What CEO’s Need To Now About Becoming A Book Author
Listen to Episode 30:
Episode 30 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, Episode 30: What CEO’s Need To Now About Becoming A Book Author.
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − Enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at www.businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. With me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. I am so happy to be here again with you. If this is your first time listening out there, the purpose of Growth Igniters Radio is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for leaders to take themselves and their companies to the next level of success. So Pam, what’s the story for today?
Pam Harper: What CEO’s need to know about becoming book authors. You remember that back in 2002 when I wrote my book, Preventing Strategic Gridlock, the options for getting published were relatively limited. Well, these days with the evolving technology and business models, there are so many more publishing options then ever before. We’re seeing a distinct trend in corporate CEO’s out there with books.
Scott Harper: That’s true.
Pam Harper: Now the question that CEO’s need to ask themselves are: should I be writing a book? The answer is maybe yes, and maybe no. Secondly, what does it really take to get published? That’s why we’re happy to have as our guest today, Ken Lizotte, Chief Imaginative Officer of Emerson Consulting Group Incorporated. Ken is the author of five books, including The Exerts Edge: Become the Go-To Authority That People Turn to Every Time. He’s been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine, Financial Times, Investors Business Daily, National Public Radio – you get the idea
Scott Harper: The list goes on…
Pam Harper: The list goes on. Ken and his team focus on helping their clients create a distinctive presence through thought leadership. He’s also a literary agent. Of course, you can find out much more about Ken’s background under the resources section on the Episode 30 page at www.growthignitersradio.com. I also should mention, in total transparency, that we have been clients of Ken’s as well. Ken, welcome to Growth Igniters Radio.
Ken Lizotte: Thank you for inviting me Scott and Pam. I’m happy to be here.
Pam Harper: Ken, tell us a bit about how you came to start a firm about thought leadership, because it’s not the most obvious thing that people do.
Ken Lizotte: My personal experience with thought leadership, and in particular publishing and publishing books, goes back a few decades to my 20s when I was a freelance writer and I made my living publishing articles, primarily. Also, I had a literary agent of my own back then who really taught me the ropes in terms of book publishing. I really learned how to do it, in and out. I was a ghost writer for a while; a number of projects. I have that experience.
How I got to shape it into a service in which not only do I help my clients write and publish their books, but also position themselves as thought leaders is that my first − what I call my book client − he was a management consultant. He said to me that his ambition was to become a “global thought leader.” That goes back about 17-18 years at this point. At that point I never quite heard that phrase particularly. I knew what he meant, but I never quite heard it, and I never quite heard somebody actually put it in those terms. That’s what he wanted to do. He saw writing a book as the way to gain credibility. We worked together and we did get his book written and published. That’s what got me thinking that writing a book is not just about writing a book or publishing a book, it’s also about positioning yourself in business in such a way that it really establishes you on a higher level than your competitors, your colleagues, or whatever.
Scott Harper: It creates a point of distinction. A lot of people aspire to that. What are some of the reasons for CEOs to become an author? They’ve got all these other things to do − why write a book?
Ken Lizotte: First of all, when you say they have all these other things to do, I absolutely understand that. We all have other things to do.
Pam Harper: Like leading a company.
Ken Lizotte: Yeah, exactly. I would bet you that anyone listening right now that is thinking that maybe they’d like to write a book know they have a lot of other things to do. If they look around at their competition, by and large, whatever profession or industry they’re in, probably they’re not going to find many, if any, who have written a book. That’s the reason; it’s a big commitment.
Why to do it then? Why to take on this commitment? Why find a way to be able to pull off this commitment? There are a number of reasons. Credibility is one of the biggest ones. If you do want to position yourself and your company as the leaders in your field and as thought leaders in particular, then you really must publish a book − or books actually, ongoing over the years. There is nothing that gives more credibility, at least in my mind, than having a book. It just says something about you having the gravitas and the knowledge and the expertise, that it would end up between the covers of a book. Credibility is a really big one.
It also would help you… a book becomes a hub, where the spokes go out to all these other kinds of visibility venues, such as the media. The media will interview you if you have a book; that gets media attention for you and your company. Speaking engagements − you’re more likely to get speaking engagements, particularly at the most important business conferences or industry conferences, if you have written a book. The list goes on and on.
Pam Harper: One of the things that I find interesting is… now some of the CEO’s we’re referring to are corporate CEO’s who already get speaking engagements. It seems like the CEOs that have written books − I’m thinking Jack Welch or Howard Schultz, or whoever it is − that they establish themselves more as brands distinct from their company at the same time. Do you see that?
Ken Lizotte: It’s one way that it goes, that’s right. It kind of, though, depends on the way you approach it as a CEO, whether you would like it to be you as a brand or you as the representative of your company’s brand. One of the things that we do in my company with our clients where the CEO is writing the book, is also to develop either articles, or even books, from the ranks of usually their top executives.
Pam Harper: Right.
Ken Lizotte: That spreads the wealth, so to speak. It creates a picture of the firm as being the thought leaders, rather than just the guy at the top, or the non-guy at the top.
Pam Harper: Okay. Those are all reasons to do it. What about the reason though, not to do it − because it’s not for everybody, right? Writing a book, I’m talking about.
Ken Lizotte: No, it’s not for everybody. It certainly isn’t something that you just flirt with. What happens sometimes is that people are told they should write a book, but there’s something inside them that is really holding them back from that or resisting that. I can’t explain it really better than that, except that if somebody comes to me, for example, and says that they’ve been told that they should write a book and they wonder about and this and that − if they don’t feel that there is a real position to write a book, then I would recommend to them not to take it on right now. There are others who go, “I’ve got to write a book; I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I know it’s important.” I can feel it, there’s that inner passion and commitment. With that in mind, that second feeling or motivation is what you need to have to write a book. Otherwise I would just say, “don’t even think about it; just go on with your life as it is.”
Pam Harper: The more passionate and the clearer you are about writing a book, the more likely it is that it’s going to be a successful endeavor and worthwhile.
Ken Lizotte: Exactly, it’s going to be successful, number one, because it’s going to actually be finished, it’s going to actually take place. Number two, you’re probably going to have motivation once the book is done to promote it and use it to leverage your sales and marketing for your business primarily, if not for yourself.
Pam Harper: Makes sense.
We’re going to take a quick break right now. When we come back we’ll talk more with Ken Lizotte, Chief Imaginative Officer of Emerson Consulting Group and author of The Experts Edge about how CEOs can most effectively become book authors. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at www.businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth. And if you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, select Episode 30, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. Use #Growthigniters. This will help extend our reach to all of the people who can benefit from this series.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Ken Lizotte, Chief Imaginative Officer of Emerson Consulting Group Incorporated, and author of the book The Experts Edge: Become the Go-to Authority That People Turn To Every Time. Ken, how can people find out more about you, your books, and Emerson Consulting Group?
Ken Lizotte: I would direct them to my website, which is www.thoughtleading.com.
Pam Harper: Okay. Of course we’ll have links under “resources” on the episode 30 page.
Now, going back to our conversation − for those listeners who have decided that they are indeed going to move forward with becoming book authors, how can a CEO differentiate his or her book on leadership, for example, from all the many others that are out there. Because, let’s face it, how many books on leadership are there out there?
Ken Lizotte: Forty-five million, maybe.
Pam Harper: This coming from the literary agent − right. How do you do that? Why do you say that it’s time?
Ken Lizotte: I think, again, first of all, you say it’s time when you have this urge that you just can’t hold back. I think that it first must be said how very personal this is, to decide what your book would be about. Very often I’ve noticed that people who come to me have an idea for their book; it comes from whatever source. They often are very reticent to even tell me at first, or they’re lacking in confidence as to whether or not I would agree that it’s a good idea for a book.
Typically, where the book comes from is just your sense of either your own experiences as a business leader, or some kind of issue or issues that you see your industry’s tackling, that you have some thoughts on. Or something else that’s going on in your experience that you feel like people could learn from. I think the main thing is − I’m joking about 45 million leadership books − but I think the main thing to do is to ignore all the other books. Don’t go looking for what’s not been written about, or this and that. Focus inward rather than outward. The book that is right for you − I can just tell you from the experience of all the people I’ve worked with, it comes to you. Trust your gut about what would be the best book for you to write. That’s how you differentiate your book.
Pam Harper: The publishers are okay with that?
Ken Lizotte: Well, here’s the interesting thing. We need to talk about he two ways to go about getting your book published. One of them being the age old traditional approach of trying to find a publisher. Are the publishers okay with that? Well, many will not be, but some will. What you hope for is that one will really be excited about it.
Every time I take on a project, no matter what the book is, and we shape a book proposal for the purposes of shopping it around to publishers, at least a third of the publishers that we approach will say, “there are too many books of this category out there, it will never sell.” Another third will say, “There’s nothing really new or that different here.” Then another third will say, “it’s kind of interesting; let me think about it.” Most of them will end up rejecting the book as well. Typically, if you approach enough publishers, in that last category at least one, if not maybe two or three, will come out of the woodwork there and say, “You know, I think we could get really excited about publishing this book. We’d like to made you a contract offer.” My take from all of that is: trust your gut; go forward. You’re taking a risk, of course, always. My experience is that it ends up not being as much of risk as you might think starting out.
Scott Harper: Coming from that point of passion and that point of “I have to get this out…” for one thing it helps distinguish somebody − so I don’t have to be Jack Welch necessarily to get published …
Ken Lizotte: No.
Scott Harper: … or famous to get published. I just have to have that idea in me. But also, there’s always the question of, am “I a good enough writer − can I do this?”
Pam Harper: Or, do I even like doing it…
Scott Harper: Yeah, do I like doing it? Maybe I should use a ghost writer. What do you think about that?
Ken Lizotte: I think if somebody has those feelings − I just don’t think I’m a good enough writer − but more so, would I like to write − if they can balance two things, one is that, “I really want to do a book.” Then you have this other things pulling at you saying, “But I just hate to write.” I think if you hate to write, then you should hire a ghost writer. I think that if you just think you’re not a good writer, then you should hire an editor.
You two and I had this experience. You know that all the articles that I helped you get published − I did not write them for you. You wrote your own articles. With 99% of my clients over the years, I tell them right up front, that’s the way I prefer to work, that they write the articles. Then I might provide some editing. People who are doubting their writing ability are probably comparing themselves with the great writers in history or something along those lines; feeling much too self conscious. You are probably a much better writer then you think you are.
Scott Harper: I lived through Pam writing her book a number of years ago, and the crises of confidence were there, but it turned out really, really good, and critics liked it.
Pam Harper: It did. It was a process. It really was. We can talk about that in the third segment.
That was that question about ghost writing. The other one is, of course nowadays is there are so many options [for getting a book published]. You have the commercial publishers, but you also have self-publishing of various types, whether it’s through Amazon or whatever it’s though. The question is, how do you make that determination?
Ken Lizotte: Right. That’s what I was alluding to when I said the age old traditional way of doing it is looking for a publisher. Another age old way of doing it is self publishing, although self publishing over the many decades, until recently, has gotten a bad name. It’s also been referred to as “vanity publishing”. It tends to be thought of as, “Well you couldn’t find a publisher so you knocked out a book and it’s written terribly, and it looks terrible,” and all of that. That’s all changed. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Nowadays we have self-publishing companies out there that can do so much. They’re as good as hiring a traditional publisher. Self publishing is an option. Here are the two differences. With having a publisher you give up a lot. I don’t mean to say you give up your copyright or your rights in that sense, but you give up control. For example, there is no publisher that I know of that will allow you to sign a contract with them and allow you to have final say of either the cover design or your title. That’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of decisions that are made along the way.
Pam Harper: You have to be willing to work collaboratively with somebody else …
Ken Lizotte: Yeah, exactly.
Pam Harper: … who is going to have their own opinions about this. By the same token, when you publish yourself, or when you go through self publishing I should say, you have much more control. There’s so many other issues that go with that.
We need to take another quick break. When we come back we’ll continue our conversation with Ken Lizotte, author of The Experts Edge, about how CEOs can get going on getting that book out there and get it published. Stay with us.
Scott Harper : So, have you been thinking that it’s time for you and your company to accelerate to your next level of growth and profitability? If so, contact us today to find out how we can partner with you and your team to create a highly customized powerful Growth Igniters executive retreat. Client results have included accelerated leadership transition, increased commitment and alignment on strategy, and much more. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, click “contact us” at that bottom of the page, and we’ll get back to you to discuss options for helping you achieve your most important goals.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments Scott and I have been talking with Ken Lizotte, chief imaginative office of Emerson Consulting Group Incorporated, and author of the Experts Edge: Become the Go-To Authority That People Turn to Every Time. Ken, again, how can people find out more about you and Emerson Consulting Group?
Ken Lizotte: Yes, again, my websites the best way to do it. That website is www.thoughtleading.com.
Pam Harper: Okay. We’re now at the part of this episode where we want you to help us to give our listeners three pieces of immediately actionable advice for becoming published book authors. Lets take it one at a time.
Ken Lizotte: I do have three, but just before I get into those, I do want to follow up on what we were just talking about in terms of how do you choose between looking for a publisher versus self-publishing. Another important distinction is that self-publishing means you will get your book out faster then if you have a publisher.
Scott Harper: What is the typical cycle time between time a book is accepted by a publisher and it actually comes out?
Ken Lizotte: It’s typically at least a year, but it can be a year and a half. If it’s self publishing, you could do it in 6 or 8 months. How fast you do it then is totally dependent on you and the writing and the editing – you’d have to hire an editor to help you with that. It is more in your control. Whereas, as I said before, to have a publisher means giving up a lot of control.
Pam Harper: It’s always a matter of trade offs, ultimately. I think it’s a very personal decision that every author needs to make. Let’s now go over to these actionable pieces of advice, and let’s go a little deeper.
Ken Lizotte: The first one is to choose a topic or a theme or the focus of your book. I think trusting your gut is really important. It could be your leadership style, it could be someway that you’ve gone about leading your company that you feel is a really significant and effective way to do it. That could be one way to go about it. Another thing could be various issues in your industry. One of my clients is a healthcare CEO and he’s got all sorts of, what I’d call thought leading ideas, about how the healthcare industry needs to be changed and can be changed. It makes sense for him to attack all these issues in a book.
Pam Harper: Isn’t it sometimes true from your perspective, especially as a literary agent, that if a person − say they’re writing about leadership, and somebody else writes about leadership, somebody else writing about leadership − the way in which you express yourself and the experiences that you’ve had make that book totally unique?
Ken Lizotte: Oh, yeah. Totally. Absolutely right. People are personalizing the way they conduct business and serve their clients everyday. We’re all different people, so we do it at least slightly different, if not dramatically different from other people. We do that typically without any particular comparison and looking outward, we just do it. In that sense, when you translate that into articles that you write and publish, and books that you can write and publish, it’s just a matter of looking inward. Rather than trying to see, how did Jack Welch do it, okay I guess is can try to do it like him − be original, trust your gut. That’s the first thing in terms of determining how you go about writing the book.
The second thing − it really is the next step −that’s to decide which publishing option makes sense for you. In that regard I would say, when I really talk about the pros and cons of self publishing versus having a publisher, if I were to made a list for both categories, the logical choice would be, by far, self publishing. There’s just so many reasons why that would make sense.
There are misconceptions about what publishers do. The biggest one being that they will basically promote and sell your book. They will not do that. In fact, it’s the opposite. You will most likely get a contact from the publisher if you can prove to them that you’re going to aggressively write and sell your book. It’s really a misconception that the publishers going to do much for you versus self-publishing.
Pam Harper: Ken, would another immediate step that somebody could take be to go out and find a literary agent? Where does that fall?
Ken Lizotte: Literary agenst functions the same as a publisher. A literary agent will evaluate whether to take you on based on if they thought that your book would sell, based on what you can do to make it sell. If you have, lets say, 100,000 Twitter followers, nowadays that’s a big thing. Eyes open as far as that goes. If you have a national TV show on a news network, that’s going to open eyes. Because a literary agent typically can only sell his clients books to a publisher, the literary agent has to be looking for what those publishers want. A lot of time when I lay it out someone would say to be, “Why then should I look for a publisher?” The only real good reason to have a publisher is if that’s what you want. If that’s what you want, a certain sense of self validation, lets say, or a certain sense of credibility. “My book was published by McGraw Hill.”
Pam Harper: It’s not necessary in the bigger world. It doesn’t really matter.
Ken Lizotte: Not really.
Pam Harper: I’d have to say, I do not choose books based upon who the publisher is.
Ken Lizotte: No.
Pam Harper: I choose books based on how good the book is, or how good it looks when I’m looking for books.
Ken Lizotte: Exactly.
Pam Harper: Ken, we have time for just one more fast piece of advice.
Ken Lizotte: The last one has to do with time, actually. You’re going to have to make a time commitment. Once you’ve chosen what your book’s going to be about and you’ve decided which publishing option, it’s time to make a time commitment to it. Whether it is toward looking for an agent, looking for a publisher, or just starting to write your book and making it happen, you’ve got to carve out that time. One of your questions earlier was, is ghost writing an easy answer? It’s not an easy answer. It feels like an easy answer, like you’re delegating the whole thing over to somebody, but you still have to carve out the time to spend with the ghost writer so that the ghost writer can learn what your book’s about and be able to write it. The time commitment becomes a real important piece. That would be the third piece of advise.
Pam Harper: So, any final thoughts, like a bottom line, as far as what it takes for CEOs to become book authors?
Ken Lizotte: I know that a lot of people listening have always wanted to write a book, and many of them have been feeling − maybe until they’ve heard me − that maybe they don’t know if they can do it. Like you say, maybe “I can’t write it well enough, maybe I can’t find a publisher.” The main last thought that I have for everybody is that anyone today who wants to be a book author can be. It used to be you really were beholden to publishers. That’s all gone now. Anybody who wants to publish a book, it can happen. Nobody can stop you. There are lots of avenues.
Pam Harper: Okay, there you have it. Ken, thank you so much for being our guest today on Growth Igniters Radio.
Ken Lizotte: It was a pleasure to be here with you.
I do have to ask Scott one question before we break up. That is − Scott, at the beginning of the whole podcast you said to Pam, “So happy to be with you again.”
Scott Harper: Yes…
Ken Lizotte: Is this the only time you guys are together, during the podcast?
Scott Harper: Well, together again on the podcast. We’re together all the time; that’s one of the great things about being part of Business Advancement Incorporated.
Pam Harper: Maybe that’s another book. You never know.
Scott Harper: You never know.
Ken Lizotte: There you go.
Scott Harper: Ken, thanks so much. And thanks to everyone out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out our resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, or open a conversation with us, go to www.growthignitersradio.com and select “Episode 30.”
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: …Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to think about:
Scott Harper: Do you have a book inside of you? What steps will you take to get it out into the world?