Gone are the days of huge advances for extravagant book tours, private jets, billboards and TV spots and for most authors. Did they really ever exist?
The truth of the matter is…book promotion and marketing falls largely on you, the author…regardless of whether you’re self-published, published traditionally, or through a hybrid or professional service publisher.
Marketing your book is all about building, engaging, and activating an audience of readers.
In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan talks with Founder of Morgan James Publishing David Hancock about Guerilla Marketing for Writers while digging deep into insider tips for how to reach the RIGHT audience for you and your book.
GUEST BIO: David Hancock
David Hancock is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today bestselling author and the founder of Morgan James Publishing. NASDAQ cites David as one of the world’s most prestigious business leaders, and he is reported to be the future of publishing. As founder of Morgan James Publishing, he was selected for Fast Company Magazine’s Fast 50 for his leadership, creative thinking, significant accomplishments, and his significant impact on the industry over the last twenty years.
David’s Book: GMarketingForWriters.com
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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 28.
Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. Now, here's your host, Scott MacMillan.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Do you have visions of being flown around the country on a private jet paid for by your publisher to attend book signings, media junkets, and speaking engagements? Are you ready for your publisher to pony up serious cash for billboards, TV spots, and digital advertising, all to promote you and your book? Perhaps it's time for a reality check. Those days are long gone. In fact, for the vast majority of authors, they never existed in the first place.
The truth of the matter is book promotion and marketing falls largely on you as the author, regardless of whether you're self-published, published traditionally, or through a hybrid or professional service publisher. Marketing your book is all about building, engaging, and activating an audience of readers. But how do you do that? My guest today has literally written the book on Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. We're going to dive into that topic to learn insider tips for how to reach the right audience for you and your book. All of this and much more in this edition of Entrepreneur to Author.
Today, my guest is the founder of Morgan James Publishing, David Hancock. David is himself a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, and he made the list of Fast Company Magazine's Fast 50 for his leadership, creative thinking, significant accomplishments, and his impact on the publishing industry over the past 20 years. I could not be more we're excited to have him on the pod. David, thank you for being here. Welcome to Entrepreneur to Author.
Oh, Scott, it is such a privilege to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I can't wait to talk about what we're talking about and looking forward to it.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Yeah, me too. Absolutely. David, I'd love to start by having you share a little bit about Morgan James Publishing. You describe yourself as a bit of an unconventional traditional publisher. What do you mean by that?
Oh, that's a great question. It's got a long story, but I'll try to keep it straight. But I was a banker back in the '90s, never imagined ever doing anything else. I was fat, dumb, and happy. They were paying me stupid money, especially for a college dropout. But I realized if I wanted to stay on top, I needed to do more, learn more. I ended up getting smart. I hired a coach whose name was Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing. In my coaching with Jay, I realized that I was a success because I was a guerilla and just didn't know it. I was leveraging my time, my energy, and my imagination more so than my bank account to be a success. But one of the things he taught me over the months and years of being my mentor was, he said that I needed to produce a book so I could stand out.
Long story short, he said, "If you wanted to charge more and negotiate less for the products and services you're offering, who doesn't?" He says, "If you wanted to have those clients that would never give you the time of day, start begging to get on your calendar, which is a good thing." He also said, "If you wanted the media to start calling you when things started happening in your space," which in banking was daily. He said, "You need to keep doing what you're doing because it's working, but you need to add a book." I laughed because, as I joked a second ago, I was a college dropout. I accidentally found a great career. I was like, "Who am I to write a book?" But I did because I'm a good student. It worked.
I literally doubled my income in less than eight months, all from the power of the book. It opened up so many doors. Everything Jay said happened. But my experience with the traditional house was less than fun. I sold the rights to the book. They did not fly me around the country and set up those [inaudible] jets for me. But it did work. I literally was able to do more, reach more, earn more, and create more things for me to earn more money from speaking platforms and so forth. But I had zero relationship with my publisher. They made all the decisions without me, could care less about me, and all I could ever do was have to justify why I wasn't selling enough books. It was just not fun.
But I did well enough that they forced me to do two more books because that's what most publishers do, and ended up convincing Jay Levinson to go on with me as a co-author. We started co-authoring together in the Guerilla Marketing series on the banking side. By the second edition, my third book with that publisher, we were just done. Long story short, still no relationship with him. I sold 40,000 copies to the bank I worked for. But it was just very miserable, no help in marketing and whatnot. After I got free from them, I went out and self-published. I realized that was wonderful, but it too had some drawbacks. I had been used to the credibility of a traditional house. I had been used to being in bookstores. I had been used to media talking to me about my books. But none of those things happened.
I just had a great experience producing a beautiful book and people loved it, but I had a hard time getting rid of it. I thought to myself out loud with Jay, that I thought somebody needed to fix publishing. There were benefits of both at that point, traditional and self. But there was nothing out there, so he and I worked on an outline for what an entrepreneurial guerilla based publishing idea could be or could look like. I thought he would take it to [inaudible] or something, whoever. But no, when we finished that, he said, "Okay, you need to start it." The unconventional side is that over the last 20 years, the idea came to fruition, that I wanted to add the value of a traditional house, credibility, exclusivity, opportunity that you would expect from a real publisher. But dagnabbit, stay the heck out of the way of the entrepreneur.
Maybe even give them some guidance down their path because we know our business. We don't necessarily know how to sell books. I had to figure that out myself too. One of the best ways to learn and do is to keep practicing and figuring it out. That, of course, was the birth of the guerilla marketing book that you mentioned. But it was all about creating a great place for the authors to thrive, but stay out of the way, but help them figure out [inaudible]. Publishers Weekly called us the first hybrid publisher to market back in '08. Then as we continue to grow up with our broad distribution and credibility, they call us now an unconventional traditional house. A long way to answer that question was that we look and feel and smell like a typical New York house. Scary, right?
But they see us that way for the right reasons. We're exclusive, we only do 150 titles a year. We've got phenomenal bookstore distribution. We've had amazing success, which is certainly a testament to the distribution, but really is a testament of our amazing authors. We've been on the New York Times list 29 times in our short history, over 80 times on the Wall Street Journal in our short history. Then we even pay small advances, though we don't leverage those advances to buy or take over the authors' intellectual property because that's one of those unconventional things that we do, is let our authors maintain control. You're very familiar with that. Then we make all our decisions together. Then hopefully, if we're doing well and the authors are happy, we can [inaudible] the publisher. But if they're not happy and we're not doing well, they can fire us any time because they own everything. That's the birth of the unconventional side, which I love that phrase.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Yeah, I like it a lot too. You talked a little bit about your unconventional background. I think there's a connection there. No disrespect to people who grew up in the publishing industry, but guys like you and I, you were a banker, I spent a lot of time in management consulting, I think we come to it with a different point of view. We understand what entrepreneurs and business owners are doing and trying to accomplish through their books. I think it's that different point of view that really helps us connect with our authors and help them on their journey.
But there are, of course, a few different models. You talked about some of the different publishing models. You got traditional publishing on one end through hybrid and professional service publishing all the way to... Some people do it yourself publishing on the far end. Could you speak a little bit about your point of view? You did a little bit already. You talked about your experience as an author. But my point of view is that there's not one right publishing model. It depends a lot on what the author's trying to get out of it at.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Could you share your perspective on when each model might be best suited for an author?
Yeah, absolutely. In fact, Scott, I appreciate what you just said because you and I are definitely like-minded. I think there's a perfect path for every author, and it's not always the same path. There is a great benefit to the larger traditional houses. They do a really good job. That type of model, the typical traditional model, might be good for somebody that doesn't have a business that the book supports or it's just a great story or a compelling read, where the author's not necessarily going to be involved in the process. Though, as you alluded to, really today, no matter who publishes book, it's going to fall on your shoulders to market it. But those traditional houses are good for maybe the authors that are well seated in the publishing space, and they're just churning out books. Fictions is one avenue as well. There are benefits of the traditional side.
Then the do-it-yourself side is... I'm a firm believer of that too. I think if you've got a message to say, whatever way you get it out there is better than not doing it at all. It certainly is a way to grow. Doing it yourself, publishing it, getting it printed at your local Kinko's or whatever, I think that's better than doing nothing. There's some limitations to that. Not a whole lot of people will discover the book, but it certainly is a great way to start to hone your craft. Then, of course, the assisted self-publishing, where somebody guides you down the path. Then there's the hybrid space, like you and I, that have a little bit of the best of both worlds.
For our space, we do really well with an author that the book is part of something else. In fact, I always tease, I say, "The authors are 80% of our decision." Who are they? What are they doing and why? Then how is the book connected? Then what's in it for the author, besides royalties because the reality is most of us don't make a lot of money on our royalties. We make money in opportunity because we wrote the dagone books. Those are the things that are really important to hybrid spaces or to us specifically.
Then with that in mind, we can have a great path for those authors. But like I said, one path is not necessarily better than the other for every author. It's just finding the right path that gives them where they need. They may switch. I started traditional, went to self, and then came and created the hybrid space, where some authors go traditional, but one a little bit more once they establish a platform and an audience. Then some people just thrive at doing it themselves and there's no wrong answer. It's what's right for them.
Scott A. MacMillan:
That's really well put. Thank you for that. Writing and publishing a book, obviously, is a serious commitment of time and energy. It's funny, what I find people often don't realize is that once you're through that, it might feel like you're at the end of it. But in some ways, it's only the beginning. When you think of authors who are successful and, obviously, success is dependent on what they're trying to accomplish, but those who are successful versus those who aren't, what is it beyond writing and publishing a great book that perhaps they're doing right or maybe even just doing differently?
If I understood the question, you're absolutely right. It is a long game with publishing depending on your goals, of course. But I think if you're going to do it right, and we may get a chance to talk about this later, but I think that the best time to start marketing a book is the moment you decide that you want to write one. Then you start sharing it with your audience because your audience, whether they're in person, family, friends, mentors, clients, whatever, or social audiences, they will hold you accountable to finishing the book, which is a big part of it. But also, as we learned in marketing, also learned from Seth Godin's book, Permissions Based Marketing, you first have to become the authority in that space. They see you transform in their eyes as becoming an authority as you carry them down this path with you.The most successful authors start that conversation early. They talk about the book. They talk about why it's important to them. They talk about the content. They become an expert in the eyes of their audiences, but they don't ask their audience to do anything yet. As Seth Godin teaches us, you have to earn the right, you have to earn permission to ask them to do something. As you're carrying them down this path with you, you're becoming the authority in the space, you're completing the book, you're preparing for the launch, preparing for beyond that, when you finally are ready to say, "Hey, go pre-order the book," or something like that, or, "Come to my book signing," or, "Buy the book." They're not only willing, they've been waiting, they've been expecting it, and now they're excited about it and they want to tell all their friends. That's probably the most successful authors.
Of course, you and I both know for us non-fiction writers, if we have one client that changes their life or they end up hiring us for that million dollar deal or consultancy deal, that's where the real value is. I've seen some successful authors that sell hundreds of book, absolutely kill it on the back end, and they're happy. I've seen authors sell tens of thousands and be discouraged because they don't have a back end. They're wondering, "Why am I not making but a few thousand dollars?"
Scott A. MacMillan:
Really well put. I talk a lot of about one of our authors who, over the last few years, he's probably sold maybe a couple hundred books. But he's given away 5,000 or 6,000 copies of his book because he sells five, six figure consulting engagements off the back end of it. It's been a massive success for him. He probably, if he didn't give them away, I'm sure he could have sold more copies. But that's not the goal. I'm glad you talked about that.
I think we're getting a little bit into the area of Guerilla Marketing. Your book, Guerilla Marketing for Writers, has been on the market now for more than a decade. I've read it. You gave me a copy. I really appreciate that. It's a veritable treasure trove of ideas about how authors can take book marketing and book promotion into their own hands. Could you talk a little bit about what is guerilla marketing and why is it so important for authors?
Oh, absolutely. The biggest thing about guerilla marketing is it's trying to help us, as marketers or just lay people, to understand that it doesn't necessarily take wads of cash or hiring publicists or buying advertising to be a success. In fact, the birth of guerilla marketing goes back to some humble roots. Jay Levinson, who was, as I mentioned, was my mentor, my dear friend, my co-author. He was actually on our advisory board here at Morgan James from a year before we started to the day he died. He started guerilla marketing after he taught at the University of California Berkeley, a big class on marketing. He came from the big Chicago PR marketing firms. He created some of the most memorable campaigns you could ever imagine. When he was teaching the class in the late '70s, early '80s, his students were Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and the Hewlett Packard grandkids. They're in the class and they were raising their hand going, "Jay, this is really amazing stuff, but we don't have any money and our parents cut us off. How can we market our stuff without $300,000 or $400,000 a budget?"
He says, "That's a great idea. I don't know. Let me go find out." He never could find a resource. He ended up looking back and said, "What made us so successful? What made my ideas work so well?" It was just the cliche of thinking outside the box, of course, but realized it was about creating value, creating conversations, something memorable, but not too crazy, and really engaging with an audience. He ended up writing the book called 555 Ways to Sell your Product Without Any Money or something like that. Then it ended up getting picked up by [inaudible] and became Guerrilla Marketing. It's all about doing unconventional things to gain conventional goals, leveraging more of your time, your energy, your imagination, and your relationships as they grow to gain sales or market share over the bank account.
Now, there certainly might be a reason why you might want to invest and not spend an expense, but invest in your business with some marketing dollars. But it can be done all pretty much on a near zero budget. In fact, now we're in the third edition of Guerilla Marketing for Writers, and we've probably spent a total of five grand in actual marketing the book, but have sold tens of thousands of copies. It's all about that word of mouth and engaging the audiences.
Scott A. MacMillan:
When you talk about unconventional marketing, in my mind, I think about Richard Branson. Even though he has tons of cash available he could spend on marketing, he's really a master of grabbing attention through just weird stunts. It sounds like Guerrilla Marketing is a lot of that, and you just don't need the same budget that Richard Branson might need. What's changed in terms of book marketing since you published the book? Perhaps more importantly, what's remained the same?
I think the biggest thing that has changed since we started our first edition of Guerilla Marketing is there was no social networks. We had social networks, but they were physical, they were in person, they were networking groups, they were at conferences, and they were at trade shows. Now, those things still exist to a certain degree, and coming back now, post Covid. But the opportunity that has opened up with the social networks has been pretty amazing. It's been the wild, wild west. But as we all settle into what social media, social networks are, it really boils down to the same principles. It's connecting with an audience as if you were there in person and trying to serve others and add value to them for them being in the room with you. It's not about peddling your wears or bragging about yourself or bringing all the attention on you. Certainly, there's a place for that, but a limited place.
That's the biggest thing, is there was no social media. The best aspects of Guerilla Marketing today, when you're looking at social media, which is only one of the hundreds of Guerilla Marketing tips or tactics that you can use, it's about engagement. Finally, people are starting to realize publishers, category buyers at bookstores, sales reps for books, they realize that just because you have 15,000 followers on Instagram or 15 to 20,000 followers on Twitter, that means nothing. Now, they understand that, unless you have engagement.
I would much, much rather talk to somebody that has 1,000 people on Instagram or 1,000 people on Twitter, but they have 90% engagement, where every one of their posts is creating conversations. People are liking them, sharing them, the author is commenting on the comments, and engaging with that audience. Whereas, you could have 20, 30, 50,000 people on Twitter or Instagram or TikTok and have 2% engagement. That's worthless to me. Those are some of the things that have changed with Guerrilla Marketing, but what hasn't changed is creating value for others, finding problems to have solutions for, and engagement in creating real conversations.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Yeah, so true. I think about... I can't remember who the author was of this blog post, but the 1,000 true fans and how important it is. You don't need a ton of them, but you need them to really be all in with you and be ready to devour whatever you produce.
It takes time to build it, so patience is another one of those Guerilla Marketing tactics you have to master.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Well put. The rubber's going to hit the road here. Guerilla Marketing for Writers has a ton of great tips, but I wonder if you could share maybe your top three or top five Guerilla Marketing tips that you see working really, really well for authors these days.
It may surprise you. I alluded to one a moment ago, but probably the best one is starting the moment you decide to write a book. Literally, those two bridges that you have to cross, becoming the authority in the space and then earning permission to ask them to do something are very, very important. But also, the accountability and excitement of just sharing your concepts with your audiences because if they get engaged with you for that topic, for that reasons, they see you transform right before their eyes. Then again, they'll hold you accountable to finishing it at certain points. Then when you're finally ready to ask, they'll actually respond significantly better. It takes time to bring a book to the market. If you do it "properly" even as fast as some of us hybrids can do it, it still takes us nine months to get into bookstores, which, by the way, less than 1% of all traditionally published books actually ever make it into a bookstore.
Look at Harper. Harper publishes 17,000 books a year. There's not a bookstore on the planet that could just put Harper's new books in the stores. It's really a lot of competition, so you need to really have an audience following you, engaging with you, and being active with you in your conversation so that when the sales reps go, "Hey, we might want to buy this book," you'll have a better chance of being in the stores. We like bookstores because there's a huge discoverability in bookstores. They're still very relevant. We can talk more about that later. That's one of the biggest tactics, which doesn't cost any money, and doesn't require a whole lot of effort other than just letting the cat out of the bag.
Another really unexpected one is just your optimism. Your optimism and attitude of how you're serving others is very contagious, as well as your smile. That would be a third one. If you are really mastering your craft, and you certainly do continue to master the craft while you're writing, sometimes the best way to learn is to teach. That's, in essence, what you do with the book, is you end up doing the deep dive, the discovery, the investigation, and trying and practicing. When you're writing the book, you become more of an expert just by doing so. But your optimism on serving other people, your optimism on having something of value, and your delivery with a smile on your face even when you're doing presentations, heck, even when you're on the phone, people can tell whether or not you're smiling even when you're talking to potential clients on the phone.
Those weapons are things that are intangible, but work measurably different and better than what you expect. Then, of course, your willingness to get out there and hustle is another one. These four, again, haven't costed anything. If you wander to grandma's house, where you're going to call that a book tour, and while you're at grandma's house, you might as well do a book signing in her town. Just being willing to get out there and get in front of people and do the speaking, do the talks, the small events to large events. You just got to get your face in front of as many clients as possible, and in-person.
Zoom, we've all gotten fed up with it, but it certainly has carried us through. But people are still craving in-person connection. Create an opportunity to put yourself, your chief champion of your own content, in front of as many people as possible. Those are the most effective things. That's how you can launch a career and have a successful career as an author without even spending a dime. You can grow it with some other tactics, but those are my four favorite.
Scott A. MacMillan:
I love it. It'll be interesting to see. I wonder if 2022 is going to be the year of in-person or if we're going to have to wait until 2023. But I can feel it coming because there's a lot of pent up demand for seeing people in-person.
Scott A. MacMillan:
What about for the listener who isn't quite there yet? They know that they want to write a book and become a published author. Perhaps they're convinced that it's important for their business, but they keep putting it off. Do you have any advice for them?
I sure do. Just take a moment to pause and look at where you want to be in five years. The quickest way to get there is the power of a book, especially for, even W2 employees. Heck, I was a W2 employee at the bank when I wrote my first book, and I doubled my income in less than eight months. Look at where you want to go and realize a book is going to be one of the fastest ways that you can get there. But if you're intimidated by the book, just remove the idea of the book out of your mind. Think about just jotting down some notes on paper that you really would like to share with an audience, whether it's an audience of one or an audience of hundreds or millions. Flesh out an outline. Really, if I had five minutes to spend with Scott, "What can I get across before he runs out of the room screaming?" That's where you really want to start.
Then don't fret about the order. Don't fret about the word count. Don't fret about where it's... Just start writing towards that outline. For me, I jotted down probably a good 24 item outline, but I wrote in 15 minute increments scattered all throughout the outline because of what happened that day, what experience I had, what client interaction I had, or some difficulty that day. I ended up finishing the book in less than 30 days. But I didn't sit on a blank piece of paper and go, "I need to write." That was the biggest thing. If you're not quite mentally ready, just start planting some seeds in your own mind of, "I want to cover these things." Start writing. Heck, you could even start blogging on a regular basis and end up turning that to the book.
But just don't think about the book because the book can be intimidating. Still tell your audience you're planning on doing one and your fears of wanting to do one. Of course, that's important because you want to be real. You want people to relate to you. But you've just got to understand that you literally could double your income by the power of the book. It's proven over and over and over again. In fact, back to one of the things you mentioned a moment ago, Scott, we as Guerrilla Marketers do give a lot of books away.
In fact, giving is a big Guerrilla Marketing principle. We had many authors do this, but one author in particular in 2019 literally gave away 100,000 copies of his Morgan James book out to the public. Everybody knew you could get it for free, including the category buyer, Barnes and Noble. But we ended up selling 108,000 to 137,000 copies of his book before the lockdowns came in, all because he was creating such a conversation around the book. Readers beget readers.
Scott A. MacMillan:
That's a really good point. I think a lot of people forget that. They think that by giving things away, it's reducing their ability to get value. But your point about readers beget readers, it's so true. You read a book, if you got it for free, it doesn't much matter. You're going to talk about it if you enjoyed it, if it added value for you, you're going to talk about it, and it's going to create other readers. That's a really important takeaway, I think.
A free book changed my life. I discovered Guerilla Marketing in my path to discover what I was missing in my life. I bought all the books on sales and marketing, whether it was industry specific or not. I went to all their seminars. I bought all their courses, but I hadn't yet discovered Guerilla Marketing. Then one day, I came into the office and there was a copy of Guerilla Marketing. I think it was in its second edition. It was on my desk. To this date, I don't remember who gave it to me, who brought it to me, but it was a free book that I got that absolutely changed my life because that's how I ended up learning Guerilla Marketing. I became a Guerilla Marketing master and then met Jay. You already heard that story.
Scott A. MacMillan:
David, where should listeners go to learn more about you and more about Morgan James?
I'm everywhere. MorganJamesPublishing.com is a great resource if you want to check out our unconventional model to publishing. But I'm also on social media at David Hancock. I also have a free gift that I'd love to give the audience, Scott, if that's okay with you, that they can certainly stay connected to me.
Scott A. MacMillan:
But in the spirit of giving, I'd love for everybody on this podcast, if they'd like, they can get a copy of the most recent edition of Guerilla Marketing for Writers. In fact, just go to GMarketingforWriters.com and grab your copy. Do me one thing, though. Do me one favor. If you love it, tell all your friends. If you don't, we never had this conversation. But give me a shot.
Scott A. MacMillan:
That's really generous, David. Thank you for that.
I'll get your name and your email address in the process. Then I'll communicate with you regularly, once a week maybe or so, so you can continue to learn with me. But it's my honor.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Wonderful. We'll put links to all of those in the show notes so that it's easy for people to reference. David, it means a lot that you took the time to join us today. When I think of the type of person that I want to partner with and be associated with in this industry, your name and Morgan James are right at the top. Thank you again for being so generous with your time.
Oh, it's my honor. It's a privilege. Scott, I'm a huge fan. What you're doing is amazing. Obviously, we've discovered the more times we interact, how like-minded we are. You care about your audience. You care about your readers. You're serving them well. [inaudible] absolutely nothing but praise and honor for what you're doing, so congratulations.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Authorship is a journey. It starts well before you've put pen to paper and continues well beyond the moment you grasp your book in your hands for the first time. We covered a lot of ground with David, but as we wrap up this episode of Entrepreneur to Author, remember this: Start promoting your book from the moment you decide to write it. Not only will you begin building a following of readers and engaging them in your journey, but it will also keep you accountable and make sure you finish your book. Remember, as an author, your number one job is to connect with your audience. Yes, that means in part, social media. But that's no substitute for connecting with them in person too. Now is the time, time to write, time to publish, and time to grow. I'm Scott McMillan. Until next time.