Episode 133 – Ghostwriting and Frankendrafts with Derek Lewis

Derek Lewis‘The first draft of the manuscript is just ugly. There are pieces, and parts, and this part doesn’t match that part. It looks like a Frankenstein monster. And that’s why I call it Frankendraft. It sets that expectation low, that this will be an ugly, ghoulish creation with parts and pieces stuck and bolted on here. And we cut that part out and put it over here. It’s not supposed to be the finished draft. We just have to make it come to life.’

The Frankendraft is just one of five stages through which ghostwriter Derek Lewis takes would-be business book authors to get the book in their head out into the world (but it’s hands down the stage with the best name).

This is a fascinating glimpse into how a professional writer works with a business expert to create a book that is distinctively their own but better than they could have written themselves, and there’s lots here that you can put into practice if you’re writing your own business book.


Derek’s site: https://dereklewis.com/

Derek on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dereklewisbooks

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Alison Jones:                        Hello, and welcome to The Extraordinary Business Book Club. It’s going to be a really good one today. I am here with business ghostwriter Derek Lewis, who works with business authors who want to write a book that can change the world. He’s worked with economists, entrepreneurs, captains, consultants, and CEOs. He’s worked with International Monetary Fund, SAP, DaimlerChrysler, Pixar, GE, Microsoft, the Red Cross – it goes on and on – and he has placed or helped with publishing, with publishers such as HarperCollins, Entrepreneur Press, and Taylor & Francis.

Derek is also the author of The Business Book Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Write a Great Business Book, which I’ve read, it’s ace. And it’s been endorsed by authors, writers, and publishing professionals from around the world. In 2016 Derek began offering ghostwriter training in education, and to date he’s coached and mentored ghostwriters in Italy, Argentina, Australia, the UK, and throughout North America. So welcome to the show, Derek. It’s lovely to have you on.

Derek Lewis:                        Thank you, Alison. I love hearing somebody else give me the love.

Alison Jones:                        It’s great, isn’t it? ‘I can’t say all this about me, but you can say it.’ And it is really good. And what I love as well is the idea of ghostwriters – we use the phrase a lot obviously, and we sort of get … You stop thinking about it, but it is actually hilarious, isn’t it, the idea that there are ghostwriters. You can’t see them, but they’re all over.

Derek Lewis:                        I had a friend from back home. He was talking to an old teacher of mine, and somehow they got to talking about me I guess because whenever people have nothing else to do, they talk about Derek Lewis. And so he said, “Do you know that he’s a writer. He writes ghost stories.”

Alison Jones:                        Oh no. Yeah, all the right words but not necessarily in the right order. That is funny. But let’s talk about that. How did you become a ghostwriter? Because it’s not the sort of thing that when you’re aged five you say, “Oh, I want to be a ghostwriter when I grow up.” It’s not a career choice that most people are even aware of.

Derek Lewis:                        No. I have never met somebody who just woke up one day and decided that they wanted to make a career helping other people write their books. Every ghostwriter I’ve ever talked to fell into it by accident. Nobody just … It’s never by design. And the same was true for me. So I loved business books. In high school and in college and grad school, in my professional career, I loved business books, and I liked writing. But I always thought to make a career as a writer, it was something that I would like maybe like John Grisham: Maybe after I had my career and I had kind of made my fortune, made my mark on the world, that I would retire and write for pleasure, because I know that authors are notoriously poor, right?

Alison Jones:                        Right. It’s better to have a private income if you want to make a fist of writing.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. What was it? I think it was Oscar Wilde said, “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, so true. And of course the same holds … To be fair, the same holds for publishing. They do say that the fastest way to make a small fortune in publishing is to start with a large fortune.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. I’ve heard that, if you want to make a million dollars in publishing, start with $2 million.

Alison Jones:                        Exactly. So how did you fall into it?

Derek Lewis:                        Quite by accident and somewhat out of necessity. So I had a job where I was like an in-house business consultant spearheading projects. But they found out that I was a good writer. And so they started, in addition to all the other stuff I was doing, they also started shovelling, passing all of the marketing and copywriting to me.

So whenever I left that company, a coworker and I left that company and we started our own IT firm, while we were starting up and trying to get the business going, to get, to have grocery money and to actually have some income, I started a side hustle where I was doing copywriting for some local newspapers. And then I started going online and finding some of the job boards. So in the evenings and whenever I wasn’t working in the startup, I was making money as a copywriter.

Derek Lewis:                        So then on one of those job boards, I actually found a posting that said, “I’m trying to write a business book. I’ve got all the ideas, but I just, I’m not a writer.” And I, in my naiveté, I thought, “Well, if I’ve been writing blog posts and articles and stuff for these other business owners and thought leaders, I can do a book. It’s just basically a longer article.”

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. How hard can it be, right?

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. Dumb, dumb little child that I was.

Alison Jones:                        But I sometimes think we’d never achieve anything great if we really knew what was involved when we set out.

Derek Lewis:                        Oh my God, you just reminded me there was a missionary that I used to go down and see in Brazil. He was quite a bit older, but he told me his wife told him that if she had known that he felt the calling to be a missionary whenever he was dating her and courting her, that she would not have married him.

Alison Jones:                        And it’s so true so much of our lives, isn’t it? But thank God we’re not-

Derek Lewis:                        If we knew-

Alison Jones:                        … given this knowledge beforehand.

Derek Lewis:                        If we knew what was going to be entailed, we would not go down that road. But since we were just blindly barrelling down the highway, we’ve wound up where we are.

Alison Jones:                        It’s like having children. I think we’d all die out if we really understood.

Derek Lewis:                        Oh, isn’t that the truth? That’s why you have amnesia. After birth, you have this kind of selective amnesia where you don’t realise just how incredibly difficult it was. Because if anybody truly remembered how hard it was to give birth, they would never go through it.

Alison Jones:                        But was it easy? I mean, did you just think actually it is just like a longer blog post? Or was it a baptism in the fire?

Derek Lewis:                        So I discovered that they are two completely different forms of writing. I mean, it’s as different as doing a video for your Facebook page versus creating a documentary, I mean two just totally different art forms. But I discovered that I am a much better ghostwriter than I am copywriter.

Alison Jones:                        Oh, interesting.

Derek Lewis:                        So it was surprising, but it turned out to be a good surprise.

Alison Jones:                        And do you know how many you’ve done since then?

Derek Lewis:                        And so I made another dumb move. I made another dumb move, and I said, “I’m not doing copywriting. I’m going to just exclusively do ghostwriting.” Well, so, I mean, that’s basically starting up a whole business, another business from scratch again. And I do not encourage anybody to follow my footsteps the way that I did it. But by the grace of God, it’s that saying that God watches out for fools and children. So I was a foolish child. And he watched out for me …

Alison Jones:                        And here you are.

Derek Lewis:                        … to the point now … Yes, so to answer your question, I know that I’ve worked with about 40 authors. Not all of them are ghostwriting from scratch. Also I do some author coaching, and I do some manuscript editing. But I think I’ve done between 20 and 30 books I’ve ghostwritten with collaborating authors from scratch.

Alison Jones:                        Which is a pretty impressive number, really. It’s more than your average author output, isn’t it?

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah, because for me it’s, the process is turning their voice and their vision into the book that they would have written if they were an author, a professional writer in addition to being a professional in whatever field that they’re in. So an author has to come up with the ideas and the content and create this child and then not only bring the child into the world, but then they also have to raise it.

For me, I’m just the midwife. I find someone who’s pregnant with a child. I help them deliver the child, and then I give them the child, and then I go to the next delivery room. So that’s why I can do a higher number, because I don’t have to come up with the content. It’s all in their head. All I have to do is just get it out of them.

Alison Jones:                        And let’s talk about that process because I think your five-step process is so smart. So just talk us through how you start and the five steps that you go through when you work with authors.

Derek Lewis:                        So I call it my Frankendraft process.

Alison Jones:                        I do love that.

Derek Lewis:                        Thank you. Yeah, my wife’s encouraged me to trademark that. So maybe I should start saying “Frankendrafts TM.” There’s five steps. So there’s discovery, sketch, Frankendraft, edit, and polish. So in the discovery process, this is where I am of the school of thought of Julia Cameron and Stephen King and a number of other very, very prolific authors and writers in this school of thought that says … How did Julia Cameron say it? No, it was Stephen King. He said it this way, that books are found things, that stories are like fossils, and our job is to extract them as delicately and as intact as possible.

So whenever you have a book inside of you, and this is especially true for business books and business authors who are creating a book based on their subject matter expertise, that the book that you feel like you want to write, it exists in large parts and pieces in your subconscious already, in your subconscious, in your waking hours, and especially in your dreaming hours. Your subconscious mind is putting all of these parts and pieces and thoughts together.

So whenever you get ready to write a book, you’re not actually trying to create it. What you’re really trying to do is extract it out of your subconscious as whole and as put together as you can. And so that’s why step one of any writing process I believe should begin with what I call the discovery. And this is where you use a number of different exercises, but basically you’re just getting all the parts and pieces, stories, and anecdotes, and ideas, and insights, and arguments, and debates, and explanations, and teachings, and all of the things that are even tangentially relevant to the book idea that you have; you have to get all of that out of your head and onto paper. So you want to begin with this mountain of raw material, if you will, the building blocks of what will become your book.

Alison Jones:                        I can imagine that’s quite a cathartic process in itself.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. So a lot of that from my author comes through an author retreat. And this is where I do three days of basically just letting them talk to me about their book. And for them it’s the first time that they’ve had the opportunity to sit down for hours on end with someone who is genuinely interested in what they’re saying. So they might have like a dinner conversation or maybe with their spouse or some other colleagues.

They might talk for 15 or 30 minutes or maybe even an hour about one specific thing. But it’s a conversation. It’s a dialogue. It’s very different to being able to have an interested listener while you get to have this monologue, if you will. And, yeah, cathartic is the right word. It is.

Alison Jones:                        And sometimes just that is so powerful, isn’t it? Some of the best coaching sessions I’ve ever done and where I’ve hardly said a word, and just at the end they go, “That’s ama- … Thank you so much.” “Yeah, you’re welcome. I just gave you the space to talk.” It’s incredibly powerful. You don’t get that space very often.

Derek Lewis:                        You know, I am a firm believer in therapists and counsellors. And I’ve spent God only knows how many thousands of dollars. But the epiphanies for me are was realising that a therapist or a counsellor, they don’t have the answers. The best therapist, the best counsellors, they simply help you ask better questions. And so that’s really what I do with my authors. I’m not there to really to be much more than a mirror. And at most I get to play devil’s advocate. And that’s really they just need somebody who can do that in a professional capacity-

Alison Jones:                        And it’s just about holding-

Derek Lewis:                        … to get all of that out.

Alison Jones:                        And it’s holding the process, isn’t it? So all the ideas, as you say, are theirs. And everything that they need is in there. But they need that structure in the process to give them discipline in which to allow it to come out.

Derek Lewis:                        And that’s also, it’s a pretty … What’s the word I’m looking for, Alison? It’s a daunting task whenever you’re thinking about writing a book. So just the fact that they know that I’ve ghostwritten these books, that I’ve authored a few books, that I’ve coached a number of authors, and that I know how the process works, that I have faith in the creative process, then they don’t have to trust that the creative process is going to actually produce a result. They can rely in my confidence in the process. Does that make sense?

Alison Jones:                        Yes. It’s like a new guide in a country that you don’t know, isn’t it? It’s exactly right.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. You’re okay exploring because you know that your guide knows what they’re doing so that you can be free of those worries of, “Oh my God, are we lost? Am I getting into a sketchy part of town? Are we going to go off the edge of the map?”

Alison Jones:                        Perfect. So what stage are we up to? I’ve lost track.

Derek Lewis:                        That was just stage one.

Alison Jones:                        Oh, right. Okay. This could be a long broadcast, folk.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. Maybe this should be part one. And we can have part two.

Alison Jones:                        You’re just angling for another invitation.

Derek Lewis:                        It’s just spending time with you, Alison. That’s all I want.

Alison Jones:                        It is a long process, though. Part one, it can take a while. Go on.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. And part two is what I call … Nowadays I call it a sketch. I used to call it a blueprint. Before a blueprint, I call it an outline. But that’s really too structured of a term because an outline says, “This is everything that’s going to go on the book.” And I don’t believe that the best books, that you can force a structure before you actually begin creating the book. That’s like saying, “I’m going to go ahead and buy some clues for my child that’s unborn because I know exactly what size they’re going to be.”

Like, you can maybe buy some big onesies and stuff, but until you’re ready to give birth, you don’t know if you’re going to be giving birth to a 10-pound, 22-inch child or if maybe they’re going to be a premie and they would be lost in clothes that big. That’s why whenever you’re doing an outline, you can’t say, “This is everything that’s going to go in the book,” because until you begin writing the book, you don’t even really know what the book is about, much less have a concrete idea of all the content that’s going to go into it.

So instead of calling it an outline or a blueprint, I just call it a sketch because just like whenever you’re going to create a painting or whenever a sculptor is going to create a great sculpture, they’ll create, and there’s some Italian words for it that I can’t remember, but it’s where they’ll do a sketch. They’ll do a mock-up with the sculpture. They actually create a small scale model of what it is that they’re going to create.

So they create this small figure that is representative of what they intend to create. And that’s kind of what we’re doing with the sketch. We have a good idea of who the audience is, of what the problem is that the author is solving, who their one reader is, the tone that they think that they want to have. We have an idea that the content is going to be structured like this, and these are the stories and the points that we’re probably going to put in chapter one. This is what’s probably going to go in chapter two.

So we’ve got a sketch, and we kind of know where we’re going. But it’s just that. And it’s not supposed to be restrictive; rather, it’s supposed to help us somewhat focus. So armed with the sketch in one hand, and armed with all of this raw material in the other, then my authors and I will be going to step three. And this is where we actually start, excuse me, creating the manuscript.

So I’ll ghostwrite chapter one. And then I’ll send it to my author. And then they’ll read through it. And then we get on the phone and we go through everything that they like and they don’t like, everything that sounds like them or doesn’t sound like them. The points that they realise that they didn’t fully explain to me, maybe they realise that there is some content gaps. Maybe I took some things, and I took too much of an artistic licence with them, and we have to scale some things back and move things around.

So then I don’t actually fix any of it. I take all of their feedback, and then I go ghostwrite the next chapter. And then we get on the phone and we go back and forth. And we do this chapter by chapter. So even as we’re creating the manuscript, at each chapter, in each stage and step, they’re getting clarity in their vision of what the book is. They’re understanding more and of what it is they’re really trying to say, and why they’re trying to say it, and how it’s coming together.

There’s some things that sounded great in their head. But whenever we put it down on paper, we realise that there’s really not much there. So is this a point that we should try to flesh out and try to make it work? Should we collapse it into another chapter or section? Is this something that we could throw out altogether?

So as we go through the manuscript, it’s continually evolving and changing. And the earlier parts are informing the latter parts. And we’re trying to be consistent. But then we realise this changes. So for instance, there was a book that I did. I was working with a very educated woman. And the book was on change management. And as we got deeper and deeper into the book, I said … I think we were on chapter 8 out of 10 or 11 chapters we had planned. I said, “You know, after looking at all of your stories and whenever you tell … this really feels more like a book on change leadership, not on change management.” And she said, “I’ve got to think about that.” So she went off for a week, and she came back. She said, “You’re right. This is a leadership book. It’s not just a management book.”

Alison Jones:                        And that’s really fundamental.

Derek Lewis:                        So that doesn’t sell-

Alison Jones:                        It’s fundamental to who she is and how she’s running her business as well, isn’t it?

Derek Lewis:                        Exactly. Yeah, and I’m glad you said that because for most people, the difference between change leadership and change management doesn’t sound like much, but you’re exactly right, it’s a fundamentally different book and a fundamentally different way of approaching your business. And so we had to stop and then go back to the beginning of the book and rewrite everything up to that point because we were no longer writing a book on change management, we’re writing a book on change leadership. But we didn’t know that until we had gotten 80% of the way through that initial draft.

Alison Jones:                        That’s so fascinating.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah, and that’s why whenever I read people saying you have to have an outline, you have to stick to it, you have to … That doesn’t leave any room for the manuscript to grow, to breathe, to become something more than what you originally envisioned it to be.

Alison Jones:                        And often one of the main reasons that you do this thing, that you undertake the job of writing a book, it’s to improve the quality of your thinking, isn’t it, to discover what it is you really think and articulate it. And in doing that, it changes. It’s really interesting. And it’s so fascinating to just look under the hood of how you do it as well. So thank you. This is really fascinating.

Derek Lewis:                        Well, I appreciate that, but it’s not just for me. It’s also even from my authors who don’t actually write some of the content, just still me ghostwriting it and ghostwriting their ideas and their vision, and us going back and forth and trying to figure out what they’re really trying to say, that process still achieves the same results as it improving the quality of their thinking and trying to figure out how to actually say it. So even though they’re not literally writing, they still get all the benefits of having written.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. Brilliant, because I think that is the risk, isn’t it? I think it is. With other ghostwriters, this can happen. The person, the client tells the ghostwriter what they want. The ghostwriter goes away and writes the book, delivers it back to the client, who goes, “Well, yeah, that’s good enough.” And that connection has been missed. That opportunity to develop has been missed.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. I don’t understand, I wouldn’t even know how to do that, just to go off in a cave and write whatever I wanted to, and come back and throw it down in front of the author and say, “All right, we’re done.”

Alison Jones:                        “We’re done. Here you go.”

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. In fact, I’ve actually worked with a couple of authors who had done that with their first ghostwriter, and they were so unhappy with their book that they found another ghostwriter. So I had the opportunity to show them how it could have been and because they had … I guess that’s the … I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s their traditional way, or if that’s the old way, or if that’s just how some ghostwriters did it. I just can’t imagine doing that in any capacity.

Alison Jones:                        So we’re up to stage four. I’m, again, losing track. Is the Frankendraft there?

Derek Lewis:                        Well, so I like just to stay with the wording too. We’re talking about the evolution and how things change, so by the time we get finished writing the first draft of the manuscript, it is so just ugly. There are pieces, and parts, and this part doesn’t match that part. It looks like a Frankenstein monster. And that’s why I call it Frankendraft. It sets that expectation low, that this will be an ugly, ghoulish creation with parts and pieces stuck and bolted on here. And we cut that part out and put it over here. It’s not supposed to be the finished draft. We just have to make it come to life.

And then the magic really happens in steps four and five where I go back and edit and edit and edit until, well, ideally I say you want to edit your writing until it’s so smooth the reader forgets they’re even reading.

Alison Jones:                        It’s just transparent.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah. And then step five is the polish where we share the manuscript with a couple of trusted colleagues, beta readers basically. We get some of the feedback, and they get to point out some obvious things that have become blind to the author and me because we’ve been looking at this content at this point for months and months, and we’ve become blind to some of its unrefinements or some parts where maybe we’ve had a little logic skip or something like that.

Derek Lewis:                        So we take their feedback, and then we do one more round of editing. And then we give it to two different proofreaders in succession who find all the typos and the grammar mistakes that are inevitably in there.

Alison Jones:                        “How could I possibly have made that …” I know. “I’ve read it 500 times, but there’s still a mistake in it.” It’s quite incredible.

Derek Lewis:                        Well, remind me sometime, Alison. I’ll send you some of the studies I have that show why it’s physiologically impossible to proofread your own-

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, because you know what you mean. You’re not alive or sensitive to any ambiguity because it’s very clear in your head what you meant. So, yes, you absolutely have to get fresh eyes on it.

Derek Lewis:                        And, yeah, our brains actually supply the words that we thought were there. So our eyes don’t actually see the world as it is. We see the world as we expect it to be.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, it’s so true.

Derek Lewis:                        It’s pretty cool.

Alison Jones:                        And just parking the writing for a moment, because something else that really interests me about you, and I’m just keeping an eye on the time here because I’m very aware-

Derek Lewis:                        I’m fascinating. I’m fascinating…

Alison Jones:                        You are. You’re endlessly fascinating, but we have to finish this.

Derek Lewis:                        Endlessly fascinating. I love that.

Alison Jones:                        We-

Derek Lewis:                        That’s going on Facebook: “Today I was described as endlessly fascinating.”

Alison Jones:                        But I’m going to pin you down because you also host a podcast. This is in fact a reciprocal interview. We’re recording this in July 2018 only about three days after you interviewed me for your podcast. I suppose there’s a race to who gets theirs out first. But tell us a little bit about this thinking behind your podcast, and also how you use it in the business, but also any sort of tips for anybody who’s on the brink of thinking, “Ah, maybe a podcast is for me. I don’t know.” But what would you say?

Derek Lewis:                        So I think, and you do a great job, you do a wonderful job of this in your book, Alison, This Book Means Business, where you talk about if you’re going to undertake this project, you need to be very clear about why you’re doing it. So in the case of This Book Means Business, it’s obviously talking about how to write a business book. And you need to be clear about how it’s going to align with your business.

It’s the same thing with the podcast. If you’re going to create a podcast, you need to understand internally why you’re doing this. If you’re doing this just because you hear that it’s something that needs to be done or you think that it’s a cool way to do something with your business, that’s not a good reason for a podcast.

:                                                     Now, if you know that you want to increase web traffic to your website, a podcast can do that, but you have to start with the end in mind. So if I’m going to drive traffic to my website, I have to have a strategy for publishing my podcast out there. Now, that’s in contrast to the reason that I have a podcast. I’m not trying to increase web traffic to my site, although a podcast does help with SEO. The reason that I have a podcast is, number one, it is a credibility signal. So whenever my potential authors and coachees – “Coachees,” that’s not a word, coaching clients – whenever they come to my website and they look and see that I have a podcast, and on this podcast that I talk to people like you, publishers, literary agents, book marketing specialists, other successful business authors, it shows them that I have a level of credibility and that I have a network, that I can professionally talk to all of these people.

And then it also gives them an easy way to meet me. So they may not be ready to start a sales conversation and have me trying to sell them ghostwriting services or coaching services. But at the same time, they do want to learn more about me. And they do need to learn about some of the topics that I’m an expert in. And so a podcast is an easy way for them to get to know me and glean some of this expert wisdom with the people that I’m interviewing without them actually having to risk anything.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it like that. It’s good stalking fodder.

Derek Lewis:                        Right. So for me, I don’t care how many people actually subscribe to me on iTunes. I’m not doing it for the traffic, and I’m not doing it because I want to create revenue or I want to create money for it. I’m doing it as a great way to boost my credibility, and it’s also a wonderful way to network with great people like yourself.

Alison Jones:                        Well, I mean, what can I say? Likewise, and, yeah, really, really-

Derek Lewis:                        Endlessly fascinating.

Alison Jones:                        Endlessly.

Derek Lewis:                        People like that sort of thing.

Alison Jones:                        But I think you’re so right. It’s about being really clear about what you’re doing, and it’s really interesting to hear you articulate that for your business. That’s brilliant. Thank you. If somebody is listening to this show, I’m sure they’re taking notes frantically, but if you’re just going to give them one tip, so somebody who’s maybe just on the brink of starting to write their book or maybe stuck in the saggy middle, what would you say to them?

Derek Lewis:                        Just write. Don’t worry about it being perfect. Don’t worry about what it sounds like. Don’t worry about what it looks like. Don’t worry if anybody ever reads it or not. Just write. That is the absolutely most important, fundamental, critical activity that you can engage in. If you ever want to be an author, just write.

Alison Jones:                        And it sounds so simple. But actually worrying about writing, it takes up so much more time. And procrastinating can take a huge amount of time as well, yeah. Brilliant advice. Now, I always ask my guests to recommend someone else for the show. And I’m really fascinated to hear who you’re going to say, actually. Who do you recommend that I should invite as a guest onto The Extraordinary Business Book Club? So what would something interesting to say about the business of business books?

Derek Lewis:                        About the business of business books, now, whenever you say that, that narrows it down considerably because as huge of a market as business books are, and as significant of a genre that it is by market signs and by sales, you would think that there would be a huge number of people in this space of business books. But there’s actually not. Whenever we’re talking about professionals in the business book space, plenty of people are great business book authors. There are literally thousands of … tens of thousands. But professionals in the business book space, so the first person off the top of my head is David Hancock. He is the founder and publisher of Morgan James Publishing. How does he say it? The entrepreneurial publisher.

So they don’t exclusively publish just business books. But they have a very entrepreneurial approach to publishing. And that doesn’t really mean much to you until you work with your first traditional publisher and you realise the publishers are … How do I say this kindly, Alison?

Alison Jones:                        Don’t mind my sensibilities. Go on.

Derek Lewis:                        They are quite conventional in their traditional approach to publishing as a commodity industry, which basically means that they … Whenever you look at the backgrounds of most people in publishing, they don’t have a business background. Most of them have an English or some kind of writing background, which makes sense, but if everybody in the industry are English majors, and you’re trying to do something with your business, it’s incredibly difficult to get English majors to think like an entrepreneur. Does that make sense?

Alison Jones:                        Oh, absolutely. Yeah, there’s a whole other podcast episode right there.

Derek Lewis:                        And is it kind…

Alison Jones:                        Well, do you know, it’s interesting because I think there is a big difference between New York publishing, which is a kind of world of its own, very, very literary in some ways, and, yeah, other-

Derek Lewis:                        That’s a good point.

Alison Jones:                        … kinds of publishing.

Derek Lewis:                        Yeah, you’re right.

Alison Jones:                        Because I’ve always been in academic and professional publishing, which it is less precious about its … It’s less literary in some sense and a bit more commercially minded, but yes, part of the problem of course is publishing is such a low-margin business that it’s very, very hard. It’s very risk averse. And there’s a good reason for that. But yes, that sounds like a really, really interesting recommendation. I don’t know him, and it would be great to spend … You’re right. I do talk to a lot of authors on this show, but I really do love talking to people with a different angle on the business of business books. And that’s why I phrased the question like that.

I have to say, it has been very loosely interpreted by lots of people. And that’s great. That’s brilliant. But that sounds like a really … one that really squarely fits the criteria. So that’s fantastic.

Derek Lewis:                        Good. Yeah, he’s a great guy.

Alison Jones:                        Good, and Derek, if people want to-

Derek Lewis:                        Tell him I said hello…

Alison Jones:                        I will tell him you sent me. And I’m sure that means he’ll say yes, which is great. Now, Derek, if people want to find out more about you and more about what you do, where should they go?

Derek Lewis:                        So, let me back up for just a second. Wait until he says yes before you tell him Derek Lewis sent you because he might say no instead.

Alison Jones:                        That’s really funny.

Derek Lewis:                        Everything about me is on my website, Alison, just dereklewis.com. That’s D-E-R-E-K-L-E-W-I-S, very simple, Derek, and a very English Lewis.

Alison Jones:                        I think it’s Welsh, actually, but I’ll let you away with that. Fantastic. I-

Derek Lewis:                        Is it?

Alison Jones:                        I might get caught out here. I think-

Derek Lewis:                        I think for Christmas I’m going to do the ancestor DNA and find out where all of my genetic markers come from. But I think you’re right: We’re a lot more Scots-Irish-Welsh than we are English. We’re really..

Alison Jones:                        Well, funny enough, I’m off to Lewis, the Isle of Lewis, next month. My husband’s family is from there. So…

Derek Lewis:                        Really?

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, so …

Derek Lewis:                        Take pictures.

Alison Jones:                        I’ll take a picture and send it to you, yeah. Brilliant. Derek, just, I mean, genuinely could talk to you all day. Thank you so much for your time today. That was fascinating.

Derek Lewis:                        It’s my pleasure, Alison. Thanks for having me on your show.



  1. Alison, what a wonderful time I had on your podcast! Thank you for having me. I truly hope it helps your listeners!

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