In this podcast:
01:36 – The business book boom
03:30 – Books as marketing platform
05:04 – Chandler’s main lead capture tool
07:08 – The how of the audiobook
10:17 – What results can you expect?
14:41 – The part where you write your book
15:45 – The three-step method
20:36 – A quick recap
22:48 – The challenge of your first book
25:23 – The time it takes
26:19 – How Chandler’s writing course has changed
28:33 – Learning to leverage your book
James: James Schramko here, welcome to SuperFastBusiness. Today we’re going to dig into a topic that comes up a few times on SuperFastBusiness because it’s something that our audience are interested in but also I’m interested in. Now, today’s topic is going to be about how to write so that you can get going with your own book and we’ll talk about the reasons why you might even want to have a book in your business marketing armory. So I brought my special guest Chandler Bolt from San Diego back to have a chat about this.
Chandler: What’s up, James? Happy to be here, man.
James: Thanks for coming along. Now last time we were talking about productivity, and then I was speaking to your business partner James Roper about publishing a book. It was a very popular post. I sense that there is a great need around this topic and I’m really looking forward to covering some of the most important aspects of those two topics today.
Chandler: It’s going to be a blast. I could talk about this stuff for days. It’s going to be awesome.
James: So I think what we’ll talk about first is why a book is such a topical point of view. I know that there’s the whole gamut, we’ve got the spectrum of one side, we have people like Timothy Ferris publishing very popular best-seller books and takes the market by storm, builds a huge audience so it’s obvious that publishing a book for him has launched his profile and his ability to get media and to control a very successful podcast and blog and get all sorts of fantastic opportunities to interview lots of famous people.
And then on the other end, we’ve got people publishing little Kindle books that are written with nom de plumes or pen names and they’re churning them out like sort of a money-making scheme that I’m sure companies like Amazon aren’t that thrilled about.
I know when I’m buying a book on Kindle, I always go and check the reviews and make sure that it’s not some overnight slapdash Kindle regurgitation. So we got the whole gamut and then I’m sure in the middle there, there’s probably just everyday people like me and you and most of our listeners who haven’t really gone too far into the whole how can you be the New York Times best seller-type spectrum and they’re not interested in trashy make money schemes so we’re talking about actual books from actual people today right?
Chandler: Exactly. And that’s what I love, is that your book doesn’t have to be a New York Times best seller, and you don’t have to sacrifice your reputation by putting together a crappy book and throwing a pen name on it for it to be something that’s really powerful and something that can really grow your business.
Books as marketing tools
James: So tell us, what are we actually talking about when we’re talking about a book for business? How do you see the book as part of the marketing funnel?
Chandler: Well, there’s a lot of different ways that the book can drive into your business. One of the biggest ways is obviously credibility, and books are kind of like a glorified business card, you know? Like if you think about it, when’s the last time you’ve thrown away a book? But you probably would throw away a business card, right?
James: I don’t even collect the business card in the first place. I think they’ve probably lost their place in the digital age to some extent. I’ll take a picture of it, and it’s not going to make it back home, for sure.
Chandler: Books have totally replaced the business cards. And not only that, but when someone reads your book, you become an expert; you’re in a position of authority that can lead into buying your products, and extending that relationship. But more than that, you were asking about kind of the other ways that books can grow your business. We use our books to pump tons of leads into our business, so we use it as a lead capture to kind of funnel leads out of Amazon and you have this natural ecosystem with millions and billions of people in it and kind of just funneling leads out into your business.
Even just with our first book that we put out that we were talking about on the first show, The Productive Person, that’s brought in thousands of leads for our business. And so we can continue to sell more products, and more services and all that stuff on the back end, which can be really profitable.
James: OK, so it sounds really easy rolling off the tongue, just drive a whole bunch of leads to your business, but how do you actually do that?
Capturing leads with audiobooks
Chandler: Yeah, that’s a great question. One way we use, obviously you write the book and we’ll probably get in later the how to do that easily and all that good stuff, but the one way we use is we use an audiobook to drive leads. So a lot of people are using, you know, you’ve heard your checklists, your PDFs and your 77 things or ways to do blah blah blah, you know, it’s just stuff that nobody’s interested in. And so, I know you’re a big reader so you’ve probably seen that all the time when you start in on your book.
What we do is we put an audiobook in there, and that just has so much inherent value, right? Like all those checklists and PDFs, it’s kind of like banner blindness, like people just don’t even see them and don’t even care. But when you throw an audiobook in there, it’s kind of a pattern interrupt, and an audiobook has so much inherent value that we’ve seen opt-ins, 50% to 70% pretty much across the board of book buyers opt in to our list.
And the cool thing is, you can put the audiobook in there as well. It’s on the first page, so when they click “Look Inside,” they can see your audiobook, and so they can actually opt in to your list without even buying your book, which at the end of the day for us is what we care about more than them buying our book. So that’s kind of how the audio we’ve seen really just converts like crazy to build lists.
James: OK, now I want to still nail you down a little bit to the how. Sounds easy, audiobook. What’s the format? Where does it live? How will it be consumed by the listener?
Now there’s no problem convincing me that audio is a great format, I’m a podcaster. You know, one and a half million audio downloads, I know there’s an audience there, and that’s my preferred publishing medium. But how do you do an audiobook? Because I’ve never done an audiobook.
How the audiobook works
Chandler: Yeah. So for us, some people like to record them themselves, if they’re building a personal brand or something. Sometimes that’s good. What we’ve done is we’ve actually just hired professionals to record them. So we went on Elance, and you can find someone for anywhere from $200 or $300 all the way to pretty much as much as you want to spend.
But for our first audiobook, I think we paid about $450 or something, and that was a 14,000-word book. And then for the most recent one, we’re paying $380 or something, and that was for a 32,000-word book. So we pass it over to them, these guys are professionals, they work with people like Walmart, or Pfizer, you know, big name brands, and they just deliver a bang-up product and then we’re able to use that for lead capture, or also we upload to ACX, which puts it in Audible and Apple Store and all that.
And so we actually turn a profit off of our audiobooks too, and they sell like crazy, even though we give them away for free as well.
James: Just so I’m clear, an audiobook is someone reading your book?
Chandler: Yes, sir.
James: OK. So I know I’ve seen a lot of people have recently been raving about how fast they can get through books using the Audible platform. So basically you have a spoken version of your book, put it up to these platforms, you said you use ACX? And that distributes it to Audible and Apple?
Chandler: And pretty much all other audiobook stores, but those are the main two.
James: Great. Now when you say you include it with the purchase, how does that work?
Chandler: So on the first page what we’ll say is, “Download your free audiobook, read this first.” And we’ll just write a little note like, “As a Thank You for buying this book, we’d like to give you the audiobook, click here to download.” And so, that’s when we send them over to our site, they put in their email, and then they can get the audiobook. And they’re super happy to do that, because if you think about it, for $3 or $4, they just bought our e-book, and you know, you can’t even buy an audiobook for $5 or $10, so they’ve just gotten an e-book and an audiobook for the price of just an e-book.
So they’re already happy, they already love us, we’re building up good will and then we can burn a really high percentage and they’re much more likely to get through the book because like you said, it’s easy to consume and they can listen to it whenever, they can get through the content much quicker.
James: And how does the audiobook work on their device? When they put in their email address, what happens then?
Chandler: Then they come to our site, and we just send them a link, which is S3, so we host it on S3, which is an Amazon platform as well, and they can just direct download the zip file to their computer. Then they can upload that to their iPhone, to whatever device that they use to listen to music or any other audio.
James: So is it an MP3?
James: Right. That’s really where I was going there. So, we’ve got an MP3 version of the book. And people give you the email address to get it.
What results can you expect from publishing a book?
Let’s just have a look at a sample of customers that you’ve been working with before. I know before, you were helping people write their own book. What sort of results would someone expect if they’re currently listening to this, they’re not an expert, they’re not world-famous, they don’t have a book already, they’re thinking, “OK, Chandler, I get it, I want to grow my business, I can see that there’s value in books, everyone reveres an author for some reason.” So they want to do the book, and they’re about to find out how to write it, with the three-step writing method.
And then they’ll have a look at the other posts on SuperFastBusiness where they can find out about formatting and publishing and all the rest of it. But the main question is, once they’ve done this, what sort of traction are they going to see? You said they don’t have to be a New York Times best seller. Now we know that a lot of that game’s rigged.
They put huge budgets into getting the top results by going and buying the books back from bookshops, which sounds a little bit disingenuous to me, where they publish the book, and then they spend a lot of money buying their own book back from different stores to trigger the algorithms to get a good ranking. Now assuming we’re not going to do that, because I don’t think most people are going to do that, I know that the very ego-centric people or the extremely focused on the marketing result people will be doing that, but let’s just talk about the average punter, what sort of results would we expect from publishing a reasonable quality book?
Chandler: Yeah, I love that term “the average punter.” That’s great. So typical results, it really depends on what your purpose is for the book, like one of our students, she just finished I think her 6th book, and she’s using it as a way to stop doing so much client work and to start bringing in passive income. And so I think she’s up to close to two grand a month in passive income. Not bad. And she’s using more of the like, write more book approach.
And then we have people like, one of our students is Azul Terronez; he did it more as an authority piece. So he wrote a book called The Art Of Apprenticeship, and he was an English teacher who had taught about writing but always kind of felt like a little empty because he’d never written a book himself. So he used that to gain authority in the marketplace and then now he’s doing stuff with like Pat Flynn, helping him with his new book, and just stuff like that. So he’s used his more like a glorified business card like we were talking about.
And then we have like a different student, Kelsey Humphreys who, she came in, she got her book written, she got specific with it, and she’s used that to grow like her celebrity status in a sense. Like she got a review from Barbara Corcoran, in the ABC Shark Tank, and she’s used that to book speaking and coaching gigs. So obviously she makes money and passive income from her book, but she’s using that to leverage up and book speaking and really use it as kind of like a glorified business card and to grow her business in that way.
James: So it’s a massive foot in the door and the by-products of speaking events, coaching programs can all lead to serious revenue.
Chandler: Oh, for sure. And then you better believe whenever she speaks and all that, she’s got something she can sell at the back of the room, she can package that in with her deals that she’s signing with people, you know, give them a hundred free books and she’ll get an extra thousand bucks a speech, or stuff like that.
James: Gotcha, so it’s a bargaining tool with value. So let’s say there’s two people who want to speak at someone’s audience, and one person’s a published author and can bundle in books for the audience, that going to look pretty good for the resume compared to the other person who’s got nothing.
Chandler: Exactly. And now, you’re not just a self-proclaimed expert, you can say, “Hey, I’m a bestselling author on time management, and here’s my book.” You know, you decide for yourself, as opposed to just trying to pitch them on yourself and your services and how much you know.
The writing part
James: OK, so now I want to come around to this idea that we’re going to be doing a chunk of the writing ourselves. I know there’s plenty of ghost writers out there, who will come around and record your interview and then turn that into a book. That’s a valid method for creating a book; it could be an easy method. You said that you’ve got some ideas about how someone could actually write better if they’re intending to write their own book.
Chandler: Yeah, definitely. We’ve obviously talked about all the benefits of writing a book. I think the biggest thing that’s probably in the back of people’s heads is all those little doubts, like I’m not an expert, or I’m an awful writer, or you know, I don’t have anything to say, or I don’t have the time to write, all those things that kind of creep in. I definitely had those when I started with my first book, and I would always thought that I sucked at writing and I was kind of a C-level English student, you know, never really that good, and just didn’t have any confidence in my writing at all.
The three-step writing method
But that’s when I got some really awesome advice from a mentor, in kind of this three-step method that we used to write books and to kind of vet book ideas. And if you want me to, I can kind of go through that.
James: Absolutely, I’d really be interested in finding out what this method actually is. We know that it’s going to ease up the writing process for anyone who’s sort of stuck on that or feeling a little bit unsure. And I’m a huge fan of frameworks, checklists and templates.
James: So I’d love to know the three-step writing method, please.
Chandler: Awesome. So the first step is very simple. You take out a piece of paper – and by the way, when I got this advice from a mentor, me and my brother went away and we wrote a 225-page book in a week, so it really works. We tested it out right away and we’ve tested it since then.
So you get out a piece of paper and a pen, and you write out your book idea or maybe you just barely have a book, like a faint idea of what you would think about writing about. So you write that in the middle of the page, and then what you’re going to do is you’re just going to start writing out all the different things that you know about this topic, all the stories, all the examples, anything you can think of. And just keep going out with circles and lines, and kind of building out your mind map. Kind of like maybe in school when you did a little tree graph or something like that.
And you just keep going out and out and out, and just the process of sitting down and doing that, most people think, I don’t have a lot to write about. Like a lot of our students said, “Hey Chandler, I could maybe write 15 pages about my topic.” And then they get into this mind map and they realize that they have two or three books that they could write. Then they have the luxury of choosing the best one.
So just the fact of sitting down for 15 to 30 minutes, if anyone’s thinking about writing a book, like this first step, just taking that first step of doing this mind map, it will really open up your eyes to, OK, I actually have a lot to talk about, a lot of stories and examples. And so you keep going out and out with that, and I think people will be surprised with how much they come up with and your brain just starts firing and there’s all these things kind of stored in the back of your head, experiences and stuff that you don’t even remember until you start with this process.
But then as you get going, you’ll start to see commonalities. So you can start to group things into sections. So you might have five different common sections, you might have stuff that you just completely throw out and wouldn’t be a good fit, and you just start working with what you’ve got. Then you have your sections, and you can break those up into individual chapters.
So that moves into step 2, which is your turning your mind map into an outline, which is kind of like the framework for writing your book. And so as you do that, you turn it into chapters, and then you get into step 3 which is to actually start writing the book, which the way we recommend doing that is just to repeat this process.
So for Chapter 1, say it’s about how to start your business fast. Then what you would do is you would take 10 minutes and mind map everything you can think of on that specific chapter. Then you take 10 more minutes, organize it into an outline, then take an hour or an hour and a half and actually write out the chapter going point by point from your outline and kind of ad-libbing stories from there.
James: This makes total sense. I remember actually pulling up a large whiteboard that I had at home when I was creating a course called Wealthification. And I wrote down every question that people asked me in my mastermind over the last few years. And I filled the board, I took a picture of it, and I turned that into slide chapters on Keynote, and then I pulled those chapters into the main bullet points for each topic, and created a whole course from it. So it’s a very similar process. It’s I guess using a brain dump technique, and then structuring and organizing the thoughts.
James: Can’t help but think it’s kind of like projecting all the resources in your mind as if it’s a block of marble, and then you’re chiseling it into sections to end up with your statue.
Chandler: Oh, definitely. That’s a great way to put it.
James: Well, I think some people call that The Statue of David. I can’t remember who propagated that, but the metaphor that reminds me that we often have all the resources we need within us, and then we just need to chip away and find out the work of art that’s hidden in all of us. And I think, I love the other saying too, “Most people have a book in them, and that’s exactly where it should stay,” but it’s not that true, is it? Maybe we should have the book out of us and here’s a method to get this, the three-step writing method.
So just a recap, 1: Take out a piece of paper and a pen, put your idea in the middle of the page and then start drawing little sections of stories, topics, examples, everything you can think of on that topic, look for the commonalities and start grouping them.
Which leads to Step 2, where you’ve now got your sections, chapters, basically this is your outline for the book, where each page now is its own section.
And then Step 3 is you do that process of putting the topic in the middle of the page and then start making that chapter by listing all the topics, examples, stories that relate to that specific idea. And then I assume, you bunch it all up together once you’ve banged out some words on the typewriter or dictated something for someone to transcribe for a rough draft, and then you’ve got yourself a manuscript.
Chandler: Exactly. And I love that you touched on the transcription aspect, because some people get intimidated by staring at a blank Word doc, or a blank page. So if you have a commute or even if you just have time on your hands or the time you spend to work on your book, you can take that outline that you just created and you can riff on those chapters, and have that transcribed, and then instead of starting from scratch, now you have a few pages of stuff that you can work from, and expand on, so you don’t feel like you’re just starting from nothing.
James: Yeah. And you know, you might be self-driven and self-directed and be able to take this format and just get started. I use a similar sort of structure for creating training courses, and I think that this is tried and tested. How many books have you produced now, Chandler?
James: Yeah, let’s start with you and then let’s go to your greater audience.
Chandler: I’ve done, I think I’m putting out number 4 right now, and then we have a couple other just small books. So four like, legit, you know, like went full out, four, and then a couple of other just small ones.
James: And I guess you’ve learned a lot through the process. Do you find it getting easier?
Should your first book be your best?
Chandler: Oh, yeah. After the first time, I realized how easy it was. That’s why I love working with our students, because we just try to get them through their first one, and get them over this idea that their first book is going to be their best book or all that. Because think about like Seth Godin or Tim Ferriss or John C. Maxwell, you know, those guys have written tons of books, and it’s because once you get through the first one you realize how easy it is, and it’s just a duplicatable process that you can do over and over again.
James: It’s true. A lot of the people who I read have multiple books, and it’s like you’ve done all that work and effort to overcome the fear and the challenge. I can totally relate to that, you know, wanting it to be your best book. I’ve delayed publishing my first book because I want it to be a really, I think Tim Ferriss has a quote, I won’t repeat it here because it’s got a swear word in it, but he quoted someone else, said if you’re going to do a book, do an effing book.
But the real thing is, I’m in preference of doing a real book rather than a pamphlet or one of these dictation jobbies that are out tomorrow. Just because it is a reputation builder and a foot in the door, and I want it to be substantial. I want it to be remarkable, and that’s really a Seth Godin Purple Cow-ism, that word remarkable.
And I think you can have a remarkable book and when you get to the stage that most people are, by the time they’re reasonably competent in their field, whether it’s in your case now, having published a few books, you’re quite qualified to talk about it. And of course helping people publish books really qualifies you to talk about it. Most people are in that situation, whatever they’re doing, either they’ve other done something themselves or helped other people for quite some time, even if they’re a school teacher or a sailing instructor or an artist. Everyone’s got some knowledge or some intellectual property that could be turned into a book.
There’s one side, the creative pursuit, the other side the purely commercial. And then there’s probably the major part of the bell curve is in that middle section where you’re actually creatively passionate about creating something good, but also you need it to be monetizable and worth the time and energy investment.
Let’s just go for some random questions here. Chandler, are you ready for a fast round?
Chandler: Let’s do it.
How long does it take?
James: How long is it going to take someone to write a book using the three-step writing method?
Chandler: Oh, it can take anywhere from – my very first book that I wrote I did it in a week, the next book we did in a month. So we went from book idea to bestseller in 2 and ½ months. We try to keep it under 3 months, and that’s what we teach with our students. Hey, spend an hour or 30 minutes to an hour a day and you can do it in 3 months pretty easily.
James: Yeah, and frankly, even if it took a year, or 2 years, the compound effect of that for the next 10 years would be substantial.
Chandler: Oh, definitely. I mean, you’re doing work once, like I said earlier, and you’re getting paid on it forever, and you’re getting people reaching out to you about it forever. It’s something that’s kind of cemented in the universe and long after you go it’s going to be around and people will still have access to it.
Changes in Chandler’s writing course
James: OK, another random question. What are you changing from your first publishing course to your new course, Self Publish School? What did you learn from that, and give me an example of one of the changes.
Chandler: Yeah, so I would say there’s two major changes. One is that we’re pushing people to publish even faster, and commit even faster. Amazon kind of released a game-changer in terms of self-publishing, and they allow you to pre-sell your book, so you can do pre-orders, so we’re pushing that more because that provides a level of accountability that pushes people to actually finish their book, because they can be selling it before they’ve even written it, which is a pretty awesome capability to be able to have.
And another thing we’re changing is we’re pushing accountability a lot harder. Because we pushed it in the first round, and that was kind of the secret sauce and what everyone loved, is that you’re in a community of people who are starting their businesses, coaching, speaking, all that stuff. You’re in a community with people like that, that are really getting after it and are just hustling, and you guys are all in this together. And so you’re able to bounce stuff off of each other.
But we pushed accountability, you know, we’d have weekly accountability calls, and we set those up with our members and then we would have those with our members. And then we’re pushing that even more, because what we saw is that those people who held that and who had consistent accountability and every week they had goals and they had someone that they could talk to that was holding them accountable for that, those were our most successful students.
And then I would even say, a third kind of minor thing is that we’re pushing people to write every day. Because the first time we kind of said, hey, you can write in chunks or you can write every day. And writing in chunks works for some people, but we found that for the vast majority it’s just commit to 30 minutes in the morning, or just commit to a small chunk of time every day.
And that seemed to help take the pressure off of people to where they saw that they were consistently chipping away at their book, just kind of like you were saying earlier, like the statue of David. You know, they were consistently just chipping away a little bit at a time and not trying to knock it out in one blow.
Who’s it for?
James: Perfect. So just to get a connection here between listener and Chandler, who is the perfect person to take on your program, Self Publish School?
Chandler: Yes, the perfect person is someone who’s looking to take their business to the next level, or someone who’s looking to get authority, so maybe you need a platform to speak more or to be taken seriously in your marketplace. Or maybe you need leads. It’s really anyone who’s trying to take that to the next level and use a book, leverage a book for that.
Chandler: It’s not necessarily for people who are writers, you know? Writers want to write a lot of books, we can help them do that, but we enjoy helping more people who want to use a book for their business, not just like the book is the end goal.
James: Well, I think you’ve got expertise around the business aspect of it. You’re a young person, you’ve published books, you’ve built a list, you have made some good traction. I know, even from your own marketing and the reasons that we’re talking now and the peer group around you, you’ve got a good sort of build up from the momentum you’ve created in the beginning.
So you’re like a, what I call a self-saucing pudding. You ever seen those, you buy a pudding that’s got a sauce already built into it? You’re creating your own aura and building it. So it’s great to watch, you know?
I really thank you for coming along and helping us understand why a book’s so important. But also, more importantly, giving us an actionable three-step writing method that we can go and use today. Regardless whether we’re doing Self Publish School or not, we’re able to get out there and start creating our book, and having something useful using a proven system. So I really appreciate that, Chandler.
Chandler: No problem, thanks for having me on, James, I enjoyed it.
James: I’m going to put up a link for Self Publish School, for listeners, at SuperFastBusiness.com, where this post is, and I hope you’ll come back and tell us how it’s going after you’ve done another round or two of inductions and tell us how you’re going and what’s new in the world of publishing in the future.
Chandler: No problem, man, I’d love to.
James: Thanks, Chandler.
Chandler: All right, talk to you later, James.
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