How to Launch a Book with Elizabeth Marshall

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Grant Baldwin
Today we’re joined by my friend Elizabeth Marshall, who is a brand building expert, speaker, author, and just all around cool girl.

So let’s start with this. You do some speaking yourself, but then you also help people who are positioning themselves as thought leaders, positioning themselves as authorities and experts in various types of industries. You’ve worked with a lot of big people in primarily the business space.

But why don’t you give us a big picture view of what your business looks like today, and we’ll backtrack a little bit.

Elizabeth Marshall
Sounds great. Grant, I am so passionate about working with thought leaders and messengers who really want to change the conversation in their industry, and they want to be recognized leaders at the top of their field.

As you mentioned, I’ve been fortunate to work with some really great people and big names that your audience might know such as Michael Port, Seth Goden, and Howard Behar, the former Starbucks president.

And while my clients span the gamut in terms of their type of message –whether it be business communication, I’ve even had some health and wellness clients– what they all have in common is that they are committed to their message and they want to use the mediums of books and speaking, and they have a business behind their message and they want to create a lasting impact.

They want to make great money too, in the process, but they’re driven every day by wanting to make a substantial impact with their audience.

I want to get into that, because I know that there’s a lot of people listening who fit into that paradigm of what you described. They want to be a speaker and they want to speak, but they’re also looking to build this bigger personal brand, this platform.

They want to speak, they want to have a book, they want to have a blog or a podcast or to post their own event, or whatever it may be. There’s a lot of ways that you can take your expertise, your authority, your thought leadership, and share that with the world. And speaking just happens to be one of those ways.

What’s your backstory? How did you get into what you’re doing now?

It’s interesting, Grant. I said to my mom when I was five or six years old, “I want to get paid to read books.” And it’s really funny how things that we say as kids become true. But my first entry into the book world was around Michael Port’s book launch for Book Yourself Solid back in 2006 when he had hair.

We’ve had Michael on the podcast here as well. But that book was extremely instrumental for me personally in my own speaking business when I was getting started. That’s still a book that I sit on the shelf right over there and I continue to recommend to people. So you are partially to blame for any success that I’ve had in speaking.

Fantastic. Happy to take the blame. Grant, that’s actually a great example of an evergreen title. In the publishing space, we talk about books that do well on the back list and an evergreen title that can really withstand the test of time and Book Yourself Solid is one of those perfect examples.

It has had two or three additions in the print form. And then Michael actually now has a version called Book Yourself Solid Illustrated. The principles remain just as relevant as ever. At the same time, he’s added and cultivated that message over time.

So there are new principles and strategies and elements in the Book Yourself solid Illustrated version that came out six or seven years later after the initial book. So he’s a great example of how you can have a core message and you can develop, refine, and shape it over time as you go public with the message and share it with your audience, whether it be in the form of a keynote, a breakout session, and then certainly other mediums as well.

You listen to the feedback that you get and it helps the message be stronger and continue to be relevant for the audience.

I digress. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about the work that I do.

So going back to Michael’s launch, I had met him in 2005 and really resonated with his message. Long story short, he put out an offer for someone to join the team to help with the book launch. I had a strong background in marketing and sales and while I hadn’t launched a book before, I had enough experience in worldview to know how it worked.

I joined the team and ended up running the launch. We had a really big-scale launch, and that was back in the days where you designed a campaign to be an Amazon bestseller. So we amassed all these different strategic partners to help promote the book and we stayed at number two on Amazon for an entire weekend behind one of Dr. Oz’s books or one of Oprah’s big books that she had promoted. We had a really great launch with that book.

You helped launch that book, you were doing that full-time.

Yep. So I had my own coaching practice working with entrepreneurs and I knew that all of my clients were ones that wanted to use their expertise to stand apart from the competition. And actually, in partnering with Michael, I was also taking individual coaching clients through the Book Yourself Solid brand. Michael had stopped doing individual coaching and I was working with clients coming through his brand as well.

So there were a lot of nice synergies there and running that launch immersed me in the world of book publishing. Then a year later, Michael was interviewing Seth for the launch of The Dip and I saw a way to combine a book launch with the popularity of teleseminar series. So underneath the radar I had worked on Michael’s launch, a few other book launches, as well as designing teleseminar series for a couple of other big names, and it all came together in my own brand, Author Teleseminars, which is a virtual book tour series for authors.

That was a big piece of my business for almost four years. Then what I noticed over time is that authors would come to me and want to do a virtual book tour with me, and either they weren’t at the right stage for that, or in many cases, they didn’t have a strong enough foundation and overall strategy for their book launch. So more and more I took business away from the virtual book tour piece and had more private clients that I would help design their launch from A to Z.

But I would also help them look at the big picture of where this is taking them and their career as a thought leader so that when we’re designing the launch, we’re not only doing it in a way that helps you sell books, but in a way that you can build strategic relationships with industry groups, associations, other big influencers in your industry. That way after the initial wave of the book launch, you don’t fall to the ground with a thud, but you have some momentum to create staying power in the industry.

Let’s talk about that for a second because there’s certainly a lot of people who are interested in speaking, who are also just interested in building that platform, building that bigger personal brand. And so whether that starting piece is a book, a speech, or a podcast or whatever, how do we begin to think beyond that one thing to begin to think of ourselves as a personal brand?

How do you do that today?

That’s a great question. I would say there’s two parts to that. Number one, making sure that the message that you’re wanting to spread is one that you’re really committed to versus the one that looks good on paper.

Is there a way to know the difference?

One of the best ways to do that is to go test it with an audience. That might be booking a beta workshop with 30 colleagues and friends to test and see if this is a message that you want to be married to, or do you just want to go on a date with it and be done?

Testing the message is one of the best ways to see if there are some legs here and if this is something that you want to be committed to. And here’s the thing, you don’t have to know all of the aspects of the message to know it is what you’re called to share. You can develop that over time.

As you write articles and say even a special report or an ebook, and you begin to develop your idea more fully, certainly on the speaking side by delivering it in the form of breakout or a keynote, you begin to listen and hear that the audience really resonates with these three concepts.

You have some of the structure that you need, and you then may test different stories that you’re going to use, certainly from the stage, but also in your writing.

When you get a clear sense of the overall concept and some of the methodology and you know that it works with your audience you can build on your structure from there. So that’s one piece.

The other piece of it is understanding that as a thought leader, there’s actually 10 elements of your platform that you need to be aware of and develop at any given time. Not all at once, but when you understand where you are on the journey, in your current stage as a thought leader, you may decide, from a priority standpoint, that you need a much better website, or part of your speaking platform is missing. You don’t have the video, you don’t have two or three compelling talks to offer.

Or on the publishing and content side of things maybe you don’t have an ebook or a signature piece that is a showcase of your idea in advance of having a book.

You said there were 10 pieces of a platform.

Yep. 10 elements of your thought leader platform. They all come into play over the course of your career. When a thought leader doesn’t know their stage and where they’re headed and their overall goals, it’s not a question of if, but of how much time and energy they can waste.

And that happens for two reasons. Number one: They may not be aware of the bigger picture and all the elements that they need to focus on. So they have some big missing pieces. I referenced those a minute ago. There might be elements of your speaker, author platform that are missing, or your website’s not quite up to snuff or you don’t have a really good strategy to build relationships.

But then in other cases, especially for speakers who have some traction under their belt and even some well-known author speakers, we can fall into the trap of trying to do everything at once and focusing on getting media or press when there’s certain aspects of your business model or other elements of your speaker platform that aren’t where they need to be. So the press you’re getting is not the right kind of press. Really understanding those elements and setting your priorities based on your goal is going to help you get that traction.

Let’s talk a little bit more about that for a second because so many entrepreneurs see some of these personal brands that may be several years ahead of where we are or they have the type of business that we’d like to have –they speak, they blog, they have a podcast, they do events, they have books– but the reality is, they didn’t create all those things at once.

That’s over the course of several years. So if I’m someone listening to this and I’m interested in speaking, but I’m also interested in having a book or an online course, or these other different options, how do I pick which one to start with and which ones can wait?

I’m going to use the, “it depends” answer because it’s really true. It depends on the business model. Let’s go back to our friend Michael Port. So Michael, before he wrote Book Yourself Solid, he started with an e-course, which then led to an audio product that he created with the “Seven Keys to Getting Book Solid.”

And if you’ve had a chance to look at Book Yourself Solid, those of you listening, you’ll notice that what I just said is different than the format that the book is currently in. So he went from an e-course and then expanded the content to this three CD set called “The Seven Keys to Getting Booked Solid”.

And as in tandem with launching that product and running a 15 week live group-coaching program with his list, he then began to refine and shape the way that the message and the content was laid out. So then it ultimately took that form with his book.

For those of you listening, if you’re not sure you know where to start, it can be easy to jump in and go for that big book. My recommendation is to find that single. It used to be with albums, you’d release a single before the whole album. We’ll find that single that you can start with. What’s one piece of your message that you can develop into a compelling e-book, a compelling video series, an e-course, or some sort of, freemium content that will allow you to work on your message, share it with an audience, and build a list around that content?

With your model you want to test and build an audience around it because it’s really easy to jump into that book and write it in isolation. But you do want to build that audience in tandem as you develop your message, because when that audience is built and they’re going with you along the journey, then they’re going to be waiting for that book when it comes out.

And most importantly, that book is going to be so much better than it would be if you were to write it in isolation, because you’ve been testing it all along the way. You’ve been listening for feedback as you deliver your talks, as you say you’re a guest on a webinar, as you write articles and publish them. If you get that feedback from your audience, then you can incorporate it into your overall idea.

Yeah, I would totally agree with that. I’ve got a self-published book we had come out several years ago that came out of speaking, and so I was able to test the material and work on the material and figure out what was resonating with people rather than, like you said, just going “I have an idea and I’m going to go into the cave and come back out eventually and hopefully I got it right.”

Whereas when you’re actually able to talk through the material and do Q-and-A sessions. When you’re speaking and figuring out what the common questions are that people are asking, those things can really help you refine and shape what that book might look like.

Exactly, and just like speakers need to know what category they fit into, with your book you need to know which shelf you would be on. When you know which category and which shelf you sit on, as well as who are the other leaders in that space, before writing a book you are adding to [a pre-existing] conversation. You’re not the only voice here.

What has been said on your particular topic, not just the big huge names like Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell, but who are some comparable thought leaders that may be just a few steps ahead of you? What have they said on the topic? What would you like to add to the conversation? How do you do it differently? What’s not being said? Or what’s that unique combination that you can offer?

I see this trend in speaking, but certainly on the publishing side as well. It’s really easy to pick a topic that’s too broad and too general and doesn’t have a unique point of view, a promise, and an angle. It’s really important on the publishing side to make sure that your book stands out.

Yeah, and that’s true with books and with speaking as well. That is a huge challenge for most speakers because we’re coming into this and we want to just help people.

Where would your speech fit on the proverbial shelf of Barnes Noble? Saying “It fits everywhere. I just want to help people.” doesn’t work. You really have to narrow down who you’re marketing to and who your audience is.

You mentioned the 10 pieces of a platform. Do you happen to know those 10 off the top of your head? Can I put you on the spot?

I do. In fact, I have a great little diagram that we can share in the show notes if people are interested in looking at the visual representation.

They are speaking, books, traditional media, social media, business model –that’s the foundation from which you make decisions– your message, your audience, distinct strategic partnerships –that’s going to be relationships, everyone from fellow author, speakers and influencers in your industry to association, heads of groups, executives, anyone who has something to say and has weight in your space– your content strategy, and your website.

A couple of those things that you mentioned, your message, your audience, your business model, how often are those things evolving and changing? I think sometimes, especially when you’re getting started, it’s really easy to overthink it and think that whatever you’re picking is permanent and you have to do that forever. This is the only talk I’m ever going to give. This is the only audience I could ever speak to. So how often is that shifting? Talk us through that.

I like to say that your message is a living, breathing entity and the more you interact with your audience, as well as the more experience you get as a practitioner –whether you’re a coach or consultant delivering workshops– not only are you getting that feedback, but you’re doing research.

You’re looking at what’s happening in the market and that’s the biggest piece. Our market is shifting and changing. So the way you might talk about your message two years ago is not going to be relevant today. You want to be incorporating what’s happening in your field or industry, what’s the economy doing, what is on people’s minds? That helps you change the packaging around which you deliver your message.

That, thereby, affects your business model as well. I’ll share an example. Two of my clients, one alumni client and then one current client. They both had visions of having people certified in their methodology and having a training program. But that wasn’t possible until they had a big enough audience for their message.

If you’re listening to this and have 500 or a thousand subscribers, that might not be the right time to jump in feet first for some big certification or training program. It also might be early to decide to have a live online training or an online course that attracts a thousand people.

Do the math and you look at your list, you don’t have that scale yet. At that stage you need to build your audience and ask what business models you can use right now based on your stage and based on the current size of your audience and platform.

As you are looking through those 10 pieces, wherever you are, whether you’ve got a couple of those boxes checked, or whether you’re just getting started, how do you look at that list and not feel discouraged about what you need to get done? What has to be built over time?

Looking at all those elements is a similar activity as looking at somebody like Seth Godin or looking at you, Grant, or Michael Port or others and saying, “that’s so far in the future.” It’s a really easy thing to do. And we judge ourselves instead of realizing that our current stage is actually perfect and there’s more opportunity than we realize.

As an example, one of my clients when she was first starting would speak to audiences of 50, 75, even 25. One of her biggest partnerships is with a huge international association. Her book had just come out. She started with a book club session with them, and there were only 40 people. Then that grew into another session, and then they had her on for a webinar and then a second webinar. Eventually she got asked to speak at the national conference.

She applied and got accepted, and now she’s one of their premier thought leaders and she’s reached close to a million people. They have a huge membership worldwide and that all started because she accepted where she was and made the most of each opportunity in front of her.

So if you’re listening and thinking, “that’s where I am.” You are passionate about your message, and you can look at all of these pieces and say, “I don’t need to get distracted by traditional media because that’s down the line. That’s not necessary right now.”

There’s this sex appeal around getting booked on MSNBC or featured in some major media outlet then you’ll be made in the shade.

When Oprah was on, there was the “Oprah effect” and the reality is that’s not going to move the needle nearly as much as you think it will in terms of getting clients.

Those moments rarely work out. Instead you can become the best known expert in your local town or in your region, or in your small, niche space online, and you continue to grow your audience, then you’ll be ready for media at a later date. Or then your platform might be at a place where you could pursue traditional publishing as opposed to self-publishing.

It’s a good reminder that all those people, the big wigs that we look up to in any industry or space, they all started at zero too. Nobody has a fast forward pass and all of a sudden they have something you don’t have.

Seth Godin’s blog started with zero readers and originally sold zero books. Anybody that we would look up to and admire, they have done blog posts that suck and they have done speeches that bombed and we all start from zero.

So just reminding ourselves to work with what we have, do that with excellence, and then build and improve as we go. We need to have that long-term perspective there.

Exactly. You have to remember the long term and then set an intention for consistency and ubiquity. Be faithful in getting your message out on a regular basis. And there’s the rub, if you’re not passionate about your message and you don’t feel a bigger calling to really make a difference with it, that’s where it’s hard to continue. There’s going to be days that you’re tired of hearing “no, you’re not quite at the place where I can have you on my podcast” or, “contact me when your platform is bigger.”

There’s going to be days when you get rejected and then other days that you just feel tired and you don’t want to do it anymore. Without that passion and commitment to the message, it can be hard to continue. So there’s that consistency piece.

You have to have ubiquity as well. When my clients are at earlier stages with their platform I encourage them to say yes to those relevant groups and associations, even when they have 25 attendees, 50 attendees for a talk, or it’s a webinar for 15 people. If it’s the right audience, you never know who’s sitting in that audience who could be on the board for a much larger association, or whose husband could be connected to a corporation that could be relevant for you.

It’s about quality as much as it is about quantity. Not being so selective, saying yes to the right ones. Not going to speak to the knitters when your message is not relevant for them. But if it’s a relevant association, look to building those relationships and realize that saying yes to that first thing is a step to building a long-term relationship as opposed to a one-off transaction.

Yeah, absolutely. Regardless of how passionate you are about your message, there’s going to come days where it’s just work, where you don’t want to do it. On day one it’s really exciting. You’re really amped up, you’re really fired, on board, doing it. Then you get to a point where it is just work. You have to be able to be committed behind the scenes, to put in the effort and the energy to continue to push the ball forward.

Let’s talk about this real quick. Since you’ve done a lot with book publishing and launches in general, especially with books, if people are listening and they’re on a much smaller scale than Seth Godin or Michael Port, but they either have a book out or they’re getting ready to publish a book, self or traditional, what are some ways that we can promote our book and get that message, via book form, out into the world?

Great. It’s really tempting at all levels, but certainly when you’re just getting started and you’re wanting to get that book out, there’s a lot of shiny objects out there. You want to invest in this really super cool software that was just funded by Kickstarter and it’s really innovative and unique and it’ll do all these bells and whistles, and we forget the basics.

So with the book launch, you want to think about who can help you with four things: promote, endorse, refer, or buy. You start with the people. Do you have a mailing list? If so, great.

Create a campaign to help promote your book to your list. That campaign is not, “Buy my book” and three days later, “Did you buy the book?” You have to provide some really great content in and around the book to give them a taste and encourage them to want to buy the book.

So you put together those strategies that help you reach the people that you already have an existing relationship with. But oftentimes I’ll see that emerging authors will just stop there; they just have a list of 200 people and that’s it.

And actually, if you look at your relationships, you might be able to identify a colleague who has a big network. He doesn’t have a mailing list, but maybe he is willing to send out a note to his 500 connections on LinkedIn.

There’s an insurance agent I know locally here in Dallas. He’s a classic example of that. He doesn’t have a mailing list, but he sends out BCC emails with these recommended resources. And over time I can tell you that, statistically, emails like that convert better for book sales than any social media posts.

It’s not that the social media posts aren’t important, but it’s knowing which strategies help you go directly to an audience or help you take advantage of the good faith and trust that your colleagues have in you, and going directly to the audience and selling books that way.

So how important is it to build an email list to sell books?

Oh it’s essential. It’s funny, Grant, as I look back over the past 10 to 12 years, we went through this phase in 2003- 2006, that was the height of the online marketing email list. Then from 2007 -2012 there was this backlash of the explosion of blogs and poo-pooing of the email list in favor of the blog.

And at the time, blogs certainly were helpful and valuable in converting readers into book buyers. But then I’ve seen that trend come full circle and some of those big bloggers will come back and say the email list is of primal importance.

Imagine if Facebook went down tomorrow or Twitter shut their doors or, we just saw this with Catch and Periscope, they don’t have their funding. Imagine if all of your contacts are through these social platforms and you don’t have access and the freedom to be able to follow up with them independent of those platforms, you’re at the mercy of the social media tools that you use and the rules that they set. And that’s not a good place to be. You want to build your own community.

Yeah, I totally would agree with that. We’ve talked about building that email list on several episodes, the importance of it, how to do that, and then also, as you alluded to here, why that matters, not just for speaking, not just for books, but just for that personal brand, whether you’re building your platform via social media or traditional media or any other places you’re building, on rented ground. So being able to own that email list makes a huge difference as you’re building that brand in a variety of ways.

Hey Elizabeth, if people want to find out more about you, what you’re up to, where can we go?

My website is

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