Great advice from a business publisher (with over 400 titles to date) as to why publishing your own business book can be a great way of establishing authority in your given space, and the different routes open to you. Hear it direct from the horses mouth!
Neil Foley: Well, hello everybody, it’s Neil Foley from the Business Growth Club here again. Really fortunate today to be with Joe Gregory, a long standing friend and colleague of mine from Rethink Press. How are you, Joe?
Joe Gregory: I’m good thanks. We’re sat on the roof in Norwich, is it the rooftop garden?
Neil Foley: We are.
Joe Gregory: In October, and it’s sunny and warm.
Neil Foley: It’s like being in the Mediterranean, isn’t it? It’s staggering.
Joe Gregory: It’s beautiful.
Neil Foley: So there’ll be a fair bit of background noise because we’re having a bite to eat in a second, but what we’re going to discuss over the next 30 to 40 minutes or so, is why if you’re an entrepreneur-
Speaker 3: Excuse me, could you just open that?
Neil Foley: Yeah.
Speaker 3: Thank you.
Neil Foley: So we just had to open a bottle of water for two young ladies. What we’re going to discuss over the next 30 to 40 minutes or so is why if you’re an entrepreneur you should be thinking about publishing, potentially, about setting yourself up as an authority in your particular field, and what are the dos and don’ts of business publishing, if you like. So does that sound like a decent agenda, Joe?
Joe Gregory: Yeah, it sounds perfect.
Neil Foley: Okay. So do you want kick off then and say why should, me or somebody else who’s listening to this, as an entrepreneur, why should they even think about publishing? Surely we’ve got enough to do, haven’t we?
Joe Gregory: So if you’ve already got a high value product offering or a service, especially if you’re an expert, and you haven’t got a book, there’s a potential that somebody else has got a book, and they may not be as good as you. A book is like an instant marker of authority. So you’ll see, if you look on the news or in the media or events where there are people speaking, often with the byline for the person that’s on that stage or in that platform, it will have author of in their platform, and what I’ve been seeing, I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for the last … Oh god, it’s nearly 15 years now, and I’ve seen more and more now, just as when the world wide web was fresh and new, if you haven’t got a book and you’re in business as an expert, you’re more and more seen as not quite yet in business, and it was just like that with the world wide web. If you were in business without a website, you started to become seen as kind of not quite in business yet. I think that pattern’s going to continue, especially for coaches, trainers, consultants, anybody in a people helping capacity especially.
Speaker 4: Gentlemen, he’s having a steak
Neil Foley: Yeah.
Joe Gregory: That’s for me, please.
Neil Foley: The food has just arrived. Thank you.
Joe Gregory: Could you take that please?
Speaker 4: Yes, of course.
Joe Gregory: Yeah, so if you’re a people helper or an expert, and you haven’t got a book, you could be losing out on the ability to charge more, to be more in demand and actually get that speaking platform as opposed to a competitor. So that’s the main thing. But I’d also say, it’s not the first thing on your list of priorities. So if your business isn’t in shape yet and you don’t know exactly what your product offering is, and you’re not winning clients, I’d hold fire on the book. I’d make sure that was absolutely crystal clear first. I often see people’s business change as a result of writing their book and planning their book. Something in the offer that they were making gets shifted in some way.
Neil Foley: In a good way or a bad way?
Joe Gregory: Often in a good way. They’ll have missed out on some value that was there. It was already inherent. There was something about their offer. So for instance, when we started our business, we didn’t have a book, but we wrote a book called How to Write Your Book Without the Fuss. In that we realised we had to kind of codify what our approach to planning a book was. Through the process of writing the book, I realised there were lots of people that didn’t know how to plan their book, and we started offering that, and I think that’s how we first worked together Neil, that we worked on a book plan.
So we put this out and I’m like, actually there’s a business offering there that I hadn’t even seen. It’s a very much important part of our business life cycle now, is we help people plan their books. We get paid for doing that, but we also, it enables people to move along to the point where we can actually publish them. I didn’t see that before we started writing the book. It was blind to us.
So it happens for us, but it happens again and again for clients, or sometimes they think their business is about a feature, so they think they’re in the business of, like for instance one of our authors thought they were in the business of helping financial advisors get better at being financial advisors. They realised what they were really good at was helping them become free, by process systemizing their business, so the book shifted when they realised actually this was about systems for business.
It shifted from being about just helping financial advisors be better at serving their clients into actually transforming their business, and then that was a whole area that wasn’t their business before that they could then offer, you know we can help you to transform your business process. So yeah, I would say if you’ve got an existing business and you’ve got an existing offering, then writing a book about your process and your methodology in order to win more clients and to own that space is a really valuable thing to do.
Neil Foley: Yeah. So not so much about revenue that you’re going to get from selling the book, more about as you say establishing yourself as an authority.
Joe Gregory: Absolutely. It’s all about authority, and I think you’ve made a really important point there, we do get some authors come to us like, “I’m going to sell loads of books, I’m going to make thousands from selling books.” Selling books, if you’re an author of a single book, is a really, very difficult way of making lots of money. Typically if you were published by a mainstream publisher, you’d probably make about 60 pence per book sold.
Neil Foley: Really, as low as that?
Joe Gregory: Yeah as low as that. If you add up to the fact that most … What a traditional publisher would consider a successful nonfiction book, of about 3000 sales over the term of the contract for a three or five year contract. £3000, maybe less, for the amount of hours that you’re going to put into writing a book isn’t where the money is. If you’ve got a service, even if it’s, let’s say it’s a £1000 service or a solid product and you can connect with more people to bring them into that, you can make the money back that you would from selling books with one or two or three clients. So that’s the mentality, is to think, how do I use the book to position me
Neil Foley: So the book is a bit of a … Do people use the books as lead magnets, then?
Joe Gregory: Absolutely, yeah.
Neil Foley: So they’re essentially saying, “Respond to this and the other and we’ll send you a copy.”
Joe Gregory: Yeah.
Neil Foley: Are these ebooks rather than …
Joe Gregory: Oh no, printed books.
Neil Foley: Printed books, okay.
Joe Gregory: There are kind of a few things going on. So let’s say, if I can paint the scenario. Say you’ve written a book about your process, what you do for your clients, and you’ve created a title and a cover that attracts those clients, then there are one or two ways they could find you. They could find you via Amazon, and now they’re in a mindset where they’re looking to pay for information to solve their problem. Or, and this is what I see more and more, you just bypass waiting and you start giving that book away freely to anybody and everybody you can.
Neil Foley: As a physical book?
Joe Gregory: As a physical book, you don’t even need to, I mean you can create funnels and all kinds of clever stuff to do that, but actually just giving it away, books are kind of magic. They’re not like other … If you see the book as a marketing tool, they’re not like brochures and they’re not like business cards. They end up in the bin. If somebody says they’re trying to sell me something for this. Books are inherently valuable. Even if you hate a book, it will be very hard for most people to throw it in the bin.
So what tends to happen with books, they go into one person’s hands, and if it’s not even right for them, you’ll find they’ll pass it on to somebody else, or they’ll give it to somebody else. They find their way into the right people’s hands, the people that read them are your clients, they’re your potential prospects. We find this a lot. So an author will give away a book to somebody, they’ll say, “Oh I gave that to my manager because I thought it was their kind of thing.” Then they’ve been called in to do a whole contract. They get a big project from a chance encounter with their book.
So I’d say the more books you can get out there, the more those opportunities for your book to land into the right hands and to be read by the right people happen. So yeah. They’re like a golden business card or brochure.
Neil Foley: So they’re better than just publishing it on Kindle or whatever?
Joe Gregory: Yeah. I think it’s the idea of a real, physical artefact that you’ve actually given, and this ties into, I don’t know if you’ve come across Robert Cialdini’s book Influence?
Neil Foley: No.
Joe Gregory: But he talks about six principles of persuasion, and one of them is reciprocity. Giving somebody a gift, a book’s got inherent value you know, and it doesn’t necessarily cost much to print. I know there are brochures that cost more than the books that we produce to print.
Neil Foley: Really? Because I was going to say, isn’t that one of the … I’ve seen a number of people do ebooks, and I guess what immediately springs to mind is it’s relatively easy. I say relatively, because you’ve still got to write it, but relatively easy, probably a bit more controlled because you do it yourself, but they do, dare I say it, look a little bit cheap don’t they?
Joe Gregory: They look cheap, and people know that giving somebody access to software isn’t the same as giving them a physical gift.
Neil Foley: True.
Joe Gregory: And it’s this reciprocity, this idea that you’ve given somebody a gift that’s got a cover price value, like let’s say it’s £12, that’s the price of a coffee, and that’s what I see. Having a coffee with a potential prospect, most people in the business that we work with, so entrepreneurs, consultants, coaches, trainers. They’d happily, if they think there’s a potential for a client, they’d happily go out and buy coffee for a prospect. That’s all the cost of a book to send is. So I see that you could do that on a much bigger scale and have 24 hour sales people representing your pitch and your process and your ideas perfectly every time to more people, and it’s a higher value thing. The problem with an ebook, you still have to plug them in. You still have to sit down and deliberately do that. People will read books, or it’s not for them, they’ll pass it around.
Neil Foley: And you’ll pass it, which you can’t do with an ebook, you can’t pass it around.
Joe Gregory: You can’t. And I used to do this, so before I was in publishing I was in marketing, and we used to create special reports and ebooks as a lead gen, and they worked to a degree, but there’s so much of it. It’s exactly like you were saying, it’s quite easy to do an ebook, relatively. There’s still a barrier to entry to have a printed, physical book. So the inherent, the kind of quality and the value and the perceived value of it is higher.
Neil Foley: So if the issue is you’re saying actually, a printed book, I get that and buy that, and I read a lot myself and I love passing books to people I know and like. I guess the bit that always makes you think is the cost, because traditionally you would have maybe naively said, “Well, I’ll go and find somebody, a Penguin or somebody in my field who’s going to say, “Actually I love your ideas.” And they’ll do it all for me and I’ll be their great author. I guess those days are gone, are they?
Joe Gregory: They are gone, really. The great publishers were the gatekeepers to the audience. The great publishers were the gatekeepers to the audience, traditionally. That’s why you would give over and authors still give 90%, 95% of the royalty, the amount from the sales price to the publisher. They were the gatekeepers and they were the only way you were going to get access to the audience. That’s not true anymore. Even if you haven’t got the budget to necessarily invest heavily in that, with CreateSpace and Amazon, the gates are all down. Everybody can publish. It’s not much more difficult to publish a print book than it is to publish an ebook.
Neil Foley: Really? Because I guess you can publish on, because I know in terms of reading some of the material, some of the books you’ve given me, you can print on demand can’t you?
Joe Gregory: Absolutely.
Neil Foley: So I haven’t got to go and fill my carriage with-
Joe Gregory: You don’t need to invest, and that reminds me, my first book, self-published book, called The Gorillas Want Bananas, and by the way that’s a terrible title for a book.
Neil Foley: Gorillas don’t eat bananas, do they?
Joe Gregory: No, they don’t even eat bananas, but it was a clever title, it was actually the lean marketing handbook for expert entrepreneurs, it was very clear what it was. I should have called it The Lean Marketing Handbook, and I tried to be clever, and I’ve learnt from that. So I teach, when I help people plan their books, I teach them to be really obvious and push them to be obvious when they’re trying to be clever.
But when we self-publish, print on demand wasn’t quite there yet. We published 12,000 books … Sorry, we printed 12,000 books, and we had to shift every single one of them. Amazon was there, the print on demand mechanism wasn’t there yet. So first we had a big investment in terms of print. Second, when the lorry arrived, it was a lorry that arrived with these books, and a forklift came off the back and then a pallet came off the lorry. I said, “Oh is that pallet for us?” He said, “No, there’s another two pallets.”
Neil Foley: Really?
Joe Gregory: 12,000 books is a lot of content, a lot to store. You don’t have to do that anymore. You don’t even have to actually own a physical copy of your own book to be able to have your book available for sale on Amazon.
Neil Foley: So how long does it take, then? If it’s print on demand is it literally, you could order it today and have it in a few days?
Joe Gregory: Tomorrow, yeah. With Amazon Prime it’s next day.
Neil Foley: But somebody could print the … You could print the book and then get it delivered?
Joe Gregory: Yeah I mean if you’re buying them for yourself, typically it will take about five days for you to get copies.
Neil Foley: Really? So it’s not long is it?
Joe Gregory: No, and you could order as few as 10. You could order as few as one, but you’ll pay quite a bit for that. But if you just need 10 here and there, assuming you self-publish, you know do DIY self-publish, which you actually keep control of everything, you can do very quickly.
Neil Foley: And is that what you would advocate in terms of not going to the big publishers, because as we say those days are gone?
Joe Gregory: There are pros and cons for every approach. So if I break down, there are three main approaches to getting published now. There’s the mainstream publisher, the traditional publishers of the past. The pros for that obviously is they’ve got such reputation and quality that you’re going to raise kudos. If you’re published by a Penguin, people are going to take notice and think, “Wow, that’s a serious author, they’ve been published.” But the reality is, and I was with somebody from Penguin recently, nobody even looks who’s published the book. Unless you’re in the trade, nobody goes, “Oh this is a Penguin.” That kind of impresses people like me in the trade, you’re like “Who published you?” Most people don’t notice that. They’re just impressed that you’re an author and you’ve written a book.
So the kudos, there is kudos there in being published by a big mainstream publisher. That’s the upside. The other upside is the quality, the book is going to look professional, it’s going to be beautiful, it’s going to give you that authority when you hand over the book. The downside is you lose control. I know of many authors that had a title that was perfect for their audience, and often mainstream publishers want to generalise more, so you’ll end up with a more generalistic title that doesn’t quite resonate as well with your core audience as if you’d kept with the title you knew was the right one for your audience.
So there’s a downside there. Really when you sign a traditional publishing contract, you’re signing a job contract, which is you’ll agree to deliver something by a date to their specification, not to your own specification, and if the editor has got lots of changes you could find you’ve got a very difficult job on your hands as well as running a business. So that’s one downside, is you lose control.
You also lose income, so as I’ve already said, a typical publisher will pay about 7% as a royalty rate on the cover price of a book. So pennies.
Neil Foley: It’s so low, isn’t it?
Joe Gregory: It’s low, and lots people think there’s going to be an advance. That’s the way publishing used to work, where you’d probably get a big advance against sales, but the reality is most publishers don’t make the advance. So if you’ve got a £3000 advance, they’re expecting you to sell at least 3000 books. That’s not always the case, and it doesn’t always have to be the case if you’re a niche author. If you know your audience, you may only have 100 people in the whole world that are interested in your subject. So they’ve got that kind of pressure. Mainstream publisher’s goal is to sell books to make money. It doesn’t always serve the interests of an author whose job with the book is to promote themselves as an authority.
Neil Foley: There’s a totally different rationale, isn’t there?
Joe Gregory: Yeah. They want to sell books. So they will also, you’ll find in the contract in terms of control, they may want rights to prevent you from creating training courses based on your book because that could [crosstalk [00:15:50] book sales. Not necessarily. A lot of authors will have to be very careful when they sign a traditional publishing contract they haven’t stopped themselves from being able to create collateral that’s going to be used for their business going forward, like trainings and free books and free content.
Neil Foley: And of course you’re not in a position of power, are you?
Joe Gregory: No, you’re not.
Neil Foley: So the pendulum is well and truly their direction, isn’t it?
Joe Gregory: And they won’t necessarily, almost certainly now won’t pay an advance unless you’re established, you’ve already proven that you can sell loads of books for them, they’re not going to give you an advance anymore.
Neil Foley: Is that the fiction world where advances are still around, or not really?
Joe Gregory: They’re still there, but I mean fiction is something I don’t know very much about other than the fact it’s even harder to make money as a fiction author. If you were to do fiction, I think the pendulum’s shifted hugely to do it yourself publishing, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
Neil Foley: In terms of … That’s a good point, we should have said that at the beginning Joe, how many books have you published or been involved in?
Joe Gregory: I’ve been involved with over 500 books now.
Neil Foley: Wow.
Joe Gregory: Whether I’ve helped people plan them or published them myself personally or collaborated and co-authored books.
Neil Foley: These are in the business field?
Joe Gregory: Nonfiction, business books. I know nothing about fiction other than the fact I don’t know how to sell it. So yeah I’ve worked with lots of entrepreneurs, lots of entrepreneurial people, lots of experts. The thing that drew me to doing publishing as a business is I loved books and I wanted to read the books first. I thought, all these brilliant experts, I’m going to have an edge over everybody else if I read their book before it even hit the public.
So I’ve seen kind of the benefits of all different approaches. I’ve helped Sunday Times bestselling traditionally published authors, I’ve helped them to plan their books, and usually when they’ve called me in to help them or if they’ve got an issue with the book, their challenge is usually, I promised it would be with them by X date and now I’m running out of time, so that’s not a nice pressure if you’re being, you’re jumping to somebody else’s tune or dancing to somebody else’s tune. That’s what happens with a publishing contract.
The exchange of value is like this. They’re brilliant at what they do, they create beautiful books, their business model is all about selling books and exploiting your intellectual property in order to sell books and sell content in a packaged form. That competes often with your goal, which is to raise your own profile, because anything that looks like you’re giving away stuff or giving free stuff away, that erodes their ability to exploit the content. So you’re always at odds on some level. The reality is, beyond distribution, mainstream publishers can’t promote your book for you. They look for somebody with a platform already because they know it’s your job to sell the book.
Neil Foley: The route you would suggest, and I 100% get this Joe, is that what you would call a hybrid approach?
Joe Gregory: Well hybrid, so I’ve got an agenda there, my business is a hybrid publishing business where it’s a paid for model, but I’d say before I talk about that there is a do it yourself self-publishing approach, so if you haven’t got the resource or the monetary resources to publish a book, but you’ve written content and you know it’s good, DIY self-publishing is a valid option, and that’s where a lot of fiction authors are going now and building their own audience, because they realise publishers can’t promote them, it’s their job. So they think, well I may as well keep all of the income.
For a fiction income stream you need to publish lots of books. For a nonfiction income stream it can massively reduce the timeframe from having the manuscript finished to having it published. So DIY self-publishing would be when if you do it properly, you have to see yourself as a boutique publisher. It’s no good just thinking, ah it’s just a one off project. You’re going to have an ongoing responsibility to keep the date of your book intact and right and make sure the listings will look correct.
But really the three crucial skills for that is getting a good editor, because if you’re going to self-publish, most DIY self-published books you can tell are DIY self-published because they make one of three errors. They didn’t edit it properly, they didn’t design the cover properly, and they didn’t design the interior properly. Those three things, it’s always worth paying experts to do.
So even if you DIY self-publish, I’d budget at least £2000 to get a good edit, a good cover design, and a good typeset done. But the massive upside to that is, and you’re completely in control of the cost of your books because you’re directly responsible to the printer, you’re in control of updating at any point in the future, and you can get the lowest possible cost books for yourself.
The downside is, who do you know that’s an expert as a cover designer? They may have all the credentials, but you don’t necessarily know how to brief a cover designer to create quality covers that look like a Penguin cover and are indiscernible, and that’s why a lot of self-published books look amateur. If the whole aim of the game is authority, that’s where a good hybrid publisher will be able to produce books to the same standards that they’ll be indiscernible, you won’t be able to tell that they weren’t a mainstream publisher, and you don’t have any of the headaches of sorting out-
Neil Foley: And the hybrid gives you the … The editor comes as part of it?
Joe Gregory: Yeah you get an editor, cover design, interior design, distribution will be taken care of for you. Your job then is just to write a good book, and then-
Neil Foley: How many people are good at doing that though, Joe?
Joe Gregory: How many people are good at writing-
Neil Foley: No, I know you said that was a business opportunity you discovered where you were helping people, because I can imagine where I could speak with authority on some issues, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I could write it in an engaging way.
Joe Gregory: This is the thing that I think we’ve got going for us in helping people plan and write books, is experts don’t know necessarily why they’re experts. You ask … The best sports coaches aren’t necessarily the best sports performers, because the sports performers have got stuff that’s invisible to them. They think everybody’s got those abilities and you can’t see the missing gaps. So a good book coach or somebody that can extract that, that I believe I’m good at and I’ve worked with bestselling authors through the whole process, whether they DIY self-published with us or published with a mainstream, is knowing what they’ve got going for them.
I believe this of anybody listening who’s an expert on their subject, there’ll be stuff you’re taking for granted about your audience that they just don’t know. So a good book coach will extract that and say this is valuable content for a book. So often when I see an initial book kind of picked or a structure, it’s usually missing some simple stuff that can make it better. So yeah. But I think most people, if they’re an expert on something, if they unpack that knowledge and they know that the purpose of that book, while it’s great that we’re going to raise profile and potentially win customers, if they focus on the fact that this book has to add huge value to their audience and they answer questions and they write a book in that way that it does solve problems for their audience, the book will do the work for them.
Neil Foley: Really?
Joe Gregory: Yeah. And usually most people know what they do for their clients. A simple route would be, at least the meat of your book, would be to work through the process you go through with your clients. What are the questions they usually ask you? What are their worries and concerns? What do you advise them regularly? There’ll be a kind of a frequently asked questions, I’m sure all of us in any business, we get the same questions again and again. That’s where the nuggets are for the raw content of your book.
Then you need to have that marketer’s mind on top of it. You need to still pitch that content to people by talking about their problems and talking about some kind of big promise this book, by the time you’ve read this book, is going to give them or do for them. That’s where the topping of the book is, that’s the intro to the book, and then the tailing is making sure you leave them somewhere better than they started. Even if you just have to remind them of that by saying, “Now you’ve read this book you’ll be better at X, Y, or Z than you were before.”
On a basic level I think most people, if they’re an expert, have got everything they need to write the book, whether they’ve written before or not isn’t a problem. Whether they think they’re good writers, whether they got an E in English, the reality is it’s the content that’s the most valuable thing.
Neil Foley: So can you tart the content up in terms of-
Joe Gregory: Yeah I mean that’s the whole point of a good editor, is if you write in the way that you know your audience appreciate, even if it’s how you speak, even if it’s full of colloquialisms, a good editor will make that good business … I’d just call it your authority voice. So we’ve got the way we speak and I like books that are very conversational in terms of tone, but we’ve got the way we speak to one another, and then we’ve got the authority voice, which is just a bit more polished and it’s had an editor over it. This is somebody I should take seriously, when somebody’s never met you before, because their first contact with you is going to be your book. That authority voice usually means it’s going to be a bit less conversational than you may have written or that you would have spoken that content, but it will paint you in the best possible light for your audience, and a good editor will do that.
Neil Foley: Do people plan it properly, Joe, in terms of thinking, right I’ve got a book in me, I can see the logic of it, but I mean how much work is it?
Joe Gregory: Oh right. We advocate writing a book of 30,000 words. That takes about four hours for the average person to read, which could be the average commute.
Neil Foley: It’s not that long, is it?
Joe Gregory: It’s not long at all. We can write more than 1000 words an hour, most people can type more than 1000 words an hour.
Neil Foley: Can they really?
Joe Gregory: We base it on … It’s about 1500, actually, if they know what they’re writing about, most people can do that. If we can stay kind of focused. But we assume 1000 good words an hour, so well though through words an hour, so it’s 30 hours of writing for that first draught. But before you even put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, getting that plan right is the key thing because that will make your job so much easier. So you went through the process, Neil.
Neil Foley: Yeah, I remember it.
Joe Gregory: We break down everything into chunks and pieces, so you’ve got like a jigsaw, five by three index cards. We plan everything out, everything in meticulous detail in 300-500 words chunks, what’s going to be in the book. By doing that your brain stops being creative, because reasons for writer’s block typically are your brain’s still creatively trying to find more links and connections. So if you’ve written a chapter that hasn’t been fully structured and you start writing a chapter, your brain will go, oh, I need to tell them about X or I need to tell them about Y now, or in order to understand that, they need to know about that.
You end up on this creative stage. By doing that creation first you can actually put everything in boxes, create the hierarchy, do that creative work first, and then say, “Right enough, I’m not going to go beyond this structure. This is the structure.” And it gives your unconscious mind, if you believe in an unconscious process going on, your unconscious mind is like, my work’s done now. I don’t need to be creating more connections. So that’s one reason that people get writers’ block is they’re still being creative when they need to be productive.
So planning in advance and having it absolutely-
Neil Foley: Is that what the editor helps you with at all?
Joe Gregory: An editor can help with a structural edit, but usually that means, if an editor’s having to do a lot of the structural edit stage it’s usually because the author made the mistake of not planning structurally first. So I’d always say, if you want to minimise costs for editing, plan that structure first, really have it so detailed that you can literally, if you use the card, you can use the card to type from, you don’t have to even think about it. So that’s one tip, is make sure you plan it in detail.
Every book has, I’ll probably talk through the author process now, it’s our method for making sure content is structured in the right way. Every book needs these building blocks in it. So we use a process called AUTHOR, and it’s a mnemonic, and acronym based thing. So every one of those letters stands for something. So if I run you through it very quickly, A in the AUTHOR model is for attention. To get attention you need to talk about your target reader’s pains and problems, or make a compelling big promise to them that they go, “That’s what I want.”
So in the introduction to your book you need to talk about them, their issues, their challenges, and make some big promise to them along the lines I’ve already said, by the time you’ve read this book you will be able to or you will know or you will be able to understand or you’ll feel or you’ll act differently. So making that absolutely crystal clear upfront why are they there, what are they there for, in the attention part of the book is important. That comes in the foreword and it comes in the introduction chapter.
Then the next part of the book is talking about understanding, so U is for understand. Showing that you get where they’re at. So talking about their current situation, talking about their pains and problems in a bit more depth. Showing that you understand them and that there’s a route to overcoming these problems in some way that you know that the book is going to unpack for them.
So typically the first chapter or so after the introduction will be talking about your readers’ pains and their problems, their situation, and the implications of not solving those problems. So you talk about understanding. Depending on who’s listening, in terms of NLP or hypnosis, that’s known as pacing, so you’re pacing their current reality. You’re making them know they’re in the right place, they can relax, they can turn their lizard brain off, it’s like this book is for me, and it’s going to give me what I need.
Neil Foley: And is that, it just springs to mind Joe, is that where … How do you do the narrative, because you see things like the E Myth book and the rest of it, where they’re all stories and Sally then looked pained when I said XYZ, is that a recognised route or is that a very American one?
Joe Gregory: That’s a trickier route to do, it’s just tricky.
Neil Foley: Is it? It’s harder than it seems, is it?
Joe Gregory: You’re basically trying to create a parable in order to package the solution. People will go, “That’s for me,” because they’ll empathise with Sally in the myth. They’ll be like, yeah, I’ve gone through that challenge of trying to start a business and not quite working or realising now I’m working all hours.
Neil Foley: But it’s harder than it seems.
Joe Gregory: It’s harder than it seems to actually get that empathy, so I’d recommend, even at the structuring stage, if you want to write a parable and you’re a gifted writer, go for it, but I’d actually say, let’s keep it really simple for the first book.
Neil Foley: So that was you.
Joe Gregory: Yeah. So you got attention, which is make some big promise, tell them what they’re going to get by the time they read the book and why they should read the book. Then the understanding element, talk about their situation, their pains, their problems, unpack that a bit. Future pace a little bit, so if you don’t solve this, what are going to be the implications? If you do solve this what are the implications? It’s all about motivating them to keep reading and to want to take in that content.
Then T in the author process is trust, and so here’s an error that a lot of people make, they try and tell their story all at the front of the book, because they’ve been told, I need to get my story out, they need to know where I’m coming from, they need to understand the why me. Lots of first time writers will make the error of writing a big biography, and people are selfish. I don’t mean this in a judgmental way. People reading a book just want to get to the meat, what’s in it for them.
So the trust element elements usually come through in anecdotes. So there won’t necessarily be a trust chapter, other than the fact you’ll get praise quotes from recognised experts in your field, but the trust element runs through the thread of the book. It will be your own personal stories, stories of how you’ve helped your own clients to overcome some challenge that the reader can acknowledge is their challenge too. So you can use the trust element throughout. Statistics, if there are statistics, the E Myth I think starts with, how many businesses go out of business in the first three years? Those kinds of statistics add trust to the element. So trust is T in the AUTHOR model.
Then the meat of the book and what most people are going, when I was talking about, what’s your method? What’s your methodology for helping your clients, your best clients? That’s where the meat of the book is and it’s usually quite a few chapters, maybe 80% of the book will be this, which is the help element. So H in the AUTHOR model is help, or how to. That’s when you’ll unpack your content for people in a structured way that goes through the centre of the book.
Then you’ve got originality, and a lot of people, I see this sometimes where you have to turn books away, the mistake that people have made is they may have been on a Tony Robins or they’ve been on an NLP training course and then they just regurgitate what they’ve just learned, but they haven’t synthesised yet. There’s no problem with that but if it’s too early and you haven’t been able to play with this stuff and you just regurgitate other people’s stuff, it’s not original yet, it’s not your take, it’s not your synthesised version of all the stuff that you may have absorbed.
So I often say to people or help people create some kind of framework or methodology, which can be their own unique way of representing stuff, it may be ages old, like selling an influence. There are only so many ways of packaging that up. But you want to do it in an original way where people resonate with that. So O is for originality. That again runs through the book. But also the whole book should be original, you should be saying something that’s different or attention grabbing in a different way.
Then finally, and this is every chapter, but actually the outro of the book, you want to get a reaction. So R is for reaction. I think of it in terms of what do you want for your reader? By the time they’ve read the book, what do you want your reader to be able to do? That’s the one reaction. So what’s in it for your reader? The other reaction is, what’s in it for you? So before you even write the book, what do you want the reader to have done by the time they’ve read the book? How do you want them to be thinking or feeling about you? What do you want them to do next?
So most of our authors’ books will have a very, very gentle call to action, saying “If you’ve found this book interesting, get in touch and do XYZ.” Or it could be a free offer or extra content. But knowing that reaction from day one, all of the stories, all the trust stories that you want to weave through the book, should also be planting the seed in your reader’s mind, how they could work with you. So if you’re a coach, they’ll be by coincidence, there’ll be lots of stories about how you’ve helped somebody with some coaching intervention. So I had a client that had this and when they came to my coaching practise. So they’ve already, if they’ve read the book, they already know how to work with you, they know how to react, and what to do as a next step.
So that’s a very overarching, all those elements need to be there, and we also run the author process per chapter, so we get attention with the chapter title, we build understanding in the chapter, we have some praise quote or statistic within the chapter to build trust, we give them some value, so there’s some help element to the chapter. We present it in an original way, whether it’s in original attitude or original content. We tell them how to feel or think about that content in the end, in a summary. Like, now you’ve done this, now you’ve read this chapter, you now know how to do X, Y, and Z, do something with it. Or it could be an actual exercise you get people to do at the end of a chapter. But just having that framework in mind across the book and through the chapters.
Neil Foley: Yeah, makes perfect sense.
Joe Gregory: Will give you a kind of a robust book that you won’t have had anything missed out.
Neil Foley: If you had to think in terms of a ballpark figure, what is this cost? What is the average author spending?
Joe Gregory: If they’ve managed to write, there’s nothing stopping most people from being able to plan and write their own book. There really isn’t if people want to fast track it or they just know they can get help with somebody, you could probably pay a book coach, like my one-to-one intensive, we’ve got a team of writers that help with this now, it’s £1200, and that’s to get the plan robust.
I found that will solve for 90% of our authors, that will solve the writing stage as well, they’ve got a robust plan. They then just need to be productive and work the plan till they’ve written the book. For people that are thinking well actually the writing may be problematic, you can get your book ghost written. A good ghost writer, if they take it all off you and just do it for you will cost anywhere from £12,000 to £30,000, which is a huge, huge cost. And they earn every penny because they’re creating the content.
What we created, because we realise this is an issue, we created an approach called booksmithing, where we interview authors on their content. So once they’ve got a solid book plan, we’ll interview them step-by-step on their content, usually over 10 hours, and then our writers will … They’ll outsource the writing, not the thinking. So it will still be their words, it will still be their content, it will still be their authority piece. So they genuinely can claim they’re the author of the work. But they outsource the writing to somebody that’s technically very capable of writing.
That intervention with us costs £7000. Again not everybody needs that, and I’d still argue, and I still talk a lot of people who are saying, “I just want to pay your booksmith to do this.” I’ll talk them into doing it themselves if I can because the process of writing will transform the way you think and see your own business. There’s a self-development piece in writing your own book. But it’s for people that just, they’ve got no time, their business is flying and they just think, “I want this done, I know the book will add to my authority and add it.” It’s a no brainer for people in that position.
Neil Foley: Suddenly got really windy.
Joe Gregory: Yeah. So that’s that stage of it. So it could cost anything from nothing, other than your time and attention, to with us about £10,000, just under, to get the book written to a high standard. Publishing, our publishing package, the retail price is £5,999 on our website. For people who come to us via our networks, that would be anybody that’s listening to this, because they’re coming via you Neil, would be £4,999, that’s plus VAT, at the moment. Prices have gone up pretty much annually by about 10%.
That reflects, possibly in our case, actually we usually add more into the process, we add more value as well as just increasing price, to remain kind of in that place. If you were to self-publish, I think I already said, if you DIY self-publish, you’d still want to pay experts. An editor’s going to cost, for a 30,000 word book, at least £500 to do properly. A good cover designer will probably cost about £500, and a typesetter, because it’s time intensive, you’re probably looking to spend anywhere between £300 to £900, depending on who does it and how complex-
Neil Foley: But if we did via yourself for the £4,999, that’s all included?
Joe Gregory: That’s all covered, the editing’s covered, and the distribution. With our authors, they get 60% of the royalties, they get the books at cost plus a very small markup that everybody … You can see, so it’s like cost plus a pound per book, or if they order thousands, that comes down considerably. With a mainstream publisher, books will cost an author about £7 per book. So if your plan is to give away books, which I really advocate, that could end up getting quite costly quite quickly with a mainstream publisher.
So there are the prices, but I’d say for most business authors they should be thinking of this book as marketing spend, not just a kind of, it would be nice to have. If they compare to that to say getting their brochures designed and printed, it’s probably not too bad comparatively, but it will be something that they can use for life again and again to raise their profile, raise their fees.
Neil Foley: You’re right, it’s not a vanity project, is it?
Joe Gregory: No. I think if the book hasn’t got a solid business purpose, so going right back to having a business that sits behind the book, you will feel like it’s a vanity project in every sense of the word. Not only will you have books that nobody wants, you’ll have done it in vain because nobody will be resonating with the book. So I would never start … The number of people I turn away, I mean we’re a paid for, our business is selling these packages, that I turn away if their business isn’t in the right shape yet, is actually higher than most people would probably imagine.
So I’d always advocate, make sure you know the purpose for your book even before you even think about planning it because you’ll be wasting time. If you just thought, well I’ve got an interesting story I think I should tell. It’s got to actually serve a business purpose.
Neil Foley: I understand that. How do people get in touch with you then, Joe?
Joe Gregory: Okay, if they go to rethinkpress.com they’ll find everything they need to contact us there, or I’d also say, I’m proud of this, which is why I’m going to say, is I saw on Facebook when you could get your own forward slash domain, I managed to get getpublished. So if anybody wants to connect with me personally, if they go to facebook.com/getpublished they’ll find my profile. I’m not at my 5000 limit yet, I’m not popular enough. So if anybody wants to reach out they can do that.
Neil Foley: Excellent. Okay, well thank you for that Joe. And finally as a last question, because dear old lunch is getting cold here, in terms of … I don’t know, I’m considerably older than you are Joe, but if you could go back to being a young man again, so you’re 18 or 19 years old, what would you tell yourself now knowing what you know about life? What would you say to your young self?
Joe Gregory: In terms of books or business generally?
Neil Foley: Just business, life.
Joe Gregory: To get started on some of these projects sooner. I think we often … Time flies, doesn’t it? I could have probably written twice as many books in the time if I’d have actually applied myself to doing it, and I don’t think I’d have regretted a single one. The books that have served me continue to serve me to this point and help me to impress people every so often. So I’d just be, get on with it now, start now, because you may be thinking, oh I’ve got ages to do this, but I can guarantee somebody else will be working more quickly than you at that same rate and all of a sudden you’ll be thinking, “I had that idea first and I wish I’d have capitalised on it.” That actually ties back in with books. If you’ve written about a subject and you own it, and you were there first publicly published, nobody can take that away from you.
Neil Foley: It is yours forever, isn’t it?
Joe Gregory: Yeah.
Neil Foley: Well it’s been really brilliant, Joe, and thanks really enormously for your time. I’m sure we’ll do a sequel because I think we could probably talk forever, but you know how to get in touch with Joe. Have a look at the Business Growth Club, businessgrowthclub.net. This will be on iTunes, and we have our own Spreaker channel as well. Until next time, goodbye.
- On October 30, 2017