SPS-248: Writing Books for Your Business – with Mandy Hickson & Mike Capuzzi
Mandy Hickson has gone from RAF fighter pilot to successful author and speaker despite a discouraging start with traditional publishers. And Mike Capuzzi shares his strategy of teaching business owners to write shooks – short, helpful books – that help grow their businesses.
- How Mandy Hickson’s story resonates with both the business world and schools
- On being rejected by trad publishing because “airplane books are for men”
- Stumbling through self-publishing to become a best-seller
- How Mandy’s book created a keynote speaking career
- Writing short, pithy books – shooks – to reach a target audience
- How business owners, who don’t think of themselves as authors, can start writing
- How writing a book can help a business owner discover their focus
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
SHOOKS: Get Mike Capuzzi’s two Shook resources, Main Street Author and Shook Building Blocks here
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-248: Writing Books for Your Business - with Mandy Hickson & Mike Capuzzi
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show...
Mandy Hickson: So we went through that whole process sort of backwards. Got it sent off to the publishing house, and it was rejected by them. Their comment was that plane books are for a male readership who have no interest in a woman's story, and I was shocked.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson. Hello.
James Blatch: How are you, Mark Dawson? We're both looking quite bearded. Yours is the proper beard. Mine is just not shaved.
Mark Dawson: Yes, that's right. Yes, it's autumn. Winter is coming, so it's time to grow a beard.
James Blatch: I did have my hair cut this week. It makes me look a bit better. It was a Turkish barber's, and they did that thing where they burn your ears. Have you ever had that?
Mark Dawson: No. I think that you may have a really bad barber potentially.
James Blatch: It was an interesting haircut, where he does this thing that I think people have had it before, and it's a bit of an old man thing because I think it sort of burns off all the wispy hairs that grow around your ears, which sounds horrible.
Mark Dawson: Nope, I've never heard of that before. Never heard of it.
James Blatch: You're going to get it. It's coming your way.
But he was also a complete conspiracy theorist. I had half an hour of this man. His family live near Istanbul in Turkey. He's in the UK. And I had everything from how fake COVID is; how people who are going to hospital are murdered, because that's the whole point of COVID is to get down the population; rich celebrities and royalty in the UK drink children's blood, and he's seen the videos of this. He can't put them online because then he would be killed. It went on and on and on.
I sat there, and I did say to him, "Do you go on the internet a lot?" He goes, "No, no, I try not to, because I need to keep myself safe." Absolute class A.
Mark Dawson: I suggest finding a different barber, to be honest. I wouldn't let him anywhere near my throat with a sharp object.
James Blatch: Well, that's the thing. My wife said, "Did you say anything to him?" I said, "Well, no, but he had sharp objects in his hands, and he had me over a barrel." Strange. It worries me slightly. I guess this is loosely related to publishing.
Mark Dawson: Very loosely.
James Blatch: Well, anybody can be an author, can't they? Of a blog or anything these days. With that power comes some responsibility. But anyway, so I guess we could put that down to a rambling opening.
We are talking nonfiction this week, and we have two authors, two interviews, two authors who come at their writing from a very different place. And that is the world of nonfiction. Fiction, there's a lot of commonality. Two nonfiction authors next to each other can do things differently, but there are obviously common elements, particularly when it comes to self-publishing. So we've got both of them coming up in a moment.
Before then, I would like to welcome Virginia Barnhill to our league of Patreon supporters. She's from California in the United States. Virginia, you are very welcome indeed. She's been to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow to support the show and get some goodies in the process. We do see pictures every now and again of people with their little pins and so on that they get for supporting us. Thank you very much indeed.
The 101 course is closed for another year. We had a very good set of students coming on. Very excited now as we'll knuckle down. We've got a few things to spruce up. Mailchimp have done an interesting thing recently, changed their pricing, changed the insides a little bit, just the naming conventions more than anything else, so we'll do a re-record of some of that stuff, but also I think basically say to people, think long and hard now before going into Mailchimp. Do it with your eyes open, because it will start costing you quite a lot of money quite quickly compared to some other mailing service providers.
But having said that, Mark, Mailchimp has a very strong track record of deliverability. So if you're not as price sensitive, in that sense, your list is going to grow quickly and be supporting itself, I think that is something you're paying for. You're paying for that deliverability, and they must be one of the best in the business for that. They're certainly one of the oldest.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's always towards the top of the list. May not be the number one when you get those deliverability experiments, but that's the main thing with an email service provider. The main thing is not necessarily how it looks or how easy it is to use, although that's certainly something to bear in mind. The main thing is, does it deliver your emails? That should be the first thing that you look at.
We won't go into a rabbit hole of discussing the pros and cons of all the different service providers, but there are a couple out there that are quite popular in the author space, but don't necessarily offer quite the reliability that Mailchimp does.
Mailchimp has plenty of problems, and I'm not a fan of continually reinventing themselves. It is expensive as well, but it gets the emails out there. I'm still with them after a little bit of trying to look around and actually swapping to another platform for a couple of months. But I'm still with Mailchimp because the emails have always got to their destinations, which is kind of the point of it.
James Blatch: Yeah. We were on Mailchimp as a business. We moved over to Infusionsoft for SPF. I've moved to ConvertKit for my own mailing list, my author mailing list, and also for Fuse Books mailing list. I think probably it is time to revisit mailing lists on this podcast. It's been a long time since we've done a proper episode devoted to them, so we can flesh that one out for the long winter days ahead of us, and something we can both talk about with some experience, go through the pros and cons and help people make better decisions.
Now, I mentioned Fuse Books. Delighted to say that we have our second author. You might know that Fuse Books is a little indie imprint that Mark and I are running along with Stuart Bache. We recruited the late Robert Storey's books in February last year... Sorry, this year, I should say. Been running it this year, and didn't destroy a promising career, which is my big worry about taking this on. We've more than doubled the income, which is the minimum we need to do to make sure that it's been a worthwhile decision by the rights-holders, in that case, Robert's parents, Maureen and Terry.
And we have signed an author, Kerry J. Donovan. Kerry writes thrillers and crime books in the UK. His thrillers have a very good conceit, I think, about a former Royal Marine who is framed for mass murder for the murder of 83 passengers on a plane, and the real question he's asking himself rather urgently is who's framed him and who wants him dead and the rest of it. So there's a good series of thrillers that Kerry's written, and we are delighted to say, having been through quite an exhaustive process, we've got to this point of signing Kerry and announced that this week. So we'll take on his books for November.
Again, I must remember not to destroy someone's career, but to make it better. That's our motto, isn't it?
Mark Dawson: Don't destroy them; make them better. Yes, I suppose that'll do.
James Blatch: Make them better. Yeah, it's a funny thing, isn't it? Because we're both very keen self-publishers. I'm very enthusiastic about self-publishing. You are as well. But we have to accept that for some people, it's just not for them. They just can't get their head around it. We've all got, perhaps, relatives who you help with technology, and for whatever reason, some people struggle, for want of a better word, doing simple tasks. Other people completely take to it.
So there's always going to be authors, and I suppose there's quite a big group of authors, who just want to write. Kevin J. Anderson said, and he's self-publishing now, but in an ideal world, somebody would do all that for him, and he would just write. Not everyone enjoys the process as much as you and I do. There's a range. So that's why we have these indie presses, and why I've been saying for two or three years on this podcast I'm very excited about this, because I think this is a really important area of the changing industry.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's right. There's plenty of writers who would just rather do the writing and not do anything else. For those people, it is worth looking at little imprints that are springing up, certainly not where you pay someone to publish, that's always a bad idea, but it might not be such a bad idea to look at a smaller imprint run by indies who understand how to do things.
You've got to do the sums yourself. We're pretty straightforward on the terms. It's 50-50 net after costs have come off, and our goal is to make sure we double that. Otherwise, there isn't any point because the author would be losing money. The stories, we were very clear to them. They're a little bit different in that there was no one looking after those books, so in some ways we couldn't mess that up, because those books would have faded away without anything being done to them. Obviously, we, or mostly you, have managed to turn that around, and they're now doing very well.
But when it comes to Kerry's books, we need to make sure that we're doubling what he was making by himself. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any point for him to come with us. In the event that it doesn't work, there's a fairly generous reversion clause. We wouldn't be interested in working with someone who wasn't happy, so we would hand those books back again and he could go off and do his own thing again. The aim is that it doesn't come to that.
James Blatch: Yeah, absolutely. When I said double the income, what I mean is double the profit, because actually the income has gone up five or six times since we took it over, but the profit is what needs to double as a minimum.
I think some of the important difference between us and trad contracts not only is the generous royalty split, but also the fact that there was a tendency in the trad, they make acquisitions, and you were on the receiving end of this, they make acquisitions, you're the big thing for a few months, and then you're sort of parked, and that's more or less it. They just sit there with no real push behind them anymore.
Whereas, the way indie, whether it's us or Joffe Books or one of myriad of indie publishers that are around today, because of the way it's set up, there's a vested interest day to day, week to week, to be working for those books. You can't just let some sit there doing nothing. They will revert back to the author under our clauses and so on. I think that's a really important distinction for us.
Should we move on to our interviews? There are a couple of things bubbling around in the background we're not going to mention just yet, but I know 101 is closed. Probably not going to open adds until early '21, maybe January. But we might be doing something between now and Christmas. That's all I'm going to say at this stage, so stay tuned for that.
Let's talk about nonfiction. We have two authors today, as I say, coming at it from a very different perspective. The first is Mandy Hickson, who caught my eye particularly. You'll know why, when I tell you that she was the second Royal Air Force fast jet pilot in the UK. In fact, as she was becoming interested in flying, the rules changed in the UK to allow women to fly fast jets, in her case, the Royal Air Force Tornado after training on the Hawk.
The book is her story, about going through school, through the Air Cadets, through training. It's an exhausting read, actually, and I don't mean that negatively, because the intensity of that process and living on a knife edge of one checkride away from everything being thrown away for you, makes it a very compelling and gripping read. It's a great cover.
But she makes her money from speaking as a keynote speaker at conferences and events and such like. Actually, we didn't get into these figures, and I don't know how public she wants to go on them. We had a discussion afterwards. She makes a very good living from this, gets paid really well, and obviously does a fantastic job at it.
So for her, the book is more than a calling card. It's done well in its own right. You can see its ranking on KDP. She has self-published it, obviously. But it's part and parcel of her brand. It's something to remember her by so future bookings come in, an important part. When you have something else beyond your fiction, your stories that you write, you have something else you're selling, the role a book can play. Let's hear from Mandy first, and then we've got another nonfiction author after that.
Mandy Hickson, thank you so much indeed for joining us. I think you may be the first interviewee who's also got an aeroplane behind them.
Mandy Hickson: Yay. So exited.
James Blatch: I've got an aeroplane. Finally. And you spotted the Vulcan's straightaway, which most people say is a Concorde, so you're scoring points all over the place.
Mandy Hickson: That's it.
James Blatch: Mandy, you've written a book, self-published your memoir, which is called An Officer, Not a Gentleman. Very impressive title. Mark Dawson was very impressed with the title, and the cover actually.
Mandy Hickson: Oh, was he?
James Blatch: Beautifully designed cover. So I'm going to talk about that, going to talk about the process of somebody who probably doesn't know so much about publishing, or would have come into it wanting to write a book and discovering it, so that journey that you've had there, but I'm also interested in your nonfiction business, which I think is motivational speaking, the role that maybe a book will play in being a kind of calling card for you and so on. So we've got a few things to cover. I'm going to try my best not to anorak nonstop about flying in the REF because I could probably be here all day with those.
Mandy Hickson: Oh, don't ask me any technical questions. I'm rubbish.
James Blatch: Why don't you start by explaining who you are, Mandy?
Mandy Hickson: I was the second woman to fly the Tornado GR4 on the front line. I did 17 years in the Air Force in a variety of different roles, and I left in 2011. I joined as a reservist then, so I could continue to fly Cadets then. So I continued my flying there for the last seven years, and I finally hung up my flying boots last year around Christmas time, just because life was too busy.
I was needed on the side of the football pitches to support my children. Since leaving, I retrained in different areas, but actually a real calling for me was, as you said, to get into the speaking world, which I hadn't ever really known about while I was in the Air Force. My story read really well across to both the corporate sector, but also schools, in fact, anyone, to be honest. It just goes down really well. It can really resonate on lots of different levels.
James Blatch: At some point during that transition from your flying and working life to your second life after that, you decided that a book would be something you either wanted to do.
Or did somebody say to you this is a prerequisite for this role?
Mandy Hickson: Well, it's an interesting one. Basically, after I finished every single speech, one of the first questions, I always saw a hand go up, and I was like, "Yes?" and they'd go, "Have you written a book?" I'd go, "No. No, I can't write. I'm not a writer." Then I started to go, "Not yet." The second you say not yet, you open the doors to a world of possibilities. Then with not yet sitting over me, I thought, "Right. It's time to do it."
I worked in conjunction with a friend of mine who was a journalist as well, an excellent writer. The two of us worked hand in hand, really. Rob was a BBC journalist. Yes, basically working hand in hand with him, we compiled the book, came up with it. Couldn't come up with a title for years, and it took us about three and a half years because we got bogged down actually by trying to go down the publishing route.
James Blatch: Yes. Well, that's, of course, where we come in to chat to you. We should say, this is the book. I think it's a really well-designed cover and title.
Mandy Hickson: There we are.
James Blatch: There we go. Look at that.
Mandy Hickson: Magic. Snap.
James Blatch: Snap. Look at that. Yeah. I've read it cover to cover. I think you learn a lot about you. I'm also interested, because I was a BBC journalist and got quite close in to the British forces, particularly the RAF, because we've got a lot of those where we are here. So when I read the book, one or two of the names... I think I knew A.D. Hargreaves. I think I did my PPL with him. He was a navigator with you. So I had a bit of a crossover with that. But it also made me realise the choices you'd made about what to include and what not to include, the tone that you took.
I'm interested in when you write a memoir, who is in your mind as your audience?
Mandy Hickson: That was the stumbling block actually, to be honest, James, because I think when you start to write a memoir, and when I spoke to the publishing, they're like, "Well, who is it for?" I was like, "Well, it's for everyone." They're like, "Well, that doesn't work. It has to be for a target audience." I said, "But the problem is I speak to a lot of schools." Especially, I really wanted to target girls, not over boys, but to inspire both of them, but just to start thinking outside of the realms of what they think is possible, thinking about careers that aren't just the norm and to inspire them to just basically dream bigger dreams.
Yet at the same time, bizarrely, I think the biggest group of readership has been from, perhaps, aviation enthusiasts that are really keen on flying and actually the corporate. I put it on LinkedIn, and my sales just went through the roof that day, because of course I've spoken to so many companies, and actually they are interested in hearing the story behind it. So, you know what, it was really hard to actually come up with, who is it being written for?
James Blatch: Yeah. I think it does have an accessibility about it, and perhaps for the people who've done some flying in the past, would maybe have liked a chat that got into detail about how some of the sorties worked in your advance training. I was sitting there reading the book thinking, "But that would kill this book for a lot of people."
That's going through my mind about tough decisions and how to pitch it.
Mandy Hickson: Yeah. It's how you pitch it. I wanted it to be accessible to everybody. I wanted a teenager to be able to pick it up, but also, I don't know, a 70-year-old lady who was wanting to read a bit more about it. Actually, bizarrely, I've just done a spin class, and one of my spin group ran up, came up like, "Oh, dear, I've read your book, and I loved it. Will you sign it for me?" I didn't realise. She said, "Oh, I nearly got lost on some of the technical bits."
James Blatch: Oh, really? That is interesting.
Mandy Hickson: I tried not to put too much technical detail in it, mainly because I'm rubbish on the technical side, but also it's how much you can remember. We're talking 25 years ago when I joined and some of those memories are all moulded into one. Trying to have a really good memory of it is difficult.
James Blatch: Did you set out for the book to be a calling card for your business, or was it going to be a revenue generator in its own right? Is that your initial aim?
Mandy Hickson: Basically, pre-COVID, the world was a very different place. I was pretty much almost fully booked out with keynote speeches all over the world. My career could not have been going any better. It was a really exciting time. I loved it. I loved the frenetic pace of it. I love to travel. I thought, "You know what, the book is there basically for businesses to buy, but also for me to sell it in the back of the room or just to generate interest in it." I've had lots of guidance from people that said, "It's fantastic for conferences. It'll just fly off the shelves," so that was what I was thinking.
Then, of course, COVID hits, and the whole of that world is changed massively at the moment. I thought, "Right. It's down to me now," because I was self-publishing. I thought, "I've got some time on my hands, so why don't I try to get some momentum and interest in it for a book in its own right?" That's what I wanted to do. That's difficult to do because you're basically just using your networks and you're doing all your own PR.
James Blatch: So you did initially think you were going to go down the publisher.
What did you know about publishing when you started this, and what did you know about self-publishing?
Mandy Hickson: Nothing at all. That's why when some people say, "Oh, it's a really interesting world..." Speaking to a friend, they said, "Oh, you need a literary agent." I contacted a literary agent, and the very first literary agent I contacted went, "Oh my gosh, this is a fantastic story. Yes." Actually, from one of my speeches, they put me in touch with a major publishing house, someone that was a connection, and she said, "I've got this name in..." Am I allowed to say the names of the major publishing-
James Blatch: Yeah, sure.
Mandy Hickson: In Transworld, so big publishing house. They said they'd be really interested. So when I got the literary agent and they said they'd be really interested.
So when I got the literary agent, they said, "Transworld want the first refusal on this one." So we thought we had a pretty good way of getting into that company. And when it went to them though, once we then had to come up with a proposal, which seemed a bit retrospective because I've written the book ... it was finished. And then they went, "Okay, so let's write a proposal basically talking about what's going to be in it." I'm like, "Read the book."
So we went through that whole process sort of backwards, got it sent off to the publishing house, and it was rejected by them. And their comment was that plane books are for a male readership who have no interest in a woman's story. And I was shocked. I felt really disappointed in them actually, because I thought, "I think that's rubbish."
I knew that to be rubbish because of the people I speak to. And there's a lot of men I speak to, and they have a lot of interest in a woman's story. So that in itself frustrated me enormously. In fact, I've sort of got quite indignant to that. And then we did get an offer from a very small publishing house. I think it was Boddington's, but it didn't seem to come to fruition.
So in the end, after stagnating for about a year and a half, I just thought, "Do you know what? Just give me a yes or no, and I'm happy to go alone, happy to self-publish." And would I still be looking for a publisher? Potentially. I'd love to get hardback copy out, and I'd love to see it in shops, so that's the only slight frustration of not going that route.
James Blatch: That's an interesting point because we often talk about what people want out of their publishing experience. And seeing the book on the shelf in the shop is something that some people want for some very good reasons. In your case, that would work perfectly, raising your profile in a world that your profile is your calling card. Not necessarily the most profitable: Waste, shops, discount books, and they're expensive to produce, and all the rest of it. I think you've gone down the Amazon fulfilment route, looking at the book.
So you printed up front?
Mandy Hickson: No, print on demand.
James Blatch: Oh, it's print on demand, is it? Okay.
Mandy Hickson: Yeah, it was very odd actually going on that route, the print on demand. Because I went to number one in aviation book sales one day, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe this." And then on Amazon, when I looked at my bookshelf on the Amazon website, I'd sold no books. Because there's a delay, because it's print on demand. So it was pretty funny.
James Blatch: So you did go down the self-publishing route. And how did you approach that?
Mandy Hickson: So basically, initially, we had the manuscript, the actual book written. So I popped that out to about two different proofreaders. One colleague who I've worked with in the past that have got eagle eyes. We went down that route. We got that done and edited and all the rest of it. Then through local contacts. Basically, a friend from the gym, she said, "My husband does covers." I was like, "Great, formatting." And he was brilliant. The cover, I absolutely love.
James Blatch: It's great. It's a really good cover.
Mandy Hickson: We had this photo taken. It was for a magazine shoot actually. And I contacted the guy and I said, "Really love the picture you've got there. You happy for me to use it if we obviously give you credit for that in the book?" He said, "Yeah, absolutely, that'd be great." And then basically Burge from the Burge agency came up with the cover.
And we couldn't decide on the title. That's a really difficult bit. So we had loads of ... he must have said about 30 different ones with different titles. Break Right was one of the titles that I thought about, and the other one was Bird's Eye View, which I loved. But I was told not to go for that because it seems quite derogatory towards females. But I was like, "But my call sign was Big Bird. It's a bird's eye view, it's seeing it from a pilot's perspective. It's all of those things." They're like, "No, no, don't do it."
So one of the chapter titles was An Officer, Not a Gentleman. And we said, "Well, that actually has got a really good twist to it." And actually so many people said, "Love the title. It's clever." And I wanted the autobiography to not be a sexist rant. I did not want. I wanted it just to be a really honest portrayal of what happened. And obviously, I've not put everything in by any means, because I didn't want that. I wanted it to be positive.
James Blatch: You have put in some of those moments that took your breath away, and some even quite terrifyingly formal moments where you were told in sort of RAF formal speak something incredibly sexist that you could do nothing about, and you wandered out of the room bewildered and confused. I really hope those days are over now, but that was a few years ago.
Mandy Hickson: Well, it was a few years ago, and this is what I've sort of said now. It's let's put the caveat on ... this was twenty-five years ago when I joined. Now, I think the Air Force is a very different place. You've got the Chief of the Air Staff, Mike Wigston, and yes, last year he wrote an incredible, big investigation. It was the Wigston Report, basically, which looked into discrimination, bullying, all of these different aspects. And I think it came out quite positive. I think the Air Force is very much ... well, all the military has changed in measurably from those days, and I hope it continues to grow and expand.
James Blatch: You've got a few people involved in this. You mentioned the Burge Agency. What was that?
Mandy Hickson: So, yeah, he was the one that did all the formatting for me. So I just basically picked people ... really, my own network, to come up with it. And he did all the formatting for me. And it was a little bit of a voyage of discovery for the two of us, because he normally it off to a publisher and then they do a final bits. But I was going, " No, I need you to load it up on Amazon." He was like, "Never done that before." So we were sort of doing it together.
Originally, we were like, "Okay, I'd like it to be colour, because there's some photos in it." And I thought, "I really want it to be colour. But if you're doing print on demand, you either have to have the whole book in colour, or it has to be black and white." So he's writing me, I was on the beach, and he said, "Mandy, if we do it in colour, it's going to be 24 pounds per book to print." And I was like, "Oh, I guess we all need to rethink that one." So of course, then, that changed, page width, the GSM, weighting of the pages, which changed the thickness of the book. So it was a bit of a voyage of discovery for both of us.
James Blatch: Yeah. But then it went up, you made it live.
Was there a launch strategy or any marketing?
Mandy Hickson: I always describe myself as an organic grower. So basically, the launch was not as I was intending because, basically, I shouted through to my husband who was in the other room, "Yay, my book's gone live." At which point, he put a post out saying, "Yay, my wife's books come alive." And that was my launch. Basically, that was the launch, which wasn't quite what I was hoping for in all truth. I then very quickly went, "I need to put out an official one now on my page."
So things to think about are the electric version, so the Kindle version. We'd sort of thought that once we had the PDF of the book, it would simply be a case of slipping it into the Kindle version, and that is not the case. So that was a real awakening for me, because we'd got the paperback up and running, and I thought, "Oh, okay." And I looked at it and, suddenly, when you start to go through the whole KDP, and the how you get it on to Amazon as a Kindle, it's a very different story. You almost have to take your formatting back to that rich text format, or Word document, or the like, and then put it all in. And of course, all your formatting's fallen out everything. I personally did that, and that took me quite a lot longer than I thought. It was stressful.
James Blatch: So there is a great programme called Vellum, which you import your word document, and then you can export it into the different formats. You'll still want to do some tweaking here and there.
Mandy Hickson: No, forget it.
James Blatch: I do know a great podcast you can listen to for all these tips and tricks.
Mandy Hickson: Really? I really would like to have known about this beforehand, James.
James Blatch: Yeah, talk to me afterwards. Anyway, but your experience is very typical of people who stumble across the self-publishing world, and upload to Amazon, and gradually start filling in the blanks on it. There's no set set way to do this. There's lots of gurus out there who have very good ways of doing it.
But the result of this, I think, having a quick look at your rankings is that the book has sold.
Mandy Hickson: It's sold over 2000 copies. I have a major edit out, actually. I'll be honest. What's been really nice actually was that people contacted me, said, "I've noticed a few mistakes." And I was like, "Please, let me know."
James Blatch: Yeah, of course. Every book has typos in it. I read mainstream published books which have typos in it.
Mandy Hickson: Yeah. So it was great, actually. I put a post out saying, "We learn from our mistakes. Please give me feedback." And loads of people on Twitter and LinkedIn went, "I've noticed a typo here," or, "I've noticed that, grammatically, that's not right," or, "You missed a word here." And that was brilliant. So I did a huge edit where I also make some changes as well. So I actually sort of went through it and just realised, perhaps, where I'd mentioned someone's full name, I just tweaked it and just took out certain names and things. And that was good actually.
It went to number one in the aviation category on Amazon, which I couldn't believe. So it's sold over 2000 copies now in three months, which apparently is quite good. I have nothing to base that on. I felt a bit disappointed initially, because I thought, "Well, I thought I'd be selling a lot more?" But someone said to me, "No." A guy I did a podcast with recently who's written a book as well, and he's very into the Formula 1 world. And Mark said, "No, I sold about 1500 on Amazon, but I sold seven and a half thousand a conferences." I was like, "Ah, okay."
James Blatch: But you haven't done any paid advertising for it? Any Amazon ads or Facebook ads?
Mandy Hickson: No. Actually, wait a minute. I think I spent the 12 pounds basically on an Instagram when I was first getting into Instagram and trying to work out how does Instagram even work? Though it frustrated me. Yeah, I paid for an ad, which was not even to do with the book, actually. It was just to sort of build a bit of momentum and get some followers in the right areas. I was told I had to be on Instagram for the younger generation, for cadets, for university students, and also to try to get into the States, the huge military presence that they have in the States and the fact they really loved the veterans' side of things over there. But actually, I found the biggest platform for me without a doubt has been ... well, there's been two really, it's LinkedIn and Twitter for me.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay. Well, I would think that Amazon ads might be a good one for you can, because you can put the book in. Again, there's a podcast you should listen to at some point.
Mandy Hickson: I will, now that I've heard of you guys, I will have a look at it.
James Blatch: But what's fascinating about this conversation is there's a whole world out there, which I think could ... What you've done so far is a springboard to this book being very successful. And it is already very successful. I was looking at the rankings, like I say; a lot of people put published memoirs and sell 25 copies. So you've done really well. And it's definitely got the potential for it. I think it's inspirational on many levels.
Let's talk a bit about your other business then, because conference speaking is an area that lends itself to lots of different specialisms that people have. In your case, I guess it's motivational. Is that the tagline for you?
Mandy Hickson: Absolutely. So when I first pitched myself, this one behind me, "Dream it, believe it, do it," sort of thing, that is my motivational side of it. But I do have a very different side, which is experience from the front line. So it's business lessons. Everyone in the comments always says, "Oh my gosh, that was so inspirational." But there's a lot of business lessons in there, from your empowerment of team, decision-making under pressure, stress, how do we handle our situational awareness? All of those things read really well across into the corporate world.
So yes, it's a great closing speech for a conference. And that's really where I got pitched. For October, November, March, I'm almost fully-booked. Every single day, I will be doing a speech somewhere around Europe, predominantly.
James Blatch: Wow, almost every day?
Mandy Hickson: Yeah. I was probably doing four, potentially sometimes five a week. One week, I did eight, in October. Two a day. I was like, "Can I get between there in time?" I was like, "I can do your opening in the morning for you, and I can close your conference for yourself in the afternoon." And sometimes, I was flying between Ireland and back doing a speech sometimes. So yeah, the most I've ever done was three in one day. That was knackering.
James Blatch: How did you make a start in that field?
Mandy Hickson: So, again, a fortuitous chat at a dinner party, telling a story quite drunkenly about being shot at in Iraq, the break right story. And a friend at the table said, "Oh my gosh, I've got a huge conference coming up at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire. Can you tell that story? It's all about decision-making under pressure." And I said, "Yeah, of course I can. Why not?" And I'd just left the air force by then. I'd retrained to be an airline pilot and sort of assumed that's the world I was going to go into. But these two children I had just didn't fit into that world as well.
I did that speech with them. And then basically I went off to a ski chalet and someone said, "What do you do?" And I said, "Oh, I'm a keynote speaker," which is hilarious, isn't it? Why not just tell people even though you've already done one. So I just did this. And they said, "Oh really? Because I run a law firm and we have speakers to speak."
I went along to that law firm on Blackfriars Bridge, stunning offices. I met Miriam Gonzalez there, Nick Clegg's wife, who was a partner in the company. And she was just launching a big charity called Inspiring the Future about going into schools and creating role models to get, particularly women, to go into schools just to talk about their jobs. I got involved in that charity. And I filmed that and sent that out to all the speakers bureaus. And yeah, to be honest, I was snapped up by most of the big speakers bureaus in the UK. I think I'm probably on with about 15, maybe more, speakers bureaus now, globally. And it's been really good, actually. Some of them, I get a lot of work through. Others, not quite as much. But it's been fantastic.
James Blatch: So you filmed of your talks and that becomes your kind of audition you send off? That's how that works?
Mandy Hickson: Yeah. If anyone's wanting to get into that world, you have to have a show reel. So if you Google Mandy Hickson now, and a show reel on YouTube, there's a really nice show reel that I've had made with lots and lots of different speaking clips, a bit of fast jet flying in there. You need some footage as well as the audience enjoying the speech so that they can see it's not just you talking. But that initial one was just me sticking my phone on a tripod and sending that out to the bureaus.
James Blatch: And at these conferences, how many people have books similar to you? How important is a book in that world?
Mandy Hickson: I think it's actually become more and more important. It's not just your calling card; I think people expect you to have a book. So considering I've been speaking now since 2012, so for eight years, I haven't had a book, and that has been the most popular question that I'm always asked is, "Why haven't you got a book? It's a fantastic story, so why wouldn't you put that down on paper?" A lot of people do have books. I've done a big conference over in Ireland called the Pendulum Summit. It's a fantastic event, 4,000 people. I would say every single speaker has a book apart from me.
James Blatch: But you have one now.
Mandy Hickson: I have one now. It's all right.
James Blatch: And on a practical thing, you say this is print on demand, but what do you do? Presumably, you want to take some books with you to the conference?
Mandy Hickson: With Amazon, you can order up to a thousand copies as an author. But some of the bureaus that I work with also have set themselves up as bookshops. So if I get a booking through one of the bureaus that has that capability, I'll get them to pre-order books. Or you start to try to sell the book as part of the deal. So yes, Mandy can speak for this fee, but if you would like everyone at the conference, say 300 people, to have a copy of the book, we can do them at this price.
It therefore depends what you're after. Amazon sales? Great. Yes, it's lovely to see yourself going in at number one. Fantastic. But ultimately, if I were to sell the books that I only paid 3 pounds 84 or something for them, and you're selling it for 10 pounds a book or even a cheaper deal, you're still making the same that you would if you were selling it through Amazon.
I haven't quite worked out the logistics of how I'm going to do that. But I think it would probably be getting the business that you're speaking to to order them, and then they would be there for you to sign if people want them at the back.
James Blatch: Yeah. You then become, in the world of the old traditional publishing organisations with physical stock, which is quite challenging in its own way, remanded it at the end of the day ... They might say to you, "Hey Mandy, what are you going to do with these 35 books? I think I've only got hand luggage."
Mandy Hickson: That's such a really good point actually, to be honest.
James Blatch: That's why the eBook's really important. For Amazon anyway, it's a great road. It's a beautiful cover, beautiful book. It's lovely. I ordered it because I saw the cover and I normally read eBook, but I wanted to have this in my hand.
Mandy Hickson: I'm just recording the audiobook, actually.
James Blatch: Oh, are you? You're doing that yourself?
Mandy Hickson: No. I bought the microphone here, so I was already to do it. And then I just ... you know what? I was just finding it quite stressful working out on the software. And I know there's lots of help on that. So I downloaded or Audacity and the ACX plugin for that to help you do the audiobook. And it was just this whole, "What happens if I make a mistake of cutting it?"
So I found someone through, again, local networks and he lives about 20 minutes, 30 minutes away. And so I popped down there yesterday and we recorded half the book. I'm feeling quite jaded because, literally, we got to chapter 10 with only one rerecord of one chapter two.
James Blatch: That's really good. So you're own voice?
Mandy Hickson: I'm doing all the narration. Well, I just thought this is crazy not to. Obviously, I could have had Miranda Hart, which would have been lovely. I thought, actually, I've got a really funny laugh and it's so funny. I put a thing out on Twitter and Facebook, and everyone's going, "You don't laugh in it." I'm going, "No, not yet." But I might have to slip my laugh in at some point.
James Blatch: We'll see if we can draw that out. And this has whetted your appetite, Mandy, for a second book? I remember thinking actually John Nichol and John, the other John?
Mandy Hickson: John Peters.
James Blatch: John Peters, of course, who I've also spoken to. They wrote their first non-fiction book, and then John Nichol followed that up with a fiction.
Mandy Hickson: He's done loads. John Nichol is doing fantastically. If you look, John's actually become quite a prolific writer since. I don't think that's me, to be honest. This was a labour of love. It's possibly just the one shop for me. But yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? I stopped it deliberately. I just focused on my RAF years. I didn't take it beyond that really, apart from the very last little bit of the last chapter where I talk about my flying with Emily. But yeah, I think I'll probably leave it there for this, for now.
James Blatch: I can see there's a fiction series of female fighter pilots.
Mandy Hickson: Never say never. Not yet.
James Blatch: I should ask about Emily, actually. Have you kept in with her? We should say, if you haven't read the book, at the end of the book, there's a very sweet little story about a sort of eyes down ... and you were slightly thinking this is an air cadet who wasn't really going to engage in the process.
There was a very nervous young girl whose whole life was wrapped into flying. And I think you recognised yourself a little bit in that.
Mandy Hickson: I did. And, it was a pivotal point for me actually, when I flew that trip with her. I use that in my speech as well, is how I normally close my speech. And, it was interesting because, I was talking to my husband and he said to me, "Maybe you need to drop the Emily story, you've been talking about it for the last eight years." And I said, "okay, yeah." "So, certainly I would think about it." And, he joined me at a conference in Riga, in Latvia. And, at the end I finished with the Emily story. I got a standing ovation, and then they did this word art, the most important thing that they were going to take away from the whole three days of conferencing. And the word Emily, got bigger and bigger on the screen. And, he just went, "Yeah, that Emily's story..."
Unfortunately, I don't know because you're flying with so many cadets, that you don't even know which squadron they were on. I think she was from the Basingstoke area. But again, I don't know. So, I would love to say it, because that would be the fairytale ending; and the amount of people saying, "what's happened to Emily again." I should just lie.
James Blatch: She needs to identify herself, and go forward.
Mandy Hickson: Yeah, exactly.
James Blatch: I mean, hopefully her dream has come true, but who knows it's a...
Mandy Hickson: Oh, hopefully. It's been lovely. On Twitter, there's quite a few young girls that are flying and gaining their PPLs, their private pilot's licences. And, one of them's contacted me, and said, "I got it yesterday Mandy, would you like to come out flying with me? I'm like, "Absolutely." So, we're going to sort that out.
James Blatch: Brilliant. Yeah. So, that's the books place in your world, as a speaker. But, I think as you've alluded at, with the sales you've seen so far, there's definitely the potential for this to be a good revenue stream, in its own right.
Mandy Hickson: Yeah, absolutely.
James Blatch: Yeah. And then, that book on Biggles. Do you have any plans for the future? Hopefully COVID gets out of the way and you can get back out there.
So, you don't think books are going to be in your future, beyond this one book?
Mandy Hickson: Probably not. I mean, certainly not at the moment. I would love to actually do a little bit more of a launch. I know that sounds retrospective, but it would be nice to actually celebrate the fact that I have got this book out there. So, I would like to do that at some point. I mean, I'm a trustee of a charity up in London, called the Victory Services Club. I'd love to incorporate something with that, and do something there hopefully. And, I'd like to do the things at literary festivals as well. Because, I'm used to performing, I'm really happy to stand and talk. In fact, I would say, that's probably my skill set, is doing that. I think that would be a natural place for me, to hopefully go out to some literary festivals as well, and do that side of things.
James Blatch: Well, the most important thing you can do is prove that early publisher wrong.
Mandy Hickson: Absolutely. Absolutely, never put me in a box.
James Blatch: Yeah, indeed. Okay, Mandy. Well, thank you very much, indeed, for sharing your experience of writing your first book, and who knows, the first of many.
Mandy Hickson: Who knows, but thanks James. And, thanks for inviting me on, it's lovely to chat to you.
James Blatch: There you go, Mandy Hicks. And, I was being a bit fanboyish, obviously. Very impressive individual and somebody who... When you read the book, you will hear what I was alluding to about some of the moments she had as a woman, standing in front of some fairly crusty, set in their ways, RAF officers; which is really unfair, at an early stage in her career, having to battle all that.
But she did, came through it, and paved the way for some women after her. So, that's Mandy.
The next is Mike Capuzzi. Now Mike works with what he calls Main Street; but you and I, we call High Street. But Main Street businesses. Trying to show them the role a book can have in their business. He works, I think a lot with professionals, so like, dentists and doctors in America, who operate in a slightly different way, than they do in the UK. But, there's almost no business that he says would not benefit from investing. And particularly, it's so easy now, with self-publishing, investing in a book for your business. So, here's Mike.
Mike Capuzzi. Thank you so much, indeed, for joining us on The Self Publishing Show. Great to have you along, you feel like a man with a wealth of experience behind you, in the general area of marketing, specifically more recently books. But, there's this revolution happening, as you know, in self-publishing; publishing, turning itself upside down. And, it seems to me, you are one of those people who's been able to straddle across quickly, and reinvent yourself a little bit from the, perhaps more traditional law of 20 years ago, to the way things are working now. So, before we get going, and a little bit about you, your background.
Why don't you tell me how you feel about what's happening in publishing at the moment?
Mike Capuzzi: Yep. Well, very quick background James is, actually I have an engineering degree, so I was an engineer.
James Blatch: Okay.
Mike Capuzzi: So, that explains why I take things apart and rebuild. But, have been serving clients with my own consulting business, since 1998, worked in corporate America; and then left to start a marketing consulting company. And, have been doing that, putting food on my table for my family for the last, 22 years now.
So, used to work with big clients. Now, I typically work with what I call Main Street business owners, more of local business owners, small business owners, medium size business owners. And, actually I've been publishing books for clients for over 10 years, but very quietly. One-off projects, as we've needed them. And really, what I've seen, at least in my own opinion, is the real need for what I call, pithy and powerful content.
You have so many books these days, I believe are just filled with bloat. And, the average person will pick up a book, with the best of intentions, and then chapter two in, they lose their train of thought, and something else pops in. And, they never finish it, which I think is a shame. And, I become a real proponent of what I call, short helpful books, shooks. And, it's really just about, James, getting to the point on a very focused idea, very focused topic; and not bloviating. And, really just helping people read the book in about an hour; and then, go to that next step. So that's, the trend that I have seen. Obviously social media, the internet, in all the opportunities for information, have really caused people to have much shorter attention spans, in my opinion.
James Blatch: Yeah. It does feel like we have shorter attention spans today, but the flip side of that, which you alluded to, is that there's just so much information out there, that it doesn't do to spend a lot of time on one person in one area; when you know that there's competing areas of information. So, I guess the trick in addition, one thing is moderate, is adapting the content to that, which is what I guess you're doing here; and then, making it stand out.
It can't simply be a case of, making it short and pithy. How do people get heard?
Mike Capuzzi: Well, I mean, listen, the first thing, and this goes with... Again, my background's marketing. So, typically offline, the old school ways, direct mail, in-person type of stuff; but obviously, online these days too. And without a doubt, regardless of whatever type of marketing, you're working on a book, whatever it is, lead generation, sales; the first thing is, you have to know who you want to talk to.
So, this idea of everybody should be my customer, is obviously an inaccurate thought. So, the tighter the focus, James, of who you are trying to talk to, specifically with a book now, who do I want to read this book? I always say, what do they look like? And, I don't mean physically. But, what are their characteristics? What are their demographics, psychographics, etc.? So, that's the first step.
And then, once you know, what I call, who the who is, it's really about putting a very focused message, a singular topic. There's a great book out there, called The One Thing. What's the one thing that your book can be about that's going to attract a small group of people, and that's not everybody. And, really help that person, dive deeper into that topic. So in my opinion, I think really knowing who the who is, and presenting a very focused concept, a very focused big idea, makes it stand out; not for everybody, but for that ideal reader.
James Blatch: I do think that's still a mistake that lots of people make is, trying to be too many things.
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah.
James Blatch: Even today. Okay. Well, let's explore this a bit more. You talk about Main Streets a lot, which I guess we call the high Street in the UK, because we use slightly different language. But Main Street is, traditionally where you nip out and get your stuff variety. Sort of everyday type of shopping.
Now, do you think this is a fertile area, in the digital environment?
Mike Capuzzi: Well, yes I do. It's not an easy area. Obviously, what's going on in the world right now, it's even harder. But I mean, here in America, Main Street has been the backbone. And by Main Street, I don't necessarily mean it has to be a store, but it's typically the local business owner, who serves a local community, and I call it, they want to be five mile famous. They only want to be famous, in their community.
They want to be the best dentist, the best accountant, whatever, the best gym owner. So, it's not critical for them to have a worldwide audience, some do, but for most people, it's just this five mile famous. And yeah they all have competition. Very few places just have one dentist, one accountant. So, the astute business owner, the business owner who wants to maximise their visibility, their sales, their profitability, they need to figure out ways to stand out. And, as you and I both know, being a published author, a self-published author, is still in this day and age, one of the most powerful ways you can differentiate yourself.
James Blatch: You say you started helping people publish books 10 years ago or so. Is that since self-publishing has been an option, or did you go down the traditional route with some people?
Mike Capuzzi: No, we've always self-published James, but the difference being back then. So, the first book that I did was in 2007, the first client book I did was in 2008. When I did my first book, which again, we self-published, I had to order 3000 copies that, I had to go get a truck to go get them because I wanted the price point to be a certain price point. So, self publishing existed then, but it was dramatically different than it is today.
Technology, Amazon, all the different services out there, have just made it so much easier for people to now come up with an idea, I read, or I want to target, I have a good idea, a big idea for that reader. And, literally in 30 to 60 days, it's not quicker, they can have a printed book in hand. And, it doesn't have to be, whatever it was, 3000 copies. It could be as little as one copy, if they want to do that.
James Blatch: Yeah. And, what is the role of a book for your Main Street business? And, if we expand the definition of that, as you said, it doesn't have to be a hardware store, it can be a digital service even, that serves a specific community.
What is the role of a book for that?
Mike Capuzzi: Well, let me just clarify. When I say Main Street, again, you're right, it's either the person who has that local business, either bricks and mortar, or where they go out to someone's place of business or home. Or like you just said, it's a business owner who serves a Main Street business owner. So, I kind of lump them together. So, the digital marketing agency owner. I'm a voracious reader. I grew up reading, I love books. Right over here, I have a huge library in my office, and books have always been seen as objects of value. So, I don't need to tell you or your audience this, 100 years ago, 200 years ago, today books are seen as objects of value. People typically are used to paying for books. Now, the online stuff has maybe diminished what those numbers are, but they still are used to paying for books.
So, unlike most marketing content, James, a book is automatically seen differently. No one pays for a brochure, no one pays for a business card, typically those things get thrown away. People pay for books, people keep books. And, even if they don't read them, they'll keep it, maybe pass it along. So right away, a book, a physical book, a PDF, a Kindle book, not quite the same thing, but have their place. But a physical book, a book that you can literally hand someone, "Hey James, here's my book," automatically positions that person differently, in the eyes and minds of a prospect, a potential customer, a potential client.
That person may not articulate it. But without a doubt, there's something special when you hand someone your book. So, because they're seen as objects of value, because people position authors at typically a higher level, it can really be a game changer.
And, the other thing just very quickly. When you have a book, when you self-publish that first book, and create what I call a book-centric marketing strategy. Where it's not about selling your product or services, it's about have a problem, get my book, have this problem, get my book, want to do this, get my book first. And, making that first step be, get my book and then, everything follows after that. That is a more sophisticated, that is a higher and different way of selling. So, whoever is marketing and selling that way, automatically is perceived differently than the competition.
James Blatch: So, it's almost a brand value raising thing, a book raises the stock that you hold in the eyes of somebody, when you have a book.
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. In my opinion, and with the people I talk to on a daily basis, without a doubt. And again, I think it's critical for anybody who's listening or watching, and who has not published that first book and wants to. I just talked to someone the other day, they're like, "Ah, I've been wanting to write a book for 37 years." This is what they told me, "I've been want to write a book for 37 years." Like okay, let's do it. Because again, we'll talk more about this, I'm sure. But a lot of people have mental blocks, about getting started. But, I mean, who hasn't gone to a book signing? Who hasn't seen or gone to an event, and seeing someone up on stage saying, "Hey, I just wrote a book, and I'll be back in the room, and I'll autograph it for you." People love that. And even, in this day and age, when there's so much free content out there, a book can really cut through the clutter.
James Blatch: Okay. So, let's talk about the shook. This is a phrase that you've coined Mike.
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah.
James Blatch: This short, helpful book.
What's the typical shook? What should be thinking about in terms of length and content?
Mike Capuzzi: In a quick marketing lesson, I think it's important, I love helping people kind of see things differently. First of all, thank you for bringing that up. A shook is my brand of a published printed book. That is a key writer downer. Because again, there's a tonne of people that do what I do, that help people self-publish books, and get a book out of themselves. I had to differentiate myself. I had to be different, much like in the United States, there's Burger King, McDonald's. They both sell hamburgers, but there's the Whopper and Big Mac. They have their own brands.
So, just as a little marketing lesson, James. That is why I created my own brand of, short helpful book, the shook, to differentiate myself. But, what we're talking about here is... And, I've got a couple here just to bring on screen.
These are real books. These are three recent shooks. They sit on my bookshelf, people can read the spine. They're meant to be read in about an hour, hour and a half. My latest one, The 100-Page Book, would articulate that we're talking about, roughly a 100 pages, 120 pages. They follow a very specific recipe, a very specific flow, if you will. But, really they're about on average, 12 to 15,000 words. Whereas the typical business book, is anywhere from 50 to 75,000 words. Much quicker to write, which is key for us, the authors. Much quicker to read and have the reader take action, which is a real game changer, that a lot of authors don't think about.
James Blatch: We talked about Main Street, but is there anybody left who wouldn't benefit from having a book to their name, a shook?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. I mean, It'll sound self-serving. But I cannot think of anybody who... Maybe they will not invest the time, energy and money to work with someone like myself. Maybe they read one of my shooks, and go do it themselves. But, I can't think of any business owner. I mean, again, pizza shop owner, it may sound odd. How can a pizza shop owner have a shook. But, they could tell about the family history, and that the grandmother in Italy had this recipe, and they fill it with testimonials, and it's sitting on the thing. And maybe, the only reason they're selling it, is to raise money for some special cause that's close, and near and dear to them. But to answer your question, no. I mean, it really comes down to what your goal is, what the goal is of the shook.
I think any business owner could benefit, or at least maybe take the light off of themselves, and help others. I always call it, it's about helping before selling. Good business owners and good businesses are here to help serve, before we ask for money in return. And, a book helps all of that. I can't think of anybody who could not benefit, by being a self-published author.
James Blatch: And that, brings me on to thinking about the commercial side of it; which is obviously in some cases, you are adding value to your brand and being helpful, and that will lead to commercial opportunities down the line.
In other cases, are there people who can directly make money from a shook?
Mike Capuzzi: Well, yes. But again, with the clients I work with, and what I write about, it's not about the money on the front end. So again, traditional publishing, traditional authorship, it's about, I sell a $20 book and I get two dollars. Self-published authors in some cases, are worried about that. My clients and the people I help, write a shook and publish a shook. It's more about the money on the backend, by selling their products and services, by increasing the know, like, and trust factor through a printed book.
So yeah, you can make a couple dollars, but I never ever want that to be the focus with the clients I work with. It's about helping before selling and then letting the book, and the book-centric marketing, do the heavy lifting, and hopefully they'll turn into a customer or client.
James Blatch: So, if people are turning over in their mind now, they might be a dentist, or a mechanic, or something they're thinking, do you know what writing a book... I mean, first of all, when I thought immediately of dentist and mechanic, when I was trying to think, who would benefit, or is there someone who can't benefit from having a book, but actually both of those could. A dentist in particular, I think, it would help the dentist, to it to have a more informed patient who understands the process of what's going to go on, what choices they're going to be offered, what options there might be, that they don't discuss. All of that could go into a really handy little book, that goes into the waiting room. So, I'm thinking about somebody listening to this now, who might be one of those professions or something unrelated to publishing.
How do they get started? Because a lot of people don't consider themselves authors, Mike, do they?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. And by the way, as soon as we hang up from our call today, I have a call with a dentist who's a prospect. So, we work with a lot of dentists. Professional practise owners are a no brainer; lawyer, doctor, dentists.
But, I think the first thing James is just like I shared that story of the person who said they wanted to write a book for 37 years, just hasn't. I mean, the first thing is a commitment to yourself, "I'm going to do it." Right? During this whole COVID thing, we've seen a big uptick in people wanting to write their book. They've had more time, whatever. So it's really about the commitment.
And again, I always try to challenge folks, don't put it on yourself. Don't think, "Oh, I got to write a book," or, "It's going to take me forever." It's about serving. If you don't get that book out there for that ideal reader and help him or her, or give them the information they're seeking, you are not serving them. So if you can say, "Listen, I'm willing to commit. I'm going to do this by, whatever, 90 days out." And just make that commitment, set a deadline.
And again, try to take the spotlight off yourself and what you have to do and put it on your ideal reader and how you're going to serve them. And I think that makes it that much easier to get started.
James Blatch: And do you have a format? Because literally some people won't know where to start, right?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. I mean, again, the answer is absolutely. And that's why I said in the beginning, I'm an engineer, right? So I'm very detail oriented. By degree, I haven't done engineering 25 years. But yes. I love to cook. I grew up in an Italian family, so cooking, eating, that's very important to me. My Italian grandmother had lots of little recipes, which I wish I had kept. I didn't, but I can remember her little recipe cards. And even though she knew how to cook, she followed a recipe. Well, shooks follow a recipe.
And you mentioned earlier, they're a direct response type of book. Well, direct response marketing is a different type of marketing. It's about creating reasons why people should respond. It's not just about getting something out there. It's about putting stuff out there, but asking for a response. So these are direct response books. They ask for a response. They give readers multiple ways to respond.
And yes, we follow a very specific formula that I've developed. It's my Big Mac or Whopper type recipe, where we have a very specific flow. And in the case of our clients, they just follow the step-by-step process. They work directly with me. We work together, we get on Zoom calls, we get on phone calls, we mastermind different things, and then they go to the next step. So yeah, it's a step-by-step recipe that, again, can be very simple as long as you just do it.
James Blatch: And do you teach us a specific route in publishing, Mike, because there are different options are able to there, of course.
Mike Capuzzi: Yep. We have different options. So typically in our world, James, it's either the business owner who wants to be five mile famous. So in that case, we're printing their books for them, they're using them in their business, their practise, whatever.
Again, we do have clients that have a global audience. So even though they're serving, for example, a software company CEO, I worked with one of those recently. He has a global audience. He could sell his software around the world. He's selling it to main street business owners, but he has a worldwide audience. So in that case, we leveraged Amazon, all the online opportunities to get his or her shook out there. But it's all self published, we do not go the traditional publishing route. Our clients own their content, they're responsible for their content, and it's truly self publishing, but more in a boutique sense.
James Blatch: So you help people out, you help them get the book out there rather than leave them entirely to themselves?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. And that's actually an interesting point we can touch on. The kind of clients I serve definitely have some unique opportunities to get their books out there that are a little bit different than traditional authors. But yeah, we show them all the ways that main street type business owners should be leveraging a book.
James Blatch: How big is this area in terms of growth? How many people are thinking about writing a book for the first time, in your experience? Has this changed over the last couple of years?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. There's a lot more people like you and I who are trying to help others. So there's podcasts, and you just have to go to Amazon and see all the ... Type in, "Self publishing book," and you'll see all the different opportunities out there. Business is not getting easier. There's not less competition. So the astute business owner is looking for ways to differentiate.
And again, unlike a lot of things, and I hope to God this doesn't happen. I've shown examples, James, of Oaks that are over a hundred years old were local main street businesses used a book as a lead generation device. So the last, hundred years books have worked. The market hasn't gotten that saturated. So I think the opportunity is still going to be there, and I think to be a business owner who really wants to try to figure out a unique way and have a unique asset that's working for them, publishing and self publishing a book is smart.
James Blatch: And is this a big part of your consulting business, the book side?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah, it's actually grown. And again, what's most interesting is we were just serving our clients, and if the clients said, "Hey Mike, I want to think about something new." We just say, "Well listen, how about doing a book?" Two years ago, we started really ramping it up. We actually formed a new venture last year, Bite Sized Books. And then this year has just gone bonkers. And again, we're not trying to be this big publishing company. I'm here on earth to serve certain types of clients, and that's what it's all about. Who can I serve and help them get their book done?
James Blatch: And you say, so your clients, you talk about the lawyers and dentists and so on that I mentioned, is that expanding out in your mind to the smaller, the flower shop owners? And I'm trying to think in the digital space now, as you say, people helping other companies with their Facebook marketing and that sort of thing? Because that's a huge growth area of course.
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah, probably not so much, James. And the reason being, even if you do it on your own, self publishing a book, it is a time commitment. It is a money commitment. If you're doing everything on yourself, it's not as big as working with a self publishing company, but it's a commitment. And for a smaller transactional business, a flower shop, pizza shop, even though I could still see them doing something.
By the way, my daughter, who was a senior in high school, published a book and raised a lot of money with that book. Again, there's other reasons why you can't publish a book. But I think for the smaller, more transactional businesses, those business owners are more focused on more digital marketing opportunities, Facebook, I think there's ... It feels like it's a quicker way to get people's attention.
James Blatch: So what are the other options? What would go alongside a shook because presumably it's not going to be the single plan kind of strategy?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah, no. And it shouldn't. And we always say, people don't like to hear this necessarily, but believe it or not writing and self publishing and getting the book printed and all that good stuff, design and printed, that's the easy part, really. The harder part is being committed and being disciplined to use it on a regular basis and to have different avenues of opportunity for people to get your book, and then the follow-up even after that.
So, no, it's really a multi-pronged approach. But we always say there's before shook, with shook, and after shook marketing, and each of those has a number of things you ought to be doing to get the book in someone's hand. And then when you send it or they get it, what goes with it? And then afterwards the followup. The money's in the follow-up. So yeah, there's multiple strategies.
James Blatch: Now is there anything here for the fiction author? I don't know if any of your clients come to you and say, "I've got a book in me, I think it's a romance or a science fiction." This is not the area, presumably, you're focused on?
Mike Capuzzi: No, no. Now I have yet to write a fictional book, even though I think it would be kind of cool to do that, I have yet to do that myself. No, these are marketing and sales tools, James, that's what I help business owners with.
James Blatch: Yeah. And we do know that the book is now, as you say, it's adding value to who you are. Whether ultimately your revenue stream is going to come from conference appearances or something like that, the book has an important part of that.
I wonder, do you think we'll get to a saturation point if everyone's producing shooks? Or is this still only a small percentage are getting this?
Mike Capuzzi: Well in my head, I worry about that kind of stuff, because we've seen how online marketing has been prostituted, right? I mean, we've seen over and over again. I can remember, I started using webinars back in 2004.
James Blatch: Wow.
Mike Capuzzi: I had to Go To Webinar account way back in 2004. I actually created a course in 2009 on how to use webinars, and there was nothing out there at the time. Now everyone has webinars stuff, or Zoom stuff now. So we have seen marketers saturate the opportunities that are out there.
Go to Amazon, go to BNN.com, whatever. And yeah, there's multiple books on most topics. The differentiation point though, James, is there's only one of you, there's only one of me, and by articulating that through the written word, our own philosophies, our own beliefs, getting people to know, like, and trust us through our written word, that will always be unique.
So there's always going to be unique people that you can serve and get what you do. And I think if given that being the case, and really following good direct response principles of being highly focused and knowing your read and all that, I don't think we're anywhere near saturation point.
James Blatch: I think you're probably right. And do you think there's a reverse benefit here?
Do you see this in your clients, in the once they committed to writing the book, or shook, they've put stuff down, that then helps them organise themselves in their mind and feeds back into the way they operate their business?
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. You must have read on one of my books. I say that exactly. It's an amazing benefit, James. And it's one I've reaped over and over. So when you are intentional like that, when you skip focus, this is why I love it, even though we offer ghost writing and all that, I'm not a big fan of it. I'd rather get clients to sit there and think, along with my help, but there's a hidden benefit that comes from that. And amazing things can bubble up when they start logically thinking about things, seeing new opportunities a different way.
I just worked with a young guy, he's still in the military, he's a fighter pilot. He's an F-16 fighter pilot, very cool guy. And he has a business also, a real estate investing business. Now, since we worked on his first shook, he's published three or four, but the stuff that arose from him writing the book was so beneficial to his business, he redid everything, his website, his messaging, because he finally got clarity, because he just focused on exactly one type of person with one specific message.
James Blatch: Wow. I don't know what it is about F-16 pilots. We've got two in our community I can think of. These are driven people though, aren't they? They've obviously worked hard to be where they are. And they, towards the end of their flying career, start to think about what's next? And they want to get that thing right as well. So we can learn a lot from them.
Okay, Mike, what's the one thing people should take away from this interview?
Mike Capuzzi: I would say at minimum, if you think a book and being a published book author can help others, and help you and yourself, by all means do it. This podcast, other podcasts, there's so many opportunities to learn how to do this. That should not be the stumbling block. Just do it. It sounds like a cliché, but people want your information, they want what you have, and a book could be the ideal medium to give it to them.
James Blatch: Do you find yourself having to inject a bit of confidence in people who might lack that? Not quite believe that they've got something of value?
Mike Capuzzi: Sometimes, for sure. Again, most of the folks that follow me and want to do this, they're already in the mindset. They're typically well within this ... The stream of, "I get a book will help me." But yeah. There's folks that definitely need that self-belief and that confidence. Again, my daughter is a case in point. And again, if you just break it down into bite size chunks and just tackle each chunk at a time, the task of writing a book is a lot less daunting.
James Blatch: Yeah. So by the time they come to you, they are probably in that mindset. But the people listening to this podcast, maybe those people who don't realise that there is a value to them putting down what they know and what they can teach others?
Mike Capuzzi: Yep, yep.
James Blatch: Great. Mike, I can't remember if there's a giveaway, or something we can give people, a PDF or so that we can help people along the way if they're thinking about this?
Mike Capuzzi: Well, thank you. And with your permission, yeah, I'll share. I have a couple of gifts, James, I've put together for your listeners. One of my shooks is called Main Street Author. And this is really more a book about how local business owners use shooks. It's not the how to book some of my other ones are, but if they go to MikeCapuzzi.com/gifts, that's plural, gifts, I'll send them a link where they can actually read this online. So they don't even have to buy it, they can read it online. I'll also send the audio version. We didn't talk about that, but audio books are becoming bigger. So I'll send them the audio book so they can listen to it.
I talk about these building blocks and step- by-step, I've created something called the Shook Building Blocks. And when you print these off, they are like little cards that you can literally build ... How to build your shook. So I'll give him a copy of that. So those three gifts, if they go to MikeCapuzzi.com/gifts.
James Blatch: Superb. Well, Mike, thank you very much indeed for taking time out of your day. Good luck with the dentist who's coming up.
Mike Capuzzi: All right, James.
James Blatch: I'm sure he or she will benefit.
Mike Capuzzi: Yeah. Thank you very much.
James Blatch: There you go. This is something we talk about quite a lot amongst ourselves, Mark. You and I have talked about the 101 course in particular being something that's ... Very large parts of it, very relevant to marketing a book for the non-fiction author, as well as fiction authors.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Both this course and 101, they're both about book selling. That's the end of the day, approaching it from different angles, you need both of those working together. But all about book sales. So why wouldn't it work for fiction and non-fiction? The product at the end of the day is just the same, and the methods you use to sell out at the same too. So yeah, no reason why it wouldn't work.
James Blatch: A few years ago, these big big speakers, motivational speakers, they all had books. And that often, Victor Kiama, whoever, they were huge sellers in the business world. Now that's a market that's become very, very big. It's a billion dollar industry. Just that nonfiction self-improvement managerial tips. Who's the big guy who does the .. Rob-
Mark Dawson: Well there's Stephen R. Covey, he does the 10 Habits Of Highly Effective People. There's Tony Robbins-
James Blatch: Tony Robbins, I was thinking of, yeah.
Mark Dawson: I could go on, and on, and on about the number of people in that space who have those kinds of books. It's more than a billion dollars, a multi-billion dollar industry, self improvement, all that kind of thing.
James Blatch: Yeah, and more than just the book itself being a big part of their income. It's still, we would say, an important part of your brand and your calling card, and as Mandy is finding out when she goes to events and has the book at the back of the hall, if people remember her, they go, they learn more about her, know more about, and that's got to be great for her future real-world bookings for speaking and so on.
So right, that's non-fiction. We do talk about fiction a lot, so I'm really pleased. We've had an episode devoted to nonfiction. And I hope whether you're writing thrillers, romance, paranormal romance, or nonfiction, that's been relevant to you, both those interviews today.
Mark, you need to get down the range and practise a bit more your golf. You and I both suddenly playing golf because we've become middle aged, is that what happened here?
Mark Dawson: I think something like that. Yeah. We have a crisis going on.
James Blatch: Yeah, we have a crisis. Gets us out of the house though, doesn't it?
Mark Dawson: That's true, yeah. Although, yeah, it was quite hard playing on Saturday, it was quite nice but it did get dark quite early. So yeah, that's autumn for you. Joy.
James Blatch: I can't wait for the SPF Open next year.
Mark Dawson: That'll just be me and you. We have to get John, I'm not sure if John has ever played golf in his life.
James Blatch: He can be my caddy.
Mark Dawson: He could do, yes.
James Blatch: Yeah. And there's lots of golfers in SPF. Ernie Dempsey is a very good golfer. I played a little bit of golf at the range with him. Good. Okay. Look, that's us. That's this week. We will be back next week. We have a good line up. In fact, I was looking at it just today, the interviews coming up in the future. We've had a very busy period of recording interviews and we're now reaping the rewards of that. So the next few weeks are going to be awesome as we go above and beyond 2 million downloads for this show. Thank you very much indeed for being a part of that. That's it all that remains we'd say is it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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