On Episode 411 of The Paleo Solution Podcast we have guest Tim Grahl. Tim is the author of Running Down a Dream and Your First 1000 Copies, and works with authors and creatives to help launch books (including my own, which he was a huge help with). Listen in as we talk all about the hows and whys of publishing a book.
00:46 – Summary/Pre-Intro
2:17 – How Tim got into publishing
5:52 – Why would someone publish a book?
10:17 – When does someone need an agent?
14:25 – Battling with publishers on changes
18:15 – Support from publishers
20:50 – Experience with The Paleo Solution book
22:40 – Writing a book for your business
25:13 – Cost of doing a professional book
29:18 – Publishing as a service, royalties, and
32:50 – Obscurity, passing the threshold, and pluses and minuses of releasing serial content
43:19 – Free plus shipping
45:10 – What is your goal with writing a book?
48:50 – Having a platform
50:44 – Tim’s book Running Down a Dream
57:21 – If it’s hard it’s because you’re doing it right
1:02:03 – Where to find Tim
Book: Running Down a Dream
Download a copy of this transcript here (PDF)
Paleo Solution – 411
Robb: Six listeners can’t be wrong. Hey, folks. Robb Wolf here. Super cool podcast today. I get a lot of questions about should an individual write a book, how should they go about doing it, should they self publish, what are the ins and out of getting on New York Times bestsellers list and stuff like that. I’ve been kicking around for quite a while how to tackle this and then it occurred to me that we might bring the guy who helped me with my book launch for Wired to Eat, Tim Grahl.
Tim is an expert in this whole book launch story. He also has recently published his own book called Running Down a Dream. It’s a really cool podcast and Tim is one of the arguably most knowledgeable people in the world on the book launch and publishing scene, all the ins and outs of what you should and shouldn’t do.
It’s a calculus problem. It really depends on the individual and what the individual’s goals are, what you should ultimately do. But the whole thing really is about running down a dream. Like when you decide to write a book, under the best of circumstances, it’s an enormous undertaking, far more challenging, far more exposing than what people would typically appreciate.
I think we’ll get a lot out of this. If you’re not into the idea of books and book talk, publishing, you might still get some interesting life lessons out of this. But, anyway, Tim Grahl, Running Down a Dream, amazing guy.
Tim, how are you doing?
Tim: Good. Thanks for having me, Robb.
Robb: Hey, man. It’s an honor to have you on the show. If folks aren’t aware, you — I think I mentioned this in the intro, but you helped me with the launch of Wired to Eat and you were an absolutely stunningly on point resource. I cannot thank you enough for the work that you did. We learned an incredible amount just going through that process. But how did you get interested and involved in this publishing scene? What’s your back story on that?
Tim: I backed into it. I didn’t graduate college with plans to be a book marketing expert. I actually graduated with a computer science degree and had plans to sit in small dark rooms and churn out computer code. But along the way, I was doing a bunch of freelancing and I started working an author named Ramit Sethi for the launch of his book 11-12 years ago.
I was just doing the tech stuff. I wasn’t overly interested in what was going on or didn’t really understand it. He’s a marketing genius. I was working on it and then this book came out. I didn’t have a lot of expectations for it. He’s this early 20s guy writing a personal finance book, had no publicist, was not doing a book tour at that time, was not going on the Today’s Show. I’m like who’s going to buy this book?
And then the book came out and was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and it was completely through his own platform of his email list and following and blog and all that kind of stuff. It just–
Robb: What year was it?
Tim: I think it was 2007. I’d have to go back and check. But just look up the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich whenever it first came out. I worked on it the year leading up to that. And so it just fascinated me. I didn’t understand how book launches worked. I assume they were all like driven by end caps at grocery stores and Barnes and Nobles and airport bookstores. But to see somebody 100% drive a New York Times, Wall street Journal bestseller just through their own platform was just fascinating.
It put me on this quest to, one, really learn everything I could about the way he did it and then, two, to find out if it was repeatable, to see is this something unique to Ramit or is this something that other authors and any author can do? And so I really got interested and it wasn’t too long after that that I just focused my entire consulting firm on working with authors.
That’s what got me started. Since then I’ve worked one on one with hundreds of authors and dozens of books and had a lot of success in that but it was mostly just driven by this wanting to figure out how this works. I’ve always been a big reader, anyway, and love books, fiction, nonfiction. I’ve always been a huge reader. And so getting to work with authors, it was like — I was a fan of yours. I’d been into CrossFit for a long time. The Paleo Solution was must read. To get to work with somebody like you and other people that I’ve enjoyed their reading or their writing and their work is also just a fun job. It’s better than churning out widgets somewhere.
Christopher: That’s awesome. It’s funny, over the course of time, I’ve mentioned this several times, early in the history of, I guess, the blogging and podcast, all of the questions centered on health related issues. Now, we get a ton of questions around career path and peripheral piece to that career path story is should I write a book, how do I go about writing a book, how do I publish it, do I need an agent?
There’s a million different moving parts with that. Could you maybe — I’m trying to think. There are probably four different buckets that we could put people into. There’s person with a passion project. They have a Twitter account that still looks like an egg. To someone that’s developed a pretty robust following and they’ve got their finger on the pulse of maybe some new happening event. I mean, why would someone publish a book at this point?
Tim: Well, I think there’s lots of different drivers. One group would be just people that feel like they have something to share and so they want to write it down. My uncle wrote a book mainly for his grandchildren. He just wanted to write down some things that he thought were important. There’s a reason to write a book.
I think other people think of it as a way to get the message out about something. Of course, there’s lots of competing desires. You write a book because you do want to change the world for the better. I believe most people that write books are legitimately trying to do good in the world. Because there’s easier ways to make money or better, definitely better ways to spend your time than writing a book.
But I think there’s this putting something out in the world in a format where anybody can access it and it can go further and go places that you can’t go. But the other thing is, that it really, if we’re talking specifically about nonfiction, it’s a really easy way to establish yourself as an expert. If you’ve written a book on this subject, people assume you’re an expert on the subject even without reading it.
And so when you add “author of” to your bio, it changes the way people interact with you. I wrote my first book, your first 1000 copies about book marketing. It’s like this little 110-120 page self-published book, has some spelling errors in it. But before that book came out I had lots of New York Times, Wall Street Journal bestselling books. I had five clients on the New York Times list the same week. I did a ton of work. But when the book came out, people saw me as an expert.
Robb: That’s fascinating.
Tim: If you want to be seen as an expert in a he field, writing a book is a pretty straightforward way of doing that. I mean, writing the book is not straightforward but once you have the book it’s pretty — it just does that thing. It bridges this gap between marketing and helping in a way that nothing else does. If we give somebody a brochure they’re like, okay, you just gave me something to throw away. But you give somebody a book and it feels like a gift even if it’s your own book.
So many people would hire me because they bought my book, never read it, but assumed I was the expert because I had the book. I’m sure you noticed the same thing. You’re one of the first ones to write about the Paleo diet. You had probably written about it on your blog or whatever, I don’t know, because I didn’t hear about you until the book came out. And then it’s like, “Robb Wolf, he’s the Paleo guy.” He’s the expert because he has this book that I’ve never read.
I think that’s a really straightforward way. If you are trying to establish yourself as an expert in the field, having a book on the subject is a really good way to do that.
Robb: Tim, when does somebody need an agent? In this calculus problem, when do you go out and track down an agent?
Tim: I have some pretty strong opinions on this that maybe even your agent wouldn’t agree with. I feel like — So, most publishers are not going to be interested in your book unless you have some plan and means to sell the book yourself. If you believe that you’re going to get a publishing deal and they’re going to help you promote your book, you are extremely mistaken.
Most books traditionally published or self-published sell 250 copies in their first year and a thousand copies in the entire life of the book….