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E5: Writing a Book - The Learning Curve (21-25)

The Pursuit of Tyra Banks...

In this edition, we'll review two core principals:

1) Research: Why it matters, along with the most efficient way I found to capture and use it.

2) Endorsements: It's like creating a target prospecting list and hitting the phones.

Here goes...

Learnings 21-25:

21. Research matters: You’ve got two paths to write a book people want to read. You could either interview a bunch of people and bring their stories to your theories, or you can use research to reinforce your theories. Many writers just want to tell their own stories, but often those individuals are uniquely biased around the theory. In other words, nobody wants to simply hear your stories. You need backup. The research is out there. Once you’re passionate about your topic you will find tons of stuff to support your arguments. I promise.

22. Libraries have free f*cking books everywhere!: What happened in my life where I forgot that in every community, there’s a giant building filled with current and past books, where you can check them out for free, and keep them for weeks if you want? I rediscovered my library. Every afternoon I would be there. Listen to podcasts that are in your book category. Often, those podcast guests are authors. Go check out their book. Then, read the footnotes. What books did they reference? Check those out. When you get to the book you want in the library, look to the left and the right. What books are on the same shelf? Then look up and look down. What books are on the shelves above it and below it? I would grab five-to-ten books at a time, sit in the library for an hour or two and flip through them. When I’d hone in on a good one, I’d check it out. In the end, I read around twenty books for the research...and probably scanned through another fifty others. Keep in mind, your library and the library the next town over often have different books. I spent a lot of time in my local (Palatine) library, but also just up the road (Barrington). Love your library!

23. Cover endorsements: I’m a believer in having endorsements on the book...just to provide some credibility. Not a bunch of no-names...I felt like I needed people of substance. Looking at the books on my shelves, so many of the authors have endorsements from other authors. That’s great if you’re selling a book for authors. But for mine, I put myself in my reader’s shoes - would I rather read a sales book other sales leaders recommend, or other authors recommend? The answer was easy for me - so I went after top people at companies like Salesforce, SAP and others at the top of their game, with recognizable company names. I have the COO of Salesforce, the President of SAP, etc.

24. Cover endorsements - it's a sales process. And I have Tyra Banks to prove it: I treated endorsements like a sales process. First, I identified my targets. I came up with a list of ten people. I created messaging for each one, knowing that I had to be transparent, and make the process extremely easy for them. I created an “endorsement guide” for each of them. It had pre-written endorsements if they wanted them, and also a thesaurus of words associated with transparency, sales, evolution, flaws, etc. I then executed my plan - resolving that I would get an actual “yes” or “no” from each person. I’m an ass in that way - I needed to get a firm answer. Out of my ten, I ended up with seven takers. One I didn’t get was Tyra Banks. Yes...the supermodel. She coined the term “flawsome”, which means to embrace your flaws but know you’re still awesome. How would I get to her? Sales. I used my network - realizing that one of my college friends is the COO at Lionsgate Films, and another is the Chief Legal Officer in charge of IP for Netflix. I called them both. The Lionsgate friend knew Tyra’s agent. She made the connection. I went back-and-forth via email and voice mail with him. He liked the idea, but referred me to her PR team who would make the decision. I called in via his connection, pitched them through email, and waited. I wasn’t going to give up until I had a yes or no. Finally they called - they liked it! But, they didn’t know who Todd Caponi is, and said “no” - but left the door open for book number two if book number one goes well.

25. Endorsers (sometimes) need to read the entire book before endorsing: For Andy Kofoid from Salesforce, his organization required him to read the entire book cover to cover, then sign a document confirming that the book conforms to the culture and values of Salesforce. So, I went to FedEx (Kinko’s), printed the PDF out (pre-proofread), put it in a binder, overnighted it to him. He read it over a two weekend period. I nearly had a heart attack when he called after reading it. He was the first to do so (other than my editor). He loved it, but there was a paragraph he didn’t like. He was right, and I fixed it. He was the front-cover endorser.

The Tyra Banks story could be its own article, but I'll leave it there.

Next time, we'll jump into when you'll burst into tears, and also talk about where the dollars will come from. Edition 6 (26-30)

To keep getting these articles, along with Todd's other stuff, subscribe below. It ain't the greatest blog site in the world, but hopefully the content makes up for it!

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