Through my years in publishing, I have worked with some really great authors. All of these authors approach self publishing with their own agenda and expertise. Since the whole point of my blog and book is to look at the reality of self-publishing, I thought it would be nice to do a series of author interviews. Welcome to ‘Word on the Street’.
My author interviews will consist of 6 questions about them, their book and their experience. You will get the good, the bad and the ugly. Not all real self publishing stories are full of rainbows and butterflies – it can suck sometimes too.
Josh Frank is an author, trainer, and consultant with 20 years in the federal space. He is a leading authority on small business government sales and speaks nationally on small business acceleration.
Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?
Frank: It started as a concept back in 2003. Before I ever considered the value of publishing, I recognized that my success in business had been the result of an academic approach to how I worked with colleagues and clients. Having worked for both Fortune 500 and small business, I found myself studying the techniques and strategies used by other professionals, identifying gaps, improving those strategies, and successfully using them to win new business. For ten years, I captured and developed thousands of techniques and strategies that simplified processes and accelerated the federal sales cycle. Then in 2006, I tailored these processes into what I later called ‘Realignment Solution Methodology’ (RSM), which became the name of my company two years later (RSM Federal). I knew from talking with other authors that you don’t write a book to make money. In the consulting industry, my peers published in order to brand themselves and to increase their perceived level of credibility. So in 2008 when I decided to start my company, I made sure I had an emergency fund (one year’s living expenses) and I started writing the book. The first three months were focused on planning and organizing my thoughts. Like most industries, there are competent professionals and those not so competent. In the consulting industry, there are equal good stories and horror stories. Every client we’ve had the last several years was hesitant to hire a consultant because they had previously hired a consultant that provided little benefit. As a result, communicating the value of RSM Federal’s services was competing against the memories of past consultants.
I realized that in order to differentiate myself in the market, I had to successfully communicate that my expertise and the expertise of my company was proven, valuable, and an industry leader. This also required that I communicate a highly ethical approach and that I do not simply work for clients, but actively partner with them. To achieve this vision, the thousands of techniques and strategies were communicated in a way that shifted the consulting paradigm. In effect, my book was designed and published to provide a level of credibility that facilitated instant trust and communicated a high level of thought leadership. Of course, it always sounds easier than it is. It took a year to write the book while consistently asking the question ‘What value do my clients require and does this technique or strategy provide that value?’ Today, the manual does not simply provide credibility. It serves as the foundation for every client engagement. Why did I decide to publish? I published because it facilitates personal and organizational credibility while simultaneously differentiating the value of RSM Federal’s services.
I had to ask myself one simple question. Am I selling the book to make money or am I selling the book to differentiate and position in the market? For me, writing the book was about value . . . not revenue. However, value leads to revenue. . .
RARA: What titles have you published to date?
Frank: I have published two works. The first is only known in the US Intelligence Community and within the United States Army; Techniques and Strategies for Virtual Teams, March 2000. I then published the 450 page federal sales guide, The Government Sales Manual in April 2009.
RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?
Frank: Marketing any product, let alone a book, is a difficult undertaking. I should point out that The Government Sales Manual is more expensive than your average book. The cost of printing a single manual costs twice as much to print as what it would cost you to buy a book on Amazon. The retail cost of the manual is more than a hundred dollars. As a result, when I first tried selling via Amazon, I found the price too high to compete with the average book. Without knowing who I am or what my company does, why would someone spend seven times what it would cost to buy what appears to be another similar book? I have two graduate degrees including an MBA and no matter how much content I included in the description or how I positioned that content, I realized that I was priced out of Amazon. I also tried Google Ad Words. However, the only way to generate sales required that I pay expensive pay per click rates. For my market and industry, I simply could not sell enough manuals to cover the cost of an extended Google campaign. Some months it paid off but there were more months where it did not.
It took four years to identify the best marketing strategies. As an example, I spoke at the National Veterans Conference this year. Several hundred business owners attended my sessions. Unlike most authors, I didn’t simply put the book on the table in front of me and refer to it throughout my session. Conference attendees really dislike sessions where the speaker is consistently making a sales pitch. Instead, I took a very strategic approach. I spent two months preparing my sessions – based on a small subset of what is included in the manual. When speaking at a conference, I don’t actively sell the manual – the credibility and trust that is generated from my session sells the manual. It’s also important to note that how I market the manual at a conference is a multi-tiered and integrated strategy. Similar to business cards, I developed a card with a picture of the manual and a dynamic QR code. I then created a landing page on the company website for this specific conference and session and linked the QR code to this page. The QR code was also integrated into each presentation on the last slide. Additionally, I required an emotional trigger so in supporting the Veterans Business Resource Center, donated $20 from every sale to helping Veterans. Additionally, and this runs contrary to today’s best practices, but I do not provide a digital version of the book. To obtain the most value from the book, it needs to be a true desktop reference. When you read the book, the average customer wants to take notes, tag pages, and be able to quickly find those techniques and strategies that will add value to their company. Furthermore, a hard copy becomes a sales tool and we make sales simply because one business owner saw another business owner using the manual. Finally, my web development team spent eight months redesigning our website in 2013. We had professional pictures taken of the book in a conference room overlooking the New York skyline and these pictures were used to develop modern and professional graphics for the website. There are another dozen strategies we employed to facilitate our multi-tiered and integrated marketing strategy but that’s for another time.
RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?
Frank: Actually, no. I found my network and colleagues to be the most beneficial. Of course I researched this online. I looked at several hundred websites and purchased several dozen books. They all provided some level of value but none provided as much value as talking with other authors and colleagues.
RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?
Frank: My greatest challenge has been the cost of goods sold (COGS). Ordering and printing fifty manuals would cost thousands. That’s several thousand dollars in cash flow sitting on my shelves waiting for orders. So my greatest challenge remains identifying a way to decrease COGS.
RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?
Frank: I guess the answer depends on the type of book. I can’t answer this question for non-professional works. But if you’re a business professional looking to differentiate yourself and brand yourself as an expert, self-publishing a book is an excellent project. But before you go down this road, get feedback from your colleagues. Not your family. Not your spouse. Not your friends. Ask your colleagues if what you plan on writing is needed by the market? Are you truly qualified to write about your subject? Do you have at least half a dozen clients or past clients who will write a testimonial saying you are one of the best in your industry? This is why you want to bounce your ideas off your colleagues. And when you’re ready to start writing and you plan on six months to complete it – it’ll take twice as long! At the end of the day, the book is just a tool.
Author, trainer, and consultant with 20 years in the federal space, Josh Frank is a leading authority on small business government sales and speaks nationally on small business acceleration. Mr. Frank specializes in the development and implementation of techniques and strategies for sales, marketing, and teaming activities. These techniques and strategies facilitate improved positioning, competitive advantage, and sales cycle acceleration to win new contracts and increase revenue. His seminars are consistently rated as being real-world, highly educational, and thought provoking.
Principal of RSM Federal (www.rsmfederal.com), Mr. Frank is author of The Government Sales Manual, one of the most comprehensive and educational resources on the market for small business government sales. Since 2003, the manual has helped small businesses win more than 180 government contracts with more than two dozen contract wins in 2013.
Mr. Frank also serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Louis Veterans Business Resource Center (VBRC). In this role, Mr. Frank provides oversight, mentorship, and recommends operational strategy in support of the Center.
An avid outdoor enthusiast and Boy Scout leader, Joshua lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and daughter. A former Military Intelligence Officer, he is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a degree in English and post-graduate degrees in Management Information Systems (MIS) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Webster University Walker School of Business.
For more information on Josh and the RSM Federal, please visit http://www.rsmfederal.com