In this episode, Stacy sits down with Chief Talent Launcher and Senior Agent of Keller Media, Inc., Wendy Keller. The two discuss the benefits that a published book can have as a business leader and the ways in which it can be done most effectively.
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Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today, and I want to give a very warm welcome to the truly talented and top literary agent Wendy Keller. Wendy is an award-winning former journalist, a respected literary agent, an author, a speaker, and founder of Keller Media. Her agency focuses exclusively on nonfiction books written for adults. She has sold more than 1,700 rights deals around the world, including 18 New York Times bestsellers and nine international bestsellers. Her clients include Nobel nominees, leading scientists, renowned motivational speakers, politicians, and self-help gurus, CEOs, and prominent entrepreneurs. Wendy herself has authored 31 published books, most recently The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building from Entrepreneur Press. She’s passionate about helping people with strong messages reach their audiences, and our listeners will pick up on this quickly.Stacy Jones: 01:28
Today, we’re going to talk about building your brand and marketing a message using a published book. We will learn what has worked from Wendy’s experience, what could be avoided, and how some authors are missing the mark. Wendy, welcome.Wendy Keller: 01:40
Thank you, welcome. Thanks for having me, Stacy. This is great.Stacy Jones: 01:44
I am so happy to have y’all here today chatting with us and talking about all things books, and I’m so happy too that I was introduced to you. I’d like you to start off by giving a little background about who you are and what got you to where you are today.Wendy Keller: 2:01
Oh, thank you. Well, I’ve been an agent for more than 30 years. I started working for another agent who was in Hollywood writing coverages, which is critiques, basically, of screenplays and books. And after about a year, I figured out that he didn’t really know what he was doing, and he wasn’t actually selling anything, and I thought, “Well, okay, I’m going to become an agent. I mean, I can certainly do better than he does.” And so I left him one day, and I wrote to a couple agents and said, “Hey, can you mentor me?” And they were agents who were conveniently listed in the back of Writer’s Digest Magazine. That’s where I thought all agents were listed, and I wrote them. Two of them agreed to work with me, and teach me, and within a year I was making more money in my percentage I was paying them that they were making in their own agencies. So I cut ties and started doing this myself.Stacy Jones: 02:53
That’s awesome. That’s very cool.
Wendy Keller: 02:55
Stacy Jones: 02:56
You were an entrepreneur from the start.
Wendy Keller: 03:00
Yeah. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a little kid, but the thing that I get passionate about really is that I have my own books, and my own writing, and that’s kind of a hobby for me, but what I really am excited about is that because of my work I can help a lot of other people get their content to an even larger market. I’m only an expert on a few things, but by bringing in other experts and helping them connect with the millions of people, I create a bigger pie in the world, basically.
Stacy Jones: 03:31
That’s awesome. Your specialty is nonfiction?
Wendy Keller: 3:33
Right. Very strictly nonfiction. Business, self-help, which can be anything from how to raise your child, to how to lose weight, to how to get over Parkinson’s disease. I just sold that, not get over it, but deal with it, and unfortunately, and things like that. Then also a lot of [inaudible 00:03:53] books. Sometimes history or things like that, but they have to be really uniquely written, so.
Stacy Jones: 04:00
So, why is it that so many people write books? Is it that they have a true passion to write books, or do they see it as a business opportunity?
Wendy Keller: 04:10
Well I think there are two categories. That’s a great question because sometimes people write a book because they’ve decided that they are, they just have a message and they got to get it out to the world, and other times what I’ve noticed is that people think that a book is magically going to become a calling card. “Well if I just put together a book and put it out there on Amazon, then my business is going to grow.” It’s true that a business will grow if you do a book, but only if you do it properly and in alignment with your actual goal. Most people who come to me are speakers, or plan to be speakers, or consultants, or they’re using the book as a strategy to grow their brand for their company, sales, goods, or services. That’s my expertise, and that’s what I’m passionate about as an agent.
Wendy Keller: 04:56
So that’s why we only handle nonfiction and why I believe that a lot of people get published, and then come back and say, “Well it’s failed, now what do I do?” I can’t really help someone whose self published and failed, whatever their motivation was, but someone who does it right from the start is far more likely to achieve the goals they intend.
Stacy Jones: 05:14 S
o how do you do it right from the start correctly? Let’s jump in there!
Wendy Keller: 05:21
In the United States, all nonfiction books are sold to publishers of a book proposal. You don’t need one if you’re writing a novel, but you need one if you’re writing [inaudible 00:05:31]. So a nonfiction book proposal is really to the publishing industry what a business plan would be if you were going out and seeking venture capital because it’s the same thing, you’re trying to get a stranger to invest their money in your great idea. So when you write a quality, well crafted, intelligent book proposal, then you’re far more likely to find an agent, and when you find that agent, then that agent will be able to take it and represent it to publishers because most publishers won’t take anything that doesn’t have an agent attached, and then you’ll get the deal.
Wendy Keller: 06:03
So your chances go up astronomically if you write a right proposal, get yourself an agent, and then that agent can shop it. We can’t shop an idea, we can’t shop a manuscript, we can’t shop a failed self published Kindle book, but we can shop a proposal. So it’s critical to have that document in the right order.
Stacy Jones: 06:20
And that’s something I bet a lot of people miss on. I think a lot of people probably sit down there like, “I’m writing a book.” And they start writing because I know I did that.
Wendy Keller: 06:28
That is a huge waste of time, and I hate saying that to people because it crushes their emotional attachment to their material, but here’s why, because you and everyone else is going to be writing in an ivory tower. So what you see is your world and your desire to get the book out, but when you send it to a publishing professional such as myself or other agents, we may have seen that idea 30 times in the last month, 500 times in the last year, pretty much the same concept. I had this conversation with an author this morning, what he’s writing is something I’ve rejected thousands of times, I’m not exaggerating. So what the author has to do is look at the industry, my industry, publishing, and make a decision about how to differentiate the content. I call that NDBM, it’s an acronym for new, different, better, or more. If your book doesn’t offer something better than all those books, then as we call it, it doesn’t deserve its shelf space.
Wendy Keller: 07:28
42-48% of books are now sold through Amazon, so it’s not really about the shelf space, but that half inch spine of your book is being put at Barnes & Noble, you have to earn that space by being NDBM than the other titles. So when you just sit down and you got this great idea and you just start typing, chances are that you haven’t taken the time to really differentiate your content in a way that sounds unique to someone who’s done it a million years, as opposed to your neighbors, or your friends, or the people who came to your last class and say, “Oh, you’re so brilliant.” Because frankly, from our side of the desk, you may not be that original or brilliant. So you just need to do the steps, and go through the proposal writing process, which is built to help you differentiate your content in a way that makes it marketable.
Wendy Keller: 08:16
I hope that makes sense.
Stacy Jones: 08:18
It does, and I think it also is supposed to help you make sure that your book is marketable in general.
Wendy Keller: 08:24
Yeah, right. I mean, if it’s marketable to a publisher, in theory it will be marketable to your public. So the process of extruding a book through the book proposal process is really about learning how your content fits. So we do an online class, I teach is eight weeks long, there are six actual courses with homework assignments, and then I have a team of professional editors, editors who have worked in real life publishing and in some cases still do, who moonlight for me. What they do is they take each piece of the five parts of a book proposal and they go through it and they edit it according to industry standards. So what the participants often say in the book proposal workshop is, “I had no idea they would see it this way, or think of this way, or why are they looking at it when they should know that it’s brilliant just from the first page.”
Wendy Keller: 09:16
So there’s all kinds of beliefs that authors have that we kick under the curb, but also we make sure that they get some awareness about that. I teach them how the publishing industry looks at content, and then the editors take the time to customize that content. We’re looking at an average of seven to nine hours during the course, editors are working on your material. If anybody’s interested, that’s bookproposalworkshop.com, again, bookproposalworkshop.com, but the benefit of having that kind of editorial advice from me, and then editorial input from the editors, is really priceless. It teaches a person how to think about their book in the way a publishing professional’s going to think about it, which of course increases the chances astronomically of getting not just an advance, but a good advance with a good publisher.
Stacy Jones: 10:05
Right, and for all of our listeners, what Wendy has put together because I’m about to dive into it myself very shortly, since I was slow on writing a book proposal, and getting it done, it’s really well priced, and the materials that she shares are very self explanatory, and easy, and it’s not something that is scary. My husband’s going to do the course with me, and he’s not scared from looking at it either. He’s like, “Okay, this is manageable, this is doable.” Because otherwise it’s a little daunting to be like, “Okay, sit down, go.”
Wendy Keller: 10:41
Right. People come to me often, and they’ve read one of the generic books on how to write a proposal. There are some problems with those books because in one case, one of them is very dated, which isn’t how publishing works anymore [inaudible 00:10:54], and the other one is just a general principle, right? So it’s like everybody gets vanilla ice cream. So in the proposal workshop what we’re doing is actually customizing your content, and your message, to what’s really going on in publishing right now, and it changes about every six months what they’re looking for, or how many ideas they’ve seen on the same topic, or like this guy I rejected this morning because I’ve seen this idea so many times.
Wendy Keller: 11:23
I said, “Here’s your assignment. You have to go and read the six already bestselling books on this topic, and then come back and tell me why you’re worth that shelf space. What’s different about what you’re doing?” That gives someone real insight because often people believe they’re the first person to market, and by customizing their message, they create this factor that becomes obvious to agents and to publishers who do publish in this category. So we do leadership, self help … In business books we do leadership, management, financing, entrepreneurship, all this other stuff. So there’s a big awareness at my agency of what’s going on in that space. So we already know what’s being published today, which is how you can find out as an author, but we also know in most cases what’s going to be out in six or 12 months because we’re part of that process.
Wendy Keller: 12:13
So we can see things that you can’t even notice as an author, and it’s important for the author to be able to be differentiated, even within that spectrum of things they can’t even get because they’re so far ahead of the curve.
Stacy Jones: 12:25
Yeah, and there’s something about the universe delivering thoughts and brilliant ideas to multiple people at the same time because when we’re working with movies and TV shows, I can’t tell you how many times we’re like, “Wait, we have three movies that are all exactly the same that are going to be going into production shortly with different studios. How can this even be possible?” But it happens.
Wendy Keller: 12:50
It does happen. When I was a new agent working for that other guy, he made us only take in projects where they signed a disclaimer that said, “Similar or identical material may exist.” I almost quit at that moment, that was my first week, I almost quit because I thought that was so unfair. Now after 30 years of my own, and one year after that, I was at lunch one time with Mark Victor Hansen who was a coauthor on Chicken Soup for the Soul. I was fortunate to have Jack as one of my clients, and Mark and I were talking and his theory is God sprinkles the same idea on a thousand heads, and out of those thousand people, 100 take some action, and 10 take right action, and one makes it to the finish line. That’s been true my whole life. If I start to see, my policy personally is if I see the same content come in six times in any two week period, literally two week period, same book with slightly different authors, slightly different takes, I know I have to take one.
Wendy Keller: 13:44
So I’ll go back through those six, I’ll find the one that has the biggest platform, and I’ll put it up for sale, [inaudible 00:13:49] it to get it out as fast as possible because I know I’m not the only agent seeing books on this topic. [inaudible 00:13:55] every single time, and it’s uncanny from this side of the desk, but it always happens.
Stacy Jones: 13:59
Yeah, I see it. It happens just I think in life in general with products, with books, with movie scripts, with all sorts of things. There’s only so many ideas and lots of people have them.
Wendy Keller: 14:10
That’s so crazy and so true.
Stacy Jones: 14:12
So you touched on something just a moment ago, and to lead us into our next topic, you said you will look for someone who has basically the best platform. So that includes the most followers, the most PR, the most media, the most speaking, and the most … Can you kind of share a little bit about what that most means and that you’re looking for that makes someone stand out?
Wendy Keller: 14:35
It kind of depends on the content itself. What I would like personally as an agent is different than … is it a different level because I’ve been doing this a trillion years, so it’s different than a younger agent or a newer agent might be willing to take. The advances that I get, I expect to start at a hundred thousand, and so that requires a very high level of platform. If you’re interested in seeing what that needs to look like, feel free to go to kellermedia.com, kellermedia.com/submission-guidelines, where it’s laid out what you need to have to get me as an agent. In general, a platform is a large growing group of fans that people who trust what you say, who like what you say, and most important to the publisher, are already shelling out some money for it.
Wendy Keller: 15:22
So if you come to me and you say, “Look Wendy, I just launched this topic and I’ve done six workshops, and if I have 25 people show up at each workshop and they’re paying me $200.” Well you are definitely on the path to having a platform, that’s awesome. Or you say, “I did 10 speaking engagements last year. This is awesome, they’re paying me $1500 bucks,” which is a very low level as a speaker, right? Most speakers, at my … start, to get interested in a publisher, 20 speeches at $5000 or more dollars, right? So if you use speaking as one component of your platform you’re pitching, 20 speeches is like a minimum and at $5000 dollars means that you are going to grow, right?
Wendy Keller: 16:01
Because the publisher can help you supersize what you’ve already got going, but they can’t start something magically. Which comes back to your question about self publishing. The fact that a book exists is like the fact that you have a business card in a little white box in your desk. It’s not doing anything for you, it’s sitting in there, it hasn’t been used as a calling card, what are you doing? So a platform has to be growing, it has to say, “This week I had 20 people subscribing to my newsletter, and next week I have 400 people subscribing, and then I had 800 people.” You need to see some movement, and depending on what that movement is, the agents will normally drill into you for that to find every little tiny piece of platform you’ve got, and then eb able to sell your book.
Wendy Keller: 16:46
So it could be social media, although that doesn’t really sell books, it’s an indication of interest. It could be speaking, it could be workshops, it could be consulting, it could be you worked at all these major companies, it could be that you were the number one salesman five years running. There are all these different factors. I write about this in my book, my most recent book is called the Ultimate Guide to Platform Building, and I talk about not just what platform is, but how to get yours specific to your subject matter so that you grow your specific business or passion, and that’s really the game. I mean the platform that I look for coming out the gate is any number of those things, because that’s what’s going to make the difference long term, and whether or not your book is successful, and whether or not you can even get a publishing deal, or whether an agent is wasting their time.
Wendy Keller: 17:28
We work on straight commission, if there’s no money in you, we’re probably not going to [inaudible 00:17:33] in you.
Stacy Jones: 17:33
Right, and so you’re taking a massive risk on the person you’re working with, and they’re not paying you to work with them until you find success, but it’s a lot of time to take, and you have to really bought in if you think this author is going to be worth your time to spent.
Wendy Keller: 17:51
Yes, and there’s another side to this that I think is really valuable. So I know roughly how much time it’s going to take me to sell a book, whatever level of book that is, right? So, it’s very clear, I’ve done it a long time, I know, but here’s the cool thing for an author. If you’re going, “You know what, she’s making it sound so difficult, I’m just going to self publish.” Here’s the great plan that you should consider. SO here it is, if you are going to think about self publishing, if you can’t get an agent or a publisher, here’s all you have to do. You have to write the book proposal to the best of your ability. So when you have that book proposal, now you float it out into the world to share it with agents. SO there’s a video on my Keller Media YouTube channel called Wendy’s Rule of 30, it’ll tell you how to find an agent, and in great detail.
Wendy Keller: 18:37
So anyway, I’ll skip that for now. So now your proposal is being shopped. Let’s say you get an agent, “Hooray, you got an agent!” Well it’s going to take the agent maybe, for me it takes usually four to six weeks, but some agents will want three months or six months to sell your book, okay fine. So while the agents doing that, go right ahead and write your book, whatever. When the agent comes back to you and says, “Look, here’s an offer for $10,000, $50,000, $100,000 dollars, or here’s self publishing, which do you want? You’ve only been able to achieve that wonderful decision making because you had a great book proposal, and it didn’t cost you anything. You learned how to do the book proposal, you gave it to an agent, and if you say no to the deal, the agent has to walk away from it, even if you don’t want it.
Wendy Keller: 19:23
On the other hand, if the agent doesn’t come back with a deal, or doesn’t come back with a deal worth the kind of money you think your book is worth, then you can walk on that too. So you can always self publish because you’ve given yourself the first option of getting a deal with a major publisher.
Stacy Jones: 19:38
Yeah, and I think even just from, because I’ve seen your course outline so I can speak to it, but I think that if you’re going in and writing a book, what your outline does is it gives you the building blocks to work from so you’re not going sporadically all over the place.
Wendy Keller: 19:57
Right, right. Because the process of writing a proposal is teaching you how to differentiate your book from the other materials that’s already out there, which you’re going to need no matter how you publish. It’s teaching you what the structure of your book should be. So I do a lecture for 45ish minutes explaining what this needs to look like, and how to do it, and how to make it really easy for yourself. You’re going to need that no matter how you publish. I also have you talk about your marketing plan, you’re going to need that no matter how you publish. So pretty much all of it, other than your bio, is stuff you’re going to need anyway. So you may as well work through a proposal, give an agent a shot at selling it, the best agent you can get, and then wait to see what happens.
Wendy Keller: 20:39
If they come back, great. Or you can go on vacation for three moths, and then wait for the agent to come back, and then make a decision. It’s really a great way to hedge your bets because good stuff, and people don’t believe this, they’re like, “Well you know, I’ve had 72 agents turn me down. Don’t you be the 73rd.” Well the truth is, if it was good … This is a secret. We elbow each other for the good content, I mean we are vicious, we are sharks with one sardine and we haven’t eaten for a month. I mean we go bananas.
Wendy Keller: 21:11
When I’m interested in a project, and it crosses my desk, I’m not the first person to see what we get shown usually, unless it’s a direct referral from an existing client, but if it comes in from the slush pile, from the queries, if I have even a hint that this is going to be a big project, I pick up the phone right away and I call that author because I know that all the other agents are going to be on it at the same moment. Usually they’ll say, “Oh my God, you’re the eighth agent to call me today or to write me an e-mail.” That’s how it really happens if you’re on the right track.
Stacy Jones: 21:42
Yeah, it means you actually have that sparkle of gold dust.
Wendy Keller: 21:46
Yes, big gold dust. Hoepfully a big gold vein.
Stacy Jones: 21:50
Okay. So someone joins you and writes a book outline. Someone joins another whatever it is to do an actual plan, to put it together, and obviously the benefit is if they sign up with you and they do this course then it’s not just sitting here going, “One day I’m going to write a book. One day I’m going to get around to it. One day I’m going to stop living life enough to find the time to do this.” It’s going to actually make you do it. So that’s another benefit, I think, of your course in general.
Wendy Keller: 22:19
Stacy Jones: 22:19
It’s putting your butt in a seat and it makes you start making a plan and writing.
Wendy Keller: 22:24
And we [inaudible 00:22:26] people if they don’t meet the deadlines. There’s homework deadlines, it’s very simple, I’ve done this … I’ve taught more than 25,000 writers this process in all different formats. Now I’m finally doing a live online course, but we will be after you if you’re not turning it in, and yes life happens and there are emergencies, but I’ve done it enough to be able to elongate the hard parts of the course so that people can actually get time to do it, if they have kids, if they have a job, if they have a job and they have a sick parent, whatever, it’s doable in a normal human’s life. You might have to sacrifice two hours of television a week, but most people are willing to do that if it’s going to change their life.
Stacy Jones: 23:05
Okay, so you’ve done the book proposal, signed on to Wendy Keller, you’re going, going, going. Woo hoo! Book proposals done, she’s giving you flying colors. What happens then, whether they’re working with you, or they work with another agent, what are the next steps? How does it play out?
Wendy Keller: 23:27
So, like I said, you’re welcome to go on vacation once you’ve got an agent. So here’s why. So the first thing the agents going to do once the agent has approved the proposal, whichever agent you get, and about … The crazy thing is, in my last two book proposal classes, and I’m not saying this to pump myself up, but to my delight, for the students that did not have books that we were able to represent because they were outside our category, more than 50% of the students who finished the program got the agents that they were going after. So that was a really, I feel really proud about that, I feel really happy for those students.
Wendy Keller: 24:05
So once the agent has the proposal, and one agent said, “You tell Wendy,” because I know him, he said, “You tell Wendy this is a great project. It’s one of the easiest proposals that’s come in.” Because it’s already done, which agents love, because then we don’t have to work on building a proposal. So what the agent does is we take this proposal, and we think about which editors we know personally are going to be most interested. So you as a consumer might go, “Oh, here’s are the houses that handle business books.” But we’re thinking, “Yeah, but there’s nine editors at that house. One handles leadership, and one handles entrepreneurship, and two of them handle personal business finance.” So I’m going to choose a handle business finance and, which one wants this kind of project, and is she in the office this week, or is he going to be the person who’s most excited about working with this kind of an author? Do we have the personal knowledge of the editors?
Wendy Keller: 24:55
We’re going to select usually 10 to 16 editors, that’s all there exists who can afford to pay a good advance in America right now, there’s only 12 to 16 people who are going to be interested in your book. So we’re going to send the project simultaneously to all of them and say, “Hey, this is what we got.” And then we start the work. So it’s phone calls, and emails, and if think you’re going to sell for over a hundred thousand dollars, even over two hundred thousand, I’m going to ask you to take a day out of your life and to meet me in New York, and we’re going to go around the circle, and we’re going to meet everybody’s who’s interested in you. All this stuff is going on. This is what agents do. This is where we earn the first part of our money.
Wendy Keller: 25:30
Then you get to a place where at least one of those editors has made an offer, right? So could be a small offer, doesn’t matter, any offer counts. Then I call all the editors who still have it and I say, “Oh my God, you’re going to miss out on it. Poor you, it’s already got an offer, you’re slow.” I scare them, and this is how all agents do it. We scare the poor editors, and we make them read it on their lunch, or on the weekend, or whatever, so they don’t miss out on this wonderful book that we’re trying to sell them. Then we have hopefully more than one offer, you negotiate amongst the publishers. There are different things than the amount of the advance. There’s terms, and there’s sub-rights, and there’s all kinds of parts to a contract. Hundreds of details to deal with. Then your agent will come back to you, and call you, “Well guess what? I’ve got something happy to tell you.” Then you make a decision.
Stacy Jones: 26:16
And then [crosstalk 00:26:17]. Then you still have to write the book.
Wendy Keller: 26:24
Yeah, but that’s nine months, and you can do it yourself, you can hire an editor. If you’ve been through the proposal side, you will be really clear on what needs to be done, whether you choose to write it yourself, you hire a ghost writer, or you write it with an editor. That’s becoming more popular. People want to write their own content, so they hire a developmental editor who will go through it and say, “I don’t understand this concept. Why did you say this story in two versions.” That’s a developmental editor. A line editor goes and says, “You didn’t have this punctuation correctly.” That’s down the road, nobody cares about that. So it’s the developmental editing cooperative that most people are choosing at this moment.
Wendy Keller: 27:02
A couple years ago, everybody wanted a ghost writer because they thought it was very fancy to be able to pay $25,000 to have someone else write your book for you.
Stacy Jones: 27:10
I’m sure the ghost writers were quite happy.
Well, yeah. We have a lot of them. We have ghost writers at each level that we keep kind of, we call it in their stable. All agents call it that. So I have maybe 30 something ghost writers that are working different projects at any time. So it’s a big piece of it. Then there are editors that you keep on top of it too so that the book … So the idea is that when the book gets to the publishing house, it’s as good as you can make it, and then they will do their own developmental and line editing. Then when everybody agrees that it’s a great book, then it can get published.
Wendy Keller: 27:47
That’s one reason self published books or hybrid published books are usually junkie and they don’t get the media and they don’t get their respect because they know that one person, and then maybe someone who was getting paid, either the hybrid publisher who was getting money, or you spent $5000 on some editor, that person … if they’re not working for a publishing house, they’re just going to sit around and tell you how wonderful you are. You’;re not getting any real editorial support, which is why in the middle of a business book you might find a chapter about dealing with aliens.
Wendy Keller: 28:16
I’ve seen so many crazy things.
Stacy Jones: 28:20
Okay. So, now you’ve written your book. Now it’s been edited, it’s even gotten down to being line edited, and it’s off to publication. What happens after that?
Wendy Keller: 28:33
Well, it kind of depends on the agents interest in marketing. So if you’re a Keller Media client, you will get at least an hour with me where I’m going to tell you long before you’ve even started writing the book, here’s how to shift the content if you’re looking to become a speaker, because there’s specific things you have to do. Or here are the specific ways you should change the way you’re writing the book, the actual process of writing it, if you want to get more consulting. Or if you’re only interested in growing your social media platform, here’s how to do that. Whatever your thing is, so we work backwards from your goal. I don’t know what other agents do because I’m not an author for another agent, but I would hope that you would have an agent who’s more interested in marketing than book selling because we can sell the book in our sleep after, it’s not rocket science.
Wendy Keller: 29:20
It is for authors, but it’s not for us. So now you have this agent who’s helped you work backwards on it. So two to three months before the book comes out, if you’re going to, you’re going to retain a publicist, if you want, to work in conjunction with you, your staff, and the publisher’s publicity department, whatever, to create a master plan to make this book as successful as possible. Then you’re going to continue with that publicist for 90 days after release because really that 90 day window after release is critical. If you sell a lot of books in that space, you will sell a lot of books doing forward because there are triggers in the industry. So if your book comes out and it does well, those triggers will be clicked and you will find a momentum happening that will hopefully exceed your wildest dreams.
Wendy Keller: 30:08
If you only do marginally well in those first 90 days, you may still get your goal, it may just take a little longer, and the industry isn’t going to be putting as much resource and attention behind you as you would’ve got. I don’t mean me as an agent, but I mean the publisher themselves. So a lot of it depends on how well you’re setup and how good your marketing plan is executed, and how seriously you’re paying attention to it. If you say, “Well, I took off a year to write my book and now I’m going to go back to speaking because my book just released.” You won’t succeed. You need to keep that growing, the platform needs to keep growing so that you have, we call them pre-sales, before the book comes out. Which will queue up sales after the book comes out. Then you just keep turning the crank.
Wendy Keller: 30:48
That’s how you become Gary Vaynerchuk, or Brené Brown, or Jeffery Hayslett, or any major author. That’s how it really works. You pay attention to the marketing before and after publication.
Stacy Jones: 31:02
Okay, and so you mentioned earlier that you can get a book advance. It can be $100,000, it could be five dollars, whatever it is, right? Hopefully more than five dollars because you’re not going to be doing this if it’s five dollars. So, when that happens and the books been published, when does an author actually start seeing potential money, if they’re doing well.
Wendy Keller: 31:26
Okay, so that’s a great question. So when you get, so let’s use the number $10,000 because $10,000 is a fairly average, nonfiction book advance. So when you get a $10,000 advance, this is for those of you who, like me, are not math whizzes. If you get a $10,000 advance from your publisher, they’re going to give you $5,000 when you sign the contract. So at the beginning of the process before you’ve even written the book, they’re going to give you that $5,000, 50%. If it’s over, probably if it’s over $100,00, they’re only going to give you a third to start, but we’ll assume the easiest. So they’re giving you 50% now, and then they’re going to give you 50%, the final $5,000 on what’s called DNA, delivery and acceptance.
Wendy Keller: 32:07
That means you’ve turned in your best manuscript, they’re developmental editor has read it, they’ve sent it back to you with changes, you’ve sent it back with those changes incorporated, they’ve sent it to a line editor, the line editor has read it, the line editor has passed it, you’ve passed it, the publisher has passed it, and now they’re ready to go to press in two, or three, or six months, whatever it is. That’s when they will give the second cheque.
Wendy Keller: 32:28
Okay, so now you’ve got $10,000 of their money in your pockets for nothing, really just writing the book. That’s not the hard part. So now you’ve got this money, and now everybody’s going to team together, your agent, you, your publisher, the publisher’s publicity department, your hired publicist, Stacy the podcast queen, whatever you’ve got going on, and you’re going to actually start marketing this book. Now let’s just say for maths’ sake your book is a $10 book. It’s $10, that’s called the list price, the number that’s printed on the book. So if it’s $10 and let’s just imagine you’re only going to get 10% of that, you’re making one dollar per book. When your book has sold ten thousand and one copies, the publisher owes you another dollar. The reason for that is they already gave you $10,000 which is their rough estimate of how much they think your book is going to earn you in that first year. So the size of the advance is based on what they think you’re going to do.
Wendy Keller: 33:22
Surprise them. Blow their minds. Sometimes authors do that, and it’s great. So, you’ll be getting that one dollar a year later, you’ll be passed the advance. We call that earn out. You will have earned out your advance. So sometimes getting a small advance is a good deal for a publisher, for an author, and I encourage them to take a smaller advance because I know that their platform is growing in such a way that they’re going to earn out that advance really quickly, which will open the door to a second book. If your first book doesn’t earn out, or if you self publish, and it’s sold fewer than 2500 units, which is really hard to do. 2500 units is a huge number of successes in self publishing. If you sold 2500 or less in 12 months, you aren’t going to get a second book. If you never earn out on your first book, you may not get a second chance ever because the publishing industry looks at it and says, “This person failed. Why would we take a shot on someone who failed?”
Wendy Keller: 34:21
But, if you do the right things and you market it successfully, you could be making a huge amount of money. So a long time ago when I was a young agent, I learned this great story. I was representing C. Todd Conover, who had been the Comptroller of the Currency under President Reagan, amazing, brilliant man. Just off the charts. Mr. Conover, this would have been in the mid 90s I think, and Mr. Conover had sold a book on how to leave your wealth with minimum taxes if you have over a million dollars. So this was a long time ago, there weren’t that many millionaires in the U.S. yet, and so he had written this book and he helped people do strategic wealth planning [inaudible 00:35:03] to pass around to other generations.
Wendy Keller: 35:05
He wrote the book and I didn’t know this was possible, so I called him like six months later and I was like, “Mr. Conover, sir, it’s time to write a second book.” And he sent the comment that changed my life as an agent. He said, “Wendy, I don’t have time to write a second book. This one has changed my career. My number of clients has gone up 300%.” I realized that if a book is used as a business tool, even though it may not be selling units, it could be making a fortune for a client. That’s when I got interested in marketing way more than just selling the book.
Stacy Jones: 35:39
That’s where speaking opportunities for example come in, right?
Wendy Keller: 35:43
Heck yeah. If you get a $25,000 book advance, which again, is not very high. Let’s say you get a $25,000 book advance and your speaking fee on the day I sell your book is $5,000. So you have $25,000 advance and you get an average of $5,000 as a speaker on the day your agent sells your book, you should double all future … increase all future bookings by 50%. So you need to start telling meeting planners who haven’t nailed down that hold yet, so basically haven’t made a contract or a deposit, you need to say, “Hey, I just got a book deal with McGraw-Hill, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, so my fees are going to go up in January, or June,” or whatever you say, “To $7500, and when the book comes out, they’re going up to $10,000. So, poopie or get off the potty. Make this booking now.” That will usually trigger the meeting planners to scramble for you, and to try to get that, especially if you happen to decide to interview maybe the CEO of the company that’s going to bring you in, maybe to speak.
Wendy Keller: 36:45
You’re obviously moving in the right direction. So now let’s imagine now you’re making $10,000 per speech, and the fact that you’ve got this book, which you only got $25,000 for, and it was a pain in the neck to right it I understand, but now you’ve got 20 new speeches coming up this coming year. That now you’re in a position where you control a lot of money coming in because you did the book, even if it’s not coming directly from the book itself.
Stacy Jones: 37:11
And then you start looking at ghost writers. So, what else can people do to help market themselves, help build themselves a platform? I know you wrote a book on it, which you mentioned earlier, and we’ll share all of this, your website for the proposal writing class, your book, and your actual website too in our show notes. What are the first steps there with building a platform, and it’s probably never too early to start.
Wendy Keller: 37:44
No, you should’ve started yesterday to build a platform. Here’s the first step. The first step is to figure out what you want as an end goal. If you were ever to get on the phone with me about your book, the first thing I would say is what do you want the book to do? People will always go on a tangent about saving the world, and helping the walruses in Nigeria, to build their own businesses, whatever it is. That’s lovely, but what I’m going to push you to is telling me what you really want. Do you want to be a speaker, do you want to be a consultant, do you want more of something, what are you trying to do?
Wendy Keller: 38:17
It’s great if you’re saving the world, how many people are you saving now, how many do you want to save next year, right? So, from that comes the answer to how you’re going to market yourself. So if you know what you want, then you know what your avatar is. The book talks, at the first [inaudible 00:38:32] saying it now in summary, your avatar is critical. Who are the people who are going to be most benefited by your work? If it’s the walruses, or it’s females who read self help books far more than men do who are having trouble in their relationships and who want to solve those problems. Okay, we’ve seen thousands of books, millions of books on that topic.
Wendy Keller: 38:58
Okay, so now you know who that is, well you might not know this but women between 25 and 55 buy those books. So where are those women now? Well they’re on Facebook, okay, but Facebook doesn’t really help sell books, and there are a million people on Facebook. So I’m going start a podcast like Stacy, I want to grow up and be like Stacy. Well Stacy’s also a marketing professional. Podcasting has burgeoned, we wrote the book on podcasting. My client Steve Weston wrote the book Profitable Podcasting, which is the best seller in how to get started podcasting, but because there’s so many podcasts now, if you didn’t get an early start like Stacy did, it’s going to be hard for you to just grow a podcast out of thin air, there’s too much competition.
Wendy Keller: 39:37
So what are you going to do? Start workshops in your house. Start workshops at the local library. Start speaking to hospitals. Start speaking to women’s groups. Start speaking in, okay, you don’t want to speak? “Oh, I don’t want to speak.” Start writing articles. Start a club. Start a group of meetups. Look for women who you can train to go out and speak on your behalf. There are ten thousand trillion, gazillion ways to grow a platform doing what you’re good at, not everything, but what you’re good at, and where your avatar is.
Wendy Keller: 40:07
So once you know your avatar, then you go after increasing them because like I said, a publisher can supersize what you’ve got, but they can’t create you out of nothing. You must have something. So if you’re already proving that your worth appeal for those women with bad lives and bad relationships, we can make that bigger when the book deal happens, but in the meantime, you need to find them. There’s hundreds of ways to build a platform. I talk about, I don’t know, I think 60 something of them in the book on platform building because there’s so many, and they should be personalized to your goal and your talents. If you’re not a natural speaker, don’t speak, right? Okay, go do something else. Don’t kill yourself over it, don’t make yourself uncomfortable, and don’t spread yourself too thin.
Wendy Keller: 40:47 If Stacy had come to me and she said, “Oh, you know, also I’m blogging. Also, I’m trying to be a speaker. Oh, and did I mention I have kids? Yeah on top of that I’m also starting women’s groups, and I’ve got …” She’s going to be spread too thin, unless she’s got a staff of 500 people to do all this. Do what you can do, and do it well.
Stacy Jones: 41:05
On that note, I know Steven, so I will also, and that’s how I actually know Wendy because he’s part of a agency group that I’m a member of, but he has a phenomenal book, they really did a great book together. It’s a wonderful foundation for podcasting and understanding how you can actually grow your business by podcasting.
Wendy Keller: 41:29
Yes, absolutely. Growing your business, again, is one of the ways you grow your business is by doing a book. It’s not necessarily that podcasting doesn’t work at all to plead purpose. It’s that it’s hard to get started in podcasting with enough time to get your proposal done, to make enough of a splash in podcasting, to sell your book this year. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Stacy Jones: 41:52
Yep, and that makes sense. It sounds like you have a book too. If you’ve only written 60 ways to build a platform out of hundreds that you have, just think you have another book you can write Wendy.
Wendy Keller: 42:01
Oh, I don’t really want to write any more books. Thank you. One is enough, I’m just, I’m done.
Stacy Jones: 42:08
Is there any other insight you’d like to share with our listeners today?
Wendy Keller: 42:13
Yeah, I think I would like to say this, and despite everything I’ve said, if you have a subject that you’re passionate about, or you have a goal for your life, your business that you’re passionate about, it’s just a matter of figuring out the Rubik’s cube. It’s not like it’s set up to be difficult. It looks like the odds are stacked against you, they’re really not. If there’s one thing you take from this, please take this, that if you do this right, agents will be biting each other to get the privilege of representing you.
Wendy Keller: 42:46
You’ve heard stories about how hard publishing is, and how many people are rejected. That’s because they don’t have a good proposal, and they didn’t understand what the publishing industry is looking for because we’re the gatekeepers, after it goes through us, then it reaches the public. That’s the most important thing. This is easy if you do it right, and really frustrating if you do it wrong.
Stacy Jones: 43:04
That is great advice. Besides the advice of course that, from me, to sign up for Wendy’s proposal class because it sounds like it’s going to make it a lot easier.
Wendy Keller: 43:16
Yes. I think I’m going to do it three times a year. This is the third one this year. Bookproposalworkshop.com, and the transformation and the tiers are really what I didn’t expect. Some of you would get deals, but also that I would get even grown men calling me, choked up, saying, “I had no idea what I didn’t know.” That means a lot to me, that’s my little gift to the world.
Stacy Jones: 43:39
That’s phenomenal. Well Wendy, I want to thank you again for coming on to the podcast today. I really do value your time.
Wendy Keller: 43:47
Thank you, thank you. It’s been great. You’re spectacular.
Stacy Jones: 43:51 A
nd your advice because I think that, you know it’s interesting, I have spoken with almost every podcast guest I’ve had, or when I’m in conversations with other agency owners through the agency group that I’m a member of, or just out and about talking with clients, everyone has this little passion and dream, and I think a lot of times that they know that in their head, they’ve made it if they’ve written a book. If they’ve published a book. That’s a goal a lot of people have, especially entrepreneurs. It’s just part of that, “Check that list off, I did it!” So, it’s great that you’re offering an opportunity in a way that people can kind of sit down and do it, and put their butts in a seat, and get going without just doing it blindly.
Wendy Keller: 44:42
Oh thank you very much. It’s such a great feeling to call somebody who’s never had a book deal before and say, “Guess what! This is how much money you’re going to get, and this is the publishing house.” That’s the happiest moment of my experience with any book. So, how nice. Thank you so much, and I look forward. I hope to someday representing you, and you have just done so many amazing things in your career. Your platform is magnificent, and I hope we get through the proposal class and we are able to do something wonderful together.
Wendy Keller: 45:09 And go out and buy Stacy’s book about a year from now!
Stacy Jones: 45:11
There you go, and then to all of our listeners, thank you so much for tuning in today to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I look forward to chatting with you on our next podcast.
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