to get into the chapter. Best book, and this is where you think I’m going to shill my book or one of my 17 books, and if somebody buys my book, Drew, I’m happy to sign it and if they buy two, I’ll come to their house and read it to them. The book, though, I’m going to promote here, is On Writing Well by William Zinzer. He taught writing at Yale University. It’s the best book I’ve ever read on non-fiction, and he really taught me the importance of the hook lead to get the reader into the story. And I recommend On Writing Well to everyone.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, it’s a great book. I’ve answered the questions, I have this sense of what the book might develop out to be, but most people don’t just sit down. I get that there’s the first bad draft and then the second draft is really where it starts to come together, but most people don’t just sit down and write the first draft. They don’t sit down in one fell swoop and write the draft. So what are some of the ways busy agency owners who are already working 50 or 60 hours a week and have a family and all the things, what are some of the ways that they can tackle this project?

Henry DeVries:

Well, let me tell you how I helped Bob, not his real name-

Drew McClellan:

I was going to say that’s for confidentiality reasons we’re now calling him Bob.

Henry DeVries:

Bob, but Bob is the president of one of the top 10 pharmas in the United States, and he came to me during the middle of COVID. Bob was a little busy during that period working on anecdotes and… Antidotes. I work on anecdotes. He worked on antidotes.

Drew McClellan:

I was going to say he might have had some antidotes as well, yeah. Great.

Henry DeVries:

So what I did with him is we did this outline and we named each chapter, we described the work that chapter had to do, and we put together 15 insights that he had. And he had a purpose for writing the book because it was to build the culture at his firm and also be a thought leader, an authority, if you will, authority in his industry. But he doesn’t have time to write a book, and the board of directors would’ve fired him if they heard he was writing a book. He gave me an hour a week. And the first 45 minutes we outlined the chapter. The next 15 minutes I sent him off on a walk with his smartphone and he, just from that outline, talked the chapter. I transcribed it, cleaned it up, and that’s how we created the sloppy first copy of a 16 chapter book in 16 weeks.

He polished it, decided not to publish it. He though, what do you call it, the content strategy, he sliced and diced it in emails to his people, in speeches he gave, articles out to the industry. It’s like the author Joan Didion said, “I don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down.” So the process clarified his thinking and his ability to deliver the message. So that’s how you go and talk a book into existence. So a busy agency owner, I’m doing two chapters a week with people now, and in 10 weeks we can get that sloppy first copy draft done, and in the next four weeks we can polish it and have a manuscript that can be submitted to a publisher. That’s the first milestone, is it’s publisher ready. And whether you do it with a traditional publisher, like I’ve done McGraw Hill, or you do it with an indie publisher, I run an indie publishing company, or the S word, the dreaded S word.

Drew McClellan:

Right, you self-publish.

Henry DeVries:

Self-published. Don’t ever say your book is self-published. There’s a stigma. So I’ve helped agency owners indie publish the book themselves, because they had had the talent at their disposal and it was just somebody to marshal the talent and tell them, “This is working, this is not working. Here’s the shortcut we use in the publishing industry.”

Drew McClellan:

So if I don’t want to write the book that way… Let’s say I want to write it by myself, what are some of the ways that I would write the book by myself that is bite-sized or manageable enough that a busy professional could do it?

Henry DeVries:

Well, the same tactic could be done where you do the outline and then you talk the book and use a service like rev.com to transcribe it at 25 cents a minute with their automated robot that’ll do it.

Drew McClellan:

I think Rev actually uses people. I think Temi is the one that uses the AI and there’s a lot more cleanup, but it’s only 10 cents a minute.

Henry DeVries:

Oh, nice.

Drew McClellan:

But a lot of cleanup.

Henry DeVries:

That could reduce my expenses by 40%.

Drew McClellan:

There you go. You could basically talk into your phone and just talk out the chapter, and then in the editing of each chapter you would clean it up, you might add a story, you might move things around, because I think sometimes the way we talk, and sometimes as you’re talking you’re like, “Oh shoot, I want to include that, but that has to be up further in the chapter or whatever.” I’m sure there’s lots of self-talking as someone’s talking out a chapter of a book.

Henry DeVries:

Yeah, I am so old I remember doing this on an IBM Selectric. And one very popular filmmaker I know, he writes his scripts out on yellow legal pads and then cuts and paste and with tape, tapes that together and then hands it to a typist. We’re beyond that.

Drew McClellan:

That’s insane.

Henry DeVries:

With Microsoft Word we’ve got the power to rearrange paragraphs. I do it all the time that. And when I’m coaching people, sometimes I’ll say the journalism expression, you buried the lede. Your content was ho hum, like an airplane that couldn’t get off the runway through these first three pages, and then it’s soared. Move that to the front of the chapter. You buried the lede, let’s get the lede up there. So they still are working off an outline, but you can talk 250 words a minute. You type 25 words a minute when you’re writing, if you’re going at a good clip, and if we count the time you get up to get a sandwich, clean the desk, all the time wasted [inaudible 00:20:33]-

Drew McClellan:

All the procrastinating things we do, right?

Henry DeVries:

So it’s a lot less.