Hey everybody and welcome to another episode on the influential Personal Brands. AJ Vaden here, one of your co-hosts. And I’m very, very excited to have a special guest and a new friend on the show today. But she’s new to me. She’s not new to Brain Builders Group or to my husband Roy Vaden, because Esther works with tons of our clients, lots of our friends, and also some of our team members. And I was just sharing this with her before, if we didn’t already have such a tight relationship with our literary agent, Nina, like there is no one else on the planet that we would even consider to desire to work with other than Esther. So before I give her a formal introduction, I just wanna tell you guys why you need to stick around for this show because as you saw the title of the show, it’s How to Write a New York Times bestselling book.
And here are the reasons that you wanna stick around to the end. Number one, you can’t write a New York Times bestselling book surprise. So you probably need to stick on, figure out then, well, how on God’s green Earth do you get one if it’s not writing one? So that’s the first thing. Second thing is that this is an episode for you who are in the author space. It doesn’t not matter if you dream of being one, you’re an aspiring one, you’re a first time one, or you’re an established author. This is an episode of if you have a book that you want to get into the hands of other humans you need to listen to, because that’s what we’re gonna talk about. And then the third are just what are some of the ins and outs of actually making it work in the publishing industry today?
Because it’s changing. It’s been changing, it will continue to change. So as someone who’s in that creative space and you wanna get your thoughts on paper and that paper into the hands of many, what do you need to know of how to get a book published and out into the world today? So that’s why you wanna listen and lemme tell you mainly why you want to listen. So I’m gonna tell you a little bit about Esther formally. So Esther is the owner of the Fed Agency. Esther oh my gosh, see better Kevin? Yep. I’ve been saying for Dork for Forever Better Kevi, I’m gonna like say this in my sleep now, but she’s the owner of the Fed Agency. She started her career in a lot of different ways, but some very I think important things to know is like you were part of the Dave Ramsey organization and really helped grow that to what it is. I think that, I think I read somewhere that you have helped more than 80 books become on the New York Times bestseller list a hundred.
We’re over a hundred now. We just hit 102.
Woo. I mean, if that doesn’t inspire you to listen to the rest of this episode, then you can just go ahead and like hop off right now. But it’s like if you’ve helped more than a hundred people hit the New York Times list, this is just extraordinary. But one of the things that I loved most about your bio that you sent over is that you’re not just in the business of helping people get their books published. This is about changing lives helping dreams come true and really being a conduit of really good messages for people all around the world. And I love that you’re also a mom. You’ve got two kids. You live in Austin, Texas, and I could go on and on and on, but Esther, welcome to the
Show. Thanks AJ for having me.
Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. I have like, genuinely been looking forward to this conversation. Four weeks ever since we got this scheduled because I, I wanna just be I wanna be like one of your customers today because I think there’s so much changing in this space and in the industry of what I’m gonna call thought leadership or the knowledge economy. That’s, I just, I think that we’re, if you’re not constantly having these conversations, you’re already behind. And so as we kinda like step into this and what does it look like today, I wanna know two things to help our audience get to know you is one, you could have done so many different things. Like you have sold millions and millions and millions of dollars through book publishing. You have worked with some of the largest names, household names out there. You could be doing anything you want. Why did you pick this space? So that’s my first question.
Okay. So I didn’t pick it, it kind of fell in my lap when I started working for Dave Ramsey. We were self-publishing and then publishing with publishers about 50 different products a year. And they were all financial products. So I was trying to think of like a new way to say the same thing with a new marketing. It’s all marketing guys, right? So new marketing idea, new way. And it was get, I’m like, I wanna do more than just finance books. And so I worked for Dave till the day I gave birth to my first daughter. I was 25 years old and I said, I’m gonna start my own literary agency and I think I could do this. I was good at sales. And I’m like, I love story. So what, it really fell in my lap. Cause I love story. I’m really a branding and marketing person.
A lot of literary agents come in this space because they’re literary, they’re writers. I came in this space as an entrepreneur and businesswoman, but coming in from the say I love story and I love helping people know how to market that story. Cuz there’s one thing about writing a great book and then there’s the other thing about getting it out there and selling it. So both things matter, but it kind of fell in my lap. And then I’m really good with people. I was a big Zig Zeigler fan growing up. I mean, I think I’ve listened to every Zig zeigler, you know, audio cassette back in the day. And like, I also just love people. So Dave Ramsey had us read a book. He made all of his employees read a book, how To Win Friends and Influence People. And then I did this Dale Carnegie course and I’m like, I’m really good with people. I love story and I can sell. So I kind of said, wow, that makes a good literary agent, someone who can sell Ari. Because most writers aren’t salespeople naturally. Yeah. Most writers are, you know, they have the ideas, they’re right, they’re, they don’t like bragging about themselves. So it’s perfect for someone like me coming in and helping get their message out.
Matt, I love that. And you put in your bio statement that that’s your also your favorite book. Why is that your favorite book?
I think because it’s still relevant today. When he wrote that, think about it, it was no social media. There was no, I mean, I told my employees all the time, did you talk to them? Did you actually actually pick up the phone and talk to them? Right? Did you, so I love relationships, I love building relationships. And my whole business has been built on relationships, real genuine relationships. And I think a lot of times this younger generation comes in and they have, you know, a hundred thousand friends on Instagram or Facebook, but they couldn’t, they have never picked up the phone and talked to them. Mm-Hmm. . So that’s a big thing for me is in How to Win Friends and people like, like all those principles, if you haven’t read it, read it, it’s still relevant today.
Oh, it’s one of my favorite books too. It was mandatory reading early in my sales career. And you said something that I think is gonna set the precedent for the rest of our conversation, which is, you’re, you’re in the literary field, but at the end of the day, you’re branding and marketing aka sales. And I think one of the things that we run into all the time with our podcast listeners to, with, with our Brain Builders Group community and just with everyday conversations is people somehow have forgotten that relationships are still the fundamental way that we do business today. And they think that you get enough followers, you get enough this and this is gonna figure itself out. And, you know, we are lucky to be behind the scenes of a lot of launches. And I’ll tell you what, lots of emails do not convert into lots of books all the time. And lots of followers do not convert into lots of sales most of the time. And so hence why I think this conversation, I’m
Glad you figured that out. Cause if there, if that was true, right? We’d all have the magic formula and no, just to sign someone if they had 10 million followers that they were gonna sell 10 million books. But that’s not the case.
That is not the case. And so here is why we’re here today. Like what is it? Like, what do we need to be doing? So here’s my first here’s my first question which is kind of like, you know, part two of a little bit about your backstory is what, what do you think makes someone not a great writer, but a great candidate to hit a list? Because I think that’s like ultimately what so many people want is like, how do I hit that Personally, I don’t really care, but I know that it’s a big goal of most. And so I’m curious, what do you think it is not about the writing, but what makes someone a good candidate to have the list eligibility?
Well, I say like, as an agent, I look for three things, right? And you have to have two of these three things to be successful. And I think to have a chance to be a New York Times bestseller, and this is for me acquiring an author to go sell, right? But then I still think it’s relevant as when they go to brand builders and you’re helping ’em, or they’re doing it on their own. It, you have to have a great book. It still has to be a good book guys to sell. Like you can’t just write crap, right? And then think it’s gonna sell because you have 50 million followers, right? That’s, I mean, I can prove you over and over again people that have 50 million plus followers that haven’t sold a hundred thousand books.
I, I agree.
So step one, have good content. Step one, the content’s gotta be good. And if you have the ideas and thoughts, work with a great writer or, or collaborator that can help you put those, read them in a way that you’re making the reader, you’re empowering ’em to change, you’re encouraging, you’re inspiring, you’re, you know, making ’em cry. You’re making ’em laugh, whatever the goal is of that book. But they really wanna, at the end, when they close it, they wanna get up and go their, their life has changed somehow. Mm-Hmm. number two is platform, right? And we always talk about this platform, platform platform. It’s easier for me to sell someone with a big platform than someone who’s the most incredible writer, right? But they don’t have a platform. And that’s sad. Back in the day, it was all about the writing or, you know, before social media.
When I started, I started in 2003, the only social media around was MySpace. So there was no Facebook, there was no Instagram, there was, there was no TikTok there. So think like I like started as a young agent, right? When social media was coming out and how the older authors were thinking that we’re selling, you’d actually go into retail and find their book. So I, a quote of mine is, with the death of retail is the death of discoverability. So there’s no retail anymore. So gotta get that outta your mind. And everything is our phone. I don’t have mine here or like the computer. It’s how people are getting to you to buy that book. So platform is huge. And when I can find, even if someone doesn’t have the biggest platforms, but they have a cultish engaged platform mm-hmm. , but where people really follow ’em and respond, that’s even more important.
If you, and you can look at that by like, what’s their engagement level, what’s their likes? How many people are actually commenting? That’s super important. That means they have a tribe that’s pretty, you know, dialed into them. And then the third thing, so you got, it has to be a good book, right? A good content. It’s gotta be platform. And the third one is gotta be a creative idea. It’s gotta be a good idea. That’s why when you see some of these books that they have a saying on it, like, make Your Bed Right? Or the four Hour We Work Week, I put them the four hour work week just cause I’m like, Ooh, that sounds amazing. Four hours a week, that’s all I would have to work. Right? And it’s not even about that. So it’s like having a really cool concept where idea or thought process that like actually makes your book different is really big.
The har like when someone has a great story, so many people have great stories. It’s finding that secret thing in your story and expanding off of that. Mm-Hmm. . And that’s what we do. Because I come from marketing and branding. When I sit with an author, I never go to an author and say, you should write a book. Right? If I’m talking to a huge celebrity, they hear that all the time. I go to them and say, Hey, I’ve been studying, I look at what they engage in. You should write this book. This is the type of book you should write. And that’s why I usually sign these big, you know, celebrities because I’m actually bringing them a really creative idea of why this is the type of book they should write. And I think a lot of times people wanna write a book and it’s not the book they should write, they actually should start somewhere else. And it, and that’s where it’s great when you’re talking to marketers or branders where you’re coming up in a network of saying, this is what really makes you unique.
No, I love that. It’s not that you should write a book, it’s you should write that book that you need to write a book about that. So like, for any of you listening, it’s just, I would just sit there and ask yourself like, what do people actually come to you for? Right? And it’s like, that’s something we talk about all a lot, a lot even in like our own like family and our own personal brands at Brand Builders Group is like, what do people come to you for? Like, what’s that superpower thing? It’s not that you have a great story, it’s the stories, the launching pad. It’s what is something that you do so well, so uniquely different that you could write a whole book about it. Yeah.
And so like a lot of times like for a pastor by, like, I work with a lot of pastors of huge megachurches, right? And let’s say they wanna write on something and that’s the sermon that got the worst downloads, right? But that’s what they really care about. And I’ll look at them and say, what’s the message that everyone comes back? They remember 10 years? Like, what’s your core message? And guess what that core message is? Their biggest selling book. Like if you look at Warren with the Purpose Driven Life or Joel o with Your Best Life Now, or like, I could go on and on. All of those were those pastor’s core message that people remembered and kept coming back to them. So it’s not the other, the new message because why haven’t any of their other books sold with that book is sold. So it’s, it’s, I think it’s really kind of identifying what that secret thing is, why people love you and are coming to you, what content is that that they’re going
For? Yeah, I love that. Cuz so many people do. It’s like, and there’s this, I’m not saying this is right and or wrong, you can say that, but I won’t. But it’s like so many people want to tell their story, right? And it’s like, that’s for a keynote, that’s for a blog, that’s for social media and that’s a piece of the book, but it’s not the book.
Yep. You got it. You’re exactly. So a lot of times people are like, oh, I wanna tell my story. Well, memoirs don’t sell that well, right? You have to have the secret in the memoir, right? Mm-Hmm. in your story. So I’m really big on my biggest space is it’s on the New York Times, it’s the miscellaneous how to, it’s the self-help space. So we do tons of memoirs, but when we tell that celebrity story, it’s a hook about how they live their life. What, what made them successful? Yeah. What made them not quit? What made them, so that’s the angle of the book with pieces of their story throughout. But I don’t like a book where it’s like, I was born here and then I went here , and then I like, that’s boring, right? And the only person you’re selling that to is your core, core crazy cultish fan base, right? Yeah. That’s the only people that are gonna buy that book. And that’s why lots of huge celebrities that do memoirs, they’re like a bestseller for them is 40,000 books and they have mm-hmm. millions and millions of fans. It’s because they didn’t like identify what that core thing is.
Yeah. I love that so much. And I love this whole thing. It’s, you know, it’s one, one, I kind of wrote this down, it’s like whenever you’re saying it’s like clearly you have to have good content, but it’s like, make it sticky, make it memorable. Make it shareable, right? It’s like, it’s not like, oh, that was a good book and then you forget that you ever read it. Which I’ve done lots of those two platform, it matters. And I love what you said, it’s like death of retail is death of discoverability. So you’ve got to have a platform and what is it, right? And how many people are you reaching? I love that. Number three this is just what I wrote down is it’s about the creative idea, but it’s, it’s about developing true thought leadership. Right? You know, people always say there’s, you can’t say anything that hasn’t been said that may be true, but you can say it in a new way.
You can say it in new context. And with that slight twist, so what is your version of forwarding this thought, this idea this thing. And I, I love that so much because I feel like people really struggle with how do I take these ideas from my head, get ’em on paper, but then translate them in a way where it’s not about me, it’s about the reader, it’s about the end audience, but then getting it from there to actually having someone buy it, right? Yes. So let’s assume we have great content. It’s sticky, it’s memorable, shareable. We have a good platform, we got a great idea, a unique, awesome idea. Where do we go from there?
Okay, so let me first say, if there was a magic formula, we would all be worth a billion dollars. Okay. , I’m just like, if there was a magic formula, cause then I would only pick the winners, right? So I think a lot of times you have those three things and you’re working it and sometimes something goes viral, right? That you don’t expect goes viral. Like, I did this, my daughter did, it is a good example. My daughter was doing a TikTok and she said, Hey mom I wanna let you know I put you in this TikTok. And we, it went viral and it went crazy and we had over 2 million views and 500,000 likes. And it was the dumbest video, right? And, but hot, like it went viral. So sometimes you get lucky, something goes viral, it’s the perfect timing. You get on, you know, the Today Show in Good Morning America and it’s just like the perfect lineup, right?
But I’ve had the perfect lineup of all the major shows and it wasn’t a bestseller, which it’s just like, oh, you get so upset, you’re like, what? That’s, and then that book you see 12 months later hit the New York Times. So sometimes you don’t know. It’s not like you, you, you have to do all the right things, right? And one of the things is what worked, and you, I know h i u would agree with this and Rory would agree with this. What worked two years ago doesn’t work today. It keeps changing because people are buying differently. Yeah. And they’re using different, like it was the day of the email blast was everything, right? And then it was the day of Facebook like it all, I believe you have to, you have to do all of the things and consistently. So I kind of think it, it’s like marketing you.
You can’t just talk about your book on book launch week and then not talk about it anymore. It’s, you can’t just be onto the next thing. You really gotta give a book time and make that your core message for the whole year and let people hear it, let people talk about it. That’s why if it’s a good book and it’s changing people’s lives, guess who what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna tell your friend when someone gives you a book and it’s not that great of a book. You’re not talking about it it to others. Yeah. So it’s about, I think, I think authors give up too quick. And I see this all the time. It’s like the ones that are persistent, that keep going, that keep working it, that keep investing because you have to look at an author. It’s like when you write a book, it’s a business.
Let’s get real. It’s not a hobby. If you wanna be successful, you’re starting a new business and that book is your new business. And a book can turn into more speaking dates. A book can turn into, you know, like you are opening into new audiences that you never were before. It could get you on podcasts, it could get you on media. I mean, a book, a book opens lots of doors. But, and it also makes you that expert in that topic. When you put a book out, what does everyone think? Oh my gosh, that you’re an expert. You, you must be, cuz you have a whole book, a book’s a lot of work. It’s not like, oh, you say I wanna write a book, and then you think it’s gonna be a couple hours a week of your time. Yeah. But I think authors spends so much time writing the book and then it comes to marketing and they don’t put the same amount of time into the marketing.
And they think an agent, I always say an agent is not a magician. I I’m not this, I can’t wave my magic wand and make all my books that I do hit the New York Times bestseller list. Right? It’s hard work. And so when you go in, if you can go into with that like, perspective of publishing and your book is, this is a business, I’m gonna grow my business. If you had any other business, you’re not gonna sit open up a retail store and never go work it and never go check, check out your competition and ev I mean, you’re consistently working it. And so I think authors gotta be looking at, you know, when they write a book, it’s part of their bus, it’s a business and it, or it’s part of their business and they’re gonna spend some time growing it.
Yeah. I love that. I think that’s such a great reminder of if you, if you just wanna talk about your book, just so it hits the list, don’t even bother writing it. But it’s like, you gotta be able to willing to talk about this book all day long, every single day for years and years and years. And if you don’t wanna talk about it for a lifetime, don’t write it.
And AJ that’s why when it’s your life message, you’re always talking about it. So though, that’s why the, there’s always a book for every author that’s the one that sells the most. It’s because they’re, they love talking about it. So I, identifying that makes it big.
Yeah. I think for, again, for everyone listening, it’s just, if you don’t want to talk about whatever is going on the pages of your book for a lifetime, then start over. Like start over. Because if you want people to buy it, you’re gonna have to talk about it incessantly to the point where you’re sick and tired of hearing your own voice and then you do it some more. Right? And I think that is a thing for all of us, is we move on too quickly.
What drives me crazy is when an author is on a, like they have a big break, they’re on a big show, right? Let’s say they’re on Joe Rogan and they never talk about their book. And I’m like, you’re on the big, like one of the biggest podcasts and you know, you’re talking about your book, but you never mentioned that you have a book. So like really working with authors too, and I know you guys do this like on a regular basis, but in my book, you know, here’s the title. This is what I talk about in my book. Like it’s really also training the authors. You want people, people to buy your book, right? So you’ve gotta talk about your book.
Yeah. So that kinda leads me to the second thing that I wanna talk about, which is this concept of, to be a great author, in my opinion, to be a bestselling author anyways, you have to be a great salesperson. And we, we have this saying that brain builders group that, you know, editors edit, publishers publish, but Hoover, him sells, right? And it’s like the author does, the author needs to sell. So I’d love to hear your take on how do you get people to buy your book, right? Because at some point you get big advances for authors all the time, but that big advances don’t mean anyone’s buying it. It’s like at some point you gotta, you gotta put some hustle and grind into this and say, what am I gonna do to move some books? So what moves books? Like what do you see as actually moving books today?
A bunch of things, right? All together at the same time because people look and once you see things, you know, like on your, on your feed, when you get the same thing coming up then what do you do? Oh, I gotta buy that. Right? You can’t just do it one time. You gotta keep talking. Like, if I keep seeing something over and over on Instagram, guess what? I’m gonna finally click it and buy it. So it’s consistently talking. Get on line up your podcast, do 50 podcasts, right? Do like, make sure you’re always talking about it. But okay, so when you were, when you were talking about authors have to sell their book, if you’re an author, I’m just, that is not a good salesperson that can’t sell. You better have a freaking amazing team around you that can sell for you. So if your natural skill, like I’m probably, I would say the best salesperson probably I’ve ever met.
Like honestly that’s my one gift. I didn’t think that sales actually mattered. Like, but I’m like, oh, I’m really good at selling, so let me, but I can’t sell all my authors books for them. They have to. So if I can train them a little bit how to be at least a little better than what they are at sales. And if they, if they lack that, like the truly like the writers, the introverts that can’t sell, get people around you that can help you sell mm-hmm. because there’s lots of introverts that have sold millions and millions of copies of books, right? And have had bestsellers, but they have good teams around them. So if I’m just saying that in case you’re not a naturally born salesperson, that it just comes easy to you. But be authentic to who you are. And if you love the message, you’re gonna be authentic and you won’t even realize it, but you’re selling.
Right? So I think, and I mean you guys do this right? I think it’s putting enough time in your presales up. You have to, you can’t just start promoting your book a week before your book releases. The, it’s getting longer and longer. Six months before start talking, do a cover reveal, have your audience like build up this anticipation that your book’s coming out and why they need your book. So I think it’s the building up. You can’t just start a it, I mean you can’t just start week of release. You got, I mean the best selling books, I mean we’ve have planned six months, nine months ahead of time that we’re building towards that release. Hmm. Creating multiple products. Like I love it when we have a trade book and a devotional or e-course or a bible study or a gift book like, or a children’s book like actually building where there’s other products feeding into people wanting to buy the trade book.
So everything test leads back to the trade book. So if you have a children’s book that has a some little message that kind of gears you to the trade book, it makes you wanna read the trade book. So a trade book is your, your your main book. You know, it’s, it’s the, it’s the non-fiction self-help book. And then you can have all these little products that kind of leads you or are magnets to lead you to the trade book. So offering free content, doing some kind of challenge before getting people for free to get invested in something that they’re like, wow, this is so great that they have to buy the trade book speaking, setting up a speaking tour around your book. That’s huge. Cuz speaking, you’re, you’re getting a hundred people or a thousand or 10,000 people at one time, all motivated talking, putting it on social media, buying it on Amazon. So that’s why I say like, it’s multiple things going at the same time. Is all of our bestsellers have had that.
Yeah, I think that’s
Had a plan. You can’t just go into publishing your book without a marketing plan. And so many authors go into books without a marketing plan. And the biggest, biggest mistake authors make is they think the publisher’s gonna do it for them Guys, I’m telling you, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. The publisher is not gonna do it for you. It’s all on. You have to go in, even if you’re with the biggest publisher in the world and you ha and you got a 5 million advance and every, yeah, they’re gonna put some more money into you. That’s really what they’re gonna do. But you still have to be involved and you have to work your butt off. Like it’s just how it is. You’re never gonna get a best seller if you’re sitting back and just thinking the publisher’s gonna do it for you.
No, I, I think this is really, really important. Going back to what you said earlier about launching a book, writing a book is like starting a business. So it needs to be treated like one or at least a part of the business because like to that it’s like how many of us would’ve actually lodged a business without some sort of plan or some sort of budget with the money and the funds that we had? And it’s like, most would not do that most, right? It’s no different with your book. It’s no different. And
If you go,
You gotta have a plan.
If you go the business mentality into it, you’re thinking, okay, like if I was gonna start a business and I’m like, okay, it’s gonna cost me $80,000 to invest and start this business and I’m gonna be working 80 hours a week, and I that’s your book. You should be thinking with that mentality going into your book, that is a business and you’re investing in something, however it’s gonna return. You know what your revenue returns gonna be on it, great. But it’s how much work you put into it. You cannot go into a book think you don’t have to invest any money, you don’t have to invest any time. You know, it’s not gonna be a bestseller then you’re just writing a legacy book. Like a lot of, like my rich billionaire clients do they just write a book so that their family can have it. They don’t care about sales, they don’t care about, they don’t wanna talk about it. It’s just for their, their kids, grandkids, great grandkids to know about how they started their business.
All right. So that leads me to a question that I have for you. Something you said made me think about this. So what about for the authors who want an agent wanna go the traditionally published route and they don’t really care if they ever hit a list, they want a big advance and then they just want sales to happen organically.
That’s tricky cuz most, most big one, big celebrity clients, they wanna hit a bestseller list, right? The issue I see a lot AJ, is when an author comes in, they don’t have a platform, they have a really good idea, they’re a good writer, they don’t have a big platform. And I don’t work with the smaller publishers really because the smaller publishers don’t pay advances. You’re giving up too much, you’re not controlling your rights. So we have a program here at the Fed Agency where we, we pick a select few, right? But that we publish it for them where we’re helping them grow their platform so that when they’re at the point that they’re ready for a big New York publisher, we’re able to go sell ’em and they’re of value to them. But the days of the big advances, you have to have a big platform if you’re thinking you’re good or it’s gotta be a national media story where then everybody knows the story, everybody wants to do the book and there’s a bidding war on it. And I think, I think the mistake authors make is they don’t treat a book like a business. And that’s really comes down to, so an author comes in here and they don’t care about the bestseller list, but they want a big advance, then we’ll probably get them a big advance if we can. And then the publisher’s disappointed, everyone’s disappointed, and then they’re not really doing another book anymore.
Hmm. So that’s around
Building a publishing enterprise. Like we want authors coming in and we do have the books that the authors that they’re only gonna do one book in their career and that’s it. But most of our authors are looking at building a publishing enterprise. They’re saying, I want publishing to be part of my business, part of my brand, part of everything I do. And then we’re mapping out what that could look like.
And if you don’t want that, then probably don’t need an agent, don’t need a publishing house. That’s really the, this is the self-published route, right? If you’re not trying to do this to grow a and treat it like a business, because at the end of the day, publishers are in business to sell books. Right. And they’re depending on you to do that.
Yeah. So like, like I’ll take 2022, we did 200 million in sales in book sales. And when you think about that, like wow, that’s $20 a book that’s 10 millions books sold last year from the Fed agency of all of our authors. Right? And that seems like a lot, but at the majority of, if you look at how many of those books actually sold over 500,000 copies, I mean you, you it’s maybe six.
Lot of ’em sold a hundred thousand. And so you’re trying to get that author that sold 50,000 in the first year to the next year, saw a hundred thousand of their next book. Mm-Hmm. , you’re trying, we’re all of our authors, were trying to grow their platform. We’re not like, so that each book they do is selling more and more. So that when you get to a, a point where you’re an author that anytime you put a book out, you’re selling a quarter of a million no matter what, that’s when you’ve really arrived and you’ve really found success because you have this following that’s gonna buy anything from you. And it’s a big enough number that every publisher wants you.
And you know, it’s so funny, it’s like when you’re thinking of selling a half a million or a million books, in theory that feels like a lot. But then if you think about it in context of even just the population of the United States is like roughly 365 million and we’re talking about people are trying to figure out how to sell 100,000. That’s such a teeny tiny, I know minuscule portion of the actual just population in the US forget North America or you know, the remain the remainder of the world. But it’s like, it’s really small. So what makes it so hard to reach even such a small percentage of the population?
I think a lot of authors give away their content for free. So people don’t think they need to buy the book cuz they’ve heard it. And that’s a big mistake. I mean, you have to give bits mm-hmm. And pieces, but you have to make the book unique that it’s a, you need to read this, right? Don’t, like PE pastors do a sermon series. You walk in, you’ve heard it, you’ve seen you get everything for free, right? So why would you spend $25 for a hardback book? You already got it for free. So it’s making that urgency, right? That need that you need to buy it. And we try to help our authors build transactional audiences, audiences that will pay money, not audiences that just get everything from you for free. And that’s where I think if you’re in business, you’re gonna be thinking, I wanna give some things for free, but I’m not gonna give the magic away for free. Right. I’m gonna make them know that there’s value and that they’re gonna pay for that.
Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. I’m just laughing and smiling because like, our biggest philosophy is always and forever give away the what but charge for the how
You can give away the what charge for the how.
I agree with that like that. And that’s why e-courses are doing so well, right? Because people want, but listen, it’s like if someone gives you a free ticket to a concert right? You’re chances are you probably won’t go right? But when you pay $200 for a ticket, you’re gonna
Show up. It’s an investment. Yeah.
It’s an investment. And so I think like, I think the same thing when you, when it an e-course someone says, oh, here’s my e-course for 20 bucks join. I show up like it’s a $20 e-course. Right? But if I’m paying $3,000 for e-course, I’m gonna show up like it’s a $3,000 e-course, I’m gonna look nice. I’m gonna do my makeup, I’m gonna like, but if it’s 20 bucks, I’m like in my workout clothes with wall cap on saying, okay, let me see what the heck this is. You know?
Yeah. Well, and like I’ll, I I tell you like last year I made this commitment that I was gonna read a book every month, right. And I did. I was like, so I, I read 15 books last year. I was so proud of myself. And so, let tell you what happened though is I was reminded of the power of a book and I had forgotten that because I had gotten away and just listening to podcasts and listening to short form contents. And I got reminded in the biggest, most profound way last year from reading 15 books that I even think about myself. Like the amount of time, like, you know, don’t take offense to this, but the amount of time that I took to prepare for this interview, right? That it’s, it’s minutes, right? It’s like 30 minutes versus the amount of time that you prepare, write, edit, rewrite, reedit.
A book is months if not years. Versus I will throw out a podcast with 30 minutes of preparation. I’ll whip together a blog post in 30 minutes and I’ll do a short form video content with five minute prep time. And that is nothing compared to the amount of time, sweat efforts, just incredible resource to put together a book that we then only charge $25 for. Yep. And just a major shout out to when you think you listen to a podcast and you got it, you don’t, you don’t, like there is just, I’m so positively reminded of that last year.
Yeah. And there aj there’s something about highlighting in a book, right? It’s thinking about it like if you’re reading it that like I read it a lot for living. So I’m always reading but highlighting and saying, oh, this is really good. This is a sticky state statement of magic. Right? This could change someone’s life. It’s, you get to spend time and sit with it. Mm-Hmm. podcast, you’re on the run, you’re listening to it, you’re doing something like you’re not sitting with it and really thinking through it. So I, I feel like it’s a lot of value in a $25 book . And that’s why it’s so important that the marketing and branding of that book shows that value to the end consumer.
I’m so on the same page with that because I just, I’m still reveling in the fact that some of these books, I’m like, this will change my life forever. And it was a $25 investment. I’ve spent 8,000, $10,000 on events that I’m like, I’m taking long lunch breaks and checking emails. And it’s like,
Yeah. So I represent this, this really famous therapist, right? And like, she doesn’t even do sessions anymore, but if you did a session, it’ll be like a thousand dollars an hour, right? This is here, you can get her book for $25 Right. And she can, you’ll read it and it could actually save your marriage, right? Or yes. You know, help you like deal with depression or whatever it is. Any mental health issue. And I’m like, it’s $25, right? Like that is like, that’s so amazing, right? That you could get that. You just have to read it and do the work, right? Yeah. It’s the same, like, same thing with any diet book, right? Or health book. It really can change your life, right? If you read it and apply it and it’s only 25 bucks cuz you get a personal trainer, it’s gonna cost you a hundred bucks an hour at least. Right?
Or a coach or a consultant or counseling, all these things. Yeah. So there’s, there’s
A way, there’s a way a book, like if you actually use it, do it. You can save a lot of money and get the best value, you know? Heck
Yeah. Cause I just, that’s part of why I wanted to have this call with you cuz I have had such a, I I’ve, I’ve re fallen in love with books and the written words because of my commitment to do this, you know, for a little personal challenge last year. And now I’m just like, I’m blown away that it’s like the amount of money I’ve spent on other things compared to the amount of money I spent on books is not even in comparison. But what I learned from the books versus what I’ve learned from all the other things I did is insurmountably bigger.
What was, okay, out of the 15 books you read last year, what was your favorite book?
I have, well, I have to have two because one is the one that will forever change my life and my Eternity, which is the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. And I read every single word and it’s long and it’s heavy and it’s dense reading, but I couldn’t believe that I had made it through 39 years of my life without hearing about heaven in this context. It will forever change the trajectory of my life and my family. So that, and then I discovered for the first time ever, Jenny Allen, who is now my favorite author. Awesome. And I read, I read four of her books in one year. Get Outta Your
Head. Did you read that one?
I did. That was, that’s how I finished the year was with that. But the one that was my favorite book of the entire year is Nothing to Prove.
Book. Nothing to prove. Get out of your head, find your People. We’re all Jenny Allen books that were at the top of my list. But nothing to prove would’ve been my favorites last year. And I just like, I think that’s just a great reminder for anyone who’s listening who is an author. It’s like, don’t forget that in addition to hitting the list, you’re actually changing people’s lives. That’s ultimately, yeah, ultimately that’s really
Good. But you got one Jenny Allen booking, guess what you did? You wrote, you read three more after that. So
I have her avatar. Like she, she writes for me
like when you read that, like, then you bought, and, and that’s the best thing is like when you write something and you, and put someone loves it, they’re looking for anything else from you that you have, right? Yeah. We
You gotta have great content, right? Have great content.
Yep. We get thousands of letters in of suicides, not committed of people coming to Christ of marriages saying family’s reunited. And we, like, I tell my staff all the time, this is why we do what we do, right? Like we’re, we’re a part of this because we help get the book out. And I like, that’s really rewarding and I mean humbling and rewarding, but that’s, that’s why you write a book is you’re, the last part is what we were talking about is that these lives are changed, right? Mm-Hmm. that someone was overweight is now healthy, someone that was depressed is now happy. Someone that, like, as you go through the list, I mean that’s what you’re hoping you’re writing to a business that was failing is now successful, right? Because they read something from you. Yeah. So that’s why I do what I do. And like aj, I know that’s why you do what you do, but let’s not forget the most important part of why you’re writing a book. It’s not only just to sell a million copies, it’s yeah, to hopefully change a million lives,
But you’ll never sell a million copies if you don’t have incredibly great content and you’re not willing to market and sell the pants off of it. And I think that is like two really big takeaways for everybody. All right. I know we’re almost outta time, but I have two more really important questions for you. Okay. When it comes to category listings, how important is that?
When you mean like on the what it’s the one category or are you talking about Amazon?
I would say both, but we’ll start with Amazon, right? Because I know so many people who are obsessive of has to be in this very specific category because in this category I know that on this week that I can hit X, y, Z.
So I, we do a much categories as you can, right? Like on Amazon, because you can, we have a book that hit the okay, so our youngest author, she’s 17, she did a, a c book, a children’s book on like aquarium type of thing, right? And one of the categories we picked that we put her on at Amazon was Turtles. And she hit number one bestseller in Turtles Never. But now that helps the algorithm, right? So yes, I think authors the mistake they make is like, I wanna be in self-help. Great. Let’s be a little more specific because we want you, the algorithms start kicking in and it working and I could do a whole talk with you on Amazon how it works. Cuz doing this for years and years and actually working with people on Amazon are very high level trying to figure this stuff out. You wanna, you want the algorithm working in your favor. So you, you don’t wanna be so broad, you actually wanna try to nail down be pretty specific and that’s what helps you hit bestsellers in different categories. Yeah. And nobody looks back in the day for categorizing, like for Barnes Noble people cared if it was like religious religion, right? Or sell cookbooks or nobody looks at that anymore. Mm-Hmm. , that’s the thing. It’s like you’re you’re 90% of all books are sold online. You’re not looking at that little category.
Totally. No one even pays attention.
No one pays attention. Just like no one pays attention to what’s on a spine of a book. Like who the publisher is really only people in the business like me and you and but like the general person doesn’t know the difference between what publishers, what publisher, they couldn’t tell you Penguin Random House was the largest publisher in the world. They have no clue. Right? So Yeah,
That’s so true. It’s so true about nobody
Else cares about
, but as an author you’re like, oh, is this publishing house? So somehow it’s gonna be like nobody freaking knows. They don’t care, they don’t know it’s just us. Do they like the cover category? Yeah. Yeah. The same thing for category listings. And I think that’s really important because I to what you said I love is that you’ve gotta, you’ve gotta niche down, right? And that the more specific you are like, and, and no one’s really taking a screenshot that you were number one in turtles, this is that you were number one, which a lot of times seller
And you, you wanted to say number one bestseller, right? It doesn’t, they’re not looking number one best seller in turtles, right? But our marketing director did a really good job of really narrowing it down to that niche of turtles, right? Cause there’s a turtle on the cover. I’m not laughing cause I’m like, that was kind of genius, right? Because this girl doesn’t have any platform. She’s like a high school student, but here you go. She just hit number one Amazon bestseller interns.
You know, I’m telling you like that is just so important. Back to marketing, branding, selling, writing the book is just a piece of this puzzle. But it’s like you’ve gotta have a good team who knows what they’re doing to figure out these little nuances. And a part of that is like, and I, Rory always corrects me and he goes, it’s not that hitting the list doesn’t matter, it’s just, it’s a piece of the puzzle. But the more times that you can hit the list and the more you sell, the more other people will hear about it and then it spreads. So I have to remind myself of that. Cuz I’m one of those like, it doesn’t matter, but it kinda does. Cause when you do
Exactly rose’s, right, you’re both are right. But the other side is the best part is when you see it on the list over and over and mm-hmm. over and over because then you’re like, wow, it was really a good book. Cuz people keep buying it. It wasn’t just hit the list and then left. Right, right. The best part, right? See, oh, it’s up, been on the New York Times bestseller list for 54 weeks, you know, or Yeah. That’s like, wow. We really have a winner now.
Yeah. Not looking for the one hit wonder. Okay, last set of questions and then I have a personal question for you. What, no, you told me earlier like kinda like three things, like make it sticky, have good content, have a good platform, it needs to be unique. That’s like generally speaking, but for you personally, like working with a 17 year old girl who has no platform, right? And I just also happen to know some of your authors who don’t have big platforms and all of that. So I know that’s not the only thing you look for and I just think it’s really unique to find an agent who is willing to invest in people who you’re like, no, I see something in you. I see something in this message and I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna do it regardless. It may not get me the biggest advance and you may not this, this and this, but so I’m curious for you personally, what, what makes an author someone that you’re like, you, I wanna work with you.
Oh, okay. So I’m a sucker. Okay. Like, listen, like for story, right? So someone comes in and they have a crazy story. I’m like, oh my gosh. And I cry all the time. Like, I don’t know what happened in my forties. I just like . They’ll tell a story and I’ll be falling, crying and too emotional. So because we have this other publishing program where we can help, and actually more and more influencers with huge platforms are not wanting to go to traditional publishing. They wanna own all their own content and they don’t wanna wait two years for it to come out. Mm-Hmm. . So when we develop this program and we put millions of dollars into it, so it’s it, but it’s awesome. So when an author comes in and they’re looking at it like they’re, it’s a business and they really wanna get the story out, I’m like, I’m all for it.
If I’m touched by the story, I’m like, I wanna do it. I wanna help you get this message out. But that author has to wanna work. I usually, yeah. Like if an author is like, eh, I don’t need it. I really, I, I, I don’t have that much time in the day. Like, I like to help start businesses and empower people to keep going. I think the biggest mistake people make is they quit before their miracle. Like they’re right there and they just give up. So the best are the authors that are really in it. And so if I have someone that’s super passionate and really in it and know that this is a core message, it’s really hard for me to say no to that.
Mm. I love that. So for you, it really does come down to two.
Oh yeah. I’m, I said, I was like, my whole team’s like Esther say no. I’m like, yeah, but this story’s so good and I think it’s got some legs and maybe this could be a movie or maybe we could do this. And so it’s fun like thinking through it. But yeah, like sometimes I have to bring my team in the, for them to be like, no, this isn’t,
We all have to have people who are willing to say no in our lives. But I love that it’s like it’s, this is story, but also are you willing to work? Are you willing to work? Are you willing to work as hard as I’m gonna have to to make this come to life? I love that. I think that’s so cool. All right. Here’s a personal question for you in the group. So you kinda told us earlier what your favorite book was. Well I dunno if it’s your favorite book of all time, but How to Win Friends and Influence People. I would say, what has been the book that you would say, like, for me, heaven will be like forever change the direction of my life. But I would also say like nothing to prove and discovering Jenny Allen has been a life-changing event for me in the last 12 months of going, I’ve never read a book where I’m like, oh, I’m your avatar. It’s so clear who you’re writing to. It’s me. Hi My name’s aj. So I would say to you like, do you have a, an author or a book that you’re like, I don’t care who you are or anything, but if you read this work or read, read this book, or from this author, like, it’s gonna change your life?
I do. So everybody that knows me knows my book. Like it’s changed my life. It changed the way I thought about business. It’s changed everything. It’s actually Buck there. It’s by Mark Patterson, who’s one of my favorite authors that I have the privilege of working with. It’s called the Circle Maker. And I, I read the Circle Maker. I was agenting for seven years of my own company and I was pretty successful. And I read this book and it like, it, it just wrecked me. And you know how people are like, oh, I pray, or I, I do this right? And, and remember I get to read it before all of you guys read it. So I’m like, way ahead of thinking, you know? And I’m like, this is gonna be a bestseller. It was a New York Times bestseller. It’s sold over 5 million copies. It’s been unbelievable.
But what’s so cool about this book is this guy, it’s, we, we sold it as Hony the circle draw what’s called the Circle Maker. And it’s about praying circles, right? So I started believing God. I prayed circles around every office. I prayed circles around an office building I wanted to buy. I prayed circles like, God, if this is for me, prayed for every employee on every desk. And guess what? I started getting better employees. I started getting like more champions. I started getting bigger authors. And there was this guy, he talks about the end of the book, right? So it doesn’t ruin the book for you guys, but there was this guy named Gypsy Smith, right? And he was this evangelist that traveled all over the world. I think he did 45 trips around the world. And he was this amazing preacher speaker. And somebody asked him like, what was, was the secret?
And he’s like, was his prayer life? And he goes right away, he goes, these revival secrets were asking what was God like, what’s, how can God use me? And so when I was reading this book, I’m like, God, how can you use me in a bigger way? And he goes, go home, lock your door, kneel in the middle of the floor. Draw, take a piece of chalk, draw a circle around yourself and pray fervently and brokenly for God to do a revival inside that chalk circle. Mm-Hmm. . And that’s from this guy Gypsy Smith, this evangelist. But I started, I did that right? And I went home, I locked the door and I drew, took a piece of chalk and I drew a circle and I said, God, I want you to use me. Bring me the clients you want me to use. Bring me the employees you want me to work with. Bring me the team. Help me scale my company. Like, just use me to pick those right books or the ones that you want me to be part of. And that like totally forever changed my company. Mm-Hmm. . So it was prayer. And, and so re if you haven’t read the Circle Maker, you have to, every employee here has to read the Circle Maker and How To Win Friends With Influence People. Those are the two books that everyone, that works with me for me.
Why? I just wrote it down. I wrote it down. Part of me is
I’m gonna send you a copy. So I’ll send you one today.
. I’m always looking for really good books. And then, okay, last question. Do you read or do you listen?
Both. Right. So I’m a speed reader so I can read pretty fast obviously cuz I, I read like 300 books a year. But I listened to, so a lot of times I’m, I’m a big believer every book you have to do an audiobook. I don’t let my authors not do an audiobook. It really, yeah. Makes me mad if they don’t wanna do an audiobook. Audio is up to 347% in the last two years. Wow. So more people are listening than reading right now. Huge authors, and I can give you the stats. They’re selling more in audio than actual print. Print cells are still up by the way. So it’s, it’s like, it’s both, they’re buying both versions. Like I do that all the time. I buy the print version and I buy, I listen to audio and sometimes I read a little bit of books. Sometimes I listen to it. I think listening, like when I’m walking or working out or like in the car, it’s so much easier to listen. But I still love to read. So I read every one of the books I represent I or listen to it, one or the other. So I think it’s whatever, whatever your preference is.
Yeah, I love that. I
Remember it better AJ if I’m reading it than if I’m listening to it cuz like, you can tune out or get too strong. But when I’m reading it, I feel like I really take it in more.
Yeah, I’m with you on that. I always I always tease my husband. I’m like, you did not read that. You listened to that. That’s not, you can’t say I’ve read that. You can only say I listen to it.
I have to tell her when reading or listening. It’s the same thing, right? Because
No, it’s not, it’s not the same thing. I’m so too, I’m so biased, but I’m, I’m very much like, I’m a speed reader. So it’s like I can, I can crush books. I crush books. But I love but I love to hold it. I love to like feel the pages fold ’em, doggier, highlight, underline. But there’s power in everything. Think
All women. I think all women like that, right? Like we like take those.
I like to hold it. But I would also say as unbiased feedback for anyone who is listening, when you do your audiobook, at least from this one consumer’s piece of feedback, read your own book. Please do not hire someone else to read your book. I want to hear the author’s voice and connotations and I want to hear it from you. So piece of unbiased feedback. And Esther, I would just say, man, not only are you like repre representing authors that are truly changing the trajectory of this world, like the work you’re doing is changing the world. You are helping get things out there that are saving lives transforming lives. And man, it’s such an honor to get to meet you and have you on the show. Thank you so much. I’m so excited to release this episode and get it out into the world. So thanks for giving us your time today. Thank you. Thanks for having me. All right, everybody, stay tuned and listen to the recap conversation that I’m gonna do on my conversation with Esther. And we’ll see you next time on the Influential Personal Brand. See you later.