‘Author-speakers… are often people who are true thought leaders, on a mission to share their knowledge. And yes, there are people who blog and there are people who post on social media and there are people who do podcasts.
But… to really achieve that thought leadership, visionary status, there’s got to be a book.’
Speaking and writing go together naturally, but how can you make the most of both? Bobbie Carlton has an extraordinary breadth of experience helping writers and speakers – particularly women – be heard. In this conversation she explores the mindset and the tactics that lead to success on stage and on the page, including some genius tips for leveraging your book as a speaker and for promoting it more widely.
Grab a notepad and listen up.
(one of) Bobbie’s (many) site(s): https://innovationwomen.com/
Bobbie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BobbieC
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge September 2021: https://alisonjones.leadpages.co/proposal-challenge/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/extraordinarybusinessbooks
The EBBC summer 2021 reading list: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/thinking-better-the-ebbc-summer-2021-reading-list
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Bobbie Carlton, who is the founder of Carlton PR and Marketing, Innovation Nights and Innovation Women, or she calls them the day job, the night job and the dream job. She’s an award-winning marketing and PR professional who speaks regularly on marketing, public speaking, startups and women’s issues.
During the pandemic she engaged in some retail therapy. I mean, we all did, didn’t we? I got some bedding, she bought two additional companies, My Speaker Leads and Lioness Magazine. Before starting her first company in 2008, she was the Head of Marketing for The Beacon Street Girls, a 22-book series for tween girls, which was eventually licensed to Simon and Schuster.
So welcome to the show Bobbie.
Bobbie Carlton: Thank you so much for having me.
Alison Jones: It’s fantastic to have you here. And I didn’t know the detail about The Beacon Street Girls as being part of your career. So I just thought it was very lovely. You do a lot of work, obviously with authors now, and you do an awful lot of work on book promotion. So books have been kind of this golden thread through your very diverse career, haven’t they?
Bobbie Carlton: You know, it’s funny, I worked with a number of enterprise software companies and all of a sudden I was working with young ladies and, you know, it’s, I’m sure a normal career progression, to go from enterprise software to flowers and unicorns and pillows.
Alison Jones: I think that is quite unusual, actually.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, although a number of the companies, those big enterprise software companies that I worked with, had done books and I had ghost written one book myself and I had worked with a number of different corporate authors over time. So I did have a little bit of a literary thread that ran through the career.
Alison Jones: And I’m sure you’ve never sat down and asked yourself this question. I’m not sure you do ever have time to sit down, frankly, given what you do when you do, but if you were able to sit down and think, well, isn’t it interesting, the part that books have played in these different areas, you know, what do you think of how they have evolved through your career?
Bobbie Carlton: You know, I love books. I love books so much that as a kid, one day I told my mother that I had had a dream that I was locked in the library and she was trying to comfort me thinking I was scared and alone. And I was joyous, I had so much fun in my dream and I’m like, I really love books and I’m still one of those people I read books on paper, even though I do have a Kindle, it gets a rare use.
And there is just so much value that you can get and so much knowledge that you can get out of books. And yes, it’s all online, but the real deep knowledge, I feel like either comes from working directly with a person or from a book. And to me, books are often the embodiment of that person who has knowledge that you want to gain.
Alison Jones: And there’s a real correlation there, isn’t there, between the sort of people that write those sorts of books and the sort of people who work with you as speakers and also for PR services. So I’m assuming that you see a sort of link between the way that they put their message across in the book.
And how does that change, do you think, for the other ways that the more attention-grabbing marketing headlines and the speaking, where you’ve got it compressed into a shorter period of time?
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, and we have a lot of speakers on Innovation Women, a whole category that I call our author speakers. And these are often people who are true thought leaders, and yet they are on a mission to share their knowledge. And yes, there are people who blog and there are people who post on social media and there are people who do podcasts.
But I do feel like, you know, a lot of these people to really achieve that thought leadership, visionary status, there’s got to be a book.
Alison Jones: And when people are looking on your directory, they’re looking for speakers. Is that a factor, do you think for them?
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. And we talk to a lot of authors who say I was doing well as a speaker before, but once I had a book everything changed and the levels change and the interest changes and the payment changes.
Alison Jones: That’s interesting, isn’t it? Is that because they bundle the book in with the fee and everybody gets a copy or is it simply an elevation in reputation and sort of social capital?
Bobbie Carlton: Yes to both.
Alison Jones: It’s not an either-or, is it?
Bobbie Carlton: I mean I see in authors, and we talk to a lot of authors about this, when you’re a speaker and you are an author, you get many more options for your compensation. You could be selling the book along with a ticket to the event. You could have your book be in a gift bag in everybody’s ‘on the way out the door’ gift.
Or you could be putting a gift on every chair, back when we had people in rooms and there were chairs. So being an author really does give you more options to get paid.
Alison Jones: It’s a currency, isn’t it?
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely.
Alison Jones: Yes. So interesting, and sticking with Innovation Women for a minute, I mean it’s very interesting that you have really focused on women, particularly on tech women, but what do you see as the challenges and the opportunities for women in terms of promotion, in terms of speaking and just getting themselves out there and leading the conversation?
Bobbie Carlton: I think frankly, women are busy. You know, there are the normal challenges of everyone, you know, we’re all busy these days, but women are particularly busy and all of this stuff takes time. I work with many entrepreneurs and for them, their most precious asset, their most scarce asset is their own time.
And so in order to do great marketing, to be out there on all of these different social media platforms, to actually write your book, you have to have extra time. Do you know any women who have extra time?
Alison Jones: No, and I wish I did really yes, it’s phenomenal, isn’t it? We have that sense that if we are taking time for stuff like this, somehow it’s selfish or we are taking it from our family or… yes, there’s an odd relationship to time that women have that men just don’t seem to be burdened with.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, I mean, we are still more likely to be working and taking care of family and home. There’s a lot of people in this so-called sandwich generation, where they are perhaps taking care of aged parents and they also have kids. We’re also more likely to be working part-time. We are more likely to be working for smaller companies.
And as a speaker, those things make it really difficult because, back when we were all traveling to events, it’s super hard to take two or three days out of the office, if you only have two or three days in the office a week…
Alison Jones: And caring responsibilities at home.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, I think one of the things that I’ve seen a bunch of times, when I’m talking with speakers is they have an immense sense of responsibility and they are responsible for so much. You know, I always tell people it’s really hard to be the breakfast keynote, if you’ve got to put somebody on the bus at 8:00 AM. Am I right?
Alison Jones: Oh, yes, yes, mornings are tough.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes. So, you know, these are all the different things that kind of conspire against us as women and as authors and as speakers. So we need a little bit of extra support and we need to give ourselves a little bit of forgiveness, if we don’t manage to set the world on fire our first time out the door.
Alison Jones: And that’s interesting because the factors that you’ve pointed to there are all absolutely spot on, kind of external factors. I wonder as well if you see any more internal factors, you know, that famous research that says men are happy to apply for a job if they sort of meet 60% of the criteria, whereas for women, it’s got to be 95%, do you see that sort of thing in speaking as well?
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, but I often hesitate to buy into the conversation about it. You know, it’s like, I almost don’t want to add in potential excuse, and people have, every time I’ve gone through my list of external reasons why women have a tougher time with this, people come back with, well, yes, women are reluctant to self promote. Women don’t want to be on stage. Women don’t… and I’m like Oh, stop. You know, it’s like, I work with women all the time who are psyched to get on stage. They are excited to do this. They are not shrinking violets. They are really just go getters and they understand the importance of speaking. They understand the importance of content creation, whether that’s a book or something else and how they are seen.
Maybe there are people who are reluctant. But they are people. They are not necessarily just women.
Alison Jones: That’s really encouraging to hear actually. So let’s assume that we’ve got psyched women, who are ready to go and they’ve managed to, you know, cover off all the kind of external stuff.
How do they go, and men as well of course, how do they go about positioning themselves so that they can be seen, so that they are more likely than the next person to get the gig?
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely, focus, focus, focus, focus, focus.
I mean, you have got to be the one person that everyone immediately thinks of when it comes to your topic. And I find a lot of people are, oh, I could do this and I can do that and I can do this. And I’m multitalented and I’ve had a 30-year career. And in that time, oh yes, you know, you want me to do that? Sure. I can do that.
But I do feel like people need to really focus on a topic, on a subject and become that absolute go-to expert in that area. And by the way, I know this is a do as I say, not as I do. Yes. I own five companies.
Alison Jones: That’s hilarious.
Bobbie Carlton: Don’t follow me, but do what I say, but I do have an overarching brand. I am innovation girl. And the example that I will give in this case is a couple of years ago, I got a phone call one Thursday afternoon, and it was a young person I knew who went to a local university and he was telling me how he was one of the coordinators for their TEDx.
And of course, I’m busily fanning myself going, oh, I’m getting the call. And he’s like, we’d really like to invite you to be one of our TEDx speakers. And I was like, oh my goodness, I’m so excited. Of course I would love to. I would never let you down. And I’m like, when is it? He says, Tuesday.
Alison Jones: Whoa.
Bobbie Carlton: And I’m like, ah yes, no, I mean I run a speakers bureau.
I do speaking, I get paid for it, but a TEDx on a few days’ notice? So I’m like, no I’ll find you somebody else. So I literally went back two days later with five names, women who were prepared to do a TEDx with only three or four days’ notice. And they said, no, none of them really hits our mark. They are not part of our theme, and turns out the theme was innovation, which is why I got the call.
You know, you run Innovation Nights, Bobbie, you founded Innovation Women. Of course you’re the person that we go to. And I will admit, I threw myself into it. I watched a whole bunch of TEDxes. I got the cadence down, I stood on stage and was it my grand shining moment. It was all right. I didn’t embarrass myself, but I did a TEDx talk really with only three days of prep.
And that’s because that was my brand.
Alison Jones: Yes. And that’s a really important distinction, isn’t it? It’s actually, you can do quite a lot of different diverse things, as long as you have that really strong sense of purpose, there’s a consistency of mission, what it is, what the dent you’re making in the world and your personal brand is really strong and visible behind it.
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. And I will also say another thing is to think about who that targeted, focused audience is. Who do you write for? Who do you speak to? Whose pain do you solve?
Alison Jones: Which is everything you need to ask yourself before you write a book as well, of course.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes. You’re not writing for you. You are writing for somebody else. Now you may be taking your knowledge, your expertise, but you are writing to solve someone else’s problem. How many of us have sat down and read our own books? Yes, I don’t think so. Me neither. Have I written a whole book? No. Again, do as I say, not as I do.
Alison Jones: You and I can continue this conversation once the mic is off.
Anyway, but you have helped a lot of people who have written books promote their books. So I’m going to pick your brains ruthlessly on that one. What’s worked? What do you tell them to do?
Bobbie Carlton: I tell them to find their audience and then find other groups that serve that same audience. And I do think it is always a group thing. You know, you can partner up with another individual and together you can have twice the amount of reach that you have. But if you partner with an organization, especially an organization that serves your target audience, I’m not going to say it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, but they are pretty well grouped together there for you.
And thinking about those groups, we have one author that did a webinar for us. And from that webinar she was invited to speak to a class. And so the class, the professor, bought a book for every student in the class. Okay, that’s 50 books sales right there. You know, she was talking to groups and those groups, a lot of them were buying the books for all the attendees.
And so it was really group sales, not individual sales that made a difference for her.
Alison Jones: Yes. And these are the sales that don’t show up on the Sunday Times bestseller list, the New York Times bestseller list, but actually they’re the ones that often move the needle because they’re hitting the people that you want to reach.
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. I was doing a speaking engagement with the CEO of actually The Beacon Street Girls many years ago. And she was the morning keynote and Carly Fiorina was the afternoon keynote and Carly had a book coming out, which is why she was speaking at this particular conference. And I found out later that she had waived her speaking fee to get the organization to basically buy her book for everyone in the room.
So, you know, the book sales were a lot less than her speaking fee, but for her, it was more important to move that quantity of books.
Alison Jones: Yes, that’s so interesting because obviously as you say the way that it leads on once somebody’s got your book, you just never know what’s going to come out of that do you.
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely, word of mouth and you know, you’ve got the book in a hundred hands, 200 hands, 300 hands, and, you know, you make it easy for people to promote the book, to share the book. I’ve seen some great stuff inside, obviously these are nonfiction books, exercises that allow people to engage with the author via social media and to obviously help promote the book.
Alison Jones: Okay. That sounds really interesting. Tell me more.
Bobbie Carlton: Hashtags baby, hashtags.
So number one, having the author’s social media contact information in the book and number two, getting people inside the book to put down the book for a moment, go out to their own social media, use the hashtag, answer a question, engage with the author, share what they’re thinking.
These tactics, when you build them into the book, they can be so powerful.
Alison Jones: That’s really interesting. Yes. And it also means that somehow they become visible to you because that’s the amazing thing, isn’t it? When you’re reading someone’s book, you feel like you know them intimately, but the author hasn’t got a clue who you are, but by doing that, I mean, we often talk about bringing people to your website, having downloads and so on, but actually by connecting on social media and giving them a purpose, a specific call to action, you’re bringing them into your orbit.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, and you get to know and connect with them.
Alison Jones: Yes, you can have a relationship. Yes, that’s really smart. I like that a lot. Thank you.
Now that might be it actually, but I always ask people for their best tip for a first time business book author. So yes, call me greedy, but what’s your best tip?
Bobbie Carlton: You know, I will also go back and point out to me it’s really solve someone’s pain. You know, if you can solve their problem, you are miles ahead of everyone else in your space. Solve their pain, solve their problem, give them a path to what they want to achieve and who they want to be. Everyone is looking for a way to change themselves to transform, to achieve a goal.
And if you can give them a way to do that and a path to do that, you have achieved so much with your book. And when someone is successful with your book, your process, your secret, they will share that knowledge.
Alison Jones: That’s a brilliant tip. One thing that does occur to me is often the presenting problem might not be the real problem. So you do have to be a bit smart, don’t you, about how somebody is understanding their situation, if you know in a sense more than they do.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, that’s really a great point. And I think, you know, we do all think about all the different things that are going through our heads. I don’t know about you, a little bit ADD, oh, look a chicken.
But we do have to think through so many different things on any given day. And if someone captures our focus long enough to read a book, that is a golden opportunity to engage with that person, to help them, but really start a relationship and oh yes sequels, follow on books. Book number two.
Alison Jones: Yes and that is true, isn’t it? I mean books do have a long shelf life, but I often find people wanting to cram everything they know into a book.
Do you know what this is just your first book, leave some space for the stuff in here to breathe and think about putting the next topic in book two, because otherwise you will kill this book because it’ll just be too heavy, too dense.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, I mean make it attainable and digestible. You don’t have to put, oh my God, don’t put everything in, leave something there. And for a lot of people, they are not going to put everything in there because that is what they give to their clients when they do consulting services. I work with a lot of speakers and a lot of people who want to be speakers.
And one of the first rules that I have is decide if you’re a speaker or not. Because you may actually be leaving money on the table. Maybe you’re a facilitator. Maybe you’re a workshop leader. Maybe you’re a consultant and some of those roles and those jobs and just those titles could change your payday.
Alison Jones: That’s really interesting, I would love to know a bit more about that because you say speaker and everybody knows what you mean. How do you present yourself as primarily a facilitator or a workshop leader, for example, rather than a speaker, what is the difference when it comes to actually marketing yourself?
Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. And some of it comes down to time, you know, and I tell people if you want more than half hour, 45 minutes with your audience, you’re probably not a speaker, you are probably a workshop leader or a consultant. You know, if you want a half day with them, that is not a speech, that is an interactive experience. That is a workshop.
So time is one factor. I will usually say paydays are definitely another defining point when you’re looking at the difference in those titles. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of the data that I’ve put out on this, but when I started Innovation Women, I did a survey with more than 300 different kinds of event managers.
Half of them had absolutely no budget whatsoever for speakers. They don’t pay anybody. It’s just not in their business model. What they’re doing is they are giving you a stage, giving you an opportunity to get in front of potentially your best customers. And they, you want to get paid too? You know, that’s the way they think about it.
42% of event managers only pay some speakers. They have money for keynotes, may be for a featured speaker. Maybe they have money for education, this is back to the workshop leader. And they’re not going to be paying most of the people who speak at their event. So that leaves only 8% of event managers who pay all or most of their speakers.
Alison Jones: And that also is where the book as currency steps up, isn’t it. They have budget for that.
Bobbie Carlton: Yes, yes and you become a different category of an animal that gets paid or has a payday, or gets a cheque from somebody, whether it’s for books or for actually leading a workshop or offering consulting services.
Alison Jones: Yes, fascinating. That’s a really helpful insight. Thank you very much.
And I’m going to ask you too Bobbie for a recommendation and you must have read so many business books. So I’m really interested to hear which one you would recommend to all the listeners.
Bobbie Carlton: Oh, my God, this is like asking me to choose my favorite child. That just, this is super hard. But I have to admit I’m a humongous fan of Samantha Stone. And she writes books about marketing and obviously I’m a marketing person and she just has some amazing tidbits and tools and things that are so helpful in her book.
And her book is called Unleash Possible. So it is a marketing playbook and I’ve done a lot of work with B2B companies, as well as things like The Beacon Street Girls. But I just love her book, it’s such a great tool.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. I don’t know it. Thank you. I love getting a recommendation that I don’t know. I have never read Samantha Stone. Thank you.
Now, I almost hesitate to ask this. If people want to find out more about you and more about the 5 billion things that you do, Bobbie, where should they go? And we can put them.
Bobbie Carlton: Google
Alison Jones: Yes, should we just leave it at that? You would be the first three pages of results, won’t you?
Bobbie Carlton: Well, you know, it’s funny, Bobbie is obviously a nickname and I used to use my real name, Roberta, and unfortunately, Roberta Carlton is also a real estate agent in Texas. I think she must have breathed a great sigh of relief on the day that I decided to use professionally Bobbie, because I used a bury the poor woman on Google, but go to innovationwomen.com.
That is a great way to connect with Innovation. And from there, there are links out to the many other things that I do.
Alison Jones: Oh, well, thank you. I appreciate you keeping that nice and lean for me. I do appreciate that. Bobbie, absolutely brilliant to talk to you today, thank you for all those super practical tips for anybody who’s interested in, not just writing, but speaking and all the stuff that goes alongside that too. It was just gold.
Bobbie Carlton: And thank you so much for having me, great conversation.