103 Should you Write a Book? (If you answer “Yes,” here’s how you do it.)

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Do you need to write a book to achieve success as a Professional Speaker? And what does it take to write a winning book? Listen in to today’s show!

There is not one way to make your way in the world, due to the vast number of options available in this day and age. In this episode, I do my best to answer the question, whether or not you need to have written a book, to make it as a Professional Speaker. I also explain how you can conceive of, then structure and even promote a best-selling book.

In this episode, learn:

  • What it takes to write a really good, evergreen book. (3:49)
  • The various frameworks that can be used – the Numerical (7:48), the Chronological  (8:35) the Modular ((9:18), the Compare and Contrast (10:05), the Problem and Solution (10:54) Frameworks, as well as the Primary and Secondary Frameworks (11:52) of the book .
  • The different ways that you can get your book published. (12:10)
  • That as an author, you’re actually in the business of book marketing, not book writing, although writing is part of the process. (13:28)
  • Some of the potential pitfalls of self publishing. (15:20)
  • Some of the inherent risks and benefits of trade publishing. (18:27)
  • What you need to consider about the marketing of your book. (22:00)

00:02 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port, this is Mike. Often I’m asked if one needs to be an author to be a successful professional speaker. And I suppose that depends on who you ask. And I’ve written six books so what does that tell you? I wrote Book Yourself Solid in 2005, I followed it up with Beyond Booked Solid and The Contrarian Effect, then Think Big Manifesto, then a second edition of Book Yourself Solid, then a third edition of Book Yourself Solid, which was an entirely different book called Book Yourself Solid Illustrated. I took the primary concepts in Book Yourself Solid and I worked with Jocelyn Wallace, who’s a visual strategist, to turn them into illustrations so that I could cut about half of the text and replace that text with images, to make the material even easier to consume. So that was really its own book in and of itself. And then I wrote a book called Steal the Show in 2015. So that’s about six books, I think maybe more, about six. But I really don’t think there is any one way to make your way in the world, so I think you have a number of different options in this day and age.

01:21 Michael Port: So I’m gonna do my best in this episode to answer that question, whether or not you need a book to be a successful professional speaker and I’ll also address how you can conceive of, structure, publish, and even promote a best-selling book. So do you have to have a book to be a successful professional speaker? And I think the answer is, no. I don’t think you have to. I think there are professional speakers out there who have not written books or have not written books that were particularly successful. So I don’t think you have to. Can it make a huge difference? Yes. Ultimately your success as a professional speaker is gonna boil down to a few things. Number one; how good you are as a professional speaker, and are you best in class? Number two; do you have a platform that compels people to hire you and are you willing to go out in the world and hustle up gigs?

02:24 Michael Port: When I started my business I had no intention of being a professional speaker, I didn’t really know that there was a professional circuit out in the world. I started a business and I did some public speaking as a way to promote my services, I never sold from the stage per se, but if you are best-in-class and you are delivering solid presentations, then people are hiring you because what you are offering them is relevant, is helpful, is inspirational and if they need more help on that particular topic, area, then they’re gonna hire you to work with them. So that’s how I started but after my first book came out, Book Yourself Solid, then I started getting inbound requests for paid speaking gigs, or highly paid speaking gigs and that’s how I started as a professional speaker. So I don’t think that is how everybody makes their start but it’s how I got my start and it worked for me at the time. If you’re gonna write a book you got to have a reason why. Not just a, “Oh, I think it’s a good idea to have a book as a business card.”

03:42 Michael Port: I do not think writing a book as a business card makes a lot of sense, because to write a great book, I mean a really great book, a book that is evergreen, a book that changes the way people see the world, changes the way they see themselves. It’s something that requires a huge amount of your effort, generally, a huge amount of your time, generally. And it’s a project that could be two years of your life, at a minimum. So a book as a business card never made sense to me, a book in a weekend never made sense to me. I think they’re serious projects for serious people. The question that’s important to ask still is why? Why am I writing this book? Am I writing this book because I wanna use it to build the platform, so that I produce more inbound offers for people to buy my services or my speeches? Is the business model that I am designing based on what’s in this book? Or is it a vanity project? Is it a book that I’m writing because I want attention or I want to have a cathartic experience writing about my story? The books in the latter two categories tend to not be as successful in our industry. So why are you gonna do this? And I think if you’re gonna do it it’s a big commitment and it’s something that you are gonna take a lot of time working on.

05:30 Michael Port: So how do you conceive of structure, publish and promote a best-selling book? These are big, big topics. First thing you do is you start off with an idea, it’s a real idea and a promise, an idea that’s worth sharing. I don’t think subject matter needs to be different to make a difference but your point of view, your experience, your expertise and your processes do. When you conceive of a book, it’s much like starting a speech. You ask yourself a few questions. You ask who’s your audience, what’s your big idea, what’s your promise, what does the world look like to your reader, what are the consequences of not adopting the practices that are laid out or the world view that is disclosed, or the protocol that’s introduced, and what are the rewards of adopting those practices or world view or protocol that’s introduced? Then, you look at structuring, but I don’t think you go on to structuring until you can answer all of those questions.

06:40 Michael Port: There are a number of different frameworks that are often used in self and business help books. These frameworks are not the only frameworks that are used, they’re not the be all end all frameworks, but they’re frameworks that can get you started. They can get you into the content development phase of the process. And then you might start to find your own framework, or your own methodology for producing content. But, don’t use any framework or structure that would constrain you. Sometimes I’ll introduce a framework for folks to use and they will try to adhere so tightly to the framework that they end up constraining themselves and losing their creativity to a certain degree, because they’re trying to do it right rather than simply using a framework as a way in.

07:44 Michael Port: So, one of the frameworks that you often see is the numerical framework. It’s very, very common. Stephen Covey wrote a wonderful book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Seven habits, very easy to follow, very easy to consume, and those seven habits could be introduced in really any different order. And if Stephen had wanted to teach just one of them in a speech, he could teach just one, or if he wanted to teach three, he could teach three, or he could teach all seven. So there’s a lot of flexibility in that framework. It’s really quite straightforward, it’s simple to adhere to, simple to consume. So, you’ll see that a lot.

08:30 Michael Port: You’ll often see chronological frameworks. A chronological framework is a framework that is in a sequence. First this, then this, then this, then this. You’ll see that as well. Your pregnancy week-by-week is a book that is in a chronological framework. You really don’t wanna read one of the weeks in the third trimester before you read about the week that you’re in, in the first trimester. Jumping ahead is generally not a great idea. But if you go week-by-week, you will build the knowledge you need to feel comfortable with your particular situation. So you have a numerical framework, you have a chronological framework, you have a modular framework.

09:18 Michael Port: Modular framework is where you have a lot of content that you need to organize into a few different chunks. Helps break up some very big ideas that ultimately work together, but in order to consume them or process them it really helps to separate them out. Book Yourself Solid is in a modular framework. There are four modules in Book Yourself Solid, and it’s also in a sequential framework. So you can combine frameworks. So, Module One has four building blocks, and they run in sequence. Module Two has four building blocks and they run in sequence. Module Three has two building blocks and they run in sequence. And Module Four has six building blocks and they run in sequence.

10:04 Michael Port: There’s also a compare and contrast framework. Jim Collins wrote a book called Good to Great, wonderful book, one of the best-selling business books of our time. And he does something pretty straightforward. Now, he did it as a pretty big study at a university, but you can still use this framework even without that kind of study behind you. He compared good companies with great companies and he identified what was similar and what was different. And then as a result you can extrapolate from that work what you should do differently, based on the comparison between the good and the great companies.

10:52 Michael Port: There’s also a problem solution framework, another straightforward framework. Now, a colleague of mine, Mitch Meyerson, years ago wrote a book called Why Parents Love Too Much. And his thesis was that parents were… He was a therapist and parents were overwhelming their children because they were hovering, they were helicopter parents, they were loving their children so much that they were constraining them, suffocating them. And so he said, “Look, here are the X number of problems… ” Each chapter was a particular problem. So, “Here are the 10… ” I don’t know how many there were but, “Here were the 10 problems that these children are facing as a result of parents loving too much, and here’s a solution for each problem.” Very straightforward, easy to consume, and worked quite well. Inside any given book you could use all of these different frameworks. And in fact, it’s often very effective too because you create a lot of contrast. But the book itself will have a primary framework, and then maybe a secondary framework. But they’re just ways in. They’re not the end all be all. They’re not the only way to approach developing content, but for many, many, people they’ve been very, very, helpful.

12:06 Michael Port: Now the next question you ask yourself is, well, how do you publish it? Well, there are a number of different types of publishing these days, there’s self-publishing, and there’s trade publishing. And then there are spin offs of each one of those things. So there’s the traditional publisher, the Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt, Crown, Random House, Penguin, Portfolio, and then there’s the vanity publisher, the self-print on demand publisher, which is you. There’s Hybrid Publishing, where you’ll pay them to publish it, but they will distribute it for you. So there’s a number of different models out there and you decide that, which model is gonna be most appropriate for you.

13:05 Michael Port: The next big question really is; what business are you in when you are an author? ‘Cause if you ask folks usually they’ll say, “Well, I’m in the business of writing books. I’m an author.” But this day and age for most people in our industry, when you are an author you’re actually in the business of book marketing, not book writing. Although of course, writing the book is part of that process. So we need to think like marketers from the get go, from the very, very, beginning. And part of that marketing process is deciding what kind of publisher you will be. Are you gonna go the traditional route, the vanity route, the print on demand publishing route, or the hybrid publishing route? And each one of them has pros and each one of them has cons, and anybody that tells you one is absolutely better than the other, usually is trying to sell you something. Look, I’m happy to sell you things but I’m never gonna tell you one way is absolutely better than the other, we’re always gonna look for what works, that’s what is most important, what works for you. Because all of these options can work, but the question is, do they work for you?

14:24 Michael Port: For example, when I started writing books in 2005, it was a very different landscape, self-publishers were not taken seriously for the most part, you either published or you perished. But today’s a very different landscape. All of my books I’ve done with trade publishers, large trade publishers, and people have often asked me why I don’t do self publishing. My friend Mike Michalowicz, who I run a book retreat with each year, he has done both, but now he self-publishes his book first. In fact on his last book, he self-published it, made it a hit and then he sold it to a publisher afterwards and released it as a new edition. So he double-dipped, so to speak, which is pretty cool. It was a great strategy. The self-publishing worked very, very, well for him. And today’s a different landscape, but people ask me why I don’t do it myself now, and there’s a couple of different reasons. I think self-publishing can produce a lower quality product, for a variety of reasons, not does but can. Number one; you don’t known maybe anything about the technical aspects of typesetting, cover design, binding, paper quality, etc. So you’re maybe starting from scratch, don’t know anything about that.

15:41 Michael Port: Number two; you’re not bound by a contract or a deadline, and as a result it’s likely the book will take longer for you to write and you may print it without it passing muster. You don’t have anyone keeping you on target and forcing you to improve the quality of the book, you don’t have a gate keeper, like you would if you were with a traditional publisher where you have an editor who’s saying, “No, no, no you gotta cut this chapter. You gotta improve this. You gotta work on this.” And if you can manage against those risks, if you can manage against those risks, like Mike can, like my friend Mike Michalowicz can, then you’re good to go, then self-publishing can be very, very, practical and even profitable for you. But if you haven’t produced a major project like that, of some kind where you handled all the details, you’re the producer, the writer, the publisher, the editor, the marketer, the whole thing, then you might wanna think about where your strengths lie and ask if self-publishing is the best option. You gotta ask yourself, are you gonna be able to follow thorough without having signed a contract with somebody that’s paid you money in advance for the book, and is waiting for that book on that, to be delivered to them on that day, and if you don’t deliver to that book to them on that day, there are consequences. I like that model.

17:11 Michael Port: I run multiple businesses, I am arguably pretty booked-up, schedule-wise and writing a book takes a lot of time for me, so it takes time away from revenue generating activities if I need a few hours everyday to write for six months or eight months. And if I don’t have a deadline to adhere to, if I haven’t already been paid by a publisher, if my agent didn’t work hard to negotiate that deal, if there wasn’t a lot of skin in the game already for a lot of people, it’s likely I would not make that publishing date, but because there’s all that skin in the game, I make that date always. I’ve never missed a date and I’m always early, so that really helps motivate me. Especially at this stage of the game, having done it numerous times. The novelty is not present anymore. It’s not as exciting as it was at the beginning. It still can be very meaningful, but it doesn’t have that same newness. Which tends to get you very, very, excited about doing it and talking about it, the whole nine yards.

18:23 Michael Port: But trade publishing has inherent risks as well. You might have a difference of opinion with your editor or publisher regarding style, tone, content of material, writing style, design style. But what it can do, is it can force you to produce a higher quality product, because you’ve gotta defend your ideas. If you’re self-publishing you choose your cover and you choose your cover. Some people around you might be like, “I don’t know, I’m not sure that’s the greatest cover.” And you might go, “No, no, I really like it,” but you haven’t had to defend it. And often when you’re working with a publisher you’ve gotta go through a creative process, where they may do a cover for you and you, if you don’t love it you’ve gotta prove to them why it should be different. If you come to them with a cover idea, you may have to demonstrate to them why that’s the right cover idea. So when you have to prove your ideas are worthwhile ideas, and are gonna have value in the marketplace, often you put more behind it. It requires you to work harder, I think. Not for everybody, but for some of us.

19:39 Michael Port: Again, there isn’t one right way, one is not better than the other. Each option is always gonna have its pros and its cons. I often need to have those outside forces to push me harder to prove why my ideas are the ideas that we should choose, we should follow. So, which one is better for you? Figuring out which one is better for you is the question. Now you may need support. When you publish with a trade publisher, then you have a team. It’s packaged with the deal. When you don’t have a trade publisher, you don’t have a team unless you put one together. So, you’re gonna need a copy editor, you might need a developmental editor, you’re gonna need a proofreader, an interior design layout specialist, cover designer, print coordinator, distribution shipping management, publicist, maybe, although I generally don’t recommend publicist for authors, unless you have the best publicist in the world. You may even work with a ghostwriter. There’s nothing wrong with working with a ghostwriter, for a lot of people that’s an excellent idea. It’s a very, very, good choice in fact. So, there’s no shame in doing that. Again, I’ll reference Mike, I know a lot about his work because we do this retreat together each year. And so, I teach on the trade side and he teaches on the self-publishing side, for the most part. But he works with ghostwriter and he has no problem sharing that he works with a ghostwriter and his books are great as a result.

21:29 Michael Port: If you are going to publish with a trade publisher, you’re also gonna probably need representation. A literary agent or entertainment lawyer or are you gonna represent yourself? Maybe if you’re an attorney, but I usually say that an attorney who has himself as a client, is a fool. Is that the expression? So, there’s a lot of questions that should be answered before you dive deep into the process, because we haven’t even got to the marketing piece. And the marketing piece should be crafted. It should be built into the whole book writing process, because when you are in the book writing business, you’re really in the book marketing business. So, what kind of platform development you’re doing. What does your marketing plan look like? You’re gonna wanna start at probably a year out. What are your list building strategies? What kind of giveaways are you gonna be doing when you’re promoting the book? What kind of podcasting, blogging, video promotion will you be doing? How will you be selling on Amazon if you are self-publishing? There’s FBA, Seller Advantage, there’s Hacking Amazon. Not like hacking as in breaking Amazon, but figuring out ways to leverage your options on Amazon and so much more.

23:00 Michael Port: When I do a launch I bring in someone to run the launch and then we put together a launch team. There’s probably 10 people working on that process at a time. And I did that for my very first launch when I was still… In 2005 I was only in business at that point for two years. I started in 2003, so I didn’t have extra money to throw around. I was scraping it together. You find ways of putting together teams on the cheap, if you can figure out ways to add value to the people that are gonna come and work with you on this.

23:38 Michael Port: So, I don’t know. I hope this was an encouraging conversation, but hopefully also, it was a reality check around books. And obviously I don’t wanna talk anybody out of doing it. I want you to be fully aware of the responsibilities that you will take on as an author, because if you’re gonna do it, be one of the best at it. Don’t write a book that you just think, “Oh, it’ll be a business card, few people will read it, no big deal.” Write something that hundreds of thousands of people read, maybe even millions of people read. I think that our level of success is often directly proportionate to how much responsibility we can handle. And writing, publishing, marketing a book takes a lot more responsibility than you might imagine at the get go, going into it. I was often surprise each time I did a book, my God, and then at the end the book launch process I say, “Please, just punch me in the eye if I say I’m gonna write another book.” And as is evidence by my six books, I’ve had a lot of black eyes. I think it’s maybe like, I don’t know I have children but I never birthed a child. I imagine it’s a little bit like childbirth afterwards you’re like, “I can’t do that again. No way, no way, I can’t do it again.” And then a couple of years later you’re like, “I think I wanna have another child.”

25:13 Michael Port: So it’s a little bit like that, and it often take longer to birth a book than it does to birth a child, but there’s a lot of similarities. You’d be surprise how many. And I just want the best for you. I want what’s most appropriate for you at this particular time in your life, so if you’re gonna do it now, do it right. And if now’s not the right time then don’t do it now, do it later on when you think it’s more appropriate to do it, but don’t put it off because you’re just scared of it. We often use that excuse, “Ah, it’s not the right time.” We often use that excuse because we don’t wanna do it now, we don’t wanna do the work, we’re afraid of doing the work, we don’t even know if we can handle the work, or we don’t really know how to do it, we’re not willing to take the risks associated with it. That’s very different than it not actually being the right time. So if you can differentiate between the two, you make better decision, I think.

26:22 Michael Port: So the answer to the first question at the very beginning is still the same. There isn’t one way to do it, and no, you don’t have to have a book be a professional speaker, but it certainly can be very helpful especially, if your book actually is a best-seller, and when I say best-seller I mean on the New York Times list, the Wall Street Journal list, USA Today list, Publishers Weekly list, etcetera. If you’re up there you’re gonna get paid a lot more as a speaker than you might otherwise. It really does make a difference.

26:57 Michael Port: Thank you very much for your time. I hope this was helpful. Keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world. Thank you for your attention. I never take it for granted. I think it’s an opportunity to be in service of you, and if you wanna read a book that took a lot of time and effort to write read Steal the Show if you haven’t yet, and if you already read Steal the Show, pick up any of the other books I’ve written. Book Yourself Solid is still one of my most popular titles, and if you do wanna book yourself solid it’s a great book to read. Until next time, bye for now.

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