Episode 52 – Writing without the Fuss with Lucy McCarraher

How to Write Your Book Without The FussHow to Write Your Book Without the Fuss is just a brilliant title. And Lucy McCarraher is equally brilliant. Cofounder of Rethink press and the ‘Publish’ mentor for Daniel Priestly’s Key Person of Influence programme, she uses the WRITER model to support her clients through the process and sets it out in this interview, along with her thoughts on how business owners can use their book to build their business.

Packed full of practical advice and expert tips – without any fuss – this is essential listening for business book authors.


Rethink Press: http://rethinkpress.com/

Dent Global: https://www.dent.global/

Lucy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyMcCarraher

Alison Jones:                        Hello and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. Today, I’m here with Lucy McCarraher. Lucy started her first publishing company at university. She’s one of those people who makes you wonder what you’ve done with your life, really. She’s been publishing, writing and editing ever since. She’s worked across books and magazines and also TV. She’s written 10 books, most recently How To Write Your Book Without The Fuss, I’mquite cross that that title has gone, it’s brilliant. She wrote that with her business partner Joe Gregory, with whom she also founded Rethink Press, in 2011.

Lucy’s also the Publish mentor for Daniel Priestley’s KPI programme, Key Person of Influence. Through that she’s helped hundreds of entrepreneurs to write and publish their books, including of course, Robin Waites, who was on this show a little while back and recommended her as a guest. Welcome to the show, Lucy.

Lucy McCarraher:             Thank you very much. Lovely to be here, Alison.

Alison Jones:                        It’s great to have you here. I know that you and I have got so many touch points in our backgrounds, we’ve been talking just before we came on air, going, “Yes, absolutely.” It’s just going to be a really, really good talk.

Let’s start off, tell me a little bit about Rethink Press, tell me how it came about.

Lucy McCarraher:             Rethink Press developed out of a company called BookShaker, that my business partner, Joe Gregory, started about 14 or 15 years ago. It was a quite a cutting edge company, BookShaker, at the time, because it was digital, print on demand, didn’t go into bookshops and was very focused on the books of entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, small business owners, who didn’t qualify, if you like, for the big traditional publishing companies remit, but definitely had a book and something they wanted to say, had a good book in them.

Joe started publishing this specific area, with Book Shaker and he actually published one of my books, called The Real Secret, in 2010, I think it was. We met and discovered that, actually we live very close to each other. I then joined him as his commissioning editor, because I had a publishing background, as well as being an author.

We worked on BookShaker and it appeared, to me, after a year, or so working with Joe, that actually there was a … There was starting to be a disjunction between the kind of books that he was publishing and actually a traditional publisher’s ability to make money out of, because the authors were wanting their books to work for them as a business card, as their authority piece in their industry and as a lead generator, but they weren’t that interested, or a lot of them weren’t that interested, in sales.

Some of them did exceptionally well and there were some really great bestsellers in BookShaker, but as it went on, more and more authors, entrepreneur authors, saw that the book could be fantastic for them, but not necessarily for the publisher.

I suggested that we start up a second imprint, which we called Rethink Press, which was hybrid publishing, a different business model, because it worked on selling the publishing services upfront to the authors. We did exactly the same for them as we were doing for BookShaker authors, but they paid for the services, like editing, obviously, cover design, interior design, typesetting and all the publishing expertise that went with it. Neither they, nor we, were reliant on book sales.

We started Rethink Press thinking, well, we might get a few authors who want to do it this way, because it works better for them as well, because they’re in control. There was no need for them to be part of, if you like, the BookShaker house style, it was very much about them publishing their own books, for their own business and brand.

After a fairly short time it became obvious that this was a really in demand service and so, gradually Rethink Press has grown enormously and is very much the main business that we run now.

Alison Jones:                        Which is fantastic and very similar, obviously, to Practical Inspiration Publishing. We were just laughing earlier, because I’m kind of going the other way. I started off with a purely services model and I’m now commissioning some traditional published books as well. It’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s a very fluid model, it’s just a much richer landscape then it ever used to be in publishing, people have more options. Publishers and authors have more options than ever before.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, absolutely. I think we don’t even know what’s coming. There could be lots of changes with technology. I think audio books are going to become much bigger and I think there are going to be other changes that we probably can’t foresee, but we just need to be very open to and that’s why having a, as you so rightly say, having a fluid and a flexible business model is what’s going to work. I feel that the more sort of, set in their ways, traditional publishers are struggling.

Alison Jones:                        And missing a trick, in fact.

Lucy McCarraher:             Missing a trick, indeed. Yes, absolutely.

Alison Jones:                        I like … Your point is very well made, I think, about what the author wants from the book. It isn’t… obviously a traditional publisher, all they’ve got is the book sales, that’s all. The only way you can increase your revenue is to sell more books, more money from each book and produce more books and so on, but actually, for an author, if you get one big bit of business, that’s worth much more than you would ever get from a lifetime’s sales of your book. There’s a difference. Actually, what you care about is the visibility of the book and getting the message out to as many people as possible, whereas the publisher’s trying to put friction in there and say, “No, no, no. You can’t see this book, unless you pay to read it.” It’s really interesting tension.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes. Absolutely. We tend to say, on Key Person of Influence, that actually, as an author, you will make far more money from the books you give away, than the books you sell on Amazon, or wherever. That is totally born out by all our authors, who the book is a really, really strong lead generator for them and they get their business partnerships, media, all sorts of stuff that comes to them through the book, but very rarely through a book sale, as it were.

The book is not for them, it’s not the product. Unlike say, a fiction author, where the book is the product and sales are essential to make any money, that is the business. For the entrepreneur author, the book is something, it’s almost like your website, you pay professionals to do it, it brings in business, but you don’t expect it of itself to make money.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. Absolutely. It’s content marketing.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yeah, exactly.

Alison Jones:                        You touched on Key Person of Influence there, tell us, many people listening to this will know all about Key Person of Influence, but it is a fascinating programme. Tell us a little bit more about it, particularly how the Publish bit fits in.

Lucy McCarraher:             I think it’s a brilliant programme, actually. Funnily enough, it pretty much started from a book itself. If you’ve seen Daniel Priestley’s book, which is called Key Person of Influence, used to be called How to become a Key Person of Influence, but the name has become so well known now that we don’t even need that tag on it. It developed into a mentoring programme for entrepreneurs, really from the basis of the book. The model in the book is what the programme is.

It has five elements, known as the five Ps, which is Pitch, Publish, Product, Profile and Partnerships. Working through those five aspects of a business and seeing how they all interact together is what gives the entrepreneurs, who go on this nine month brand accelerator, a real edge in the market. It’s amazing how businesses come in, reform, pivot, look at different ways of promoting themselves and just grow enormously from doing all these five elements.

The Publish side of it is really all about writing a really good book and getting it published, as part of your business and your brand and literally to make you a key person of influence in your market, or your industry. I think, I’m sure you’ll agree, that there’s nothing like being the author of a book for people to see you as the go-to expert on your subject.

That’s what I do. I mentor the entrepreneurs through planning, which is essential and then writing their book. Then, if they want to get published with Rethink Press, then we take them through the publishing cycle as well.

Alison Jones:                        Perfect. You’ve got that link, they can take it somewhere else if they want, but they can publish with you. Yeah, makes-

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes.

Alison Jones:                        It’s fascinating as well, that that is a really good example, in itself, of where a book can go. As you say, Daniel Priestley’s book may have been written with that in mind, but possibly wasn’t, but once you get traction then you can take it on and you can explore new directions and you can build communities and platforms and other things around it as well. It’s really interesting.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes it is. We also find that with some of our authors, that actually writing the book itself gives them huge clarity on their business, because it’s often about the process that they take clients through in their business, but they have to unpack it, structure it, make sure that it all works logically, sometimes devise a model that is the backbone, the structure of their book and find out who their key market is as well.

Sometimes that process, simply through writing the book, gives them a real insight into their business that they hadn’t had before. They either refine the business, or sometimes they really pivot it and it turns into a different and a bigger and a more interesting business, just because they’ve done that process, of writing the book.

Alison Jones:                        It’s so true, isn’t it? It happens all the time, in my proposal challenge and the bootcamp, actually what you discover through the writing and through the thinking about the writing can feed back into the business and particularly, you’re right, particularly the target market bit. You’re having to think really carefully and precisely about your reader, aren’t you?

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes. Exactly, because these authors have a particular reader in mind, they are the ones who they want to come back and work with them. So that while there’s huge value to anybody who reads their book, anybody who’s interested in the subject, what’s important to them and to us, is that the book is a stand alone product, a marketing brochure. It’s really important that everything they write is of stand alone, really clear value to any reader interested in the subject, but by focusing on their core market of the people that they would really like to attract to the business, to work with them, for implementation of their products, or service that, yeah, they get a lot of clarity on that.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. Of course, that’s really powerful, isn’t it? If your ideal client is the same as your ideal reader, you’re basically, you’re … When you read a book, you’re sitting with someone for several hours on end and sharing brain space with them, aren’t you? It’s the kind of relationship that you could never build straight in the business, a book can be a shortcut into somebody.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes. I always say to people that, remember that you are talking to one person, because reading a book is a one-to-one relationship. You think that you’re writing a book for them out there, this huge audience you’d like to have, a readership out there, but actually, every reader is listening to you in an individual, personal way. It’s really important to talk to them authentically and in your own voice as well, is something I think is really important and not to sound sort of, businessy or salesy, or trying to be something that you’re not, basically.

Alison Jones:                        So true.

Lucy McCarraher:             It’s an important part of the book, to be very authentic.

Alison Jones:                        As you say, if you have an individual in mind it’s much easier to get that authentic tone, or conversational tone, isn’t it?

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes indeed. Some of our authors actually pick a photo of their ideal client, either past, or future and have it in front of them while they’re doing the writing. For them it works really well, they really have that one to one conversation with them.

Alison Jones:                        It keeps you honest, doesn’t it? It stops you disappearing up your own backside, because you know so much about your subject sometimes you come from your own knowledge, rather then from what they need to know.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, exactly. It’s very much about understanding where they are in their journey, on your subject. Not talking down to them, if actually, they know quite a lot. Not being obscure and using industry jargon and stuff they don’t understand if they really need to know it’s on a much more straight forward basis.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. Brilliant. Let’s talk about the kind of issues that the authors … I know you must have worked with hundreds of authors now as a mentor, as a coach, as a publisher. What are the most common issues that you’ve found authors of business books, in particular, tend to face?

Lucy McCarraher:             I think, one of the most problematic things is that people don’t plan. They think that … They have an idea in their head, they know what they’re going to say, they know their material, but actually, they don’t sit down and do that really detailed planning at the beginning. I always work through people, work with people through a really detailed contents page. Not like the contents page that’s printed at the beginning of your book, but much, much more detailed than that, so you are never, they are never faced with a blank page and what’s coming next? I’m not quite sure what I should say here and should I put this bit in here, or …

It’s, for me, I’m a bit obsessive about structure and planning of all kinds of books. I think this is true, for me, of all good fiction as well as non fiction books, that you have, underpinning it all is a really strong structure. I think that that’s the mistake that a lot of first time authors, perhaps particularly of business and self help books make, that they don’t do that planning upfront.

Alison Jones:                        I’m nodding so energetically that my headphones nearly fell off. I hope, listen, if you’re on my bootcamp and you’re listening to this, see? I’m forcing them to work through structure at the moment and banging on about the working table of contents, but that is the key, isn’t it? It’s knowing at that macro level and also the balance of the elements between the book and how you’re going … You’ve only got 50,000 words, whatever it is, how it all breaks down between those elements, because how else do you know when you’re finished a section?

Lucy McCarraher:             Absolutely. I think consistency is really important. If you’re going to … To me, it makes sense to divide your chapters into reasonably equally, I mean not obsessively so, but if you’ve got six chapters make sure they’re all pretty much the same length. If they’ve got similar kind of, aspects in them, like they might have 3000 words, or 5000 words of straightforward text, but then you want two or three case studies, some top tips, some statistics, some research, whatever it is, it’s not the same in every case.

It’s much easier for a reader, even though they’re not conscious of it, to see that there is a consistent structure to the book and work their way through it.

Alison Jones:                        That builds trust.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, exactly, exactly. If you’re a bit all over the place with that and you’ve got one hugely long chapter, followed by a chapter that’s a couple of pages long and them something completely different, it’s really hard to absorb the content as well, I think.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, I totally … It’s really funny that we’re having this conversation now, because actually, in the bootcamp today we did a sort of, surgery, just literally before I came to talk to you and one of the questions was, is it okay if one of my chapters is a couple of thousand words longer then the others? In a sense, of course it’s okay, because it’s your book, but there is this unspoken contract, isn’t there, between the author and the reader? There’s rhythm, each book has a rhythm and you settle into it as a reader. There has to be quite a good reason, actually, if you do disrupt that order it can be very effective, but you have to know why you’re doing it.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, exactly. I think you can only play those sorts of games when you’re quite experienced and you know what you, as you say, what you’re disrupting and why you’re doing it and what affect it’s going to have. Yes, I’m totally with you there, Alison.

Alison Jones:                        I’m glad, if you’d have said something completely different that would have left me with egg on my face, so I’m glad you didn’t say, no, no, no, you should have one chapter that’s 5000 words longer than all the others. I was fairly sure you wouldn’t say that. Are there other more kind of, mindset-ty type issues that your authors face? That’s a very leading question, but I’m just, I’m very aware that it’s something that, it’s very live for my clients, I’m sure it’s live for yours too, that you’re not an author, are you, when you’re a business person? There’s no particular reason you should be good at writing. That in itself can be an issue…

Lucy McCarraher:             No, no. Yes, I think that’s right. I think, on the one hand, perhaps there’s the first time author, who thinks that it’s fine just to write as you speak and just plough their way through and perhaps doesn’t realise that, actually you need to take a bit more trouble with your writing then just splurging everything out, as if you were giving a workshop, or something like that. Again, we have a very strong editing process, so we do help at that stage, when we’re publishing.

On the other side of that, there’s the author who really isn’t at all confident about their writing abilities and who, actually, has a lot of interesting stuff to say, but worries deeply about whether anybody’s going to read their book, whether it’s going to be interesting at all, whether it’s all complete nonsense. Both of those need to be brought into a more, kind of, middle of the road position where you can … You can always be helped, I think, with style.

At Rethink Press, because we work so specifically with entrepreneurs, we have a kind of, a set of services, which include a one-to-one planning workshop, coaching and also a ‘get-your-book-written’, which is outsourcing the writing but not the content. It’s not ghostwriting as such, but it’s a …

Alison Jones:                        Supported writing.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Alison Jones:                        That’s a really good tactic. I’m doing a little bit of that at the moment, with clients. It’s a really … It’s a good model, I think. The problem with ghostwriting is, I think, you don’t get quite so much of the benefit of the deep thinking, that the writing forces you to do.

Lucy McCarraher:             No, no. Exactly. I mean, we do it through recorded interviews, which are then transcribed. Some people simply can speak much better then they can write and that’s completely fair enough. I’m the other way around, I don’t really know what I’m thinking, until I’ve written it down a few times. I really admire people who can talk their content and their knowledge in a really logical, structured, engaging way, but then they may have difficulty doing the actual writing.

Sometimes, it’s just not what some people enjoy doing, sometimes people are dyslexic, or have other issues, some of our authors don’t have English as a first language. There’s lots of reasons why having a supported writing programme is really useful.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. I know Rob did his out loud, on a car journey, which I thought was incredible.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes. I know. I always find that amazing, that people can do that. I think he did work from a very, the structure that we put in place. He did have that detailed structure to work from and then recorded and then transcribed and sort of, self edited….

Alison Jones:                        Exactly, yeah.

Lucy McCarraher:             Again, that works really well for some people. I think, writing is one of those things, it’s called writing, but it’s not necessarily the same process for each person.

Alison Jones:                        It’s actually idea transmission, but that just sounds a bit poncey, doesn’t it?

Lucy McCarraher:             Exactly. Yeah.

Alison Jones:                        If you haven’t heard Rob’s interview, it is really interesting. He was incredibly busy at the time, he was running a business, he’d just had a baby. He literally, he recorded… He did exactly what Lucy said, set out the table of contents in great, great detail and then took a bullet point and recorded it on his journey into work in the morning and then sat at lunchtime and transcribed it and sort of, did the editing as he did it. That’s how he did the book, in about 30 days, the bulk of it, didn’t he? Incredible.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes. It was absolutely fantastic. Yes. I mean, I think, he is a really good example of someone who working through the book actually helped him to refocus his business, which is now somewhat different to when he stated out.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, yes. He’s done great things with his book. He’s been really, really focused on… He’s also very keen on getting sales for the book, which is great. I mean, it has befits of course, selling lots of books too. He’s done really, really well.

Alison Jones:                        He highlighted as well, another point that you made a little earlier, he said that when people call him now, he doesn’t have a sale conversation with him, the conversation is, when can I start? Because the sales process took place as they read the book, which I think is fascinating.

Lucy McCarraher:             Exactly, yeah. Yes. No, that’s absolutely ideal, when your clients come to you pre-sold, ‘I’ve read your book, somebody gave it to me, or I picked it up, or I read it while I was on holiday, I just to work with you now.’ That’s, you know? What more could you want, really?

Alison Jones:                        Absolutely and what kind of advertising can achieve that? That’s amazing, isn’t it?

Lucy McCarraher:             Yeah, yeah. Quite, quite.

Alison Jones:                        If there’s people listening to this, who are in the throes of writing their first business book, is there one bit of advice that you’d want to say to somebody listening, who’s going, “Yes, but I’m still in the middle of it and it’s not working well.”?

Lucy McCarraher:             My way of getting people through their writing process is, well, I’ve got a model that I call the WRITER process. W for write, which is just getting your first draft out, however long it is. 30,000 words is plenty long enough, can be, as you say, 40, 50,000, but just get your first draft out and do not go back and edit and pick at it and do bits of research, just write until you finish.

Then, go back and review and improve. That’s the R and the I, in WRITER. That’s your first self edit. Then, I think it’s a really valuable thing to do, although it’s quite frightening as well, is to send it out to up to six, not more I would say, people in your industry. Colleagues, perhaps clients, people you know well, but who are going to give you really good and constructive feedback and not hold back on what you need to hear. Get that back in. Do that in a structured way as well. Give them a deadline and make sure they are actually going to give you the feedback you need and then do a final edit yourself, taking on board that feedback.

Deciding, because ultimately it’s your book and you may hear back from people, possibly things you don’t want to hear. Some of it you may need to hear, but some of it may be wrong, as far as you’re concerned. You are, obviously it’s your book and it must be what you it to say. Finally, repeat any of those stages as required.

I think, what people do and I’m betting that you say the same thing, Alison, is that you need to take it in stages. I think a lot of new writers see writing a book as some great big, huge kind of, splurgy kind of, activity, where you have no structure and you do … There’s so many things that need to be done and what order do you do them in? You do a bit of this and a bit of that and then, you know? It all gets horribly messy.

Alison Jones:                        You have that kind of, 500-words-a-day thing, which I always think’s really unhelpful as well.

Lucy McCarraher:             What? Forcing them to write-

Alison Jones:                        No, just the fact that you start with write book and you chunk it down to 500 words a day. It doesn’t really help you get the framework in place.

Lucy McCarraher:             No, no, exactly. You’ve got to realise that doing different parts of the process, actually is kind of like, different brain functions, if you like. Writing your book is different to then reading and reviewing it. You have to get out of writer mode, once you’ve done that first draught and take on reader mode, so that you can be objective, well comparatively objective, about it and see it as a separate piece of work.

I think that printing it out, for instance, as opposed to reading it on screen gives you a bit of separation. It doesn’t feel like that thing that you’re connected to, that’s just part of your brain on the screen.

Alison Jones:                        That’s a really good way of putting it.

Lucy McCarraher:             If you print it out and read it on paper, with a pen in your hand, you can be much more analytical about it and see where you’ve over written, or not expressed yourself well, much better. Yes, take it in steps.

Alison Jones:                        Love it. That’s excellent advice, thank you. You know I always ask my guests to recommend someone as a guest on the show, so someone with something interesting to say, about the business of business books. Who do you think would be a great person for the Extraordinary Business Book Cub?

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes, indeed. I think you should ask Daniel Priestly onto the show.

Alison Jones:                        Do you know, I have?

Lucy McCarraher:             You have.

Alison Jones:                        He didn’t reply, but if I go and say, well, Lucy told me to…

Lucy McCarraher:             I’m behind you there.

Alison Jones:                        If we do a pincer movement on him.

Lucy McCarraher:             Yes. I definitely think he should be on it, because he is absolutely a hundred percent behind entrepreneurs, business owners, writing their book as an absolutely key piece of getting their business and their brand into the wider market. Certainly, you’re there and he’s there, so yes.

Alison Jones:                        He would be awesome and I have to say, not just because of that stuff, but also because his books are excellent. I’ve read Oversubscribed… he really has got such a good way of writing. I’d love to unpick that. As a writer, but also as a person with something interesting to say about how books work for businesses, yes, he would be a great person to have on the show.

Lucy McCarraher:             Absolutely. He’s got a new book coming out, which we’re publishing and I hope will be out in March, so maybe we can get him to talk you at that point.

Alison Jones:                        That’s always a good time to swoop in and ask somebody if they fancy appearing on a podcast, isn’t it?

Lucy McCarraher:             Definitely.

Alison Jones:                        Brilliant. If people want to find out more about you and more about Rethink Press and also Key Person of Influence, where should they go?

Lucy McCarraher:             They should come to our … Our website is rethinkpress.com and you will, what you can do there is you can get our free download e-book, called the Publishing Pathway, which tells you about what we were discussing at the beginning, really, Alison, the different ways of getting your book published, so traditional publishing, self publishing, hybrid publishing and we also mention scam publishing, which we haven’t covered.

Alison Jones:                        It’s a thing, isn’t it?

Lucy McCarraher:             You’ll find all our services and also all our authors on there. If you want to find out about Key Person of Influence you can go to dent.global, which is the overall website of Dent and within that you’ll find KPI, Key Person of Influence, or just Google Key Person of Influence and you’ll find lots of, lots of stuff on the web about the programme and the book and everything else.

Alison Jones:                        Lucy, that was awesome. I could’ve talked to you all day, quite literally all day. Thank you so much for all that wisdom. I hope everyone else found that as helpful as I did. Bye for now.

Lucy McCarraher:             Bye, Alison.


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