I’m being followed, Dear Reader.
No, not by my strange cats.
And (mercifully) not by some random weirdo not respecting social distancing.
I’m being followed around by an idea.
It tugs at my sleeve all day long as I work.
It steps on the back of my heels as I walk down the street.
It messes up my hair when I’m about to head out for a nice dinner.
And sometimes, when I’m peacefully about to drift off to sleep, it screams its name in my ear:
“BOOK.” it cries.
“SHUSH.” I shout back, throwing the covers over my head.
(The idea is not very smart. It’s a concept that hasn’t been born yet, after all.)
Pestered by a Vision
“You are a silly idea, and don’t even really have anything to do with my business. And according to the Rules of Entrepreneurship That Are Right and Good, I probably can’t work on you until I have an Official Fancy Business Person Book out.”
“Book.” the idea mutters again, slinking off to its tiny bed in the corner to get some rest before pestering me anew in the morning.
The comforting reality is, I’m not the only one who has this problem.
(Although I may be the one of the few who weirdly anthropomorphizes it.)
Because the fact is, at some point, most of us have thought about writing a book.
Some of us have been told we need to write a book — either because we have a very specialized skill set or story, or someone informed us we should have something to “sell at the back of the room” when we give talks.
So why don’t most of us do it?
Well, in my case the book of comedic — or thoughtful? or serious? or coming-of-age? — essays I’ve been itching to write might sound like a fun project, but I’ve been putting it off for a very mature and meaningful reason:
Writing books is hard, man.
It’s an intimidating project, and a daunting prospect — the logistics alone are dizzying.
Like, should I self-publish?
Try to get a book deal?
Would the advance make it worth it?
Is my audience big enough for that?
Should I talk about some business stuff or not at all?
Is it still valuable if I don’t?
What if I can’t be funny for a full 150 pages straight?!
What if it’s not relevant to sell “in the back of the room”?
And Other Spooky Thoughts
Then, of course, there’s the worrying question at the back of everyone’s minds:
Once my book is written… what if no one reads it?!
(Oh god, the fear that something I haven’t even made yet may languish in obscurity! Surely a fate worse than death!
Get thee away from me, weird book idea. Clearly, it’s better to not even try.)
Blue-Haired Pixie to the Rescue!
That’s why, when Margo suggested having our amazing friend Vicky Fraser (writing coach founder of “Moxie Books”) join us for an episode of #HAMYAW AF, I was an instant hellllll yes!
First off, Vicky isn’t just a hilarious, blue-haired, British hobby farmer who gives off powerful Pixie BFF vibes — she’s also a phenomenal writer, who has a fantastic, unusual perspective on what writing books is really all about.
Seriously – I came to this conversation with the kibosh firmly put upon the idea of writing my book.
But after our interview?
I might just give that little idea a chance after all.
Join Us for the BEST Book-Writing Convo!
Tune in to #HAMYAW where we dig eeeverything you wanna know about writing a book, including:
- Independent vs traditional publishing – THE GREAT DEBATE.
- Why is writing so hard
- Great reasons to write a book
- Terrible reasons to write a book
- Do books make money?
- What kind of book should you write? (like what if you’re a digital marketer, but you WANT to write a SciFi YA thriller? WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?!)
And while you’re over there, let us know in the comments:
Are YOU planning to write a book?
Have you in the past? And if so – what was the experience like? And what happened next?
Enjoy the episode — and maybe consider giving that book of yours a chance, OK?
Your anthropomorphizing friend,
Are we gonna yell at pole dancing or the fact that Vicky has chickens? Like, there’s a lot of things to talk about.
What, wow (sighs) the chickens, we haven’t yelled at any livestock at all on the show.
Oh, I also have miniature sheep. They’re not that small, that’s sort of interesting too.
Oh my god.
They are like, knee-high, and they are total dicks, but they’re awesome, I love them.
Welcome back, marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of HAMYAW, and today, we are filming another episode of HAMYAW and Friends. For this episode of HAMYAW and Friends, we are welcoming to the show the amazing, the legendary Vicky Fraser, who is the founder of Moxie Books, she is the author of “How the Hell Do You Write A Book,” she is the host of the “1,000 Authors Podcast” with her fantastic husband, and she’s here to basically kick people’s butts until they write a book. Vicky, welcome to the show, thank you so much for joining us.
Wow, thank you. That was a hell of an introduction. I’m gonna try and live up to it. (laughs)
What I’m always here for, great to have you, and we’re so, so, so excited that you are here. One thing I wanna open with, and this was hot on my mind, and I know Margo’s mind, and the minds of so many people in the industry, is kind of this issue of the commodification of book writing because books are tools to build your platform, get seen as an expert, ya-ta-da-da-da, and so it’s kind of turned out this pet industry, where it’s like, book in a box, book in a weekend, so ladies, tell me how you really feel about this trend in the digital marketing world that’s expanding into everything else.
Well I mean, part of me thinks, “You know what, “good for them, go do what you wanna do. Build your business, do whatever,” and the other part
No, this is a yelling show. (laughing)
(laughing) I’m getting to that. And the other part of me thinks, “God damn it, books are the repository of human wisdom and knowledge, and I just think they should be treated with a little bit more damn respect than that, you know”? There’s enough crap in the online world, let’s not put any more in there. I’m not saying that all of the books that are produced in a weekend or whatever are crap, some of them I’m sure, are great. And I’ve read one or two of them that are pretty good. But I just don’t think it’s generally possible for most mortals to produce a really great book in a weekend you know, or…
Mortals, that’s your thing. We’re not mortals, we’re special.
I mean it took me quite a long time to write both of my books. And you know, not as long as people might think, but yeah, I just think if you wanna write something that’s gonna make a difference in the world, and I would hope that most people who are gonna write a book would wanna make a difference in the world, because it’s not easy, as Margo knows. (laughs) If it’s worth doing it, it’s worth doing it really well.
I think all the things that you said about books being useful for growing your platform, and expert tips, all that stuff is true, but it doesn’t mean that your book has to just be that tool or just be that glorified business card. I think it can be all of those things and so much more as well. And that’s what I hope people realize and will do once they come into my world and have me yell at them a little bit about
You really nicely said, before we started recording, we were being really cynical about the commoditization of books, and then you said something really beautiful about the democratization of books. Can you speak to that side of things?
Part of the problem I think, of the commoditization of books has come from the democratization of it. And it has never been easier to write and publish a book, which is fantastic, but on the other hand, (chuckles) it’s never been easier to write and publish a book. (laughs) Which means that once you take the gatekeepers away, in many ways, that’s really great, that means that, you know people like us can publish a book that aren’t having to go through all of the agent stuff and you know, oh my God, am I good enough, and being rejected, and all that kind of thing.
But it does mean that anybody can just fling a book out there, if you go and download some random Kindle books, then some of them are frankly awful, and you know, have never even been near a proofreader, let alone an editor, and they’re riddled with typos. I’ve read, I’ve tried to read books that are basically unreadable because of that. It’s not just the spelling and grammar type thing, which makes it difficult, it’s just the content of it as well.
You know, you can empty your brain onto a page, and then you can just publish it, and whilst that is in some ways awesome, it’s also fairly horrific. So yeah, the democratization of books has been great, because it’s taken away the gatekeepers, but it has meant that, with content marketing, there’s a deluge of crap out there. I think that’s happening with the book world as well now. And it’s just
Sometimes there’s something inside of you that needs to be written, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be published. (laughs)
And I think that we do a really bad job of distinguishing between the two for ourselves, it’s muddy ground, because as people in the business of content, whether that content lives online or lives in books, is part of the knowledge economy and the information economy, the work is personal, so you use story, and you infuse your personality into your brand, but some of those things aren’t relevant to your brand, or they’re sloppy first pieces. And we’re not always introduced to how you produce work as a professional.
We did an episode on turning pro, and I think that is one of the things that frustrates me the most I think, about the content world, is that it basically said anyone can be a professional writer, and I would really distinguish the difference between a writer and an author because I think an author is basically anyone who’s published.
So a lot of people can call themselves authors, it’s a wonderful title, it’s a beautiful title, but a lot of authors use ghostwriters. They’re not actually writers. I think a writer is someone who feels something in their heart that they have to say, that might be writing poetry that has nothing to do with their business, it might just be something that they want to be out in the world that they’re doing beautifully, or that they’re doing deliberately like me and Hillary.
When you are a writer who is taking your own work seriously, which I think, and I would encourage our viewers to consider, if you are in the content space, or the book space, you are a professional writer. This is part of what you do, even if you don’t identify that way, and so it behooves you to take it seriously, and part of take it seriously is, you don’t do “fuck it ship it”, that’s not a thing that we do, you can do that a little on Twitter, but for the most part “fuck it ship it” is into your Evernote, and then do 16 more drafts before you get to the one that is actually seen by the people.
Now there’s different channels and different outlets for this, but I think it’s really important, because one thing that we are not, and that we shouldn’t be, and this is my frustration with the commoditization of books, it’s not just that I’m self righteous about books, but I am, it’s also that we’ve used it as an excuse to be sloppy, and that’s where I don’t think it’s okay.
One of my very best friends, she’s much more of a speaker than a writer, and she’s using a ghostwriter for her book. There is no shame in that, she has great ideas, they’re being captured by someone who is really, really helping her distill them, developmentally edit them, getting them clear, she’s treating it like a pro. She’s taking it seriously, she’s not just being like, here’s some verbal vomit, just stick it out. And I think that that is the difference.
Going back to one of the things you said about calling yourself a writer, and treating yourself a writer, is a lot of people don’t have the confidence to do that. And that is one of the things that I think a book can do for you, and that’s one of the reasons I think, that self-publishing is wonderful, and traditional publishing is wonderful as well, but if you can say,
“I’m gonna write a book, and I don’t have to worry about the gatekeepers, and I don’t have to worry about traditional publishing, and I can publish it myself,” then that enables you to then treat yourself like that pro. Because it’s like, I’m not gonna put out something that’s just you know, a bag of crap. You almost can’t, if you love books as much as I do, and as much as you guys obviously do.
When you start treating, you say “Oh I’m gonna publish this myself, but I’m gonna make it proper, I’m gonna make it a wonderful thing,” then that allows you to then treat yourself like a professional, and honestly, the confidence boost I’ve seen my clients get from writing a book has been astonishing. And you can see them grow a couple of inches taller. And that’s all tied into that professionalism, and that, I’m gonna take it seriously, I’m gonna do it properly, and I’m gonna not just vomit on some page and then think, oh I’ve got a book, I can use it as a business card.
Yeah, the devaluing comes with the book business card thing, it’s like, this is how you build your platform, this is how you get asked to speak. And the faster you do it, the faster you’re gonna see those results. And I think when it comes to those book in a box type of offers, what do you feel is the biggest piece missing from them, aside from time?
Depth, I think, not to say that there can’t be any depth to them, but it’s like, the end goal I think, is what’s missing, do you want to put something out into the world that is gonna last, that’s gonna be your legacy, that’s really gonna make a big difference, or do you just want it to be the next tick box marketing tool? And you know what, if you want it to be the next tick box marketing tool, good for you, go do that. Go do that over there, far away from me, because (laughing) you want it to be something that is gonna really make a difference to you and to the people who read it.
And that’s the other thing as well, I’ve heard people say, nobody’s gonna read your book.
And I’m like (squeals) but that’s really sad. (laughs)
Because even if you’ve not spent that much time on it, it’s still damn hard work you know, and you would think you would want people to read the thing that you have created. And so that whole idea of nobody’s gonna read it just makes me feel sad. It’s like, how about if instead, we write something that we want people to read, and not just read but love, and not just love, but find really valuable and useful. There’s nothing like the feeling when somebody is like, “Oh I’ve read your book, and I did this, and it changed my life, and then you’re like (whimpering). (hosts giggling)
I think that’s what’s missing, to answer that question.
Yeah, that’s sort of an oversimplification of the whole process, because if you can write a book in a weekend, then I think maybe it causes the industry as a whole to almost devalue books. It’s like, the announcement becomes, it holds maybe, less, and less weight ultimately, because you’re gonna be like, “Well anybody can write a book right now.”
And another thing, the whole write a book in a weekend thing, or a week is just a lie, because that’s like, what they mean is, I got my shitty first draft done in a weekend, which is entirely possible, and then they don’t tell you about the weeks of editing that often come later, or the fact that you’re gonna send it to your editor, or send it to your ghost writer, or do all of the other things that go along with it. It’s like, oh yeah, come and write your book in a week. And it’s like, no, that’s not really what happens though, is it? It’s a big, fat lie.
When your clients come to you, they’re looking to make a deeply resonant book, do they still have that mentality, of check off the box? What tends to be the exception there?
By the time they come to me, they really wanna do something that’s gonna make a big difference to their business, that is gonna help them grow their business, because ultimately that’s what they wanna do, and that’s fine, but they also really want to create something that they can be proud of, that they can say “I made this, this is a thing that I made, and I’m really proud of it, and people are gonna be able to use it, and find it valuable,” and it’s like, “A, I wanna do this, and B, how the hell do I get started?” And that’s, quite often people say to me, “How the hell do you write a book?”
“Bird by Bird.”
Yeah, “Bird by Bird.” Yeah, great book.
I give that to everyone. No, I feel like the deeper I go in, and this is kind of how Vicky and I became friends is, she checked on my book, and I was like, “I’m not doing anything right, I feel like I know less now.” And she was like, “Well how many words do you have”? And I was like, “60,000 words,” and she was like, “And you know less now,” and I was like, “Yes.”
That’s a thing that happens though. It’s like, you write your book, and then two things happen, and it’s really weird, because the first thing that happens is you realize how much you know, and that’s part of the confidence-building thing, and the second thing that happens is you realize how much you don’t know. (laughing)
But you learn, the whole process of writing a book means that you learn, because I didn’t know that much about the traditional publishing industry before I started writing my book. And I still don’t know that much, because that’s not the field I operate in. But I wouldn’t have found out, and I found out a lot more, and now I’m learning, and it’s like, the process of writing a book will teach you stuff. And I’m sure you’re finding that Margo, right?
Oh my God, yes, so much, I mean you really have to crystallize what you believe, and what your process is, and what you do, and it forces you to organize things in a way that my About page hasn’t forced me to do. (laughs) I would say the book is similarly frustrating, because as a mentor once told me, “You’re trying to make it the book, instead of a book,” and so you’re trying to boil the ocean, you’re like, “But I have to keep all my whys in here, and tell you all the things that I love about my family, and my purpose, and my meaning, and it’s like, “No actually, let’s cut it out.”
You said something earlier about vanity publishing. You said it used to be that publishing independently was sort of vanity publishing, and traditional publishing was legit, and it’s sort of reversed into traditional publishing is the vanity publishing, and independent is not. And it really rang true for me, because I really wanted to independently publish, and then traditional became an option, and I wanted it for vanity. I’ll be really, really honest. There was no part of me that sees a business case for it, I actually think I’ll lose money, but I was like, “No, I want the credibility, and the prestige that comes with it.”
Totally, don’t get me wrong, if Penguin wants to knock on my door and say, “Write me a book,” I’d be like, “Hell yes!”
And because you know, traditional publishing is awesome. If you can be traditionally published, and that works for you, then that’s amazing, because I would never say to somebody, “Absolutely don’t do it.” I think that what I would say is you’ve gotta really think about what you want your book to do for you, and that’s the important part of it, because I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that traditional publishing means generally, unless you’re J.K. Rowling, that you are gonna sign away everything, you will lose control of everything.
And if you are lucky enough to hit their shelves at the right time, then it can be amazing, and you can be a New York Times bestseller, but if you don’t hit at the right time, and the luck isn’t on your side, then as soon as your book is done, the publisher will move onto the next book, because they’re a business, they have to. They have to be thinking about their margins. And they’re not gonna do anything with your book.
And the chances of you being able to do anything else with it then are really, really slim, because you don’t own any of the rights to it anymore. That’s a really important thing to consider. Because recently (mumbles) has just published a book, and it’s really cool, I think that’s amazing, and she’s coming on my podcast, which is really exciting
And that’s amazing. And she’s got this massive platform. So that’s gonna work really well for her.
I know it is, because she’s got this big marketing machine behind her, and she’s got her own marketing thing as well. If someone like me was to do that, that probably wouldn’t work as well for me. Definitely wouldn’t work for a lot of my clients, because they need to be able to use that book exactly how they want, they need to be able to offer it, for example, for free, sometimes it makes sense to give it away as a lead magnet.
And again, it’s not a glorified lead magnet, it’s a really valuable thing, but it’s still, you wanna have control over it.
So that’s why I think that sometimes, there I guess, an older generation of people as well, they will be like, “Oh, you’re self-publishing your book,” with that look on their face. (giggles) You know the look, “Oh, you’re self-publishing your book.”
“Oh, so you’re just publishing like 10 copies for you, yeah”?
Hmm, that kind of used to be how it worked, but now I think if traditional publishing isn’t gonna serve you, it’s not gonna do for you what you want and need it to do, then that’s when it becomes vanity.
Talk to me more about the business case, because I actually was thinking about this for myself. Because my audience is really small. Maybe at the time of publication that will change.
Like, I have a friend of mine who only independently published, and then when his platform was big enough, I think he had 30 to 40,000 people on his list, there wasn’t a good business case to traditionally publish, he was making more money from independent publishing, but when traditional started getting interested in him, then they wanted a big advance, because his audience was so big, it became a different thing, it was really interesting.
And I was talking to him, and I was like, “But at the size of my platform, independent publishing actually wouldn’t make me that much money.” I was puzzled by this.
Okay, so the way I see it is that, the money that business owners are gonna make from their books generally isn’t gonna be from their books, it’s the first, yeah, it’s the entry into your business. And it’s the thing that allows people to get to know you, and they’re gonna take you to bed, and they’re gonna read you in the bath, and all that kind of
I know, right, it’s a really intimate way of building that relationship. I want loads of people to read my book, of course I do, but what I then want them to do is get into my world and buy more shit from me. So what do I want to sell them? I wanna teach them how to write a book.
Some people are gonna read my book and they’re gonna go write their own books, and that’s brilliant, most people are not gonna do that. They’re just gonna read it, and they’re gonna be like “Right, what do I do now,” I mean I just told you, but also I can show you.
So I will coach people, or I’ve got live writing courses, or I’ve got retreats that I do. And so, for the business case, that’s where the money is ultimately gonna come.
The lead magnet.
It’s the entryway into your business, and so unless you’ve got a huge readership, like somebody like Ryan Holiday, (mumbling) then traditional publishing isn’t gonna make you that kind of money. Even for his books, and for those big people, they’ve always got that call to action in the back of the book, it’s like, where do you go next?
You read a wonderful book, what’s the first thing you wanna do? You wanna find out more about the person who wrote it, right, you want more of their stuff. You want to read their blogs, you wanna sign up for emails and all the rest of it, so that’s for me, is where the business case is for self-publishing.
Is that, unless you’ve got that huge, huge, huge platform, you’re not gonna make the money from the books themselves, and that’s not really the point. The point is to build that relationship and help people get to know you and reach more people as well.
Because I can’t coach all the people in the world to write a book, I can’t possibly do that. But if enough people read my book, (mumbling) it’s, I can help people who either can’t afford my services or who I can’t help because I haven’t got time.
I feel like it’s really similar to all the reasons why we have content.
Yeah, I have to say, it’s just another type of content because it’s books.
But it is, it is, yeah, it is. It’s just another medium, I think it’s a medium that is more lasting because people, you do not throw books away, proper people don’t throw books away.
Marie Condo does. There was a riot.
But emails and blog posts, you do save some of the ones that you read you will save, but ultimately, they’re just pixels on a screen, they’re not real, but if you have a book in your hand, it’s always there, and it just feels longer lasting. More eternal.
The next thing that I wanted to bring up, which is something we were talking about before the interview started, is you can have books as three different categories. There’s a business tool book, the brand-building tool book, and then the creative expression tool.
Can you talk to us, because the creative expression’s kind of obvious, but what would you say is the difference between a book that serves as a business building tool and a book that serves as kind of a brand-building tool?
I’m not sure there is a huge difference, to be honest.
Yeah, and I don’t see why a book can’t be all three of those things and more. I get my clients to do is, you put your stories in, you put your personality in, you do all of that stuff, and so it can be a business-building book. It can be a brand-building book, and it can be a creative expression, and I think that if you’ve done a really good job of it, it is all those three things anyway.
And ultimately, I think it comes down to if you’re gonna write your book, why are you writing it?
I think that’s what the difference is gonna be. But I think a really, really good book is all three of those things anyway because it shouldn’t be just you know, a dry, oh this is how you do this thing, or just walk you through these, you know, nobody wants to read that.
People wanna read your personal story.
They wanna read your take on things. Anybody can write a book about any topic and teach, in theory, teach you something, but what people want from authors I think, from writers is your take on it.
So it’s like, well why do you believe this? What’s your opinion? And that automatically means that you’re gonna be creatively expressing yourself, you’re putting your personality into it, and you’re gonna be teaching because you guys know better than anyone that it’s stories that teach people stuff. And you know, without stories, nobody’s gonna listen.
I think that’s so essential too because when I think about writing a book, all I wanna do is take a nap because it’s been drilled into me at this point that a book is a means to an end. And when I was a kid growing up, I would think about writing a book, I would wanna write a novel, I would wanna do this or that, and for me, it’s ultimately a book of essays that keeps getting pushed to the back burner, because I’m like…
It’s coming. I will make sure of it. Doesn’t do anything.
You know, you can write a book, and have it be something that’s a tool for your business, but also a form of creative expression, and I think for some reason in my brain, those two feel mutually exclusive, where like, if you’re having fun writing a book, that’s a fun book, and you can put that over there.
But we need the business building book that you can sell at the back of the room, so I really, really liked that you sort of put that inclusive angle on it. Because again, I think the commodification of the industry is also putting a big damper on the joy of the creative process of it and makes it feel very calculated and almost surgical in nature, which is never fun.
In that arena.
No, it’s not, it sucks. And you know, you saying that it’s something you should have fun with, you totally should.
Because I think you can tell when you read a book if the writer has had fun writing it or not. I really think you can, and if you’re not having fun writing it, then for goodness sake, who’s gonna wanna read it, you know what I mean?
It made me think of the first time someone was like, “You should write a book,” I had two things that came to mind, first to mind, I was like, “That’s for novelists, not people like me.” And so, that was the first mindset shift I had to make, lots of different types of writers can write books because to me, it was like only fiction is a legitimate style of book.
(laughing) I remember we had this argument.
But then the other side of me was like, “Oh, as a business person, you should write a marketing book.” And there was not a bone in my body that wanted to write that book, and I felt irresponsible. I was like, “I feel like what I’m supposed to do is have this lead magnet book that gives you my marketing philosophy, gives it in my expression, and the 10 different ways that you can build your list and grow your brand, and profit in a million dollars.”
Whatever the thing is, but I think that part of the problem is also viewing as you get only one book.
We’re all multifaceted people, and Hillary and I often, on the show, go back to our schemas of looking at celebrities.
And if you look at someone like Lady Gaga, she will correct you if you call her a singer. She will literally say “I am an artist.” Can you imagine if someone came up to Lady Gaga and was like, “You should write a book,” and she’s like, “But I’m not a writer.”
I mean her book, the first one, was all pictures. It was just pictures, and I think that part of the problem with what you’ve identified, Hillary, is that when we templatize it, we have this one version that we’re thinking of, it’s a thing we give out.
Like Vicky, you said, that no one reads.
It’s a business card that isn’t important, that perfectly distills your consulting method, and it’s basically an elongated sales page. And it takes the magic and the fun out of writing. And I think at some point, we need to give people permission to not at some point, Vicky’s doing this, to write as themselves.
Yeah. Absolutely, and while we’re at it, we should strike the word should from our vocabularies.
Yes, people are saying to you “You should write a book,” and I just don’t like it, because it automatically puts people on the defensive, and it just, it’s like, well maybe you shouldn’t, actually.
Maybe you shouldn’t, you don’t have to.
And so my first question to anybody who comes into my world is, “Do you really want to write a book, because if you don’t want to, then this is gonna be a painful process. I’m not gonna lie.” (laughs)
Why would you put yourself through it?
And it goes back to the whole, is it gonna be fun? Who should, who shouldn’t write a book, do you want to, and if you do want to, if you really want to, if you’ve got something inside you that needs to come out and go into a book, then it will find its way out at some point, so let’s do it properly.
One question I wanted to ask you, so I’m gonna try not to use the word should in this sentence, (laughing) but who is a good candidate to write a book, and who is not, in the online business world?
What kind of businesses, one, would really benefit from a book, or individuals, versus who are people who can kind of be like, meh, move on? Because I think for me, what feels like is missing is that a book isn’t really necessary.
I felt like I’ve already wrote one about copywriting with my course, which was a monster of a project. But when I think about who, not should, (laughing) and not should not write a book, who falls into those categories? Who would get the most use out of it?
That’s a good question, I would, I mean I normally say that anyone who wants to and has got something important to say can write a book. I get what you’re saying about the copywriting world in particular because I was a copywriter.
That’s kind of what I did before I do this, so I’ve been there, and I didn’t love it enough to become really great at it, which is why I’m doing this now. And I mean yeah, if there was any industry that is overbooked to death, it is marketing and copywriting. And there is one for everybody.
But, a lot of the books on marketing and copywriting are really boring, they are, and so you know, if Hillary Weiss is gonna write a really fucking funny book about copywriting, then I’m gonna buy it. (Hillary laughs)
This goes for law and finance as well, by the way, two highly regulated industries. And I get that push back a lot, it’s like, “Oh I’m really regulated, I can’t say stuff”. And I’m like, “Well yeah you can, you can tell stories.”
If you’re in an industry that’s traditionally a bit stuffy, or a bit boring, or takes itself really seriously, like marketing and copywriting, and you’re a fresh voice, then God, use your voice, write a book that’s really funny.
This is the thing that I always say to people is, “Okay yeah, there might be 100 other books on your subject, but none of them are by you.”
You know, and it’s like you talk about your lists of people who are on your list. I haven’t got that big a list, but all the people on that list, they could go listen to anybody, but they wanna listen to my story about my ridiculous tiny sheep and falling over on my face, you know what I mean, that kind of thing, and was that a cat?
Yes, that was a cat. (laughing)
Awesome, one of my best clients wrote his first book, and now he’s on book number five.
Whoo. And then there are people like our translator, who’s written a fantastic book about doing business in the UK, and so yeah, you can write a book on anything. (mumbles) There’s only so much I can say about plumbing, and it’s like, “Well, no not really, because the people behind the thing that is really, really interesting, not the thing itself”
Can we sit on that for a second, because I will use Hillary here, as an example
But like, if you guys weren’t paying attention in 2019, Hillary wrote some amazing “Game of Thrones” recaps on Medium, and some of them went viral, some of them were just fricking hilarious, and got a bit of a following, but had nothing to do with copywriting, right, nothing to do with marketing, except that they did!
You see how someone can persuasively write, you get challenged in your conventional viewpoints, you get stories, you get someone in your head saying what you are also thinking, and literally, every quality that makes Hillary a great writer, author, speaker, and creative director is like, inside of the stories she tells, and the way she tells them.
And so part of the thing I want people to take away from what Vicky just said is that it doesn’t have to link A to B in that linear fashion that you think.
It doesn’t have to be, okay Hillary writes a book on copywriting.
Hillary can display why she’s so great at positioning by telling you stories about things that seem completely irrelevant.
Because they’re not irrelevant, and part of what you become obsessed with is her perspective, and that person. And it’s what Vicky was saying earlier about, people are fascinated with the writer when they’ve..
Really written something great, you just wanna consume all of it.
My “Game of Thrones”, (laughs) where recaps were a marketing tool.
Who knew, all that wasting time on Monday morning.
But no, I love that perspective, and I think it’s so important because again, we talk so much on the show about taking yourself seriously as a creative, and instead of asking the, why me, existential crisis, asking why not, and I think that’s a really powerful tool for people, and I love that you have come to the table with that for your authors by basically taking all the perceived limits off of the approach, like “I have to focus on this, I can’t say this, I’m highly regulated,” and are opening up people to the creative and joyful experience of writing books.
I think that’s fucking huge, thank you for the work that you do, that sounds awesome.
So in terms of who should or should not write a book, everybody should write a book, and everybody could write
If they want.
With the caveat that as long as you know enough about your subject to talk about it, because that’s another problem with the commoditization of books, you know, people are like, “Oh, I’ve literally just started out in my industry, “literally, don’t know anything. What should I do, I should write a book.”
No, I think you have to earn a book. (laughing)
You have to earn a book by actually doing your thing for a little while. (laughs)
Not that you can’t write a book if you’re still in the early stages. Because write about that, I did that. My first book was, “I Haven’t Been in Business Very Long,” and it was like, what do I wish I’d known when right at the beginning, oh, this is what I’d wish I’d known, so I just wrote that. And it’s not a great book, but I’m still proud of it, because it was my first book.
I think one of my first mentors said, “If you can talk confidently about a subject for at least an hour, you can write a book about it,” and I think that’s true, but ultimately about it as well because you need to give a shit about what you’re doing, I hope, most people would do that. So yeah, everybody can write a book. Maybe not everybody should, and I think you need to earn it, I think you need to earn it.
Having a perspective.
Yeah, absolutely. We are so close to time, so I actually wanna ask one question, that I think I ask all of our guests, hope that I asked Rene this too, but if you could strike one thing from the book writing industry, if there was one thing that you were like, “I hope I never see this again if it was gone yesterday it would be far too late.” What is something that you wish you could wash away from the book industry right now?
Fear masquerading as professionalism, because people who are really afraid of what other people think of them, which is everybody really, you end up just covering that fear with this pompous language that is not them. And you can tell, you can tell. You can tell when somebody is uncomfortable with what they’re saying.
Okay, so here is my analogy, and it’s like, you know when you see a woman wearing an amazing dress, and it may be super short, or it may be super tight, and if she would just own it, she’d look amazing, but she’s like.
And, do you know what I mean, and that’s what makes people look at her and go “Oh, what are you doing, what are you wearing”? Where she should just be like, “I look fucking fabulous.”
If you could see her entire butt because you know, she would just be owning it.
And I think that’s the analogy that I like to use with writing, and writing a book…
Is like, just own it, you know enough. You’re an expert in what you do. You are a good person, you are an interesting person, because everybody’s interesting.
It’s not about finding your voice, because everybody’s got a voice. It’s about allowing yourself to use it. And not letting everybody else and your inner dickhead say “No, no, no, you need to be smaller, you need to be smaller.”
Yes, oh my God, I love that. We are closing on that note.
A reminder to everyone as a corollary to this, check out our imposter syndrome episode, where we go a little bit deeper on the fear that holds you back, leaning into your expertise, and remember that you are an expert in your own opinion, so if you’re feeling uncomfortable, that’s something that you can hang your hat at, but determine that it’s an opinion.
Vicky, this has been such an absolute pleasure to have you here with us, thank you for making the time, and joining us all the way from Great Britain. And tell us where people can find you online.
Oh gosh, so if you want to see me falling occasionally on my face, and getting stuck to trapezes, then you can follow me on Instagram @treefrogtoe, all one word. (laughs)
Yeah, I have like, my second toe is bigger than all of my other toes, and I look like a tree frog, so.
If you wanna find out more about writing books or something like that, you can go to moxiebooks.co.uk, and there’s my blog, and you can get my book, my book’s on Amazon as well. And just type “How the Hell Do You Write a Book,” into Amazon and it should pop up.
I love that title.
As I wrote to my column, that was what people say to me, is like, “How the hell do I write a book,” it was like
That’s a Bible.
That is perfect, Vicky, thank you so much for being here. Y’all check out her stuff, go find out how to write a really good book that brings you joy, that excites you, and lights you up. If you like this episode, please like it below, subscribe to our channel and leave us a comment with some of your thoughts, we will see you in two weeks. I am Margo Aaron.
I’m Hillary Weiss.
And this is, Vicky, say your name.
Vicky Fraser, thank you so much. (laughs)
Yay. (hands clapping)
Thank you guys so much for joining us. We’ll See you in two weeks.
Photo by Juliet Clare Warren