Writing Chief Marketing Officers At Work like running a marathon

Writing a book

While you’re here listen to this podcast interview with Josh Steimle on writing.

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Josh Steimle, CEO of MWI, is one of the world’s leading influencer marketers. Photo by Victor Fraile / studioEAST

Publishing with a publisher

Joshua Steimle is the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work, published in 2016 by Apress.

Josh became an author somewhat by accident. A few years ago his agency, MWI Digital Marketing, was about to sign a deal with a new client. However, the client’s CMO stepped into the room and announced all contracts would be put on hold while she conducted a marketing audit. Later at a team brainstorming session, Josh commented: “We really need to understand these CMOs; they can make or break our deals.”

To gain some understanding of CMOs and their work, Josh decided to seek out the book Chief Marketing Officers At Work. He looked for it at Apress, which had published one of his favourite books, Founders, by Jessica Livingston. But Chief Marketing Officers At Work didn’t exist! So Josh decided to write the book, and after pitching to to Apress, he received a contract and began working on the book.

Chief Marketing Officers At Work

Chief Marketing Officers At Work is made up of almost 30 interviews with CMOs, including big names from PayPal, GoDaddy, Zendesk, Hershey, and The Home Depot. The book is available as hard copy, Kindle and other e-book formats, and audio book. Here, Josh shares key learning points for readers who plan to write a book, along with his experience of being a first-time author.

Self-publish vs publisher

It seems as though you moved fairly quickly towards working with a publisher. Did you consider self-publishing back then and, if so, what were some of your thoughts on it?

I originally intended to self-publish a different book. But then when I came across the opportunity to publish Chief Marketing Officers at Work with Apress, and they made it easy for me, I thought: “Why not?”. I figured it would be educational, and at the time I had no knowledge of self publishing so I was eager for any help I could get.

No such thing as an easy-to-write book!

You’d never written a book prior to writing Chief Marketing Officers at Work When you embarked on the project how did it feel?

While I hadn’t written a book, I had done a lot of writing for various publications. I knew the format of this book (interview style, more or less verbatim what the guests said) would make it fairly easy. “It will practically write itself!”, I told my wife.

Little did I know there is no such thing as an easy-to-write book. It’s probably best I didn’t know that going into the project!

Getting organized to write my book really worked for me

Writing a book is an incredible amount of work, probably more than most people realize. How did you approach and manage writing Chief Marketing Officers at Work in the context of other responsibilities?

I created systems and checklists to keep me on task and organized. Everything was scientific and organized, which made it relatively easy. I don’t remember ever feeling overwhelmed. Preparation and the inherently simple structure of the book contributed to that.

I also had plenty of free time because I own my business. My business partners were on board for the project and gave me a lot of latitude.

Nailing down interviewees a major challenge

All authors face challenges, and one of yours was getting your interview subjects to commit to time to their interviews with you. In fact, you once said that one CMO cancelled 10 times, and twice in the midst of your interview! How did you manage this challenge? Did you worry you’d miss your deadline?

I think I actually did miss my deadline, although I think perhaps my publisher was as busy as I was and didn’t mind.

Yes, it was tough to nail down the interviews. It was easier at first because I could send out 20 invitations at a time, then get five interviews out of that blast. But since I had a cap of 30 interviews I could include in Chief Marketing Officers at Work, at the end I could only send out one invitation at a time, and that’s when it got very slow. The first 25 interviews were done in a few months, the last five interviews took many months more.

Some people were super easy to work with. I asked, they accepted. I interviewed, they approved the write up, and we were done. Others wanted to get legal teams involved, so heavily edited their own interviews afterward that they didn’t sound authentic anymore

Went way over on my transcription budget

What other challenges did you face?

I didn’t realize how much transcription would cost, so I went way over the budget they gave me and the extra came out of my pocket. Of course once you’re committed you have to keep on going. I ended up spending around $10,000 on the production of the book, beyond what my publisher handled. But I know people who have spent a lot more than that.

Like most books, Chief Marketing Officers at Work had multiple edits

In terms of structure and editing, did you receive a lot of guidance from Apress?

Apress edited the book once, although my wife and I edited it four to five times between the two of us.

Did you include every part of each interview with the CMOs in Chief Marketing Officers at Work, or did you self-edit by removing parts of the interviews that you felt wouldn’t be so helpful to readers?

I didn’t want to remove anything, other than articles of speech that weren’t helpful like “uh” and “um” and such.

My publisher said the book was too long, so I had to trim between 15 and 25 % from each interview. I’m still not sure whether that improved it or not. I’m inclined to still feel like it would have been better if everything had been included.

What did Apress do to support your work?

They provided a small advance, limited transcription, and editing. And of course printing.

‘Will anyone like my book?’

How did it feel when the work was finally done and you had a copy of Chief Marketing Officers at Work in your hands?

Honestly, it was kind of anti-climactic in a way. By the time I was done I felt like I had run my first marathon and was thinking “Never again.” It was a lot of work to get it across the finish line. And I didn’t know if anyone would like it, or if it would sell more than 10 copies. It wasn’t a best seller by any stretch, but I must say I’ve been pleased with the results, and they continue to come in. It has been a consistent seller.

What key lessons did you learn from your first book?

I’m grateful for the opportunity Apress gave me as my publisher. Before starting the process I saw publishers as all-knowing, all-powerful entities whose sole desire was to help authors like me become successful. I quickly realized publishers are groups of fallible human beings doing the best they can to run businesses with lots of moving parts and priorities, and you’re one of many.

That’s nothing against my publisher or the industry. It’s simply reality. It’s best to go in with your eyes open that things will be different than what you expect, no matter what you expect.

Writing a book gives instant credibility

What are the rewards of writing a book?

Someone once said a book is like a business card on steroids. A book gives you instant credibility. I can charge more to speak, I can get into places I couldn’t before, I get respect and attention I didn’t get before.

You might take the self-publishing route with your next book. How did you get to this decision and what research are you doing to ensure you avoid the mistakes many self-publishing authors have made.

I’m actually not so sure, now. A company that does crowd funding to prove there’s a market for your book has approached me, and they then act as agent to help you find a good publisher. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m considering this route.

I wanted to go the self-publishing route because having gone with a publisher once, I feel like I understand what a publisher does and doesn’t do. However, that’s not the same as wanting to do it myself, which I don’t. I would prefer someone else do everything other than writing the book, and if I could find the right partner, I’d entertain the option.

I’m not that concerned about giving up a large chunk of book sale revenue, I’m more interested in gaining wide distribution.

Publish your book in all formats

As surprising as it sounds in this digital age, print unit book sales for non-fiction adult books continue to rise year-on-year, according to Publishers Weekly. Will you self-publish in all formats?

No matter what, I will publish in all formats. The audio version of my book outsells my print and Kindle books every month.  

What role will the audio book play in your publishing strategy?

I read 99% of my books in audio format, so it’s a must-have for me. Plus the format is growing all the time, so I think it’s a must-have for a lot of other people as well.

Marketing a book is crucial

How much attention should authors pay to marketing?

A ton, because your publisher probably won’t, and if you don’t do any marketing, you probably won’t sell any books.

What advice to you have for first time authors?

Write a good book, but plan on writing at least two, because you’re probably going to make a ton of mistakes on the first one. I see every book I write as a project in and of itself, but also preparation for the next one.

Josh Steimle is author of Chief Marketing Offiers at Work. and is articles have been published in Time, Inc., TechCrunch, Mashable, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and VentureBeat. He’s presented at TEDx, ClickZ, AdTech, MOSA, Echelon, and CommunicAsia. Josh is also an international speaker on marketing and influence. Find Josh on Linkedin, or follow him on Twitter.

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