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E2A 019: Getting Your Book Written in 2022 with Kelly Irving 

 December 1, 2021

By  Scott A. MacMillan

Some suggest great ideas are like shooting stars, gone in a flash.

That is unless you write them down. But then what? How does that good idea come to life?

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host and bestselling author Scott MacMillan speaks with award-winning book coach Kelly Irving. Together they deliver tips, tools, and insight that will help you buckle down and get that manuscript written and published in 2022.

BIO

Kelly Irving helps change makers author work that matters and makes an impact. As a bestselling-book coach, editor, and creator of The Expert Author Academy she nurtures writers from idea to implementation, with camaraderie and (firm but friendly) butt-kicking built into every step. Her work results in global book awards and major publisher deals (she has never had a book pitch rejected), and transforms businesses from 6- to 7-figure turnovers. Most importantly, it empowers authors to produce work that enriches both their life and others.


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Episode Transcript

Scott A. MacMillan:

You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast, episode number 19.

Mike Manz:

Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business, and now, here's your host, Scott MacMillan.

Scott A MacMillan:

You know you want to write a book, and you're convinced it's the right thing to do for your business. Maybe you've already outlined it or even put pen to paper, maybe more than once. But for whatever reason, your book just isn't progressing. Call it writer's block, call it procrastination, call it competing priorities. Whatever you call it, if your book remains unwritten, then today's episode may offer just what you need to get back on track.

            Now, until now, this podcast is focused on sharing the core principles laid out in Entrepreneur to Author, the book. We felt that it seemed like the logical springboard before we ventured into other areas. But in this episode, we're shifting the format a bit. From this point onward, I'll be bringing on guests who will help bring these principles to life, topical experts who have deep knowledge in a particular area and published authors who've been through the Entrepreneur to Author journey.

            They all have experiences that we can learn from. And well, my guest today has helped countless entrepreneurs, leaders, and changemakers bring their best ideas into the world. She has a 100% publisher pitch rate, and the authors that she works with are consistently being nominated for and winning awards for their books. She knows how to bring out the best from an author, whether they're working on their latest book or they're a first-time author.

            And she does it in a way that makes the whole process fun, easy, and 100% productive. And that is what we're going to be talking about today. She's going to be sharing her secrets for getting clear and confident on what you're writing about, banishing writer's block, and getting the highest impact possible, all the while speeding up the time that it takes to produce your best work. So, stick around. You're not going to want to miss this edition of Entrepreneur to Author.

            Today's guest is someone who I've gotten to know really well over the past couple of years, and for whom I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration. She epitomizes the same values that we embrace as we support authors in their entrepreneur to author journey. Excellence, strategy, impact.

            And that I think is why so many of the entrepreneurs whose books we've published at Grammar Factory are authors who've worked first with her to get their manuscript written, and why the quality of those manuscripts are in my opinion so high compared to others that we see coming in for editing. She's a book coach, editor, publishing strategist, and creator of the Expert Author Academy. Please join me in welcoming our first ever guest to the Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, Kelly Irving. Kelly, welcome. I'm so happy to have you join us.

Kelly Irving:

Thanks, Scott. I'm very super pumped to be here. I always enjoy our conversations, and so I'm pretty sure everybody else is going to enjoy it as well.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, I think so. I think we always have some good conversations, but it's usually just the two of us. So this is going to be a bit of a different game altogether.

Kelly Irving:

We're inviting people into our little inner circle here.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, yeah. I love it. I love it. So first off, could you maybe give the audience a bit better sense of who you are, and what your experience is in publishing and writing generally?

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, so I guess I've been working in publishing in some facet pretty much most of my career, but in different avenues. So I've been a journalist. I was a travel writer for a long period of time and I worked in education, where I used to work with subject matter experts to really unpack and get their knowledge base out of their heads and then turn that into easy, digestible materials for other people.

            And that's probably the most closely related thing to how I work and what I do today. So I think as a book coach, it's interesting because a lot of people find it really hard to label me or put a really neat category on me. Publishing houses find me really like, "Oh my God." Because I wear different hats in different contexts.

            So if you were going to a bucket list on me or really try and figure out what I do, I guess you'd call me a developmental editor. So that means for me as a trained editor, my sweet spot is the beginning stage. So what is a good idea? How do you bring form to it? How do you actually articulate it, and get it out of your head? Now I understand all facets of the publishing process, so from getting an idea, it's all well and good having an idea. But you actually have to get it onto the page. You have to write it, you have to bring structure around it.

            And then there are all these other aspects afterwards, and I think that's what people forget as well. Yeah, it's all well and good writing a book, but then you have to market it. You have to actually do things to get it into your reader's hands. So I'm experienced at all of those things, but that beginning stage is really my sweet spot, and what I've done over the course of my career is make really good relationships and direct industry ends with people. So people like yourself, people who can come in and talk to my clients about what you need to know to self-publish, I've made inroads direct into publishing houses.

            And I bring publishers on to talk to people about what they need to know. So that's a big picture overview around what I do, but I guess the main thing really is how do you bring an idea to life? How do you bring form to it? And then how do you coach and support people through that process? Because it's not an easy process.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Well, let's talk about that beginning process, because we both work with similar types of authors. They're business people, entrepreneurs, subject matter experts. So let's talk about their motivation. I find with so many books on the market, some people wonder, "Is it still worth writing a book?"

            And why do you think that authorship continues to be a priority for entrepreneurs? What are expert authors trying to accomplish in publishing their book, and why does it remain, or does it remain an effective strategy for them?

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, okay. So there's a couple of levels to this question. And I think the first thing is... and this is why I'm a bit different and unique to a lot of people out there. So I'm going to bust the myth, because the reason why a lot of people go into this is for positioning, for authority. So, they see the value, and of course, if you look around, anyone in your network who has published a book, the result of that is raising your profile.

            And so, people go into this with that as the end goal. I want to write a book to position myself as an expert in my field. So that for me is not why you write a book, that's a result of writing a good book. And that's a difference, and really understanding why, although it seems like a really simple question at first, it's actually one of the most challenging things for people to actually really get a sense of.

            And when you don't have that in mind, I think that's where a lot of mistakes get made, by just setting out just for that positioning as this is why I'm writing it. I think the thing is though, I mean, why do we still do it in that case? Because it does work and it is true. If you look at that as a result, that is the result that you get.

            And I think for me, the reason why and what I try and get people to realize is because what you are working on, although the end result is going to be a book, I can 100% guarantee you by the end result, if you do the work, you show up, you're going to have a book by the end of it, no questions asked. But what you're working on and what the real, intangible ROI of a book is, you are working on your whole business message.

            You are working out how to clarify your message, to actually target a really key aspect of audience, looking at market and your fit in it. So a book actually ends up being a part of your ecosystem, and I think this is another thing I try and bust. We go into it thinking about it as a marketing tool. It is a marketing tool, but it's more than a marketing tool. It's a product. It is a product of you, your business and everything that you do.

            And when you do it and when you do it right, you'll see how a book will affect how you speak, how you sell yourself, how you deliver your services, what workshops you put together, what keynote speeches you do, everything stems from just doing this one tool, which is a book.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, that's a really good distinction.

Kelly Irving:

And I think that's what especially at the starting stages, you can see, it's really hard to see that. It's really intangible until you get to the end, until you speak to people who have gone through that process. And when they talk about the value and stuff, it's way more than you can think about at the start.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, yeah. That makes a ton of sense. And you talked a little bit about the mistakes that authors that you work with often make at the front end, often around the goals and I think conflating perhaps their business goals with the goal for the book itself.

            As they get into the writing process, what are some of the other things that you see that often, people get tripped up on? Let's assume that they've got the right idea for a book and that they've landed on the right... They've gotten clear on who their reader is, and what transformation they're trying to help that reader through. But beyond that, where do they tend to get tripped up in your experience?

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. Well, you mentioned something there, and I think that's interesting, the right idea for a book. So there isn't a wrong idea for a book, and I think actually, searching for the right idea is actually the thing that trips them up as they start writing.

Scott A MacMillan:

Interesting.

Kelly Irving:

And I guess, I think you said this at the start, in terms of the people we work with and what they're motivated by. So I don't sell motivation, because the people we work with are highly motivated people. They're probably more motivated than you and I. They're already successful. They're already kicking goals. They've already proved themselves to themselves, to their audience. So I think that's where... and I've had people come to me before who have used book coaches, and that's a key difference, because they don't really need motivation.

            They're already motivated by it, but it is the beginning stages and actually having that strategic view of something that is key. And so the right idea in a lot of ways doesn't actually exist. I mean it does, but it's iterative. So writing, and if you think about because you're working on your business message, it's an iterative process.

            It can always be better. We're always clarifying. And so, I think when people get used to that, it's a really hard thing to get used to. It's a really hard thing to let go of, but when you make that switch and you see it, that it's always one step in front of the other, always making, always improving, always clarifying, that's where you end up being more motivated, and doing more work, because of the result of that.

            Back to the right idea, there's no wrong reason to write a book. But without understanding some of those fundamentals at the start, you'll write a book for your mom, your dad, your sister.

Scott A MacMillan:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Kelly Irving:

And I think that's really where I see a lot of people going wrong, is not having the wrong idea or the wrong this, it's actually that their expectations don't align to reality. And so that's a key part of my role, is really helping people see that disjoint, because that's where a lot of disappointment and heartache is.

            And if you think about it, every fiction book has a commercial lens run over it. No book that has ever been successful has really been because this was my amazing story and I wanted to share it with people. And if I put it in a book, I share it, people are going to love it. There's still a commercial lens and a commercial thinking and a strategy behind all the other steps that go into it.

Scott A MacMillan:

Or there needs to be.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, totally. Yeah, so it's interesting, that question of where people go wrong. I think that's a key thing to remember, is you actually already have the right idea in your head already. It's already there because you've already got a good basis of work that you've been doing with an audience, and you just need that confidence and some tools, and some things to be able to articulate that out of your head, because once you actually start seeing stuff on a page, it changes. And realizing that that process is iterative can be actually quite liberating for people, but it's an uncomfortable place to go into, especially if you're a hyper-completionist.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. It's interesting what you just said about you've already got the idea in your head. You've been serving clients, you've been creating value for people. I don't know if this is true, if you've seen this as well. What I've often seen is a business person who yes, they're excellent at creating value for clients and they have great solutions, and great ideas that they use everyday in their core business.

            But for whatever reason, when it comes to writing their book, they abandon that. And start trying to write on something completely unrelated or maybe not completely unrelated, but certainly divorced from what they're doing in their business from a commercial perspective. And then it makes it difficult to make that connection between the book and the business. Is that something that you see?

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. That's a great perspective. Yes, I do. And the way that it comes across, and the way that it turns up and I see it is where people go. There's a difference between writing the book that you need to write and writing a book that you want to write.

Scott A MacMillan:

Ah, well done. Yeah.

Kelly Irving:

So I don't doubt anybody listening to this has not just one book, but two books, three books, four books in them, no one ever just writes one book. I actually don't know anyone who's just written one book. Everybody comes back a second, third, fourth, fifth time, no matter how hard it is, which just shows you what you learn and what you discover about the value of that process.

            But consequently, what happens is, and if you think back to that thinking about raising your profile, what we try and do is write a book for where we want to be in the future, as opposed to where are you and what is going to get you to that next step?

            So we tend to think about five or six or sometimes 10 steps in front, and it's a real critical tension point, because there's two things in this. You do need to write a book for where you want to be, not where you're at now. And I see this as what you would label as a mistake with a lot of books, and one reason is, if you think about the longevity of a book and when you started at the start, in thinking about the value is we've all got them sitting on our bookshelves and they last forever, which is also quite where some of our fear comes from, because we want it to be right.

            Because we want it to be a book that people are going to have for a long time. When you get a book right, and when a book's really good, you will have it working for you and in your business for two years, maybe even more. I've still got clients still using their books from like five, six, seven years ago. They still write a new book, but they're still using the old books, and that just shows you what happens when you get your message right.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, right.

Kelly Irving:

Because the message is still similar each time, it's just displayed-

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. It's an evolution almost. Right?

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, exactly. So a lot of people, I think they just forget about the timeframes involved with the book. So you've got to remember from this onset and where you're at now, it might realistically take you, by the time you've written it, got it edited, designed, published, printed, at a bare minimum which would be quick, you're looking at a six-month timeframe.

            Most people I work with are working probably on a 12-month timeframe, maybe eight to 12 months could be from the initial idea to actually then getting it into people's hands, I'd say probably eight to 12 months. So you need to think about where you're going to be in eight to 12 months' time. Because a lot of people will write for now without thinking about then.

            And so they write something that they've been doing forever, blah, blah, blah. And they're not really that involved with, and they're just going to do it quickly so they can put it in book form, which is great. Get to a book, but then you've stopped using it after two or three months, because you've already moved onto the next idea. And you see this a lot, people are actually already writing their second book, or their third book while they're still working on their first book. And this is why, because they haven't actually got that down pat yet. They haven't really [crosstalk 00:19:19]-

Scott A MacMillan:

And they probably didn't realize that until they got into it, right?

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, there's always those people. Anybody that tells you that they're writing two, three, four books, you say, "Awesome. Can you just give me one book?" Because you've got to really focus on one first, but it is through... and I see this all the time. It is through the process of writing that you will discover what your next book idea is, and what your initial question was, is tension pull between what you really want to write, but maybe you're not quite ready for it yet, but you can't really get there until you've done this body of thinking, and this body of work first. This is why you've got to see it as multiple stepping stones and multiple stepping steps.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. That's a really helpful way to think about it.

Kelly Irving:

Because you evolve, you used-

Scott A MacMillan:

Of course.

Kelly Irving:

... that nice word before, evolution, you evolve through this process as well as your ideas.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's right. Yeah. Okay. I think that's a really helpful way to think about it. We've talked a bit about the beginning phase. We've talked about some of the mistakes that people make, but can you talk a little bit about the work that you specifically do with authors? And how is it that you're able to get them where they need to get to? And I guess, a companion to that is why is that sometimes so hard for them to do on their own? Because after all, like you mentioned earlier, these are smart, accomplished people who normally don't have any trouble getting things done.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. I think it is that thing. It's like anything, not just a book, anything that you're trying to achieve, you can't do it working in a bubble, and you're always going to progress faster having the right tools and people around you to help support elements of that journey.

            And I guess that's what I developed. I mean, I essentially made up my process. It's just been honed and developed and one of the reasons was because... So one of the books I first ever worked on, so Gabrielle Dolan, she's written six books now, so she's my longest serving client. And her first book, we were in a coworking space and she put up on Yama, "Anybody can help me with this?" And I was like, "Well, I know how to do long form writing. Yeah. I can help you."

            And we wrote her book together, which I must say, that's not ghost writing, it's supporting. So it's a very collaborative process. You are 100% the author, but I'm going to guide you and show you and edit, or give you high-level comments to get you to where you've got to go. So I'm not the author at all. It's very different from ghostwriting, where someone would write the book for you.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's helpful. That's a helpful distinction. Yeah.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. I think that's important. Anyway, that book ended up, we pitched it and it got picked up by a publisher and things steamrolled from there. Because I actually started getting pulled into publishing houses and saying, "Oh, we didn't know you existed. We think you could really help some of our struggling authors." And the one reason, what I discovered was there's a gap.

            And especially with traditional publishers, you are supported with this idea and you've got all the hoo-ha, and everybody's really excited around you and you sign on the dotted line, and it's pretty much like, "Awesome. See you in three months with a full, completed manuscript. Away you go." And authors are paralyzed. People just do not know what to do, and what they do is go around in circles for weeks and months until deadline day, and pretty much have nothing to show for it.

            So that's where I came in, because what I did was develop a process to actually help people through those steps, and it was through that process that I realized that one of the keys at that start is having a really good plan, and we tend to think of a plan as an outline. I'll sit down on a Sunday and I'll come up with a great contents page on an A4 piece of paper, on the back of a napkin, and that's what I'll use as my structure.

            So that's not enough. I'm talking about a really detailed plan that outlines the structure for the book, and each and every chapter as well. So when you sit down to write, you have a guide there, you know what you're writing. You've got, "This is what I'm writing for Chapter One." And my process is really about getting people to write a draft, a first shit draft. So really shitty, dirty draft, call it what you want. As quickly as you can, because it's a lot easier to work with words when they're on the page than if you're in your head.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. That's so true. People don't realize that. They think it has to be perfect the first time it comes out.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. People think that it has to be perfect. So this is where you got to start to learn about that iteration, because then what people do is they get stuck on, "Oh, my plan's got to be perfect," but your plan is a constraint. And so if you haven't done that thinking, you don't have that constraint at the start, that's where you're going to get into all kinds of strife towards the end. But what will happen is as you start writing towards that plan, you will think of new ideas, or you'll think this, this, and that, but you'll have something that you can crosscheck against.

            So that's how you problem solve. "Oh, that wasn't in my plan. So am I actually going off-track, or actually this needs to take shape, and to tweak and change that way?" But I think what happens is when you write a first shit draft, in terms of being a motivated person, in terms of looking for perfection, in terms of wanting it to be good, when you've got everything on the page, it is a release, and you can see that there's parts to work with.

            So a good analogy that I use is it's like doing a jigsaw puzzle. So your book is a jigsaw puzzle, and you've got all these pieces that you have to put together. The issue is, you don't have a final image that you're working towards. So you're doing the jigsaw puzzle almost blindfolded, and you've got to work out those puzzle pieces and form the image.

            And it's actually not really until the end, towards the end that your image is perfectly formed. And I think that's what is really difficult for people, because they go into this, "Oh, I know my book needs to be like this and that, and it needs to have so many interviews, and it's going to have this and that." It's like, "Okay, well, hang on a minute, because why are we doing the book? Who are we doing it for? Where does it fit into the market?" And running it through the lens of what it needs to be, as opposed to getting fixated on what it should look like at the end.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's a really good metaphor. And I'd almost layer onto that, it's like a jigsaw puzzle that starts out not just a bunch of pieces, but also blurry and over time, you're adding some definition to it as you go.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. And then you get the idea for the second one. So you're trying to work out is the puzzle piece in the second jigsaw, or what?

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. Now, you've got two puzzles going.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, exactly. Another analogy as well that I use that I think is helpful for people is it is like building a house. So what I do is I do give a foundational structure for people and the reason why is because every house has to have water, it has to have a foundation. It's going to be connected to the electricity. It might have gas, all these types of things.

            So every house starts with a foundational plan. So that's what I provide for people, is all those connection points and okay, you're going to start with three rooms and you'll have a bathroom and kitchen or whatever. Through the process, you will find and create this plan to be your own. So you might decide to add in a room, you might change the color of the walls.

            You will start bringing in a couch and your bed and stuff like that. And you'll start changing things according to how you like. You might put a deck out the back. And so that's the process of a book. It's like, start with the foundation and that plan, and then that's what allows you to create and build your own. So if you were to look at every book I've ever worked on, they have all had the same structure applied to them. That same plan. None of them looks the same at the end.

Scott A MacMillan:

But having that basis to start working from, like you said before, it's the same principle as getting that first draft out there, as ugly as it might be. But with the structure, having a structure in place allows I imagine, some freedom for people to then start doing the work. And then as you continue to work with them, then they start to have some flexibility in terms of how they use that structure.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, 100%. I mean, that was something that I learned from... I think it was an interview with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, of course.

Kelly Irving:

Where he talks about writing is actually rewriting. That's the real writing. And I think, that for me is what is misleading with a lot of stuff out there, because we focus on the craft of writing. We focus on the mechanics of writing. We focus on people who have been dead for 75 years, and what their routines and rhythms were.

            And it actually isn't helpful. It's more detrimental. And actually, there are other things to focus on, like having a good system around you, by really focusing on your reader, understanding what your objectives are, what the journey is you're taking that person on. It's almost taking yourself out of it, and learning to become a little bit more objective about your work.

Scott A MacMillan:

Absolutely.

Kelly Irving:

It's tricky to do, but when you do it, that's a really big shift in what you create. And so that reworking phase is actually where a lot of the real heart is. So that goes back to the difference. So the difference between a manuscript you guys would get from one of my authors is that those structural pieces and that foundation is there.

            It's very clear who the book is for. And it's not a big bucket as in, "Oh, my book is for all CEOs and leaders," it's got a really clear one reader in mind. It's got a really clear A to Z journey and there's a structure around that. And yes, there might still need to be some finessing and some of those puzzle pieces moved around, but there's a problem that's really clear that you're solving, and it's not overloaded or confused with three or four other things.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. That's so important.

Kelly Irving:

When you can get it to that stage, the benefit of then using someone like your amazing team is, imagine you're at where your baseline now is, and your benchmark. Only now are you going to take it up a notch, so that's a huge gift.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's right. Yeah, rather than us having to deal with a lot of the foundational stuff, the quality of what we're getting in the front door is that much higher to begin with. And that just allows us to elevate it even higher from there, which yeah, that's such an important point.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. I think like as an editor, and we talked about a little bit why I devised the process. I mean, one of those things was, so I was getting so many people coming to me already written manuscripts, and they think they're looking for a copy editor. So you'll get this all the time. So, you get a manuscript in and it's like, "Yep. Just looking for an editor to help fix up my typos, and change my language, and make things a little bit more clear and I'm ready to go."

            And it's like, "Whoa, we're not even in the ballpark yet." And yes. And I think this is what you have to realize, my clients talk about there are editors out there and then there are editors.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's right, yeah.

Kelly Irving:

And if you've ever worked with a copy editor on... I don't know Fiverr or whatever, and then you go to the pros, you know the difference, and you'll never go back.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's right. It's like night and day.

Kelly Irving:

It's like night and day. Yeah. Totally. And that's the thing, right? And I do still work with people, like they'll come to me, and they'll get an assessment, and we'll look at things that are working, where the strengths are in the manuscript, and then where the opportunities are to make it better, because for me, I can't just look at a manuscript and fix up words and language if the core, underlying things are fixed.

            That's just not me. That's not the work that I do.

Scott A MacMillan:

That's right.

Kelly Irving:

If you're going to do it, I'm going to help you do it really well. Which actually means you got to go back to the start for some things and understand some of these foundation things first and foremost. And they usually are similar things because they're things that you have to work on all the time, like the target reader, like the market fit.

            Now, your editors would probably talk about this. It's actually about identifying patterns. So it's like being a pattern detective and you can see the patterns, and you can see the threads because they're very similar, what appears through the process every single time.

Scott A MacMillan:

Right. The details might be different, but it's the same underlying issues that come up again and again.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. And it is that. So, sometimes I talk about... So if you imagine a mountain or a wedding cake or something, words are the icing on the cake, but it's all the ingredients, your thoughts, your ideas, your intellectual property, they're the ingredients that make the cake stay together. So if you don't have those right, everything else is going to fall.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. The icing might taste delicious, but doesn't do you any good.

Kelly Irving:

Or it looks good, and then it tastes bad.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. Once you get into the cake. So, that's interesting. I think a worry for a lot of would-be authors, expert authors, so business people, let's park fiction writers for the moment, is that they won't see a financial return on their investment. Their investment of time and money. In your experience, working with a wide range of different business owners, what is it... Apart from the editorial, let's assume that the book is good. What is it that separates those that are successful from those who aren't?

Kelly Irving:

Good question. I think first, you have to define what success means for you because I would take... Just because you've been picked up by a publisher, so if you look at one of my authors who has a book that's been put out by a publisher, does that make that more successful than someone who's self-published one of their books? No.

Scott A MacMillan:

Right. Who knows?

Kelly Irving:

So for me, you have to get really... Go to a depth to think about what success means for you. And I see this all the time. So we get fixated on book sales. I would tend to say actually, most people go into this knowing, and actually, this is a flaw. Because you go into the process knowing I'm not going to make any money from my book. Everybody already knows that royalties and what you get back, all of that, is really low.

            So I'm going into this knowing I'm not making any money from my book, but actually that's not necessarily a really good mindset to have, because you're already putting value-

Scott A MacMillan:

It sets expectations pretty low, doesn't it?

Kelly Irving:

Exactly. You've already set your benchmark really, really low. So there is a particular strategy for people who want to make a living off of book sales. And I would say most of the people we work with, they're not doing that strategy. They could do it if they wanted to, but they're not because they do see the value in you could give your book to one of the right people and you'll get a contract based on that, or a body of work based on that.

            And that's basically just paid for its book right there, so one-

Scott A MacMillan:

Exactly, that's right.

Kelly Irving:

... contract can pay for your book right there. So I think there's a couple of things in this. I think people who are successful in this, they do see it as a marketing cost. So if you look at a comparison, you could spend 20 grand on a website, you could spend 20 grand on a book, and have it for five years, if not more, forever. You can have it on your shelf. But we don't flinch... I mean, we might flinch a little bit at the cost of a website, but we don't. We're like, "Yep, we've got to have it." See the value in it. So that's what I'm going to spend in it.

            So, in comparison, you actually get a lot of value from writing a book. It's just that we get hung up when we're not really expecting what that cost will be. Whereas I think most people now, because everybody has to have a website, you go into it, you can have a three grand website, or you can have a 20 grand website, but most people will see the value in having a really good website because it's going to be turning away sales if it's a shitty looking website that someone can't use, pick up the phone to you.

            So your three grand website's not doing you any favours. It's exactly the same if you overlay that with looking at your book.

Scott A MacMillan:

It is.

Kelly Irving:

So success, I think what I try and get people to do is, so there's a couple of things. Don't sell yourself short going into it, but also realize right now, the intangible aspect might not be apparent. Soon as you start, you're going to actually see wins on the table while you're working on your book.

            There's a guy, an expert author at the moment, and he got picked up. He hasn't published his book yet and he got picked up by a conference, and he was actually able to... He pitched and used the basis of what he'd worked out in his book in the conference.

Scott A MacMillan:

Good.

Kelly Irving:

He was like, "I never would've been able to do that if I hadn't sat down and written my book, and I haven't even pressed publish on it yet." I've been trying to get in this [crosstalk 00:38:52]-

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. But he thought it all through.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. But he was like, "I had it all there. It was all structurally worked out. I pretty much used the content from my book." So you do start getting those wins quite early on. It doesn't have to be just at the end. And that's a good example, because I do get people to think about, okay, what would be something tangible that you could use that you'd like to get out of your book? So whether it's, "I would love to use it as a way of potentially getting onto a TEDx talk, and how could I use that basis for a TEDx talk, or a presentation, or a particular workshop, approaching a particular organization?"

            Coming up with something really tangible, it's achievable. And when you see those achievable goals, it will help elevate you even further. And so it is that basis of not having lofty goals, but also not setting your benchmark really low. So it is tricky because I think the numbers thing, it's like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. So I'm like, "Okay, well, why 1,000 books? Why do you want to sell 1,000 books? What does 1,000 mean to you?"

            Because what 1,000 books, selling 1,000 books means for Allison is going to be really different to what it means for someone selling 500 books, for example. And it is really easy to get drawn into other people, a comparisonitis starts kicking in, which is why it's got to really be about you. And what would success mean for you? What would a really good result look like for you, and what are some of those tangible goals that you could align with it to actually tick off?

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah. I like that idea of finding something specific and understanding why that's important to you and really using that as your litmus test, rather than trying to back into, for example, a specific ROI, if you can identify that thing or that basket of things that would be meaningful and valuable to you and your business, and have the confidence that if your book can help you deliver that, it will have paid for itself multiple times over. I think that's an important takeaway for people. I like that a lot.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah. And I think the other thing to remember as well is, so I see this transition quite a lot, because it is really important about you and having your goals, and the reason why you are so important is because you are the person that has to sit down and do the hard work. We could spend 20 minutes together on a call and I could tell you exactly what you should write and how you should write it.

            There you go, 20 minutes, I could actually tell you that. The one thing I can't tell you and nobody else can either is why you should write your book. And that underlying motivation has to come from you, because you're the person who's going to sit there and do the work, and you've got to be brought into that whole journey from doing the work at the onset and writing, to actually doing the marketing and getting it into people's hands.

            So that's really, really important. Equally, and actually, as an exercise that I run with clients a lot, and it's really interesting because the more deeper we dig into why we're doing something, actually, there's a bit of a switch sometimes. And you actually make a transition to thinking about your audience and your reader, and what would make the product valuable for them?

            What is the journey that you are taking them on? And so there's a nice segue thing that naturally happens where it's almost we strip out our own ego, and we actually start delivering valuable work for somebody else.

Scott A MacMillan:

Interesting. But you have to go through that. You have to go through that journey in order to get to that point, often.

Kelly Irving:

Yeah, you do. This is the value of clarifying your business message because it is about you, but you want to affect somebody else. And that means meaningful, genuine connection, authenticity, all these things that people genuinely want, but there's a segue and a transition that naturally happens the deeper you go in this work.

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, you're right. Yeah, 100%. So we're coming up to the end of the end of 2021. I think it's at this time of year that a lot of people start thinking about what is it that they want to accomplish in the year to come. So I'm sure there are a lot of listeners who are thinking that 2022 is the year that they want to have their book written, have it published, but they're uncertain about how to move forward or how to take the next step. What advice would you give to the listener that's in that situation?

Kelly Irving:

Just do it. In a lot of instances, it's really about... So this is the point where we go, "Okay, 2022, do I have enough time? Is the time made? Am I ready? I'm not sure, I've got all this other stuff on, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." So it's interesting because a lot of the objections to moving forward in your book actually end up being... They seem like it's about time and our capacity.

            And actually, I'd get really critically aware of what emotional kryptonite is holding you back, because really, it's about making a leap into the unknown and into something that is quite uncomfortable. And it's only when you realize that, that you actually start making inroads, because I've seen when people are bought into the journey, when they have skin in the game, and that actually does usually mean some small monetary investment.

            It's like business coaching. If you sign up for a business coach, you're going to do the work because you want to get your money's worth back. It's the same deal, whatever it means for you in terms of having skin in the game, that means you're going to show up, and you're going to commit, and you're going to do the work. So people prioritize their books, they're the people who actually get their books done.

            And there is a lot of you might think on the surface, "Oh, well, that's all well and good. But look at last year when half the world was in lockdown and stuff like that." Now, a lot of people then were actually selling, "Oh, great. Now, you're in lockdown. It's a really great time to start your book." And I'm like, "What? While you're homeschooling, you've got partners in the next room on the phone? It's a terrible time!" People have far less time than ever before.

Scott A MacMillan:

It was a great time for people who live alone to write a book.

Kelly Irving:

But it didn't stop anyone. So I saw that that did not stop anyone. My work didn't change as a result of that. People weren't getting held back because they genuinely saw it as an opportunity, and you prioritize it as a project. And it takes guts to do that. And I think that's the thing. It takes guts to do it. So if you do want to start your book, and you do want to have a book in your hands for next year, you can absolutely do it.

            It's just about doing it, literally. It's just about putting one step in front of the other.

Scott A MacMillan:

You got to prioritize it, yeah.

Kelly Irving:

If you're wondering, like "Okay, what is that one step?" So I'm actually hosting a free workshop coming up soon. And I talk about some of these strategies in terms of, "Okay, well, what do you do as that first initial step? What are some of these, that we talked about, the foundational elements, what are some of those foundational elements that I could think about in order to get my book moving?"

            So anybody who wants to come along to that, KellyIrving.com/Workshop, they can sign up to that. And I'd also say the second good thing that you could do, we talked about the right idea. So the right idea is in your head right now, you just need to see it on paper. So I've got a free tool and I can give you the-

Scott A MacMillan:

Yeah, perfect.

Kelly Irving:

... access link to put in your show notes. KellyIrving.com/Canvas. So I call it the book canvas. It's very much like a lot of people would use to come up with a business idea. You use the Canvas tool. So it's been developed to help show you what some of those foundational aspects are. And actually, you can do it really quickly, 15 minutes and you'll actually see what you've got in your head on the page, and you can do it multiple times. So you can lay it out and see, "Oh, this is book one."

Scott A MacMillan:

Oh, fantastic.

Kelly Irving:

"This is a book idea too. This is book three." And you'll actually see when it's laid out on the page, that's actually how you see, "Oh, this book has more legs."

Scott A MacMillan:

That's when the light bulb goes off.

Kelly Irving:

That's when the light bulb goes off. It's just that what we do is, we're trying to do it inside our heads, instead of actually putting it on page. So that's a really great tool and it's a free tool, just to actually see, you have that idea. It's in your head. Once you see it on the page, that's going to give you the inroads to take the next steps.

Scott A MacMillan:

Brilliant. So, would those be the best places for people to reach out and get in touch with you? The workshop, KellyIrving.com/Workshop and KellyIrving.com/Canvas, was it?

Kelly Irving:

Yep. And look, I'm always, always happy to chat to people in your circle, Scott. So anybody who wants to reach out direct, Content@KellyIrving.com. Yeah, always happy to chat with people in your circle, so.

Scott A MacMillan:

Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to be here. You're a true expert and you're so generous with your time and knowledge. And I personally feel really lucky to know you, and have you as part of my professional network, and as a friend. So thank you again for being here.

Kelly Irving:

Thanks, Scott. Thanks everybody for listening. Go ahead, do your books. Write them.

Scott A MacMillan:

Now, wasn't she just great? I love Kelly, and her approach to writing and publishing. Even I learned a lot from our chat, and I hope you did too. Yes, it's work. Yes, it takes courage. You heard her say that, but publishing a book is as rewarding as it comes, when connected to your business, to you and the service you provide to your readers. As I reflect on this episode and the conversation I just had with Kelly Irving, I want to leave you with a few takeaways I think were especially important and insightful. So remember this.

            If you don't know what to write about, consider how you're already serving your clients and delivering value to them. Every one of us who has a viable business has something meaningful to write about. You need only uncover it. It's not enough to have a book outline that you just scratched out in the back of an envelope. You need a robust and detailed writing plan. That, my friends, is how you beat writer's block. But even with a plan, it's in the iteration when that magic happens.

            So use your plan as your roadmap and get that ugly first draft out as quickly as possible, and then, be open to how writing and editing can evolve your manuscript beyond what you thought you were capable of. And finally, if you have your eyes set on publishing your book in 2022, don't hesitate to get help if that's what you need to get it written, written soon, and written well. Someone like Kelly can really expedite your time to market and up the impact of your book. And that is an investment worth making, every time. Now is the time. Time to write, time to publish, and time to grow.

I'm Scott MacMillan, until next time.

Scott A. MacMillan


Scott A. MacMillan is a speaker, international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and the President and Executive Publisher at Grammar Factory Publishing. He and his team help expert entrepreneurs write and publish books that build their authority and grow their business.

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