Book coach and mentor Karen Williams found writing her first two books easy, but quickly realised that not all her clients felt the same way. So she put together a course to help them, and in the process earned several thousand pounds and wrote another book!
In this interview she shares her ‘jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down’ approach and offers top tips on planning and writing your book.
Alison Jones: I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Karen Williams to the Extraordinary Business Book Club today. Karen is the book mentor from Librotas. She works with coaches, therapists, and other business experts who want to write a non-fiction book that grows their business, raises their credibility, and attracts higher paying clients.
She helps them to overcome their fears, have the courage to share their best stuff, and ultimately enables them to change their lives through their writing, which is absolutely music to my ears. That’s what I’m all about. Karen herself is the author of The Mouse That Roared, Your Book is the Hook, How To Stand Out In Your Business, and the Amazon number one bestseller, The Secrets of Successful Coaches. Welcome to the Club, Karen.
Karen Williams: Thank you Alison. Thank you for inviting me to be here. I’m delighted to be sharing some of my stuff with you.
Alison Jones: It’s lovely to have you. We’ve spoken quite a lot over the years, haven’t we? It’s really nice to have you here on the show.
Karen Williams: I know. Thank you.
Alison Jones: I’ve given your introduction obviously, but tell us a little bit more about you, business where it came from and where it’s going.
Karen Williams: I started out in November 2006 as a career coach. I had a moment in my career which sparked me to totally changing it. I’d got myself a life coach in January 2006. I never looked back really. She helped me to find a job that I enjoyed. I started training as a coach and I launched as a coach. That’s how I started. I also recognized there was a lot of people like me who were struggling in terms of they were great coaches, but they were struggling to get their business off the ground. Now I had quite a few lucky breaks, so I was… I say lucky breaks. They were quite strategic in terms of how people found me.
The thing that put me and my business on the map was writing my first book, The Secrets of Successful Coaches. I started it by accident, as you do, in 2009 where I modelled the mindset behind a successful coaching business. I interviewed 11 successful coaches, who were great in business as well as being great coaches. I decided to write a book about it. I know you haven’t really said it but Michael Neill obviously is one of your favourite interviews. I interviewed him for my book. I interviewed Gladeana McMahon, the Chair of the Association for Coaching, Suzy Greaves, some amazing people that… I could list them all off. It made a huge difference to my business as well.
I said never again, so in 2012, I wrote the second one. Then, as you say, it just happened. I’m on book number 5, very, very slowly though. Yeah I think you’ve given everything away in the introduction already. In 2014 I had a lot of people approach me and said, “Karen you’ve written a couple of books. How did you do it?” I went, “Well it’s easy.” They said, “No it’s not.” I went, “Oh, okay.” It happened by accident going into the book mentoring really through my own experiences more than anything else. I love working with clients every day.
Alison Jones: Fantastic. Actually, just before we move on, I think it’s really important picking up that point that you interviewed these amazing people. It’s incredible, isn’t it, when you reach out, especially if you say, “I’m writing a book.” People are incredibly generous. They love being involved in that, don’t they?
Karen Williams: I had people reach out and say yes before I was even writing a book, just because I was doing the modelling project. I had to model 4 people for the project. People reached out and said yes before I even decided to write a book. Obviously that just took it to the next level. I had to go back and do some more research. I just chunked everything that they said into chapters. That enabled me to share the commonalities and the things that they said that made perfect sense to me. You got to think, 2009 the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. Things have moved on and changed a lot since then. That really changed my business. It changed writing that first book just put me on the map. Yeah, it’s brilliant.
Alison Jones: They say the book that changes your life is the book you write. It’s a Seth Godin thing, isn’t it?
Karen Williams: Yeah. Definitely. I totally agree with that Alison.
Alison Jones: I really want to talk today, because it’s so interesting, about Your Book is the Hook. They’re all good. I know that, but we’ve only got 25 minutes. I really want to zoom in on Your Book is the Hook, which had quite an unusual genesis. Just tell us a little bit about how you wrote that book.
Karen Williams: As I said, in 2014, I was approached by people to help them with their books. I’d already inadvertently helped people anyway. I was doing a lot of business coaching, working with coaches, therapists, consultants at that stage. I thought what I did was common sense. It was easy. People were telling me, “No, I need help with it.” That’s how it all happened. I decided that the best way of getting my message out there was to write a book. I didn’t want to squirrel myself away for months to get it written and to go through the, what can be frustrating from time to time. I did it very differently. I did it, as we recently talked about, the JFDI approach to writing a book.
Alison Jones: I’m a big, big advocate of JFDI.
Karen Williams: Definitely. I think you have to do it that way. How I did it is I decided to create an online program. During August 2014, I ran a what I called summer book camp. They were Q&A webinars where I shared content and I also got people to ask me questions about writing, publishing, marketing a book. That was great market research in itself. Then on each of those webinars, I upsold a 6-week Your Book is the Hook online program, which I created the web copy for, I sold it, and then I created the content as I went. That content later became the book. That’s how I did it. It enabled me to go from an idea, which obviously I mapped out, I planned because I’m quite a structured person, to actually having the book published. You were at my book launch, weren’t you-
Alison Jones: I was.
Karen Williams: … in February 2015. Yeah.
Alison Jones: That was great fun, the launch. I enjoyed that. There’s nothing like that accountability. “Yeah, I’m delivering the module on Tuesday. Better write the content.”
Karen Williams: Yeah. That’s the thing. It was quite hard work to actually stick to the schedule. It was a real kick up the backside to get it done. The short term pain of actually working long hours to do it, to get it done, was the long term gain of getting it done quite quickly and also getting feedback along the way. That’s the thing. I was testing new content.
It was a low cost, £97 programme. I was giving great value, but it was getting that feedback and finding that enabled me to develop the process as I went. When I finished the program in October, I was able to bring everything together and just chunk it down a little bit more into the individual… There’s basically 6 steps that I teach. There are sub-steps in each of the sections as well.
Alison Jones: I love that. What did you learn about you first of all Karen and also your business and how that was evolving during that process?
Karen Williams: It raised my credibility. That’s the thing. The income that was generated from that programme through selling it, through people then working with me one-to-one, people coming on my writing retreats, latterly come back to me for more support, it was basically over £16,000 in income, which was quite surprising. It was only when I looked back recently I realized the success of it, but also I got loads of people off the starting blocks with their books, which is what I wanted to do. It raised my credibility in that area. I was really niching down going from business coaching, which I still do.
I still do business mentoring, but I do it around the book. We totally agree on this I know Alison. It’s not about the book. It’s about the business as well. Everything I do is exactly the same, but now people come out with a book at the end of it. I help them to go through the whole process of writing it, publishing it, marketing it. It was credibility raising. It changed the face of my business. It just enabled me to… I really found the thing that I really loved and the thing I found easy. That was the main change I suppose for me.
Alison Jones: When you say that, the thing that you loved and found easy, was that the communicating of it or the formulating of the system? What was it that you discovered, “Actually this is it. This is what I need to share.”
Karen Williams: If someone comes to me and has a conversation and says, “Right, I want to write a book and I’m not quite sure where to start. This is my idea.” I’m quite good at finding that hook, ironically, that thing that makes the book different. It’s having those sorts of conversations. For me, I find writing easy. When I write, I sit at my computer. It channels from my head through my fingers. It misses my brain sometimes. I can just… I find the writing side of things quite easy. Not all of my clients feel that way. If I help them to create a really good plan, they can write it with less hassle than they might do if they sat in front of a blank Word document.
Alison Jones: The blank Word document is a killer, isn’t it?
Karen Williams: Yeah.
Alison Jones: There’s a whole range of things that stop people. You’ve touched on so many of them there. That sense of, “I don’t know where to start” or “I’m not a good writer” or “Oh, the blank page. It’s killing me.” What are the biggest blockers that you find people come to you with?
Karen Williams: Before they’ve started it is not knowing where to start. It’s that overwhelming thought that you’ve got to write a 50,000 word book and where do you start? It can be time. I’ve done a couple of surveys actually. Getting started was the first one. Time, time to fit it in around your life. You’re running a business. You’re trying to get clients. You’re having a life. You’re looking after your family. Writing a book alongside it can be quite hard.
The way I like to work with people it’s about doing the book alongside everything else. You can hone your messages as you write your book. If you need to update your website copy, you can do that alongside it. It’s just about working with people on the structure of who your book is for. Why are you writing it? What’s the message? What problem are you solving? What solution are you giving to people? It’s really about helping people with that side of the structure. I’ve totally forgotten your question that you asked.
Alison Jones: It’s about the blockers. What kind of blockers do people have.
Karen Williams: Time I think is the thing. Also, when it comes to time, another blocker is people worrying so much that they can’t do it that they spend their time worrying rather than actually writing. Also, sticking your head above the parapet as well. Some of my clients certainly I find go to me – and I went through this with my first book. I totally understand where they’re coming from – “Who am I to write a book? What are people going to think?” It is quite scary when you do become more visible because writing a book, obviously that’s one of the big things that comes as a result.
Alison Jones: That’s so true, isn’t it? You are signalling that you’re serious, that you’re stepping up, that you’re making yourself more visible. That is terrifying. I think also when you talk about time, which is a huge one. I know everybody’s busy, but I think if you’re facing that fear and if you aren’t quite clear about what you’re doing, you are never going to find the time.
Karen Williams: No, no, no, no exactly. You just have to do it. That’s my biggest piece of advice to people is just to do it. It’s like anything. It’s like getting married, having children, whatever it might be. There’s just never the right time. It’s just about just deciding. Deciding one way or the other, not just going, “Oh one day I’ll write a book.” It’s just about deciding. Yeah, that’s really important.
Alison Jones: How do you help people overcome that? If they come to you and they say, “I’m really scared about that visibility. I know I need to do it, but…” They acknowledge the fear. How can you help them overcome that?
Karen Williams: First of all, they need to acknowledge what they are good at, what they want to get known for, but also the knowledge and the expertise. What I find through working with my clients just they are writing down the things that they know through the book enables them to go, “Actually I do know a lot.” It’s just helping them to acknowledge it. I have clients who obviously all of my clients have different things that they need help with. Every day is different. Those who need extra handholding and support, that’s what they get from me. If they want me to read something and give them feedback, I’m happy to do so. That’s why we work hand-in-hand on … If people can’t see the wood for the trees, I help them to find that clearing.
Alison Jones: Nice extended metaphor.
Karen Williams: I know you like metaphors, Alison.
Alison Jones: I love a good metaphor. I was talking to Bryony Thomas, who was all about mixed metaphors, she said, in her first book, which made me laugh. Brilliant. Listening to this will be lots of people who are in the throes of writing their first book. As you know, I’ve written other books before, but this is the first time I’ve written one that’s squarely on who I am, what I’m doing, and why it’s important. I’m coming up against all the things you talk about there, the fear and the ‘Aarrghhh’. What’s the single bit of advice that you would give to a first time business book author? If you could tell them nothing else, what’s the single thing they really need to get a hold of?
Karen Williams: It’s really hard to stick to one thing. The thing is really plan it well. The thing that’s going to help you to write it is to do the planning stage. I know some of my clients really don’t enjoy that side of things but, when you know who you’re writing it for, what you’re writing, have the structure … I’m a great fan of post-it notes. Whenever I do a one-to-one or an event with clients around the planning side of things, I get flip chart paper, post-it notes, coloured pens… It’s the best way of doing it because you can move things around.
The clearer the structure is behind the book, the easier it is to write it because you can… I started writing my fifth book in September last year. I’ve had 2 chunks of time to write it. It’s not high on my list of priorities. I picked it up in Easter. I was running a workshop on the same subject. I picked it up. On my Word document that I opened, I hadn’t touched it for about 6 months, I knew exactly what was next. It made it easy for me to move content around, for me to know what was next. It made it easier to write.
Planning really is key and also working back from the launch date as well. Put the launch date in the diary. Yes, it can be changed, but at least if you’ve got a date to work towards, it’s something to work back from so you can actually see those mini-deadlines. It doesn’t become so overwhelming then. I think that’s the most important thing.
Alison Jones: Yeah. I absolutely agree. I’m with you on the post-it notes. I always think I should have shares in post-it. There’s nothing like them. There’s something about that kind of wiring. Maybe it’s just our generation. I don’t know. You think through your fingers to a pen somehow differently than you think onto a keyboard and a screen, don’t you? It’s interesting.
Karen Williams: Yeah. Exactly. Some of my clients also, they like to hand write their books as well and then dictate them. I think another thing to mention is that you don’t have to type. I like typing. That’s how I do it. Other people like to hand write, to verbalize their book and speak it into a system that transcribes it for them or even get someone else to transcribe it for them. It’s just I think there are probably things that we both share with our clients, coach, mentor our clients on, but it is just about people finding their own way with our guidance and our support to get them there. Post-it notes aren’t for everybody. Some people like to mind map. Post-it notes for me is the visual thing.
Alison Jones: Yeah. The great thing about post-it notes is you see, you can get an emerging structure coming, can’t you? Then you can group those post-its together and you can take some of them off and put them in a file for book 2. They’re just so flexible.
Karen Williams: Of course.
Alison Jones: I remember talking to Sherry Bevan who had two sets of post-it notes going on in her house at the same time, and found that they cross-fertilized on slippers.
Karen Williams: Oh, right!
Alison Jones: Actually she said it was quite interesting because one gave her an idea … That’s the one big thing about them. They do tend to unstick sometimes, which is really annoying.
Karen Williams: That’s the downside. The last time I did a VIP day with a client, we did have flying post-it notes. That is not a good thing.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Control your post-it notes. Brilliant. That was awesome. Thank you so much, Karen. Now, as you know, on this podcast, we have quite a range of people; a lot of authors, a lot of people like you, specialists in the book writing thing, and lots of publishing people as well. Who do you recommend I should have on the show? Somebody who’s got something interesting to say about the business of books and particularly of business books?
Karen Williams: I knew you were going to ask this question, Alison. It was really, really hard. Obviously I’d recommend my clients because obviously they’re real life examples of people who have decided to do it and then just gone for it. I think if you’re looking for somebody who’s influential, Suzy Greaves. Suzy was one of the people I interviewed for my first book, like I did with Michael, I then interviewed her for a podcast. She also gave me an amazing testimonial for The Mouse That Roared as well. She’s just an inspirational coach, but also the editor of Psychologies Magazine. She comes across a lot of books. She’s involved with a lot of book-related things. She does her own programme as well. That would have to be my top person to interview.
Alison Jones: That’s a brilliant recommendation. I love the idea of getting Suzy Greaves on. I think she’d have a lot of interesting stuff to say about how you use your book to build your profile and how … because this is something that I think a lot of authors forget is that the internet is a content-eating machine, constantly hungry. You need good, new, interesting content all the time. Authors are in a really good place to do that. She’s probably got a view on how you can put yourself out there, get over that fear of being visible, and make yourself available.
Karen Williams: Oh, definitely. I met her when I did my modelling project. That was before I decided to write the book. She’d just published her second one at the time. She was in the throes of all the promotion, the seeing journalists. Being an ex-journalist and now a journalist, an ex-journalist before and also now as editor of Psychologies, she was in the throes of promoting it. It was really a huge learning curve. Everyone I interviewed for that were amazing. They were all little insights and things that helped me and also my readers.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Actually I don’t think you made that point explicitly, but it comes out in everything you say. It’s that point about the people that you connect with really transform yourself and your business and your book. There’s a real three-way benefit there, isn’t there, when you connect with the right people in the process?
Karen Williams: Yeah. I like to showcase my clients. I was speaking at a networking meeting before our call today. I’ve got my clients’ books with me. I’m showcasing them. I’ve got people going, “Oh, how can I buy that?” For me it’s about knowing who can help who in this business isn’t it? That’s why we do very similar things, but we’re supporting each other because there’s space enough for both of us. I think it’s just about who you know and who you can connect with other people that allows them to build their business and to do what they love because that’s what it’s all about I think.
Alison Jones: Absolutely. It’s the collaboration economy, I think. Absolutely. There’s space for everyone. It’s brilliant.
Karen Williams: Yup. Yup.
Alison Jones: Great. Thank you so much. Now if people want to find out more about you, about your books and about your business, where are they going to go, Karen?
Karen Williams: The best place is www.Librotas.com. I rebranded earlier this year, which was quite a big leap for me, but it’s something that I needed to do. We’ve got events in Portsmouth. We’ve got the writing retreat in Spain as well. People can find out about that and obviously the case study, which will be at www.Librotas.com/casestudy, which will tell people how I created my JFDI approach to writing Your Book is the Hook, what I did, how I did it, and also how other people can do something similar. If I can encourage more people to just to go and do it, that’s really what I want to do through the case study.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. That case study link is going to be up on the site?
Karen Williams: Yeah.
Alison Jones: Tell us a little bit more about the writing retreats because I know that’s something that you run that’s really successful and really I so want to go on one of these.
Karen Williams: It’s absolutely amazing. Back in 2014, I set it up. I had a client who wanted to run retreats. I wanted to run my first writing retreat. She was living in this beautiful village in Spain at the time. She’s still got family, her partner’s family is over there. We set up the writing retreat. We ran the first one in 2014. We’re running the third one on the 22nd of September, 2016. I’m sure we’ll do it again next year. What I find personally and also with my clients is that we have all of these good intentions. We put writing time in our diary and it fails to happen or we move it. What the writing retreat is, it’s fully inclusive. It gives people that chance. All they have to do is write.
I had one lady who came to the last two. One of the things she said when she’s at home, she’s got to look after her daughters, she’s got to put the cat out, everything else. When she’s there, all she has to do is write. It’s the Andalusian Mountain in southwest Spain, a beautiful environment, lovely walks, swimming pool. It’s just really conducive to writing. I love it. I love going back there every year. I would love to do more retreats because, for me, that’s the thing where the magic happens, those nuggets that happen over a glass of wine or a nice meal or by the pool. It just makes a huge difference to people.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Absolutely. I wish I could get away for a week. Even just a day though. It’s weird. We did the first writing focus day, as we call it, this last week. There’s another one coming up in July. Even just that, just carving out that time and also being with people who are focused on the same sort of journey, incredibly powerful. Brilliant.
Karen Williams: It’s being with like-minded people, isn’t it, who are on a similar journey who can share experiences. You learn just as much from other people as you do from the person facilitating it as well.
Alison Jones: Absolutely. Wonderful. All right. It’s fantastic. We’re going to have to wrap it up there, I’m sorry, Karen. Brilliant to talk to you today. Thank you so much for those really, really insightful and helpful comments. Thank you.
Karen Williams: Thank you, Alison. Thanks for inviting me.