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E2A 027: Cutting Your Writing Time in Half (or More) – Co-Authoring Your Book with Brent Lowe 

 April 12, 2022

By  Scott A. MacMillan

You can have all the tools, tips and strategies and even have a plan but for some people, writing a book still just seems too daunting.

What if I told you that you don’t have to do it alone? That the option of co-authorship may just be the solution you’ve been looking for.

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan talks with Brent Lowe, Founder and Lead Coach at BASE Associates and Co-Author of Lead Together: The bold, brave, intentional path to scaling your business about his journey through co-authorship.

GUEST BIO: Brent Low

Brent is the Founder and Lead Coach at BASE Associates. BASE is a business coaching and consulting company that helps the founding teams of early-stage companies of 5 to 40 people be bold, brave and intentional in scaling their organizations and trailblazing a sustainable future. Brent and his team have helped over 100 founders build--what they call--Scale Together Organizations. Many of BASE’s clients are motivated by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and a desire to bring to market innovative solutions to the climate crisis. Brent is the co-author of Reinventing Scale-Ups: Radical Ideas for Growing Companies and Lead Together: The bold, brave, intentional path to scaling your business.

CONNECT WITH BRENT:

To test your team’s readiness to scale and get helpful tips:  baseteam.scoreapp.com

Get your free copy of the 5 principles and 6 leadership roles for scaling a sustainable, prosperous company at baseassociates.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/brentloweconnects/


CONNECT WITH SCOTT
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scott@grammarfactory.com

Scott on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/scottmacmillan/
Scott on Instagram: @scottamacmillan
Scott on Twitter: @scottamacmillan
Scott on Medium: @scottamacmillan

Episode Transcript

Please note: The transcript is produced by a third party company from an audio recording and may include transcription errors.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

You're listening to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, episode 27.

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:      

 I get it. For some people, no matter how many tips I share, no matter how many battle proven strategies I lay out for how to plan and write your book and get it published as easily and quickly as possible, for some people, it still just seems too daunting. Maybe you still feel that you can't find time. Maybe you've got what you feel are important knowledge gaps. Maybe you're just not built for the often solitary life of a scribe. Well, rest easy my friend, this episode is for you.

 In it, you'll learn how co-authorship may just be the solution you've been looking for. It offers the excuse busting tactic that will get that manuscript done, done more quickly, and may even save you a good deal of coin in the process. If that sounds like it's right up your alley, then hold on tight for this addition of Entrepreneur to Author.

 Joining me today is Brent Lowe. Brent is the founder and lead coach at Base Associates, a business coaching and consulting company that helps the founding teams of early stage companies scale their organizations and trailblaze a sustainable future. Brent and this team have helped over a hundred founders build what they call scale together organizations. He's also one of three co-authors of Lead Together, the Bold, Brave, Intentional Path to Scaling Your Business. Brent, thanks for joining us today. Welcome to Entrepreneur to Author.

Brent Lowe:                  

Pleasure to be here, Scott. Thanks for the opportunity.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah, of course. Now why don't we start perhaps by giving our listeners a bit more about your background and experience and what's led you to what you do today.

Brent Lowe:                  

For sure. It's a story that has three chapters. I started out as an entrepreneur back in high school and I spent about a decade as an entrepreneur in small, scrappy, fun, stressful, entrepreneurial environments. And then the second decade I spent inside larger founder led organizations as an HR leader. And so these were organizations that had between dozens and hundreds of employees at this point, but still led by the scrappy entrepreneur spirit. And I was doing the best I could at that point as an HR leader trying to figure out how to scale these organizations and I fell the trap that I think a lot of founders and the people that are supporting those founders do, which is, you know what? There's only one way really to do that and that's to build a traditional power hierarchy, and that really starts to strip out all that creativity where bureaucracy starts to creep in.

And so I've now spent the last decade learning about, writing about, coaching founders and their teams on the answer to one question which is, if I want to grow my organization, scale my organization, and I don't want it to look like this as a power hierarchy, then what else could I do? And so that's really what our writing, what our book, what our work is about.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Wonderful. So you published Lead Together, I believe in 2020, right around the same time that I published Entrepreneur to Author incidentally. Could you share a little bit about the book and why you wrote it?

Brent Lowe:                  

Sure. So it was created to answer that question around we're all so familiar with, we've lived in the dynamic of a traditional hierarchy and right from when we went to school, that's what we're used to, most of our businesses so when businesses start to grow, at some point someone will come along and says, "Hey, you're getting big enough that you really need to start hiring managers and building out a hierarchy."

And so what we do in the first, I would say, third of the book is talk about, well, what are the other options? And what do they look like? And what does it feel like to be in those other types of systems? And then we spend the second two thirds of the book getting super tactical about how exactly do we do that? Because we all know the one pattern, we don't really know the other patterns. And so we go every chapter it answers kind of a question around, well, what if I want to replace the way I recruit and do it a different way? How would I do that? How might I do compensation differently? How might I structure roles differently? So we go through the full journey of all the different type of challenges that come up in our organizations.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah, wonderful. Now you co-wrote this book, did you not?

Brent Lowe:                  

I did.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah. And you've co-written not just one book, but is it two or three?

Brent Lowe:                  

Three books.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

You've co-written three books. Was co-authorship, was that the plan from the beginning or did it begin as a solo endeavor and kind of transform?

Brent Lowe:                  

The whole process, so all three books have been co-authored by the same three co-authors and we never started out intending to write at all. So we met in an online community that was very much focused on these new ways of working, progressive ways of working, and through our interaction in that community we had the opportunity to secure a speaking spot at a really large international conference called South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. And we thought, "Well, if we're going to go there and start to introduce people to this new way of working, we really should have something to give them." And so we thought, "Well, we'll create maybe just a little ebook." And our original plan was to just use Microsoft PowerPoint and write some stuff and print it out. And that was really the start of the journey.

Instead of doing that ebook, we ended up creating our first book, which is 70 pages, 12 point font, very poor graphics, and funny enough, it showed up the day of the conference. So we used Amazon as our printing supplier, and literally we were in Austin waiting for the box to arrive. After the conference, we had a good experience together and we thought, "Okay, well, why don't we do a real book, because that doesn't feel like a real book." And so then that led us to our second book, which is Reinventing Scale Ups. That one's now 180 pages, smaller font, looks a little bit nicer inside, still completely self-published. And then some time passed, we learned some more and we came together and said, "Okay, well let's do the third book," which is Lead Together. And this one's now, what we would say, the real book. It's over 300 pages, proper sized font for a book, proper layout, proper graphics. It was quite a journey.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah. And that looks like it would have a nice thud when it hits the desk.

Brent Lowe:                  

It does.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

What was it that appealed to you and still does appeal to you apparently about co-authorship and did it turn out as you expected?

Brent Lowe:                  

Yes. Again, we didn't start out with the intention to be co-authors, but the beauty of it has been that as we've gone through this, there's a few benefits of co-authorship. One is accountability. And I'm sure you hear this a lot, Scott, with the authors that you're working with. When you're working on your own, it takes an immense amount of discipline, almost a super human amount of discipline to work through the writing of a book. And when we are making commitments to other people and they're making commitments to us, that certainly helps a lot.

 The second is in being able to flesh out our ideas, especially in a business book like ours, no one person has all the answers. And so a combination of being able to debate what exactly it is that we want to say, or for one of us to say something, and then another co-author to challenge us and say, "Really? You really think that?" And going down that whole of discussion.

And then maybe the third is the ability to bring more examples and stories together. We each have kind of our go-to stories, our go-to relationships that we can use in writing a book. And when you have co-authors it just multiplies those stories, those relationships that you can bring.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah, absolutely. I wonder, because I've talked to a few people that have done co-authorship, I've never done it myself, but once the book is published, a lot of people talk about the ability to tap into the networks of all of the co-authors and get the book out there a little bit better and reach a wider audience than they might otherwise. Is that something that you experienced as well?

Brent Lowe:                  

I would say there's two sides to that coin. So on the one side, yes, we each have our own networks and there's so much promotion work that needs to be done through our networks and our relationships and the different opportunities that each of us have to speak and be out in different places. The flip side of that is as co-authors, and the way that we work is we each have our own businesses. And so when it comes to promoting, when we're out, we can promote the book, but then beyond the book, the story gets very messy. And so we've gone down the path of looking at PR, more investing more heavily in PR and the wall that we keep hitting is, "Well, what exactly is the story? What do you want people to do beyond the book?"

And so I think for those that the co-authors have a completely connected interest beyond the book, that probably makes a lot of sense. And the challenge that I think we're still working through as co-authors is what exactly is the story? Where do we want people to go rather than saying, "Oh, you could go here or you could go here or you could go here or you could go here or you could go here." It gets messy.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah. That's a really good point. Surely there are some other downsides as well, right? Everything's kind of give and take. Are there some other downsides that you experienced co-writing?

Brent Lowe:                  

So, yeah, there's a couple that jump out and obviously ones that we've worked through because we've decided to do this three times together. One is, when you have three people working on a project together, each person brings their strengths. And at the same time, there's never a completely even and equal balance. Each person's going through their own things in their own lives. They have either more or less time to commit, more or less passionate at any given time.

So there really does need to be that willingness to see the balance shift through the whole writing process. And then sometimes back to that, you write something, you love it, you think it's absolutely what should be said and your co-authors don't think so. And having to work through what are you going to do with that? And sometimes what happened for us is we just kept talking and talking until we aligned on something. And sometimes we actually called out in the book that, "Okay, here are some different perspectives." And so we didn't land on one specific message, but rather tried to lay out the options.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah. It sounds a lot like group work in school, doesn't it?

Brent Lowe:                  

100%.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

A lot of the same benefits and downsides too.

Brent Lowe:                  

That's right.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

I know we all learn a great deal from our writing. I learned a lot writing my book. I can only imagine you continue to learn with every subsequent book. What did you learn as you've continued to write and publish? What was different perhaps with your most recent book compared to the first two?

Brent Lowe:                  

Two things that jump to mind. One is, why exactly are we writing this book? And it seems like such an obvious question, but until you've written one and then gone through the whole mental process after the writing's done to say, "Oh, okay, what am I doing with this book now? Who exactly is it for? How exactly are we are communicating this to the market?" So I think by the time we got to the third book, we started, and interestingly enough, so my two co-authors, I'm located just outside of Toronto, Travis is in San Francisco and Susan is in New Zealand. We've now been working together for six years and we have been in the same place for the equivalent of about four days over that six years. And the bulk of that three days, three of the four days was at the beginning of the writing of Lead Together.

So Travis and Susan came to Ontario, we went to a cottage. We sat down, we really spent time answering those questions, which we hadn't done on the first two books. And so that was a really important step that we had to take. And then the second, and I'm sure you have experienced this a lot, Scott, is we get into the writing process and it's all about the writing and then the writing ends and then the marketing starts.

And if you stage it that way, by the time you get to the end of the writing, you're so exhausted and don't have the time to put into proper marketing. And so when we did the first two books, the second book, for example, we were still editing the transcript of the book two days before it appeared on Amazon for sale. And so we had no time allocated for marketing. By the time we got to the third book, from the time we finished the transcript until the time we actually launched was a good five, six months. It gave us much more time to think about marketing, to make the investments of time and building the assets and things that we needed. So those two components are equally important. And as authors, I think we often spend so much time on the creative product and then forget about the whole second half until it's almost too late.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah. And do you feel like you've nailed that now, or if you were to write a fourth book, is there an anything you'd differently?

Brent Lowe:                  

Oh, we have not nailed it. I'll say that. I think we, by the third book, we feel like we have the recipe kind of figured out now for us, the recipe that works for us, which I'm sure is going to be different for each person. Now it's just kind of continuing to hone that. And I felt like on our third book, we spent a lot more time thinking about marketing the book after the fact. I would spend even more time on the fourth. I would start with marketing before I even started writing I think, kind of thinking more about it and exactly how are we going to do that. What's the message at the end of the day? How's this book going to be helpful to us and our business? And the other thing that I haven't talked about yet that is just so dramatically different between the first two books and the third is having professional help.

So we did the first two books on our own and we were trying to figure every little detail out ourselves and it is exhausting. And then to work with a professional team, for the third book, Scott, you and I didn't know each other, so I didn't have the opportunity to work with you, but we did work with a professional team and it made all the difference in the world to have professionals where you can ask a simple question that would take me hours to go and research and try to figure out and probably still not get right, to talk to somebody and say, "Oh, oh yeah, here's the answer," in 60 seconds or less. It really does make all the difference.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Wonderful. Let's shift gears for a little bit and talk about your business because I'm interested in the work that you do that is reflected in the book and can you talk through a little bit about that work and how you help people who probably may in some cases start as readers, but end up as clients, and of course, many who just start out as clients, how do you work with people and what's that journey that you help them travel along?

Brent Lowe:                  

Yeah, for sure. So there's really three main ways that we work with clients. The first is one-on-one founder coaching. So working directly with founders as their businesses are starting to scale and helping them answer the questions, very similar to what you can do for an author, we do for a CEO. The second, funny enough, is co-founder coaching, similar to co-author coaching I guess. It's when two founders are coming together and working together, how do we help them maintain a really healthy working relationship? Because I think whatever the stress is around writing a book together, it's 20 fold, 50 fold when you're co-running a business together. So how do we help them?

And then the third is we have a program that really has come directly off the book called The Scale Together Accelerator.So the book's called Lead Together. Program's called The Scale Together Accelerator where we go in to an organization and as a team we wrap our arms around the organization to help them implement a lot of the things that we talk about in the book. And that is a program that's really organically grown over time because through our founder coaching, we found founders saying, "Love this stuff, Brent, love everything you're talking about. We can't do this on our own. We need some help and can you come in and help us?" And so that's now what our program is all about is how we can come in and serve that need.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Interesting. And did the program come before the book or the book came before the program? Just curious where the IP started.

Brent Lowe:                

The book came first and I think the seeds of the program started before the book, but it was very custom and having to create everything from scratch every time working with a client. And then once we wrote the book, which really codified so much of what it is specifically that we do, then it allowed us to go and create a program that's actually a program and not just custom consulting.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Yeah. Yeah. Right. Where should listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you do?

Brent Lowe:                  

Yeah, for sure. A couple of places. So Base Associates is our company. So baseassociates.com is our website. And my personal website is brentlowe.com. And those are probably the best two places to find us.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

Fantastic. Well, we'll get those links into the show notes for easy access. Brent, this has been super helpful. I know that many of our listeners will take a lot of great insights away from this discussion. So thank you again for being here.

Brent Lowe:                  

My pleasure.

Scott A. MacMillan:       

For some, solo writing is energizing, cathartic, mind opening. But for others, it may feel constraining, even lonely at times. Brent's experience reminds us that there's no one way to write and publish a book. So as we wrap up this episode of Entrepreneur to Author, remember this...

The great thing about co-authorship is that it spreads out the writing burden across two or more experts rather than everything falling on you. You can push each other, challenge each other's thinking and keep each other accountable. But that's not all. It can also be an effective way to add further credibility to the title, fill important knowledge gaps and get it seen by a wider audience of readers. And depending on the publishing and partnership model you agree to with your co-authors, you may be able to split the production, publishing and marketing cost too.

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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