To date I’ve published three books. All are distinctly different and I’ll weave in their story to each of the points I share below.
If you get value from this post, please consider buying my latest book so that I can live out my mission “to connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.”
Don’t ask permission to start.
My first book was self-published. I always wanted to write a book and I wanted to move fast. Sure, I could have pitched my books to publishers, but according to Kevin Kelly, you only need “1000 true fans.” So my focus with this book was to get it to the Ruckus Maker Nation and to do so quickly.
Patience is the name of the game.
I prefer a slow cooked meal to an instant one any day of the week. If you agree that slow cooked meals are more delicious than apply that kind of thinking to your book when it comes to sales, opened doors, and impact. Every overnight success has been years in the making.
Your work and the results you create are your resume.
Consistently creating value for others is the name of the game. This is the recipe for success. Case in point: I’ve shipped probably 1000 podcast episodes since 2015. I’ve never missed a Wednesday release date for the BLBS podcast. By creating (free) value via content I create and creating results for my coaching clients some really cool things have happened in my life.
Two of those cool things most recently:
- Harvard pitched me to sponsor my podcast!
- Corwin pitched me to do a book (along with every education publisher in 2019)!
- AASA decided to co-publish my book!
Those three recent and HUGE wins all came because I have consistently showed up and created value for the Ruckus Maker Nation.
Work with amazing people.
My second book was a collaboration with other great educators. In two days we gave talks, workshopped ideas, and wrote a book together by all contributing a chapter. When writing the Roadmap and Mastermind I had a great team from the editors to design. No one is a success on their own. Find the right people to surround yourself with.
Books are the new business card.
I don’t have business cards. Rarely do people follow up with me because I handed them one. However, people do contact me after giving or signing a book at a conference. People throw out business cards before they leave their hotel room. They bring your book home. And read it. And then they call you.
Be intentional in your design.
What is success for you? Writing a book and putting it into the world? Selling 1000 copies? Selling 10,000? Telling your story? Define success as detailed as possible before writing a single word and then backwards design from there. And the best book on writing a book that will have an impact for years (decades?) after you publish is Ryan Holiday’s Perennial Seller.
Book launch parties.
Thank you to Julie Stern, best selling author of Learning That Transfers, for giving me this amazing idea. Everyone loves a good party, so when your book is in launch week, consider throwing a book launch party. Here’s how I did it:
- Invited amazing people I know to make up a panel of 4 experts …
- Asked them to riff for 3 minutes on the future of education and share a provocative question for leaders in attendance.
- Then we went to breakout groups to connect and discuss the provocative questions
- And of course, raffles! I gave away signed books, and complimentary membership to The Principal Success Path™ and mastermind.
Create the book you want to create.
Before signing any contracts (if you go the publishing route) get a feel for the editorial team and what they are willing to do when creating the book. I was very clear in what I wanted to see in Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader. Because I was bold and asked for what I wanted, my dream came true in book form.
✅ I wanted a bright, bold cover (most book covers in education are boring!)
✅ I cast the vision for the cover and told the designer to create the cover she would be most proud of (amazingly, I was told the designer had never been given permission to be that creative! I’m glad I asked!!!)
✅ I wanted pictures of my community in the front of the cover
✅ I wanted to add footnotes as supplemental information and add humor (Corwin never does footnotes, but they did for me!)
If you self-publish there is no excuse for creating the book you want to create. If you partner with a publishing company, figure out what they will commit to if design is as important to you as it is to me.
Study what makes a great story (even in non fiction).
There are so many ways to study what makes a great story. I once read an entire book on Oranges. It was written by the best non-fiction writer, John McPhee. My Uncle Tony gave it to me when I was in high school. I devoured that book. Why? Because McPhee told great stories about everyone involved with orange production. It was captivating.
Make a Ruckus.
There is only one of you and the world needs to hear your unique perspective. Don’t play it safe. Amplify your idiosyncrasies. Find Your Yellow Tux like Jesse Cole. Whatever you think is weird or strange, lead with that and go all in on it. If you are willing to do that, you just might have a chance at creating the change you hope to see in the world.
A word of warning …
Just so you know, you can buy your way onto most best seller lists.
Companies with massive email lists will shoot your book out and do a marketing campaign and discount your book to $0.99. You can move thousands of copies in a day, for a price.
Unless you are Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, or Toni Morrision that is how many authors become “best sellers.”
How do I know?
I looked into it and I could have bought my way onto:
- the Amazon best seller list for $7.5K
- Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $15K
- And the Wall Street Journal or USA Today for $60K (each)
I highly considered it and ultimately decided not to because I didn’t think it was as relevant or meaningful in the education industry.
If I served mostly in the business space, this would have been a much more attractive offer because of the speaking/training opportunities that would have followed.
A few questions from my friends
In one of the masterminds I am a member of, two of my friends had some specific book related questions.
In order to serve them (and you!) I will answer their questions in this post …
What did you think writing the book would do for you or others? And has it?
My mission is “to connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.”
I cannot do that alone.
So I figure if I told the story of “the mastermind” and how it is changing the landscape of professional development school leaders experience, then this would be the fastest way to help the most people.
I am betting that a number of leaders will join our community. That has proven to be true already.
I’ve had multiple districts ask me to come in and talk about my framework: the ABCs of powerful professional development™. After those talks leaders join my mastermind as well.
And for the people out there like me. They will apply the ideas and probably even improve upon them.
At the end of the day even more school leaders will “level up” as a result.
What’s been the most powerful learning of the process?
I think one of the biggest benefits from writing a book that isn’t talked about enough is that it really helps you clarify your thinking.
So even if no one reads your book you evolve as a person.
My other encouragement is if you can tell great stories and are effective at marketing (or don’t mind paying for that), your book will do great.
What do you think a book does that nothing else can do…. If there is anything (e.g. is it just like your podcast, in what it’s done for your audience and business?)
For whatever reason, people think this:
Published author = expert
Having a book is the single greatest way to level up your authority.
Are you getting more requests for audio or hard copy?
For my first book, I definitely have sold more audio. I think that is because most people know me as a podcaster.
Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader has done very well in print and the audio should be out soon. It will be interesting to see what happens.
I think both are important because people enjoy learning in different ways. I also think it’s important for the author to read their own book too. I am disappointed when I buy an audio copy and it’s not the author. It just isn’t the same experience. Now I look for that, and I don’t buy audio versions that are not read by the author.
Can you help me out?
Did you get value from this post? If so, please buy my latest book. That would help me live out my mission “to connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.”