Decision Vision Episode 39: Should I Write a Book? – An Interview with Bea Wray, Michael Levin Writing Company
Are books still relevant? How do I get a book out of my head and down on paper? Should I self-publish? The answers to these questions and much more come from this interview with Bea Wray, Michael Levin Writing Company, “Decision Vision” is hosted by Mike Blake and presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Bea Wray, Michael Levin Writing Company
An innovation expert, Bea Wray helps thought leaders share their stories, passions and knowledge as they invent, launch, and promote new products. As the former Chair of the Entrepreneurship Practice Group at Advantage Media Group, ForbesBooks, Bea further leveraged the wisdom and experience of these innovators through branding, visibility, and marketing efforts substantiated by the ForbesBooks brand name.
Bea is an innovator herself. She successfully built and eventually sold SourceHarbor Inc. Along the way, she expanded the company to serve thousands of clients internationally, and has consulted with hundreds of startups. Bea served as the Executive Director of The Creative Coast, a regional non-profit building the innovation economy in Savannah, Georgia where she hosted TEDxCreative Coast and the innovation conference known as GeekEnd. Her years of energy and effort are an immediate benefit to entrepreneurs across 26 countries and throughout the United States.
Bea’s upcoming book, titled What Harvard Taught Me, But My Kids Made Me Learn, is expected to arrive late in 2019. She is looking forward to sharing how her experiences as a mother of three taught her how to negotiate, communicate, and adapt in the business world.
Bea holds an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School, is a summa cum laude graduate of Emory University, and is one of South Carolina’s prestigious Liberty Fellows of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. She is a frequent keynote speaker on innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth, and an inspiring contributor to various publications, including Entrepreneur.com, The Grindstone, and The Savannah Morning News.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast. Past episodes of “Decision Vision” can be found here. “Decision Vision” is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
Visit Brady Ware & Company on social media:
Intro: [00:00:02] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions, brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting advisory that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Michael Blake: [00:00:20] And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic. Rather than making recommendations because everyone’s circumstances are different, we talk to subject matter experts about how they would recommend thinking about that decision.
Michael Blake: [00:00:38] My name is Mike Blake and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we’re recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe in your favorite podcast aggregator. And please, also, consider leaving a review the of podcast as well.
Michael Blake: [00:01:02] Our topic today is, should I write a book? And this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because books have become, in some respect, easier to write and circulate than ever before. And I do sort of have this secret desire to get about five or six books out, which surprises a lot of people because they’re a surprise and I learned I could read. But in point of fact, I think that there’s a voice in there that wants to put things down on either dead tree paper or virtual paper.
Michael Blake: [00:01:38] And I think a lot of people are thinking about that as well. And it may be people who are like me that are in the services area that wish to establish and reaffirm our reputations as subject matter experts to the market. It may be people that have an artistic bent and this is, you know, a book is in effect their canvas for self-expression. Or it could be somebody that simply feels like they have a story to tell or a lesson to teach. And a book is their way of of getting that lesson out to the world. That’s sort of their contribution to society. And we all know this proliferation of books out there under various names. They could be books, they could be e-books, they could be something else.
Michael Blake: [00:02:27] And, you know, I think that, you know, as we record today in 2019, this is a topic that really wouldn’t have even mattered 20 years ago. You know, the notion that somebody would just somehow write a book was a much larger undertaking because of the way the industry was structured, because of the way technology worked or didn’t work. And it’s just another one of those signs of the times that technology is enabling us all to put a voice out there in a way that, for good or bad, we simply were not able to.
Michael Blake: [00:03:06] And joining us today is my pal Bea Wray, who is with Michael Levin Writing Company with the awesome tag line, their books make their clients happy, famous, trusted and rich. You have a story to tell, a business case to make, a family history, to capture, your book as the ultimate leave behind on sales calls. And I agree with that. The best way to record the culture of the enterprise you’ve built and your legacy for your family.
Michael Blake: [00:03:31] Bea herself is an innovation expert. And she and I know each other from back in the days when Startup Lounge was active in Savannah, Georgia, and she was the director of—executive director of our partner organization Creative Coast there. And now she’s helping thought leaders share their stories, passions and knowledge as they invent, launch and promote new products. As the former chair of the Entrepreneurship Practice Group and Advantage Media Group, Forbes Books, Bea further leverage the wisdom and experience of those innovators through branding, visibility, marketing efforts substantiated by the Forbes Books brand name.
Michael Blake: [00:04:08] Bea is an innovator herself. She successfully built and eventually sold Source Harbor Incorporated. Along the way, she expanded that company to serve thousands of clients internationally and has consulted with hundreds of startups. She serves as the executive director of the Creative Coast, a regional nonprofit building the innovation community in Savannah, Georgia. By the way, one of those awesome cities anywhere. If you don’t—if you’ve never been there, go. If I can ever afford to retire there, that is where I’m going. She hosted TEDxCreative Coast and the Innovation Conference known as GeekEnd.
Michael Blake: [00:04:40] Her years of energy and effort are an immediate benefit to entrepreneurs across 26 countries and throughout the United States. She holds an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School and a summa cum laude graduate of Emory University and a bunch of other good things. And last but not least, I mean, we’ll get to this one. She has written her own book or is in the fit—in the process of putting her own finishing touches on that book. What Harvard taught me but my kids made me learn, which is expected to arrive in 2019. And I know she’s looking forward to sharing how her experiences as a mother of three taught her how to negotiate, communicate and adapt in the business world. And I think there’s a lot that I’m going to learn from that, too, as a father of two who I think already can negotiate better than I can. Bea Wray, thank you so much for being on the program.
Bea Wray: [00:05:30] I’m so happy to be here, Mike. This is wonderful.
Michael Blake: [00:05:33] So, let’s sort of get down to it. You know, normally I start these podcasts with a definition because we’re talking about a fairly technical topic. But I’m just going to go on a limb here and say everybody knows what a book is. So, why would I want to write a book? You know, I don’t have time to even read all the books that I would like to read. Why am I going to take that time and write one instead?
Bea Wray: [00:05:57] Well, the main reason is to—that people want to be known, loved, and trusted and businesses want to hire people that they know love and trust. And more and more businesses are deeper in whomever they’re working with. Whether it’s your accounting firm, your lawyer, even your orthodontist. You know, I helped an orthodontist write a book because he explains that the impact of straightening teeth on a child’s sleep and what was happening in sleep and the ability for that child to do better in school. So, I thought, orthodontia was all about just keeping your smile pretty. Well, it turns out that the fact that this doctor spends more time understanding the numerous impacts, he wrote a book about it.
Bea Wray: [00:06:53] And so, I guess what I’m trying to say is, you introduced the podcast, which was excellent by, you know, this was not something you could have done 20 years ago because technology was different and the distribution was different. That’s very true. I would argue that in addition, the knowledge base was different. And so, one of the reasons fewer and fewer people publish with a traditional publisher is because we are not all reading the same book. You just said yourself, there’s 10 or 12 books you would love to read. Those are probably not the 10 or 12 that are on my list.
Bea Wray: [00:07:35] It’s that we want more specific stories, more connected to our lives. I want to know not what is the most popular book in the country, but I want to relate to someone who’s more like me, who has insights about things that I need. And so, one of the reasons you might write a book is because you have a unique and special experience and perspective that can help some people, thousands of people, tens of thousands of people. Maybe not a few billion people. And yet helping thousands of people is actually a really great thing to do, and sharing your own thoughts in that way is a great endeavor.
Michael Blake: [00:08:23] So, you touched on something that I think I want to jump to, because if you’re—if you really haven’t looked at this and if you’re a people of a certain age such as myself, you think, oh, I need a book, I then need to, I guess, find a way for John Wiley and Sons or McGraw-Hill or, you know, somebody else that’s going to pick this thing up, is that necessarily the case anymore? Is that gateway or that barrier to entry still important?
Bea Wray: [00:08:55] It is not. And I’m a big fan of both of those companies. And working with a traditional publisher can be great and it might not work for you at all. And I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of authors. And what I find is that that industry continues to consolidate and to minimize in such a way that the services one would have gotten in the past, like marketing services are smaller and fewer. And so, it may not be a great experience if you, one, go down that route even if you’re successful. Then the distribution of the book may not be what you’re hoping for.
Bea Wray: [00:09:39] What also can happen is, you know, they’re in the business of selling books. Not in the business of selling you or your company or your idea, which can be great as long as your incentives are aligned with what you want with your book. And so, if they’re not aligned, what can happen is a very specific methodology that maybe it’s something you go over in your consulting practice. It’s a way you use as a business card. It’s what you start talking about and bringing people to your company. Make it watered down in the book that’s trying to be sold to a million people. And so, right off the get go, just the book you envision in your head, depending on what level of control you want, it may be better to self-publish or a hybrid publish than going the traditional route because you lose a lot of control. There’s a lot of talk about how you lose money. You get 40 cents on the book versus $10 on each book sold. But a big problem is, are you actually putting out there the book that is in your heart and mind and soul?
Michael Blake: [00:10:50] And you know, you touched on something there that I want to kind of break from the script a little bit and drill into because I think that’s an important point. You know, the business model of bookselling and the life model of the author may not very—may not be in alignment, right, to sell a book. If you’re going to really do it the way McGraw-Hill put on a bestseller list, that kind of becomes your job, doesn’t it? And maybe you don’t want that to become your job.
Bea Wray: [00:11:18] Absolutely. That’s exactly right. And you know, you mentioned me and my own book. And I’ll just use this as a very specific example. Is—I write not exclusively to women, but sometimes to women, because I’m a mom and I am a woman and I’m a business person. And what I have found is that, we as women, choose to belittle our own experiences in the home and outside of the corporate world, even though they’re very, very relevant to learning about how to deal with people and learning how to negotiate and all those things you said earlier. I never speak from a platform of corporations to conferences or in my book as a victim, or about those bad men who don’t treat me well enough, because that’s not something I think about.
Bea Wray: [00:12:14] However, there is a huge market for that. There is a lot—after the #MeTooMovement, there’s a lot of energy and there’s—I have actually been approached by traditional publishers, write the book in this way because there is a market for, if only men would pay a dollar and a dollar to men and women and the gender pay gap and all this whole language that—those are important factors and there are important things to fight for. But I’m going to fight it from the perspective I know which is I’m going to get better at raising my hand. I’m going to get better at taking risks. I’m going to be better at stepping forward. Not about saying I’m a victim.
Bea Wray: [00:12:55] And the point I’m trying to make here is I have personally been approached, hey, if you change your book to say something that wasn’t in your heart, mind and soul, we can sell it. That’s not been my personal choice. And I know 30 other people who’ve made a similar choice to me because what was more—if you’re going to go through the effort of writing a book, it is a long journey and it sticks with you a long time, my encouragement is make it a book you want it to be.
Michael Blake: [00:13:22] And you know, I would think the thing about a book even by today, it—still, if you compare it to other forms of communication, media, it—a book still has a permanency to it that even a blog doesn’t, a YouTube video, or a Facebook post, whatever, an Instagram, whatever it’s called, a gram, I don’t know. I’m not on histogram, you know, tweet, whatever. A book is still different in that regard, isn’t it, that once it’s out there, either on on dead tree paper or a virtual paper, at some point, I think most people would would have a need to be proud of that out there, because if you’re not, it ain’t going away.
Bea Wray: [00:14:08] Correct. And it is all about—I mean, I love that the word author is part of authority. It is all about establishing your authority. So, be clear on what authority you want to be establishing. Be clear on who you are on that paper because this is where you have your chance to shape it.
Michael Blake: [00:14:30] So, let’s do a close eye role play here. But what I’m really doing is I’m getting free consulting and other guys are giving you a podcast interview opportunity. But I’ve got a book and I’ve got several books in my head that I think I want to write. Do I just start writing? Do I do the Snoopy cartoon thing where I’m on my doghouse, the typewriter and say it was a dark and stormy night? Or how do you—what are the first steps toward that goal?
Bea Wray: [00:15:00] Well, that’s a great question. And you certainly can. Most people start to at least have an outline and a set. The kind of questions you’re thinking is, what is the book I want to write and for whom? And then why? I do recommend being I won’t say selfish but a little bit. Like know your purpose for writing the book because that will help you define your audience and your use. And it will certainly keep you motivated.
Bea Wray: [00:15:34] So, I’ve worked with people who are writing a book because they just hope that one of their grand kids will read it someday, that they don’t want to die without their story somewhere written down. And that’s what they’re going to do. Maybe it will get published in a place and all those people around the world will read it but it was really just about a legacy. That’s a great reason. I’ve helped people write books because their need is to drive business to their company. Now, those kinds of people may be selling $40 gene. Usually, they’re selling a complicated relational relationship kind of product. So, $150,000 on average. Way that leads to consulting, whether it’s for manufacturing or setting up of insurance captive or whatever, where their wisdom and knowledge and the sense to be trusted is so critical. You can’t have that across in a phone call. They want their ideas out and they want to be trusted. And that’s their way that they attract people to their company.
Bea Wray: [00:16:45] Some people want to launch a speaking career. Some people—so, understanding your why. I think it is really, really important before you go too far in writing your book. And then there’s the how. What I will say is I learned over time that the average entrepreneur take around three years to write his or her own book. And unfortunately, fewer than 40 percent of the entrepreneurs to start out on that personal endeavor finish. And that’s why people like the Michael Levin Writing Company exist, is people who are running their own company have—there’s so much at stake every two hours that they spend just writing, not working in the company. And so, it’s constantly the battle that’s most urgent thing and the book never gets done. And so, it becomes a very costly endeavor just an opportunity cost.
Michael Blake: [00:17:54] So, you know, you said another thing. You’re going to make us rip off the script, which is great, because I can do that with you because you’re smarter than I am, empirically. And that is that you say something that kind of runs against what a lot of us, I think almost everybody, is taught and as a hardwired way, which is cater to your audience, cater to your audience, cater to your audience. And while I think you’re acknowledging kind of the existence of the audience, at the end of the day, if you’re going to produce a book that you’re going to feel is worthwhile at the end, it’s really about what you want. It sounds like, correct me if I’m wrong, but what I’m hearing is that it’s really about what you want to put out there to the world. And then if people buy it, buy into and engage cause they’re great. But that’s just kind of the way that it’s got to go.
Bea Wray: [00:18:48] Yes. I mean, one of the first questions we ask people is who is this book for? And what are you going to do for them? And so, in why are they going to do what you want them to do? It may be that they—you want to motivate them to take better care of their health. Great. It may be that you want them to call you to take better care of their health. We don’t know. But one of the very first questions is who are you writing for? So, I do care about the audience.
Bea Wray: [00:19:21] But before that, you have an idea for the book. It really needs to be your idea that’s deep in your heart and your passion connected to the life that you are ready to lead as an author. And so, whether that’s a business person who has a book, whether that is a speaker who has a book, or whether that I’m a grandparent, I’m leaving a legacy that has a book. This book is becoming a part of who you are and you have to have a reason for wanting to write it. And that will help define your audience. And then you can start tailoring to that audience and you have to or otherwise it won’t be a good book. But I—what I don’t recommend is go out, survey the world, and see what book is missing.
Michael Blake: [00:20:12] Interesting, because I’ve actually heard exactly that advice given many times. So tell me more about that. Why? Why is that a bad idea?
Bea Wray: [00:20:23] Because we don’t live in—because, well, we’re going to think I’m an old fuddy duddy, but because we don’t want beaver cleaver on T.V. anymore is basically the reason. And let me explain that. So 40 years ago, you watch, you consume video television, the same—you and every other neighbor were watching the same thing as there were three channel. And we all watched the same thing. We consume information in a certain way. And my guess is you didn’t watch that last night. Am I right?
Michael Blake: [00:20:59] Yeah.
Bea Wray: [00:20:59] And you didn’t watch even the same thing as everyone on your street. And if you’re like most of America, you don’t even watch everything that was the same even if people in your home. So not only is it not consistent. Three options down the street. Most of us watching the same thing and talking about it. And as the water cooler the next day, we are self-selecting and sometimes is independently created content like YouTube videos, TedX Talk, and so on and so forth. So the way we consume information is so totally different than the way it was years ago. At that time, publishing of individual books had certain channels. We need so many mysteries, we need so many adventure stories, we need so many biographies. And we don’t have a recent biography of Abe Lincoln for 10-year-old. We needed to fill that.
Bea Wray: [00:21:56] That is not the way information is consumed today. It’s quite the opposite. We create whether video content or written content as a way of connecting with people. Who do we want to connect with? Is it based on our faith? Is it based on our geography? Is it based on our clients? And so, I want to write a book that helps me be who I want to be and connect with the people I want to connect with. I have a—I have an e-mail today from a friend who went to Harvard Business School who wrote a book about parenting and leveraging Harvard Business School, very, very similar in some ways as my book and not at all similar. And it will be used in the same way. But we became friends because our books were similar. But never did she think, oh, gosh, you’re writing on that topic, I can’t. Or did I think you’re writing on that topic, I can’t.
Michael Blake: [00:23:01] Yeah. And to some extent, right, it probably kind of reaffirms a factor you may be on to something.
Bea Wray: [00:23:07] Yes.
Michael Blake: [00:23:08] If one person, other person thinks it’s worth writing that book, that would tell me there’s 10,000 people that think it’s reading that book.
Bea Wray: [00:23:18] Exactly. But it wouldn’t be the case if there were only one spot on the network or only one spot in the McGraw-Hill sells for this type of book. But that’s not the way books are distributed, written especially today.
Michael Blake: [00:23:36] So—and this actually—this does circle back then to a question I actually had prepared to ask for today, which is, you know, given all of the media that bombards us and is available, you know, I mean, are books on their way out or are books still a real thing?
Bea Wray: [00:23:58] That’s so interesting because many times you also in this podcast talked about, you know, a paper book or an online book. And I believe that not only are books very much relevant today. Funny, I’m looking at a bookshelf right now suddenly filled with books. But I think paper books are still very relevant, even though I’m an audible fan. I listen to books often. And the reason is because they are a way of connecting with people.
Bea Wray: [00:24:30] So more and more people are writing books, more and more people are writing books to connect with their audience. It may not be a billion people. It may not even be 300,000 people. But writing a book—well, take the guy, for example, whose client is $150,000 every time he gets a client. This gentleman wrote a book, put it in the hands of fewer than a thousand people, and his business increased by $5 million in the first year because it didn’t take many people to learn, to know, love, and trust him. Does that make sense?
Michael Blake: [00:25:15] It does. And by the way, as an aside, I have stolen that phrase because I’m familiar with the phrase no like and trust. No love and trust is so much better. So kudos to you.
Bea Wray: [00:25:26] Well, thank you.
Michael Blake: [00:25:26] And if you hear lots of other people that are using that, it’s because I stole it from you and told everybody they can have it.
Bea Wray: [00:25:33] I appreciate that. I was told one time that, you know, the first time you borrow, you give credit. The second time, you know, oh, I was talking and so-and-so said. The next time you say, so and so taught me to say. The third time you forget about so-and-so altogether and you just know it.
Michael Blake: [00:25:52] That’s right. And by the fourth time, it just came to me one day. I don’t know where. But you’re welcome to borrow it if you want.
Bea Wray: [00:26:01] There you go.
Michael Blake: [00:26:01] Yeah. So I do think, you know, there is still some—there is still a mystique around a book. In spite of all the other media that, you know, compete for attention, I give books a lot because I recommend that people read a book and then to guilt them into reading and I’ll often buy it for them and send it to them. So they’ll at least lie to me the next time they see me and say they read it. But, you know, it is a very powerful calling card.
Michael Blake: [00:26:32] And I’ll share my own story. So years ago, I co-authored a book called Entrepreneurship Back to Basics, and it’s one long out of print. But I remember, I was applying for a job and they asked me for a writing sample. I say, okay, if I send you a copy of my book, right, just sort of hear a pin drop at the interview at that point. An extreme case, but still an anecdote of the impact that a book could make.
Bea Wray: [00:27:00] Totally fabulous. And you know, a lot of time it’s okay if someone doesn’t read the whole book. But one of the most powerful sales talk is to say, you know, hey, Michael, it was great to speak with you today. I really appreciated the questions you had on my marketing strategy. Please turn to page 26 in the book that I’ve enclosed.
Michael Blake: [00:27:23] Yeah. And of course, then there’s if you want the benefit of reading the book and I haven’t actually read it, you can just hire me.
Bea Wray: [00:27:31] Precisely.
Michael Blake: [00:27:34] So let’s say we’re well along the way to a book being written or maybe it’s even written. Is it as hard to get a book picked up by Amazon and distributed to Kindle or iBooks or something like that? Is it hard at all or can anybody just sort of do it? How, you know, what’s your assessment of that electronic distribution medium in terms of making it harder or easier to actually get a book out there?
Bea Wray: [00:28:01] Well, I think anybody can do it. Most people need help with how. So certainly making sure the book is a great quality. You know, you do want an excellent manuscript, well-written, but that’s not enough. You definitely have to have someone who’s helping you do the layout, make it look excellent. Pull out images and illustrations and even font type and book jackets. All of that matters.
Bea Wray: [00:28:30] And so, I’ve never met someone who can do all of that him or herself. You know, that usually takes a team who can get that done. And that’s where, you know, hybrid publisher and that’s where, you know, our company helps people find that right team at the Michael Levin Writing Company so that—because what people don’t want to do is finally get this book out of themselves. Finally have this manuscript and then say, now what, and still run into all of the hurdles that they were experiencing before, you know, they took the steps to get the book actually done. That said, you know, Amazon will put a book up, and so you don’t have to go to McGraw-Hill to have—to be a published author. And you still get—and you get to retain much more of the profits of the book, which is excellent.
Bea Wray: [00:29:27] But there’s still a science around how do you get it in the very category? How do you get the ISBN number? How do you make sure that it becomes an Amazon best-seller because Amazon does a great job of creating certain categories. And there’s a system around making sure enough people are voting for you at the time so that you can be a best-seller. And so, there—it’s not that hard. You just, you know—my husband will kill me for saying this. I don’t even change my oil in my car because I don’t know how to do that, right.
Michael Blake: [00:30:03] Right.
Bea Wray: [00:30:03] He does and he knows how to take the radiator out, too. And if he doesn’t, he’ll learn on YouTube. That’s not me. So my philosophy is get the people who are excellent at doing these things for you so that you can feel comfortable and go do the things that you’re excellent at.
Michael Blake: [00:30:25] So you mentioned in passing that assuming the book is finished at all, that it would take an entrepreneur roughly three years to complete a book. Is that reflective of best practices or is that reflective more of that? There have been a bunch of fits and starts and mistakes and restarts. And that’s not really an efficient path. And if you do it kind of the Bea Wray way that it doesn’t necessarily take a full presidential cycle to do that.
Bea Wray: [00:30:55] Now, I think the best practice is 90 to 120 days.
Michael Blake: [00:31:00] So good. Yeah. Because I’m not nearly that patient if I’m going to write my book. So, let’s walk through that. If you’re talking to somebody and they’re serious about writing a book, what—how does that time typically get allocated? Do somebody take 90 days off to write the book and they go to a, you know, a Nepalese monastery where they’re not going to be disturbed? Or do they take one or two days a week or they just sort of locked themselves in an office and do that? Or is it, you know, the method where somebody gets up at 4:00 in the morning and the first two and a half hours a day, they write? How does that typically work?
Bea Wray: [00:31:38] So, what I have experienced in the last few years, both with the Michael Levin Writing Company and the ghostwriting company and when I ran the Forbes book is that they realize they want to buy their—what they’re really doing as CEO of a company is buying his or her own time. They’re saying, I don’t want to delay fits and starts because there’s something about our brains that actually gets ourselves in the way of writing our own book because we want to be perfect. And writing is an imperfect endeavor. We have to get it out and then it needs to be edited and changed and moved around.
Bea Wray: [00:32:18] And so, most people who have not been trained as writers and have 10 years of history as a writer with things that are not emotionally connected to themselves, are not going to be the best at writing their own book. They’re going to be the best at speaking their own books. And so, what they typically do is say, I want to hire a partner to help me with this book. And then, the first thing that happens is there’s a 90-minute phone call where there’s a conversation about who’s the audience, why are you doing the book, and let’s work through what is the book, meaning the outline of the book in the book plan.
Bea Wray: [00:33:00] And then usually the writers will go back and take probably six to eight hours with that 90 minute, listening to it, just writing it, re-listening to it, reshaping it, understanding, doing some research and then deliver back. Sometimes a 10 to 12 fixed, detailed outline, sometimes with holes. This is the way I see the book. Here’s where I sit these stories. What do you think? And so, now we’re working off of a book plan. And from that book plan, sometimes weekly phone calls are scheduled, sometimes every other week, depending on the schedule of the book and whether there is sort of a launch of that. But we need this book to be done by X date. What are we aiming for in order to hopefully get the 90 to 120 days.
Bea Wray: [00:33:51] And oftentimes, the entire book is interviewed. And then the writer goes away and delivers factious the first three chapters, never the whole book. That’s too much to digest for the author. So, the ghostwriter will deliver back the first two or three chapters, are we—did I get the voice right? Are we on the right path? That’s the time to iterate and decide how to shape the next two-thirds of the book. And within 90 days, an excellent ghostwriter, ghostwriting team should be able to deliver to a CEO his or her book written in his or her voice about his or her story.
Michael Blake: [00:34:40] And so, you know, kind of working through that process. And it certainly makes sense to me if you’re retaining a ghostwriter. You know, you’re surely buying back that time. And by the way, I’ve got to assume being a ghostwriter is extremely hard because writing to capture someone else’s voice has—I know is excruciatingly difficult because I’ve tried to work with ghostwriters in just small articles. And it’s never worked very well. And I think it’s something that’s very hard to do. Meaning that if you find somebody like you guys that can do it, you know, that is a precious commodity.
Bea Wray: [00:35:23] I think so. I can’t not do it. So, let me be clear. But the Michael Levin Writing Company has written over 700 books in 25 years. And I’ve been tracking for the last five years, and what I find is there are people who can do it. And interestingly, I spent enough time with them that these actual ghostwriters will say it’s easier for me to write your books than my own because all of those emotional things like that are those blocks that get ourselves in the way, get in our, we put in our own way don’t happen.
Bea Wray: [00:36:07] But it is one reason why the calls are cheap recorded, is there’s a lot of time spent getting that voice correct. Getting even that like (inaudible) of stories correct.
Michael Blake: [00:36:22] So, you touched on something I think is an important definitional point and that is editing and proofreading. I don’t think those are necessarily the same thing. And if you agree with that, can you explain to our audience what the differences between those two steps?
Bea Wray: [00:36:39] Yeah. So, anything—you know, they’re closely related, but editing is this—is a little more thorough and has a little more power. So, there’s ghostwriting. There’s really an overseeing. So, Michael Levin actually does all the book planned and he does the overseeing as a whole company. But there’s dozens of ghostwriters who are very carefully, closely match specifically to the author, but they’re never going to do their editing themselves. And so, then, there’s an overall editor who’s paying attention to tying the written work back to the author,b Back to the transcripts, back to the plan.
Bea Wray: [00:37:24] And then the proofreading is more the very final, you know, fork it out the door.
Michael Blake: [00:37:35] Right. Make sure there are no glaring errors and so forth, as opposed to high level kind of structure elements, I’m guessing.
Bea Wray: [00:37:41] Exactly.
Michael Blake: [00:37:42] Okay.
Bea Wray: [00:37:42] Editing can be—proofreading is making sure what they’re perfect. Editing is making sure we have everything we need there and identifying what’s not there.
Michael Blake: [00:37:57] Yeah. Okay. So, we’ve touched on this next question a little bit, but I don’t want to skim over because I do think it’s important. What’s your opinion of e-books?
Bea Wray: [00:38:11] Well, I think a lot of people that have them need to have them. Personally as a parent driving me crazy that my kids almost only read e-books because they read them on their phone and then there goes the text message, it’s like an invitation for a distraction. So, I don’t think they’re going away but there is a lot lost. I also don’t think—I’m positive they’re not replacing paper books where you can highlight and send and give as a gift and wrap up in a way. That cannot be done as effectively in an e-book.
Michael Blake: [00:38:55] And in terms of impact on a reader, do you think there’s a difference? Do you think that maybe readers look at e-books—and I want to make a distinction. I don’t necessarily mean a formal analog book that also happens to have a Kindle variant, but I’m more referring to kind of the promotional e-books that you see out there and they’re often called an e-book and maybe they’re not even worthy of the name. They should be called something else. But, you know, maybe they’re 15, maybe they’re 50 or 80, 90 pages to be considered almost too short a book to publish in paper format. But you see kind of that genre of book that appears in a digital format. You know what I’m talking about?
Bea Wray: [00:39:36] Yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about. And, you know, there are certain things that are seen to be shared and they are sort of too short that would never make it as a book that also has an electronic version. I hear what you’re saying. So, I tell people that some of those out, it’s definitely not my specialty and I don’t personally have a big desire, so I don’t know that I have enough experience to say, you know, to have an opinion about them. It makes sense to me that sometimes people have a shorter message to give and a 50 page e-book will get it done.
Michael Blake: [00:40:20] Okay. So, now, I’m curious on your view, and I think our listeners are curious, and it’s an off—it’s an awkward, almost insipid question, but I think it has to be asked and that is, you know, how easy or hard is it to actually produce a book that people are willing to pay for? And, you know, for most people, is that even a realistic or desirable goal?
Bea Wray: [00:40:55] Well, I think that the hardest part is digging deep in your heart. So, I’ve been involved with the publishing of hundreds of books and every one of them has met that bar. They are—some people are paying for them. What I’m not sure is that enough people are paying—the author is getting a million dollars. So, I am not a fan of published—I never say to someone go write a book, you’ll be a millionaire because it’s selling—making money, selling books is hard work. So, it depends. You know, you’re not going to get very far if your book is of bad quality and you can’t find some market who will pay for it.
Bea Wray: [00:41:48] Oftentimes, the way to get to that is you might give it away to other people, but it has to be excellent quality, has to have an excellent work, has to have a brief title, has to know the audience but that’s a big leap from, you know, I sold books at the back of a conference to I became a millionaire selling books. And I say a million dollars because it’s really not worth your time and effort. Probably you’re gonna get a $200,000 but there are easier ways to make a living.
Bea Wray: [00:42:22] And so, that is really hard. And I don’t think it’s about the quality of the book at that point. I think it’s about the quality and the dedication of your marketing and how many—did you run here to get on the radio station? And how many public speaking engagements are you doing and how did you work your way onto The Today Show?
Michael Blake: [00:42:45] So, it’s about the business of the book?
Bea Wray: [00:42:46] Most people don’t want to do all of that work because they don’t need to, that their book is making them a million dollars because it’s tied to a business that they’re doing or it’s tied to some other reason. So, they don’t go through the effort to get on The Today Show.
Michael Blake: [00:43:01] Right. And plus, I mean, it sounds like—I mean, that process, if you want your book itself to be that kind of income generator, the book itself becomes a business and it requires a substantial investment. You know, I don’t think you just sort of write at firstname.lastname@example.org, whatever their domain is. Hey, can I come on. I’d really like you to interview me. You know that in itself is a huge financial investment.
Bea Wray: [00:43:27] I used to help software companies sell their software. And what we always said was no matter how great it is, you can’t just cut a hole in the side of the building and hope that people start driving up like Burger King.
Michael Blake: [00:43:40] Darn it.
Bea Wray: [00:43:42] It’s true with books.
Michael Blake: [00:43:44] So, we’re running out of time. Before we do, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to shift gears to your own upcoming book. It’s going to be released later this year. Are you self-publishing that or is that going for a formal publishing house?
Bea Wray: [00:43:57] I am actually self-publishing that and I’m really excited about it. We’re finally getting into the homestretch here.
Michael Blake: [00:44:05] And if it’s not a major state secret, what is the voice of that book and what is the idea that you just had to get out of yourself and into that book?
Bea Wray: [00:44:18] Thank you. So, I had the privilege. I called the company and I had the privilege of taking about six years off of corporate work to raise my children. And I actually did so on a (inaudible) island in South Carolina. Daufuskie Island. So basically it’s exactly next to heaven and it was a perfect experience. But when I went back to work, which was at the Creative Coast, which you’ve already mentioned, I’m terrified. Did I have any skills? What can I do? How could I help them? Could I even find a job? And it was even way worse when I did because then I thought of all the ways I would fail because I had been at home with my children for six years.
Bea Wray: [00:45:00] And what amazed me is I had floods of thank you note. Thank you for that introduction to the venture capitalist. Thank you for this great event that you put on. Thank you for the strategic consulting. And I kept wondering, what were we doing that was helping these people? And then I kept wondering specifically, where did I personally get this skill to help these 300 plus companies? And over and over and over, the answer to that last question was not that I got this skill because I had attended the Harvard Business School. It wasn’t that I got this skill because I had decades of experience as an entrepreneur. Over and over again, the ability that I had to connect people, make people feel comfortable at an event, set out a vision for where we were going I received because I was raising children. So I want to talk about it.
Michael Blake: [00:46:00] And what what is the—is there one lesson that stands out as to the most important or the most obvious that your children taught you?
Bea Wray: [00:46:16] There isn’t one. Well, there’s dozens of them. But I think the main—the overarching lesson is that business is done with people. So people skills matter. So a great way to get people feel—hone your people skills is to try to raise them in your home.
Michael Blake: [00:46:37] Very good.
Bea Wray: [00:46:38] The one to do I have that I hope people walk away with is we, both men and women, belittle on our LinkedIn profile anything to do with parenting. We treat it as like a black mark, especially people who have taken time off. We try to cover it up from our professional experience. And my invitation is to consider not feeling that. And if you consider saying, you know, here’s who I am as a whole person. It’s basically Sheryl Sandberg said, hey, your corporate—your career path is not a corporate ladder. It’s not linear. It’s a jungle gym. And what I’m trying to do with this book is to validate that parenting is a reasonable spot on that corporate jungle gym.
Michael Blake: [00:47:33] Well, I am going to hit you up for a signed copy of that book. I can certainly see where that would fit because you’re right, there’s not just people skills. I think, you know, modern parenting involves tremendous time management requirements. I think obviously there’s economics that are involved. There’s conflict resolution. There’s so many things that actually can take from that. I’ve never thought about that. But the more you talk about it, the more inherent sense it makes to me. So, like I said, I’m going to hit you up for an autographed copy of the book.
Bea Wray: [00:48:10] I can’t wait.
Michael Blake: [00:48:11] So we need to wrap up. I think this is the longest podcast we’ve actually done and this is number 37 or 38, something like that. So I’m not sure if congratulations are in order or not, but it is what it is. If people want to contact you about writing a book or or maybe just figuring out where, you know, what lessons their children should be teaching them, how can they best contact you?
Bea Wray: [00:48:36] So, my personal e-mail is bea, is my name. B like boy, @beawray.com.
Michael Blake: [00:48:47] Okay. And that’s gonna do it for today’s program. I’d like to thank Bea Wray so much for joining us and sharing her expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in, so that when you’re facing your next business decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcasts, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.