169: “Should I Find a Co-Author for My Book?” with Jeff Brown

Does the Size of My Social Media Following Really Matter to An Agent?

“He had a literary agent, he floated the idea to a number of publishers and didn’t get any bites, which is not unusual. And the main bit of criticism or feedback that he got was, ‘You don’t have a platform.’” – Jeff Brown

It all started during a random meeting at a Jeff Goins conference.

Jesse Wisnewsky had an idea for a book and a literary agent, but not a large enough social media following to catch a publisher’s attention. Jeff Brown did — a platform he had curated for years — and even though he hosted a successful podcast and had experience in media, writing a book felt too overwhelming.

And so, when Jesse approached Jeff to gauge his interest in a collaboration, the journey behind their book, “Read to Lead: The Simple Habit That Expands Your Influence and Boosts Your Career,” was born.

On this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” I talk to Jeff Brown about how he and Jesse co-authored their book, and why joining forces helped them find a traditional publisher.

The Writing, and Publishing, Process

After Jeff and Jesse decided to collaborate, they met with Jesse’s literary agent and developed a game plan — including writing proposals and marketing plans — with a launch date of early 2020.

Then the pandemic hit.

The co-authors were concerned that this would delay or, even worse, cancel the book deal, but it didn’t. Fifteen months later, “Read to Lead” launched on August 31 — a book for two types of people, Jeff explained.

The first are those who don’t like to read, but by giving them bite-sized chunks to easily digest, they’ll leave wanting more. And the second are the “reading evangelists,” or those who love to read and learn from the knowledge they’re ingesting.

To cater to those two groups, Jeff said he took out quite a bit from the book — the information that just didn’t fit, or that needs to be an entirely different book altogether. We call these “book babies,” because more often than not, these discarded ideas will create another book.

And for Jeff, the 25 cut pages will surely be the start of his next one.

Writing Lessons Learned

When he approaches his next book, Jeff said he will do more legwork before the actual writing — which, for him, means taking notes when he reads, and collecting quotes, statements and wonders, either electronically or using the Ryan Holiday index card method.

He urges authors to keep all their notes and writing in one place. Currently, he uses an electronic tablet that has the feel of pen and paper, and then saves his hand-written pages electronically. Make sure you have a good organizational system with these notes, like sorting them into folders, he said, and pretend you’re writing them for someone else so that you understand the context later.

“When I do take notes, I’m always thinking about writing them for someone else,” he said, “because the future me that’s going to come back to this is someone else.”

Writing a book only sharpened Jeff’s discipline, allowing him to focus on what his ideal week would look like, which always includes reading — a priority for him. When you read widely and often, and take good notes, it will help you when you sit down to write, he said. There won’t be an issue with the blank page because you’re already thinking about what to write, and have knowledge and inspiration from your reading.

What Makes Reading Important for Writers

If you aren’t reading, I would discourage you from writing a book. Without regularly digesting information and inspiration, you’re missing a connection to a deeper sense of yourself

When I asked Jeff what he saw in people who consistently read, he said he noticed that they are usually strong conversationalists, less stressed and better sleepers, and are generally more skilled at their jobs than their colleagues. He witnessed this in his own life when he started to read regularly and wonder and experiment at his job, which got him noticed for further career opportunities.

Readers tend to have a mindset of lifelong learning, as well. If you stop reading and learning, you stop growing. Clarity and retention are important when you read; you want the information you’re digesting to transform and change you. And as you consume information and apply it, you’ll want to find ways to share it with others, too.

Finding ‘Quake Books’

“Quake books” shake you to your soul. They make such an impact that they resonate with you days, months, years later.

For Jeff, his go-to “quake book” is “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. It was the catalyst for everything he does today, he said, and reignited a fire inside him that had remained dormant for many years.

Other “quake books” on his mental bookshelf are “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smart” by Liz Wiseman, and books by Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni, Dr. Henry Cloud, and John Maxwell. Each and every one challenged his thinking, helping him become a better leader.

A Final Appeal to Reluctant Readers

There are so many reasons to make reading a regular habit — and just as many excuses not to. In a final appeal to reluctant readers, Jeff said that authors must simply take action and read, no matter what.

For so many people, their number-one regret is that they didn’t live their lives fully. You won’t increase your potential for a happy life if you just live the way everyone tells you. Reading widely and daily will help you figure out how to design your own success and happiness on your own terms.

Even the best ideas may not become books. If your idea isn’t it, switch your focus toward co-authorship of someone else’s idea. Combining audiences may just get you a book deal with a traditional publisher, like it did for Jeff and Jesse.

Whichever direction you go, I encourage you to write your book because your message matters! And remember my three greatest takeaways from my conversation with Jeff as you do:

  1. Understand how traditional publishing works and pay attention to how they make book deals.
  2. If you don’t have your own audience to leverage, borrow somebody else’s.
  3. Book partnerships and co-writing take patience, but can be worthwhile.

What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? Are you trying to decide between the different types of publishing? Looking for an agent or co-writer? Share in the comments below!

That’s all for this week. Make a habit of reading daily so that your writing will be transformative!

Episode Resources:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/readtoleadnation  

Instagram and Twitter: @thejeffbrown

Podcast: www.readtoleadpodcast.com 

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