Zach Obront (Book In A Box) on how publishing books can give you serious credibility and authority

Ever dream of publishing a book? Not sure where to begin? Zach Obront, co-founder of Book In A Box goes in depth on what it means to be a published author, and how his process helps authors...

Full Transcript of The Video

Eric Siu: Today we have Zach Obront, who is the co-founder of Book In A Box. Actually, if you want to listen to the podcast interview that we have with one of the other co-founders, Tucker Max, just Google Growth Everywhere, Tucker Max, and you'll find it, and you actually listen to me get him to reveal one of his really personal stories, so check that one out. Zach, how's it going today?

Zach Obront: All good, having fun here.

Eric Siu: Great, so Zach actually had a talk yesterday, which was really great, and I think we're going to talk about that a little bit in this short condensed time, but Zach, tell us a little bit about who you are a little more and then kind of what you do over there at Book In A Box.

Zach Obront: Perfect, so yeah, what we do as a company is we help entrepreneurs, experts, professionals, people who really know their subject matter, go from idea to published book. When I was in publishing before, we'd always jump in and help with one little slice, and something else would screw up, and we found that what was needed with books was someone to manage the whole process, make it easy, allow the idea people to focus on their ideas. We work with those types of people, right from the start. We say, "Let's help you position and structure, and outline your book. Let's help interview you." We walk through that outline, kind of talk them through all the points. We write the first draft. We work with them on revisions, and then we handle all the publishing and marketing as well. It's really everything, A to Z.

Eric Siu: Got it, and so what are the main benefits, I guess, for people wondering if they should be doing the book in the future? What can you get out of having a book?

Zach Obront: The way I think of it, there's a lot of different reasons that people do books. The big one is just, in my mind it's the best form of content marketing. It is more authoritative than anything else you can do. It facilitates word of mouth better than most other forms of content, and it really turns people into fans. It makes you the person in their mind better than other forms of content that you can create, so that's the number one reason.
When I talk to entrepreneurs who have done books, a lot of think like, "Great, how do I market this book now?" What we try to change, when we change that frame is, how do I use this book as a tool for marketing everything else about me, forever, for the rest of my life?

Eric Siu: Got it, and you guys take entrepreneurs, let's say I want to put together a book, you guys will take me from soup to nuts, the whole way through to publishing it, and marketing it?

Zach Obront: Yeah, the whole way through.

Eric Siu: Got it.

Zach Obront: Yeah, for everyone, we take them from, I've got an idea to my book is out, it's launched. I'm ready to run with it. For some people who want additional work, we can help them leverage that book going forward as well.

Eric Siu: Got it, and what are some case studies, some books that you've done in the past that have done well?

Zach Obront: Yeah, so a few in this space, there's a book, Giftology by John Ruhlin.

Eric Siu: Oh yeah, good book.

Zach Obront: Great book, so he's a perfect example of this. He is number one Cutco knife salesman in history because he started, instead of selling knives, using them as gifts in order to help companies build stronger relationships, and basically he's given gifts for 17 years professionally, and he's found all the ways that gifts break through better, they make a stronger impact. They really connect people. They lead to more retention and referrals, and all of businesses do gifts wrong. They send a mug with their logo on it, and so he's like, "I know this. Every time I talk to someone they're like, you're brilliant. You should write a book. I want to learn from this," but he didn't have a way to get that message out there. He just did it for the big companies that could hire him.
Giftology was his way to do that. Book came out, did really well, sold lots of copies, and what he's found since then is A, when people talk about gifting, even if he's not in the room, that comes up and his name is now in the conversation, and B, when conferences or companies want to learn more about this, they know he's the person to talk to, so he's doubled his speaking fees. He's given 20 keynotes in the last year. He's been able to brand himself as the gifting guy, instead of just being a guy who gives gifts.

Eric Siu: Okay, so I've actually gotten that gift before. It's a book in a leather bag, and then I think it's in a leather tomb, right?

Zach Obront: Yeah.

Eric Siu: It's really memorable.

Zach Obront: That's, obviously we don't do that with every book. He is the, because he's such a gifting guy, he said, "How do we take this and make me giving my book to someone a memorable and credible experience instead of just another book?"

Eric Siu: Got it, okay. For those people that maybe don't have the money to get started and use A Book In A Box, I mean, what are some, maybe two or three rapid fire tips you might have for people?

Zach Obront: Yeah, so two big things. One, the thing that screws every author up is that their first step is to sit down and start writing. They think that's like, "I'm a writer, I've got to start writing." Really, think about it this way, if you write a whole book down and then you realize the ideas are off, you're now having to manipulate those ideas with 50,000 words of text around them. Step one is taking way more time than you think is reasonable to get all the ideas solid, to get it organized, to know who you're reaching, to know why they care, before you ever start writing.
Second thing that makes writing a book unattainable for a lot of entrepreneurs is the amount of time it takes. If you're running a business or you're speaking and you're doing other things, writing a book is hard to fit into your schedule. What we've realized is, once you have this outline, once you have the structure, once you've really done the idea work, writing doesn't need to be the way you get those ideas out, so what we do with our authors is once we have that outline, they get interviewed, and they're talking out all the ideas in the book, in their words, in the right order. Then, that's transcribed. Basically what we have at that point is a full draft that's horribly written, but it's all their ideas in the right order. Then, we can have an editor work from there because all the ideas are on the page.

Eric Siu: Got it.

Zach Obront: For people who can't afford us, I'd recommend doing the same thing. Once it's organized, you can sit down and record yourself talking through all those ideas, and now you have a bad manuscript that's ready for an editor to help you out with, and you can cut the time down by quite a bit.

Eric Siu: Super helpful, I mean I've heard from book people in the past where it's like, "Man, maybe you just need to do like," and maybe I can get your take on this, people are talking about how you should do five drafts, or your book is probably going to be five drafts before you actually even think about releasing it to the public. What are your thoughts around that?

Zach Obront: I think it's definitely true that it is more drafts than people expect, like that there's more back and forth, and more tweaking, and once you see it, and you care about it, it starts to be a bigger thing. I think the reason that it's five or such a high number is because people don't do that thinking up front. When you can really get clear, when you know your readers really well, and you know what you want to say and you take the time to organize it, you don't need the structural re-writes that take as much time. You just need a few big shifts, some feedback, some language changes, and the revisions can be condensed quite a bit.

Eric Siu: Got it, and how long does it usually take for people to get a book done?

Zach Obront: Our loose estimates are from talking to people, normal author, no guidance, dives in, like 1,000 to 2,000 hours. When we've taught people hot to replicate our process on our own, and I've got a book that I wrote, The Book In a Box Method, that runs through how to do this exactly, and it's free on our website, so you can link to that. If they follow that process, usually about 150 to 200 hours, and then when they work with us, about 30 to 40 hours.

Eric Siu: Way shorter.

Zach Obront: Way shorter.

Eric Siu: Wow, okay.

Zach Obront: Yeah.

Eric Siu: Book In A Box, I mean, out of curiosity, how does the service work, how much are people looking to pay, things like that?

Zach Obront: Yeah, so we charge $25,000.00 total. Over the course of five months, so it's $5,000.00 a month, we handle everything. That's not like the instructions on how to do it, that is working with the ex-executive editor of Harper Collins to structure the book, and working with a professional writer who does the writing, and all of these pieces, and the top notch cover design, and then when the book comes out, we take zero of the rights and royalties, so we're a publisher, but the business model is self-publishing. Once it's out, they own everything. We don't own any of the rights, and so our costs are just that cost that goes into it.

Eric Siu: Got it. Well Zach, I mean this has been super helpful. Final thing for you, I mean is there anything else that you'd like to add for aspiring entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, or anything around books?

Zach Obront: The big thing is, I think a lot of people when they talk about doing a book, they say, "Yeah, that's something I want to do one day," and what I encourage people to do is pick a path, to say, "Is this something that really genuinely matters to me and I want to do?" If it is, there are ways to get through all of those barriers and make it happen in the time you have, no matter what. If it's not really, and it's something that they kind of would rather fantasize about, then make the decision, "I'm going to wait five years and re-visit this," because the sad stories I hear every day on sales calls are, "I've been half trying to do this for ten years and haven't made any progress," so my recommendation is, commit or decide not to commit.

Eric Siu: There you go. Zach, thanks so much for doing this.

Zach Obront: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Eric Siu: Yep.

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