You have a simple choice when it comes to biz dev. You can chase after strangers or you can attract people who are drawn to you because of your expertise. They’ll come to know, like and trust you and when they’re ready to hire an agency, they’ll reach out. One of the best ways to position yourself as an expert is to be a published author. Many agency owners want to position themselves as an expert but can’t imagine how they’d actually write a book.
Returning guest Dr. Anthony Paustian owns a hybrid publishing company called BookPress Publishing. Stephen Woessner and I worked with Tony as we wrote and published Sell With Authority and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge for those of you wanting to write your book.
In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Tony and I tackle the many questions that first-time authors need to consider when developing their book projects. We discuss what authors should look for in publishers, writing coaches, and editors, as well as what to expect from distribution, the financial model of hybrid publishing versus traditional, and how to define the goals of your book.
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.
What You Will Learn in This Episode:
- What goes into a book being good
- The spectrum of getting your book published
- Understanding hybrid publishing
- What to expect from distribution
- How to select a writing coach
- A reasonable timeframe for completing a book
- Working with an editor
- Defining the goals of your book and how to leverage it to position yourself as an expert
- How much to prepare before reaching out to potential publishing partners
Ways to contact Tony Paustian:
- Website: https://bookpresspublishing.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anthony.paustian
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthonypaustian/
- Twitter: @AnthonyPaustian
- My Future Self Mini-Course
- Sell with Authority (buy Drew’s book)
- Facebook Group for the Build a Better Agency Podcast
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 Podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-sized 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.
Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Super grateful that we get to hang out today and talk about a topic that I know a lot of you are hungry to explore. But as always, before I tell you a little bit about our guest and what we’re going to talk about, I have a couple quick announcements. Number one, I have talked to you a lot about the Build a Better Agency Summit. It is around the corner. In August, we are getting close to selling out, would love to have you join us. If you head over to the Agency Management Institute website and you look at the very first navigation button on the left side, it’s the BABA Summit, or the Build a Better Agency Summit, and it will tell you all about that event that is coming up on August 10th and 11th.
If you are an AMI, gold or platinum member or a virtual peer group or live peer group member, we have a special day for you on August 9th, which is AMI member family day. So email me if you need more information about that, or go to the website, you can read more about it, but we would love to have you join us. If you’re not going to come join us in August, I would love for you to think about joining us at one of our two workshops in January of 2022. I know that seems super far away, but both of these workshops will sell out. I want to tell you a little bit about them and what makes them really awesome. The first one is Build and Nurture your Agency’s Sales Funnel. That’s January 20th and 21st, and that is the embodiment.
That is the workshop born out of the book that Stephen Woessner and I wrote, Sell with Authority, and what we’re going to do in that workshop is a little different than most of our workshops. It is a hands-on. You’re going to leave there with a built out sales funnel. You’re going to know exactly what you’re going to do for a sales funnel. You’re going to have a timetable. You’re going to know who on your team is doing what, when. You’re going to know how you’re going to market that funnel all the way through, from people who don’t know you from Adam to your current customers. You’re going to have all of that worked out before you leave the workshop.
And the reason why we did that for this workshop is quite honestly, when we teach a workshop that is us doing a lot of teaching and not you doing a lot of doing, one of the things I worry about is that you’re actually going to go back to the office and things are going to get crazy and you’re not going to implement. And I think because this is a particularly heavy lift, the whole idea of building a sales funnel for your agency, we have found, we’ve now taught this several times. We get rave reviews and the rave reviews are around. It’s not about our brilliance. It’s not about how articulate we are. It’s that, oh my God, I left the workshop knowing what we had to do that very next week. And I finally feel like I have a handle on this and I’ve got it all baked out for the year and we are ready to rock and roll.
A lot of people are texting and emailing their team during the workshop, kind of getting them ready for when they come back to the office and what they’re going to be doing. That workshop again is January 20th and 21st of 2022. And the very next week we have probably one of our more popular workshops is called Sell with Strategic Insights. And that workshop is taught by the folks at the Mercer Island Group. If you’re a regular podcast listener, you have heard both Robin and Steve and Lindsay on the podcast before. All three of them, they come down and what they teach us is how to build a strategic framework in your agency.
For a lot of you, what I hear is I’m the strategic bottleneck. Maybe me and one other person on my team can really think through sort of the gnarly strategy for some of our more sophisticated clients. But the rest of my team doesn’t know how to do it. And that’s showing up in your new business pitches, by the way. What Mercer Island Group will tell you is that when they sit in a room and they watch pitch after pitch after pitch, that what’s missing is not only the strategy but the explaining of how you got to the strategy.
So they have built a brilliant strategic framework for you to be able to weave strategy into everything you do for existing clients and for your new business pitches and prospects. We’ve taught this workshop twice and we have had about, because some agencies will have more than one person attend. So we cap it at 50 people. So we’ve probably had 70 people go through the workshop. We are at, for those 70 people, those 70 agencies let’s call it ballpark, $50 million in new AGI when they have applied what they learned at the Mercer Island Group workshop. I’m telling you, this is absolutely game-changing for your agencies. So that workshop again is January 25th and 26th.
Both of these workshops are taking place at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Resort, one of Disney’s highest ranked, most expensive hotels. A room there is typically 8 or $900. We’re getting them for $299. And it is Disney world’s, the Magic Kingdom specifically, Disney world’s 50th anniversary. So there’s going to be all kinds of amazing things happening. Come stay for a couple extra days, come to the workshop. A lot of people are thinking of going to both workshops. They’re going to attend the first one, January 20th and 21st. They’re going to play in the parks through the weekend and then be back to learn on the 25th and 26th. I’m telling you, these workshops are top of the line.
As always, we have a money-back guarantee, but I’ve never had to pay it out because we only invite the best of the best to teach if I’m not the one teaching, and I try and pour as much as I can into our workshops to give you so much value that you just don’t know what to do with everything that you’ve learned. That’s our goal. We’d love to see you in Orlando, Florida, again on Disney property at the Beach and Yacht for these two amazing learning opportunities, and a little Disney on the weekend is not going to hurt anybody.
If you want more information about that, head over to the AMI website. Under the how we help tab, scroll down to the workshops tab and you will see those workshops and you can register for them now, because, again, both of them are capped at 50 people. And so I know that we’ll sell them out. So I’d love to have you there.
All right. Let’s talk about today’s topic and today’s guest. As those of you who have read the Sell with Authority book know, or you’ve heard me speak anywhere, or you’ve listened to the podcast for awhile, you know that I am a firm believer that the way agencies have to sell is different today. That instead of us going and hunting down clients, what we really want to do is hold ourselves out as an authority, a subject matter expert, a thought leader, and have our prospects come to us, find us, because we do have the expertise that they’re looking for.
I see that happen over and over and over again with the AMI agencies that are sort of following that methodology. One of the ways you establish yourself as an authority or a subject matter expert or a thought leader, or whenever you want to call it, is by creating really big, juicy pieces of content. One of those options, of course, is writing a book. Many agency owners covet the idea, want to write a book, but are not sure how to go about it and they’re not sure how to get it published. So I’ve invited Tony Paustian to be on the show. Tony owns a company called Bookpress, which is a hybrid publishing company.
So they work with a lot of authors who aren’t interested in trying to cut a deal with one of the big five publishers or aren’t going to be able to cut a deal with that kind of a publisher because this is their first book. They don’t have the sort of fame, if you will, to get a major book publisher to pay attention. But they want to write a book. They want the book to be helpful and useful, quality product and they’re not sure where to go. There’s tons of hybrid publishers out there, but Tony runs a great one called Bookpress. Bookpress is who Stephen and I worked with to get Sell with Authority published.
I will tell you the experience was seamless and easy. Not easy in terms of the work. You still got to write a book. But in terms of like the process and having Tony sort of walk us through what we had to do, when we had to do it, and honestly take a lot of that stuff off of our hands. We certainly considered self publishing and just going through Amazon or something like that. But that means a lot more of the work is on our shoulders.
Tony is a repeat guest. For the first time he was on episode 49 back in 2016. So I wanted to bring him back and just talk about the ways that a publisher can help an author and what we should be thinking about as authors when we look for who we’re going to partner with, again, whether that’s a traditional publisher like Simon & Schuster to a hybrid publisher like Tony’s company or doing it ourselves. There’s still considerations in all of those subsets that we need to take into account. So, my goal for today is to maybe reignite the flame. If you’ve sort of thought about writing a book but you just never have gotten it off the ground, I’m kind of hoping I fan that flame a little bit and get it fired up and that you get working on the book.
I want to give you this resource of thinking about how you want to publish your book. And we’re going to talk about everything from how you get some coaching as an author. If you’ve never written a book before, who can help you make sure that your book is high quality. The editing process, all of those sort of things. I have a ton of questions for Tony and I want to get right to it. So I’m going to welcome him to the show and buckle in and let’s talk about writing a book.
Tony, welcome back to the podcast.
Well, thanks for having me Drew. I appreciate it. Good time.
In case anybody didn’t catch the first episode that you were on, which I mentioned in the introduction, tell everybody a little bit about your background and Bookpress and the work that you do every day with working with authors.
Well, I mean, my background is pretty broad, so we won’t bore people with all my history. But needless to say, I come from a business/education background where I worked in a lot of corporate roles, head of marketing, et cetera, at big companies, most recently in education as a college administrator. Bookpress came about because my first two books I wrote were published by Simon & Schuster, one of the big five publishers. I had a lot of terrible experiences with working with Simon & Schuster for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into now. But suffice it to say I decided to go to lone. In other words, I wanted to create my own brand, my own books. I didn’t want to be constrained by the rules and all the guidelines of the big publishers.
So I spent about a year and a half, two years researching publishing. I went to conferences, workshops, seminars, you name it. Pretty much launched Bookpress just for me originally and I was just going to publish my content. Well, that didn’t last very long and within about six months of doing that, I started getting calls from people I knew around the country that had similar bad experiences with big publishers who asked me to help them. And next thing you know, Bookpress 15 years later, it’s alive and growing fast and we’ve published hundreds and hundreds of titles. Now we’re doing, like I said, a lot of work with a lot of people who were like me many, many years ago.
But you’re also not just publishing. You’re also coaching authors and helping them actually get the book written and all of that too, right?
Right. Oh yeah. A big part of what we do is coaching authors or people who want to be an author. A lot of times we have people that will reach out to us that have content, they’ve never written a book in their life or they’ve never written anything in their life beyond maybe an article and they need help to get from start to finish, point A to point B. So we spend a lot of time working with potential authors to help them become authors with the publishing piece happening way later in the process.
Right. As you know in the book that Stephen and I wrote, Sell with Authority, one of the things we talk about is this idea of having cornerstone content. One of the examples when we list options for cornerstone content is obviously authoring a book. I have a lot of agency owners who say they have a book inside them. That they want to write a book. Many of them want to write a book, not because they want to be a best-selling author but because they know it’s a credibility tool that opens doors for them, that creates opportunities to speak at conferences and things like that. But the one thing that is universal regardless of why they want to write a book, and we’re going to talk about some of the goals that authors have in a little bit. But the one thing I believe that they all have in common is they don’t want the book to be crappy, right? They want to write a good book. Help the listeners understand what goes into a book being good from your perspective.
Well, a good book is a very subjective thing. It all depends upon who’s reading it. I will tell you, however, aside from a lot of perceptions out there that if a book is a bestseller, it’s considered good. Well, that’s not necessarily true since that whole process can be very game today very easily, especially the Amazon. So that really doesn’t have a lot of meaning. I put a lot more credibility and stock into third-party credibility. In other words, we submit a lot of our books that we feel are really good to Book of War competitions. All these books went awards from third party reviewers, third party readers that also say it’s a good book, which to me it holds a lot more credibility than anything else.
We coached an author that has worked with you Drew in the past who came to us very similarly. He had a lifetime of experience; years and years and years, decades of experience. He came to a conclusion that he had that there were a number of questions that people should be asking of their marketing people that the leader should be asking that they never do. So he wanted to write a book about it. He hadn’t picked up a paper or a pencil ever. So we started from point A and go all the way to point B, which is the end of the book. Ultimately his book won the gold medal for the Best Marketing Book of the Year last year in 2020 and he beat out a lot of the big names and all the big publishers.
That process took a while. It was like an 18 month process to write that book. And typically the way we do this, for example, if somebody happens to be working with me, and I’m not saying by any stretch I’m an all-knowing guy or a seer of any kind, but I pretty much when it comes to business books, I can tell if somebody is good or not. I mean, I’ve read enough of them in my life and I’ve seen enough of them and worked with enough people to know when somebody is worthy of readership or not.
So typically when I coach an author, the first step is he’s get pass me. I’m not going to edit for punctuation and stuff, but I’m going to look at a content standpoint. In working going back and forth, we take one bite at a time. Once that bite’s sufficient, we go on to the next bite, like eating an elephant one bite at a time until the elephant’s consumed. And then once that’s process is done, then we actually send it to a real editor who does business books for a living.
But there are some core elements though like the idea has to be good, and then the writing has to be good and the editing has to be good. I think for a lot of agency owners, they see the path of either I’m going to publish with one of the big five or I’m going to self publish through Amazon or somewhere else. And I think the step that they miss in that process is that outside perspective. So like you were saying, whether you’re reading the book or you are using a cadre of editors to run through the book and clean it up not just from a punctuation point of view but also is there clarity, do I understand this, if the sentence makes sense, that sort of thing. So talk about the elements that make those parts of the book good or not good.
Okay. Well, again, I go back to what I said before is to get it past myself or another person, it has to be good from a content perspective. At the beginning of the process, I’m not concerned at all about the writing style or the writing skill. That will come later. I mean, we have editors to make you sound articulate. It’s the content that’s king on this. Honestly, if somebody wants to write a book but their content isn’t good or if it’s overused, overstated, in other words, there are 10 million books on that content and it’s been pretty much stated in every way there is possibly a way to state. You got to have something unique, right? Something that’s different from everybody else or a different way to position something that’s common in a way that’s unique.
In other words, it just can’t be the same old thing that you’ve always read or always heard. So that’s the first thing we look for. We look for something that is different, that will stand out within the market and it has some possible sellability to it. Because again, if it’s same old, same old, no one’s going to buy it. Ultimately you want to sell one of these or some of these to develop that credibility if that’s your goal. So it’s got to get past the content layer first, that’s step one.
Well, and especially you are commenting to me that there are over 4 million books published a year now, so it’s not like you’re one of 10 books somebody’s going to stumble upon. For your book to be of value, you’ve got a lot of competition out there.
Oh yeah. A lot of competition. And you have to understand that out of 4 million books, and that includes ebooks obviously and audio books, but they’re only about 65,000 audio books coming out a year. So it’s a pretty small number. It’s mostly ebooks because ebooks can be self-published. And I’m going to tell you Drew in all honesty, for the very reasons we’ve been talking about, the general rule of thumb is probably, I’m being nice here, probably 75% or more of all self-published books are not good. And they’re not good because the idea isn’t necessarily good. They’re not good for a variety of other reasons. There’s a spectrum of publishing. There’s a spectrum of getting it out there. There’s a self publishing concept where you can do it yourself. You can go to Amazon CreateSpace and do it yourself. You can go to IngramSpark and do it yourself, whatever.
And then there’s the traditional publishing, which is the big box publishers mostly, but there’s a lot smaller ones as well, that will basically buy your idea. They’ll buy your concept. They own it. They’ll move forward. Then there’s everything in between. And this is kind of where the nuances are kind of playing out in the industry and that is there’s a lot of hybrid publishing happening right now. People still don’t understand what that means. And I will tell you, there’s absolutely zero difference between a hybrid publisher and a traditional publisher except for the business model. Otherwise, they both do exactly the same thing, exactly the same thing.
The only difference is who’s taking on the financial risks for that book. That is the only difference. But where they also differ sometimes is the amount of control you have. In other words, from a content perspective, one of the things that gave me a sour taste in my mouth when I used the big traditional publisher back in the day was once I signed over the rights to that book, I no longer own it, at least for a period of time. They own it now and they can do whatever they want to it.
I wrote a book on creativity. It was on creative thinking. Once I sent my manuscript, they started editing it on their own. Did not consult me whatsoever as the author. They took out a couple of key points out of it that basically ruined the book in my opinion but it fit their paradigm of what they wanted it to fit their page count. Well, in the hybrid world, you as an author, you have more control over that and you can dictate that, “Hey, this is key to my point. I want this in there. Great.” And that’s important to understand. But everything else is pretty much exactly the same.
Basically understand too that the role of a publisher is selectivity. They want to make sure that they’re selecting good content. I already talked about that. I mean, we won’t publish anything that’s just boring or not good. We had to develop a project based on standards. In other words, there are publishing standards out there. If you self-publish, and this is where a lot of self-published books fail is that most of those books are not built on standards. They’re built on the basic minimums, right? So in other words, creating an ebook is fairly straightforward except there are some standards in that ebook and unless you know about them, you’re not going to do them.
The publishing world has become very complicated and very convoluted sometimes, which is another reason why you want a coach involved, whoever that might be, that has been there, down that road so they can help you make sure that you have all the bells and whistles and all the Is dotted and all the Ts crossed. And then a publisher who helps to take your book to market. This is what separates a lot of books. Now, you talk about the 4 million books out there. Most of these books you have to understand are still savvy books. They’re not written for a higher purpose. They’re written for either to build credibility on the part of the author to raise off his profile per se, or the company’s profile. Or they are a self marketing tool. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Those are all perfectly legitimate goals to have.
But when you think about distribution then of that book, honestly, most distributors won’t even distribute those kinds of books because they are such a narrow market for those and such a niche market for those. And because the content is somewhat self-gratifying, so to speak, they won’t even touch those books. So when you think about writing to an audience, you’ve got to think about, okay, this is all about this goal of making myself look better and to promote myself and my business, but it’s got to serve the needs of somebody, right? Somebody has to have care.
Well, I mean, again, if you go back to and the listeners of this podcast have heard me talk about it, you go back to the core tenets of Sell with Authority, it is to build cornerstone content with the intention and goal of actually teaching something valuable to your audience so that they can be better at the work they do. Step one is not pat myself on the back and make me look smart. Step one is be actually helpful so that people continue to want to learn from you, which will by default make you have more credibility and all of that. But you’re not producing it to write about yourself or to make yourself look smart.
Right. And if you do that, your book will start standing out from amongst the other 4 million books that are out there because of that 4 million books, probably 3 million of them are just what you talked about. They’re about self-gratification, patting yourself on the back. They’re not about helping people. So if you can do that first, like you said, you’re going to stand out just because of that. The thing about your book that’s so awesome is while it has a distinct market niche attached to it and while you’re focused on agencies, your book content, however, can help anybody. I mean, I’ve had a lot of people read that book that didn’t know about who’ve gotten it, they had nothing to do with agency world, that got a lot of positive takes from that. So if you can think about that from an author’s perspective where you’re writing and you’re like, okay, yes, I’m writing it for this audience, but what other audiences can benefit from this content, you’re going to expand your market big time and a lot quicker.
Absolutely. Somebody says, okay, I know I want to write a book. I think I have a good idea, but I don’t really know how to construct the book, how to create the outline, how to begin the writing process, so I’m going to invest in a coach. What should they be looking for in a book writing coach, because there’s a ton of them out there. So how do I know, A, if they’re good, and B, if they’re good for me?
Right. Well, I would do your due diligence, number one. It’s kind of like anything else. It’s like hiring a lawyer. You want to find a lawyer that’s got good outcomes and not just any lawyer you look online to find, the first one that comes up on Google AdWords because he paid more money. You want a lawyer that actually knows what they’re doing and actually has produced outcomes that verify that insight. Like you said, there are a lot of author coaches out there and they are a dime a dozen. But you want an author coach that’s written their own books, who’s been there done that, has gone through the process on multiple occasions, not just once.
You want an author coach who’s worked with enough people and whose books have done a number of good things as a result of it. In other words, if you find a coach out there who’s coached say 10 people and of those 10 people, their books went on to become successes or have won multiple awards, whatever, that’s a good sign. It’s kind of like hiring a lawyer who’s got a 98% win rate on trials. That’s a good sign that they’re competent and know what they’re doing. So again, you want to do your due diligence. You want to look at those things from an outcome perspective that basically… And you also want to find an author coach that’s good in your genre.
In other words, if you’re writing non-fiction, you don’t want a creative writing coach that works in fiction to help you because it’s a totally different genre. They’re not going to get the… The nonfiction book is a very different book than a fiction book. I’ll tell you we started publishing some fiction recently in the last few years and it was a big learning curve for us because we had never done that before and we did it as a favor really because our wheelhouse is non-fiction. So it took us a while to learn all this and we’re still not there yet. So, you want to find people that are good in that particular genre or marketing for that book that understand it better so they be better coaches for you.
It’s kind of like, going back to law again, if you’re doing property law, you don’t want to hire a divorce attorney. Or if you’re doing property law, you don’t want to hire an intellectual property lawyer for trademarks. You want to find somebody in the real estate. So it’s kind of the same thing. You want to find the right person in that right context that will help you the most.
And as far as also finding a publisher and a distributor as well as a coach, it’s the same thing as… Another good analogy is like a small business loan. To find a distributor and a publisher that will often take you on. You see, everybody thinks that their book is awesome. I have yet to find a writer who doesn’t think that their work is not a masterpiece. They all think that, which is fine. You want them to think that. But the reality is, if you have no experience, if you’ve not published any books or have any sales experience or have no background or anything to generate some potential future sales, a traditional publisher and/or distributor will not pick you up. They just won’t. Because it’s kind of like a small business loan, banks give money to those who have a proven success story. They don’t loan money on long shots.
Publishers and distributors are the same way because they’re in business as well to succeed. Well, they want you to succeed so they can succeed. They’ve got to have some idea that you’re going to succeed because historically, like for example you Drew, your business has been around a long time. You’ve got a great track record. You have great success rates. So any book that you write is going to probably be successful. Any small bank would know that and be happy to loan you money or in our case, publisher or distributor will pick you up because of it. But if you have no background per se, you need to start finding a way to do background, which is why people go on the self-publishing road because they have no other choice. You can still do the self-publishing road, but I would still invest in a good author coach before you do it.
Yeah. Right, absolutely. What can someone expect? What is a working relationship with an author coach look like, because most everybody listening here owns a business. They’re slightly type A. They’re used to telling everybody else what to do. So part of this, I’m guessing, is a little bit of discomfort in the idea of somebody else is going to tell you how to raise your baby.
Right. Well, I can tell you, I can’t speak for all other coaches, I can only speak for myself. When I coach authors, we take it very incrementally. We start by having some general conversations about what the goals are for the book, what they want to do with it, what its purpose is, who they’re trying to help with the book. Get through all those initial things so we can both be on the same page about what we’re trying to create, the birth here basically. Once we have that, then we start to just make lists of things that makes sense, that they should be in the book. Just random list of things that, “Hey, what needs to be in this book to tell your story and to help these people.”
So we start doing that. We start budding off the easiest pieces to create and write first and we start to write those things together. We have regular meetings. We have a scheduled… In other words, if I don’t keep people on task with regular meetings, they’re never going to get done because life happens and things always come up, especially if you’re a small business owner, right?
They always happen. So we try to keep on a regular schedule. So we will meet every Thursday at two o’clock, whatever the case might be, or every other Thursday, whatever works out best. And we try to stay to the schedule as close as possible so we can stay on task. Every time we part ways, you’ve got homework. In other words, you’ve got to get your assignment done for the next meeting. And then the day before our next meeting, you got to email it to me. I will read it, look through it, then we’ll have a constructive conversation about it during our meeting. Then we’ll take next steps from there. You do a little bit of work, we talk about it. A little bit of work, we talk about it and we kind of build it from there. At that point, we’re not worried about organization. We’re not worried about final book. We’re not worried about any of that. We’re just worried about getting words on paper and then we’ll massage them and wordsmith them later.
I think one of the misperceptions a lot of people have is if they’re going to work with a publisher, whether it’s a hybrid publisher or one of the big five or whatever it is, the length of time it takes to go from writing the book to actually having the book in their hand. I know for a lot of authors when they ask me about the process that we went through, then I talk to them about the editing process, they’re kind of surprised at how long that takes. So talk to us a little bit about like what should a… If somebody is like, I have a great idea. From I have a great idea to I’m holding a book in my hands, what’s a reasonable timeframe?
Wow. That’s hard to really nail down Drew because everybody writes at their own pace. I mean, I’ve worked with some really aggressive people that are willing to bang out their book in a short period of time. So they stick to task. Come hell or high water, they’re going to make their deadlines. We set those deadlines up together upfront, all these incremental assignments upfront, and they will make those deadlines. They’re really good about it and diligent and they’ll have the book written in a few months. Then there are others that they start off with that intention, but then things happen and things get delayed or I’ll put off a week here and I’ll put off a week there. Next thing you know, it’s a six to 12 month process just to write the book. Sometimes it’s longer. I mean, it’s hard for me to say how long that part takes.
Let’s say the first draft is done, whether that took say six weeks or six years.
Right. If I’ve got a first draft manuscript in my hand that’s ready for editing, that process typically takes, again, there’s a lot of built-in things on the author’s part, how fast they reply on things. But on average, that process probably takes eight to 10 months to do it right. And I only say that because there are some lead times that we have to take into consideration before the trade. So if your book is not going into distribution, if your book is not going to be distributed, it’s not going into bookstores, none of that happens, we can shorten that cycle up quite a bit. We can compress that quite a bit. But if your book’s going to go to actual distribution and it’s going to be at Barnes & Noble or available through Barnes & Noble or any bookstore on the street, then we have to extend the lead time on that because the trade requires certain minimum things in advance.
In other words, the trade wants to know five, six months in advance, “Hey, this is what’s coming. This is where I know I can order.” The salespeople, the distributor want to know what’s coming out so they can sell it. We have to build then by that lead time. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t have books before the book releases. In other words, the book may not release to the trade say in October, you might have books in June. But we have to build that in as well. But typically you have to allow a good… For the first good edit of the book, it might take four to six weeks depending upon the length of the book and the reason for that is, it’s seems like a lot of time, right? A month, a month and a half to edit my book.
Well, the editor is coming into this cold. They’ve never seen your book. I mean, this is a fresh new thing to them and you don’t want them rushing this. You want them to go through it diligently, read it more than once, fix it and modify things. And the way the editor works typically is that they’ll fix punctuation and all this stuff that’s obviously broken, but they might have a lot of ideas for you that you may or may not agree with. Those will all be in the market for the book. After that first draft gets edited, which takes four to six weeks or maybe even two months sometimes. If the book’s long, it might take a little longer. Then that comes back to you with all that feedback from the editor.
Now, you have to then take all that feedback and decide, well, I don’t want to accept this or want to change this, because the editor might look at it and say, “Wow, this section you wrote over here makes no sense whatsoever. It makes sense to you, you wrote it, but it makes no sense to the reader who’s going to read it.” So they’ll force you to rethink it, maybe modify it, change it. And there’ll be some things that you’ll just accept. “Yeah, editor is right. I’m going to accept this as the editor changed it. We’re good.” But there’ll be some things the editor suggest that you’re like, “Yeah, no, I don’t agree with that whatsoever.” So it’s a give and take, but that makes the book better over the time. But you don’t what the editor rushing that.
And then once the book comes back to the author, then it depends upon how long the author wants to take to go through those edits and then make the changes to the book. Again, depending upon the author’s schedule, how much time they have for it, so on and so forth. It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month or two depending upon their life and what happens in their life.
Then it goes back for a second round of editing. That’s usually much faster because they’ve gone through it already once. But then they go through on a fresh perspective, looking at it one more time and decide here’s things that are going out now. That might take anywhere from two, three, four weeks. So there’s a process involved. Now, while that’s happening, all the other stuff with the book is happening too. I mean, all the backend stuff, the metadata, the ISBN data, all that stuff’s happening all simultaneously. Then you’ve got to allow another few weeks to format the book, get it ready for press.
So there is a time thing that you have to build in. If you come to me, and I’ve had a lot of authors that come to me and say, “Hey, I want a book done in three months.” That’s probably not going to happen. Can I make it happen? It won’t be very good book, and we won’t publish a bad book, so probably no. I mean, it can happen if you want to do it yourself, but I’m just saying if you want a good book, you do not want to rush it.
Your traditional publishers right now, by the way, are taking 18 to 24 months to get a book out. That’s what they’re taking. We’re a lot shorter than that. But again, you want to a book done well. You get one shot doing this right. Yeah, you can put a bad book out there and try to redo it later, but then you’ve already ruined it as far as the brand of the book because everybody that saw the bad version already is going to remember that and from a brand perspective, you can’t get past that. Well, you have one shot to do it right. You’re better off taking your time and doing it right.
I agree. But it’s painful that it takes as long as it does. As an author, it’s like once… Because as you know because you’re an author as well and you work with so many of them, once you turn in the draft, you’re so over your own book you can’t stand it anymore. And then you have to read it a couple more times with all the edits and all that. That just seems like it takes for freaking ever before it’s like, okay, get it into layout.
It is a long term. But I’ve had authors that say that and hate it and hate it and hate it. But every time they read, they find more stuff their want to change.
Yeah, I’m sure every author sort of shows up different in terms of the work. I want to take a quick break and then when we come back, I want to talk about sort of the goals of writing a book and how you can align what you’re trying to do with sort of the investment, because obviously there’s a dollar factor here, there’s a time factor here. Let’s take a quick break and we’ll come back and talk about that.
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All right. We are back with Tony and we’re talking about if you want to write a book, if that’s part of your thought leadership, if that’s just part of your professional goals, we’re talking about all the ways to do that. There’s everything from the self-publishing and doing it on Amazon all by yourself. Certainly agencies possess the people that in our head we think we can do this. We have I can write it or I have writers, my copywriters can edit it. I have graphic designers that can lay it out. So we probably as business owners are quicker to assume that we can self-publish than maybe other people in other professions because we have access to those tools.
But what we don’t have is we don’t have access to people who understand the book world and editing a book, which is different than copywriting, for sure. But what I want to talk about now is how should an author or somebody who wants to be an author, how do they think through the goal of their book and what kind of goals are we talking about? Are we talking about sales goals or are we talking about distribution goals? Are we talking about awards? Are we talking about it makes their mom cry? Like what are the goals that we should be thinking through before we put pen to paper?
Well, there are lots of possible goals. Again, everybody’s purpose is different. I have some authors I’ve worked with who want the book as an adjunct tool for when they speak. So in other words, they’ll get booked by a company to come in and do a big workshop or seminar or whatever, and they’re going to give them 250 copies of their book for the audience who’s there. And so from their standpoint, they’re getting paid to speak. The book is a training tool. In that regard, it is an expense for them and it’s just part of their fee structure that they’re billing out.
Then there are people who, well, they might do some of that. They want their book literally sold in the bookstores and through Barnes & Noble and Amazon and everything else in the world. That’s a legitimate goal as well, and they want to move books that way. And then there are some that are exclusively wanting to move books that way and that is the only way they’re going to sell books and make back their money.
Again, I told you that the only difference between a hybrid publisher and a traditional publisher is the business model. I mean, it all comes down to who takes on the financial risk. We publish books in all types of categories, but I will tell you that a good first goal is to say, besides getting the book written and getting it published, that’s the first step, is I would say you’ve got to at least fundamentally know in your mind how you’re going to break even on the expense. In other words, how will you get your money back? Because it’s not a cheap endeavor to publish a book. And this is why the hybrid model became a thing because there were so many good books out there that weren’t being published by the traditional publishers who can only do so many books a year and their business model is a little dated as far as releases go and things. That’s kind of changing, kind of like the music business has changed.
So it created a market for hybrid publishing that’s like, okay, we’ll do all the same stuff that you’re doing, except that we’re going to have the author invest in their own book and their own success. What we have found is… And by the way, on the coaching side, it is kind of a humorous thing that I find that once an author signs that contract and makes that first deposit check, they become far more engaged in the process all of a sudden than they would have otherwise.
Let’s just stop for a second. For clarity, for people listening, the hybrid model is, say in a traditional publisher model, you show them your book. They say they want to buy it and they’re giving you money upfront. And then you earn, let’s say your book sells for $25. You might earn a buck a book forever and ever until you pay them back for their investment and then there’s a different rev share split. But it’s still never to your great advantage as an author.
In the hybrid model, the person taking the financial risk is you. So you are paying for the editor and the writing, the author coaching and all of that. You’re also paying to print the books if you’re printing tangible books. And then you then make the lion’s share of the money on the book when you sell them. So what Tony is talking about is let’s say you’ve invested 10 grand to work with a hybrid publisher to get your book published. You want to, for sure, at the very minimum, make your 10 grand back. Anyway, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt, but just wanted to make sure people understand how it works.
Just to kind of flush it out a little bit further. The way the traditional model has always worked is they’re basically agreeing to publish your book and take on the risk of the cost for publishing it. And they take ownership of that book and they’re basically buying your product from you. And then they’re going to pay you a royalty on that product for as many copies it sells. So if they’ve given you an advance, which is, advance is pretty much fading away now because publishers literally up until last year never got 98% of their advances back in sales. So the advance model is going away.
But if they’d paid you say a $5,000 advance on your book and you’re getting a buck a book basically as a royalty, which is not uncommon, it’s a buck, buck and a half a book, you got to sell 5,000 copies just to cover your advance. And then if they sell more than that, you’ll make another buck on a book. But meanwhile, if a book is killing it and if the book is selling tons and tons and tons of copies, the publisher is making all the money on that. They’re making money off of you basically because they’re reselling your product. The hybrid model is the same thing, but it’s flipped in terms of who makes a lot of money on the backend. So yes, the author makes the lion’s share of the investment, but the author also gets about 80% of the backend.
So you get whole a lot quicker.
You get whole a lot quicker. In fact, if you do the simple math on it, we always try to tell our authors, you are always best first and foremost trying to sell as many books as you can on your own. Because if you do that, either build them in as part of a package thing you’re doing, or you’re selling through your website, or whatever the case might be, because you’re getting full retail on that, you’re getting all that money back. If you sell a book at full retail, it only takes a few hundred books to sell before you break even. I mean, it’s actually pretty quick. If you’re selling your book through a distributor, like for example in the case of Bookpress publishing, all of our books are distributed through Baker & Taylor.
Well, every book has its own webpage at the Baker & Taylor website. So we provide our authors the link to their book page. So a lot of times our authors don’t want to be in the business shipping books. They don’t want to deal with any of that garbage. They have no time for that. So everybody is sent to the Baker & Taylor page and the Baker & Taylor will take all the orders to the books. So once you choose your orders, wherever they came in, they will package them, ship them, the whole ball of wax, handle the credit card transactions. They do all of that stuff and they take 25% off the cost of the price of the book to do that. That is the second best way of doing it because that is the least amount.
If you sell your books through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, well, the distributor is still taking their 25%. Then you have another 60 to 55% set on top of that that they’re taking. So you’re making it deadly on your book. So even as a hybrid model, you’re better off selling as many books as you can yourself or directly through the distributor always, because I’ve always said Amazon is the devil and all they care about… I’m going to tell you, you got to think about Amazon as a search engine. That’s all Amazon is. Everything’s on Amazon is an online store. It’s actually a search engine and it’s built under the same model that Google works under. Jeff Bezos used to work at Google. That’s where he came from.
So it’s very much a search engine but it’s a search engine in the corner of the customer. In other words, if you’re a vendor on Amazon, Amazon doesn’t really care about you a whole lot. They care about the customer a whole lot, vendors, not so much. So books sold through Amazon, that’s fine, except that Amazon will take them back and they can be beat the crap and then you’re stuck with them again. And it butts all the refund back to Amazon. We just had a situation where somebody bought a ton of books, one of our books through Amazon. I don’t know what they did with them. I know they bought them. They bought like 500 copies. I don’t know if they stuck them in a warehouse that got rained on or whatever. And they shipped them all back to Amazon and Amazon took them all back at the behest of the vendor.
So you got to think about these types of channels when you’re distributing your book. But the first goals we always set up with an author who does hybrid publishing is, how do you get your money back? That’s the first goal we set up. How are you whole on this? Once we figure that out, then everything past that is obviously profit. In your case, you didn’t care about how much money you make because there was a tool for you, right?
Right, yeah. I’m sure I am in the minority of authors, but I mean, we’re whole already.
And you’d be surprised on that. I have a lot of authors who come from your perspective. Because the book is a tool for what they do, it’s a fixed cost to them. But it is funny too that when… And there are also authors who come to me who are like, I don’t care if I make any money on this book, I just want to see it in print. Well, I know that’s crap when I hear it. But we go with it for awhile and you see people that end up trying to figure out all the ways they can sell a book at the end and make a buck. It is kind of funny how that transition changes in their mind over time, because they realize that it’s a business.
Yeah. But I think for a lot of the people listening, it is basically a three-dimensional business card. Whether they’re at a trade show or they want to be invited to speak at something or whatever it may be, they want to have the credibility of having authored a good book. So again, it’s not that they want to write a book that’s not helpful or a book that is poorly written, but they know that the revenue from the book is not going to be direct revenue. It’s indirect. It’s going to get me consulting gigs. It’s going to get me speaking gigs. It’s going to get me clients, whatever that is. And I think that’s why a lot of my clients anyway want to write a book.
And you mentioned before about how do you find a good coach. It’s the same with a good publisher too. A publisher is only as good as the books on their list. If a particular publisher that you’ve reached out to is willing to publish your book and they’re going to charge you for it and so on and so forth, but then their rate seems really competitively low, go take a look what’s on their list because you got to be careful. I say this because there are a lot of publishers out there and there are a lot of publishers that are bad out there. And if you look at the books on their list, they’re not good books. They don’t sell well. They haven’t won any awards. They’re controversial. The publishing got a lot of bad press because of it, on, on, on.
So you have to do your due diligence on the publishers as well. You want to make sure that you find a publisher that’s going to be a partner for you, that cares about the quality of your product and they only publish good quality other products as well. In other words, you want to make sure that you’re in a pool of products that are all good. Not like you’re the great one, everybody else is terrible.
Right. It’s like owning the most expensive house in the neighborhood. You don’t want that either.
Right. So credibility matters.
For most of the authors that you observe, the goals are pretty modest really. I mean, I’m not diminishing it. I think writing a book is a noble act. I think it’s hard work. But I think the reason why you do it is, again, yes, ultimately I don’t want it to be a cost. I want to at least net out my expense. But really I want to use it to share an idea I have with the world and to help them understand that I’m really good at what I do and to bring them closer into my community. That to me seems like a very reasonable goal for the effort.
I agree and I understand too that how you use your book is totally up to you as the author. All of our print books also have ebook components to go with them. For example, when we publish a print book, whether it’s paperback or hardback, we also do the ebook version, whether it’s an EPUB or EPDF or whatever. They’re sold through all the different ebook things. So sometimes authors will say, “You know what, I want to use the book to generate sales leads. So I’m going to give away the ebook.” You’ll be shocked at how… Although that sounds counterintuitive, ebooks don’t make a lot of money anyway. They upfront expense on them is minimal and there’s no cost to reprint or anything. So they’re cheap to begin with. But you’d be surprised at the percentage of people who will get a free ebook, they then go in and buy the actual print book.
They’ll start reading the ebook, they’ll read maybe a chapter or two and are like, “You know what, I like this but I hate reading it this way.” And so they go ahead and order the actual printed version. That happens a lot. But they might just want to use the ebook as a sales tool. So they give away a free ebook. Okay, great. You can do that. And if that ebook, or even a print book. You want to give away a print book. As a business card, mail them a book. If that generates business for you, then that book, it pays for itself. I’ve had authors that basically gave away the book quite a bit and generated so much revenue from the business they generated from the book because the perception of them being experts in their field generated all kinds of revenue from that. The book way more than paid for itself.
The books I’ve written, I’ve had, I don’t know, I can’t even think about how many that’s on my head, but at least a dozen speaking gigs, they were directly attached to that book that paid so well that I wouldn’t have gotten them without the book. The book generated those gig and it paid for itself fast. You can use the book however you want. There’s lots of different creative ways of using it. And it’s not that hard to get your money back on the book. It really isn’t. But remember, a book is not just a printed book. It’s a printed book, an ebook, an audio book. It can be pieces of the book. You can give away chapters. You can repurpose the content of your book in a variety of ways.
I often tell people too, writing a book, one of the best ways to write a book is to blog it out. I mean, again, that also seems counterintuitive where you basically are going to give away all the chapters free in blogs. But I often tell writers that I’m coaching, I say, “Hey, throw it out there. You’ve finished this first section of your book. It’s good. Throw it out there and get some feedback on it.” So you get feedback from the readers who are reading it for free and they say, “Wow, I never thought of that.” And you’re making it better because of that. Nobody remembers all the blogs they’ve read.
Nor are they going to print off every blog and put them in order so it looks like your book, right?
Right. Nobody does that. They’re not going to remember it. They’re not going to read them all anyway. So it’s not a problem but it’s a way to make the book better. It’s also a way to generate activity to your website or whatever the case might be, because if your book is the content that you have created, you can use that content in a lot of ways.
Absolutely. And again, for my listeners point of view, that’s a beautiful way to create that one piece of cornerstone content and then slice and dice it and turn it into a lot of cobblestones.
Last question for you before I let you go. If somebody has the idea for a book, how should they prepare the idea or how should they flesh out the idea or how far should they take it before they start reaching out to a book coach, an author coach, or a publisher who has author coaching baked into their publishing deal?
Well, we get a lot of submissions all the time that range from a paragraph about the book and what it is to the actual book itself or sample chapters, complete outlines, thoroughly vetted out in your minds. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think if you can basically explain the book holistically in a couple of paragraphs, explain this is what the book’s about, I’m going to cover these points, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. This is who the book is for. This is why I think the book will help them. If you can cover just a handful of those questions in a couple of paragraphs, three, four paragraphs, I think that’s all you need because if somebody were to submit one of those to me and I read that and I’m like, wow, that book makes sense.
It makes sense for the audience. It makes sense for what they’re trying to do with the book. It’s good content. It’s unique. Yes, we’ll get the book done. But if they have that, that’s the core of what I think most publishers and most coaches are looking for, that they have thought through those things indefinitely. What the book’s about, why is it important for people and what people it’s important for. If you can cover those three… In other words, what are we selling, to whom are we selling it and why does it matter?
Right. Yeah. Okay. I lied. Now this is my last question. If somebody has a good idea and it’s not one that’s been regurgitated a million times, can anyone author a book?
I would say if you have the tenacity to go through the process and you’re willing to take criticism, I say that because in the case of author coaching, the customer is not always right. I’m going to point blank say that. See, we’re always taught in marketing that the customer is always right, which is not true at all. And in the essence of hybrid publishing or traditional publishing or whatever kind of publishing you’re doing, you as a customer are not always right. You have to be willing to accept some constructive criticism and maybe shift gears to take different directions because trust me, you want people to fully understand what you’re trying to do and get it fast and not have to labor through it and struggle. And you know it’s your manifesto and it’s beautiful in your mind, it may not be to the customer.
You have to be willing to accept that. If you can accept that, accept criticism and have the tenacity to do the job and meet goals, then anybody can write a book, because reality is the editors will get you there on the grammar and English and stuff. I always tell people, even if you’re not a good writer, we’ll make it sound like you’re a good writer. All right. We’ll get you there. It’s the content that’s king in this place. So if you have good content or a good idea for content upfront, that’s what really truly matters. Getting you there is easy.
Yeah. Here’s what I’m hearing you say. If you’re willing to work hard enough, you can cross the finish line.
Yeah. I stress been able to accept constructive criticism because-
Okay. So work hard and-
We’re getting a few problems sometime with that.
Well, creative people, type A people, owners, people who are used to being the boss, we are the recipe for somebody who does not like somebody else telling us what to do.
Exactly. But I will tell you, I’m very nice when I say it.
I’m sure you are. I’m sure you are. And to your point, I think ultimately one of the advantages of the hybrid publishing model versus a traditional publishing model is you do have a little more say over what stays in the book or how something is phrased. I know that when I was working with the editor on the latest book, there were a couple of things that he was like, “Yeah, you should take this out.” And I was like, “No, I’m not taking that out. I know it’s not proper English or I know it’s not this, but there’s a reason why it’s here and here’s what the reason is and that’s staying right where it is. Thank you very much.”
Well, and you have to understand too that’s the biggest difference between, other than the business model is ownership is that when you publish to a hybrid publisher, the copyright is yours. I mean, you pick up a Simon & Schuster or a McGraw Hill book or Random House, it’s copyright them. They own it. But on a hybrid published book, you own it and it’s yours. And when I say 80% of the backend it’s because to put a book in distribution, the publisher still has to take out a portion to cover billing and shipping and invoicing, all that kind of stuff, and cutting checks to authors every quarter, all the time involved with that. But you own it, it’s your baby. And so you can do with it whatever you want, and that a huge difference.
Yeah, absolutely. Especially given what those of us who are owning businesses writing books typically want to do. We want to own it and we do want it to have a certain tone or a certain content regardless of if that makes it a best-selling book or not.
Right, exactly. And that’s key because ultimately at the end of the day, it’s yours, it’s your name’s on it. It’s got to be something you’re proud of. But you also want people who are going to read it be good with it as well. And so you want your audience to love it as well. That’s what we strive for, the author and the audience both loving the book.
Yeah, absolutely. Tony, this has been great. Thanks for coming back on the show and sharing your expertise. If people want to talk to you more about the process or they want to learn more about Bookpress, what’s the best way for them to track you down?
Just email me at [email protected]
Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Drew. Appreciate it and love been here.
All right, guys, This wraps up another episode. I know there are a lot of you out there who really do want to write a book as part of your thought leadership. Or again, like I said, it may just be a lifelong goal of yours to be a published author. And so hopefully today’s episode, A, showed you that there are a lot of ways to get this done. There are a lot of people out there who can help you at all different levels. It’s just up to you to decide what makes sense for you from a business point of view, from a getting it done point of view, and that you can absolutely, again, regardless of if you think of yourself as a writer or not, there are ghost writers, there all kinds of ways for you to get the book done that a hybrid publisher can help you with. So don’t hesitate if this is something you want to do to explore it.
Quick shout out and thank you to our friends at White Label IQ. They are the presenting sponsor of the podcast. So they make it possible for us to come and hang out with you every week. You can learn more about them and their White Label services, the White Label Design Dev and PPC for agencies all over the land. Many AMI agencies swear by them. You can check them out at whitelabeliq.com/AMI, and they’ve got a special deal there for you. I will be back next week with another guest to get you thinking differently about your business. In the meantime, you can always track me down at agencymanagementinstitute.com. I’ll see you next week. Thanks for listening.
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.