Ep 400: How to Get a Big Book Deal with Nena Madonia Oshman

RV (00:02):
All right, my friend, you are about to meet somebody who changed my entire life. Her name is Nena Madonia Ashman, and she is somebody who I have known now since I was in my early twenties. So I once had the dream to become a New York Times bestselling author, and I had no idea how to do that. And I was at the bookstore, and I saw in the back of several business bestsellers the endorsements authors were thinking their literary agents. And I kept seeing this one literary agent mentioned over and over and over. And so I tried to get this agent to call me back, no response, sent emails, no response, sent fax messages, no response. And one day I flew to Dallas, Texas at three in the morning. I went to their office and I sat in the hallway because I thought if I could catch this woman walking into her office, maybe I could get five minutes.
RV (01:03):
And in that day, walked Nena Madonia Ashman, who she was Nena Madonia back then. So that’s still kind of how I, I know her. But I handed her my book proposal. I said, I promise I’m not a stalker. Although I kind of was at that point, and I was like, I have this dream. I wanna write a book. I know that I want you to represent me. This is like the firm and, and the whole thing. And she was like, well, we can’t work with you because you don’t have a big enough platform, but gimme your proposal and I’ll give you some advice. That started basically a two and a half year relationship of trying to get ahold of her, and then her giving me little bits of advice, us following it, me and aj like coming up with ideas and incorporating it.
RV (01:44):
And then some of you know the story. We in 2000, and I forget what year that would’ve been, it would’ve been nine, 2010. We sold the we signed with Nena. She then shopped our book proposal to several New York publishers. We had multiple bids. We sold that book. And then in February of 2012, that book came out as Take the Stairs and it hit number one on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and number two on the New York Times. And I’ve never done a public interview with Nena. And so without further ado, here she is. Nina, welcome to the show, friends.
NM (02:22):
Yay. Thank you. How fun, Nina. You can just call me Nena, right? There’s no n for the last name.
RV (02:28):
Everyone knows when you’re talking literary agency, you say, Nina, they know who you be talking about. They know like
NM (02:33):
That. They know. So, Rory, I have to tell you, I love talking about the story of how we met. And do you know that 15 years ago to, to the week, this week, we went to breakfast. And so that 3:00 AM flight we had like in the, you came in the spring, and I was like, oh my goodness, this author isn’t eager. He did send the fax. I did receive the fax and the blanketed emails, you know, back then the, you know, info emails that you sent, but you came, you, you said your cu you came then that day. And I, it was eight o’clock in the morning and you were just sitting there. Oh, it was, so now looking back, I remember thinking, wow, he’s very determined. But now I’m thinking, no, you are the coolest guy. I know. Coolest author. I know. But in June of 2008, that’s when we went to breakfast and we had this complete download of here’s what you need to do, here’s the strategy. You’re a speaker, here’s, you know, again, be what becoming a bestselling author would be. And I can’t believe it. I just thought about that 2008, that’s there. You, it, yes, it took two years. But Rory, you, I mean you and aj, what you guys have built with B b G and everything. I’m just so honored to be a part of the process, but I know you win. I knew you win.
RV (03:47):
That’s so funny. Well, that’s what I would love to hear, I think to talk about today, because I just, as I take myself back to the 15 years ago and it was earlier than that, that I was even trying to get ahold of you, . That’s right. Just realizing I had no clue. I mean, I, I had no clue whatsoever what a literary agent was, how you got ahold of publishers. I had never heard the term, like, what was a book proposal? How did the money work? How did the bestseller list work? How do you create the content? I mean, I just had like, no idea. And so I, I’m thinking like, if that person’s listening today, you know, is listening to this right now of going, here’s what you need to under, here’s what you need to understand about book publishing. And I, I, I actually, I, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, so Nena has been a literary agent for over 17 years. She’s worked on over 500 titles. She has sold and assisted over 300 book deals to major publishing houses and help secure over 5 million in book advances, several of which have become New York Times bestsellers, blockbuster movies you know, all, all the things. So I, I wanna pick your brain and you need to tell us how does this all work?
NM (05:07):
Yeah. Well you know what’s so interesting now and again, like, you know, our, like where books are, it’s, they stand the test of time. So to think about where, yes, it is a tedious medium, but it’s the most incredible and influential medium that is publishing. Publishing is you know, you own it. It’s your copyright, it’s your words. And I think it’s the most impactful. So what I love about the book and the idea, you can come to me with a concept, but really, it’s almost like your, your baby, right? Even if you haven’t birthed a baby, or, you know, it’s a, it’s a a different, it’s an additional business vertical for you. But I think even when you came to me was, what was so interesting about you is that you were speaking, you were the top speaker in your field.
NM (05:57):
You were sharing this mess, mess message of take the stairs, but it took two and a half years to get it sold. And that process of a literary agent, right, is, you know, by definition we help authors meet publishers and get a book deal. But there’s so much that happens before, during, and after that book deal process that I think is so important. And I think, Rory, you’re the perfect case study of, you know, yes, being focused on finding an agent, finding the right agent that fits you, being focused on really honing in on the content of what you’re gonna include in the book that may not necessarily be in your speaking platform. And then focusing on the book manuscript content. So then making it a bestseller. I mean, you really worked so hard and did that book, did your take the stairs come out in 12 or 10?
NM (06:48):
12? I can’t 12. Okay. So if you can think about it, you met us in 2007, 2008. We worked with you for two years. You got a mag massive book deal for a first time author. You used that to then invest in the book process and in the tour and the marketing, and also to hone in on the messaging that is included in the book that impacts your audience. And then when the book was published, that’s when the real work began. And you did a bus tour and you, you launched and marketed that book beautifully to then now flash forward, where are we? 11 years later, that book still stands the test of time and it’s yours. Mm-Hmm. . So what I love about thinking about someone’s book idea or their concept is that it’s just, it’s, it’s eternal and it’s global. And, you know, your book has been published in what, almost 10 languages. And then by the way, you have another book. So it’s almost like that one idea becomes this business vertical or a child, like I said, but then you have another child, then you have another business vertical on top of what you’re doing with brand builders. I think it’s just so fascinating to, to see what you put into a book and a book idea and what you can get out of it that then helps the entire world.
RV (08:05):
Yeah. Well, thank you. And I, I love that. And, and just to, so to highlight a few of the pro, so you said that earlier, what is a literary agent? So basically you have a New York publisher who gives the, give the authors a book deal. Usually those publishers are going to choose their books based on relationships they have with agents because they know that agents help vet the authors out and help clarify and do a lot of that work to like, I guess create a concentrated focused message and a plan. And then you have to create a book proposal, which is the, what I didn’t understand was that basically the book proposal is your sales tool that as the author, I have to create that tool to get with you, but to give to you so that you can take that tool and walk into an editor of a major publisher and say, here’s the book idea.
RV (08:58):
Here’s the author, here’s the plan, here’s why you should sell it. But in order to get there, you have to do all the work of building the platform and narrowing the idea and working on the premise and developing, developing the audience. So it’s kind of like you go, you need to get an idea, you shape that idea into a proposal, you get an agent, the agent helps you, you know, modify the proposal, have a tight proposal, go to a publisher, sign a book deal, write a manuscript, then you publish it, promote it, and then that just goes on forever. So is that kinda like a pretty accurate, you
NM (09:30):
Know what, yeah. Come, I’ll hire you. I think it’s, I think what I was trying to focus on is like being a literary agent is, is yes. You know, helping an author kind of manage the process, almost being like the hub, the authors, the c e o and the publisher is a conduit of, you know, and, and the printer and the distributor, and the agent is almost like, you know, like the c m o of like organizing and coordinating all the efforts from the idea through and beyond the publication. But, you know, I always like to think it’s like, yes, I’m a sale, I’m a salesperson of your proposal and your concept, but really the author is the best salesperson of their concept. And so, yes, you do need an agent and you do need a publisher. But there’s so many ways to publish now that yes, honing in on getting a book proposal is ultimately what helps you set up kind of your brain map, your brand map for what the book will be, like, a book blueprint.
NM (10:33):
But to be honest, it, you know, the where, where you, and I don’t know what your expectations were when you started the process, but where you start is almost not necessarily where you end up in terms of the publishing process, but you’ll exceed your expectations if you have someone like an agent walking you through the process. So in a way, yes, you can get a publisher, you can get a distributor, you can get a printer, you can, you can have someone help you, you know, coauthor your concept. But all those moving pieces I think are really kind of, they’re crucial when you have someone like an agent to help you coordinate all the all the different aspects.
RV (11:13):
Yeah. And so, so let’s start with, I think one of the first questions, and I struggled with this for a long time, was how do you know if you should traditionally publish or if you should self-publish? And I guess to me, I almost think of three buckets. I think of traditional publishers, I think of hybrid publishers, and then I think of self-publishing, which is basically like Amazon, k d p these days where you just like upload a file and you have a book at least an ebook there. How do you know as an author when I should go to Amazon and like self-publish my book, when I should pay money to a publisher to help me produce an asset, which is like hybrid publishing where I own all, all the rights, but I’m still, I have to pay a lot of money to get them to produce it. Or I should go to a traditional publisher where they’ll pay me and they’ll pay all the costs, but like, which way is the right way to go? Like, I know you get that a lot. That’s a huge part of what you do is help people sift out that question, right? Yes.
NM (12:08):
Yes. And several B B G clients are, are now a part of the, the whole mind brand of understanding what that is. I think the Rory, I think it’s three things. It’s understanding the time and I, and I really thinking, okay, do I need to publish this tomorrow? The second thing is the resources. What do I, how can I publish this tomorrow, right? If say, your, your idea is so ready to go and you wanna publish it tomorrow, do you have the resources to support you doing that? And then the audience, do you have the audience? So it’s the three things of time, resources, and audience that will help you determine which route to go, which publishing route. I think that you know, there is no wrong way to publish, but there is a wrong way to promote and to market.
NM (13:01):
And I think that for an, for an author, you have to be almost like thinking about a bi, creating a business plan for the book so that you can see, well, yes, maybe my book needs to be published tomorrow, but asking the really hard questions, does it, does, does it need to be published tomorrow? Do I need to, you know, take my time to develop the audience? Do I need to take the time to find the a a really a good collaborator to help me hone in on the actual words on the page? And so I think putting it into those buckets and then almost ranking them. So like, you know, if you’re eager to get it published tomorrow, well then, all right, other things are gonna probably you know, you need to kind of, kind of put, put the lever, push the lever on the marketing, and push the lever on the you know, the audience to make sure that all those kind of aspects work.
NM (13:54):
But then if you’re like, oh, I need to actually build my audience. Well, maybe the time lever kind of kind of backs down, and then you push, push more on the audience. I don’t know if I’m making sense with that, but all the whole point is that you have to think of those three key factors to identify, all right, well, if I don’t have an audience, well then my book’s not really gonna change lives and stand the test of time. So let me wait on that and then maybe find a collaborator that can help me massage that. And then also my audience will help me with the resources because they’ll tell me and dictate what I should really be focusing on with the book concept. So it almost like
RV (14:28):
Sync those, sync those up with the three, so you have timeline, resources, and audience. Yeah. So if you’re gonna traditionally publish, that means a longer timeline.
NM (14:38):
So I, I love the buckets that you put that in. The three publishing buckets, the traditional hybrid and self-publishing, I do think there’s like these gray areas in between. Sure. So it’s almost like there’s five, but yeah. To put it into those, to, to sync that up. I think publishing traditionally takes the longest. And but yet as you’re taking the longest to build your audience and build the, the resources around that, so you can create kind of like the business around, around the, the traditional publishing space. And then on the opposite end, if you’re thinking about self-publishing, well, you can just do that tomorrow and, you know, see what happens. It’s almost like if the self-publishing part is probably the, the least amount of time, resources and audience where, and then on the other side, the traditional is like, no, you, you need to take your time and also take your time with the audience and, you know, build the resources
RV (15:29):
Mm-Hmm. . And what do you think the traditional publishers, just to focus in on that for a sec? Yeah. Cuz I know that’s like basically been your world. What do you think they’re looking for specifically when they sign an author?
NM (15:43):
They’re looking for authenticity. So it can, it can look like you need 30,001 Instagram followers. But that’s not it. It doesn’t have to be the, the, the number on your social media you know, LinkedIn posts or likes or Facebook’s likes. It doesn’t have to look like that. It can be what your audience is, is craving from you and what you crave to share with your audience. And that authenticity is a solution that the publisher looks for to secure a deal. So I mean, right now I have an a veteran author like you who I am pitching right now, and he’s had six books on the New York Times bestseller list. And he is, he can, he, he can take his pick of whoever publisher he wants to work with, but he’s a guy that’s thinking about, okay, well who’s gonna be my best partner?
NM (16:41):
But for a first time author, you know, they’re, they’re looking, it, you know, you’re kind of, I almost think like the second book is almost like the, the best kind of way of like, what, what publishers look for because you’re the most attractive first time authors have the hardest because, you know, they have to kind of develop their own platform and plan and proposal like, and, and really present this presentation to a publisher so that the publisher really falls in love with them. And so you’re kind of like on the, on the selling block of like, who, you know, who will take me. But at the same time, it’s the publisher looks at like your authenticity. But then the second book, I’m going on this tangent cuz it, I will have a , I will take it back around. But what they look for is almost to see that your audience, you’re speaking to your audience and the audience is speaking back to you.
NM (17:30):
So that number of the social media, you know, saying that 30,001 you know of, of your followers on Instagram it’s what are they saying on there, right? What are they, how are you reacting to them? And how are, how are the published? How are the author? How are the, how is the, ooh, what are you saying to your audience? Audience? What is the audience saying? Back to you, back to you. So it’s, again, it goes back to the authenticity. I know I’m like going all over the place, but I think it’s like, yes, how do you make yourself attractive? It’s by being, by having the idea that’s the most authentic to you
RV (18:04):
Now. So authenticity a big part of it. Now, audience, I mean, when you look at the, the, the size of the advance you get and you go, some people get a $20,000 advance, some might get a hundred thousand, a few might get, you know, 300,000 and fewer still would get a million plus is basically the delineation point there. The audience size,
NM (18:34):
It’s the, it is the genre of which you are writing your book. It’s what the book genre is.
RV (18:43):
Oh, that’s interesting. It’s
NM (18:45):
The risk that the publisher wants to take on that author. If you’re a first time author, the risk is higher. And it’s also the, you know, like the flurry, the enthusiasm, the excitement. I mean, I’ve done a lot of books that, you know, are so timely that if you published it this year, you know, it would, it would be a huge success. But maybe in 10 years it may not be. You know, there’s always kind of like a publishing cycle in terms of like what’s like a hot idea and a hot topic. But I had never really think about the trends. I always think about what the author is saying is how the author is trending with their audience. And so, and you know, your audience doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours. It has to be, you know, someone that you are talking to and whether you know, that’s online or it’s speaking or you know, you’re on TV or you know, you’re, you’re blogging. I think it’s just what are you saying and how is the audience responding back to you? But yeah, so I think it’s, again, the genre, it’s the, the enthusiasm and the flurry and the excitement of whatever the concept is based on the timing of when you’re selling that. And and then really it’s just like, again, I go back to like what you’re saying to your own audience.
RV (20:10):
What about, so what are agents looking for? Is it, would it be the same things? Or if you go like, cuz you know, you got, alright, that’s what publishers are looking for and that’s how they’re paying. And for those of you listening that if you don’t know how it works, an agent gets a percentage of the advance. So they’re incentivized. The, the incentives are aligned with you to go, they wanna sell it for the biggest advance cuz then they get, that’s how they get paid. So what are you looking for as an agent to go, all right, you’ve worked with all these authors, people are coming at you constantly and you’re going, how do you sift through the pile of emails and the unsolicited manuscripts and the phone calls and the, you know, people to go, this is who I’m gonna work with.
NM (20:57):
I’m always looking for someone that can communicate some their idea flawlessly. I’m looking for the obscure that everything needs, that everyone needs to know. And you know, it’s like the, it’s, it’s funny cuz it’s every agent. I don’t, I can’t speak for other agents, but I think for me, if I believe if they, if the author believes in their concept so much, then I know I can get on board and I know I can sell them. I have a hundred percent track record of actually closing deals. Not to like, you know, just, you know, shut my shoulders off. But I think for you, Rory, you’re the perfect example. Take the stairs was something that you believed so much in, you got me on board, well, let me help you get other people on board. Let me get a publisher. Let me get you in front of people that can really help you make your dream come true. So I think as me as an agent, I always like to kind of just talk to the author and sometimes that pitch, I know the traditional way of doing it is you know, writing a letter, writing a query letter. But I think it’s just, you know, using referrals and making sure that that, that you’re knocking on the right door and, and that you’re, the agent not only pays attention, but that you, you’re so passionate about the idea that you can convince me that it’s a great idea. And so I’m working with a
RV (22:18):
You recommend people flying to wait outside of your office door to get
NM (22:24):
I rem I mean, that day
RV (22:25):
I would recommend that as
NM (22:27):
In that suit I will, it was a brown suit. I mean, I cannot believe I remember that anyway, but yeah, no, I don’t know if I recommend that. But I do think it’s fun to do something really clever. I mean, I do know of another author actually it was you, who, who brought the, you brought a, a basket, a basket, a basket of instant things. And you said to me, I know you’re busy here, and that’s what made me go to breakfast with you. I know you’re busy. Here’s a bunch of instant, I
RV (22:55):
Don’t, we shipped, we shipped her, this was AJ’s idea, but we, this was after we had opened a relationship with you, but we were having a hard time kind of like getting you back on the phone. You know, that first time you gave me feedback, you gave me a lot of feedback, which was helpful and painful, but, but then getting you back the second time to go, hey. And so we sent you instant oatmeal, instant pudding, instant coffee, instant jello. Basically we went to the store and anything instant we could find and we put it in a basket with the book proposal and a note and we shipped it to, to Nena. And it, the note said, hopefully by using these products, you’ll get a few extra minutes in your calendar to, you are no AJ proposal.
NM (23:37):
No aj. And it did. It did. And it was amazing. So, no, I mean, I think it’s, and I, but I think it has to be a fit, right? Like you, I I, I’m not a fit for everyone because I’m very direct and very specific and sometimes go all over the place like I have on this conversation. But if I treat my authors like family, and I see not just the value in their one book concept, I like to see that they have many book ideas that they want to position and that they have, they, they are so passionate not only about writing books, but they’re passionate about communicating and, and articulating in words. And writing is so different than any other medium, and it’s the most gratifying for the reader. And that’s what I look for. I look for how the reader can be impacted by the author’s concept.
NM (24:25):
And then I see, you know, again, it can be, I, I like to see the multitude of books that can come out of the one concept. And yeah, I mean I primarily do nonfiction. I have done fiction and I love fiction, but I, I think every agent is different and it’s a definitely acquired taste. But to me, my authors, I have been with them for five books or two books or, you know, again, we’re there, there’s so many amazing people and amazing agents that can help bridge the gap and, and ease all kind of like confusion about what publishing is, but also that can champion your idea when you don’t want to.
RV (25:05):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean it, it’s, it is like, I mean, it’s, it’s like having a child. I mean, you put your whole life into the passion concept. It’s like, you might not need to get on a plane and do it, but you gotta be willing to do it, right? I mean, we emptied the last dollars we had in our checking account and a hundred percent of the advance we went all in on the idea. And that is kind of what it takes, I think, to get the attention of a top literary agent and to do the work it takes to craft a great premise and a proposal and to capture the attention of you know, a major publisher and then most of all to do the work it takes to tell the world about the book once you create it. I mean, that, that, that was the part, it was like, it was three, it was like three mountains. The first mountain was crafting the idea and getting the agent, like, just getting that. Then the second mountain was getting the publisher and writing the manuscript, and then the third mountain is actually marketing and promoting it. And it was like, I just had no idea, you know, I’m halfway up the first mountain feeling exhausted, being like, I’m kid, you’re, if I could go back, I’d be like, kid, you’re not even close. Like, you might as well like just gear up for the ride. Like we got a long way to go.
NM (26:24):
Well, and, but then you’re, you’re neglecting the fact that you gotta go down the mountain and then it doesn’t plateau. It’s up to you. After you reach that third mountain, it’s, you get to determine what the landscape looks like. So you can make it rocky, you can make it a plane, you can go back up the mountain and have another really tall peak and see the view from, from the fourth mountain, from the fifth mountain, and really reap the rewards of seeing your book turn into a movie. Seeing your book in multiple different languages, merchandise, I mean, there’s so many rights that happen after that third, there’s so many peaks that happen after that third peak. Mm-Hmm. And that’s where the fun begins. So I think that’s why like agents are Sherpa to use this example. You know, they’re Sherpa and we’re trekking along with you.
NM (27:12):
The author still has to carry the load, the, the, the author has to, you know, really the, it’s, it is heavy at times, but we’re right alongside you and we can also support and champion and, and you know, we’ve been there before. So, and I think every book looks different. Every author looks different. And I do think that like, you know, even for you Rory, like, you know, embarking on another journey with that book when hopefully whenever it comes out, we’re very excited to see what Adrian mm-hmm. cooking up. Mm-Hmm. . But I think for whatever that looks like, it’s still the same. It’s like the first time the publishing experience, it’s always like the first time, but you know, a little bit more and you know, what the mountain can can bring you. Let’s talk
RV (27:55):
Aboutt, let’s talk about some of those cuz like that Fourth Mountain, the foreign deals, the you know, merchandise, the movie rights, that, that, that’s something I know that you’re really passionate about. And that’s something that I think a lot of authors are leaving on the table, whether they self-publish or they traditionally publish. They kind of get the book out there and it takes so much energy to climb those first three mountains. They’re like, I’m sick of my book. I mean, we call it, we call it the book Launch Hangover because it’s like, I don’t, I’m so sick of by the end of it, you’ve done 150 interviews, you’re like, I don’t ever want to hear about Take the Stairs again. Like, I’m done. But like you say, that’s really when the fun begins. So what are all the other derivative rights that a book can be turned into, and what are some of the ones that, you know, authors should be paying attention to that they’re not, or agents sh should be? Because like, there’s probably a whole bunch of things, even with Take the Stairs that we’ve never even explored or exploited. Like we do have a lot of foreign, foreign deals, but I think a lot of authors just move on to the next book and the next book and they don’t kind of like squeeze all the juice out of the one that they have.
NM (28:59):
Yeah. Well I think it’s, I think that’s really astute. They do move on to the next book, but I also think it’s like you keep the wheels turning, you keep it running while you’re moving on to other book concepts and other things that you’re working on. But I would just wanna speak to like the author who with the Hangover Yeah. Like you still have to kind of move, you still have to keep working. Yeah. And so even if you’re hungover, you gotta keep moving. So the thought is that the, the author may be tired, but the reader probably hasn’t even noticed Yeah. What you’re doing and where it is. And so you’ve gotta keep it fresh. And that’s where I think an agent can help saying, Hey, you know, you did great on that interview, don’t you? I I’ve noticed that the sales are actually spiking.
NM (29:40):
I noticed that this region is looking for someone again with, you know, speaking engagements. Let’s bring you out to say the authors in the Midwest. Let’s bring you out to LA and see if we can bring in you know, speak to the you know, like an insurance company or something. But to, to talk about the derivative, additional derivative rights, I think you have to keep the wheels going on selling, promoting, you know, working on that particular concept to see what comes around, I think you know, motivate, like the games you know, there’s, there’s many authors that this happens again, you can have a vision of like, oh, I wanna do a board game like Monopoly. And then it turns into like, UNO, but at least you have the concept and the, the blueprint to say, oh, I wanna do something with derivative rights, and then it turns into games. But that’s one gaming you know, t-shirts, hats you know, that’s a whole like line journals, workbooks again, foreign deals ebook foreign deals are significant. And then audible originals. So you can take a concept and then what’s
RV (30:44):
NM (30:44):
Audible originals or any kind of audio that’s separate from, it’s like an enhanced audio. So it’s separate from the book, but it’s still kind of derived from the book. And you can you know, take a concept, say a chapter and turn that into like, you know, a mini podcast. Maybe it’s episodic, maybe it’s you know, kind of more curriculum. But yeah, no, you can, you can turn it into speaking, you can turn it into coaching and curriculums and certifications. I could go on. Do I need to stop or I could
RV (31:18):
No, that’s a, I mean, I think one related to this, you know, I think authors are curious to go, if I, if I do a traditional book publishing deal, what exactly does the publisher own? For example, if, if I do a book deal, does that mean I can’t create a workbook based on the content in my book or a journal based on the content of my book? Or like, how does that work exactly?
NM (31:45):
So number one, I always say like, slow your role, focus on the book concept first, and then you can think about journal and workbooks because you want the book itself that you’ve sold to live and thrive. And then have the audience talk back to you of what they’re looking for while feeding them things. You know, feeding them little kind of freebies to see, okay, should I do a workbook or journal or a different audio? Audio or a documentary? But I think in terms of like the workbook part of it the, in terms of what the publisher owns, it depends on how you’ve negotiated the rights and the terms and the contract. And you know, again, you can, you can limit them to just owning verbatim text, hardcover, electronic and audio. Those are the typical three that the publisher wants to own.
RV (32:37):
Say that again, it’s verbatim text, audio,
NM (32:41):
Well, verba verbatim texts of physical audio and E So physical is like the print. Got it. Audio is the audio ones audiobook and E is electronic Kindle and on your iPad. Gotcha. So those are like the three specific ones. And then there’s all these other ones that the publisher owns, like second serial, first serial. And again, this is like all contract specific. But then the rest is kind of free game. And unless you’re focused and unless you’re focused on it, you can miss it. And then the publisher can retain the journal rights, but that doesn’t mean that they own it because you still own it and it’s your copyright. So you just negotiate specific percentages that the publisher will receive based on what a the vendor wants to sell it to you or wants to buy. So again, if it’s a journal, you can create the journal if you own it, if you don’t own the rights, you can still just split a percentage with the, with the publisher,
RV (33:44):
Uhhuh, . Those are all the derivative rights that you negotiate as part of the contract. That’s another place where I think a literary agent really plays a big role is like thinking about some of those things that as a first time author, you’re going like, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Like there’s, there’s those. Let’s talk about book launches for us second. You’ve been a part of many launches. You’ve had several clients become New York Times bestsellers. I happen to know that you’ve also, because anyone who has been in this industry long enough has also seen several heartbreaks. They’ve seen several misfires, they’ve seen a lot of people overpromise and underdeliver. They’ve seen people. I think a big thing is that authors underestimate exactly how difficult it is to do a proper book launch and what it takes to get people to buy a book and what they have to do. As you consolidate all that information, what are some of the things that you go, these are the things that are effective during book launches that actually, you know, get people to buy copies of the book and, you know, share with their friends. Like what are some of your favorite either campaigns or tactics or, you know, things that you’ve seen over the years or recently or you’ve even noticed that you go, man, this is really working right now when it comes time to actually sell the books to the end users.
NM (35:10):
Yeah, I think the, I think it doesn’t, so say your publication date is six months in advance. I think the work starts six months prior to it. And so you’re planning, creating this foundation of launching a book. And so I think the, everyone always feels, again, going back to the time everyone feels like, oh, a take that’s forever from now, a year to publish my book. That’s forever. But there’s a lot of work that has to go into it and it is a full-time job on top of the other things you’re trying to do in your day. So it’s good to have a long runway to to to, to work and market and promote and see what works. So, you know, Roy, I think it depends on the author of what they feel comfortable with. I do know recently I had an author who did not wanna go on social media.
NM (35:57):
She was terrified. And now her book came out and she started promoting online. And that book is now well she had zero followers on Instagram and now she has 30,000 followers on Instagram in three months. Wow. And a YouTube channel with 22,000 subscribers. So it’s almost like you have to lean into sometimes what you don’t wanna do and see what works. That’s why you have the runway. But social media always works talking about your concept before it launches. You know, it’s okay to give away free content and it’s okay to give away the title and talk about your book when it’s ready to announce. I have an author whose book’s coming out in November and he hasn’t told anyone about the book he lives in overseas. And the book is being published by Simon and Schuster. And so he did a author debut party where, because he is overseas, he came back, he went to New York, invited 200 of his closest friends and did this debut party.
NM (36:58):
And the book hit number one for pre-orders on Amazon two weeks ago. So I, I think, you know, those two examples are just someone, you know, feeling into what they feel like is what they wanna do or maybe kind of what they’re afraid to do and leading into it. But those are two that I thought have been really successful just recently of just like promoting you know, also speaking tours, getting pre-orders. We’ve talked about that, you know, doing a bulk order campaign. I think it’s just again, but it’s, it’s creating the business plan of seeing what the concept will be how it’ll resonate with you as the author. And also waiting for hearing feedback as you’re p planning, preparing for marketing here, feedback from the audience of, okay, well they did actually, like when I posted that on Instagram or that speaking engagement was really significant and special when I talked about, you know, the book title. So it’s really just kind of feeling into what is working for you and resonating for you. And then also just seeing what what sticks.
RV (38:03):
And then what about pr, I know you’ve had authors get on major Yeah. National television and podcasts and things. Are there any keys to making that work? Is it, is it worth hiring a publicist? Does it tend to not sell as many books as people think or like what your,
NM (38:19):
I think it just depends. I think it doesn’t, we don’t know what sells books until you start talking about it. Until you start kind of seeing what works. And that’s why it’s like, it’s the wild west of publishing, right? So hiring a publicist for you individually, I think certainly helps. But having clear expectations with the people that you’re hiring with the contractors, say it’s a marketing team or a publicity team, or your social media team, having clear expectations what you’re wanting out of that specific vendor is crucial so that you know what you’re wanting out of them and they know what they need to deliver for you. I don’t ever wanna say that a publicist should guarantee and move units for the author. I think it really just helps for branding and messaging. But then yes, if you get on a national TV show, it will significantly help the book and help your brand. So I don’t, I, I think it’s always good to hire someone who’s gonna be your advocate and the, the, the better the, the, the team that you create, again, because you’re the c e o and you’re like, you have your agent who’s kind of the, the operations person and you wanna make sure you have the team that’s really kind of communicating, cuz that is a recipe for disaster if they’re not communicating. And you’re not the one setting those expectations.
RV (39:34):
Mm-Hmm. . Mm-Hmm. . I love it. So one last thing is I want to hear about some of the, some of the most common mistakes that you see authors making when they do their promotion. But, you know, I wanna let y’all know. So Nena is one of our brand implementation partners. So when our clients come, they’re hiring us for strategy services, right? We’re helping them create their brand positioning, their intellectual property, their frameworks, building their speaking career, creating a strategy for their book proposal, et cetera. When it comes to actually time to shop deals and getting book deals, that’s where we pass a baton and say, okay, Nena, here’s a book proposal ready to go. And so if you are in the market right now looking for a literary agent and you believe you have a book proposal I want you to email us, okay?
RV (40:22):
So just email [email protected], put literary agent in the subject line and send your proposal. And I want you to send it. I want that to come to me. I’m not gonna send it through to NMNena yet. I’m gonna vet it and I’m going to tell you because if we get, if we get Nina’s attention, I wanna make sure that by the time she sees it, she’s gonna be blown away because you only, sometimes you only get one shot, right? I mean, it’s, it’s, that’s the other thing is like, you need to put the work in here. So anyways, you can shoot us an email [email protected], just put literary agent in the subject line, send me your proposal, our team will look at it, and then, you know, if you’re ready, we’ll connect you right to Nina and be like, Hey, let’s go. And if you’re not, we’ll, you know, give you some ideas about maybe what you should do so that we can get you ready so that you can go see Nina. So outside of that, Nina, what do you think, just kinda like last thoughts. What are some of the biggest mistakes that you think authors make in this process, and what would you just wanna leave people with?
NM (41:25):
So, you know, I don’t really talk about mistakes. I feel like mistakes are just never really they’re never really mistakes, right? But I do think authors feel that they can’t share their material because they’re afraid of someone stealing it. And I always like to say like, you know, your words or your words, and no one can take those away from you. So your story is meaningful and let’s help make that more meaningful to your audience. I think that authors sometimes are clouded with the process that they think it, you know, the book, a book takes time and it is, you need to nourish it and feed it. And the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. And so sometimes the process doesn’t seem like it is exactly what you wanted it to be, but then if you look at it you know, over the life of a book, which is forever, if you look at a book, not week by week and what your book is selling, but you look at it over the course of a year and you see what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished and you know, what you have seen and heard from your audience, speaking back to you and from, you know, growing your brand, I think is like more like seeing gratitude in that instead of being frustrated that you didn’t hit a list or you know, that, that something didn’t go well with one of the vendors.
NM (42:51):
So I do always seem like that. I had an author who was so focused on getting speaking into churches. All she wanted do was get her memoir into churches. And after years and years of trying to get into church she was very frustrated. She then realized, she looked at her speaking schedule and she said, wait a minute. I’ve spoken to 40 schools in the last two quarters, and now the New York Public Library is wanting me to speak there. And also the New York Public system, public school systems is buying 10,000 units of my book. And that was over the year of her first book. So I think I liked for authors to see gratitude in, in the process, and it’s, it’s never it’s never what you think it is, but it’s always extremely, extremely gratifying. Mm-Hmm.
RV (43:39):
, I love it. Yeah. You can’t really lose right? When you write a book that’s focused on changing lives. And if you just do that and you believe in it passionately, then you’ll get people on board. Well Nina, thank you for believing in me and for taking that chance on us. Like all those years ago. It’s been, well
NM (43:57):
Do it again. I’ll do it again. Come see me, come see me with a box of instant oatmeal
RV (44:02):
. So thanks and thanks for sharing your wisdom here. I mean, I, I, I, you know, clearly I was willing to do just about anything. I, I, I would’ve, I would’ve about hurt someone to have access to the information that you just shared on just this episode alone. So thanks for being here and making time for us, and, you know, thank you. We’re always cheering you on, my friend.
NM (44:23):
You’re best. Great. You’re the best. Thank you.
RV (44:25):
All right, bye-bye friend Byebye. Thanks