Is there a right and wrong time to write a book? Robin Colucci, publisher to world-class experts, writing world-changing books, busts some myths around book writing as she breaks down the dos and don'ts of bestselling books with host Lisa Pezik. Why should everyone write a book? Does the saying "the book is just a business card" hold true? What evidence does a book actually prove? Robin answers these questions, and more. Plus, she also lays down the reasons why you want to add a book to your offerings and why the time spent writing a book is the best use of your time. If you've ever thought about writing a book, or if you have a book and aren't sure what to do with it, then you don't want to miss this one!
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The Do's And Don'ts Of Best Selling Books With Robin Colucci
With Robin Colucci
I cannot wait to dive into one of the most common questions that I hear with my clients and my community, “Should I have a book? Should I use it? Should I do it? Should I invest in these high-level coaches and products to get this book in my hand because it's going to open the doorway to everything I ever want in my business and my life?” We are going to talk whether that's true, whether that's not true, what steps you should take. We're going to debunk all these myths around these bestselling books and books that you see. I have with me a fine friend named Robin Colucci. Robin, I’m glad you're here.
I’m happy to be here, Lisa.
Robin has this big, beautiful smile to match her big, beautiful personality. She's got this wild hair that looks amazing with this white streak going through it. It shows the authenticity, the beauty, and the realness of this conversation that we are about to have. Let me tell you all about Robin. She has been helping world-class experts write world-changing books since 2003. Before that, she built, grew and sold a personal fitness business. She was also a journalist and worked as an acquisitions editor for an independent publishing house.
Robin brings her deep hands on knowledge of publishing and entrepreneurship to her clients whose books cover a range of topics including business, personal development, memoir, health and fitness science, technology, politics, women's issues, the environment. There is nothing she can't do. I'm so glad you're here, Robin. Let's dive in and let's talk about this elephant in the room that people think the book is the key to the kingdom. Is that true or not?
I would say overall that is not the case. It depends on how much of a kingdom you've already built. The more of a kingdom you have, the more likely that is to be true. What you're asking is, is the book the way to be successful? Is the book the way to have a business? The biggest misconception and the disservice that's being pitched to people all over is this idea that you need to have a book in order to have a business. My position based on years of experience is that what you need to do is have a business and then use the book as a tool to grow the business. That is a more appropriate way to use a book.
The book is the start or somewhat the start.
You don't need a leaf blower if you don't have a yard. A book can do the most good for you when you already have a thriving concern, whether that's a business, a foundation or something going on where people are already paying attention or buying something from you. That would be ideal. You have real on the ground experience in the area that you're writing about. One thing I've seen happen way too often, and I have sent away hundreds of people who have come to me over the years with this very situation. They started out as a coach or they are corporate refugees. They have a lot of experience, but they've done it in a different context. Maybe they were an HR director and now they're going to be a life coach.
Maybe there's some crossover there of skill, but they haven't done the coaching business or they're starting completely from scratch. They don't have anything going on. They get this idea in their head that what they need to do is have a “bestselling” book and that's going to change everything. The fact is that is flatly false. The disservice and the thing that annoys me and gets me fired up is when they buy into these $15,000 Amazon bestseller programs to turn their self-published book that they wrote into an Amazon bestseller and that's somehow going to fix everything.
The thing that is the biggest disservice that a lot of people aren't aware of is the level of distraction and self-delusion that it creates. That’s the most damaging thing for someone in that situation. Your average coach earns $25,000 a year on average. They're going to put $15,000 of it into a campaign to have a book. The bigger problem isn't what they're doing with the book. It's what they're not doing to grow their business while they're working on that book. That's where that delusion that could be fatal to their business comes in.
I got goosebumps there. I love what you said, the distraction and the self-delusion. That time that you could be putting towards sales, referrals and connections is so precious.
Making sales, bringing money into your business, getting on the ground experience and all of that. The people who are buying into those programs too soon feel busy and productive. They go to bed every night thinking they're helping their business. What they're doing is put mortgage into their business.
That is such a great perspective. That might have hit some of you in the chest, but that is exactly why I wanted Robin to talk about this. I see it in our business. People come to us, “I’ve got to make money. I have this book, but I don't have any money.” They're like, “How cheap can you provide leads for us? I spent $10,000 or $20,000 on this thing and now what?”
Now they're out of money. They're out of time. All they have is a book that no one is going to read because they don't have any resources to promote it.
Public speaking is one of the most tried and true ways to sell your book no matter who you are.
Kudos to you for saying that you turn people away. You're not just going to take their money, knowing that the book isn't going to go anywhere. It's not them. It's not that their story or their business sucks. It's not the right time.
One thing I did is we created a program to help people write a booklet so that if they're in that situation, they can write, produce and launch a booklet in a very short amount of time at a lower price point. I created that whole thing because writing a full-length book and spending tens of thousands of dollars to get it off the ground is ridiculous. Not everyone is even ready for the booklet program. You don't just want to look at, can I do this one step? You’ve got to look at the whole picture before you commit to any kind of action around a book. It's one of those things where if you can't do everything to get it all the way over the finish line, then just wait and do other things. I had my book writing coaching business for ten years before I wrote my book. There's a point of reference for you.
I can't tell you how many people say to me, “You need a business book, Lisa.” It's been kicking around in my head for a couple of years. I relate it back to TED. Everybody that's a speaker wants to be a TED speaker. That's the holy grail of speaking. You've made it in the holy grail of speaking. I think about why TED or TEDx was created. It was ideas worth sharing. I wanted to have this noteworthy and say I had a TED Talk, get on the little red circle and do my thing. I'm not going to write a business book until I have that solid foundation of this is what I feel like and it is going to provide value to the world. I want to research it. I want to get feedback. I want to get the right help. Could I write a business book now? Absolutely. I have the tools, money and resources. It's not a matter of can I, it’s should I. I think in a lot of these bestselling things, everybody has a story to tell, and everybody should be telling their story and yes and no.
I've been asked many times the question, do you think everyone has a book in them? I say, “Absolutely not.” I do not think that everyone has a book in them. Lots of people do for all of us to be busy in the book world. First of all, not everyone has the desire to write a book. If you don't have that feeling and desire, then you don't have a book in you. That's fine. There are other ways of expression. Taking it to the next step is and what you're getting at is, what's the strategy? This is something that we work with all of our clients. Why are you writing a book?
If your readers are anything like the people that somehow make it into my universe, the first thing people want to talk about when I ask them why they want to write the book is how they want to help others. It's noble and it's fabulous and I support that. You've got to also have clear reasons what's in it for you. Why your business? What's the next level for you that requires a book? There are things and there are times where it is important that you put your stick in the ground and say, “This is my domain. This is where I'm a leader. This is my thing, my position.”
My book was how to write a book that sells you. I put that to draw a line in the sand to say that it's not all about selling books like copies of your book. What it's about is, can you produce something that pulls people into your business or towards you, people who would be ideal clients for you to work with? That's where the payoff is, especially for coaches, consultants, course creators. That's where the money is. Screw the book sales. That's like going out to dinner money. That’s take out money. That's Uber Eats money. One analogy I've used is your book sales should be like the money you spend at a nice restaurant. What you can create with your book is going to buy you the Bentley that you're driving to the restaurant.
I don't know if I'm right in thinking it this way, but I always thought of a book as a business card. It's deeper than a business card.
I have a great rebuttal to the book as a business card.
I think of it as a business card in a sense that you want people to get to know you, how you can help them, and then you want them to go further with it. The book is not the final destination.
I get where you’re coming from. You understand the essence of that idea. That was a hot phrase for years. The thing that got in my crow was the word just because it completely misses the point. When people took that attitude of a book as just a big business card. What they're saying is, “It doesn't matter what the content is. I need to have a stack of them on my table when I'm sponsoring an event where people can just walk by and take one of my books home. I need to be able to stand up at the front of the room and say, 'Look at me, here's my book. I'm an author. Check it out.’”
The problem with that is it's completely missing the point. I was furious about it because of the damage that it does to our ability to count on having quality books to read if nobody's worried about the content, if everybody's like, “It's just a big business card.” Here's what I always say when I hear people use that phrase. I have one question. How many business cards have you taken to bed? None. How many books are on your bedside table right now?
I have three books on my bedside table right now.
This is not by accident. Think about that for a second. What that means is that we allow our books into our most intimate spaces. Not everyone lets their TV in their space. Not everyone brings their phone into their intimate spaces. Everyone I've ever asked has books by their bedside. There's a reason for that. It's because books are a portal to intimacy. I don't know any other way that you're going to get six solid hours of undivided attention from another human being in bed or anywhere else.
This person who has your book has invited you into their most intimate space for six hours of conversation. Are you going to honor them or not? If you write a crappy book or if it's just a big business card and the content doesn't matter, you are dishonoring that trust. You're missing a massive opportunity. This is where the book sets the stage for that ideal client to enter your life. If you're a coach or consultant and you write a good book, not only will you get more clients because you can use it to get more clients, but you can charge more.
You've probably given them all the fundamentals in the book. Now you don't have to waste time on your coaching calls, giving them the stuff you tell everyone. You can get right into their specific needs. That's how you use a book to grow your income and double your freaking rates. Now you've doubled the value of what the person is getting with the time you're able to spend. Do you know how many books you'd have to sell to get that equivalent? You'd have to sell 100,000 books a year.
Some authors are like, “Always have at least 30 copies of your book in your car," or “Do a book signing.”
Why, so you can assault people with it, "Here have my book?”
People go in for very specific needs in a bookstore.
If you're Michelle Obama, do a book signing because people will line up around the block for miles away and wait to buy your book. I do think public speaking is one of the most tried and true ways to sell your book no matter who you are, as long as you can pull an audience together. Look at what we're talking about. This is why you don't start with the book. If you don't have an audience to pull, if you don't have the connections to fill a room, what are you doing? Build those connections.
Who are the ideal people that you work with? Who is the sweet spot?
There are two different key types of people. There's one that is the highly accomplished thought leader type like CEO, C-Suite executive of a major company, a leading scientist, an astronaut and those kinds of notable people, or maybe somebody who's doing something interesting. They've been at it for a while. That's the key. I'm hard pressed to think of anyone we've worked with privately who's been doing something less than ten years. You have to have some real experience behind you to draw upon.
Some of these people are already notable in the media and they just haven't gotten around to the book. Others are unknown, but they're well known in their silos. Their peers and colleagues know who they are even if the general public doesn't yet. The others would be the people who in a way serve those people. We also do a lot of work with consultants and coaches who are working with those C-Suite level people or those founders to help them become better leaders or help them run more profitable organizations or whatever it is. We do a lot of work in that space with people like that. That would be the two main areas.
I think about my mentor, Bo Eason who came out with a book and it was a seven-time New York Times bestseller. That's the story that he tells. He never wanted to write a book. He has no interest in writing it. He didn't want to be an author. He didn't even think he could write, and his books are amazing. He’s super known in his silo and he’s already successful. I find that a lot of times, people have a lot of resistance to putting out the best books as opposed to, “I want to be a New York Times bestselling author and I want to be on Oprah.”
I call it the American Idol effect. I used to watch American Idol a lot in the early 2000s. One pattern I noticed because I'm also a singer. I sing in a rock band. I’m into singing. I like to watch singers. One thing I noticed about American Idol is the best singers were always the ones who are humble. They were like, “I didn't want to come, but all my friends said I had to and I hope you like this,” then they open their mouth. The ones that were like, “I'm amazing. You are going to be so grateful.” Those were always the ones who clearly only sung in the shower and never had recorded themselves once.
There's a real humility when it comes to writing books and seeing it through. It can be quite a process to see it through.
It is a process. One of the hidden things that people don't necessarily recognize until after their book has done and if they've done it right, which is what we're talking about. You're taking the time to think it through and make sure you're providing real, tangible, deep value. Becoming an author has a certain gravitas to it. It always has and hopefully, it always will. What people don't always understand is it's not because you have the book that you can hold up in front of the room. That is not what provides that extra oomph to your credibility. It's because of the process that you went through to write it.
A book is an evidence that you've been through something that transformed you.
What I found in working with our clients is that the inquiry makes you a better expert. It makes you more clear about what you believe. It makes you better able to articulate what that is and communicate it to people in a way that they can get it. It helps you to take all these years of experience and synthesize it to be able to understand it from a holistic point of view, that you can then impart that extra value and insight that you gained from that. The best analogy that I can give for this would be if you go and you do twenty years or whatever it is of education to get a PhD, you get a diploma, but the diploma isn't the thing. It's not the PhD. The PhD is the work that you did to earn the diploma. Having a book isn't what gives you the authority. Having a book is the evidence like a diploma is evidence that you went through a process that made you better, smarter and a more viable expert. It’s not the thing. It's the evidence that you have something, that you've been through something that transformed you.
What about people that love to write? I think about Elizabeth Gilbert. I read a book by her. She was talking about how some books she writes are epic and other books are complete crap. She could write this, Eat Pray Love. She was talking about how her next book was completely bombed. She said she'll always come home to writing because writing is what she does. That makes me think about that evidence too. It matters to you when you're not going to quit. Whether you get a crappy review or a great review because that's sometimes the reality including your work. It can be scary sometimes to put your work out there for people to say they like it or don't like it. Do a lot of your authors worry about that? Do they worry that they're going to put their best foot forward and everyone's going to say it sucks?
Everyone has that, no matter how accomplished you are. Everyone is a little scared. The thing about books is they are in print. You can't take it back. There are a couple of things that I thought of when you were presenting that question. One is that you don't have to be a writer to be an author. Most of my clients do not think of themselves as writers and they don't necessarily love writing. They just understand that they have a message that they have to get out. If you don't think of yourself as a writer, you can be an author, just get some good help. Most of the people that I work with are not writers and they've written outstanding books. You don't have to have that.
This is why it's so important to get outside feedback because self-publishing has made it so anyone can have a book, which is both wonderful and horrible at the same time. We do work with self-published authors. We don't only work with traditionally published authors. My philosophy is your book should be so good that people shouldn't be able to tell the difference. That's inside and out. The design should look equivalent to a traditionally published book and everything about the content.
I should be able to have one of my publishing house editor friends read it and be like, “I'm so sorry that they self-publish this. I would love to have had this.” Nobody should be able to tell the difference. That requires having outside feedback because if there's one thing I can tell you is it's harder to judge your writing objectively than your musicianship because you can record that. A sour note is very obvious. Even writers don't try to judge their own work. Every great writer you've ever heard of had an editor who saved their butt. I promise you.
Roger Love who's a famous voice coach for the stars. He said, “You can't be a writer and an editor at the same time.” He was talking about Elton John's guy who writes his music. He was like, “How long does it take you to write a song for Elton John?” He's like, “I just got an idea. I start writing and then I give it to Elton John and say, 'Take what you want from it.’” He’s like, “85% of it is cut and that 15% is the song that you hear that's produced.” He doesn't write the first verse and then go, “That sucks. I got to change this and then write this.” He lets it flow and then lets Elton John picks what he likes from it. He has no attachment to it.
It was a very successful collaboration too. Not only picking out the good stuff. When we're writing something, and this is true for anybody since we have all the background of what we're trying to say in our minds also, you can think you said what you meant but you didn’t. A lot of times if you're approaching writing a book the right way, you should be saying things in your book you've never said. You haven't practiced saying them. You're operating through a way of being that's conveying that thing, but you've never articulated it before.
Writing a book is a great opportunity to take those things that are part of your modus operandi and be able to express them in words. The cool thing and this talks about how writing a book grows your business because then you have that superpower. You can now communicate that idea over and over again in multiple contexts, write a speech or an online course. You can now communicate this messaging in a coherent way because you've already done that.
I always tell people it's a framework. When you have a framework or a system or a process, you can write any book. You can speak it on a stage. You can teach it on a webinar. Sometimes you don't know when the big opportunity is going to call and you don't want to be not ready. When you have the evidence and you have the process, you're ready.
You can express it in this coherent way. I did an internet radio show before podcasting started. If I had just continued it, I would be queen of the world right now. I stopped doing it. I would have authors on and interview them. I would ask them sometimes, “What is your book about?” They would go into a 30-minute monologue. That tells me they didn't do enough work on their concept.
How many times do you get on connecting calls and people go, “What exactly is it that you do?” It's like that right after you hear somebody talking. “How exactly do you help people?”
That should be a one-sentence answer.
I know many of my readers have shelves and shelves and copies of books. They didn't go about it the right way because they didn't know any better. They were let astray or they thought of the $20,000 in the book or however much they spent. Is there any hope for them? What should they do? What advice can we give them?
If you've written a book and published it, you're still a special person because most people don't. Out of the 80% of the population of the United States at any given moment who thinks they're going to write a book one day, less than 1% does it. If you got that far, the first thing to do is be proud that you did what you did. If the book isn't selling, there are a couple of questions to ask yourself. One is, how can I use my book to grow my business? You can leverage it. Give up the idea that you need to make your money back on book sales because that is a low paying arduous hell of a way to go.
The first question is, is this a book I'm proud of? Can I stand behind this book and be like, “You’ve got to read this because this is awesome?” Do I still feel that way? If you're not proud of the book, you're not going to be able to do much. There's a reason. It means you've evolved past it or whatever it is. How can you repurpose it? Is there content that maybe you could utilize in some way? If you've outgrown it and you'd still like to use the book, there's nothing wrong with looking at your situation and saying, “Now am I ready? Am I in a different place?” If the worst financial decision you ever made was spending $20,000 on a book that you shouldn't have, then you're doing way better than me.
I’ve made far worse financial decisions that cost me way more money than that. Don't beat yourself up, but think about like, “Do I need a book? Does it make sense for me to have a book strategically?” If it does then write another one because you got something out of the experience, even if it didn't give you everything that you dreamed and hoped for. One of the things that makes me the most upset about people being pressured or misguided into doing a book too soon is that I believe that if you write a book, you should be in love with that book for the rest of your life. Even if you've evolved past it, you should be like, “For the time, for what I knew, I'm so proud of what I did.”
I don't like that anybody would be robbed of that. When they've been given a lot of false hope about what they think the book should do for them, a lot of times they end up resentful about the book. That is a tragedy. We have to understand what books are. Writing a book is like being pregnant. Putting the book out in the world is like giving birth. How well do babies do if that's the last thing you do? You have to nurture a baby. You have to feed a baby. You have to take the baby out and socialize it. You have to love the baby. You have to talk about the baby every day. You have to have lots of pictures of the baby. If you want people to know about your book, you've got to understand that once it's born, the work is just starting.
I love that reality and that hope of the work was never lost. Even if the finished product isn't something that you want to carry on with, take the good from the process and now go and do it again. If you've got something that you're super proud of like your baby, tell people about it everywhere you go and then listen to Robin's advice on how to do it the right way, how to have realistic goals and processes and systems. If you don't know, that's why you hire someone like Robin. If Robin is not the right one, it's why you go and you get help from the right people.
One of the pieces of advice I give people all the time when they're like, “How should I promote my book?” I’m like, “What do you know you should be doing to promote your business that you're not doing?” Never promote a book just to promote the book. What are you already doing to promote your business that you need to do more of? What are you already doing to promote your business that you could somehow incorporate your book? Just promoting the book for the sake of promoting the book is never going to pay off.
It goes back to strategy.
There are always the outliers, but I have yet to win the Powerball.
Tell me, you sing in a rock band?
How did that start? Tell me a little bit about that?
I've always been a performer. I've always had that ham in me. I've explored many different avenues. I did some straight theater and musical theater, improv comedy, stand-up comedy, playing with my acoustic guitar on open mic nights and whatever. I’ve done lots of stuff. When I moved back to Connecticut a few years ago, I knew that there was School of Rock. I immediately signed up for electric guitar lessons. I'd owned a Fender Stratocaster for years, but I never played it. I just bought it because it was pretty. My daughter had played it more than me. I signed up for electric guitar lessons at School of Rock. I got into their adult band program and then they figured out I could sing. I ended up singing more than playing guitar. Some of us went off and formed our own band.
What’s that looking like in COVID though? Are you doing virtual shows?
Just promoting the book for the sake of promoting is never going to pay off.
We’re doing a lot of rehearsing.
That's a good theme right now. It's like getting better at your craft.
We're all very careful and we have our own little socially distanced rehearsal structure. Each of us is sheltered at home anyway. We're doing well.
Robin, how can they best get ahold of you if they want more information or want to connect with you?
It’s RobinColucci.com. That’s the way to find me. We have an application there that they can fill out if they're interested in having a conversation with me or someone on my team about what it might look like for them. If it doesn't make sense for you to do a book, we will tell you. We'll also tell you specifically what you would need to do in order for it to make sense.
Always leading with service, giving people good advice. Robin, thank you so much for sharing and being generous with your stories and your teachings, and having a real talk with me around something that I get asked a ton of questions about. Thank you so much.
It's my pleasure. It's always a pleasure to chat with you, Lisa.
Readers, thank you so much for being here. We value your time. Please follow up with Robin if you have any further questions. As always, thank you for tuning in. I'll see you next time.
About Robin Colucci
Robin Colucci has been helping world class experts write world changing books since 2003. Before that she built, grew, and sold a personal fitness business. She also was a journalist and worked as an acquisitions editor for an independent publishing house. Robin brings her deep, hands-on knowledge of publishing and entrepreneurship to her clients whose books cover a range of topics including: business, personal development, memoir, health and fitness, science and technology, politics, women’s issues, and the environment.