David Newman describes the process of writing a book as capturing ‘lightning in a bottle’. In today’s episode he describes how Do It! Marketing has transformed his business, and reveals the brilliant book bonus tactics he used to make it a success (plus, refreshingly, some of the stuff that didn’t go so well). There’s also a Jedi mind trick for getting your own way with your publisher if you go down the traditional route.
This is The Extraordinary Business Book Club at its best – inspiring, thoughtful, practical, hilarious.
(And just for fun, here are a couple of look-I’m-signing-my-new-book shots from last week’s launch parties – congratulations again to Fabienne Vailes and Nicola Huelin!)
David’s site: http://www.doitmarketing.com/
The Do It! Marketing book, including bonus package details: http://www.doitmarketing.com/book
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
Alison Jones: Hello and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. Today is very exciting. I’m here with David Newman, who is a marketing expert, author of the Amazon number one best-seller Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximise Profits and Crush Your Competition. He runs a marketing strategy firm dedicated to making thought leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. He’s a regular and very high-profile speaker and blogger, and his entrepreneurial marketing advice has been featured and quoted in New York Times, Investors Business Daily and loads and loads of other top publications. We’re very, very honoured to have you on the show today, David.
David Newman: Hey, Alison. It’s great to be here.
Alison Jones: Oh, it’s terrific to have you. Now, first of all, and I know you have a lovely quote about how the thing you can’t live without is books, which I immediately warmed to you when I read. Tell us what part books have played in your career so far, the reading of them and writing of them.
David Newman: Yeah. This has become just a huge problem in my personal life. I’m just a giant book addict, and it’s mainly non-fiction business books. You know, it’s funny because I was talking to another friend of mine and I said, you know, I think this initially came out of some kind of impostor syndrome where I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough. We always talk about really smart accomplished people have this impostor syndrome, and so, what do we do? We tend to read. We read endlessly. We want to make ourselves smarter. We want to make ourselves better. But I really enjoy all kinds of business books on marketing and sales and leadership and personal development, all the way back from some of the copywriting books from the 1920s and 1930s, all the way through all of our standard motivational kinds of books like Tony Robbins and Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie, and all the way up to the modern greats, Tom Peters and Seth Godin and Dan Pink.
But I’ll tell you, when I went to write… So, I have seven self-published books, which we don’t need to speak of ever again, and my traditionally published book, which I’m very proud of is, is as you said in our intro here, the Do It! Marketing book that came out a couple of years ago, I wanted to write the book that I myself wanted to read. That’s a piece of writing advice and book advice that sometimes is bandied about as a cliché, but it’s really, really, really true. So I was always drawn to not just the words on the page, but graphic design, typography, fonts, the way the paper feels, the way the paper smells, and I wanted my book to visually stand out, not just with great ideas, but also with great design.
Alison Jones: You are a proper book geek, aren’t you? I’m loving this.
David Newman: I really am. I really am.
Alison Jones: When you read all these books, it sounds like a role call of the great books out there – we should probably put together a kind of must-read list, shouldn’t we? That would be fun! – what do you come away with? Because, obviously, I know what you mean. When you start the reading journey, it’s like, huh: Maybe this person’s got the secret and I’ll read it and I’ll become the person that everybody else thinks I am. But then, you get to the sense that, actually, most books have just got one big interesting idea, and you take it away, and you kind of mash it in with everything else, don’t you?
David Newman: That is a great, great point and it’s funny. Because as speakers, as thought leaders and again, this is my world and, obviously as podcast hosts, as experts, as coaches, I’m always fearful of the author who doesn’t read. I’m always fearful of the speaker who doesn’t listen to other speakers. I’m always fearful of the coach who doesn’t get other coaching. Now, to your point, do we take one or two of those ideas and integrate them and internalise them and then put our own spin and our own lens on them? Well I think we have to. I think that’s sort of our job, is that we’re aggregators and processors and synthesisers of other people’s ideas.
Now, you can’t take an idea wholesale because that’s plagiarism. But a good friend of mine who’s a sales trainer and a very successful guy, he said to me, David, here’s the deal. In the entire universe, there’s about six pages of good sales training. And every other book, every other course, every other methodology is some variation or recombination of those six pages. I said, oh my goodness. What a great way to look at it. There’s six good pages out there of leadership, there’s six good pages out there of presentation skills. And that is it, right? There are common basic principles, nothing is new under the sun, yet there’s a thousand different or a hundred thousand different variations, combinations, re-combinations, repurposing, reframing of all of those ideas, and that’s the secret sauce that we bring.
So as an author, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of marketing books. My marketing book is a unique distillation of my ideas.
So, let’s get back to the book world for a second. When my book came out one of my most insulting reviews that I took real offence at, someone posted on Amazon or Amazon, depending on how you like to pronounce it. I love the way that you pronounce that word, by the way.
Alison Jones: No, let’s be really clear about who has the accent here, David.
David Newman: Yes, exactly right. Amazon, Amazon. We’re saying it in a funny way over here.
So, here’s what the review said. ‘I love what David did with the ideas.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean with the…? What ideas are you…? These are all my ideas. These are all highly original, highly contrarian. They have attitude. They’ve got my voice. They’ve got my personality.’ Once I calmed down, and once I was able to look at that comment for the huge gift that it was, it goes back to my, hey, there’s six good pages of marketing, and I love what David did with the ideas. I knew exactly what quote unquote “ideas” he was talking about. There’s the leadership ideas. There’s the sales training ideas. In my case, there’s the marketing ideas. There’s the leadership ideas. There’s the customer service ideas. ‘I love what David did with the ideas’ means that there was some original DNA.
Alison Jones: Yeah.
David Newman: There was some original spin. There was some original point of view. There were some original manifesto points that I brought to the conversation that other people before me had not.
Did I invent any of these ideas? Friends, I hate to tell you, no. Did you invent most of your ideas? No, you didn’t. But what can you do that adds value to the conversation in that body of work?
Alison Jones: I think calling it a conversation is crucial and understanding that… I think a lot of people that I talk to about writing a book, if they aren’t big readers, they feel this kind of crushing pressure to come out with the definitive book in their topic and to say everything that could be said to make it hugely original. But actually once you read around the subject, you get that absolute sense that this is a conversation, and you’re picking up other people and you’re giving them hat tips. And then you’re saying something else, and you’re combining ideas. And that takes a lot of the pressure off you as an author, I think. Absolutely going to have your own DNA in there, but it’s nevertheless there’s always another book, and that’s fine.
David Newman: I think part of this rocket fuel of any good author, and I’m looking at all the authors that I just mentioned that I look up to and hugely admire, it’s about dismantling some of the old ideas as well. It’s not just repeating the ideas and being an echo chamber. It’s about really what is your lens? What is your perspective? What is your professional opinion? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What do you want to see more of in your field? What do you want to see less of? In the Do It! Marketing book, for example, I’ve got a whole chapter that says branding is B.S. Branding is B.S., branding is ridiculous, right, and I have this anti-branding rant. I have this other rant, when we get to the sales part of the Do It! Marketing book, I say, follow up is a complete waste of time. Every other sales trainer, every other sales book says, oh, the fortune is in the follow up. I say don’t even waste your time following up. Following up is for wimps. Follow up is for losers.
Now, again, there’s a little bit of a contrarian flavour to that, but it’s that conversation. The conversation isn’t, oh, yes, Alison, you’re right. Yes, Alison, you’re right about that, too. Oh, yes, Alison, you’re completely on-point there. Because then, I’m doing a book report, right? And then of course if I agree with everything that Alison says, I don’t need to write my book because Alison already wrote her book.
But if we’re having a debate, if we’re having a conversation, if we’re sitting down over coffee, and I’m banging my fist on the table going, ‘No, that’s completely wrong. What are you thinking? That is absolutely not the case!’ Not all of it, right, but on certain points where you truly have a professional opinion, a professional point of view, a professional lens on to the world, a manifesto of the way the world should be and the way the world shouldn’t be, that’s what makes the book interesting, how can we spice it up? How can we rock the boat? How can we say what others are either unable to say or unwilling to say or even, in some cases, afraid to say?
Alison Jones: ‘Yes, but…’ and ‘No, you’re absolutely wrong.’ Actually seeing it as a conversation I think is really helpful. I like that. We should that do, I think, with the coffee. You can bang your hand on the table. That’d be good. I’d like that.
David Newman: Exactly.
Alison Jones: Now, I know that you speak all the time widely all over the world. How does the book fit with that? I’m thinking not just, obviously, you can the sell the book at the back of the room, I get that, and people book you because you got the book. That’s all good. But how did you develop your talks alongside developing your book? What there a kind of symbiotic relationship there? Or are they completely separate in your head?
David Newman: No, no. Well, there really was and, actually, I’ll answer this question two ways. One is about how the book impacted my speaking, and then, of course, how the book impacted my business and my career.
The first thing that I love about the book-writing process is it’s enforced discipline. This reminds me of the story of the famous American political journalist and sports journalist George F. Will. George F. Will, he’s in Washington, D.C., and he’s going to an inner-city high school. And he’s talking about all the different books that he’s written and his daily writing routine. One of the high school students raises his hand and says, ‘How do you think up all of these ideas that you write about?’ George Will thinks and he goes, ‘You know, sometimes here’s how it works. I just sit down. I write. I print out that piece of writing. I read it to myself, and then, I say, so that’s what I think about that.’
Alison Jones: ‘I didn’t know until I wrote it.’
David Newman: I didn’t know until I wrote it down. I didn’t know until I captured it on paper. It’s a fantastic way whether you’re a coach or a consultant or a speaker or a trainer or any kind of thought-leading entrepreneur or executive. The discipline of writing and, specifically, the discipline of writing and collating and curating and organising a book, it’s a way to capture lightning in a bottle. You say, oh, you know, I give these great speeches and I give these great seminars, and people come to me for advice and whether I do it for pay or for just…
My friends always ask me for advice and I always give them this brilliant advice. Well, right now, that’s air. That’s just ether. That’s just going out there. It dissipates every time that you deliver it. When you write the book, and you have the discipline, and you have the focus to capture it on paper, then you can replicate that speaking. You can replicate that coaching. You can replicate that advice to many, many other people that it could help. And then it also helps to internalise it for you.
The second piece of this, Alison, is with the book, how does that support your career? How does that support your business? I remember one very specific discussion with my acquisitions editor at the American Management Association. We’re in the final manuscript editing, and I had put my website domain into the book about a half dozen times because there were book bonuses. We can talk about the book launch and the book bonuses later. But she said to me, David, I’m taking all of those out. She says, ‘You have to understand this book is not a commercial for your business.’ Now, you can imagine, right? I’m the marketing guy.
Here’s what I said back to her. Her name is Ellen. I said, ‘Ellen, you don’t understand. Not only is the book the biggest and best commercial for my business, and so, all of those URLs are staying, by the way. But I have even better news. That my entire business is a huge commercial for this book. So the more people that opt in to my email list because they see the book bonuses, the more we’ll be able to do bulk book sales. The more we’ll be able to sell sponsored books by the truckload, by the hundreds or by the thousands. The more times that I’m going to go in to speak because people opted in from my book into my website, the more speaking opportunities we’ll be able to move dozens or hundreds of books. It is a completely symbiotic relationship that the book is the commercial for my business, and my business is the biggest and the best commercial for the book.’
If you go down the traditional publishing route, the best advice I can give anyone when you’re dealing with your marketing team at the publisher, when you’re dealing with your acquisitions team at the publisher, is use the following phrase on top of anything that you want to make happen: ‘so we can sell more books’. I said, ‘Ellen, we have to keep all six of those URLs so that we can sell more books.’ ‘Well, David, I don’t want to have a big About the Author section.’ ‘Ellen, we need the About the Author section at the back to be as complete and thorough as possible so that we can sell more books.’ ‘Well, I don’t want to have a big web launch.’ ‘Ellen, we have to have the big web launch so that we can sell more books.’
Alison Jones: It’s like a Jedi mind trick, isn’t it?
David Newman: Oh, totally, totally. These days, Alison, as you know, most books, most audiobooks, are read by professional voiceover talent, unless you’re famous like Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell. They don’t want most authors to read their audiobook, because they have professional actors. I used it again. I said, ‘Ellen, I am a professional speaker. My audience, my tribe, my folks are expecting to hear my voice. So if you want to sell more books, don’t hire the voiceover actor. Let me read my own book.’
There were maybe four or five battles out of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things where I said, sure, whatever you want. Sure. Yeah, go for it. No. Absolutely. No problem. There’s ninety-nine ‘no problems’ and four or five battles. And you have to pick your battles in traditional publishing. The cover art was one, the URLs in the book was two, and me reading my own audiobook was the third one. Maybe there was one or two more. But I can literally count on one hand everything else they want to do, I was, like, yeah, fine, sure. Yeah, fine, sure. Yes, of course. You guys are the publisher, you know what’s best.
No one’s going to fight for your books harder than you do. And so, the impact on your business, the impact on your speaking or coaching or consulting or career, huge, huge, huge. And you have to be in the driver’s seat. Even if it’s your first book and you think, well, gosh, it’s the publisher’s five hundredth book or thousandth book, or whatever it is. They must know better than I do. They don’t because it’s your book, it’s your world, it’s your career, and it’s your livelihood.
Alison Jones: And the publisher, of course, is all about selling the books. They’re not so interested in your company, which I think is, as you say, short sighted. Because there’s an absolutely mutual synergy between those two. I am starting to feel a sneaking sympathy for Ellen, though, I have to say.
David Newman: Oh, no. God bless her – she’s great, by the way. We ended up moving about 15,000 books, which for a non-celebrity author is pretty good. And we’ve had several follow-up conversations. Even though I had my stick-in-the-mud on a few of these things, Ellen said to me, ‘Hey, by the way, when you’re ready for the next book, we’re ready. We’re ready to go.’ So I must not have been that much of a pain in the butt.
Alison Jones: Well it obviously worked, which is brilliant.
David Newman: Right.
Alison Jones: Now, you’ve done something really interesting as well, the Do It! Book Club. Just tell us a little bit about that. How does it work? Why did you set it up? What’s it all about?
David Newman: Yeah, it’s funny. When the book came out, actually for years and years after, so we’re coming up on now just about the fourth anniversary. But there was a huge groundswell of people loving the book and all my… they’re sending me pictures with them and the book on vacation, them and the book by the pool, them and the book in Rome and all these different cool cities around the world. So the book is also translated into seven languages now, and it just kind of took off. So I said, ‘Okay, well, how do I harness this energy? How do I get these people together?’
It started out with an email list, which I called it the Do It! Book Club or the Do It! Marketing Book Club. And so, it went from an email to a Facebook group. And we kind of put people in the Facebook group, and that’s where some of these pictures were posted, and that’s where some of these very kind compliments came in.
But I’ll tell you, I probably didn’t do enough to nurture it and to make it more of an active community. So even though there’s some nice action happening in there from time to time, it is generally pretty quiet. And again, the email list is probably more active than the Facebook group because of those six URLs that are sitting in the book, that are still, you know, every day I’m still getting opt-ins of people buying the book or buying the e-book or buying the audiobook, and that’s where they go to get the bonuses. But, yeah, I wish that was a bigger success story. I put videos in there. I do kind of little fun contests once in a while.
Like everything in business, there’s no such thing as passive revenue. There’s no such thing as passive community-building. If you want to build a community around your book – and this actually is funny, because one of the ideas that’s in the book, which is called You Have to Build the Tribe before the Tent, right? – what you have to do is gather your people before you give them a place to go. Sometimes the tent is simply your next book. Sometimes the tent is an online community. Sometimes the tent is a course that you’ve built around the book. But always focus on building that tribe before you worry about what can I sell these people.
Alison Jones: Such a great tip.
David Newman: Right?
Alison Jones: People put their beautiful tents up, and look: there’s nobody around because nobody knows about it.
David Newman: Exactly. It’s empty-tent syndrome. You totally got it. I would never ask on first blush what can I sell these people? What I would say is how can I serve these people? How can I help these people? How can I get them out of the beating sun or the driving rain? So what’s the tent that I can build for them? But first, you have to gather the tribe of people that know you and like you and trust you and follow you and get value from what you say and what you do. And then, there’s a chance to build some cool stuff for them and with them.
Alison Jones: I’m loving this, like, messianic imagery.
David Newman: Yeah. We’re out there in the desert with the sheep and it’s crazy. Exactly right. We’re getting biblical here with the tents and the goats and who knows what else. But I’ll tell you, if I had to do over again, I probably would have done it with more structure and more intentionality. It was a really cool idea and, of course, as the author, we got a million cool ideas. And it’s not about ideas, it’s about the execution. It’s total transparency, total authenticity, I probably could have done a little bit better job with that Do It! Book Club. It’s never too late, but I could have done better from the beginning.
Alison Jones: I thought it’s hugely helpful, because often you talk to people and they tell you about their great successes. It’s really good. Just to talk about something that’s like, you know, this is interesting. Could have done it better. It’s great. It’s an idea you can kick around. And of course it is there for the next book. That’s the other thing, it’s ticking along. And you can use it when you find a use for it.
David Newman: Exactly.
Alison Jones: Yeah. It’s brilliant.
Now I feel a bit bad asking this, because you’ve given us loads already, but if I was telling you I had to have your best tip for a business book author, and I wouldn’t go away without it, what would you tell me?
David Newman: Oh my goodness. The reason that you and I are here is because of my smart friend Mark Levy. My advice to any author, first time, second time, business book, non-business book… But let’s focus on first time business book author, because that was your question. Activate your network of smart friends. The way you’re going to activate your network of smart friends is in three different ways.
Number one, I would have my smart friends contribute to my book. In the Do It! Marketing Book for example, there are 14 little side bar contributions, literally one, one and a half pages. Not big. But I wanted to make this from my book into our book. So even though I wrote 95% of the Do It! Marketing Book, the remaining 5%, those little 14 one-page contributions, gave me 14 additional stakeholders. So every time I talked about my book, at prelaunch, during the launch, after the launch, I would reach out to one of my partners that was a contributor.
I referred to it as our book, or our little book, or our little project. Something like that. So you wrote one page, I wrote 279. It’s still our book. Those people became my first set of launch partners. Launch partners are folks who are willing to email their list and maybe donate some book bonuses and so forth. And then if they didn’t do that, then they were my early Amazon reviewers. They were my folks that were my early advocates and champions. They’re the folks that did, maybe they didn’t blast their email list. But maybe we did a blog interview. Maybe we did a video interview. Maybe I was a guest on their podcast and vice versa.
So again, perfect example of build the tribe before the tent. As an author, you have to build your author support tribe before your tent. And your tent of course is your book. So no one does anything great alone. That one major, biggest, best tip is rally your smart friends, make this a smart friends campaign, and no one does anything great alone. Because you’ll need launch partners. You’ll need contributors. You’ll need reviewers. You’ll need champions and advocates to introduce your book to a larger circle than you can muster on your own.
Alison Jones: That’s awesome advice, and really, really practical. And of course it’s the entire thinking behind setting up this podcast in the first place actually. Let’s go and talk to some really interesting people and get some great ideas and have people with skin in the game. That’s the thing isn’t it? I think it can be quite lonely as well, the whole writing shenanigans. Having people who are involved and know about it and care about it, even psychologically that’s helpful I think.
David Newman: Yes, yes, yes.
Alison Jones: I always ask my guests to recommend another guest, of course Mark. You know what? Sometimes I think we should rename this the Mark Levy Appreciation Book Club or something. Because he runs like a golden thread through so many conversations.
Who would you recommend that I invite onto the show as somebody with something interesting to say about the business of business books?
David Newman: Well clearly the joke answer is, you have to have Mark Levy back. Just bring Mark back, cause we all love him. And we all know him. There’s no such thing as too much Mark Levy.
Alison Jones: There really isn’t. And what I need to talk to him about is the free writing bit as well. We need to get on to that.
David Newman: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Alison Jones: Anyway, apart from Mark. Let’s take that as read. Who else?
David Newman: Let’s move on from the Mark Levy Appreciation Hour. One guy who is just fantastically brilliant is Jose Palomino. He’s the author of the book Value Prop, and it’s valueprop.com. So he totally owns that space of creating and marketing and monetizing your value proposition. Brilliant business mind. Amazing ideas for authors and coaches and speakers and experts and executives. And the cool thing about Jose, one of many cool things about Jose, he has worked with large global companies, global pharmaceutical companies, global technology companies like SAP. And he’s also worked with solopreneurs. And everyone in between. And his methodology and his training and his tools and his ideas about creating and sharpening and distributing your value prop. As an author, as a consultant, as a business person, just pure genius. So Jose Palomino valueprop.com is my strong recommendation.
Alison Jones: And I do not know Jose, so I should be really interested to have a look at that book and have a look at his site. It is so good, isn’t it? You can own the online space and just get your name all over that concept and really own it. That’s superb. It’s like you own it if you can.
David Newman: Exactly.
Alison Jones: Yeah. And actually, just before we finish, I just realised something I meant to come back to you on. You talked about the book bonuses. Sorry, I’m flipping around a bit here. But just give me a little bit of, a bit more information. What would the most successful book bonuses that you tried?
David Newman: This is kind of like the internet marketing book launch. So I’m gonna start off with the negative. The negative is kind of the crazy cliché: $9,000 of bonuses when you buy my $18 book. It’s what I call shovel wear, where they just shovel all of this crap. And it’s got nothing to do with the book. It’s got no value. It’s a whole bunch of random PDFs or slides or 10-year-old books that no one wants to read.
So my philosophy with the book bonuses was A, directly relevant and B, highly valuable. So it wasn’t like a million pages of crap nonsense. It was actually items, PDFs, courses, e-books that people were selling and were still selling and are still selling to this day. So it’s not like, oh yeah, $79 value, and no one ever bought it for any money at all ever. It’s not that kind of thing.
And then directly relevant. So my book is a sales-driven marketing book. Meaning it’s about marketing, but it’s got a sales component. So I figure what are some adjacent areas of expertise? That if people love my book, what other kind of content might they be hungry for in a bonus? So I went to my smart friend Cory Pearlman who wrote a great book called E-Bootcamp. And then Social Media Overload is his next book after that. I said, well I’m not a social media expert. But once people get their sales driven marketing nailed down, they’re going to want to know about social media. So Cory has a bonus.
Copyrighting and direct marketing. The best in the business is Bob Bly. I said Bob, cause I’m not a copywriter, I don’t teach copywriting. I don’t teach direct marketing. But if you want to get better at copyrighting, which will make your marketing more effective, I said Bob, what can we give people? Again, it’s a smart friends strategy for the book bonuses. But my filter, Allison, was relevance, high relevance to my core topic and high value versus shovel ware or nonsense.
Alison Jones: I love the smart friends strategy. There’s a book title in there actually.
David Newman: Yeah there probably is. There probably is. And guess what, it’s going be co-authored by our forty collective smart friends.
Alison Jones: Yeah. It’s a real reminder to get out more. Isn’t it? It’s so easy just to sort of keep your nose down, but actually those networks you cultivate, those ideas you bounce around. Those are the things that really rocket power your business.
David Newman: Right.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. Now if you people want to find out more about you, David, where should they go?
David Newman: So the mother ship, global headquarters online, is doitmarketing.com. And if people are interested in how I put the book bonus package together, that’s at doitmarketing.com/book.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. And I will put both of those links up on the show notes. So if anyone wants to go straight there rather then fluffing around on Google, you can. You can click. Thank you David. I really enjoyed that conversation. Particularly love all that practical tactical stuff that you shared with us as well so generously. Thank you so much.
David Newman: Allison. Great to be here. I’ll see you next time.