If you want to know what it takes to successfully publish your book, you need to listen to this episode. Joining me are Naren Aryal, author, CEO & Publisher of Mascot Books and Tim Vandehey, a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter. Together, Aryal and Vandehey have written How to Sell a Crapload of Books, taking their years of combined experience in publishing and sharing secrets to building a marketing platform for your book.


Michael Alden: All right. Welcome to another edition of The Alden Report. My name is Michael Alden. We are here in Blue Vase Studios, and I always start out with saying how excited I am for what I’m able to do and the people who I’m able to talk to. I am super excited to have my next two guests. I think this might be the first time we’ve had two guests on at the same time, but we’re going to do something a little bit different today. We’re going to talk about the publishing world. We’re going to talk about what it takes to publish a book. What does it take to write a book? Then the other part that I’ve learned kind of the hard way, what it takes to market a book. All these different things, so many people always talk about they want to write a book, or they might have a book in them. Well, these next two guys that I have on today are experts within the field of writing books.

My first guest is Naren Aryal. He is the CEO and founder of an organization, of a publishing company called Mascot Publishing. He’s also the author of his book- we’re going to talk about it- called How to Sell a Crapload of Books. That’s an interesting title. My next guest is with him as well. His partner is Tim Vandehey. Tim is an author himself. He’s a ghostwriter. He’s a copywriter. He’s doing a lot of different things. He’s a dad, and he’s written probably close to … I think the last time I looked, over 50 books, and ghostwritten some books, and some of them have gone on to become bestsellers. We’re going to talk to them, again, about what it really takes to become a published author, and maybe some of the goals that you may have. Why you want to write a book, why is it important, and things like this.

Guys, thanks for being my guests.

Tim Vandehey: Thanks for having us on. It’s a pleasure.

Naren Aryal: Hey, Mike. Happy to be here.

Michael Alden: Why don’t we start with you, Naren. Tell us quickly about … I say “quickly.” Tell us a little bit about your background. You have an interesting background, like me, where we are both recovering attorneys. Tell us how you got involved in the world of publishing books.

Naren Aryal: Yeah, sure. I was a practicing attorney, and working with venture-funded startups in northern Virginia, and I was with two or three, each looked promising, each didn’t end up promising. I was taking a break, and at that time we were down at a football game at my alma mater, Virginia Tech, and my daughter, Anna- shout out to Anna- wanted a children’s book about the HokieBird, HokieBird being the mascot at Virginia Tech, of course. Not finding such a book, my wife and I wrote a simple little children’s book called Hello HokieBird on the ride home. What we found is, my daughter, being a fan of the mascot, really enjoyed the story. We put some doodles to it, and I decided if my daughter enjoys it, I’m sure there’s a lot of other families that would enjoy something similar, so we self-published a book called Hello HokieBird, and one day 5,000 copies showed up at my door. It was a very happy day, as you can imagine, but shortly thereafter I decided, “Wow. This is scary. I don’t know anything about selling books.”

That was how we got into the world of publishing, and shortly thereafter, we had books for just about every major college, professional sports teams, children’s books that were licensed by these entities, and we entered the crazy world of publishing on the backs of brands that people know and recognize, so it really did take the risk out of the world of publishing. Since that time, we’ve obviously gone on to diversify. We’re a multi-genre publishing company. Today we do a lot of business books. We still do a lot of children’s books, as the esteemed host here can attest. We’re working on a book together with your daughter. But we do a little bit of everything. Fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, coffee table books. We’re a bonafide middle-sized publishing company, which is a rarity, and we’re located outside of Washington, DC, and we’re working on some really cool things.

Michael Alden: I love it. We’re going to talk a little bit more about your experience, obviously, throughout the podcast. Then Tim, tell us a little bit about your background. How did you go from first kind of being a copywriter to now being a ghostwriter and being able to do such an amazing job of telling other people’s stories?

Tim Vandehey: Well, I got my journalism degree out in California, where I spent most of my life, and worked at the ad agency thing, the magazine thing for a while, and got tired of that, and went freelance, what? Almost 22 years ago now, writing advertising. One day, one of my clients said, “Hey, Tim. Could you write a book for me?” I said, “Sure.” And then I hung up and went, “Oh, god. How do I write a book?” Because that’s what you do. You say yes, and then you figure out how to make it happen.

I wrote a book, and it was terrible, which first things of anything usually are. The thing is, I wrote three more books for this same guy, because he liked it. I didn’t care for it, but it worked for him. He had it as sort of a brand builder for his marketing agency. The fourth onethat we wrote, was called The Brand Called You, did extremely well. It got great reviews, sold a lot of copies. Hit the bestseller list over in Asia. This is all self-published, and this was back in 2003. That book got me a lot of attention, got me an agent, and I got a lot of people coming to me saying, “Hey, could you write my book too?” That’s sort of where the ghosting thing started. It was about 2004- 2005. It really caught fire in 2006. I started writing books exclusively and stopped doing copy writing business. Since then, yeah, I’ve worked with celebrities, athletes, CEOs, written more than 50 books like you said. Had a couple of New York Times Bestsellers, and I’ve got five … I guess really including, yeah. I’ve got six books coming out in 2017. It’s a busy year.

Michael Alden: I want to start with you, Tim, and ask you the whole ghostwriting thing. I’ve written three or four books now, and I’ve gone through the editing process, and I was able to write them myself, word for word, and it’s … Man. I’m not an author by trade, right? And it was a very, very difficult task. I’m glad I did it, but for some people who don’t have maybe the time to do it, or maybe they’re just nervous about it, why would someone choose a ghostwriter versus writing it themselves?

Tim Vandehey: Well, I can tell you the top three reasons. The people that I primarily ghost for are very busy, very successful professionals. They’re CEOs. They’re entrepreneurs. They’re celebrities. They might be attorneys, or college professors, or doctors. They’re people with very busy careers. Consultants, coaches, et cetera, running companies, things like that, and they want something … They want to share their story. A lot of times they want to build their brand, either because they want to increase the visibility of their business or their consulting practice, or they want to have a platform to do something once they leave the job they’re in now. Say they’ve been a doctor for 25 years, and they’re getting tired of practicing medicine, or they’re looking at retirement, and thinking, “Well, I want to go on the speaking circuit, and I need a book.” Which is a pretty valuable thing to have when you’re a speaker.

A lot of those people, there’s either one or all of three factors involved. They don’t have the time to write a book, which frequently they’re running a busy business. That takes up all of their time that they’re not spending with their families. They don’t have the writing chops to do it, which is pretty common. They might do some writing in some small ways, but in terms of writing a book that could get picked up by a New York publisher, for instance, they don’t have that level of writing chops, which there’s nothing to be ashamed of about that. They’re not professional writers.

Michael Alden: How do you know? How do you know that part? Because that’s a part I think a lot of people misstep. We’ll talk about the self-publishing world obviously in a few minutes, but there are so many people out there that think they’re great authors, and they put together a book, and then they push it out, and it’s sub-par, is being nice. How do you know that you don’t have the chops?

Tim Vandehey: Well, when I get that question from … And I typically get that question from people who have been … See, one of the things that makes it challenging, makes books challenging, writing challenging, for a lot of the folks I work with, is they’ve crushed everything else they’ve ever tried to do in their professional lives.

Michael Alden: Right.

Tim Vandehey: Started companies. They’ve built them into billion dollar concerns. They have been successful at everything, and then they come against this writing thing, and they’re sort of taken aback by how not good at it they are, or how hard it is. What I tell them, if they ask me that question, I say, “Go and publish. Go on LinkedIn Pulse and start there. If you can get something picked up by Fast Company or Forbes …” Forbes does a ton of third-party columns where you can just publish on their website. “See if you can get your stuff picked up, and see what the response to it is. Go write some stuff on LinkedIn Pulse, or Forbes, or some blog. Guest blogging, things like that, and see what the response is to what you write, and get some critical feedback from people who are not just going to tell you what you want to hear. You’ll know pretty quickly, especially from the professional outlets like a Forbes or a Business Week or something like that. If they’re interested in your stuff, it’s probably decently written. If they’re not, then you may have to eat some crow and say, ‘Okay, maybe I don’t have the chops for this.'”

I tell people to assume the default is that they might be decent writers, but if they really want to do a book that’s going to move the needle for their business or their career, they should assume that they need professional help. I don’t mean that in the psychology way. Sometimes they need that, too. But it’s naïve to think that somebody can spend 25 years in venture capital, or building a public company, and also have the writing chops to get on the New York Times Bestseller List. That’s just not realistic. I just tell them, “When in doubt, get professional assistance.”

Michael Alden: Yeah, no. I think that’s sound advice. When I wrote my first book, it was, for me … Writing the book was one thing, and then the next part was when my publisher said, “Yeah, we’ll take it.” I got back a 25 page proposal that said, “We’ll take your book, but we basically want you to rewrite the whole thing.” For me, it was somewhat bittersweet, but yeah. I think that’s sound advice.

So, Naren …

Michael Alden: I’m sorry, Tim. Were you saying something else?

Tim Vandehey: I said it can be humbling.

Michael Alden: Yeah, no. It was definitely humbling.

Naren, now Tim had mentioned something that for me has eluded me with my first two books, and hopefully will hit with the children’s book that you mentioned that I actually published through your company, Mascot Publishing. The New York Times. Talk to us a little bit about what it means to hit the New York Times, and what it takes to hit the New York Times. Because Tim was talking about creating great content, a book that is published, publishable, and has decent literary flow, but getting on the New York Times, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great book, right? What does it really take to get on the New York Times?

Naren Aryal: Yeah. First of all, we all hear the term “bestselling author,” and it’s thrown around quite a bit. There are a lot of lists out there. For example, Amazon, of course. PW, and others, but the New York Times is the toughest list to crack. I’ve got to explain this to authors all the time. There are book sales that count toward such a ranking, and book sales that don’t count towards such a ranking. If for example you’re going to have a book launch, and you’re going to invite 500 of your closest friends, and they’re going to buy books at your book launch, at some venue, maybe your home, it’s great to sell 500 books, but those don’t count. What counts are the entities that report into the New York Times. That’s something that we always have to let our authors know right up front.

If it is in fact important for you and your book to take a shot at the New York Times, which is by all counts the most prestigious book selling ranking out there, you’ve got to first of all have a lot of sales that count, and it’s kind of a mysterious formula that isn’t plain and clearly understood. It has to do with how many books you sell in the pre-release segment of your launch, and actually just post-release as well. That number varies given the week, and what’s going on, and who you’re competing against. I’d welcome you guys to chime in here, but generally what I’ve heard is it’s probably about 10,000 books a week, but that is a sliding scale based on what else is going on at the time and who’s releasing books.

Tim Vandehey: Yeah, it depends on the list. I’ll chime in, if I might. I had a book that I ghosted that came out in February of last year called The Wait. It debuted at number nine on the … There’s also a different list, by the way. The New York Times has a non-fiction, how-to, and advice book list that’s just self-help books and things like that. This book debuted at number nine on that list by selling about 6,000 books. About 3,000 in pre-sale, meaning orders that hit before the book actually officially came out, then 3,000 that first week. That gives you an idea. You want to debut in the middle of the list, it’s a 15-deep list, we debuted at number nine. It took 6,000 books, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is. It’s hard. Selling that many books is very tough.

Naren Aryal: Yeah. That’s one of the big things we hear from authors all the time. “Hey, 10,000 books. How tough could that be?” We have a conversation. “That can be very difficult.”

Michael Alden: Yeah, absolutely can. Folks, we are actually on with Naren Aryal and Tim Vandehey. They are the co-founders, and we’re going to talk a little bit about their organization called BeastSellers. They also have written a book, I love the title, How to Sell a Crapload of Books. The reason why they’re on is because, again, we have a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of business people that listen to this podcast, and everyone always says, “Hey, Mike, I’d like to write …” I have people come to me all the time and say, “Mike, I’d like to write a book.” Or, “I’m writing a book.” And I say, “Well, great. Send me the manuscript.” And not one person has ever sent me their manuscript, because I think it becomes an overwhelming, daunting task. These guys over at BeastSellers can show you how to do it, and for me, as someone who has written two books, who has hit USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, number one on Amazon, and missed that elusive list of the New York Times, we’ll spend a little bit more time about that.

Teaming up with people that really understand this industry is something that I learned probably the hard way. After my first book, I thought because I owned a marketing company that I could go out and sell a bunch of books, like we were just talking about. There is a science to it. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s a lot different than selling dietary supplements like I do, or selling widgets or what have you. The publishing world is changing, and how you sell things is changing. If you want some more information about Naren and Tim, you can just go to BeastSellers.com. You can also find their book on Amazon, How to Sell a Crapload of Books, and they’re going to give you all the secrets, really, inside that book on what you need to do, from writing the book, to maybe even considering having it ghostwritten, to also for me, I think, which is the most important part after you’re done, and they talk about this on their website, is then marketing the book.

Guys, back to the New York Times again. For me, when we talk about the different … It’s crazy. You talk about these numbers. I mean, I sold 17,000 copies week one on 5% More, and we didn’t hit the list. And Ask More, Get More, I was number two on Wall Street Journal when we debuted with Ask More, Get More, and then when you looked at the New York Times, I was ahead of everyone on the New York Times Bestseller List, versus Wall Street Journal, and I didn’t make the New York Times. I’ve been told that there’s this editorial discretion as well, involved over at the New York Times. Can any one of you elaborate on that? Have you heard anything to that effect?

Tim Vandehey: Yeah, I certainly have. It’s Tim. Yeah, I definitely … We’ve all heard rumors- some less believable than others, some more believable- that there is a lot of editorial discretion. That there is a lot of selective reporting, or selective acceptance of reporting of copies sold, depending on the publisher. That there’s a bias toward books from the big five. You know, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster, and McMillan, Penguin, Random House, and Hachette, the big five New York publishing houses. There’s a bias towards those books, which I tend to believe based on the lists. You know, the list as I’ve seen it over the years. The New York Times is the one everybody wants to be on. It’s sort of the fetish object, you know? It’s like, “Oh, the ultimate validation is to be on the New York Times List.” But let’s face it.

A bestseller list ranking is just a snapshot in time. It’s helpful. No question, it’s helpful, but there are other lists that are, I think, fairer. The Publishers Weekly list is deeper, but it also shows you the number of copies sold, which I don’t believe the New York Times does.

Naren Aryal: Yeah, and also we’ve all heard stories of authors and publishers trying to game the system, which involves buying up copies of your own book, and I think the New York Times is getting wise to those ways, and that’s one of the reasons why sometimes titles that you’d expect to see on there just don’t appear.

Tim Vandehey: One of the things that we did in How to Sell a Crapload of Books, and I do it with all the authors I ghost for, and the authors we market for, and I know Naren does this with his authors, is really advise people, “Please, please, please do not worry about the bestseller list.” Because they can become so focused on that and obsessed with that, they lose sight of what it takes to have your book be a real success, which is strong, consistent sales over the long term.

Naren Aryal: 99.99% of books, maybe 99.99999% of books have no shot at it, so why obsess over it? I think that’s what our message is.

Michael Alden: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I want to talk to you about so many different things, but I’d like for maybe you to walk my listeners through maybe from beginning, to up until the point where the book gets published, because we could talk for hours then after the marketing of it. Let’s say I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a business person. I feel as though … And I’ve heard people say this before. “Everybody has a bestseller in them.” I have this idea. I haven’t written anything down yet, but I have this concept. How do I start, and what’s the process really like from, “Okay, day one.” How long does it usually take? I think a lot of people need to hear this stuff, and really what it takes. Day one, I’ve got an idea. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I decided I want to write a book. Where do I start?

Naren Aryal: Yeah, I’ll jump in here if I could.

Tim Vandehey: You want to jump in? Okay, go ahead.

Naren Aryal: Yeah, sure. I get asked that question all the time, and the first thing I ask an author is, “Is the book written?” If it’s just a great idea, I advise them to do one thing. Create a one-page synopsis of what it is. “What are you writing? What’s the big deal? Who’s going to care?” Once we get that, then the next thing I ask them is, “Are you in fact going to write this book?” And if the answer is “yes,” then they go on their way and write the book. If the answer is “no,” then we talk about alternatives, including ghostwriters. Quality ghostwriters. That’s where people like Tim come in, and maybe Tim, you want to pick it up from that point and then throw it back to me when we get into the publishing pieces?

Tim Vandehey: Sure. The other question when it comes to ghosting is, “Is the book fiction or non-fiction?” Because fiction ghostwriting is quite rare, unless you’re James Patterson or somebody like that who has a team of ghosts write his novels. All the ghosting I do is non-fiction, and most ghostwriters will say the same. It’s self-help, and memoir, and things like that. There’s not a lot. There is fiction ghosting out there, but it’s maybe 10% of the ghostwriting world. If someone is going to ghost their book, then the first thing to do, of course, is find a good ghostwriter. That’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do. I don’t want to go too deeply into that, because that’s a whole different topic. But let’s say you had your ghostwriter. One of the key questions to ask there …

You’re seeking one. Let’s talk about that. You want to ask about the person’s experience, see the books they’ve written. Sales are not as important. I mean, you want to see good quality books. I’ve written a lot of books that either were never published, were self-published and sold 100 copies because the author lost interest. It doesn’t mean they weren’t good books. It just means the author dropped the ball, or in some cases the market said, “You don’t like this.”

I did a book for a celebrity who I won’t name. A great book, terrific book. Two weeks before her book came out, she humiliated herself on national television, and that destroyed the sales of her book. You want to talk to your ghost about experience, get some references, see the quality of their work, and find out how they manage the project. Are they going to simply take dictation, or are they going to add value to the work? Let’s say you’re doing a non-fiction book. Again, fiction is a different animal. You as the author might have an idea, and you may have been holding on to this idea for two or three or five or 10 years. However, it might not be the best idea to be the foundation of your book, based on the market that you’re shooting for. You might need a ghostwriter to come in and say, “Okay, well I understand your idea. What if we did this variation on that idea?” Not all ghostwriters will do that. Some will just take dictation and write exactly what you tell them, and to me, that’s not really serving the author.

A good ghost is someone who brings not just writing to the table, but creative thinking, concept work, knowledge of the market, and understanding of how best to get the message across, and it may not be the exact idea the author brings to the table. I do that most of the time, where I come to my writers and say, “Well, that’s the way … I understand your idea. Now let’s tweak it a little bit. Let’s frame it in a different way.”

Beyond that, it’s really about structure, outlining. It’s a very interview-based process. Most ghosts are going to ask to do long, extensive interviews with their authors, and the whole process can take … I’d say the average time, from first sit down to having a first draft, is probably six to eight months. Maybe longer for a more complex book. I’ve had books that took two years, but I’d say six to eight months is probably from the first time you sit down with somebody saying, “All right. You’re my ghostwriter. I want to write a book. Let me tell you what my idea is.” To “Here is your finished first draft.” Figure six to eight months, because there’s planning, there’s outlining, there’s interviewing, then there’s writing. Then that’s when I turn it over to somebody like Naren and say, “Okay, here’s the first draft. Go do your thing.”

Michael Alden: I was going to ask the question, but I don’t even need to. Yeah. Where do we go from here? Now we’ve got this first draft. We feel like it’s definitely worthy of being published, because we worked with someone like Tim from the very beginning, so I’m not an author by trade, but I’ve been working with Tim the whole time. Then we go to you, Naren, who’s published thousands of books, and you say “yes.” How long does it take from there, and what do I need to do to get it to the point where I actually can hold that physical copy in my hand?

Naren Aryal: I’ve worked with authors back on the timeline question that wrote their own books in two months. I’ve worked with authors that wrote their own book in 20 years. It really is all over the place. We get a script, and either it’s been ghostwritten or the author’s written a book. The first thing we do is send it for editorial, and there’s different levels of editing of course. Developmental, copy, line editing, or a simple proofread. Depending on the size of the manuscript, that typically takes about a month’s time to do it right. Again, sometimes we’ll work with authors that they say, “The script is fine.” Even after working with a ghostwriter. Actually, Tim and I are working on a project right now, and he did a great job writing the script, but we still got it over to an editor. That’s how important editorial is. That process typically takes a month.

While that’s going on, we start working on something that’s really important, and that’s the cover design. Everyone’s heard that saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, in this industry, you absolutely can, and people do. Cover and interior design, we typically allot two or three weeks, and that is a lot of back and forth between the author, our editorial team, and I’ve worked on covers that have gone really smoothly. I’ve worked on covers that have taken three months, with maybe 30 or 40 different revisions. That, again, is probably another … On average, let’s say another month process, the interior design. Editorial, a month. Cover design and interior design, a month. That’s two months And to print a book, it takes about a month and a half. Maybe a month, if everything goes smoothly. There we are, we’re looking at three months from the time Tim hands over a beautiful manuscript to the time where we have a book in hand.

Now, authors get super excited when they hear they’re going to have a book in their hands to hold, smell, touch, in three months. We have to sort of remind them that book in hand is different than a release date. You guys all know what that means. Book in hand is when you have a book, of course, that you can hold. The release date is the date that it becomes generally available. The longer you can take to do the things like introduce to buyers, get it set up for online sales, the longer that period, the better generally. Barnes & Noble, for example, they like to have six to nine months between the time they know about a book until the time it’s available. Now, that’s not really practical in many instances, but at a minimum, what I tell people is, “Let’s give it a good three months from the time we have the book until the time we release the book.” During that time, there’s a lot of important things that happen.

Michael Alden: That makes a lot of sense. In a minute, I want to ask you, “How important is the title?” In just a minute. Folks, we are on with Naren Aryal and Tim Vandehey. They are the co-founders of a company called BeastSellers. They’ve taken their years and years of experience, both in the publishing world and in the writing world, and also in the marketing world, within what we’re talking about here, selling books, and they’ve created BeastSellers.com. We’re going to talk a little bit more about what they do and how they do it, but if you’ve had an idea for a book, maybe you’ve written a book and it’s not really doing anything, or you don’t know what to do with it, or maybe you’ve written a book and you want to submit it to a publisher. It doesn’t really matter what stage you’re in.

I know we have a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of business people that listen to this podcast, and I know a lot of you have said, “Hey, man. I have a book. I want to write a book.” Well, if you’re listening right now, this is your opportunity to get some more information. It’s free information. You can just go to BeastSellers.com. They have a blog. You can just also put in your information. You can submit an idea, and they’ll get back with you. You can also find their book right on Amazon. It’s called How to Sell a Crapload of Books. Again, it’s an interesting title. It makes me laugh. It’s kind of a funny title. That leads me into the question, Naren, of we were talking about the cover design of the book a minute ago. How important is the title?

Before you answer, for both of my books, my first two books, Ask More, Get More, and 5% More, I had those titles. I was in love with them, and the publisher loved them, and it just kind of clicked. I’ve written a third book with Wiley and Sons, and it took us a long time to come up with the title. There were titles that I just didn’t like, and then there were some that I really did like that they didn’t like. How important is the title?

Naren Aryal: It’s very important. How’s that for an answer?

Michael Alden: That’s great. Next question.

Naren Aryal: Here’s the thing, right? Sometimes authors will fall in love with a title, and what I tell them is, “Okay, so you love it. Great. The real question is, is it going to resonate with your target market?” That’s the critical question. Sometimes, the subtitle is almost as important as the title as well.

Michael Alden: Right.

Naren Aryal: Again, is it going to resonate with the target market? It’s all about the target market.

Michael Alden: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. One of the other things that I wrote down as we were talking through is brand. We always hear so much the importance of your brand, of your personal brand, and for me, again, my two books, Ask More, Get More, and 5% More, have really increased my public profile and my brand, and helped build legitimacy in not only what I do, or what I’m also trying to do. Tell us about BeastSellers as it relates to helping with people’s brand. I think that’s what’s really happening. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. I think that’s really happening a lot in this world, where the self-publishing people can pump out a book in a few hours if they wanted to. Tell me how BeastSellers helps people enhance their brand, or even create a brand through the publishing world?

Tim Vandehey: Want me to do this one, Naren?

Naren Aryal: Fire away. If I could just say one more thing about the title, one practical consideration that I think is important is sometimes people go on to Amazon, for example, and will just type some words, and then see what books come up. Keep that in mind when you’re determining what a suitable title is for your book.

Michael Alden: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great point, because I had a couple for my third book. I wanted to call it Organized Chaos. I saw it once at a play land that my daughter was at, and I refer to my business here, as we call it, organized chaos. I’m like, “What a great title.” And I got on Amazon. There’s a million books out there called Organized Chaos. You’re right. That’s very important, and Naren, you as an attorney in the corporate world, and myself that comes from the corporate world, and we both understand intellectual property, and trademark, and copyright. That title, when you say it’s very important, it’s not only very important from the marketing side, but it’s also very important from the intellectual property standpoint side. If you have a title that infringes on someone else … This guy just wrote a book called Ask More. Frank Sesno is his name, right? And I have a book called Ask More, Get More, which I have trademarks on. But you know, you can’t trademark the title of the book. There’s a lot of different things that you need to consider with that title in addition to the marketing, and me, as an attorney, and you, as an attorney as well, I’m hypersensitive to the intellectual property side of it, and being able to protect what is now what we’re talking about: Your brand.

Naren Aryal: Yeah. We could talk more about this. There are other considerations, right? Like, “Is the URL available?”

Michael Alden: Right.

Naren Aryal: “Is the Facebook handle available? Is the Twitter available?” These are all considerations that must go in on the front end of this decision making process.

Michael Alden: I agree with you 100%. I think that’s sound advice. That not only relates to books, but anything. Anything you’re trying to sell. But yeah. If you have a great book, and you have a title, and you fell in love with it, and then you find that someone else has that title or that URL, you might want to reconsider changing the name of the book, because we’re going to talk now about the brand and the marketing side of it, which I, again, what we talked about earlier, I believe is the most difficult part. Yeah, definitely pay attention to that. Again, you can just go to BeastSellers.com. Again, Naren’s an attorney by trade. I know we’ve got to be careful we’re not giving legal advice, but he understands the legal world. Tim obviously understands the writing world, the publishing world. He’s written books and ghostwritten books that have gone on to become New York Times Bestsellers, so he’s seen it all as well. He was a copywriter in his past, so he understands copyright, trademark, the whole thing. Again, just go to BestSellers.com and if you have questions, you can just put in your information there, and they can get back to you.

We’re talking about the brand part of it. Again, how can BeastSellers help, and how does writing a book help people’s brands?

Tim Vandehey: Well, I learned about the importance of branding when I wrote The Brand Called You, which was a self-published book that took off, that really started my career. Actually, we flipped that book to McGraw-Hill five years later, so that actually came out with a big New York house. I spent 10 years doing branding at the ad agency environment and as a freelancer before I started writing books, so that was one of the things that I started really looking at when I started having … What I would do is I would finish a manuscript. My work’s pretty much done. My authors would go off, they would go seek a publishing deal. They would go look to self-publish, and in the process of doing that, they would look for marketing help. They would look for publicists. They would look for speakers’ bureaus, things like that. They would come back to me and say … Not all of them, but some of them would call me three months later or something and say, “I cannot find anybody who doesn’t want to charge me a fortune and offer me no real help at all, or take a piece of my sales,” and things like that. Nobody was offering authors branding help.

What I mean by that is, writers, whether they’re fiction or non-fiction, they’re so focused on the writing. Most writers are. I can’t say all of them, but the great majority. They’re so focused on the writing that they ignore a very simple but very important question. “How do I get people to read my book?” Most people don’t enter the field of publishing with any sort of fame or any sort of big name. Most writers completely overlook that as they move toward becoming published authors.

One of the principles that we put in How to Sell a Crapload of Books, and it’s one of the things that we have made central to the BeastSellers approach, which is a huge amount, and you can probably back this up, Mike, with what you’ve gotten from your books. A huge amount of the publicity and speaking and other opportunities you’re going to get from your book are passive. They’re going to come about not because of an email that you sent, or a press release you mailed out, or a Tweet, or a Facebook post, or anything else. They’re going to come up because somebody stumbles across your book or your website and goes, “Wow.” Or they get a referral. That’s another very common one. They have no input from you at all, and they’re going to look at your book cover, and they’re going to look at your website and say either, “Wow. This person is a pro. This person is a player.” If it’s fiction, “This person looks like they take the craft seriously.” There’s so much … The packaging is so important. Or they’re going to look at your terrible website that you designed in a half an hour on WordPress at your kitchen table and say, “This person’s an amateur. I’m not going to waste my time on their book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.”

A lot of opportunities come or are lost, and of course, if they’re lost, you’d never know about them. As the author, you never know about the opportunities you don’t get, because people come into contact with an author’s brand, and it’s either polished and professional, it gives the person lots of information, gives them an easy contact path, it makes the writer look like a player, like a serious publishing professional, or it makes the writer look like a hack. Our goal was to say, “Every writer, I don’t care what their book is, what their budget is, deserves to look like a pro. That’s going to help them.” That’s one of the cornerstones of what we do, is build that brand so that when readers, podcast hosts, other members of the media, anybody come into contact with the author’s brand, they are impressed. They want to know more. They don’t turn away and say, “This is just another self-published person whose work is probably not worth reading.” That is a big, big part of what we do, and it’s a big, big part of what a lot of authors ignore.

Michael Alden: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I know you guys don’t have a lot more time. We’ve been on for a good 40 minutes, so I could just keep picking your brains, because I get excited about talking to experts that really know things better than I do. Here’s a question that I get asked all the time, or one of the questions I think about, and some people have reached out to me and asked me this question. “Should I self-publish a book, or should I go out and find a real publishing house?” And I say “real,” there’s a lot of different versions of it. But, “Should I self-publish, or have it published by a publishing house?” What are your opinions on that, and why should someone go one way or the other?

Naren Aryal: I’ll take that. The truth of the matter is, 99.9% of the writing public is not going to get a book deal from one of the big five publishing houses in New York. That’s just a reality, and that’s not necessarily a knock on the content, the quality of the content or the person. It’s just a reality. You’ve got to understand that the odds are stacked against the person that has not written a book before, and doesn’t have a massive following to begin with. That’s just a reality that some authors don’t like to hear, and if they’re still really passionate about their project, there are some options.

You asked early on what it takes to publish, and the answer to that question is, frankly, not a lot. Anybody can get their book and upload it onto Amazon CreateSpace, and voila, you are published. What are you trying to accomplish? That’s the question that I would get back to for the 99% of others that aren’t going to get a New York deal.

Michael Alden: Yeah. I asked a question. As lawyers, we ask questions that we always think we know answers to. For me, when I was going … Because I say the same thing. It all depends on what you want to accomplish, but for me, who is an entrepreneur, I own businesses, I’ve been at it for a little while, there’s a legitimacy factor there, right? But then also, like your company Mascot, or Wiley I’ve been with, and Green Leaf. You guys have contacts that we do not have, if you’re going to publish as an author, if you’re going to self-publish a book, like the buyers at Barnes and Noble. Like the buyers at independent stores that are becoming increasingly even more important. Like contacts at Books-A-Million and all these other things, right? I mean, that’s, for me, the distribution network, for me, I think is crucial, especially if you’re really trying to build a brand.

Naren Aryal: Yeah, and then also I will say this. At Mascot, anyway, what we’re looking for is authors that have good content, that we can add value both in terms of production and distribution, so if you’re interested in being not just a creative success, but have a real chance to be a financial success with your project, those are the type of projects that we’re most interested in.

Tim Vandehey: You know, Mike, the question of self-publish or not self-publish, I run into it all the time working with my authors, and it is also a question of, “Who is going to get your book to the finish line? And do you have time, and the resources to do that?” Meaning pure self-publishing, I recommend it to nobody. None of my clients, because if you talk pure self-publishing, that means you are hiring the contractors. You are overseeing the printing. You are doing everything yourself. If you’re busy and you’re running a company or a medical practice, or a university, which again, that’s a lot of the people that I’m working with, you don’t have the time to do that. Not only do you not have the time to do that, you don’t have the expertise to do that, and there are many, many, many more steps in producing a professional quality book, something that looks like it rolled off the line from one of the big five in New York, than people realize. Every one of those steps is an opportunity not only to screw things up, but to waste a lot of money.

I tell people this. “Treat your book like a business, and if it’s not a business that you know how to run, why on earth would you publish it yourself?” Naren’s right. Going out and getting a deal from a McMillan or a Harper Collins is not in the cards for most people, because they simply don’t have the marketing platform to do it. Unfortunately, there is an ecosystem of independent publishers, you mentioned Green Leaf. Obviously Naren’s got Mascot. There is a huge ecosystem of independents that can do all that stuff for you in a very reasonable time frame, and get your book out so you don’t have to. They’re professionals at it. They’ve got the contacts as you said. They’ve got the vendors. They know the business. There’s absolutely no reason to self-publish. I think especially for someone who’s busy and writing the book as a professional, part of their professional branding, there’s no reason to self-publish.

Naren Aryal: You know, we could have a podcast that is all about publishing pitfalls. We’ve been at this since 2003, and honestly, looking back at some of our very early titles, we fell into some of those pitfalls. What’s happened over the years is, we’ve learned how to produce beautiful books, and we’ve learned how to distribute them, and so if you want to do this on your own and sort of fall into those traps that we did 10, 15 years ago, that’s a risk.

Michael Alden: Yeah. I think it’s sound advice. I wrote down … I say this all the time. I say, “The best experiences are the experiences of other people.” I also like to say, “I know enough to know that I don’t know.” I think so many people kind of forget that. Guys, I know we’re running out of time. I don’t know what that ding was in the background. I think someone has a chicken in the oven or something, but I want to thank you so much for your time. Again, if you’ve been listening right now, and you’re interested, again, in writing a book, or maybe you have a book, and maybe you just have the idea, and you don’t know where to go. I’m glad that we kind of ended the podcast with this. These guys are experts. They’re professionals. I actually work with Naren, with my book that I published with my daughter- we’ll give a little plug- called Peanut Butter and Toast. Right now it’s the number one new release, and it was number one in a bunch of categories already. These guys know what they’re doing, both Naren and Tim.

Also, if you just want to learn more a little bit about them, you just go to BeastSellers.com, but they do also have a great book, and the title, we talked a little bit about the importance of a title from a marketing standpoint. You can just go to Amazon and their book is called How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform. This is their experiences. These guys have been involved in thousands of books, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. Again, if you want some more information about them and what they’re doing at BeastSellers, just visit them at BeastSellers.com.

Again, my name is Michael Alden, and we’ll see you next time. Thanks, guys.

Tim Vandehey: Thank you.

Naren Aryal: Thanks, Mike.

 

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