The truth about "distribution" (what you need to know)
Why you should you sell directly to your audience (as an author or indie creator) instead of Amazon
The benefits of FB messenger bot (from both a sales and support perspective)
How to setup your FB messenger bot to generate new signups and sales
How to grow your audience using Facebook Messenger and how to put it on autopilot (real autopilot...as in, set once and forget)
We also discuss specific ways to organize your Facebook Messenger bot sequences and ways of structuring your Facebook Messenger bot messages via Manychat.
Is Facebook Messenger for you? Thinking about trying it out? Share your thoughts, questions, and comments below.
(If you're interested in seeing my complete Manychat Facebook Messenger bot sequence for new readers / visitors, leave a comment below. If I get enough interest I'll do a follow up video about how it's worked out for us.)
Today, I want to share some of my lessons learned (the good, the bad, and the ugly) from writing this book...
But first, a bit of background:
I started this project a year ago this month. I actually ran the Publishizer.com crowdfunding campaign in November and doubled my funding goal by early December, 2015. To be honest, with my small audience of about 1,500 subscribers, I wasn't sure I'd be able to hit my goal...but somehow we made it happen (thank you to all my early adopters - couldn't have done it without you).
The problem with crowdfunding campaigns, though...especially successful ones...is that you now have to make good on the promise.
While the campaign was hard work, writing and creating a book worth reading was the REAL hard work (young Tom would later come to find out).
And now, what started as just an idea about 360 days ago, has finally become a 352 page, beautifully designed and formatted book published by Insurgent Publishing, and is almost ready for hardcover printing and distribution.
Here's a mockup of what the hardcover will look like when it gets into your sweet little hands in January, 2016:
To say I'm thrilled to see this come together is an understatement.
And I couldn't have done it without you, the reader (nor would I have wanted to).
As a way to say thanks, here are 7 of my biggest "lessons learned" from writing a business book:
7 Lessons Learned From Writing a Business Book
Lesson #1: If it's worthwhile, it will be hard to write
To be clear, Collaborate is not my first book and not my first business book, but it is the biggest, most bold book project I've undertaken , and dwarfs the other books I've written in terms of raw content and scope.
The idea for Collaborate has been incubating in my brain for the past 3 to 5 years. I wasn't ready to write this book for the longest time. Ironically, even after finishing it, I still don't feel ready to write it in a lot of ways...
Because I'm writing something that hasn't been written before...not in this way, not in this style, not for this purpose.
It's (generally) easy to regurgitate what others have said - it's much more difficult to develop a new framework by collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing hundreds of seemingly disparate ideas, perspectives, case studies, research, and more...and do so in a way that is easy to follow, to understand, to use, and to embrace.
Harder still to make sure that the majority of readers will actually benefit from the book (in other words, to avoid writing fluffy drivel...I HATE fluffy drivel...).
I pulled my hair out for the past twelve months writing and rewriting Collaborate.
I seriously felt like this:
I think I went through at least 5 unique drafts, totally different from one another. The current iteration, the one you will see in your hands in a few weeks, went through over a hundred iterations as the writing progressed.
If you're not up to the task, scrap the idea before you start; it will save you a lot of time, money, and pain.
Alternatively, if you're committed to your idea - if you know you have to turn this thing into reality....and you have the grit and hustle to make sure it comes to fruition, then make sure you finish and ship. Anything else is half-stepping (and nobody likes a half-stepper).
Learning Lesson: doing anything worthwhile is hard; don't run from the discomfort, embrace it.
Lesson #2: Whatever your estimated timeline, quadruple it
Humans are terrible planners.
I know this from heuristics, but academic studies have confirmed it. From Wikipedia:
"The planning fallacy, first proposed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979, is a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias (underestimate the time needed). This phenomenon occurs regardless of the individual's knowledge that past tasks of a similar nature have taken longer to complete than generally planned."
The funny thing is, no matter how well I "know" myself, I still make huge timeline mistakes on just about any project that will take more than a week to create and ship.
I expected to finish Collaborate in 3 months.
I was all like:
But then I started writing...
And the project became much more complex than I expected...
And I had to do a lot more research, analysis, and work than I anticipated...
And I ended up not finishing Collaborate until November 2016, one year later, or 4x longer than expected.
At this point I'm all like:
...and I'm just happy, that, somehow magically, Collaborate is finished.
Why, knowing we are bad at planning, can we not mitigate this reality?
I honestly have no idea.
Neither does science.
Learning Lesson: The only thing I can say is that if you're starting a new project, use this rule of wrist:
Whatever your estimated time to complete a project, quadruple it.
Lesson #3: Nobody will write your book for you
I write, although I don't consider myself a writer.
And I'm certainly not one of those people who wears the word "writer" proudly like a piece of Chotchkie's flair.
That said, I recognize that writing is an important part of what I do - and an important part of what any notable entrepreneur, creator, or politician does.
I also learned pretty quick that, regardless of how much you might hate the writing process at times, nobody can write your book for you.
I learned this the hard way. Here are just a few of my missteps:
Mistake 1. I tried using old blog posts as the foundation for my new book. I really liked the idea of re-purposing useful, old (but still relevant) content. However, blog posts are blog posts and are not chapters in a book; they are written a different way with a different purpose. I ended up scrapping everything I pulled from my own blog and rewriting everything from scratch...this set me back several weeks.
Mistake 2. I looked for a co-author. I actually found a great one, a good friend of mine, actually, but after a few sessions, we parted ways because we realized the vision for the book didn't quite align. I could have looked for another, but after spending a couple weeks trying to make this work, I decided that the particular vision I have for this project is probably only one I can bring to light (no one else will see the things the way you do). While I love the idea of co-authoring a book, for something like this that had been incubating in my brain ball for so long, it was hard to work with anyone else on it (my mistake for not recognizing this from the start). In the end, I was left writing the book by myself.
Mistake 3. I hired someone to transcribe my interviews into working pieces of content. In other words, I didn't just want the pieces transcribed (well, I wanted that to begin with), I wanted them edited into a book-like style (with intros, properly quoting the interviewee in the context of the topic, etc.) so I could more easily place them into the context of the book. I put a lot of money toward this and what I got back were "articles" that were so incoherent with so many spelling and grammar mistakes that I literally laughed out loud. This was from a professional ghost writer, mind you. I tried to rectify the situation by asking for a rewrite...which I got, but the articles were still terrible...so I asked for a rewrite, and got back another terrible article, just with less spelling and grammar mistakes...
When I got back the third iteration of terrible, expensive articles, I was all like:
But regardless of how upset I was, there was still work to be done...and I was still forced to write everything myself.
Learning Lesson: If you're a picky writer (and you should be if you're writing something worthwhile...see Lesson #1 above), nobody can write your words for you. Suck it up and get to work.
Lesson #4: Create in the proper sequence
After my crowdfunding campaign I spent a lot of time organizing design notes, prepping my live webinars, outlining my course...
Which is all great, and still stuff I need to do, but these weren't CRITICAL PATH items, which means working on them in the beginning slowed my progress.
I would explain the critical path, but Seth Godin is much smarter than me:
"The longest string of dependent, non-compressible tasks is the critical path.
Every complicated project is the same. Many people working on many elements, some of which are dependent on others. I want a garden, which means I need grading, a bulldozer, a permit, seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, weeding, planting, maintenance and time for everything to grow. Do those steps in the wrong order, nothing happens. Try to grow corn in a week by giving it a bonus or threatening to fire it, nothing happens...
Critical path analysis works backward, looking at the calendar and success and at each step from the end to the start, determining what you'll be waiting on.
For example, in your mind's eye, the garden has a nice sign in front. The nice sign takes about a week to get made by the sign guy, and it depends on nothing. You can order the sign any time until a week before you need it. On the other hand, you can't plant until you grade and you can't grade until you get the delivery of soil and you can't get the delivery until you've got a permit from the local town.
Which means that if you're the person in charge of both the sign and the permit, do the permit first." - Seth Godin, Understanding critical path
Bottom line, whatever you are creating needs to be created in a particular sequence. That particular sequence should be developed by creating a critical path plan. That critical path plan should be developed at the start of your project by working backward from the ship date.
If you're writing a book, stop looking at interior design inspiration before the book is written...
If you're building a startup, stop analyzing competitor logos before you have an MVP...
If you're building a membership site, stop reading about "scaling" until you have at least 10 customers...
I know all this, but I broke my own rules (for the first couple months at least).
Eventually, though, I defined the critical path and stuck to it. And finally, I was all like:
Learning Lesson: the hardest work you can do as a leader (solo or collaboratively) is defining the critical path and sticking to it. It's the hardest because it's the most important. Don't skip it.
Lesson #5: The Enemy will try to make you fail
Seth Godin calls it the lizard brain; Steven Pressfield calls it resistance; Winnie the Pooh calls it Heffalumps...
I like to refer to those things that keep us from doing our great work as the Enemy.
All the ups and downs of writing Collaborate came from the Enemy; it was never any external forces that kept me from writing faster or better - it was the Enemy trying to stop me from reaching, expanding, and stretching my boundaries.
Luckily, I took care of the Enemy every time I saw it rear its ugly head:
Lesson learned: if you're trying to do something new, different, outside your current status-quo or paradigm, the Enemy will sabatoge, prevent, and slow your progress every step of the way. Accept this. Keep moving anyway.
Lesson #6: Every book is a collaboration
I mentioned earlier that nobody will write your book for you. That's still true. But, if you're a writer (and if you're the author, that's what you are), then stick to writing. Get experts to edit, design, market, and sell.
I leveraged an amazing team of experts to bring Collaborate to life.
I had multiple editors, a great designer, and have a team that's ready to market and sell the book when I pull the trigger. I would not attempt any of this alone.
Lesson learned: make sure you're not going it alone. No matter how small your project, it could benefit from creative collaborators. If you aren't sure how that works or where to start...hey, look at that! A new book on the subject:
In Collaborate, you will learn:
How to take personal inventory of your business and life to make better choices
How to define, identify, and connect with experts in your niche
How to assemble and organize a small team to create faster, better, and more enjoyably
How to rapidly prototype your idea, presell it, and then collaboratively crowdsource to build the final product
How to leverage the best free and inexpensive software to make remote, collaborative work a breeze
And that a spark can turn into a great fire that can change our lives, as long as we bring the resources and hustle necessary to make that happen.
How then do we expose ourselves to great ideas?
The short answer:
Books are the perfect harbinger for ideas:
Books give writers the space to explore and analyze an idea in depth (much more so then the modern mediums of blogging, podcasting, or youtube, for example)
Books are compact enough to hold, carry, and share easily with others (and this ease of sharing is increased exponentially through digital books and ereaders)
Books require focused attention from the reader, making the understanding of the idea being spread much more likely (no adds will popup in a book...and hopefully the author has the good taste to not add too many links in the text)
On that note, I want to share a few books with you that have personally sparked positive change in my own life.
These books are specifically related to business, entrepreneurship, and / or startups in some way, shape, or form, but I think many of the lessons from these books extend far beyond that subject matter.
My hope is that if even one of these books creates a spark for you like they have for me, the world (or at least the people who matter) will be a lot better off.
1. Poke the Box by Seth Godin
The book that started it all for me.
I read Poke the Box in 2011 when it was first released. It was figuratively the poke (or better yet: kick) I needed to stop talking about all the ideas I had and start bringing them to life.
You won't find anything "how-to" in this book - instead you'll find about 96 pages of cajoling, prodding, and poking with one call to action:
Start. Today, not tomorrow.
Also, the design of the book, from the cover, to the shape, size, and weight of the book is something special. It's such an easy book to pick up, read, and share, making it truly timeless (it's also one of my biggest motivators for becoming a publisher in the first place, so I owe a lot to this book).
I'm biased here - I had the opportunity to work with Dan to launch this book (his first) to market.
That said, I loved this book from the first read through - it challenged me to reevaluate the business I was building, specifically how I was building it. Was I taking calculated and measurable action rapidly, or hiding behind research, study, and other things that don't actually allow us to validate our work?
The book itself has been a bestseller since launch, sitting next to the biggest names in business / startup nonfiction, including Peter Thiel's Zero to One (another book that made this list) and Eric Ries' The Lean Startup. The fact that the book stands next to these giants speaks for itself.
At a fluff-free 150 pages, you can read it this evening and be launching your business tomorrow.
Jeff Goins, author of Wrecked and The In-Between, is getting ready to launch his latest book: The Art of Work.
Full-disclosure: because I'm working with Jeff on his new book launch I got early access to the book itself. After reading it in one sitting, I can say this: The Art of Work is an essential book for every artist, writer, and entrepreneur - and at times, it's a tearjerker (although I was born without tear glands, so I definitely didn't cry).
Jeff has an uncanny ability to approach a subject analytically yet passionately, never losing focus of the big picture (the "why"). In The Art of Work, Jeff gives us a framework for approaching our life's work - what we were meant to do - and does so with enough tough love to get us moving.
Life is too short to do what doesn’t matter, to waste your time on things that don’t amount to much. What we all want is to know our time on earth has meant something." - Jeff Goins, The Art of Work
While The Art of Work won't be officially released until mid March, Jeff is doing something really cool: he's giving away free copies of his book (you just have to pick up the shipping and handling).
So if you're looking for a powerful, easy read (that won't be so easy to forget), grab it while it's hot:
This book taught me to how to turn a great idea into an actionable business model, one that reduces waste (of time and money), uncertainty (the framework will help you figure out what you don't know), and fear (because your sole focus becomes validation).
This should be required reading for freshmen in high school, along with a corresponding four year track that teaches students how businesses operate, how startups work, and practical, hands-on experimentation to test out the theory in real life.
Sorry for that aside. I just think this book is incredible. I'll get off my high horse now.
an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision making when we don’t understand the world, expressed in the form of a personal essay with autobiographical sections, stories, parables, and philosophical, historical, and scientific discussions in nonoverlapping volumes that can be accessed in any order." - Nassim Taleb
Antifragile and Nassim Taleb's corresponding incerto are some of the most valuable books I've ever read in my life. A combination of timeless philosophy, astute mathematics and statistics, and enjoyably opinionated reflection on the modern world, Taleb doesn't pull punches nor does he sell out to industry leaders, many who he unabashedly calls our for being frauds.
A must read if you're starting a new venture as it will help you build an antifragile business (a concept and term you'll grow to love as you explore Taleb's Antifragile).
Not a business book but certainly more than a book exclusively for writers, The War of Art is a rallying cry for great work.
Steven Pressfield is the author of so many bestsellers it's hard to keep track (including my favorite book of all time: Gates of Fire). This book is the culmination of a lifetime of creative work, in the trenches, day after day, struggling to get noticed and sell even a single manuscript (coming close to suicide at least once in the process).
The War of Art is a tough, brutal, uncompromising book.
Yet at its core, The War of Art is hopeful.
It teaches us that we can conquer our inner creative enemy, that we don't have to throw in the towel when things get tough, that there's always a solution if we're eager and disciplined enough to find (or create) it.
Any entrepreneur intending to do something bold in this life, read this book first.
Like many of the books on this list, I wish Crossing the Chasm had been mandatory reading in high school. Not because it's easy - quite the opposite.
It's hard, but it's necessary.
It's hard to understand what makes a great product, how to grow a company beyond early adopters, and what moves an economy at its most fundamental level (believe it or not, there's more to it than supply and demand curves) - hard but necessary if you want to create a business that makes an impact.
If you're interested in how successful companies must evolve to move from early adopters to early majority, I highly recommend Crossing the Chasm.
10. Frogs into Princes by Richard Bandler and John Grinder
I'm reaching a bit with this book, but found it important enough to share.
Frogs into Princes is not a business book. In fact, it's hard to call it a book at all. It's actually a transcription from a seminar conducted by two psychiatrists and, to my knowledge, is the foundation of what has evolved into Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
From the outside, Frogs into Princes is a book on psychology, but at its core, it teaches us how people respond to triggers. In other words, what makes someone tick - or take action.
For those creative enough, these ideas can be extrapolated into the business world, helping us create products and services - and the marketing and sales copy around the product or service - that make people want to take action (buy our stuff).
Zero to One is one of the best books on startups I've ever read.
Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, takes on startups, innovation, and what it takes to create the future.
Unlike Running Lean, which provides a practical framework for creating a startup, Zero to One is more conceptual in nature, challenging preconceived notions of startups, or rather: what it takes to create a truly important startup.
Important startups are companies with products or services that move the needle from zero to one.
While The 7 Day Startup challenges us to take action today and launch something fast (which I love), Zero to One challenges us to think big and act even bigger - the perfect compliment to fast action, in my opinion.
The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.” - Peter Thiel, Zero to One
Better yet, what books do you recommend the rest of us read this year?
Share below in the comments.
In 2007, I read a book that changed my life.
While the book itself is simple (borderline elementary now that I've gone back to reread it years later), there was a single idea that I couldn't shake at the time; one that still sticks with me today.
Before I explain what that idea is, I want to put this in context:
I first read this book when I was a 20 year old West Point cadet. At the time, I was double majoring in Russian and Human Geography with a track (like a minor, but not) in environmental engineering.
By academia's standard, I was slightly above average in the brains department, and I was soon to be entrusted the lives of 30+ soldiers in combat, which I can only assume means that somewhere, someone thought I was a responsible adult (or perhaps I slipped through the cracks...we'll never know).
Yet here was a book that a middle school kid could understand (and really, that every kid ought to read) that said something I'd never heard before.
Or perhaps better stated: never fully appreciated before.
What was the idea?
Everything in life is either an asset or a liability; it either puts money into your pocket or it takes money out of your pocket.
You want more of the former and less of the latter.
Of course, after finishing the book, I didn't put it away, smugly proclaim myself smarter, and move on.
Instead, I took a deep dive into the subject, spending years devouring more books in the same genre (finance and investing). More importantly, I took action on what I learned: I saved lots of money, kept my expenses down, invested in real estate and stocks, practiced options trading, and more.
Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't - which was painful - but the important thing is that I gained an understanding of the material I was reading, not merely in concept, but in practice (this is the kind of experience that only comes from stepping inside the ring).
Finally, but no less importantly, this spurred my interest in other areas including business, publishing, and teaching.
It's hard to put a dollar figure to an idea, but I think I can safely say I'm thousands of dollars richer now than I would have been otherwise, because I read this book; because the idea resonated deeply with me; because it caused a spark...
And this of course is the point: an idea is a spark.
It has the potential to dramatically change our lives.
But it's also just that: a spark.
You still have to cut down the tree, haul the fire wood, and find the gasoline.
An idea is a spark, but you still have to cut down the tree, haul the fire wood, and find the gasoline.
Two points worth reflecting on:
1. If an idea is a spark, it is only as useful as your ability to make it into something more.
This requires resources (mental and physical - both of which you can create, grow, and increase over time) and hustle (accessible to every person on Earth at this very moment - if you choose to use it).
2. For an idea to reach us and cause an impact, it needs the right form and it needs the right conduit.
This idea didn't pass haphazardly to me through a college class (I took lots of those and was never taught anything close to this), nor YouTube, nor a podcast, nor a blog post, nor telekinesis (I'm not there yet).
It passed to me through a book.
For the purposes of message spreading, there is no better form than a book. And thanks to the internet, just about everyone in the world has the ability to reach just about everyone else in the world, making it the perfect conduit.
This means if you're in the business of spreading a message (and aren't we all?), you should sincerely consider writing and publishing a book; the impact you can create has never been higher, nor the barrier to entry lower.
But most importantly of all: there are people in the world who WANT to hear from you, who want your ideas, who need the spark...
And I think we do a disservice to the people who matter - not to mention, a disservice to ourselves - when we keep our ideas hidden.
The simple solution:
Put your ideas out there. Create a spark. Start a fire.
P.s. next week I want to share with you the book I wrote about in today's blog post, as well as 10 other books that have caused similar sparks in my life, and I hope you'll share your most important books with me too 🙂
p.p.s. I'm creating a new, free course on publishing to help people create and spread messages that matter. If you're interested, sign up here.