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Do you ever read Esquire?

I subscribe for a number of reasons, but one of my favorite things they do are the “What I’ve Learned” pieces where they have personalities give the honest truth about what they’ve learned. No questions, no promotion—just straight first-person wisdom from someone who has been there, done that.

The format works tremendously well because it cuts through the clutter that so often litters interviews and gets right to the insight we’re all reading for—what this person has learned along the way.

When I go to conferences I find myself trying to distill a presentation into 2-3 one-liners that really resonate with me.

This week I am in Milwaukee for the 800-CEO-READ Author Pow Wow and I spent the day listening to some of the brightest minds in business book publishing. We played personality poker, talked about vuvuzelas and debated the merits of traditional vs. self-publishing.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, 800-CEO-READ is a business book distributor that has built a tremendous brand by catering to the needs of corporate clients and establishing an online platform for new ideas via their Change This Manifesto, among other things.

They host a conference each year (The Author Pow Wow) focused on helping business book authors understand as much as possible about the industry they are apart of. It’s a gluttony of ideas and rather than try to recount each panel, I thought I would give you an Esquire “What I’ve Learned” rundown of one-liners:

“The person you like the least is the person you need the most in business.”

~ Stephen Shapiro, who started out the day with a tremendous presentation centered around Personality Poker and the fact that the worst thing we can do is hire someone just like us to help us build a company.

“E-books are publishing’s favorite parlor game.”

~ Portfolio’s Adrian Zackheim musing on the fact that where we’re headed in terms of digital books anybody’s guess.

“The consumer will tell us what they want and it’s our job to make sure they get it.”

~ Greenleaf Book Group’s Clint Greenleaf reminding us why his company is picking up market share year after year.

“If you can’t sell a book in five words, you can’t sell it.”

~ Deb Lewis, Manager of Trade Sales at Penguin discussing the attention spans of book buyers for major chain stores.

“ cares much more about its customers than authors and publishers.”

~ Tom Wilson, National Accounts Manager at Wiley, reminding us why Amazon is a great stock to own.

“I got screwed when the Pope died.”

~ Portfolio’s Allison McLean reminding authors everywhere that breaking news trumps scheduled interviews.

“Journalists are first and foremost responsible to their readers.”

~’s Mike Hofman, explaining why he chooses what he does (and why has 1.8 million unique visitors every month). He also said PR was a “weird” field, but that’s not going in bold text.

“The key to writing a newsworthy book is to not only advance new ideas, but also teach new ways to apply them.”

~ Barbara Henricks, President of Cave Henricks Communications, on what makes a newsworthy book.

“To be an effective speaker you need to tell two stories in every presentation: 1) Who you are (why should they pay attention?) and 2) one that communicates the idea you want the audience to takeaway.”

~ Advice on winning an audience from the best storyteller I know, Steve Denning

“Never give the same speech twice.”

~ Sage advice from Carol Sanford, the author of The Responsible Business

“I didn’t want to trade time for money.”

~ Chris Guillebeau on why he built his business model around products as opposed to services. I just started his new book, The Art of Non-Conformity, and I’m really enjoying it.

Honestly, of all the lines above, I’m challenged most by Chris’s line about trading time for money when you provide services or consult for clients. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it’s exactly right–even when you truly love what you do.

Those of you who consult–do you think of it that way?

Perhaps the greatest thing the book industry has to offer is the ability to scale a good idea as a packaged product that can be consumed by a reader without requiring your personal time. This is important, as you’ll need all the personal time you can get to market it.

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  • I hear you, Rusty. Trading your time for money is an annoying fact of life, at least for the vast majority of us. Every time you’ve ever been someone else’s employee, you’ve agreed to give him/her x of your hours x days a week in exchange for that (too-small) paycheck.

    At least we get to trade our time for something we really care about. And we’re assisting writers whose products are often the result of many years’ worth of blood, sweat, and tears.

    Any time I’m really struggling through a manuscript I try to remember how much work the writer has put into it, and how s/he deserves my respect and admiration. Sometimes that helps. Other times, getting through that ms can feel like trying to swim through butter, and I just want to kick the writer in the shins.

    But even then, it’s better than trading your time to Sbarro for $7/hr.

    I hope my hometown is treating you well. Milwaukee and Austin share a lot of similarities. Warmth and sunshine excluded.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, David–and great insight.

      Yes, trading time for money is a reality and the best possible scenario is to do it working with people you love (doing something you love). We’re both lucky to have that in place.

      I just have never thought of it as trading time for money until Chris said it that way. I guess it’s really what any work boils down to and it’s best to be doing something that you believe is making an impact beyond that basic transaction. I think that’s what I find so rewarding about what we do (and I’m sure you feel the same way about the great work you and your team do).

      Milwaukee treated us tremendously well. We stayed at the Iron Horse Hotel, which is absolutely amazing.

      Let’s catch up soon.


  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the recap.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mike. It was great to meet you this week–I look forward to staying in touch. Thanks for a great panel discussion

  • I love the whole “never give the same speech twice.” I think that is such an easy trap that authors fall into when they are hired to speak. Good recap, Rusty!

    • Thanks, Annie–great advice indeed. It’s challenging, but much more rewarding for all involved.

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