21 Jan EP 155 | The ROI of Writing a Book: Self-Publish vs. Traditional
Welcome to episode 152 of The Retirement Years on Profit Boss® Radio! In this episode, we’re talking about writing and publishing books.
Almost everyone has a book inside of them waiting to be written. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur who wants to spread your message and grow your empire to write a book, either. You could be a doctor looking to share nutritious recipes you’ve crafted for your patients. You could even have a full-time job and a great career, but want to write the Great American Novel to express your creative energy.
No matter what you write about, you’ll ultimately have to choose how you’re going to share your book with the world. At that point, you’ll have to decide between self-publishing or working with an imprint of a publishing house.
I’ve personally been thinking about writing a book for a very long time. I’ve attended a number of conferences, learned what it’s like to self-publish, and taken a $5,000 course on how to publish traditionally. After doing all of this research, I decided not to write a book at the time, but as my business has grown, I’m actually reconsidering.
What I learned from my experience was this: there’s no 100% right way to go. There’s a lot to learn about both methods, and there’s no clear evidence that one is more profitable than the other. What you can clearly understand, however, is how to plan for what writing your book is going to cost you in terms of money and time.
For today’s episode of Profit Boss® Radio, I’m speaking to two experts on this subject.
First, I’m joined by Julie Broad. Julie is an Amazon Overall #1 bestselling author, an International Book Award Winner, and recipient of the Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Sales Book. Through her company, Book Launchers, she helps entrepreneurs and professionals write, publish, and sell business and brand boosting books without giving up their rights or royalties.
After my conversation with Julie, I’m speaking with Joelle Hann. Joelle is the founder of Brooklyn Book Doctor. She’s ghostwritten, collaborated, edited and developed books with top CEOs and humanitarian activists, coaches and journalists, scholars and entrepreneurs, and many others. Joelle also actively writes and publishes her own work, so she knows what it means to be coached and edited. Her signature program, Book Proposal Academy, helps authors write winning book proposals that help them land agents and get attention from traditional publishing houses.
Both Julie and Joelle are also currently available for consulting, and you’re going to hear an exclusive offer from each of them if you’re ready to bring your book into the world.
So, are you ready to hear all about what it’s really like to publish a book, learn from the experts’ big wins, and find out about the mistakes you need to avoid? Then you don’t want to miss this episode. Tune in to Profit Boss® Radio today!
Here’s what you’ll find out in this week’s episode of Profit Boss® Radio
- How to approximate the costs of writing a book – and why not to assume it will ever pay for itself.
- Why authors need to be thinking like marketers regardless of whether or not they partner with a publisher.
- Why writers who have had success with traditional publishers are now choosing to self-publish.
- The difference between self-publishing and hybrid self-publishing – and why Julie isn’t a fan of hybrid.
- How much you can expect to pay for a highly experienced ghost writer.
- The difference between a developmental editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader – and why you need all three.
- How the most successful self-published authors are achieving massive sales numbers – and how Julie’s book, after being rejected by a major publisher, generated six figures in revenue and attracted serious interest from future business partners.
- The biggest mistakes that self-publishers make and how to avoid them.
- What expenses to budget for in order to meaningfully launch a self-published book.
- When you should consider working with a traditional publisher.
- What traditional publishers are looking for – and why you don’t need to be a celebrity to get a book deal, but you do need to have an extra oomph to get readers excited.
- The step by step process of getting a literary agent – and what to do if it doesn’t go anywhere.
- Why the era of the six-figure book deal is over – and the hidden costs that can lead you to spending more than your advance when working with traditional publishers.
- The main reason that books fall apart – and why brainstorming and outlining your book before you write can save you hours, if not months, of frustration.
- How one of Joelle’s first-time authors ended up in a five-way bidding war for her book.
Resources and Related Profit Boss® Content
Julie Broad links:
- Book Launchers
- Book Launchers YouTube channel
- Follow Julie Broad on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram
- Malibu Burning: The Real Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire
Joelle Hann links:
- Brooklyn Book Doctor
- Follow Joelle Hann on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube
- Top 5 Publishing Houses: Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan
- Educated: A Memoir
- When Breath Becomes Air
- Kimberly Anne Johnson’s website
- Sebene Selassie’s website
Call for Listener Stories
Hey Profit Boss® Radio listeners! If you reach a financial goal you’re proud of, tell me about it! I will continue to share listener win stories throughout 2019. Remember, the Profit Boss® community is here to support you and that includes celebrating with you when you accomplish something incredible.
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- If you’re thankful for something that has happened in your financial life or career, I want to hear from you.
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Your financial success is possible and so many of you are already making that a reality! So, don’t keep your wins to yourself! Share them with me so that I can air them throughout the year on Profit Boss® Radio.
Email your audio clip to email@example.com. And we’ll be in touch if we plan to air your story. Thanks, ladies!
And let’s not forget that this show is powered by you and your stories and questions. Every month I’ll be doing an #AskHilary episode where I answer listener financial questions.
- So, what’s that top of mind money question that’s been pinging around in your brain?
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Pick up your mobile phone right now. Yes, right now. And open your voice recorder app. Yep, go ahead and open that app and record yourself asking me that question. Just say your name, first name only is okay, and then what city you’re from, and then ask away.
Anything you want to ask. And once you’re done recording, export that beautiful little recording and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to hear your questions!
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Hilary Hendershott: I’m Hilary Hendershott, your host and this is Profit Boss Radio, The Retirement Years Episode 155.
The Retirement Years on Profit Boss Radio is your weekly wealth building and retirement mastermind. Profit Boss is also a movement for women who want to reach their full wealth potential and be financially free. Let me be your guide as you defy the odds, take control of your money, grow your wealth and retire well. Do you want the secrets of wealth and retirement to be yours? This is the place. I’m Hilary Hendershott. I’m a certified financial planner running a leading advisory firm for women and couples and I’m sharing with you real stories from real life and real people who are making it happen. Forget Wall Street. You ready? Let’s do this.
Hilary Hendershott: Hello, profit boss. Today we are talking about finding publishing that book. Maybe you’re a full-time employee, you’re working your career, working hard at it, and you have a creative side of you that’s never been expressed and you feel you have a novel in you. Maybe you are a doctor by day and a gluten-free chef by night and you want to publish a cookbook. Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur who has heard that publishing a book can open doors for you and you just want to publish a book to promote your business, ultimately, to get your message out there and build that empire. Today’s episode is for you. Today we’re going to talk about the two primary methods that basically the two methods of publishing a book, that being self-publishing and traditional publishing, I have experts on both sides for you. The first on self-publishing is Julie Broad and then on traditional publishing is Joelle Han.
They both have offers for you, consulting offers, if you want to take them up on that. You’re going to hear lots of very interesting details about what it’s like to publish a book, win stories, mistakes to avoid. This is a real resource for you today. I just want to share with you that I personally, professionally have considered writing a book. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’ve attended several conferences, weekend conferences. I flew myself to Las Vegas and stayed in a hotel, to sit in a room for a couple days, and learn about what it’s like to self-publish. I also paid I don’t mind sharing with you $5,000 for a course on how to publish traditionally. I considered both routes. Ultimately, if you had asked me three months ago, I would have said I decided not to publish a book. It sounded like way too much work for me. I just didn’t want to do it. And now with new thoughts I have in mind, new growth I want in my business, new things I want to accomplish in my life, in my profession, in my industry, I’m actually reconsidering it.
And so, I think it’s important that you understand the nuances of both methods. And it’s not clear that there is a 100% right route to go. It’s not even clear that one is more profitable. However, I think traditional publishing is sort of, well, it’s like branded, it’s well respected. You get that seal of approval. If you go with a traditional publishing house, you get someone else’s credibility. There’s other folks who have read your book who say, “Yep, we think this is a great book. We think this is going to sell.” Chances are you’ll get into airports’ bookstores, I don’t know, coffee shop, something like that. Versus self-publishing, where in both routes you have to market for yourself, but you are going to get a little bit more help if you go the traditional route. Ultimately, Profit Boss Radio is about money. It’s about your profit. It’s about and the title of this episode is your ROI. So, let’s talk about how to plan for what that book is going to cost you in terms of money and time.
First of all, there’s no way around it. It’s a massive amount of time. If you’re a novelist, maybe that’s a labor of love and if you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you just want to pay a ghostwriter and this episode, we will share with you how much ghostwriters cost. You’ll hear that writing a book can take you anywhere from a month of time to a lifetime of time. And that in terms of cost, it can be anywhere from $5,000 or $10,000 to it sounds like $200,000 or more. So, there really is no official price tag. It’s up to you and what you want and what your goals are but if you are thinking, I’m thinking of you as a listener, if you are working hard, toiling away at that career, you just don’t feel like when you get home at the end of the day, you have the creative juices left to put into that book, maybe you think you’re going to do it when you retire. It’s important that you consider these costs because there are costs borne by the author.
It’s unlikely that even a traditional publishing house who loves you, loves your book is going to pay for the book to be edited and developed and printed and market it. Highly, highly, highly unlikely. You are going to be responsible for promoting it, you’re going to have to dog and pony that thing around town for a while. In fact, you’ll hear one of my guests say that is ideal if an author plans a year to promote their book, right? You’re also going to want to think about getting bulk sales. So, schools or coaching programs or charities that work with your niche market that that book is written for, you’re going to want to think about who’s going to buy this book in bulk because that is the way a lot of authors really dramatically increase their sales. Ultimately, I think that you need to plan for some personal costs. Definitely, this can be a business expense if you are thinking about how that’s going to end up on your tax return because obviously writing a book is a potential business enterprise.
So, I wasn’t able to come up with a really cemented range of costs or time. It is totally customized to you but my message to you is, don’t underestimate it. In fact, the planning fallacy says that you should probably double your estimate of time and cost. So, take whatever you think it’s going to cost and double that, just like my home remodel so you’re not completely disappointed and it doesn’t break the bank. I mean, if you’re one of these kinds of people, I’m thinking about who thinks, “You know, I’ll publish my novel after I retire,” it’s really critical that you have those costs worked into your financial plan. And you know, $100,000 or $200,000 spent a year or two after you retire, that money multiplies. That money, if you had left it invested could have compounded to a million dollars or more. So, make sure you have the funds in your plan and then just go into the process with a level head, know what to expect and be prepared to work really hard.
Our first interview in today’s episode is with Julie Broad also known as the Book Broad. She’s an Amazon overall number one best-selling author. She’s an International Book Award winner and recipient of the Beverly Hills Book Award for best sales book. Her self-publishing services company is called Book Launchers and it helps entrepreneurs and professionals write, publish, and sell a business and brand-boosting book. She says the best part of self-publishing is that you, the author, keep all the rights and royalties. If you’d like to connect with Julie after the interview as you’ll hear at the end of this segment, you can go to BookLaunchers.com or go to HilaryHendershott.com/155 which are the show notes for today’s episode and you can find the links to all the other ways to connect with Julie. So, Julie is going to talk about self-publishing then we’ll take a break and then I’ll introduce Joelle Han, who’s going to talk about publishing the traditional route. Enjoy.
[INTERVIEW WITH JULIE BROAD]
Hilary Hendershott: Julie Broad, welcome to Profit Boss Radio.
Julie Broad: Thank you so much for having me, Hilary.
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah. I heard in one of your YouTube videos, you call yourself the Book Broad.
Julie Broad: Yeah. It was something one of the people on my team was teasing me about one day and I was like, “Hey, you know what, I kind of like that.”
Hilary Hendershott: It’s not bad. Actually, it’s good alliteration at the very least. Okay, great. So, how did you get into being a self-publishing coach? How did you get started doing what you do?
Julie Broad: Oh, my goodness. So, the very short version is I was working with Wiley and I thought I was getting a book deal. It was like back and forth, back and forth for four months, and then they ended up turning me down. And at that point, well, first of all, I had to recover my ego because it took quite a while, but at that point, self-publishing was the option for me. But I went at it with a vengeance. I’m not the kind of person that goes, “Oh, you said no to me. I’m not good enough.” I was like. “You know, I’m going to be better.” So, I actually took the book idea they didn’t want and I self-published it and I took it to number one overall on Amazon. And I was ahead of Dan Brown, ahead of the Game of Thrones series, like legit, number one, the number one selling book and they had never done that with a niche. This was a real estate investing book and they had never done it with a niche nonfiction real-estate book. So, I was pretty proud of that.
And that kind of ended up with people asking me a bunch of questions about self-publishing and long story short, I started to see a real need for somebody not just to help people write a book, not just to have somebody not help them with their marketing, but to help them with everything because the reason I was successful was not just because I wrote a good book, but it was because I was thinking marketing, I was thinking selling, I was thinking audience the whole time, like right from the first step I did. And when you get people that are piecemeal, they’re going to think about their copy edit. They’re going to think about creating the cover, but they’re not actually thinking about the end game of marketing this book at the end. And over time, I saw the real need for a company that does it all.
Hilary Hendershott: Right. And so, that’s what you’re offering is sort of soup to nuts, as they say.
Julie Broad: Exactly. And always with the marketing in mind, like every step is looking at it from an, “Okay, is this going to connect with the reader? And who’s going to buy this? And how are we going to get the author to their goal for this book?”
Hilary Hendershott: Right. And that was actually one of my core questions was about the marketing because it’s pretty true at this point that authors need to be marketers, right? The book isn’t going to sell itself.
Julie Broad: Yeah. And that’s one of the interesting things a lot of people think that if traditional publisher’s going to market their book and so they think that self-publishing is not good because they don’t want to do the marketing. And the reality is everyone has to market their book, whether you get a book deal or not. In fact, the reason my book deal was turned down was they said I wasn’t going to be able to sell enough books for it to work for a book deal. So, that was the ultimate reason why I was turned down by Wiley. And so, yeah, that alone should tell you who’s going to be marketing the book. It’s always the author. So, I always tell people, you know, instead of to always be closing, it’s like always be thinking book marketing because you have to sell your book.
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah. And at this point, approximately, how many books have you and your firm published or helped publish?
Julie Broad: In 2019 we did 34 and in 2020 right now, we’re ready to do we’ve got almost 90 authors in progress. So, it’ll be a much busier year for 2020. Yeah.
Hilary Hendershott: Wow. Okay, great. And is self-publishing an option for fiction and nonfiction writers?
Julie Broad: Yeah, I think both. I mean, for me, sometimes with fiction, I think there’s some advantages to work with a traditional publisher but more and more even people who have had book deals for a long, long time, long-time relationships with publishers, they’re even going self-publishing. There’s two main reasons. One is, number one, you were in control. So, this is intellectual property, and you get to own it if you self-publish. If you go with a traditional publisher, they own it. And what happens to people who are really successful is if a TV deal or a movie deal comes along, they’re getting if they’re lucky, a tiny percentage. If their book does really, really well, they don’t reap a lot of the financial benefits. As it gets translated into other languages, they’re missing out on a lot of those benefits. And in some cases, the publisher actually never does an audiobook, but the author can’t because the publisher owns the rights. So, control in intellectual property is number one. A lot of authors want to control their intellectual property now.
The second thing is money. I mean, the core difference is you’ll make depending on how you price your book and a few other factors, you’ll make somewhere between $4 to $7 per copy sold, if you self-publish. If you go with a traditional publisher, you’re probably making somewhere around $0.60 to $0.80 per book sold.
Hilary Hendershott: Isn’t it true that people don’t really publish books to make money? Is that an accurate statement?
Julie Broad: I love this because this fits perfectly with what you talk about all the time. So, if you started thinking, “I’m not going to make money,” what do you think is going to happen?
Hilary Hendershott: Oh my gosh, good point.
Julie Broad: So, yeah, I mean, I think probably only 10% to 20% of self-published authors would probably do really, really, really well. There’s a chunk that’ll probably do decently well. But to me, the ones that are doing well are going into it going, “This is a core part of my business, here’s how I’m going to use it for my business, and here’s how I’m going to make money,” and they commit the invest. And that’s the big thing, a lot of people self-publish and they don’t invest in their book. They don’t invest in quality, to begin with. They also don’t invest in marketing, whether it’s time or money or whatever. They’re not putting enough into it to actually generate an ROI. So, I think it really comes back to your mindset and your approach and your planning.
Hilary Hendershott: So, what would you say to someone, there are kind of two avatars I’m thinking of here, but someone who has been working their whole life but because of some experience they had or something that happened in their past, they really feel or maybe they just have a creative itch to scratch, they really feel that they have a book that they want to write, and maybe it’s a fiction novel, maybe it’s a memoir, what would you say to that person? How should that person know if they should take action on their desire to write this book or kind of just scrap it because it’s probably going to cost them a lot of time and money?
Julie Broad: Well, it comes back to their goal. So, one of the first things I always want to know is, why are you writing this book and what does success look like to you? So, for some people, they’re like, “I can’t die without this book coming out of me.”
Hilary Hendershott: Exactly.
Julie Broad: Yeah. And if that is them, like you got to write that book, right? And to me, I would still go down that road and do everything I can to set it up for success but you got to do it. But the other thing is, look at what you’re trying to do with the book. So, if you’re going at it from a business perspective or some other perspective, then somebody says you have a good story to tell and they keep telling you that you want to write the book. Well, let’s make sure you’re writing a book that’s not necessarily about you like it’s about you, but it’s for the reader so you’re still creating that. So, you’re telling your story but you’re finding that marketing angle that people are going to want to read the book, because a lot of people, especially when they go down the memoir route, they write a book, that’s all about them. But it’s through the reader and you can’t lose sight of that. You have to make sure that you tell a great story, but you tell it in a way that the reader is going to extract the lessons and extract the value from it and really connect with the story. And so, it’s tricky for people because they’re like, “This is my story.” It’s like, “Yeah, but it’s not for you.”
Hilary Hendershott: Right. Otherwise, you can just type it up, print it, and put it in a binder on your bookshelf, right?
Julie Broad: Yeah.
Hilary Hendershott: So, what’s the difference between self-publishing and hybrid self-publishing?
Julie Broad: Yeah, this is such a good question, because it’s really confusing for people. So, I like to break it up with traditional publishing, somebody else owns your book completely like you have a completely different contract. Somebody else owns your book. Hybrid is somewhere in the middle. Oh, and by the way, with traditional, they upfront the cost to produce the book. Hybrid is in the middle and what that means is you’re taking typically going to pay something, maybe not as much as if you self-published but you’re going to pay something for your book and the hybrid publisher typically keep some rights, and they keep some of the royalties. So, you’ll get less, you’ll get more royalties than if you go traditional. But you’re going to give up some stuff to get that plus you’re going to pay. So, it’s kind of in the middle. Self-publishing, you’re responsible for paying and doing everything, but you retain all rights, all control, and all royalties.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. So, do you do hybrid and self or just self?
Julie Broad: No. I’m not a fan of hybrid. I kind of feel like if you’re going to put money towards, there’s a few exceptions, there’s a few companies that do it well, but most hybrid publishers kind of go by a nickname, vanity publisher, which isn’t meant favorably in the industry. And again, there’s always exceptions so there’s a couple that are decent, but read your contracts really, really carefully. What happens in that middle ground is you say you want to relaunch it later. You’re tied to them. You can’t redo anything without going through them. And then they’ll charge you a lot for that. Whereas if you go self-publishing, and again, the costs aren’t usually that much different, you’re going to be able to do everything now and in the future and you’re keeping all the money too. So, there’s not a lot of advantages to hybrid. So, again, there’s a few companies that have really good distribution and that’s one of the reasons some people might go with them but I think you need to decide traditional versus self and not really look at hybrid, for the most part.
Hilary Hendershott: Understood. Okay. So, let’s talk about the process and the cost, both time and money to self-publish. Let’s just start from the beginning of the timeline. Where do you meet an author? Where are they in the process?
Julie Broad: Generally, we like to work with them when they have the idea. So, we can help them craft a really compelling hook that is benefit-driven for the reader. But we’ll work with people all the way up to a draft of a manuscript because we can still go back and kind of build that hook in there and fix it. Where we don’t really want to take most people is when they’ve got a finished book, because very rarely has anybody thought carefully about the marketing and the readers. And a lot of the core elements that sell a book are missing when they get to the finished point. So, we like to start at the beginning and really work to develop who’s that ideal reader? It’s really like core business stuff, but who’s your ideal reader? How are you going to reach them and what are they really like what’s their pain point that you’re going to be solving? Or what’s the emotion you’re going to be connecting with when you write this book, and we build the entire book around that. And so, we start early with that, build an outline from that and coach you or we have writers. We kind of go both routes. So, if you want to write it yourself, we’ll coach you through it. We have professional writing coaches or we have ghostwriters who will interview you and write it from there.
Hilary Hendershott: And what’s the difference in cost between writing coaches and ghostwriters?
Julie Broad: A writing coach is about half the cost of a ghostwriter, which makes sense because the writer does a lot more work but, yeah, it also goes faster when you have a ghostwriter so I think a lot of people find it, it evens out. It really comes down to whether you want to be the one writing the book because I know for me, I wouldn’t want a ghostwriter to write my book. It’s for me. It’s my words. I want to be the one that does it. In other cases, the ghostwriter does a better job of extracting, you know, helping the person think through and actually write it for them while they talk. Like some people are just really better talkers and the writer can do a better job of translating it into written word or just more efficient.
Hilary Hendershott: So, the only price point I have for a ghostwriter is $20,000. Is that ballpark?
Julie Broad: For a decent experienced ghostwriter, that’s a fair price point. I mean, if you want somebody who’s written a New York Times bestselling book or people with those kinds of credentials, you’re looking at somewhere between $0.60 to $1 per finished word. And most nonfiction business books are going to be somewhere between 55,000 to 65,000 words so you can kind of ballpark the pricing out from there. We are able to cut the cost from that a little bit because we have people. By the time it gets to a writer the concept is very developed already and the writer is just interviewing and extracting so we can cut the costs a little bit by doing pre-work with the client before it goes to the writer.
Hilary Hendershott: What’s the difference between a writing coach and an editor? You always hear authors talk about their editors.
Julie Broad: Yeah. And I guess some editors and this is actually a video I shot because everybody gets confused. There’s actually three kinds of editing and there’s the writing coaching.
Hilary Hendershott: Oh, and by the way, we will link to your YouTube channel, because is that what you’re talking about?
Julie Broad: Yes.
Hilary Hendershott: Your YouTube channel is awesome. So, we’ll link people to that so they can watch it.
Julie Broad: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, just about any question you have about self-publishing is probably answered on the channel now.
Hilary Hendershott: There you go.
Julie Broad: So, yeah, so book coaches are really, in a lot of ways they’re like emotional coaches, therapists in a way, because they’re really working with you too, not only help you be a better writer, but develop the story. Editors are working after the story is written and there’s three kinds of editing. There’s content or developmental, which is really kind of structured story is all the content and needs to be there as the credibility piece is there, have you sourced things. Then there’s copy editor, which is what most people think and that’s the sentence structure, grammar, word choice. That’s that kind of editing. And then there’s proofreading. And you’ll know that you’ve hired the wrong editor or you’ll hear people say, “You know, I hired an editor, but they didn’t make my book better and all they did was make it grammatically correct,” which is why I say you need all three, like you need that developmental editor to make your book better. You need the copy editor to make it right. Then you need the proofreader to catch all the typos.
Hilary Hendershott: It’s usually three different people?
Julie Broad: I mean, for me, I’ve learned that it really needs to be three different people. They’re three different skill sets.
Hilary Hendershott: Wow.
Julie Broad: And even when you put it through three different people, you’re still going to find typos like there’s still going to be a couple of typos at the end.
Hilary Hendershott: Right. Okay. And so, I’m not going to ask about the potential financial upside of publishing, self-publishing a book just because the range is going to be huge. But just can you give me one example, what’s an out-of-the-ballpark win story, a self-published book that you know about where an author made a good amount of profit?
Julie Broad: I mean, my own. I mean, one I can disclose because I can’t disclose my client’s numbers, right?
Hilary Hendershott: Right.
Julie Broad: But my own, I mean, my first book, I mean, I made more than six figures on book sales alone and then my book also helped me raise money for multiple real estate deals. In fact, we own that commercial, a multimillion-dollar commercial property, that is a direct result of investors contacting us after my book was out. So, people we didn’t know called us and said, “Hey, I like what you’re doing. Can we invest with you?” So, yeah, I mean my husband calls my first book, the game-changer, and it was huge for us. So, yeah, so there’s one example I think that’s and, you know, some of our authors are actually doing better. I can’t speak to whether they’re making like investing money from it because most of them aren’t in that space, but financially, from book sales, some of them are doing much better. But I’ll tell you, the ones that are blowing my numbers out of the park are doing speaking and they’re selling books as part of speaking packages.
Hilary Hendershott: Understood. And I will definitely cover bulk sales and I did see a video on your YouTube channel about adding a page to your book about bulk sales and the intro. So, we’ll talk about that. So, just to wrap things up, I want to hear first some of the biggest mistakes people make when they self-publish. And then to wrap it up, your favorite win stories from people who have self-published.
Julie Broad: Yeah. So, mistakes, I kind of covered a couple of them like one is not thinking clearly about who your audience is and how they’re going to benefit from your book and talking to them about that at every stage of the game. So, really getting to the end with a book and not having a clear idea of who you’ve written it for, that’s really probably one of the biggest mistakes. The other mistakes come in usually hiring the wrong people at the wrong time. And some people have really good intentions and they invest in hiring people, which is smart because you can’t edit your own book. Even if you’re an editor, editors can’t edit their own book. Your mind knows what it’s supposed to say so you can’t catch all the mistakes but they hire the wrong people at the wrong time like I said, a copy editor when you really needed a developmental editor. Then the other mistake I see is bad covers. And your cover is so important. If you can only invest in two things, I’m going to say two because you can’t skip editing, you need a cover and an editor.
Hilary Hendershott: Isn’t that funny? You think it would be the content of the book, but I’ve heard this so many times. It really is the cover.
Julie Broad: It is the cover. We have a few books where clients insisted on a certain cover and we said, “Okay, you know, it’s your book.” When we test that cover and nothing happens, you change the cover, and all of a sudden, they’re selling books, and you haven’t changed anything else.
Hilary Hendershott: Wow. Wow. Okay, how about win stories?
Julie Broad: I have a lot of ones that I love for different reasons. One of my favorites is I met a client who wrote his book, didn’t want to make any money like he actually set up pricing so he wouldn’t make money. His only goal was that he would get into a university with this book. And Columbia Publishing House bought his book three months after he launched. And so now he’s republishing his book with them which is awesome because that’s all he wanted. And then we have another client who wrote Malibu Burning, Robert Kerbeck here in Los Angeles. It’s been super fun because he’s had Martin Sheen just sent him a letter about his book. He had a Pierce Brosnan come to a book signing in Malibu for his book, and Maria Shriver, and the producer of the morning show on Apple TV, I can’t remember her name, but all these famous people have come out to his book signings and are supporting him. So, that’s been a really fun one. And he’s selling out like every book signings are really hard to do. A lot of people think they’re so wonderful and all fun but it’s hard to actually sell a lot of books in book signings and he’s selling out every single book signings he’s doing around Los Angeles so that’s been really, really fun.
Hilary Hendershott: It’s actually pretty genius to write a book for Hollywood celebrities about the Malibu fires. That’s pretty genius.
Julie Broad: It really is. I mean, he was in Malibu and his house was the only one that is still standing on this one street. So, he has a pretty epic story himself, but then he went around and interviewed all of these people from these fires. It’s a little political too like he’s kind of pointing fingers at some people for what happened with the fire departments and some other stuff but that one’s just been really, really fun. And then some of our clients who are doing speaking like Ryan Berman and Michael Brenner, they’re selling a lot of books, but they’re also getting to go into some really cool companies with their books. So, for me, it’s kind of not the wins you might expect but it’s kind of the fun stories that are coming out of all of these wins.
Hilary Hendershott: Because publishing a book could change someone’s life.
Julie Broad: It really, really can. It truly can.
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah, okay. And then it wouldn’t be Profit Boss Radio if I didn’t really ask you about the costs. So, I know there’s a huge range, but if you’re going to self-publish, what kind of budget should people have in mind from X to Y?
Julie Broad: So, from my perspective, because there is a huge range, you can do this on the cheap and really expensive, for me, I want to do it so I’m as good or better than a traditional publisher. So, nobody ever picks up my book and goes, “Oh, you self-published.” I never want that. So, to get that kind of a quality, you’re looking at somewhere between $8,000 to $15,000. If you work with a writer and a good writer, you’re looking at probably double that but double that range. So, you’re probably going to be somewhere between $20,000 to $30,000. And in that, I’m including some marketing but if you start hiring PR agencies and PR firms, the budget goes way high on that because PR firms are quite expensive. So, yeah, but to get a really high-quality book to get some of the core marketing in like NetGalley reviews and Goodreads and Amazon ads, those are really comfortable ranges to hire great people.
Hilary Hendershott: Awesome. Okay. And so, the website is BookLaunchers.com. Again, we’ll include links to all the places people can find you on the internet. Is there anything I didn’t ask that should be included here?
Julie Broad: No, I don’t think so. That was awesome.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. Awesome. Thanks for joining us on Profit Boss Radio, Julie.
Julie Broad: Thanks for having me, Hilary.
Hilary Hendershott: Welcome to this week’s MoneyWise segment designed to make you smarter than your neighbor. Today, we’re talking about the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, also known as the SECURE Act, which President Trump signed into law on December 20, 2019. So, you do need to know about this. The SECURE Act doesn’t impact everyone, but there are some key things you need to be aware of. I’ll just summarize it for you. First of all, more small business owners can group together with other small business owners to offer their employees 401(k) plans. So, that’s cool because offering a 401(k) plan as I know because I offer one. It can be kind of expensive. If you’re a part-time long-term employee, you might get more retirement benefits, which is great if that’s your situation. Check with your employer. Most significantly, the SECURE Act increase the age that you are required to draw from your IRA or pretax accounts from age 70 ½ to age 72. Even if you turn 70 ½ in 2020, those RMDs or required minimum distributions are delayed.
The Act allows penalty-free withdrawals up to $5,000 from retirement plans for the birth or adoption of a child if you need that. It relaxes rules on employers offering annuities through sponsored retirement plans. In my opinion, this is a little backdoor for the insurance companies to get into your 401(k) plan. Most people do not need annuities, especially you don’t need to rely on annuities in your 401(k). Do not take that as investment advice. You know the rules. I disclose this all the time on this podcast, but I see lots of stuff come through the government, come through Congress that really benefits the big insurance companies. You got to know they’re in bed together. So, just be aware if you see annuities in your 401(k) plan, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you. The SECURE Act also allows penalty-free withdrawals of up to $10,000 from 529 accounts for the repayment of certain student loans. And the thing you’re going to read about most in the media is that the SECURE Act removes what’s called the stretch IRA provisions.
This means, let’s say one of your parents dies at age 70 and leaves you $0.5 million IRA. Well, it used to be that an inherited IRA could be distributed. They would force you to distribute those pretax monies, meaning you would have to take distributions and pay income tax on them whether you needed or wanted them or not over your expected lifespan. Now, that’s going to be 10 years. So, it used to be that you could distribute that inherited IRA over say 40 years. Well, now it’s 10 years. Okay. So, that was called the stretch IRA provisions and you just need to be aware of this when you’re thinking about leaving assets to your heirs or conversely, what it’s going to be like to inherit money. I think that’s going to be a really big deal for some people. It’s not going to matter for some, but it’s going to be a really big deal for some people. Let’s say you inherit an IRA at the age of 21. Well, now it has to all be in a taxable account and you have to have fully paid ordinary income tax on the entire balance by the time you turn 31. So, obviously, that’s not advantageous for you. It’s advantageous for Congress. They get to keep their tax revenue. And that is the SECURE Act. For more notes on the SECURE Act, you can google it or go to HilaryHendershott.com/155.
[INTERVIEW WITH JOELLE HANN]
Hilary Hendershott: All right, now that we’ve covered self-publishing, we’ve got Joelle Hann to cover the other side of the coin. Joelle is the founder of the Brooklyn Book Doctor. You don’t have to be in Brooklyn to work with her. She works with diverse, high-level clients who have a clear purpose and drive to bring their message into the world. She’s ghosted, collaborated, edited, and developed books on subjects as varied as transformation, activism, spirituality, health, finance, and business. You’ll hear her talk about this in the interview. She has worked with top CEOs and humanitarian activists, coaches and journalists, scholars and entrepreneurs and many others. Between you and me how I know Joelle is she was a ghostwriter for a book you’ve likely read, I can’t share with you whose book that was because obviously, ghostwriting is a highly confidential activity, but it’s a very impressive book. So, she’s a great writer. She’s also actively writing and publishing her own work. So, she does know what it means to be coached and edited. She treats her authors with the same rigor, intelligence, and kindness she wants for her own book.
She offers a book proposal academy, that’s her signature program, and it helps authors bring their book dreams into the world in a realistic and powerful way. So, basically, she helps you write that book proposal that’s going to get you the attention of an agent and a traditional publishing house. I spoke with you all after the interview, and she wanted me to share with you how much value she thinks publishing a book has. She acknowledges that it can really be a lot of hard work and very expensive but she did compare it to launching a restaurant. So, you rent the space, you buy the furniture, you hire the staff, you buy the food, and you cook all the meals before you ever sell anything. Sounds like investing in a business, right? But she says the payoff is definitely there. It’s not usually in the form of money unless you’re JK Rowling or a celebrity or you’ll have a huge platform or some other name recognition, but it’s in terms of potentially igniting a career, giving your business or your brand huge credibility and visibility, landing new speaking gigs and spots on expert panels and in general, raising your profile whether you’re in business, or just purely creative.
Obviously, Joelle is a big fan of publishing books. She’s helped published many. You’ll hear her talk about that and you can also see the links to more information about Joelle’s successful publishing clients in the show notes at HilaryHendershott.com/155. That’s the same link to view if you want to take advantage of Joelle’s offer to take part in her book proposal academy which is starting in just a few weeks if you’re listening to this as it airs in January of 2020. Once again, HilaryHendershott.com/155. Enjoy Joelle Hann.
Hilary Hendershott: Joelle Hann, welcome to Profit Boss Radio.
Joelle Hann: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah, I am really pleased to have you come in to cover this side, the traditional side of publishing. Would you talk a little bit about how you got into being a coach for authors?
Joelle Hann: Yeah, sure. So, I have been a writer all my life and I got into editing in New York A few years out of graduate school and I worked as a developmental editor for almost nine years. At the time, I thought it was a really practical move for someone like me for a writer to get a job in editing. I knew books. I knew how to write. I then worked at it for a really long time and then there came a point when I had to leave. I just had to shake up my life. And so, when I left, I was continuing to do developmental editing. These really big books like 800-page books and slowly picking up private clients, more commercial clients doing book proposals and commercial manuscripts. And that’s when I started to realize slowly that there was a need for people to have guidance, because for me, as a writer and as an editor, things were sort of very clear for me my whole life, and I always wanted to be a writer.
But for people out there that I was working with, they didn’t necessarily want to be a writer, like they didn’t want to necessarily put in all the hard work and time it takes to master the craft to really wanted to be authors. So, I realized there’s something that I could offer them that was guidance through the process of writing, editing, developing an idea, and help understanding the publishing world. So, becoming a coach really evolved organically out of being a writer and an editor.
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah. And I can raise my hand as one of those business owners who may want to become an author. And we very much appreciate people who can help because goodness knows I don’t have the time or the writing skill to do it like that. And, you know, the idea of traditional publishing, it seems kind of sexy, kind of exclusive. Is that your perception of it?
Joelle Hann: Well, it certainly is becoming a little bit more like that, as publishing undergoes a lot of changes. And as the spirit of DIY, everything comes into play, especially with the internet culture and social media. There used to be a lot of stigma around self-publishing, and now that’s really not the case at all. So, if you get a deal with a traditional publisher, it can feel like you get the stamp of approval of an established organization. And that can feel really good both professionally. You want that for whatever you’re doing, whether you’re writing just a story or you have a method to show or you have ideas to share, or personally it can feel really great that someone else thinks that your idea is worthy of putting in their list, in their frontlist or their backlist, anywhere you are in the cycle can feel so great to be included in that. And it has some practical upsides too.
Hilary Hendershott: Yes. And we’ll talk about those. Just to give people a sense of your experience level and wisdom, approximately how many books have you helped publish?
Joelle Hann: You know, that’s such a funny question. I had to think about it and go back to my list and think because there’s so many people that I helped, who did not end up publishing, but they were really into the process of writing their manuscript, and since I’ve been focusing on only working with people who are going to be published, that’s a bit more recent. So, I would say 12 books since 2014. Although I’ve been working on books for much, much longer, and I did not include in that list of 12 the books that I worked on at the publisher that I worked out for nine years. Books are a really slow process. They’re very slow.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. So, who should think about going the route of trying to get with a traditional publisher?
Joelle Hann: Well, there are a few things to consider when you’re going to go with a traditional publisher. On a very emotional level, how much does it matter to you to have that stamp of approval from a traditional house? It could be a really small house, maybe there’s only a few people working at it or could be one of the big five which is what we call the really big publishing house in New York and now they have several prints.
Hilary Hendershott: Can you just expose?
Joelle Hann: Yeah. Skill-testing question.
Hilary Hendershott: Just so people know.
Joelle Hann: Well, like Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. No, I don’t remember who the fifth one is in there but those are the main ones. And then there are ones you’ll see listed as their imprint and that they will belong to one of those houses, but it won’t necessarily say. So, anyway, it can be a bit of a guessing game figuring out who belongs, which imprint belongs to which big house.
Hilary Hendershott: Is that right? And are they anonymous in some way?
Joelle Hann: No, I don’t think it’s anonymous. It probably has to do with legalities and also proprietaries like if you’re cooking imprint of Penguin Random House, you want to stand out as a cooking, doing cookbooks or doing books about food versus if you’re a crime in print, they want to keep that party separate.
Hilary Hendershott: Understood. Okay. So, I’m thinking of two different people for this question. I’m thinking of someone who feels that they have a book of either fiction or nonfiction that is more maybe like a memoir or just a great story, something from their past or a novel that they feel has been bouncing around inside their head. You know, how should that person decide whether to look to a traditional publisher or whether to self-publish versus a business owner who ultimately wants to write a book that’s designed to promote their message and their business? How can those people decide between traditional and self-publishing?
Joelle Hann: Yes. Okay. So, there are a few key differences between traditional and self-publishing. With a traditional publisher, you get the backing of people who are very experienced in the business. No matter how you end up feeling about your editor or your marketing manager, or the publicity campaign they put together, those people have a long history with books. They have access to book salespeople and those salespeople have relationships with outlets like bookstores, big box stores, and that gets your book into places like Walmart, airports, and bookstores and book outlets that the normal individual just doesn’t have access to because they don’t have the distribution list. They don’t have the time to research that and figure that out, or create those relationships, figure out how that works. So, that’s one of the very big things to consider for someone who’s thinking about publishing.
And the other thing to consider is platform. Now, this actually affects authors, all authors, whether they’re self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher. If your platform is really big like let’s say over 10,000, you have 10,000 followers on some platform, social media, your email list, people who follow you on YouTube give talks like that, then you’re going to be able to reach those people. It’s likely that they’re already very interested in what you do and they’re going to be excited when you have another offering, which is something like a book. So, people like that can really consider, well, I can probably reach people myself, and do this work on my own and keep all the profits from it and control what happens with the book out there. If you have a smaller list, it just makes sense you’re not going to be able to reach as many people as easily.
A publisher is still looking for that though. It’s not like that game is over once you signed a book deal with a publisher. They still want to know who is your fan base, who’s your tribe, and are you going to be able to reach them. So, platform is the consideration there too. I think the thing that sets entrepreneurs apart probably is that they are used to assembling help around particular projects and launching things. And if they feel comfortable doing that, then a book is it’s not unlike any other thing that they’re going to do. They’re going to need a designer, they’re going to need an editor, they’re going to need someone who can help them, walk them through the steps of uploading their book for sale on Amazon or other platforms. And putting a team together like that might feel like second nature. They might not know how to do exactly, find exactly those people, but finding the people and working with people and managing it is going to feel comfortable. Whereas it’s not always going to feel comfortable for someone, like say a novelist, who would 100% rather be writing a novel than doing self-promotion, marketing production. I think that’s a real generalization. I know there are novelists out there who do it. So, forgive me if you’re out there, and you’re listening to this but just to give an example of who might go one way and might go another.
Hilary Hendershott: And so, I have this idea that traditional publishers are looking for, and I want you to correct me if I’m wrong or just clarify. Traditional publishers really want books with that je ne sais quoi. It’s either really gripping story or it’s an author people have heard of, or it has that extra oomph of its people are going to pick it off the shelf and buy it. In a nutshell, is that true?
Joelle Hann: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. That is true. And I do know that if you are a celebrity of any measure, the chances of you getting a book deal are very high. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a quality book. That just means you’re probably likely to get a deal. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to get a book deal. You do just have to have something that’s gripping, either the writing is extremely compelling, you’re a great writer, the idea or the story is unusual, or it’s a twist on a story we’ve heard like, for example, the memoir, Educated, that’s been on the bestseller list for quite a while now, Tara Westover’s book. It’s coming of age story but the twist is that she grew up in rural Idaho in a family that did not believe in public education. And yet she managed to put herself through college and Cambridge and now has a Ph.D. You know, how did that happen? So, there’s a twist on the memoir genre on the coming of age story. And of course, it’s a major bestseller because she’s a great writer.
You do have to come to your field, whether it’s memoir or self-help, or some kind of method you’re offering, or fiction with something that hasn’t quite been done before. It doesn’t have to be 1,000% original. It can be taken on an old issue, but it has to be a fresh take, it has to offer something that we haven’t heard of before.
Hilary Hendershott: Is there any kind of author that because of skillset or preference that don’t work with?
Joelle Hann: That I don’t work with?
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah.
Joelle Hann: I tend to work with people in nonfiction and not because I don’t like fiction. I read a lot of it. I love it but it’s where I feel like I have the most to offer. And those people, the people I work with are working in some kind of field of transformation. Now, that’s a pretty big word and that can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people but I’ve worked on business books that had to do with transformation, how to transform yourself or your business. I’ve worked on finance books that had to do with transformation, as well as books by real living spiritual masters. So, it really runs the gamut in that whole spectrum. A book that I wouldn’t work on at this moment, like I hinted at earlier, I’m not working on books that I think will not be published. I’m really focused on working with people that they either have a contract now or I can see that they’re very likely to get one. That’s really what I’m specializing in these days. And that’s really a gut feeling on my part. You know, it’s very subjective. So, I don’t know if that answers your question.
Hilary Hendershott: Well, obviously, writing books is art and science, but our first so that makes complete sense. I understand. So, let’s talk about the process and the financials. So, I imagine you meet someone who has a book that they want to write, and if you work together, you help them to prepare the proposal. And how long does that take?
Joelle Hann: It really depends. I know that’s an evasive answer but I’ve seen people total first-time authors write a proposal in two months, which in my book is fast. If you don’t know anything about book proposals and you’ve never written a book before and you maybe never even written an article before, writing a book proposal in two months that’s a lickety-split. I’ve seen other people write proposals in two years that went on to get book deals and do very well. The difference there is unquantifiable. So, I can’t say exactly what happens but usually, it comes down to life getting in the way or a failure of confidence at some point. The book proposal is just it’s not a natural thing to create or to write. And there can be a lot of frustration of why do I have to do it this way? Or how does this work or I don’t understand. And that can slow people down.
Hilary Hendershott: And so, once they’ve written the proposal, obviously, in anything we talked about today, there’s going to be a range of how long does it take, how much does it cost? So, I’m just asking for kind of brackets around what would be the lowest, what would be the highest.
Joelle Hann: For writing a book proposal?
Hilary Hendershott: Well, the whole process so don’t feel like you have to commit to a particular number or period of time. It’s totally clear that it’s going to be dependent on the author and the book and the economy and the news of the day. That’s clear. So, let’s say they write a proposal and do you submit to one house or many houses at the same time?
Joelle Hann: Well, yeah, you want to pinpoint whether you’re going to submit to an agent, and the agent will submit to a publisher. So, the big five, for example, pretty much only, not exclusively, I would say, 90% you need an agent to submit to a big five publisher. There are some houses that you don’t need an agent to submit to those are mid or small-sized publishers and for them, you can just read their submission guidelines. It will have it on their website. It’ll be very public, not hard to find. And then you’ll follow them to the letter and make your submission. So, I think the first thing to do is to decide as you’re first going out, are you going to go for an agent or you’re going to directly submit? And then commit to one of those things. You can change your mind. That’s fine. Let’s say you’re going with the agent route, you would write a query letter, telling them tiny bit about your project, and ask them if they’d like to see your proposal, send that out to, let’s say, five people that you have researched and found, okay, these people are interested in what I’m writing about. I know some of the authors on their list. At least, I’ve seen their titles and I know that there’s potentially a match here. And then you would send them following their guidelines. Again, be really careful about that and send them your query letter, and then see what happens.
And it becomes really just a little part-time job. You got your spreadsheet of who you send it to, of what you said, what happened, how they responded, did you send them your proposal, and you go through this process until you find someone who is excited about your project and wants to go further with you and I think that applies to agents and editors. And that’s a really important element. You want someone who is genuinely interested and excited about what you’re doing, because you’re going to be in a relationship with them. That’s going to involve money. It’s going to involve negotiation, contracts. It could even involve edits to your book, all kinds of situations that you can’t see from the point you are at now. You want to feel like this person is going to do their best by me, and I feel good about this relationship. So, at first, if you’re doing agents, if that doesn’t go anywhere and you rethink your plan, then you can move to submitting directly to editors.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. And if you do have an agent, what does the agent do for you besides take a cut?
Joelle Hann: Well, actually, a really good agent will do a lot of things for you that are very important to your well-being so, yes, they will take a cut. 15% is typical and more for foreign rights. That’s a separate contract. They have relationships too. They have relationships with editors, they have relationships houses. They can see the entire landscape in their mind. So, they can target your proposal to a particular editor at a particular house because they know that person works with this kind of book or they’re right to work with this kind of book based on what they know about them through a personal connection. And then when the deal happens or when the deal is happening that keep you informed about the progress and about your options, so that you can make a good decision. And they’ll coach you through if there’s an editorial meeting with the house, no coachings with that. Then when it comes downtime for the contract, they will read the contracts with you and figure out what’s the best deal for you and for your book, and hopefully also for your career and make that part of the negotiation with the publisher.
And then if there are any signs that come up during the process, like say, you got an agent and you got a publishing deal, and then in the middle of writing the book, your editor left or maybe the imprint folded or something happened, then your agent is there again to help you get through that process and to make the choices or if there’s some problem with your schedule on your end or on the publishers end, they’re there to champion your position. So, that’s what an agent does for you. And then at the end, they’re there cheering for you and it’s as much as their win as it is for yours. So, they do a lot of the hard work that goes on between you and the publisher.
Hilary Hendershott: I see. So, they’re the ones with the industry familiarity. They act as your advocate, they’re on your side because they get paid if you get paid, and it’s their job to have the project be successful.
Joelle Hann: Yes, exactly.
Hilary Hendershott: So, it seems like it’s probably better to have an agent, especially in the beginning?
Joelle Hann: I would think so. Some people can do it alone. Maybe they like reading contracts or they’re good at it.
Hilary Hendershott: That made me laugh. Yes, there are those people.
Joelle Hann: They’re out there. But, yes, I mean, first time around, the thing is publishing is kind of a closed world. The idea is that most people have about publishing are, for the most part, out-of-date unless they have a close friend or a family member who’s been through the process. There’s no way you could know how it all unfolds or tends to unfold or what this means or what that means. You just don’t know unless you’ve been through it once. So, having an advocate is very, very helpful.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. So, you get an agent and then you submit your proposal and let’s say it gets accepted. What kind of upfront advance can you expect and then what does the process look like from there?
Joelle Hann: Yes. So, the advances vary widely, very, very broad spectrum. You can get as little as a couple thousand dollars or you could get a five or six-figure deal. But the days of getting a huge advance for a book are gone. That is for sure. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist anymore. You certainly could get one but it is unusual for someone right out of gate to get a high advance, because publishers are taking a risk on you. Unless you have a big platform, they don’t have any evidence that your book is going to earn out its advance and make them money so they’re taking a risk, and they want to take a calculated risk. So, a couple thousand dollars would be very, very low but maybe if you’re at a tiny press, that would be realistic. And yes, it could be in the six figures but that’s much more rare. The thing that’s happening these days that is not something it’s widely practiced, but not something that’s really talked about is that as publishing has slimmed down, it’s not unusual for an editor of house to not really have time to edit the book.
So, they will read the manuscript, they’ll point out any big things that think this manuscript is not coherent, you need to revise, but then it’s up to you to revise with the help of an outside editor. Some publishers will hire that person for you, but many will not. So, that ends up becoming an expense that you didn’t realize what’s going to happen. And also can feel like, you’ve just been dropped kicked, like what happened? You’re my editor. Shouldn’t you edit the book, but that’s not how publishing is working these days. They’re really relying a lot more authors to do so much more of the work both the editorial preparation and the marketing and promotion. So, if you got a $2,000 advance and suddenly you have to hire an outside editor, and that editor is going to charge you, I mean, it depends completely and there’s no way to give a ballpark really, but it’s going to be more than your advance.
Let’s say they charge you $7,500 or $15,000 to edit your manuscript, and you’re thinking, “Wait a second. I’m losing money,” but that can be how it goes, especially with a first-time book. There’s an upside that’s not monetary but that’s usually a surprise.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. Well, if they listen to this, it won’t be totally surprising. So, they’re co-developing their manuscript. Let’s say they’re writing it themselves and then it gets submitted to the editor, but what are the various types of writing help that people can get?
Joelle Hann: There’s all kinds. So, some people already know that they’re going to have to invest money in their book. They know that the editor they’re going to work with might not be the one who edits the book, in fact. So, they want to plan ahead so that they will hire an outside, a freelance or say they have a micro business as an editor. And that editor could also wear the hat of a book coach and the book coach will do things such as set accountability goals, have this number of pages by the state. And they could also edit as you go along and help you shape the direction of your book, help you also to make sure that your book idea is really an idea that can be sustained over the course of a book because the book is a long project.
Hilary Hendershott: What in your experience is the range of costs that people will incur to work with some sort of writing support, whether that be contributory or full-on ghostwriting? What’s the range of costs that can incur?
Joelle Hann: Yes, okay, so there’s many things that you can hire out for when you’re writing a book and that can range from someone who will set accountability goals for you all the way along, all the way through your pub date, when your book is published. That could be someone you bring in to just look over the manuscript to make sure that it’s the best that it can be. That could be either a developmental editor, meaning they’re editing for development and deep meaning, or it could be a copy editor. They’re just crossing Ts and dotting Is. On the editorial side, you could hire a coach, you could hire an editor, you could hire a writer. If you’re hiring a writer, then you’re getting into big bucks here. The least amount that an experienced ghostwriter we charge would be $25,000 for a book and that’s low, more 50 to 75 would be in the professional range. And then for the superstar ghostwriter, it’s going to be six figures of some kind.
Hilary Hendershott: Of some kind?
Joelle Hann: Of some kind.
Hilary Hendershott: Somewhere between 100,000 and 999,000.
Joelle Hann: Exactly.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay, perfect.
Joelle Hann: You can also hire someone to co-write with you. Sometimes this is called ghost editing, which is a strange term because editors are almost always in the background anyway but what it would mean is that you write the draft and then the ghost editor rewrites it and edits it at the same time. And you have final approval on what goes out like, did they capture your voice? Did they capture your message? They might also add research so that ghost editors are really walking a line between ghostwriter and editor, but very heavily into the ghost part of it. So, fee for that would also be up there. That’s something someone’s going to really devote a lot of time and energy and brainpower to. So, that also is not going to be cheap.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. And so, how long does the writing process take? Can you estimate in hours?
Joelle Hann: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
Hilary Hendershott: This can be anywhere from two months to a lifetime, right?
Joelle Hann: Oh, yes. Yes. You know, I know ghostwriters can write a book in six weeks, which I think is insane. A normal human being, well, there’s the national novel writing month where people write every day and try to get a novel done in 30 days or 90 days like that. It can be a very quick process if you have the time and you have the drive and the inspiration. I think when Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, he wrote that very quickly, but he had a big deadline or he was very sick and he was really on his deathbed and he had to get that book out. Oh, that’s an extreme example of motivation but the book is beautiful and it was really something that he needed to write. So, when you have that wind in your sails, you really can make a lot of stuff happen. At the same time, some books just aren’t like that. Books can have their own character and sometimes they come very slowly and it can seem to all your friends and family that you’re just whittling away at your “writing”.
Hilary Hendershott: You’ve been talking about this for 14 Christmases.
Joelle Hann: And we just haven’t seen anything and yet that can also become a book. You think of Donna Tartt. She writes very slowly, big books, very slowly and really, they’re epic. I mean, this is high literature but as an example, that can be your process. That can be because of your process of the way that you are suited to work or that can be because of the book itself.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. So, another case where it just totally depends.
Joelle Hann: It totally depends.
Hilary Hendershott: So, at this point, you’ve got 15% going to your agent, maybe a couple thousand dollar book advance or maybe a little bit more upwards of potentially $200,000 for a top tier ghostwriter, 25 for a good ghostwriter, and then you’re going to have to pay to sell and promote it, right?
Joelle Hann: Yes.
Hilary Hendershott: And I skipped over the whole making the book an actual thing part. So, you submit the manuscript and then I have heard so many authors talk about what the process of choosing the book cover is like.
Joelle Hann: There’s that very funny clip in Brené Brown’s Netflix special, where she shows the three possible covers that her publisher had for her, and they are truly hilarious. And I was so happy that she included that because that can be a nail-biting moment, but also it can be very humorous if you have the bandwidth to see the humor in it. Yes.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. So, you humble yourself. You take the coaching. You accept one of the publisher’s book covers probably because they know what they’re doing. I didn’t see Brené Brown’s Netflix special. Did the publisher just not know what they were doing?
Joelle Hann: They just interpreted what she was doing in a very literal way. And it created just some hilarious images that were just not appropriate for her book, but very, very entertaining. And I will say, I don’t want to knock book designers because they are a special breed of person too. And it can be that the book designer, that’s for the inside and for the cover of the book, that they were rushed or that the publisher was giving literal notes to them. Yeah. I don’t want to knock them because they have a hard job too.
Hilary Hendershott: No, I hear you. I hear you. And I always say people complain about security at the airport and I always say I’m just really glad it’s not my job to make sure that bombs don’t end up on planes.
Joelle Hann: Exactly. Yes.
Hilary Hendershott: I can’t put myself in their shoes. Okay. So, the book is published, it’s out, and now you have to do your media blitz, your tour. Talk to me about what that can be like.
Joelle Hann: Yes. So, a publisher will put together a marketing plan and a publicity plan for your title. That depends completely on their budgets. If they’re a medium or small publisher, then they’re not going to have a lot of budget for that. All publishers no matter what their size are going to rely on you to do some of the heavy lifting there, either through your network that you’re already engaged with or by building a network between the time you start writing the book and the time the book comes out, that you have begun to engage with your audience in a more regular way and build readership. They’re going to depend on you to get the word out through your people. They themselves I think a campaign at a mid-size house will typically be about three weeks, which after the book comes out, which is not very much and maybe a few things beforehand before the book comes out.
Hilary Hendershott: But I feel like I’ve seen authors do like a year of promoting.
Joelle Hann: Well, right, yes. If they have their game together and maybe they have also hired a publicity firm to help them guide them, then they will. Three weeks is nothing and to do it for a year is the right thing to do but you have to have a plan for that. And typically, a publisher won’t have time, but they’ve got to move on to their next title. So, they will try to do some interviews, they’ll try to get you some pre-press reviews. They’ll do some social media for you. And then it’s going to come back to you or the smart author will start on that about six months ahead of publication. Start looking at what the options are for them and thinking about what they can do and you don’t have to hire a publicist. It’s not mandatory to do that. You can do it yourself. You just have to put in the time to figure out what it is you would do and what would be most effective and then make it happen.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. And I think you said a PR agency can cost between $7,000 and $20,000. Would that be enough for a year-long project?
Joelle Hann: That would definitely be enough for six months pre-pub and then say three months after publication. I’m not totally sure, honestly. I think after that you might be on a retainer, a month on a retainer going forward. It probably depends on how your campaign goes also.
Hilary Hendershott: Right. Okay. Let’s talk about mistakes and then what are the biggest mistakes that you see authors make?
Joelle Hann: Well, the one that really, really gets me and it’s sort of a secret like it’s not very obvious. And it’s also not very sexy. That’s probably why it’s a secret is not taking the time to develop your book idea. And the reason that becomes a problem is, if your idea is more of a sound bite, you’re not going to be able to easily write a book, a 200-page, 250-page book from that soundbite. It’s just not going to work. It’s going to fall apart somewhere. And you’re going to wonder why it’s falling apart. If you continue writing and you get all your chapters out, and you give it to an editor, the chances are they’re going to say, you know, this doesn’t work and that doesn’t work. And the reason that doesn’t work is because the idea that’s supposed to hold all these things together is not quite in place. And so, then you have to do this gut renovation and your manuscript to figure out where you went wrong and how you can patch things up.
So, I’m not saying this is the only way to write a book is to come up with a sound idea first because sometimes you have to back your way into things and there’s no way around it. So, I’m not dissing that but if I was to dial into one thing that I see going wrong in manuscripts of book projects, it’s that somewhere along the way, the idea has not been worked out. And so, what happens, does it cost you a lot of time? It cost you a lot of money to figure out what happened and to make it better. And this is where taking your time at the beginning and doing the hard thinking where it can really help, it can really help you to have put your flag in the ground and say, “This is what my book is about,” and spend a few weeks really just doing that and not rushing ahead to write the chapters and not talking about it with all your friends yet, just a few trusted ones maybe where you can hash it out and brainstorm it and get it in some kind of shape.
That can really make the writing easier. It can make the proposal easier definitely makes it easier when you’re talking to people about it. Agents and editors, they’ve got sharp ears, they know what they’re listening for. And so, if you can really concisely say what your book is about, they’re going to be more interested. So, it helps on all levels.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. So, really take the time to hash out the ideas, understand the process and start with the end in mind in other words.
Joelle Hann: Yes, and sometimes you can’t know that. You just do your best. Sometimes you have to write to find out what your idea is. That’s completely understandable. But what I see a lot of is people rushing to get the book done and to get the deal, and that the book isn’t ready for that. That leads to a lot of frustration.
Hilary Hendershott: I bet. I bet. Put a bunch of time into something and then realize you have to scrap it. Okay. And now what about win stories?
Joelle Hann: So, yes, I have several win stories and I love to tell them because it’s such a victory. I like to work with people that I’m really proud of and happy to work with. So, when they get a great book deal or when their career takes off because of their book, really a joy for me. So, the first win story I want to talk about is when I when I first left publishing, I had gone to Brazil and I lived in Brazil for a few months, some country that I had been really obsessed with and I needed to go there and just figure out if I had to move there. And while I was there, I met this woman, Kimberly. We became friends and she said I’m going to hire you. And so, she was my first client and she hired me to help her work on a proposal, which I did. And then I went back to the states and she stayed there. And a year later, she still hadn’t finished her book proposal and it was January and I said, “Look, I’ve got points. Let me just come back down to Rio. We’ll sit across the table from each other and you’ll finish the book proposal.” And so, that’s what we did.
Hilary Hendershott: Wow.
Joelle Hann: And then we sat in every cafe in Rio and Rio, it’s not a city of cafes. Buenos Aires is but Rio is not. We found all of them, I think. And she finished her proposal. And then shortly after that, she and her daughter moved back to the States and she began shopping around and that took a while also. And finally, she landed a deal with Shambhala and published a book which was a huge victory, and I was really proud of her. But what makes it a great story is that I always saw her as a kind of a rock star and I was always frustrated by the fact that she wasn’t one yet. Her book came out in December I think 2017 was right after the Me Too movement exploded, and her subject was postpartum and women’s health. And she was already starting to promote it before it came out to right around the time Me Too broke. And she was talking a lot about women’s sovereignty as well as women’s health and sexuality. And the things she was talking about really tied into the national conversation.
And so, from there, she was able to both talk about the book and the things she was passionate about and it tied into what was happening. And this created a monumental way for her and lifted her, her and her business completely. So, that she got a second book deal for a much bigger sum of money with a much bigger press and is now someone who is considered an expert in her field. I’m like, “There you go. You’re the rock star we saw. There you are.”
Hilary Hendershott: And you contributed to that. That’s awesome.
Joelle Hann: I did have a little part of that, yes, which I’m proud of but, really, she’s the rock star. There is one other story I’d like to tell if there’s time.
Hilary Hendershott: Yeah.
Joelle Hann: It’s the story of Sebene Selassie, who took my Book Proposal Academy in 2018 and she came to me through her agents. And she really had to think about whether she could take it whether she and her husband could afford it, and whether it was the right time and she’d been working on this memoir or not a memoir, this book for a while, and wondering whether it was the right move for her. And after a lot of contemplation, she decided to do it and she took the Academy, which is a small group coaching program to help people write and finish their proposals and she did a really great job. And when she and her agent took it out, to their great surprise, it started a bidding war, which is where publishers all want your book and they’re raising their prices like crazy. And she ended up with a high five-figure deal for her first book out of the gate. And that would be exciting for any author. For her, she’s an inside meditation teacher, a Buddhist, and she’s been teaching around the country for a while.
Also, her family emigrated from Ethiopia when she was a teenager and her book is about belonging. It came at such a great time and she as someone who is an Ethiopian-born American has a lot to say about belonging. And she also has a lot to say about belonging in the Buddhist community, which is increasingly these days being called out for being hierarchical and sort of race-dominated meaning white. And so, for her to get this beautiful book accepted, it’s not a polemic. It’s really a very practical, very insightful, compassionate book. I felt like, wow, right time, right place, right person. It couldn’t have gone to a better person with a better project. And when she wrote to me to tell me about the bidding war and the deal and everything, I cried, I was so happy, just delighted that this book have such a good beginning and for such a great person.
Hilary Hendershott: How great is that? And I could google it but what is a polemic?
Joelle Hann: Oh, something that’s like a political diatribe. Something that is it’s taking a position and it’s only that position.
Hilary Hendershott: I see. Okay. Okay, good. All right. So, it works.
Joelle Hann: It works.
Hilary Hendershott: You can, first-time author, not only get your book proposal accepted, you can get a good advance and you can have something that ties with current events that gets a tailwind and just really is a win across the board.
Joelle Hann: Yes.
Hilary Hendershott: All right. Great.
Joelle Hann: Exactly.
Hilary Hendershott: Great. Well, I want to thank you for all of your wisdom and insight. And I’ve been very interested in your Book Proposal Academy, which is why I invited you to come on the show. So, would you tell us a little bit about the cohort that’s beginning in just a few weeks at this point?
Joelle Hann: So, I created the Book Proposal Academy to really help authors get to the end of the book proposal process. Like I said earlier, it’s not a very natural thing to write. It’s a combination of a sales document and an outline of your book. And for all authors that maybe particularly first-time authors, that can be a daunting proposition to both think about what’s in your book and how it fits together, and also where it belongs in the world. But this process is extremely important. No agent will take you without a proposal and a lot of editors won’t either. It’s important from the professional point of view, but it’s also important for you as an author to know where your book belongs in the world. And what happens in your book and, surprisingly, that latter piece is something people don’t think enough about.
So, the Book Proposal Academy, it’s a contained space. It runs for 16 weeks. I take just a handful of people, no more than eight people, sometimes six, and we work together week-by-week to craft each section of the proposal to make sure that it works and to make sure that your idea is developed, to make sure that your book is the most urgent one that you have in you to bring out into the world and that it is well-positioned to sell. What I want for people is to have the opportunity to dial in their idea, to develop it, and to be able to sell it. And that’s what a book proposal is meant to do.
Hilary Hendershott: So, you’re applying your best wisdom to make sure that not only is the book that’s being proposed the best one for that author to write, but that it’s coming out in its best form.
Joelle Hann: Exactly. That’s exactly right.
Hilary Hendershott: Okay. And could that parlay into help with writing?
Joelle Hann: Yes, it can. It can. I mean, it really is kind of an author boot camp in the end. If you learn how to think like an author, which is playing both sides, both the creative side and the practical side, and you learn a lot about yourself as a writer.
Hilary Hendershott: Great. And where can people go to find out more about how to join Book Proposal Academy?
Joelle Hann: Yes, it’s just up today. Actually. If you go to , that’s Book Proposal Academy 2020, you will see more about the Book Proposal Academy that’s launching on February 10, coming right up, so that all of the people who have been developing their idea, thinking about their book, and they’re ready to bring it into the world can join us for the small group program.
Hilary Hendershott: Awesome.
Joelle Hann: We’ll be done in about May so it’s perfect timing for revising and launching in the fall.
Hilary Hendershott: Beautiful. And if you’re listening to this episode of Profit Boss Radio after it airs in January of 2020, Joelle’s next cohort is getting together in February of 2020 but you can always check back at BrooklynBookDoctor.com to figure out what she’s up to now, right?
Joelle Hann: Exactly, yes.
Hilary Hendershott: And they don’t have to be in Brooklyn, right?
Joelle Hann: No, not at all. No. It can be anywhere in the world.
Hilary Hendershott: All right, great. Joelle, is there anything I didn’t ask today?
Joelle Hann: Oh, I’m sure we could talk for hours. It’s been a really fun conversation. I feel like I covered a lot of helpful things.
Hilary Hendershott: We covered a lot. Okay, wonderful. Thanks for your contribution. Thanks for being on Profit Boss Radio today.
Joelle Hann: Thanks so much. My pleasure.
Hendershott Wealth Management, LLC and Profit Boss® Radio do not make specific investment recommendations on Profit Boss® Radio or in any public media. Any specific mentions of funds or investments are strictly for illustrative purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice or acted upon by individual investors. The opinions expressed in this episode are those of Hilary Hendershott, CFP®, MBA.