0:00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to ‘Steal the Show’ with Michael Port. This is Michael. Today’s guest is Tucker Max, and he is the co-founder and CEO of Book In A Box, a company that has turned book writing and publishing into a service. Tucker has written three number one New York Times best sellers, which have sold over 3,000,000 copies worldwide. He is credited with being the originator of the literary genre, fratire, and he is only the third writer, after Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis, to ever have three books on the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller List at one time. He co-wrote and produced the movie based on his life and book, also titled ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.’ He was nominated to the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential List in 2009, he received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1998, and his JD from Duke Law School in 2001. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Victoria, and his son, Bishop. Hey, Tucker!
0:01:07 Tucker Max: Yo!
0:01:08 Michael Port: Alright, let’s… Let’s get to… Let’s go to the past first and then we’ll go into the present. I’m gonna spend a fair amount of time on the program talking about book publishing, book writing, book marketing, because it’s relevant to so many of my listeners. I wanna go back to where you started. And you really did create this literary genre of fratire, and you created a lot of controversy over your work, initially. And I think, still, many people in the community remember you from that work, and there are probably still a fair number of women who pushed back on what you’re doing now, because of what you did in the past.
0:01:57 Tucker Max: Right.
0:01:58 Michael Port: And you’ve… I’ve just gotten to know you recently and it seems, through our conversations, that you’ve grown, you have a wife and a son now, and you see the world, it seems, in a slightly different way. And I’d love you to speak to this because… For a number of different reasons, one, because I think it’s… Growing up is an interesting opportunity for our own personal growth, and number two, people, even though their situation may be different, have often… Are often concerned about how to change. If they pick one particular brand identity that they go out in the world with, they are sometimes afraid that they won’t be able to move and change and go into different areas. So, I’d love you to address both, if you don’t mind.
0:02:41 Tucker Max: Yeah, no, I’m happy to. It’s funny you bring it up as a brand, because a lot of people talk about that, with regards to me, is your brand. And maybe foolishly or maybe not, I always fought against that concept, because, to me, I was always a person, not a brand. A brand is an abstraction, it is a representation of a set of ideas, right? So, BMW can represent one thing, TED can represent something else, United Airlines, etcetera. And I’m not saying people can’t be brands, like Kanye is definitely a brand, Kim Kardashian, Lebron James. I never thought I was, but it’s one of those things where I fought against it but you can’t really fight against a tide. And so, the reason I say this is because most people’s opinion of me is not an opinion of me. It’s an opinion of what they heard about me, right? So, I’ll give you a great example. You brought up the issue of women pushing back. So, if you actually ever went to any of my events, and I used to do book signings and hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people in big speaking things, stuff like that, pretty much every single event I ever had was at least 50% women. You don’t sell millions of books to just guys. There’s no way you can reach those numbers without women, because the fact is women are… Buy 70 or 80% of books.
0:04:07 Tucker Max: And so, I had massive numbers of female fans, because if you actually read my books, they’re not anti-woman at all. In fact, everything I do in my books is about essentially getting women to like me. And a lot of times, I fail and sometimes, I succeed, and… But the reality of that didn’t really matter, because the way I got portrayed in the press… And most of it is my own fault, because of the way I approach the press. I got portrayed as something I wasn’t, right? And so, what happened was I got… Once you get a brand… Once people attach a brand, an identity, to you, it’s pretty much impossible to get it off. And so, everyone’s… If you… Look at all the negative things people say about me, it’s always about the perception of me, it’s never about the reality of me. And… That’s, actually, to me, the key tenet of branding, is understanding, like… I was early on foolish and I was like, “No, I’m a real person, I do real things, all I do is write about the same things everyone else does, I have all these women fans.” I thought that facts were what mattered in media, and we’re seeing now… The starkest example of this of all time with Donald Trump, is that facts don’t matter at all in media and branding. All that matters are impressions, and ideas, and concepts, and associations, right?
0:05:31 Tucker Max: And so, I let other people in the mainstream media sort of attach their narrative to me, and so, I ended up getting branded in a way that kind of had nothing to do with me, right? So, when someone comes to me… Let’s say… Because the only women who have issues with me are women who don’t really have any direct connection to anything I’ve ever wrote or did, right? So when someone says, “Oh, women push back,” then my question is, “What women?” Right? And then it’s like, if they can name anyone specific, which is actually really hard to do, because it’s one of those things where there’s an impression that women feel this way but you don’t actually see a lot of women feeling that way, and… But you can meet them, let’s say, right? So I’m at a conference and I’ll meet one, and she’s like, “Yeah, I have a negative opinion of you,” and I’ll say, “Okay, why?” And then once you start breaking it down, you realize she’s basing her impression, or he, ’cause there are a lot of dudes, too, that have this, that person is basing their impression on something they heard or read second-hand. But that’s not how… This is not how… People don’t recognize that to themselves, you kinda have to show that to them.
0:06:43 Tucker Max: And so, what I found, man, the kinda long way to answer your question is, I haven’t tried to necessarily re-brand, all I really tried to do is instead of going backwards and trying to explain to someone their impression of me is wrong, I just move forward and do other things and let people form new impressions of me, based on the things I’m doing now. And yes, it does… The old impression sometimes hold me back, but in a weird way, they also help, because what happens is a lot of people have such a low impression of me, that’s second hand, when they deal with me in person, it’s like if I’m not a drooling moron or an asshole, they’re really impressed. [chuckle] Like, “Oh, wow! You seemed really intelligent.” And I’m like, “Well, why would you think I’m not? I wrote books that sold millions of copies, I did all these other things.” They’re like, “Oh, I don’t really know. I just thought you would be either an asshole or an idiot.” And so it actually… It sets me up to kind of… For a great reversal.
0:07:51 Michael Port: Yeah. When you guys were marketing, one of the things I remember… I didn’t know… I wasn’t aware back then, but one of the things that I’ve seen Ryan Holiday talk about, I think it was in a documentary on… On marketing and promotion, was that you guys were able to create a lot of awareness about the work, by staging false protests, which then produced more protests.
0:08:17 Tucker Max: [chuckle] They produced real ones. Well, it’s…
0:08:19 Michael Port: Which produced real ones, so, in a way, you were intentionally creating this negative image of you and the work, so that people would protest it to create more awareness. Is that accurate?
0:08:32 Tucker Max: Yeah, it’s 100% accurate. Remember how I just said three minutes ago that it was my own fault that the media has this impression of me, that’s what I was talking about. So, I don’t normally get into this explanation because a lot of people, either they don’t… Sometimes they don’t believe it, that it sounds like whining, but the reality is, you can actually go on Google and look, ‘Tucker Max plus misogyny’ search on Google Trends, and you’ll see, I think, zero connections between Tucker Max and misogyny before 2009, and then in 2009, it goes through the roof. And the reason is exactly what you’re talking about. I had a movie coming out, and so, to get attention… Ryan was my first assistant, I kinda trained Ryan in media and this is like one of the first big things he did with me. He and I decided to take the angle, sort of a negative, outrage-based, attention angle, which at that time we thought would get a lot of attention, and it did. And the angle was, “Tucker Max is a misogynist, Tucker Max hates women, all these women’s groups are protesting him,” which was literally not true at all, in any way, shape, or form. But what we did is we made it look like that was happening, and then that got attention, so we showed all that… The low-level attention to all these kind of social justice warrior-type groups, and they all picked up on it and said…
0:09:56 Tucker Max: We literally sent them… Pulled stuff totally out of context about what I wrote, lied, made up stuff about myself, and sent them emails, got them outraged about a narrative that we created about myself, then they went and got us a bunch of press, talking to media about how terrible I was, and doing protests, and all this other stuff, and it worked really well to get attention, but it was one of those things that got totally out of control. I was so arrogant. I thought that I could control the narrative, and that the facts and stuff would eventually come out, but I was totally foolish, and I should’ve known better, that once you create an impression and association, you can pretty much never undo it, or it’s really difficult to ever undo it. And so… I was not super well-known mainstream then, I was super well-known to my fans in like a niche. Like one of those YouTube stars who has 5 million subscribers but no one’s heard about, I was kinda like that. And so, I… What I did was, the first time I went mainstream, I did it by creating all this negative press that was about how I was a misogynist, and so now, I had to… Now I’ve had to deal with that for years, and it’s my own fault! That’s the best part! It’s like I was so arrogantly stupid, and so short-sighted, I created all of the negative things that you were talking about.
0:11:22 Michael Port: Yeah. You’re obviously much more experienced now, and you’re doing different kinds of work, but if you were gonna try to create awareness for projects that you’re doing now, would you do the kind of marketing that you did then?
0:11:40 Tucker Max: No.
0:11:40 Michael Port: Would you lie in the marketing the way that you did then?
0:11:44 Tucker Max: No. Absolutely not. Well, so… Here’s the difference. Before, the books I was writing, they were true stories about my life but they were entertainment, right? That they’re meant to be funny. They are funny. And that’s the reason people read them, is because they laugh, and they… That people can remember. They’re just stories about drinking, and hooking up, and doing all the dumb things that all of us do in our 20s, I just wrote stories about it. That’s really all I did. And I was the first one to really write honestly and openly about that. Now, a bunch of people do it. And a bunch of women, even. Whether it’s Amy Schumer or Lena Dunham, they’re… All those people are doing… They’re following exactly in my footsteps, except I write about it from a male perspective, they write about it from a female perspective.
0:12:29 Michael Port: I think there’s a podcast I just saw called ‘Guys We Sleep With.’
0:12:33 Tucker Max: Yeah. Oh, it’s a great podcast. Yeah, and it’s pretty much exactly out of the vein of what I was doing. And… So, with entertainment, you can totally lie, make things up, etcetera, because it’s essentially performance art. You’re not selling… What you’re selling is actually the performance itself, and so… It’s like if someone lies in a movie, you don’t think of it as lying. ‘Cause you’re not selling something from that lie. The movie itself, the lie itself, is part of the entertainment, right? But when you’re in business and you’re selling something, a service or a product, it’s a totally different ball game. It’s completely different. Because, long-term, your integrity and your credibility is what people are buying. And if you don’t have that, then… I guess there’s ways to scam people but I don’t wanna be in that business. I’m in a totally different world now. We don’t… Not only do we not do any negative marketing, we actually don’t do a lot of marketing, because we basically… We have great clients; we knock it out of the park for our clients. And right now, it’s 50 to 75% of our clients are direct client referrals. Word of mouth. The only marketing, I do is basically this, I go on podcasts with people I know, and who know me, and we respect each other, and we talk about sort of books, and publishing, and that kinda stuff.
0:13:58 Tucker Max: And so then people can kind of… If you’re listening to a podcast, that means you’re a thinker, you’re smart, and you actually wanna get into the issues in-depth. And what we do is kinda complicated and different, so, I like to have extended attention spans of people instead of trying to explain it in three seconds or 10 seconds, and then you get caught in that sound-bite media world.
0:14:18 Michael Port: Yeah, I appreciate that. One of the things that I focus on on the podcast, and of course, in ‘Steal the Show,’ my most recent book, is the idea that we play lots of different roles all the time. And that it’s not necessarily something that we need to be afraid, or shy away from. That we play one role with our friends that we went to college with, another role with our husband or wife, another role with our children, and another role with the teachers of our children at their school. And all of these roles, hopefully, are sincere or authentic parts of our personalities, but we’re amplifying some parts and we’re downplaying others, depending on the role that we’re there to play. And the best coaches in the world, sports coaches, athletic coaches, they will choose to play a different role with different players and different teams, based on what that particular player or that team needs at that time. And if we’re rigidly fixed on only one way of being, then we often lose a lot of opportunity, opportunity to connect with people that are different than us, opportunity to move into spaces that are new and exciting, and often, opportunities to move into higher-level positions inside organizations.
0:15:38 Michael Port: And so. It sounds to me, when you were in the entertainment business, you were playing the role of an entertainer, and making choices based on what an entertainer does, and there’s a certain amount of intentional fabrication in that, or in the way that you did it there. And then now, as a business owner who serves clients, you’re playing a different role, as a business owner who has responsibilities to your clients in order to produce great quality for them, because you’ve made that promise to them. Do you… Have you ever thought about life in that way, that we play different roles in different situations?
0:16:24 Tucker Max: Yeah, I do. Of course. I read my Shakespeare, ‘All the world’s a stage and actors… ‘ I went to the same schools you did, almost. So, absolutely, all the post-modern theory about identity and… I read all that, I’m totally on board. It’s funny… I think it’s very right. I’ve always… It kinda goes back to what… My answer to your first question. I’ve always resisted that, probably, quite honestly, immaturely. It’s kind of an immature young person thing to do to say, “No, I have one identity. I’m one person. I’m gonna be the same everywhere. That’s the only way to be honest.” That’s like that sort of idealistic nonsense, young person stuff, and I think I’ve had that idea in my head for a long time. [chuckle] And I think only finally have I come around to realize that having different social masks or identities or roles is not fake. It’s just… It’s sort of like, sometimes, you want pizza and sometimes you want Beef Wellington, and neither are right or wrong, but they’re appropriate in different situations.
0:17:34 Michael Port: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you know the word ‘chameleon’ is generally considered an insult. If you call someone a ‘chameleon,’ it’s generally considered an insult, but if you think about a chameleon, a chameleon is…
0:17:48 Tucker Max: Adaptive.
0:17:48 Michael Port: Adaptive. They are green when they’re on green leaf, and they’re red when they’re on a red leaf, but they’re not faking it.
0:17:54 Tucker Max: Exactly.
0:17:54 Michael Port: It’s actually a part of who they are, and I think that people have those abilities, too. I think, sometimes, when we’re very judgmental, we are often rigidly fixed. When we have this idea of who we are, and this idea of who other people are, and there’s not a lot of wiggle room in there. So we’re so true to self that we have a hard time being comfortable with lots of different ways of being, and I know that when I look back at my life, I have been… I was in a fraternity in college, and after two years, I was like, “This is ridiculous.” I left, I went into theatre, then I was in grad school for theatre, then I worked in TV and film. Then I left and I went into business on the fitness side and I spent years there, and then I went back into entertainment, and then I went into… So I’ve done all these different things, and people who know me from different times in my life might have different impressions of me. Like the kids I went to high school with, they were just shocked when I started writing books, ’cause at that time you could barely get me to write a five-paragraph essay. They called me ‘Big Mike.’ Big Mike is not usually… I’m not big now, I’m 5’10” and 170 pounds, I stopped growing at about 13, but when you’re ‘Big Mike’ in high school, you’re generally not considered the sharpest tool in the shed.
0:19:18 Tucker Max: You’re not a musical theatre major. [chuckle]
0:19:21 Michael Port: Exactly. I was not at all. I was a jock, I was really into sports, and… So, we play all these different roles, and I love to change and to move into different ways of being at different times in our life, and hopefully, the people around us will give us the space to do that. And it’s a creative pursuit, I think, is what it is, and you’ve always been… I don’t know about ‘always,’ but you’ve been a creative artist for many, many years, and now, you’re giving people the opportunity to be creative artists themselves through the work you’re doing. So let’s get into that now. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of, what a Book In A Box is, and how you came up with the idea, and then what you’re doing for folks through that service.
0:20:12 Tucker Max: Okay, yeah. Cool. You want me to tell the story of how it started? ‘Cause I think it’s pretty instructive of the whole business.
0:20:16 Michael Port: I do, I do, because it’s not… I’ll preface it by saying this, a lot of people in the industry, they don’t often do what they teach. So, they’ll come up with, “Oh, I’m gonna be an infopreneur and I’m gonna sell products around this and that,” and maybe they’ve done a little bit or maybe not. And I see a lot of this, for example, in teaching self-publishing, it’s… Teaching people how to write books when you’ve been a number one New York Times best seller is very different than teaching people how to write best-selling books when you’ve never been a best-selling author.
0:20:50 Tucker Max: Right. When you are a 21-year-old who’s pumped out two eBooks.
0:20:53 Michael Port: Exactly right. So those are very different things, and I’m not being judgmental about it, I’m just saying they’re two very different things. And the reason I mentioned is because you… From what I know about you, you were never somebody who went into this business to teach others. You went into it to be a writer, to start. And then you ended up doing this and I went, “Oh, that… Tucker’s doing what?” It kinda surprised me. So I think the generation of it is interesting, and I think would be interesting to the listeners.
0:21:23 Tucker Max: Well, so, one quick thing. We’re not teaching this, we… My company is a ‘done for you’ service, not a school, not an instruction… We wrote a book that explains our process, but we basically give it away for free. I totally agree with you. Not that there’s anything wrong with teaching. If you’re an expert, like you say, and you wanna teach, that’s amazing. You should, because a lot of people wanna know a lot of things, right? But I was very much like you. I could have easily, a long time ago, done any sort of self-publishing, publishing book, whatever, information products and courses, and I was just never interested in that. Because, quite honestly… You wanna know why I didn’t? One of the big reasons, aside from others, is I arrogantly thought, I really did, that writing was some mystical art that couldn’t really be taught. Maybe you could learn it, but essentially, I almost felt like it was like… Like aristocracy. Like either you’re born into it, you either have it or you don’t, right? Which is total nonsense. But that’s what I thought, and you know the reason why? If we’re talking about young, foolish people and wearing different masks, because I was one of the very successful writers, and so, of course, it benefits my ego to feel like it’s a special skill that can’t be taught, and then if you succeed, it means something amazing about you. I used to think that.
0:22:54 Michael Port: It makes perfect sense, it does. Designing your world view around what makes you special.
0:23:00 Tucker Max: Exactly. Right. It’s a very immature sort of way to go about it, and ultimately counter-productive that I had, but of course, it’s taken me a long time to even grow up a little bit. But… So, that actually is the perfect segue into how the company started. So, with that world view, I was at this entrepreneurial dinner in New York, and this woman… We all get up, say what we do, etcetera. This woman comes over to me, she’s like, “You’re in publishing and books,” and I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “Okay, great. Can you help me out? I’ve had people asking me to write a book for 10 years about what I know, because what I do is very niche, and very specialty, and is very valuable to a lot of people, but I just don’t have time. I’m running a business and a company,” and she’s like, “I looked into it but basically, I feel I have to sit down on my computer for a year, and type this thing out, and I don’t really know how to do that,” and she’s like, “I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t know how to write a book or get it published.” She’s like, “How can I get this book outta me without going through all that?” And so, I mean, talk about putting on a front or a mask.
0:24:06 Tucker Max: I put on my best, totally unconsciously, put on my best, arrogant, elitist, snobby writer mask, and said to her, “Are you asking me how to write a book without writing it?” And she said, “Yeah. Kind of, a little bit.” And so, [chuckle] I started lecturing her. I gave a little knowing chuckle, and I started lecturing her about hard work and about all the clichés that people have about writing. You gotta open your soul, and bleed on the page, and put it in the work, and writing is… The process is the product, and blah, blah, blah. And she stopped me. It was all nonsense, of course. And she stopped me and she said, “Tucker, this is an entrepreneur dinner. Are you an entrepreneur?” I was like, “Yeah, of course.” And she’s like, “Well, I’m not so sure that that’s true.” She’s like, “I am an entrepreneur, and I spend all day helping other people solve their problems. Are you gonna help me solve my problem, or just lecture me about hard work?”
0:25:04 Tucker Max: I was like, “Ah.” It was such a gut punch.
0:25:07 Michael Port: I like this woman.
0:25:08 Tucker Max: Oh, she’s amazing, because she was 100% correct and totally called me out. It’s not… Even when I’m wrong, I can usually marshal some sort of fallacious argument and kind of seem like I’m winning. I had no idea what to say. I was totally flabbergasted. And so, of course, I became obsessed with this. How do I get a book out of her head without her having to spend a year at her keyboard? And I couldn’t figure it out, ’cause I kept coming back to the same problem, “There’s no way to write without writing.” And then, totally cliché, I was in the shower, and for whatever reason, I was thinking about Socrates. I know, right? Like, “What a dork.” But then it occurred to me, Socrates never wrote a word down. It was a scribe, Plato, who wrote down everything he said. And then, of course, Jesus never wrote a word down, it was the apostles. And Buddha didn’t, his disciples did. Malcolm X didn’t, Alex Haley wrote his book down. Winston Churchill hated writing, he dictated pretty much everything he ever wrote, including his speeches, to his secretary. Once I started thinking about it, I realized there was an obvious solution that some of the best minds in Western and Eastern history had already stumbled upon, and if they could do it, why not Melissa?
0:26:21 Tucker Max: So… But here’s the thing, of course you can’t just… As you well know, you can’t just talk and turn it into a book. A book has a very specific structure, and a format, which I knew really well. I know story structure, I know book structure, I knew all of that, so I was like, “Okay.” And I kinda broke down, “How do I get this out of her head?” And I kinda came up with a four to five-step process, where it’s essentially just questions. First, to sort of nail down the idea, to position the book, then to structure her content, then to create a full outline, then interviewing her off of the outline to get everything out of her head. And then we kinda go through an editing process to turn the… Transcribe the interviews, and then turn that transcription into book prose. Yet her words, her ideas, her voice, right? ‘Cause her specialty is pop-up retail. So, this couldn’t be ghost writing, ’cause I don’t know anything about retail or pop-ups, and I’m not gonna learn about it, so, it had to be all her words and her ideas. And so, I told her, I’m like, “I don’t think this is gonna work.”
0:27:22 Michael Port: Sorry, I’m gonna pause the story right there, then we’re going to pick it back up, because I wanna address… There’s a nuanced angle in your description of ghost writing. So, it sounds like what you’re doing is you’re suggesting to her that she works with someone to help write the book in her words, versus a ghost writer who writes the book for the “author,” using the ghost writer’s ideas. Is that the distinction you’re making?
0:28:00 Tucker Max: Well, that’s what ghost writers do, is… A lot of the times, the good ones will even interview the authors, but they’re essentially interviewing them to get the ideas so that they can then go write the ideas in their voice, right? A great ghost writer, you’re basically paying them to write a great book, and then you can put your name on it. But it’s gonna be mostly the ghost writer’s words, and the ghost writer’s ideas, and the ghost writer’s voice, not yours.
0:28:27 Michael Port: My friend, Mike Michalowicz, I don’t know if you know him, he’s written four or five books, his last book is called ‘Profit First,’ it’s a great book actually, and he uses a ghost writer, and he’s very public about it. He says, “I have no problem saying that I use a ghost writer.” And she has written over six… She’s worked with 600 authors, but she said that only three of those authors, and one of them is Mike, so only two others, are public about the fact that they use ghost writers, and about 20 of them are all on the consistently… 20 of her clients are all consistently on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etcetera. So, it’s interesting that a lot of folks who are subject matter experts, they don’t like the idea of anybody knowing that they worked with anyone. And you mentioned some of the greatest thought leaders of our time, and the fact that they didn’t necessarily write their books themselves, they like to talk them out, and have someone else write it down.
0:29:34 Tucker Max: Because… So Michael, I think there’s a distinction, is that what… There’s an idea in our culture, and I think it really started in the 20th century, with this sort of… The romantization of the writer, like Hemingway, and all those people created this mystique around what amounts to scribes. And I don’t say that insultingly, I would never insult a plumber. I don’t insult a scribe, but a scribe is just a word-smith. They’re someone who takes ideas and thoughts and puts them into words. It’s just translating from one medium to another. But in the 20th century, the idea that a thinker and a writer had to be the same job got co-mingled, right? And so, there’s a deep idea in our culture that if you are not the one typing the words out, then somehow, it’s not a valid book, or it’s not valid writing. I totally disagree with that idea, I think that’s total nonsense. Some of the most brilliant people in history, not like I’ve mentioned, never wrote a word down. But even some of the most brilliant alive today are severely dyslexic, or for some other reason, are not good at writing. Richard Branson’s a great example, he can barely write an email. I defy someone to say that’s not a viciously intelligent thinker.
0:30:49 Michael Port: You know who else is a good example?
0:30:51 Tucker Max: Who?
0:30:52 Michael Port: Michael Port.
0:30:53 Tucker Max: Ah, there you go. Even better.
0:30:54 Michael Port: I’m very dyslexic. I still could barely spell my own name. I figured out over the years how to write in my own voice, but I still get confused, “Is it a semicolon or is it a comma here? I’m not… ” All of those things that in school made me feel stupid because my friends were so bright, those things now, they don’t really matter, because I can get help in those areas. And in fact, one of the interesting things, the Kauffman Foundation did a study on dyslexia and entrepreneurship, and they found that a significantly larger percentage of business owners were dyslexic, as compared to the general population. And they came up with a few reasons. They thought, number one, they tend to be good verbal communicators. And to be a leader inside an organization, you tend to need verbal communication skills. Number two, they don’t fit that well in the corporate environment, because other people’s structures don’t work that well for them. Number three… Number three, they tend to be good at getting other people to do their work for them. Which I thought was really funny because when I look back at school, that’s exactly what I needed to do, because I can’t listen to somebody teaching something that I don’t know and take notes at the same time. Can’t do it.
0:32:21 Michael Port: So I would have to get other people to give me their notes. Now, of course, in order to do, that I had to be somebody that they were willing to give notes to, not just the shmuck who sat in the back of the class, went to sleep, and said, “Oh, yo, can you give me your notes?” I couldn’t be that guy. And as a result, in my work, I have never once felt like, “Well, if I don’t do it, it’s not gonna get done right.” I generally feel that most people I work with can do many of the things that need to be done better than I can. And so, when I’m writing a book, I’d go out to as many people as I possibly can get, to review it, to look at it, to help. And then I pull in people for the things that I just don’t really do well.
0:33:07 Tucker Max: Exactly, it’s exactly… Every dyslexic I know is great with people. Great with people because they had to learn, because school is based around text and reading. That’s how you’re measured in school, for the most part, is, “How well do you absorb the written word?”
0:33:25 Michael Port: Yeah, exactly right. So, you need to develop other skills. I just bring it up because I think it’s often encouraging to people to know that, yeah, you can be somebody who never thought of yourself as a writer when you were younger, somebody who is actually dyslexic, and still end up on the top of the Best Seller lists.
0:33:42 Tucker Max: Well… That’s what we say all the time in our materials, is that you have to have ideas. That’s what’s important about a book, especially a non-fiction book. Now let’s separate from novels, right, because a novel is a distinctly different thing in certain ways. But for non-fiction, what matters are the ideas in the book, not who wrote down the sentence, and what the sentence says. Really, the sentence matters as a conduit to transmit an idea out of one head and into another, right? But our culture has this romanization of writing, because for a hundred years, text was the primary means of mass communication. And who wrote down the text? Writers. So exactly what we were talking about before, about how people create world views that put themselves at the center, every writer, including myself, had created a world view that put us at the center, romanticizing the people who put the words down. But the reality is that’s total BS. What matters are the ideas, not the specific sentence or words themselves.
0:34:50 Michael Port: Now, the folks that you’re working with, I’m making the assumption that they’re generally writing self-help, business-help, how-to, advice-type, books rather than the great American novel, is that correct?
0:35:05 Tucker Max: We don’t do fiction. We only do non-fiction. So yeah.
0:35:07 Michael Port: So it seems that there may be a difference between the genres, the non-fiction and the fiction. If you wanna be one of the great American novelists, you probably need to be a scribe.
0:35:24 Tucker Max: Not right now. Ah, yes right now. But I’m gonna tell you, within three to five years, that won’t be true.
0:35:29 Michael Port: No kidding?
0:35:30 Tucker Max: I firmly believe this. Who was considered, at least by most people, to be the best story teller in Western history?
0:35:41 Michael Port: Whew, gosh.
0:35:43 Tucker Max: So there’s… You could name ten people, right?
0:35:45 Michael Port: Yeah, you could name Twain… Sure.
0:35:45 Tucker Max: But somewhere on that list is gonna be Homer.
0:35:47 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s true.
0:35:49 Tucker Max: Oral, all oral storytelling. That’s actually how humans are designed, as you well know. You of all people, I don’t need you to lecture about this. Humans are biologically designed to transmit and receive information as part of oral storytelling, not just audio but visual as well. Right? First, visual, actually, then audio. We watch people, we look at their movements, and we assess all parts of them, and then we listen to the words and put that in that context.
0:36:18 Michael Port: Sure.
0:36:19 Tucker Max: Text, writing, strips all that away. Writing is actually an extremely artificial construct for information transfer. We were a people of the text for more than a hundred years, because of industrialization. I think, now, because of digital mass media, we’re gonna go back to a people of… We’re gonna become a people of the video, and I think oral storytelling is going to go from this obscure, Garrison Keillor corner of the world, to going back to what it once was, which is the primary mode of communication. I actually… We’re already developing right now at Book In A Box a process… ‘Cause, listen, all novels, I should say all genre novels, there is a clear and concise and precise formula to plots. And really, even for literary fiction, there’s a lot of pretty standard plots, but for genre definitely, and genre is 90% or more of novels. So, we’re gonna be able… Probably, it’s gonna have to be software as a service, not a high touch sort of individual concierge service, like what we have now, but we’re developing that software as a service.
0:37:30 Tucker Max: I think within three to five years, we’re gonna be able… We’re gonna have a software available, where people can write their novels by essentially telling an oral story. And it will be able to… The way the prompts are gonna… Sort of how… The rudiments you see it of it now in screenplay software, right? Even though it’s not very good, the way it kinda prompts and says, “Okay. Here’s… This has to happen, and then this, and then this, and then this,” I think that you can combine plot structure and story structure with a really good sort of macro wizard, and maybe even some AI elements, which are rapidly developing, and we could essentially create… We’re trying to do this, to create, basically, a novel coach, where someone can almost… If you can think of characters and dialogue, and those sorts of things, you can write your own novel on your phone, talking into it, sitting on a subway.
0:38:32 Michael Port: You just got me to sit up much taller on my chair, because if we had something like that for our public speaking students to work on their scripts, oh, my God. It’d be fantastic. It would just be such an… It would be so much easier for them to get into the development of their content when they have it all, but they don’t yet know how to structure it, organize it, even a real understanding of the story structure, a three-act structure, even for small stories that they’re telling, these kinda things. If they had some sort of… Gosh, I can’t even imagine, software as a service that could do this, it’d be phenomenal. And yet, when you describe it, I see how that could be possible.
0:39:18 Tucker Max: Oh, it’s totally possible, because… As long as the person actually has ideas, right? So it’s the same thing. Back to the story with Melissa, I don’t know anything about pop-up retail, I don’t know anything about anything she knows. But I absolutely know story, and structure, and how to turn an idea into a book, right? So that’s basically what we did, is we figured out a way to turn her idea into a book, and all she had to do was be on the phone with us for about 20 hours. And then we did all the work on the back end. I honestly didn’t think it was gonna work, Michael, I really didn’t, because I still had that self-centered notion that writing was magic, and that I was a magical being, and I was special. But it’s not, it’s a series of steps. Now, having the ideas is a whole different thing, right? I could never have written her book, but all we did was figure out this process, and it worked. It worked amazingly well. And then the company basically, long story short, it blew up from there, because of exactly what you said. There’s such a demand. There’s so many people out there who know so much, and most of it is locked up in their heads, because the process of turning their ideas into text, or speeches, actually, is so complex and so full of friction, and it doesn’t have to be anymore.
0:40:35 Tucker Max: And that’s what the problem we’re trying to solve, is how do you get ideas out of someone’s head and into a recorded… Into a format that other people can absorb and understand, whether it’s books, or speeches, or screenplays, or novels, or whatever.
0:40:49 Michael Port: So this is perfect. So there’s a great pick up of her story. So I wanna go over that process again, because I think it’s helpful for people to hear it. One of… When I was talking to my assistant about the interview and we were going over questions and structure, one of the things that I mentioned was that, in the outline for what you guys offer, it says that you’ll get back to your clients within 12 hours with a detailed outline, and she said, “What is it, written in crayon?” [laughter]
0:41:22 Tucker Max: No. It’s 15 to 20 pages. Fully detailed.
0:41:24 Michael Port: Yeah. That’s what I felt was hysterical. And she has a Master’s in Poetry, she’s a trained creative writer, and I thought that was just… She was just funny. So that was really interesting, that’s why I wanted you to speak to it. What are you able to do, in that process, to produce content for people quickly?
0:41:42 Tucker Max: So, okay, here’s the thing, we’re actually not producing content, right? So, what we’re doing is we ask questions and we essentially go back and forth with them, to take their content and their ideas, and put it into the outline, right? I’ll give you a great example. The first step of the process is positioning the idea. So we have a lot of people who come to us, they have one of two problems. Either they’re not sure they have a book in them, or they feel like they might have a bunch of different books and they don’t know which one they should do, or how many books there are, or what they exactly are, right? And so, we have the same process for both people. It’s essentially three questions that you have to answer that narrow it down. The first one is, “Why are you writing this book? What result do you wanna get from the book?” And a lot of people start with, “Ah, I wanna sell a million copies and be a New York Times best seller,” and that’s like saying your financial plan is to win the lottery. That’s not a reason to write a book. The ROI on that’s gonna be negative.
0:42:40 Michael Port: Yeah, exactly.
0:42:41 Tucker Max: So you need a specific reason, like, “I wanna become a speaker,” or, “I wanna charge more for my speaking,” or, “I wanna drive leads to my business,” or get clients or get authority and credibility or… A lot of those things tie together, but for most professionals, a book is pretty much the best all-purpose marketing tool you could have. Right? And so, how do you market yourself and how does a book help? There’s usually a clear answer to that. So we help them understand very specifically what they want to get out of this book. That’s question one. Question two is, “What audience must you reach to get that result?” So, if you want to keynote tech conferences, then there’s only two audiences you need to reach. You need to reach the people who go to the tech conferences you want to keynote, and most importantly, the people who book these keynote speakers for those tech conferences. That’s your primary audience. If you reach a lot more people, that’s awesome, and that’s great, but you’ve got to focus on those two audiences in order to get the result you want, which is keynoting tech conferences, for example.
0:43:39 Tucker Max: And then the third question, the most important one, this is where most people wanna start, but you’ve gotta come here third. “What do you know that is interesting and valuable to the audience that you must reach?” So essentially, “What’s your book idea?” Because if you start with a book idea, then you’ve got all these ideas rattling around and banging in your head, and who knows where you’re gonna go, right? But if you start knowing what result you’re trying to get and the people you’ve gotta get your book in front of, then usually, the answer is very clear, about what book you’re best positioned to write. Does that make sense?
0:44:11 Michael Port: It sure does, it’s exactly right. Often, people do it the opposite way. And that’s where they get hung up, because there’s just too many moving pieces about the idea itself, and they can’t make sense of it, and then they don’t know who it’s for, and they’re not exactly sure why they’re writing it. It just seems like a good idea, and then two years later, it’s just still nine pages on their computer.
0:44:39 Tucker Max: Right, nine pages of notes, or even worse, its 200,000 words of notes and it’s all over the place. Yeah. So, once we have that, that’s the positioning, and usually off of that, we can work off a good… We can find a good working title, a working subtitle, we write the book description for them, or just a loose sort of rough draft of the book description, which kind of describes what the book’s gonna be, who’s gonna care, why they’re gonna care, all that kind of stuff. And then the next step is understanding the structure, right? So, once you have the answer to question three, which is, “What do you know that’s interesting and valuable to the people who book tech conferences and go to them so you can keynote,” there’s probably a very specific thing. And we actually tell people to niche down as much as possible. A speech on how to use SEO, you think, “Ah, but that’s gonna attract the most people,” right? Except, not really. Because how many people really care about SEO, and then what about SEO do they care about? So, instead, if your book is ‘How To Use SEO If You’re A Dentist,’ then all of a sudden, it’s a much smaller audience, but now, the depth of interest is way deeper. So the book about SEO for dentists is almost certainly gonna do better than the book about SEO period. Right? And so… Just as an example.
0:45:56 Tucker Max: So, once you kind of narrow that down, that’s the audience part. Now it’s the structure. The general frame for structure, the way you wanna think of structuring your book is… Let’s say that’s the book, you’re doing SEO for dentists. So, you wanna picture yourself literally sitting at a table with a dentist who cares about SEO. Right? What would you wanna tell him, right? What do you need to tell him? And how would you tell him so that he could turn around and implement this information? Literally, what are the steps? Walk me through all the major steps of the things you would explain. And so we help them figure out, maybe it’s three steps, maybe it’s thirty steps, maybe it’s a thirty steps divided into three major categories, whatever. That’s how you come up with a structure, is, “How would you explain this to someone who is in your exact audience so they could leave the conversation and then go do what it is you’re teaching them to do?” Right? And then that’s the structure. From there, then, we build the outline. An outline is essentially figuring out the order of the chapters, that sort of stuff, and then under each chapter, what you want is, “What are the basic details you’re gonna put in there? Are you gonna tell stories to explain it? What tactics are you gonna use? How exactly are you gonna explain this?
0:47:13 Tucker Max: And so, that usually gives us… It takes about four calls to get from positioning to full-detailed outline. The outline’s usually about 15 to 20 pages, and that is the total blueprint for the book. It’s like the architectural plans for a house. You know everything that’s gonna go in there, you just haven’t laid it all out yet. Does that make sense?
0:47:30 Michael Port: It sure does. And then from there, does the person who is doing the word-smithing for them get on the phone with them on a regular basis, have them talk through it? How does that process work?
0:47:44 Tucker Max: Okay, so, we have two different types of… So we have… People who are outliners, that go through… From positioning and outlining, that we work with. Those people tend to be either former book editors, from Big Six publishing houses, or they tend to be book agents, because… Former book agents, because those people really deeply understand how positioning, and how sort of story structure, work. And so their… Those people only focus on outlines. Then we have a separate group of freelancers that we use…
0:48:15 Michael Port: Let me just… Before [0:48:16] ____, let me just note the importance of that in general, because in the non-fiction world, especially how to advise, self-help, business-help, there are certain structures that work very well, and they work again, and again, and again. And you see them across the best sellers in this industry. So, the people who have a lot of experience in the industry often are very, very helpful to make sure that you’re taking those ideas and organizing them in a way that fits within what works. Now, I like to break the rules, but I don’t break the rules just to break the rules. I only break the rules if I can find a better way to deliver something, but it’s important to understand all of the rules, and the frameworks, and what has worked historically before we start going out and trying to do it differently. And one of the things that my agent, Steven Hansman, does for me so well is help me organize the book itself.
0:49:17 Tucker Max: Yep. We do the same thing. So, we actually… On the… You don’t see this as an author with our process, but if you… Our book, it has all of this in there. We actually have templates for all of the outlines, all the structures. Every non-fiction, just about every non-fiction book you’ve ever read, follows one of about three templates. And 90… Not 90, 70% of them follow one template and the other two are probably about 15… 20 to 15% apiece, depending on whatever. But pretty much every non-fiction book follows those templates, and so we use those templates so the book is structured in a way that the reader… First off, the author can understand, but then also the reader. It’s a very comfortable, easy thing. It works amazing. You’re exactly right, don’t reinvent the wheel. The only people who should be reinventing the structure wheel are the ones who have nailed the normal structures so well, that it’s now a hindrance to them instead of a help.
0:50:12 Michael Port: Yeah, part of our job as authors is to take information that, heretofore, was dense or disparate, and organize it in a such way that it’s easier to consume. That doesn’t mean to dumb it down, but easier to consume, and then act on, to do something with. I actually attribute my ability to do that to my dyslexia, because I had to sort of look at all these different ideas that were out there, and try to reorganize them in a way that made more sense. And I think the ability to do that for myself helps other people, even if they’re not dyslexic. But it sounds like that’s what you’re doing here.
0:50:48 Tucker Max: That’s exactly what we’re doing. Yeah. It’s precisely what we’re doing.
0:50:50 Michael Port: So you know everyone’s gonna wanna know what those three structures are.
0:50:55 Tucker Max: They’re actually in our book. I’ll… Go to the… Any of your audience can go to bookinabox.com/book, actually I think it’s /books, and you can download a PDF of our book for free. Or it’s on Amazon for whatever, 5 bucks? It describes our entire process in detail. You can DIY this process yourself. It’s the best process I’ve ever seen for taking an idea and turning it into a book, and we describe it, literally, every single step because we figured… Our process costs $20,000, so, it’s not expensive for the value but it’s also not cheap, and so, we figure the people who are gonna be clients for us are the ones who are buying their time and our expertise, right? But there’s plenty of people who can’t afford 20 grand and they’d rather just do it themselves, no problem. They… Our book will teach them exactly what to do.
0:51:47 Michael Port: I appreciate that. We’ll put that link in the show notes, make sure we get the right one, book or books. Right?
0:51:53 Tucker Max: Yeah, yeah, it’s… I forget if it’s book or books. I think it’s books. But, anyway, so the next step is interviewing, right? And we actually usually have a different set of freelancers that we work with on this. And of course, all our freelancers are vetted and we test them and all that stuff.
0:52:06 Michael Port: Before interviewing… I just made a note, ’cause you were talking about there’s two different types, there’s the outliners and then there’s something else.
0:52:13 Tucker Max: Right. And then the interviewers. We call them ‘editors.’ Because the editors, they do all the interviewing and they do the editing of the book. So, I’ll explain how it works. So once you have an outline, right? Then you get passed to… We shift you to what we call an ‘editor.’ And the editors are usually journalists, sometimes, they are freelance writers. We have some… I’m sure you know, Michael, there’s so much good talent out there right now, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, we have a couple that work with us. We have a couple of Emmy-winning writers. We have a lot of best-selling, real best-selling authors, who work with us because all the newspapers are collapsing. And even though there’s a lot of digital media, there’s still a lot of really good freelance talent. And ’cause we pay a lot, we pay $50 to a $100 an hour to our freelancers. We basically get our pick of the best freelancers, and then they all use our process, and they love it, because they don’t have to worry about any of the nonsense of being a freelancer. They know they’re gonna get paid, they know their clients are gonna be great to work with, they know that their work is gonna be one set of things and that’s it, and the only things they’re doing are stuff they really love.
0:53:19 Michael Port: That’s cool. That’s great.
0:53:21 Tucker Max: So, anyway. So, the editor, what they do is they take the outline and then over about 4 to 8 calls, depending how long it is, they interview the author off of the outline, using the outline as the guide. And they kind of act like… Like sort of the example I gave you, like someone… The dentist who cares about SEO, sitting at the table, they act like that person. And they ask questions to make sure the author gets everything out of their head that’s gonna be relevant to the reader, because you know as well as I do, Michael, that so many experts and professionals, they’ve been doing this, whatever it is, for so long, a lot of times, they’ve forgotten the basics, or they forgot they have to explain the basics, ’cause they’ve just assumed them.
0:54:03 Michael Port: Sure.
0:54:04 Tucker Max: And so, part of our process, really, a big part, is getting the basics out and making sure everything’s fully explained and fully understood. And so, we record all those calls, and then we get them transcribed, and then what the editor does is they literally put that transcription on one Word doc, and then next to it, they take a clean Word doc and they just translate the spoken word into written word. So it’s all the author’s ideas, they’re already structured, it’s already their ideas, and they keep their words and they keep it in their voice. They just make sure it now flows on the page. ‘Cause transcript is not… It’s really… You can’t read a transcript, it’s really hard. But they don’t really add any content, they don’t really add any meaning, they’re just making… They’re just translating it from one medium to another. That’s the process, really.
0:54:54 Michael Port: That’s fantastic.
0:54:55 Tucker Max: And you can do that yourself, you don’t need to hire us, and we describe it all in the book. It’s not easy to do all the time, but it’s simple to understand. So, from there, we do a round of edits with the author, obviously, and they make sure everything sounds great, and that it’s exactly what they want, and then we do the rest of the publishing process, which is… It’s so funny, man. Everyone’s like, “Oh, yeah, the rest of the publishing process, we’ll just… Whatever, how hard can that be?” And then I always ask people, “How many of you do not judge a book by its cover?” And everyone’s like, “Oh, yeah,” they keep their hand down, like, “Of course I do.” Alright, that’s why you need to spend a lot of time on the book cover, on the interior layout, making sure your author photo is right, your author bio. Because people are not just gonna judge your book based on all those things, they’re gonna end up judging you based on all those things.
0:55:45 Michael Port: That’s true. So, when you’re doing the production of the book for folks, are you putting this book out on an imprint of yours?
0:55:57 Tucker Max: We can do either. So, I have my own publishing company, Lioncrest Publishing, that has distribution through Simon and Schuster, and we’ve done a bunch of my best sellers, we did James Altucher’s, we did a few others. And so, it’s a real publishing company. Or if someone wants their own imprint, they just wanna come up with a name, no problem. Or if they want their company… Whatever they want. Because our structure is that the author owns all rights and all royalties. It is their book, fully, completely. So, they can pick anything they want to be the publisher.
0:56:30 Michael Port: Yeah, I think the… People ask me, “Why don’t you self-publish at this point, ’cause you could probably make more money on the books than you can when you go with a traditional publisher?” And one of the reasons is ’cause the last freakin’ thing I wanna do is the production side of things. I just… I can’t even begin to put my mind around having to do that production. And so, I think if somebody is really, really jazzed about being their own line producer, essentially, and managing the whole thing, then great. There are definitely people who are really good at that, who like that kind of stuff, but I wouldn’t want to do it personally on my own, frankly.
0:57:19 Tucker Max: Yeah, well, it’s… ‘Cause here’s why. It’s not that you don’t have good aesthetics, we could show you ten covers and you’re gonna pick the best one, and you’re gonna give great notes.
0:57:24 Michael Port: Actually, for covers… Covers are my place. I actually do the covers, that is one thing that I do. But typeset, and layout, and all that stuff, oh, my God, forget about it.
0:57:33 Tucker Max: It’s funny you say ‘line producer,’ ’cause it’s very much like a movie.
0:57:35 Michael Port: Yeah.
0:57:36 Tucker Max: Like a well done movie looks like it was effortless. But there are 50 people behind the scenes with all these deeply, deeply specific skills, and you take one or two of those people out, and everything stops working and it looks terrible.
0:57:51 Michael Port: There’s one person sitting there and all they do is look for continuity. That’s all they do. They look for, “Wait, was his… The left side of his collar an inch higher, or was it… ” That’s what they do, and they have to stop the director throughout production, saying, “No, no, you gotta re-shoot that because his thumb was in a little bit of a different place. And when you… ” That’s… And the same thing on books.
0:58:16 Tucker Max: But if they don’t do that right, the movie looks terrible!
0:58:18 Michael Port: It look terrible, exactly.
0:58:19 Tucker Max: Right! So books are the same. They’re a little bit less complicated, but they’re still far more deeply complicated than you would imagine. It’s funny, we have a lot of people who come to us to say, “I finished my book, I did it myself my own way, will you guys just do the publishing?” We actually don’t do those clients, weirdly, because a lot of them are a pain in the butt to work with. Because it’s like they think they… They don’t wanna manage the process but they kinda wanna manage it, right? And so we stopped… We did that early on, we were doing that and then we stopped. But I’ll tell you, if you ever self-publish, I would be honored to do it for you, dude, in a second. That would be great. I’d be happy to have our team manage that whole process for you.
0:58:58 Michael Port: I appreciate that. Well, maybe the next one. Although I keep saying, “If I say I’m gonna write another book, just punch me in the face.” I said that on the last three books, so I’m kinda beat up at this point, but…
0:59:08 Tucker Max: Well, if only there was a way where you could do what you’re good at, talking, and someone else did all the work that you hate. If only that company existed.
0:59:15 Michael Port: ‘Cause it takes me a long time to do this. No, it’s true, it takes me a long time to write. Some people can… David Mamet will write a play or a whole book on a plane ride, but it’s like… He’s like a Warren Buffett of writing. There’s only a few people in the world who can do that.
0:59:36 Tucker Max: He thinks in words.
0:59:37 Michael Port: Yeah.
0:59:38 Tucker Max: He has that skill, right? Whereas you’re just as smart, you’ve got just as much to say, you just don’t think in words through your fingers.
0:59:45 Michael Port: That’s exactly right. Yeah. Cool. Okay, so, carry on. Go ahead.
0:59:52 Tucker Max: Well, I mean… We do all that process. So we do the whole production, publishing, distribution. We do everything. So, a professional, a CEO, an entrepreneur, anyone with a good idea, can get the idea out of their head and into a book, in their words, in their voice, and out to the public in six months, with us.
1:00:11 Michael Port: Wow. That’s about three times as fast as it takes me to do it, because I do it…
1:00:18 Tucker Max: Well, you should be working with us, man. I’d be happy to do a book with you, it’ll be amazing.
1:00:22 Michael Port: Seriously. ‘Cause it takes me six months to write the proposal and really formulate my idea, then it’s another six to eight months writing the book, and then it’s six months plus before it actually comes out. The publisher needs that time, so… That’s a long time.
1:00:42 Tucker Max: It is. The traditional publishing process is really insanely archaic, at this point, and really slow. And the only… I recommend the only people who should go with traditional publishing are the ones who can get a big advance and need it. And the only way you’re getting a big advance is if you have a big audience to sell into. At this point, the way traditional publishing works, you’ve got to have a big e-mail list, or a big… You gotta be a celebrity or star. And… So, if you need the advance, right, that makes sense. And then the other group of people are the ones, if you really, really need a lot of mainstream coverage for your book to be successful, not if you want it, but if you need it, then the only people who look at who the publisher is in this world are journalists. Are the media. No one else looks at who published anyone’s book, no one cares. The readers don’t give a flying crap…
1:01:35 Michael Port: I think part of it is…
1:01:35 Tucker Max: If you work for The New York Times, you care who published the book ’cause it’s still a status symbol in that world. So if you have to get a ton of press, it doesn’t mean you will, by any stretch, but if you have to, then being traditionally published can help you get that press.
1:01:51 Michael Port: And that world is continuing to degrade.
1:01:56 Tucker Max: Mm-hmm. Oh, more and more. That won’t… What I just said will not be true in two years, ’cause even now, man, I would say 30% plus of the books that get mainstream media coverage are not traditionally published.
1:02:08 Michael Port: It’s interesting. I think that the publishing industry has in large part produced this problem for themselves. So they have so many different imprints. And you never… You pick up a book, you look at the imprint, you have no idea, “Is that an imprint of Crown? Is it some dude in his garage?” You really wouldn’t know, because there’s only a few publishing imprints that you know and those are usually the grandfather, and then all these other imprints that are the children, and the children’s children, and their children’s children’s children, you don’t know them. They create this big confusion in the marketplace, which allows other people to start their own imprints, and you wouldn’t know the difference.
1:02:57 Tucker Max: Exactly. And the reality is you’ve published multiple books from traditional publishers, so you’ve learned to look at the publisher. I promise you, anyone in your audience, go to a bookstore and ask yourself how many times you look at the publisher, or on Amazon.
1:03:12 Michael Port: It’s true. And it…
1:03:12 Tucker Max: You don’t… No one looks at it. What you do look at, though, that’s why I say professional publishing is so important, you absolutely look at the book cover, you look at the book description, you look at the reviews, you look at the blurbs. People absolutely judge the book by the production quality. They do not judge it by the publisher.
1:03:31 Michael Port: Here’s the perfect example of that. Right after 9/11, I was going to Canada to give a speech. And prior to 9/11, you didn’t need a passport, just a license. So I went to the airport in Philadelphia, and they said, “Could we see your passport please?” And I said, “Well, I just have my license.” They said, “Oh, well, in order to get into Canada, you need a passport.” I said, “But you didn’t before,” and they said, “You do now.” Probably, they weren’t exactly sure, they said 95% sure. I’m like, “Oh, Jesus.” But it was 6 o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t go home because I would miss my flight and there was not another flight that would get me there in time. So I said, “Listen, can I just go and take my chances?” They said, “Yes, sure. We’ll send you through. You can go to your connecting flight and then they can send you through, and good luck.” So I get to the connecting flight, and they said same thing, “We’ll send you to Canada, but they may turn you around. So, good luck.” So I’m on the plane and I am desperately working on my best sales pitch ever, and I’m trying to figure how I’m going to convince them to let me in. So I finally waited, I waited in line, and finally get up to the customs agent, and I said, “Listen, here’s the deal. I don’t have my passport.”
1:04:38 Michael Port: I go through my sales pitch. And he cuts me off, he goes, “Why are you here?” I say, “Well, I’m giving a speech on my books, one of the books that I’ve written, and it’s on,” blah, blah, blah, and I start telling him what it’s on. He goes, “Do you have the book?” I said, “Yeah, actually, I have it right here.” He goes, “Let me see.” So I give him the book, he looks at the cover, he flips it over and looks at the blurbs on the back, flips the back cover, opens it up, looks at the Library of Congress information on the left side, then takes the paper thing, takes the stamp, stamps it, and says, “Go give a good speech.”
1:05:16 Michael Port: So I figured… I thought, well, you don’t need a passport, you need a book-port. That’s what you need. Because my picture is on the cover of the book, and it’s 90,000 words that book. And then of course, there’s the federal government Library of Congress information on it, and I think he said, “There’s no way this guy created this whole book just to trick us into coming into Canada, and to blow up Canada or something.” So he let me in. So that was pretty funny.
1:05:44 Tucker Max: That’s amazing.
1:05:45 Michael Port: Yeah. Oh, my God. So yes, people do judge a book by its cover, no doubt about it.
1:05:52 Tucker Max: That’s incredible. That’s the best book cover story I’ve ever heard.
1:05:56 Michael Port: [chuckle] So I think it helped that my face was on the cover of the book in that case, but I don’t do face book covers anymore. I can’t do it. It’s too narcissistic. I moved away from that. I think sometimes, what happens is, as you become more successful in the thing that you’re pursuing, you become less needy of the approval. And so then you start to move away from the…
1:06:25 Tucker Max: You’re telling me, brother.
1:06:26 Michael Port: More narcissistic angles, yeah.
1:06:28 Tucker Max: I know. I was way worse than you. You want to talk about someone who put his face on everything and was all about him. And now, that’s actually my mantra, actually, with my business, my personal one. Not the business but the overall, my personal one is, “It’s not about me.” Every decision I make, everything we do, if I’m unsure what to do, I always tell myself, “It’s not about me, it’s about us. It’s about the mission.” And then the right way to go usually becomes obvious.
1:06:55 Michael Port: Let me ask you a personal question, I’ll just flip it back, do… How much did having a child affect you? Is that something that changed that… Was that mantra the result?
1:07:05 Tucker Max: Yeah, it was a huge… I did a lot of work before I had my son. Four years of psychoanalysis, four hours a week, got into meditation, still do it, a lot of stuff like that, but… It wasn’t at first with my son. He was born August of 2014, and it wasn’t immediate, but it was like as he grew, and as I saw how deeply impactful my actions, even the smallest, subtlest actions, are on him, I realized, “Man, this is not… This is no joke.” I grew up with dogs, I’ve had dogs my whole life, and a dog is a great, I think, trainer for a kid, but it’s not the same thing.
1:07:54 Michael Port: No. It is definitely not.
1:07:55 Michael Port: You can screw up a lot with a dog and the dog would be totally fine, and happy, and love you, can’t do that with a kid. It’s a whole different thing with a kid. It’s made me very cognizant, not just on my actions and how they come off, but it’s made me very cognizant that it’s not about me. And that I have to not just put him first, but I’ve gotta think about this other living creature, and how my actions impact him especially at a young age, because I could, very unintentionally, but still, create a lot of devastating issues for him if… ‘Cause I clearly love him, I clearly care about him, but if I don’t show him that, and if I’m not parenting him that way, he’s gonna have a lot of problems later on that could easily be avoided now, if I just show him and interact with him in a way that actually shows how I feel.
1:08:48 Michael Port: Has it affected the way that you think about interacting with others, because… Do you care more about how your actions affect others now, as a result? Do you think they’re connected?
1:09:04 Tucker Max: It’s not that I never cared, it’s more I think I just didn’t… They just didn’t connect as much. I’ve always been, I don’t wanna say a ‘loner,’ ’cause that’s not really true, but I’ve always been one of those people who was easy being the center of attention and easy being on stage, but never really connected with a lot of people. I’m sure you know a ton of those people. And so like… It’s like… When you have a kid, it’s like if you don’t connect with that kid, then you are now essentially failing on the only job you have as a parent, or the most important job. Your most important job as a parent is that that child understands that you unconditionally love it, and you unconditionally accept it, and that you are there with it, and that requires deep emotional connection. And if you don’t do that, nothing else really matters. So, yeah, it’s made me… It’s forced me to see a lot of things that I could avoid in other situations, but you can’t. It’s like a mirror on your soul and on your actions, your kid is.
1:10:04 Michael Port: Yeah, I think it’s the most important responsibility that we have. If we make that choice, to bring someone into the world, that is the number one greatest responsibility that we have, because we chose it, they didn’t.
1:10:17 Tucker Max: Right, and not just that, but if the relationships you have with the people you love are not the most important things in your life, then what are you doing?
1:10:25 Michael Port: Yeah. So true.
1:10:26 Tucker Max: I don’t… I can’t… There’s no world where I have ever… Of course, I’m like, “Oh.” You get lost in this thing or that thing or whatever, but always, the things that matter the most are the relationships you have with the people you love, and the things you do that matter to the world and to those people. And if the core of that isn’t your family, how will you define family? It doesn’t necessarily have to be biological family. My wife and my son, for me, are the core of my family, and if those two people and our relationships, the three of us, and four, we’ve got another one coming soon, if that’s not the most important thing in my life, I am screwing up. What am I doing?
1:11:12 Michael Port: That’s fantastic. Hey, listen, the next big topic is marketing but I’m gonna bring you back to talk about that, if you’ll come.
1:11:20 Tucker Max: Of course.
1:11:21 Michael Port: Nobody knows more about that than you do in this industry, that’s for sure, so… But right now, you probably have to go pee, so, what I’ll do is I’ll wrap us up now, and we’ll put a link to where people can get the book. What do you call it? Do you call it ‘Book In A Box,’ the book?
1:11:38 Tucker Max: Yeah, it’s called ‘The Book In A Box Method: How To Write and Publish Your Book Without Having To Be A Writer,’ I think, is the subtitle.
1:11:44 Michael Port: Fantastic. And I will say, for my audience, I think that if anybody is gonna be able to do this kind of thing for you, I think it would be Tucker’s group. There really aren’t many people… You guys might think of me as a successful author with about a half a million copies out there of… When you add up all my six books. Tucker has got over three million. That’s a big deal, and three number one… Being on the… Three books on the New York Times list at the same time is a pretty impressive feat, so, I think he brings a lot to this, and I think if it’s something you are working on, thinking about, go check him out, for sure, ’cause I think…
1:12:28 Tucker Max: Thank you, man. I appreciate.
1:12:29 Michael Port: Yeah, sure.
1:12:31 Tucker Max: We always… The first consultation call, obviously, is free. We help people figure out do they have a book in them, would it make sense for them to do it, and if working with us makes sense.
1:12:40 Michael Port: Cool
1:12:40 Tucker Max: Of course.
1:12:41 Michael Port: Hey, this was fantastic. Thank you so much, my friend. Everybody, just keep thinking big about who you are, what you are for the world. Thank you for giving us your attention, I never take it for granted, I think it is a privilege and an honor to have the microphone. And I hope you continue to listen in. We’ll see you next time. Bye for now.