Episode 267:

It’s an age-old adage – books are a three-dimensional business card. In today’s vernacular (from the book Sell With Authority) a book is an excellent example of cornerstone content. Many agency owners I know are curious about how to become a successful author but have decided they’ll never have the time or space to actually write that book. Josh Steimle has helped many clients recognize that they actually can get that book written and it doesn’t have to take years or be a painful experience.

Josh is an agency owner and former guest (Episode #182). As his agency (MWI) matured and his partners were running the day-to-day operations, Josh decided to explain what it takes to become a book author to grow their businesses just like he had done for his agency.

During our conversation, Josh explains how agency owners can write a book that demonstrates their expertise and allows them to step into their authority position. He then breaks down the book writing process to make it faster, less cumbersome, and very doable for the busy agency owner who wants to learn how to become a successful author.

This is the episode for you if you’d like to add the title “author” to your list of accomplishments. Josh busts many myths and helps the listeners chart a course to getting that first draft done!

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.

 How to Become a Successful Author | Build your agency’s authority position through authorship

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • If you decide to go with a different keyword, make sure to have the keyword listed in at least one bullet point in bold.
  • How to write a book and use it as cornerstone content
  • Why a book is a strong way to tie your thought leadership and content creation efforts together
  • How to become a successful author so you can build your agency’s position of authority.
  • How Josh helps business owners navigate the book writing process
  • Why being an author and having a book escalates your agency’s growth and creates new opportunities
  • How being an author can actually shorten your sales cycle
  • Different ways you can use storytelling techniques to write a business book
  • How to organize the content/expertise you already have into an outline for your book
“Thought leadership has a lot of potential, and there are so many different places to publish and promote our content. A book is the glue that binds all of our content creation efforts together.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “There are three hard parts to writing a book: getting started, finishing it, and everything in between.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “If you have tossed around the idea of how to become a successful author, it is easier than you think. A book helps agency leaders propel their businesses in directions they don’t normally get to go.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “We’ve had potential clients call us and say, ‘we read your book, we want to work with you, send us a contract.'” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “Even if it’s a bad book, it takes so much work for agency leaders to get a book done. That is why you need a process for how to become a successful author.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Josh Steimle:

Additional Resources:

 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community. Where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. The Build A Better Agency presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Thank you for coming back and continuing to listen. This is actually, this episode is sort of a part two of us agency owners story. So before I tell you a little bit about him and the part one of the part two, let me remind you a couple of quick things. Number one, we have some killer workshops happening in December and January. The Money Matters Workshop is December 3rd and 4th. It is in Orlando on Disney property, actually at the Grand Floridian. And I am excited to be back live doing some events. These are going to be very carefully orchestrated events. They are setting up the seating in a way that everybody is social distanced and it’s all managed really well. They have not had one case of COVID come out of Disney since they reopened in July, so they are doing a great job.

Drew McLellan:

But more important than that, not only will we keep you safe. But you talk about great timing. We are going to teach you a lot of things about how to run your agency better, how to make more money and keep more of the money you make. And that is a great way to tee up 2021. So we’re going to talk about agency math. We’re going to talk about metrics that in about five minutes, you can know whether or not your agency is healthy. We’re going to talk about pricing and proposal strategies that help you maximize the dollars you get paid for the work you do. We’re going to talk about protecting yourself from some of the financial crises that agencies have found themselves in. We’re going to talk about tax strategies. We’re going to talk about a bonus structure that gets your employees to actually behave like owners. We’ve got a lot. It is a packed two days of content. And I would love to have you join us.

Drew McLellan:

In January, we’ve got a workshop that is back by popular demand. It’s called Build & Nurture Your Agency’s Sales Funnel. And you will leave that workshop. That workshop is January 21st and 22nd, also on Disney property at Disney’s beach and yacht hotel. And you will leave that workshop with an actual sales plan, marketing and sales plan for your agency. So we’re not only going to teach you how to do it. We’re going to help you do it. So you are going to leave the, literally that workshop, I think it’s a Thursday, Friday. You will get back into the office on Monday, and you will be ready to go. That’s how complete it’s going to be.

Drew McLellan:

In fact, what happened last year when we were teaching it is people were texting and emailing their team, giving them assignments during the workshop so that they literally on Monday, were ready to hit the ground running.

Drew McLellan:

So a great workshop, a hands-on workshop. Both of these workshops I think because of the pandemic are going to be smaller than normal in terms of attendance. So you’re going to get a lot of one-on-one attention, and coaching, and help at the workshops.

Drew McLellan:

To sweeten the deal because I am hoping to get a reasonable number of folks in both workshops to quite candidly, to fulfill my room block requirements, we are going to put everyone’s name who signs up for either the December or January workshop. Those names will go into a hat. And one of the registrants will win a year of coaching with me. So that’s 12 coaching sessions directly, just you and me for an hour a month. Or however you want to use it. But you have 12 hours of my time, which is about a $9,000 value that we are going to be giving away. So hopefully that entices you to join us. Hopefully, the content entices you to join us.

Drew McLellan:

I’m excited. These are both workshops that we routinely get rave reviews on, and that I’m super proud to teach. So I would love to have you there. It’s a great way for you to shake off 2020 and to take 2021 by storm. So hopefully you can join us.

Drew McLellan:

All right. Let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So Josh Steimle was my guest on the podcast. It was episode 182. And that was part one of his story. So Josh is an agency owner, and he started his agency in 1999. And really just was a small shop for many, many years until he began to develop the idea that he could build his agency through thought leadership. And if any of you have read the book that Stephen Woessner and I wrote Selling With Authority, or you’ve heard me talk about it, you know that I am all about this strategy.

Drew McLellan:

So this thought leadership really catapulted Josh’s agency prior to him taking this thought leadership position and really becoming a published author, both in terms of articles and books and things like that. They were under a million bucks in AGI. And after that, they were in the multiple millions because they really leveraged that thought leadership to grow their business. Well now, what Josh has done is Josh has pivoted part of his business to help other entrepreneurs and other agency owners really define how they can write a book. He believes that a book is the centerpiece for your thought leadership. How you can painlessly and more easily get a book written that sort of kick starts your thought leadership. So he’s actually created a course that helps people write their book.

Drew McLellan:

So today, what I want to talk to him about is the part two of his story, which is now that he has begun to help other entrepreneurs write their books, what can we learn from him if you have a book in your head or your heart that you want to write? Which I know many agency owners do.

Drew McLellan:

As you know, I believe that a book is a fine way to create cornerstone content. I think a podcast, I think research, I think there are a lot of big meaty ways to create this idea of a cornerstone piece of content that you can kind of slice and dice throughout the year to create content for all your social channels and all of that without having to reinvent the wheel. And a book is a great one. So I wanted to get Josh on the show to sort of talk through if you have a book that you’ve been itching to write, how can you do it in a way that makes it easier for you and maybe faster for you to get it done so you can put that book to work growing your agents? So let’s jump into the conversation. And my job is to pick all of the best tips and secrets out of Josh’s brain. Josh, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming back.

Josh Steimle:

Thanks for having me on Drew again.

Drew McLellan:

So last time we talked, we talked about sort of your agency life and your agency adventures. And now, you’ve shifted gears a little bit. So give the reader, the readers, give the … I’ve got book on my brain. Give the listeners sort of an understanding of how you have evolved since you were last with us. And where you’re at in terms of agency ownership and why this new focus on book authors.

Josh Steimle:

Sure. So in 1999, I started my agency, which is called MWI. And it’s a full-service digital marketing agency. Nothing too fancy there. And in 2013, I hit a major inflection point when I got the opportunity to write for Forbes Magazine and that built up a lot of thought leadership content and attention for the agency. And we kind of exploded as a result of that jumping from basically being a tiny agency doing a couple of hundred grand a year to doing multiple millions a year. And we expanded to Hong Kong and Europe with offices, and it was just this wild ride.

Josh Steimle:

And then I ended up bringing on two partners who I was able to pass the business off to gradually. So starting around 2017, I began to take a back seat with the agency and hand off more and more of the day-to-day duties to my partners. Which left me with a vacuum. And as we know, nature abhors a vacuum. It’s got to be filled with something.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. Especially for an entrepreneur.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. And I’m that typical shiny object entrepreneur. I have 100 ideas. Most of them are bad, but I want to chase all of them. So I had to do something. And what I got interested in was this idea of thought leadership because of the experience I’d had with my own business writing for Forbes, which then led to two dozen business publications, and hundreds of articles, and speaking engagements, and a book deal. And I thought this is really interesting. And people were asking me questions about it. So I thought maybe I’ll dive into this and do some coaching and consulting along the lines of helping people build up their personal brand and engage in thought leadership.

Josh Steimle:

So I started doing that. And then the next thing I knew, I kind of had a second business doing that. And that went through some iterations where one day we were focusing on helping executives and entrepreneurs with their LinkedIn. And the next day, we were helping them with writing content for these large publications.

Josh Steimle:

And eventually, what I came to realize was that with all the thought leadership that somebody can do and all the different places that you can create content, what really seemed to tie it all together and bring the most authority to people was if they had a book. If they didn’t have a book, they could do all these other things and it would work. But if they had a book, it really tied everything together. And it was kind of that central hub that they could build courses on. They could build a speaking career on. They could build their business around. So that became my focus was helping entrepreneurs to write a book and then build all these other thought leadership buckets or pieces around it.

Drew McLellan:

So obviously I want to ask you a bunch about that. But remind me when we’re done recording. So everybody who’s listening, you’re now hearing me put together a to do. There’s a great study that just came out on the ROI of thought leadership. And I need to give you a link to that because I think you’re going to find that fascinating. So I actually had an agency that did that study and the researcher that did that study on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. So I’ll hook you up with that.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So I agree. And I think most entrepreneurs long to be a book author. They long to have a book. There’s something about that that feels like it really legitimizes who you are and that you have something unique to say. So I can totally see the appeal of that. But as you and I both know, the wanting to write a book, and writing a book, and actually getting a book done have a chasm in between them.

Drew McLellan:

So as I understand it, part of what you do is that you actually help the entrepreneur think about the topic for the book and then actually get through the actual writing of the book. So talk to us a little bit about how you come alongside your clients and help them actually get from wishing they could do it to doing it.

Josh Steimle:

Right. We help them to cross that chasm, because it is a ton of work. And I learned this when I wrote my first book. I thought my first book was going to be easy because I didn’t even write it. It was a book full of interviews. I went out and I thought well, if I’m going to grow my agency, and who is my agency targeting? Well, the decision maker is often the chief marketing officer, the CMO at a company. So I thought well, I’m going to write a book that targets these CMOs. And I’ll just go out and interview a bunch of CMOs, put it together in a book. And then it’ll be kind of a fly on the wall picture of what it’s like to be a CMO. And then CMOs will trust me because I’m the guy who wrote the book, interviewing all these top CMOs.

Josh Steimle:

So I went out and I did a bunch of these interviews, did about 30 interviews. Slapped them together, put them in this book. And that makes it sound easy, but it wasn’t that easy to slap together all those interviews, or to get the interviews, or to get them transcribed, or to edit them and get it the way that my publisher wanted it. And by the time I was done with that book, I thought, “Man, I thought this was going to be easy. I’m just interviewing these people and slapping these interviews together.” And it took about eight or nine months. It was a ton of work. I had to go through so many edits. And it was so much work getting these interviews done. When I got to the end of it, it was kind of like the first time I ran a marathon. It was like well that was great, but I’m never doing that again. I had so much respect for every author out there because I realized it takes so much work to get a book done. And even if it’s a bad book, it’s still a lot of work to get that book out there.

Josh Steimle:

So that’s when I started doing the thought leadership consulting and we decided we’re going to pivot into this area of helping people with books. I knew that that was something that people needed because I had been through that myself and I had seen how hard it was, and how hard it was to just push through to the finish.

Josh Steimle:

There are three hard parts to writing a book. Getting started, finishing it, and then everything in between. I mean, it’s just a slog of the whole way through and you get stuck on all these different parts.

Drew McLellan:

And it gets less sexy the longer you’re doing it. In the beginning, you’re super excited about it. And you’re like, “This is going to be great. And you have this great idea,” and the prose starts to flow. And then after a while, it’s like oh my God. The folder that holds the book that we put out last January is called the freaking book. That’s what it is on my computer. Because by then, I was so over it that I just wanted it to be done. So you’re right. There’s nothing easy or fast about it.

Josh Steimle:

No. I mean going back to that marathon analogy, when you start running, it feels great. You’re with all these people. Everybody’s excited. “Yeah. I’m doing a marathon.” And then you get to mile 17 or 18 out of the 26 miles. And you’re like, “Oh, please just shoot me. Just kill me. I kind of wish I would faint so I’d have a good excuse to drop out.” And that’s how it is with a book too. I mean, it is hard to get it done. And we’re trying to make that easier. We’re trying to take people and say, “Where do you get stuck? How can we help you through this? Here’s a workbook. Here are all the steps. Just follow these steps. It’ll make it easy. We’re going to hold you accountable. We’re going to push you when you need to be pushed. We’re going to pull you when you need to be pulled. We’re going to drag you when you need to be dragged.” And we take them through that whole process.

Josh Steimle:

Because a lot of what happens where people get stuck is that they just don’t know what to do. They don’t know what the next step is. Or they know what the next step is, but they don’t know the right way to take it on. What’s the right way for me to create my outline? Well, there are all these different options. So then you just end up with paralysis because you’re saying, “Gee, I don’t know which one’s the right one. I’ll just put this off until I can figure that out.” And then you get busy with other stuff and you never figure it out, and your book never gets finished.

Drew McLellan:

And I think that’s part of the challenge too, right? These are not people who have retired so they can write a book. These are not people who are taking a sabbatical to write a book. These are busy entrepreneurs. In my world, busy agency owners who are scrambling to run their business, to deal with their employees, to have some family time. And then they have to figure out how to carve out time on top of all of that to write the book. So if it gets hard, it’s the easy thing to say, “You know what? That one has to be on the back burner.”

Josh Steimle:

Yep. And it’s easy to justify that because you’ve got your agency, you’ve got your paycheck on the line. You’ve got so many other priorities pushing, and this book is kind of an extra nice to have type of thing. Even if you know it’s kind of the future of your business and this is what you’re going to build your business around, still it’s a nice to have because tomorrow payroll’s due.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. But you and I both know from personal experience and there’s lots of data that being an author and having a book does propel your business in directions that you don’t get to go if you don’t have the book. So I know that there are examples and case studies of the power and the value of being an author. So I’m assuming that’s part of what you help your clients recognize is yes, it’s a lot of hard work. But here’s what’s on the other side of the finish line.

Josh Steimle:

Exactly. So because of my book, Chief Marketing Officers at Work through a series of random events, I got a phone call one day from somebody and they invited me to hang out with Richard Branson for a week. And I thought it was a scam. But I went on this trip, but the story is not about the trip. I just happened to be on this trip. And I was on a boat and I was chatting with the people around me.

Josh Steimle:

And I turned to this woman next to me. And I said, “So who are you? Where are you from?” And she said, “I co-founded an agency in New York.” And I said, “I run an agency too.” You know? And I said, “So how big is your agency? What do you do?” She said, “We’ve got about 600 people.” And I said, “Oh wow, okay. You’re on a whole different level than I am. I’ve got like 20 people. You’ve got 600. Jeez.” And I asked her, “Well, how did you grow your agency that big? I mean, that’s a huge, huge agency.” And she said, “Well, my co-founder, he writes a lot of books and they’ve been pretty popular. And that’s how we grew the agency.” And I thought wait a second, New York, 600 people, co-founder writes a lot of books. I asked her, “Wait, who’s your co-founder.” She said Gary Vaynerchuk. And I said okay. Got it. Because Gary has got like 10 best-selling books.

Josh Steimle:

Well, what she had told me right there was she gave full credit for VaynerMedia, Gary Vaynerchuk’s agency to his books. Now he does a lot of speaking, he does a lot of social media. He does a lot of other things to get content out there. But when she was asked what led to the success of Gary Vaynerchuk and his media empire, her answer was the books. It was all about the books. That was the core that made everything else possible.

Josh Steimle:

Now that might seem like a crazy case study, right? Because how many of us can start an agency like Gary Vaynerchuk’s? But my own story was I started writing for Forbes and these publications. I got this book deal. My thought leadership, I went from running a tiny agency that seriously, at the time I started writing for Forbes in 2013, we were at a down point. We were doing about 200 grand a year. I mean, it didn’t even cover my salary after all the expenses and everything. And a couple years later, we’re doing 3 million. And now we can track over $10 million revenue back to the thought leadership content that I produced, a large chunk of which was the book that I wrote that allowed us to get deals.

Josh Steimle:

A practical example of how that worked was we were in China opening an office over there. And I had a partner who wanted to bring me into a deal. He ran a marketing agency too, but he didn’t do what we did. So we were partnering up to get this deal. And we walked into the largest university in China, Peking University. It’s kind of like the Harvard of China. And we were meeting with the dean of the business school who was interested in doing some PR work. And he wanted to get his school into Forbes and other U.S.-based publications. And we walked in and my partner said, “Look, the way this is going to work is we’re going to meet with this guy seven or eight times, separate times. And we’re going to get him to like us in event. And eventually he’ll trust us. And eventually he’ll give us his business. But this is the way things are done in China. It takes a lot of time. You have to build up that relationship. So don’t expect that we’re just going to go in and close a deal or something.” I said, “Sure, sure. Yeah.” I’d been in China for a little while. I knew how it worked.

Josh Steimle:

But we walked in, and the first one thing I did was I handed him a copy of my book. And I said, “Hey, this is a book I just wrote. I interviewed these CMOs from companies like PayPal, and Spotify, and Target. And I just wanted to give you a copy as a gift.” And he said, “Oh, thank you so much.” And then we talked a little bit and we told him what we do, and how we worked, and how it all worked. And he said, “Well, this sounds great. Let’s do it. Give me a contract tomorrow.” And that was it. We walked out. And my friend turned to me said, “How did you do that?” And I said, “What?” And he’s like, “Nobody signs deals that fast. That’s not how it works over here.” And I said, “It’s the book.” I had the book. I mean, I handed him the book. I had interviewed all these famous CMOs and I’d written for these publications. So he trusted me. We didn’t have to go through seven or eight meetings for him to build up that trust because the book was the trust factor, the authority factor that made that deal work. And we weren’t a huge agency at that time. But the book made all the difference.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think the power of taking an authority position, and this is something I’ve been preaching to agencies for a long time. I believe this is the way agencies will sell in the future is that rather than us going out and finding clients or rather than us just being find-able by our area of specialty, when we are a subject matter expert or an authority, we’re not out looking for clients. We’re not just find-able, but we’re sought after. And I think when someone is seeking you out because you have expertise, then all of a sudden the sales cycle gets really truncated. Because they’ve already given you the credibility that a pitch or ongoing conversations normally are required to do to get you there.

Josh Steimle:

Exactly. And it’s one thing to be able to walk into a new client and slap that book down and say, “Hey, I wrote this book.” Or, “Our founder wrote this book,” or, “Somebody in our company wrote this book.” The better way is when they read the book and then they come to you and they call you up and say, “I read your book. We’re ready to hire you.” Which is something we’ve seen happen that we’ve had potential clients call us up and just say, “I read your book. We want to work with you, send us a contract.” And we just cut out three months of sales cycle right there, because it was already done for us by the book.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So let’s say the listeners are like, “Okay, I’m ready. I want to write a book.” Do they just sit down and start writing? What is your recommended process? It seems to me that this is one of those measure twice cut once sort of processes. And I’ve written I don’t know, five or six books now. So I’ve honed my own process. But I know that you teach a process that’s really about building the right foundation so that once you actually start writing, it’s sort of an accelerated process.

Josh Steimle:

Right. And what I found is that there is no one right process for everybody when it comes to writing a book. I have my process that I think is a good process. I think it’s the best process for a lot of people. But when I teach it to people, I say, “If this doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to ditch it. Because whatever works for you, whatever helps you get that book in the end, that’s all that matters.” It’s not all about the means to the end. It’s about getting to that end.

Josh Steimle:

However, there are a few things that almost everybody who is good at writing does, and I think it makes sense to at least learn about those standard best practices. And if you then say, “Well, I’m the exception, I’m going to ditch it,” fine. But at least you know what you’re doing. You know that you’re breaking the rules. And one thing that I think is a mistake for a lot of people is just what you said, to just start writing. Because when we just start writing, it’s kind of like when you pull out of the driveway and you haven’t found GPS to your directions yet, and you don’t know where you’re going. And you start driving, and then you’re trying to figure out GPS on your phone while you’re driving. And then you realize I’m not even going in the right direction. I should have turned the other way on the road. And then you have to go back and backtrack. It’s like you’re just wasting time. It’s dangerous. So just sit there in the driveway, figure out GPS, and then go off in the right direction.

Josh Steimle:

And I equate that to identifying what you want your book to do, the purpose or the why behind your book. Understanding who the ideal audience is for that book, and what the results are that you want to get out of it and how you’re going to measure those results.

Josh Steimle:

So when I wrote my first book, I knew what the why was. The why was I want to grow my agency. That was the job to be done. And I knew my audience was, which was I was going to target CMOs because the CMOs are the decision makers on the deals that we were trying to get. And as far as how we were going to measure it, well, we were going to measure it by the deals that we landed. So we had answers to those questions.

Josh Steimle:

Some of the mistakes I made there though was that really the book that I wrote wasn’t the ideal content to get our audience to do what I wanted them to do. It wasn’t bad. It was still good. It was a net positive, but it could have been better. If I had written a book that was more focused on how CMOs can work better with an agency or digital marketing for the CMO, that type of book, that would have been more relevant. It would have been more direct.

Josh Steimle:

And that’s actually the book I planned on writing. But I got sidetracked a little along the way because I started doing research and interviewing CMOs. And then I thought well gee, I’ve already got all these interviews. I might as well turn this into a book. So that’s how that ended up being my first book. And then I never got around to the second book because I kind of didn’t need it at that point, or it didn’t seem like a huge priority anymore.

Josh Steimle:

But if you can get that foundation in place and know why you’re writing this book, who you’re targeting, and how you’re going to measure the results, that right there cuts out a lot of problems that some first-time authors face when they just sit down and say, “Well, I’m just going to start writing. And who am I writing for? I don’t know. Why am I writing? I don’t know. How am I going to know if this is successful? I don’t know. I’m just writing. I’m just writing a book. I just need to have a book.” Well, you’re going to spend a lot of extra time and spin your wheels a lot that way.

Drew McLellan:

And do you recommend that authors, because I think what we’re talking about now, certainly with my audience with agency owners, odds are they’re not writing a murder mystery or a romcom book, right? They’re writing a B2B book, they’re writing a business book that’s going to help grow their agency. So given that sort of methodology, do you then recommend that the next step is for them to sort of outline … because I think even a business book has to have sort of some storytelling element to it. And it has to build up like a story does. So for me anyway when I’ve been writing, I needed that outline. I needed to sort of see the whole journey to your analogy. I needed to know that I was headed to Cleveland and my GPS was set for Cleveland so I could sort of map out the journey. And then I had milestones to work towards, which helped me also chunk up the work of the book.

Josh Steimle:

Exactly. So an outline is a basic tool that virtually every successful writer uses. And the simplest outline is you have this idea for your book. And let’s say it’s a business book so it’s kind of a how to book. So that means you’re probably going to have a system or a formula. You have some sort of thing that is your secret sauce. And that’s what you’re marketing to people. It’s how to do XYZ. And that system or formula is going to have a few steps or a few different parts. Well, that’s a natural way to format your outline is to say each of these chapters is one of those steps. And then within each chapter, I go into that.

Josh Steimle:

Right there, you’ve got a simple outline. We’ll call that a thin outline. Then you start filling that in and saying, “Okay. So in chapter one, which is about this first step on this success path that I’m laying out for my readers, what am I going to talk about in that chapter?” And you start outlining that chapter. And as you go through this process with each of the chapters and you start outlining each chapter, and then adding details, and adding notes, you get what the author Josh Bernoff calls a fat outline. A fat outline can be 40 or 50 pages long. But it’s a thin outline. That’s what you start with. That has a lot of notes, a lot of details, maybe have stories written up. You’re not sure exactly where they’re going to go, but you’ve got them ready to go in there. And you get that fat outline.

Josh Steimle:

Once you get your fat outline, finishing the book gets really easy. Because then, it’s all laid out in front of you. You got the plan. You just need to fill it in with writing that connects everything. So going from those 50 pages of your fat outline to maybe 150, 200 pages to call it a complete business book. That’s actually the easier part when you start off the right way and do your outline the right way.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Interesting. So for my latest book, my coauthor and I Stephen Woessner, we took a bit of a different path. We actually taught a two day workshop, had cameras set up, mic’d ourselves. And we knew that the workshop could turn into the basis of a book. So then what we did was we transcribed the workshop. And that in essence became our fat outline. So then we were able to augment it with things that we didn’t cover in the workshop, more examples and things like that. But you’re right. It then made the conversion into an actual chapter much easier because we just took the sections of the workshop. And that sort of fleshed out our thin outline.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. And that’s kind of a fun thing when you realize that content you’ve already created is essentially a book. And a lot of people will stumble onto their book because they do have a workshop like you say, or they have a talk that they deliver regularly. And they realize, “I’ve got all these quotes, I’ve got all this research, I’ve got all these stories. I could just put this all down in written format, expand it a little bit. And I’ve got a book right here.”

Josh Steimle:

I have a friend who just did this. He was giving a presentation a few weeks ago and somebody came up afterwards and said, “You should turn this into a book.” And he said, “That’s a good idea. Maybe I could do that someday.” And the guy’s like, “No, no, right now. You should turn this into a book.” And he already had all the material. So he took about two weeks and he put it all together into a book. And now he’s publishing it. I mean, forget the whole 12 month timeline of gathering information and doing research. Maybe you’ve already done that and you can just use it.

Josh Steimle:

Or another example is I just interviewed Kara Goldin. She’s the founder of Hint Water if you’ve seen these fruit flavored waters. And it’s a hundred million dollar company. She started it 15 years ago. And she journaled her whole story through these 15 years. So then she realized I’ve got all these journal entries. This is basically a book. And I should put this together and tell people my story so that other people can look at it and say, “Hey, I could do that too.”

Josh Steimle:

And she wrote it up and shared it with some people like Adam Grant and some other experienced authors. And they said, “Yeah, this is good. You should definitely turn this into a book.” So she turned it into a book. But she didn’t have to do a bunch of research and writing. She already had it there.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think a lot of the listeners step up on stage and they present their work or their sort of point of view or philosophy about the marketing they do. I think a lot of people have more of the content of their book in air quotes done, then they think about. And so I think they do probably have a headstart on the content of a book more than perhaps they’ve considered.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. And to apply this to an agency perspective, there’s a agency up in I think Calgary called Cult. And they decided a few years ago that they only wanted to work with cult brands, brands that people love so much. They get their logo tattooed on their arm or something like Harley Davidson or something. So they started changing the brand of their agency to this cult brand. And they an event called the collective or the gathering I think it’s called. And everything’s around this idea of cults, and cult brands, and such. But they also wrote a book, and it’s all about how to make your product addictive and to give it kind of that cult status.

Josh Steimle:

But it was part of their entire brand. So they were living this brand. And it made the book easy to write because they were already living it. It was part of who they were.

Drew McLellan:

And you and I keep saying easy to write. And even the easiest book to write is a lot of work and not that easy to write. So it’s really easier. I mean, I don’t want to blow smoke up anybody’s skirt about it’s never easy.

Josh Steimle:

Right. It’s just relatively easier.

Drew McLellan:

It’s like you’re more familiar with the content. So I want to take a quick break. And then when we come back, I want to ask you about some of the challenges that first time authors face and how they can overcome them. So when we come back, we’ll pick up there.

Drew McLellan:

When it comes to conducting a client satisfaction survey, your agency has three choices. The first one is adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell policy and just roll the dice. Your second option is to do the study in-house. And the third option is to use a third party to conduct your client satisfaction survey. If you decide that you’re ready to invest in protecting your client relationships and improving your win and keep ratios, we believe there are some benefits of using AMI as your third party research partner. Number one, we know emphatically that your clients will tell us things that they just won’t tell you. The reality is they’re going to speak more freely if they’re not talking to you directly. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, and they don’t want to get into a big conversation about it. So a third party is a safe place for them to share their real feedback.

Drew McLellan:

The second is that at AMI, we don’t have a bias about any particular client. We don’t know if you like them, don’t like them, if they’re a pain, if they’re your favorite. So because we understand the agency business, but we don’t come into those conversations with any preconceived notions, we can absolutely give you unbiased and unfiltered information based on what your clients tell us. And you know what? We know agency clients. We can hear what they’re saying, and we know which threads to pull on as we’re talking to them to get more information for you and more insight. Your clients will be comfortable talking to us because we speak their language.

Drew McLellan:

If you’re interested in having AMI do your customer satisfaction survey, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the how we help section of the website to learn more. All right, let’s get back to the show.

Drew McLellan:

All right, welcome back. I am here with Josh, and we’re talking about the power of being a book author. And how you as busy agency owners and leaders, how do you get this done? So before the break, I had said that I know when I think about my first book, I made lots of mistakes and I think everybody does. So I wanted to pick Josh’s brain a little bit in terms of how can first-time authors avoid some of the common mistakes that get made.

Josh Steimle:

Well, understanding the process helps first-time authors to avoid mistakes. And of course, first-time authors have never been through the process. So they typically learn these lessons going through it the first time. And then they say, “Well gee. If I’d known all that, I would have done things differently. Now I’m going to do it all differently with my second book.” But it’d sure be nice if you could avoid all those mistakes on the first book.

Josh Steimle:

One of the mistakes that a lot of first-time authors make is to assume that they’re going to get a traditional publishing deal. And that that publisher is going to take care of a lot of things for them that publishers actually don’t do. Things like-

Drew McLellan:

Unless you’re John Grisham.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. Unless you’re John Grisham, or Hillary Clinton, or something like that. If you’re a huge name, then publishers do take care of everything. But if you’re a normal person, especially a first-time author normal person, first of all, the chances of you getting a traditional book deal are very slim. Unless you’re highly experienced and highly visible in your field. Because book publishers are businesses too. And they’ve got the numbers there. And they know that if you’re not going to sell 10, or 15, or 20,000 books, it’s not really worth it for them to invest in you. Because if you think about it from the publisher’s perspective, they’re going to give you an advance. And these days, advances are smaller than ever. So typically as a first-time author, you’re probably going to get a small advance that’s in the four figures, maybe in the five figures. But the chance of you getting a six-figure advance are slim to none, unless you’ve really got an exceptional circumstance. And those do happen sometimes.

Josh Steimle:

But you’re probably not going to get a big advance. It’s going to be a couple thousand dollars. But still, that’s an expense for the publisher. But the bigger expense is they’re going to bring in an editor, a cover designer, a typesetter, all these people who are going to work on the production of your book. And they might be investing 20,000 to $50,000 into your book. The only reason they’re willing to do that is if it pays off. If they’re not going to make 100,000 or $150,000 back, why would they spend this $50,000 on you?

Josh Steimle:

So from their perspective, they’re looking at this as risk mitigation. How do we reduce the risk? Where’s the opportunity? Is this a sure thing, or are we going to lose a bunch of money on this?

Josh Steimle:

So publishers are looking at that. And when they look at whether you’re going to sell books or not, especially since they’re not going to do any marketing for you unless you’re huge, they have to know that you’re going to do the marketing, and that you’ve got the platform. So if you come in and you say, “Yeah, I’ve got this great book idea.” They could care less. What they really want to know is-

Drew McLellan:

How are you going to sell books?

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. How are you going to sell books? How many subscribers do you have to your email list? How likely are these subscribers to buy your book? How many actual engaged followers do you have on your social media accounts? Because anybody can game the system and go get a million followers on Twitter. But will any of those people actually buy your book when you tweet about it? Or do you do speaking engagements? Can you sell from the stage that every time you go out, you sell 50, 100 books because you’re speaking around the country. These are the things that they want to know is how are you going to move those books? Because they’re going to deliver the books, but they’re not doing the marketing or the sales for them. Seth Godin says you should start working on your marketing three years before you publish your book. Which for most of us, we don’t even know what the book idea is a year-

Drew McLellan:

We don’t have a book idea. Right, right.

Josh Steimle:

Right. But that is the ideal. That is the ideal to start building that platform ahead of time.

Drew McLellan:

I wonder if Seth did that before his first book, or now that he’s got a bazillion books, he knows to do that.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. He probably knows that after doing 30 books or whatever. But that’s the point. He knows that that’s what you should do. And he probably knows that because of all his experience. And looking back over my career as a writer, yeah, I mean I wish I had started building my platform a lot earlier. Because today I’d have a bigger email list. And if I had a bigger email list, then I could get advances. Or if I choose to self-publish, then I have that platform to sell more books.

Josh Steimle:

Now, one person who did this the right way in a way that’s probably hard to mimic, but it’s not impossible is Benjamin Hardy. So Ben Hardy, he went on Medium back in 2015 and he started researching Medium and how it worked. And he had no email list whatsoever. No audience, no platform, nothing. No book at this point. So Ben was in polite terms a nobody at this point. But he went on Medium and he researched how it worked. And he said, “I can write these articles and I can write articles just as good as the most popular articles on Medium.” So he started looking at what they were doing, and imitating them, and trying to do what they did. And he started experiencing success. And then one of his articles popped and went viral and got millions of views. Unfortunately, he didn’t have anything set up on this article to direct people to sign up for an email list or anything so that he could capture them and have them as part of his platform.

Josh Steimle:

As that article was winding down, he put up a link on there saying, “Hey, if you want to get more articles like this from me, click this link. Go sign up for my newsletter.”

Josh Steimle:

And just from doing that, even after he had missed out on most of the traffic, he ended up with 10,000 or something subscribers on his email list. Which is pretty darn good for one article. Well then he kept doing this on Medium, and he kept getting more and more subscribers. And in 2016, he became the number one writer on Medium. He estimates he drove about 5% of all the traffic for Medium during that year with his articles. And he ended up with 150,000 subscribers on his email list. Which allowed him to go to Hachette, one of the large publishers. And it gave him a $220,000 advance for his first book as a first time author.

Josh Steimle:

Now that is a rare story. That type of thing very rarely happens. But it shows the power of the platform. That if you have 150,000 subscribers on your email list, you can command advances like that from traditional publishers because they know that all you have to do is send out a single email, and you’re going to sell a bunch of books.

Drew McLellan:

But the reality for most business authors and certainly most of the people listening here is for them, the book is a means to an end, right? It’s not about them becoming the next best selling author. It’s really about using this book as a three-dimensional business card to prove credibility, to earn the opportunity to walk through some doors it would be hard to walk through otherwise.

Drew McLellan:

So the traditional publisher, I don’t know a lot of B2B authors today that screw around with a traditional publisher if that’s really their goal is to have this three-dimensional business card that helps them build up their position of authority or their thought leadership. Right?

Josh Steimle:

Right. So now that I’ve painted this pie in the sky awesome picture of what it’s like to go get a traditional publishing deal, my advice is forget the publishing deal and go self-publish. Because if you go through a traditional publisher, you don’t really get much. I mean, you can get that type of advance if you have a big platform. But one of my friends Jeff Butler, he just turned down a traditional publishing deal because they came to him and they said, “We’re going to take 80% of the money from book sales. And you’re going to do all the marketing. Because you’re this big public speaker. You go speak 60 times a year. So we know that you can move a lot of books and we’re going to give you this deal.” And he said, “Well, if I’m the one selling the books, why am I coming to you? What do I need from you?” And they said, “We’re going to hook you up with an editor.” And he said, “I know how to hire an editor.” “Well, we’re going to do cover design and we’ll do it the right way.” He said, “I’ve already self published two books. I can get the cover design done.” And finally, he just walked away and said, “I don’t need you. I don’t need a traditional publishing deal. I can do this on my own.”

Drew McLellan:

And if there’s anybody that has the tools, the equipment, and the connections to self-publish, it’s an agency owner.

Josh Steimle:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

You have an agency, right? You should be able to do almost all of this in-house. Maybe you’re going to hire an editor on the outside, which I would recommend. But a lot of this is in our wheelhouse.

Josh Steimle:

Right. If you’re an agency owner, you either have design resources, or advertising resources, or marketing, or PR resources, or you have all of these. And that’s exactly what the traditional publishers don’t give you. On top of it, if you go through a traditional publishing deal, you can expect to add one to two years to the timeline of getting that book out. Well if your book has anything in it that’s technology-related, it’s going to be outdated by the time it comes out.

Josh Steimle:

You also give up control. There are a lot of things you might want to do with marketing that you can’t do. Because once a traditional publisher takes your book, they buy your book. They own your book. You are no longer the owner of that book. They are letting you use it to promote yourself. But it belongs to them at that point and they have ultimate control over it.

Josh Steimle:

So if you self-publish, you maintain control of the book. You can get out a lot faster. Like I said, my friend Connor Boyack, he got his book out in it was two or three weeks from concept to publishing. Which is insanely fast. But it’s very realistic to get your book written in four or five months, get it edited in another month or two, then work on cover design and type setting all that stuff. And you can get a book out in eight to 12 months no problem. So whereas traditional publisher, you would do all that work and then you’d wait another year or two after that to actually see your book out there on bookshelves.

Josh Steimle:

So the self-publishing route makes more sense than ever for the vast majority of authors out there. There’s no reason to go to a traditional publisher. Unless you’re already a known quantity. You know it’s going to be a blockbuster. You know it’s going to need to be translated into multiple languages. But really everything that you need to do other than global distribution you can do on your own.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So what are some of the other challenges that new authors face that perhaps we can help them avoid?

Josh Steimle:

One is this idea that as an author, there’s some unspoken rule out there that says that you have to do this all on your own. And that’s not the case. When you write a book, it’s kind of like starting a business. You usually don’t do it on your own. You bring in a team, and the team does what they do best, and you do what you do best. And maybe what you do best as an author is coming up with the idea and forming the structure of the book. But maybe you’re not really good at writing, at that craft of writing. That doesn’t mean you can’t be the author. You go hire a ghostwriter to help you out with that. The ghostwriter doesn’t write your book. They sit down with you, they interview you. They pull all the thinking out of your head. So it’s still your book. They’re just really good at the craft of getting those words down on paper.

Josh Steimle:

So you hire a ghostwriter, you hire an editor, you hire a cover designer. You hire people to do all the things that they can do better than you do. And you just focus on that part that you can do. And a lot of people hire ghostwriters. Not because they can’t write the book, but because they’re busy. they’re running a business and it makes more sense for them to hire somebody else to work on those nuts and bolts than it does for them. So there’s no shame in bringing in a ghostwriter or other people to work on that book with you. Or getting a coauthor. Doesn’t take anything away from you to have a coauthor on that book. If anything, it’s going to add more credibility to the book. Because then it’s not just one person saying this is great stuff. It’s two people saying this is great stuff that you should read.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and in theory, both of you have a following of some kind, or social media presence, or Twitter followers and email lists. So you’re also doubling your opportunities for exposure of the book.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I want to be mindful of your time, but give us two hacks that you think make becoming an author infinitely easier.

Josh Steimle:

So I’ve already given some today in terms of identifying why you’re doing this, and the target audience behind the book, and measuring the results. But in terms of getting started real quickly, so I’m going to kind of violate one of the rules I gave earlier. Which was I said don’t just start writing. But there is an exception to that which is you might have a lot of ideas in your head, but you don’t know what the book is yet.

Josh Steimle:

And if that’s the place that you find yourself in where you’re saying, “I know I’ve got something, some sort of book inside me. But I don’t know what it is. So I can’t write the outline because I don’t even know what the outline would be.” That’s when you just start writing stuff down. Now you don’t just start writing the book, but you start writing down ideas. You start writing down stories, and ideas, and thoughts. And this is when a journal can come in handy. You buy a book idea journal, and you carry that journal around. And whenever you have an idea, whenever a story comes to you and you say, “That’s good. I’m going to use that someday in a book. I don’t know what the book is, but I’m going to use that idea, or that story, or that quote someday.” You have that journal and you collect all your ideas in there. That can be electronic, or it can be a paper. It doesn’t matter.

Josh Steimle:

As long as you’re collecting these thoughts and ideas, that becomes your research so that when the time comes and you think, “I know what the book idea is. I know what I’m going to write.” You do already have that content there. So that’s one of the hacks that it’s kind of a long slow hack in that you might do this for years before you actually have the idea. But then when you have the idea, all of a sudden you can move very quickly because you’ve been collecting all the information. You don’t have to go back and do it from scratch. So that’s one of the hacks that I would recommend for first-time authors out there.

Josh Steimle:

A second hack that’s really useful for not just first-time authors, but all authors is something that Tucker Max, he’s a four times New York Times bestselling author. This is his suggestion, which is when you write your first draft, he calls it a vomit draft. And the reason it’s called a vomit draft is because you just let everything out. It’s a big mass. And then you clean it up later. Where a lot of first-time writers get stuck or even second or third time writers get stuck is they start editing their draft as they’re writing it. So they’re typing out their outline. They start typing in the details, and there’s editing right there in that moment. When you’re doing your first draft, you should do as little editing as possible, perhaps zero editing. Because nobody’s going to see this. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to sound right. It doesn’t have to be well-crafted, doesn’t have to be nice and neat. You’re going to fix all those problems on the second draft and the third draft. Writing is rewriting.

Josh Steimle:

So as you’re doing your first draft, don’t worry about the format. Don’t worry if it flows well. Don’t worry if things are in the right order or if you’re getting things neat. Or a lot of times we get hung up on this idea of, “I don’t know if this should go in or not.” It doesn’t matter. Just put down in the first draft, get everything out. You might cut out 50% of that first draft when you go to revise it to your second draft. That’s okay. At least you have that material there. And it’s not a waste because maybe that stuff that you cut out, maybe that will go into a second book or a third book. Maybe you’ll use it again someday. But that first draft should just be literally just vomiting everything out to make sure you’ve got it out. Then you work on refining it and cleaning it up.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s a great point. And a lot of times, what you write in chapter 14 then influences what you wrote on chapter two. So if you edited chapter two for three hours, or three days, or whatever on the front end, you’re just going to go back and do it again. So you’re right. Just getting it out on paper so you can see the whole of it I think helps you then to be able to step back and go, “Okay, now I can see I need to move some things around or I need to refine this, refine that.” So yeah, that that’s great advice.

Drew McLellan:

This has been a great conversation, Josh. I’m grateful that you have carved out the time to help us think this through. And I’m hoping give the listeners some confidence and reassurance that this is not as undoable as they think. That this is not insurmountable in terms of the effort that it takes to write a book. If people want to learn more about the work you do and how you work with authors, what’s the best way for them to track you down and learn more about the services that you offer?

Josh Steimle:

The program is called the published author program, and it’s at publishedauthor.com.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it very much. And again, I think hopefully what you’ve done is inspire people to know that they can do this, and there’s incredible value in doing it.

Josh Steimle:

Absolutely. I mean two parting thoughts I would give is number one, yes, you can do this. And number two, yes there’s a reason for you to do this. Everybody has a book inside them. And you can get it out if you invest in the right tools and have the right people around. You can create a great book. Anybody can do that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. All right guys, this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. I’m hoping that as you were listening to Josh and I chat, the book that you’ve had kind of in the back of your head for a while kept nudging you and tapping you on the shoulder saying maybe it’s time. And I am a firm believer as all of you know that this being an authority, being a thought leader is the way that agencies will grow their business in the future. And I think Josh gave you a great blueprint of how to begin to think about getting that book from your head out onto the bookshelf. So this is not a passive just listen to this episode. I’m hoping it gives you some inspiration to actually put some of this into action.

Drew McLellan:

A couple of quick things before I let you go. Just a reminder, the Build A Better Agency Summit is now in August of 2021. It’s August 10th and 11th. You’ll remember that we had to move it because of the pandemic. We’re about 50% sold out. So if you think by August, you’re going to be ready to hang out with other agency owners and learn more about what they do, hear are some amazing speakers talk about everything from multiple revenue streams, to getting your agency ready to sell, to the diversity issue inside agencies, imposter syndrome, we’ve got a great speaker lineup. If you want to learn more, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and in the upper left of the navigation, you’ll see the Build A Better Agency Summit navigation button. Just click on it, and you can read more about it and grab your ticket while we still have some to grab.

Drew McLellan:

A huge shout out and thank you to our friends at White Label. They are the presenting sponsor of this podcast. And they make it possible for us to come to you each and every week with a great guest like Josh. If you are looking for a partner to do white-label, PPC, dev, or design, head over to whitelabeliq.com/ami, because they have a great deal teed up just for podcast listeners. All right, I’ll be back next week with another guest to get you thinking a little differently about your shop. In the meantime, you know how to find me. I’m [email protected] Thanks for listening, and I will talk to you next week.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build A Better Agency. Visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages, and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.