Podcast Episodes

How To Develop A Book Concept That Has Best Seller Potential – with Chad Allen

Identifying Readers’ Needs to Make Sure They’ll Be Attracted to Your Book
Let me ask you. Which is more appealing to you:
🤔 a book that will “wake you up”?
🤔 a book that will help you live a more fulfilling life?
That’s the topic for this Masterclass Conversation with Chad Allen. Chad brings extensive experience in the traditional publishing industry where he spent over 20 years as an editor, acquisitions editor, and the last seven as editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
He is the creator of Book Proposal Academy and BookCamp.
His mission is to help writers get their books into the world.

Tobin Slaven 0:00

This is Book of Experts TV, and I'm your host Tobin Slaven. We're back for an interview. And today, today, we're going to be talking about books. And I'm excited for this conversation because books have been on my mind. lately. If you guys haven't seen my newsfeed, you'll know I'm referring to. And if you think you will learn a lot by reading books, imagine how much you will learn from actually writing a book. Right? It's a it is a process that you have to turn your yourself inside out to get some of that information onto the page. And in a way that's going to make an impact. And today, we're going to be talking about book concepts, how to take that concept, maybe that idea that you have in your mind, and develop it all the way through to a best seller. And I'm going to bring on our guest, Chad Allen, welcome to book of experts TV, excited to have you here. I'm glad to be here. Thanks, Tobin. So Chad is joining us. And what's really interesting here, folks is he has this whole background years of experience with Baker books in the traditional publishing environment, which I think is important to to note notate. Because Chad, we see an awful lot of folks that are now self publishing. And I know you've got boot camp, and you do a lot of work with authors in different ways as they're developing their ideas. But I want to, I want to start with your background of you coming from that traditional publishing world, and what you're seeing in our space now and sort of how you look at it because you have a perspective that I think we can all learn from.

Chad Allen 1:31

That's great. Yeah, I come from 20 years out of 20 years in the traditional marketing, publishing space, started as a lowly copy editor moved up into acquisitions. My my role was to bring books under contract. And the last seven of my 16 or so years at Baker, I was the editorial director, again, bringing books under contract. So evaluating proposals, helping authors develop concepts, advocating for those concepts, and then bringing them to press, and eventually to market. So one of the reasons I'm doing what I'm doing now, instead of still being in the corporate space, is one thing about traditional publishing is that I had to say, No, a lot. No, your concept isn't strong enough, no, your writing isn't compelling enough, no, your platform isn't big enough. And I just started to grate on me, honestly, I wanted to start saying yes to writer. So I started a blog. And that eventually turned into a full time coaching profession. So I would say that the ingredients for success, when it comes to publishing are all the same, regardless of traditional or self publishing, those core ingredients are the same, it's just that with traditional publishing, you have to get permission. And there are, there is some value with getting that permission, you get some things from a traditional contract that you don't get otherwise, with self publishing, you don't need permission. And that's beautiful, too. So I'm a fan of both models. And I just think it all depends on what your goals are.

Tobin Slaven 3:03

I think one of the things that so the the book that we have that just came out was self published. And I think that one of the things that's attractive to me, obviously, there's other benefits, you know, of sort of being under print label and all that. But the rigor that's attached to, should this book be written? Does this book deserve to be published in the traditional sense that the rigor that was attached to that probably is something that should be applied a little bit more in the self publishing world? My feeling is, there's so much conversation about, you need a book, the book is going to build your authority in your space. It's a it's about the author, and maybe not enough conversation about the readers? Hmm,

Chad Allen 3:48

yes, yeah, I think. I mean, we've all seen self published books that didn't quite rise to the standard of other other books that maybe are in our library, we I mean, we're savvy enough readers that we can tell the difference between a high quality book regardless of because there are definitely high quality self published books out there, that you may not even know are self published, because they're just that good. But, yeah, I mean, I mean, absolutely. If you're, you know, the fact that you can finish a book by dinner tonight doesn't necessarily mean you should you know, any mean, doesn't necessarily mean that you should go to market with a book that you spent only a little bit of time on. So, yeah, quality, quality, quality, it's still extremely important.

Tobin Slaven 4:34

Yeah, I think I mean, I have, I have two perspectives on this. I'll be honest with you, there is the side of me that is just coming off. I'm a co author on the book. So cat stanzaic. And I teamed up on a book that we have that came out but I'm a I read a lot. And so the lens that I look at this through is that of the reader. And so I've been on both sides of the fence here of one. How do I get this damn thing done? You know, like, there's a lot of work involved in, in, in, in, it really does again, you have to really know your subject well, like if you think you know it, go write a book on it, and then see how much more you need to learn about a subject. And then there's the reading experience. And so I'm curious, what is your definition? What is a quality book, in your mind? What does that look like? Well,

Chad Allen 5:21

I mean, I think, I think we all know good writing when we read it, because we don't want to put it down. You know, I'm sure many of the viewers watching this have had that experience, even with a self help book, I'm enjoying it so much, that you end it, and you're kind of sad, and you're like, oh, now why, you know, books become our companions, their reading is an extremely intimate, medium, you know, it's an extremely intimate interaction that happens between a reader and a book. So we, that that's one of the wonderful things about a book is it has the potential to develop a real bond with the reader, I mean, talk about the business value of that potentially, to be one on one with a reader, and have an impact on their life, or their business or their relationships, or what have you. There is there's great potential there. But for me, for that to happen, it has to be written so well that the reader stays with you and doesn't really want to put the book down until it's done. And even then, sadly, so, you know, one of the one of the tips, I'll just share a tip, writing tip that I think is a good fundamental of good writing is, you know, if you imagine all writing exists on a pyramid at the top of the pyramid is sort of abstract, discursive principle driven teaching kind of didactic. And the bottom of the pyramid is illustration, I call this the concrete level illustrations metaphor, stories, quotations, dialogue, content, that's fillable. You know, key question is, is this fillable? Could I see it and hear it if if if it was a movie, the best communicators, I especially think this is true in books that's thick, it's probably true. With speakers as well, the best communicators push as much content to the bottom of the pyramid as possible. So it's concrete material that engages the imagination. That's what captures the reader's attention. Now, that's not to say that if I just finished reading, you've all Harare's holidays, and it's full of just incredible ideas that are just really fascinating. Just on that level of the idea. You know, he's a futurist, he's imagining this, this brave new world that it's both fascinating and terrifying. And so ideas can engage a reader in a way that keeps them reading. But you've all Harare smart enough to include a lot of stories along the way, too. So even though he's this brilliant crowd crafter of ideas, and and futuring he's smart enough to know that he's gotta include a lot of stories to keep readers reading. So there's some there's some free advice. stoven

Tobin Slaven 8:13

Yeah, well, I think honestly, that was, for me personally, that was one of the biggest challenges. I think I had a good grasp of the ideas and concepts that I wanted to communicate, but the telling of the stories I did find really challenging. And honestly, this is one of the reasons why I reached out to Kat to team up on the book because I think she brought more of that storytelling if you know, cat stand sick, and I know because she's the one who connected the two of us. But for those of you guys out there who don't know, cat, she's a fun personality. She's She's got a lot of life in her right. And so she just, you know, the combination of male female voices, she brought a whole different style to the book. And I think the book is better, honestly, you know, for that reason, I want to jump so Diana Needham, she jumped in the comment. She said she couldn't agree more about the focus and the of the quality of the book and adding great value to the readers, Diana, if you guys don't know, her. She's also someone who's very well known in this space in the book in the book space, she has been super helpful for cat Nye, as we've been navigating this. What do you call Amazon bestseller status and all that, like the promotional aspects of the book? Diane, it has been our rock star. And so we appreciate you, Diana, for all the help that you've been getting on that. I want to go back to this idea of good books I want to ask you specifically Chad about there are some books in this is there's not a lot of them in my library that I classify this way. But there are some books that get pulled off the shelf repeatedly. How do you think about that? You know, with your background in publishing, is that a goal? Is that too high a bar to shoot for what's happening with because there's some books that they've just been so impactful? I keep a couple of them on a corner of my desk because I'm literally grabbing them a couple times a week to reference them. They've got a sometimes it's words that I'm looking for or that I just it's, it's a, there's a habit built into those books.

Chad Allen 10:16

Yeah, it's a fascinating thing to think about what is what is the what goes into the sort of return ability factor of a book? What is it that makes a reader want to come back to a book again, and again? I think it's definitely something to shoot for. And I think, I think it's maybe a good idea to think about, okay, if someone was going to return to my book many times over the course of their life, what is it that would do that for them? Is it like, I love Steven pressfield book, The War of Art. And the reason I go back to it again and again, is because it's inspiring. It's a it's it's short, it's relatively short. It's a kick in the pants, which I find I need regularly, you know, it's not like I need just one kick in the pants. And I'm good. Like, I need it multiple times.

Tobin Slaven 11:10

You and I both Brother, you and I both.

Chad Allen 11:12

Yeah, but there are other books that maybe serve a more utilitarian purpose that I just need to keep coming back to I remember, you know, when I started my blog, I was trying to figure out how do I develop really compelling blog post titles, so that when somebody sees my blog post title, they want to click and read it right isn't traffic, it's the name of the game. And so I remember listening to Michael Hyatt talk about this, and he referred to a book by the last name is Garfinkel and the title is advertising headlines that make you rich, which is so commercial sounding. It makes me a little, a little twitchy. The artist in me starts to go, Oh, yeah. But anyway, what that book does is gives you several different templates for, for headlines. And so when I'm developing a blog post headline, I often will go back to that book, just to check in with it, see what it see what I can glean from that. So maybe that's a slightly different reason to go back to a book. So I think it's important to think about, okay, like, what is it about my book that would that would warrant that? And how can I? How can I really ramp that piece up so that this book stays with readers for a long time? It's a fascinating question, Tobin,

Tobin Slaven 12:25

I think you're so the pressfield reference, the war for art is a great one. I think of that one that way as well. Now, I'm gonna blank on his name, but expert secrets. Russell Bronson's expert secrets has been that kind of book for me, they were just packed with so many ideas about this sort of economy that we're working in expert based entrepreneurs. A reference, one that I tend to think of is Phil M. Jones wrote exactly what to say. That's the title of the book. It's really tiny, small little book, but it's, it's just packed with some really good turns of phrase that I found, what I've been trying to do is integrate them more and more into my conversations, like not, you know, everyday, just learn how to use one intelligently, elegantly, I guess, is a better word. So yeah, I, I think as a reader, that would be my aspiration. You know, if I could wave my magic wand would be to create one of those books that someone out there. And I feel like, I don't know if we've, if that promise we've delivered on but that was certainly part of the our goal in the one in the book that we had that came out.

Chad Allen 13:36

Well, what I love about that goal is it's sort of it's shooting for the stars. And even if you don't quite get there, you're still you're still way up there. Right. So I think it's a very ambitious goal. And I mean, in some ways, what you're saying is, how do I write a classic, you know, and that is a big goal, but I love I love big, audacious goals, because even if you fall short of the goal, just trying to get there is gonna is going to help you, you know, get your best, your best into the world. So well done.

Tobin Slaven 14:09

I would say yes. And I would qualify, maybe this was just maybe that maybe this was just my twisted thinking on this, but I never thought of it in terms of classic like I was trying to reach many. It was more like if I can get a handful of people that felt that way. Like the book was valuable enough to a small handful of people that was that was a win he won in our in our book, so it was more that kind of deep impact, even if those numbers were smaller. I don't think I ever spy. I'm not sure that we're on classic terrain, I wouldn't make that I wouldn't make that claim or even attempt that. never entered my mind. So

Chad Allen 14:51

yeah, what's interesting though, that is if if you really hit a niche, you might be surprised just how deep and how far that niche goes, you know, if it resonates deeply for, for, for, for a specific group of people, it's amazing how that group just kind of gets deeper and deeper and bigger and bigger until before you know it is it can be a large audience, but I completely understand what you're saying you weren't going for breath, you're going for depth. And I applaud that.

Tobin Slaven 15:22

So Chad, tell us a little bit about boot camp. Where are people out when they're when they're coming to you? And they're interested in they're saying, Tell me more about this? What stage or status? is this? I have I'm working on the book. And it's not out yet. Like I'm really struggling to get this birth? Or is it more like I have an idea? And I'm not sure what to do with it?

Chad Allen 15:43

Great question. So it really again comes out of my my journey in the traditional publishing space. And, you know, by the time I saw a book, it was at the proposal stage, which, you know, really, if I was going to design for you, or a writer, a path for getting your book into the world, the book proposal is toward the end of that path. And as someone involved in the in the traditional publishing industry, that's where I sat, well, boot camp is my effort to go, Okay, let me move into a different space with these writers. And let me show them the whole journey from establishing a writing habit to creating a website presence to building an audience to developing a concept, yes, a proposal, then there's a crossroads, how are you going to publish this self publishing hybrid, traditional, and then launching and promoting like, it's that that whole journey that I that I want to help writers with so so we have what we call the boot camp success trail map, and I've just kind of laid out the, the journey, and I use this camp language, because I want it to be a fun community. So it's a place where I give you the best of what I know, my, my, my expertise, I pour my heart and soul into these trainings, I answer questions. So coaching is a part of it. And it's a great community of writers who are all you know, kind of pushing in the same direction trying to get their books into the world. And it's wonderful to see that community going on in the, in the, in the forum. So. So that's really what book campus is all about to help a writer, wherever they are on that journey. take the next step on the road to launching and promoting.

Tobin Slaven 17:28

Yeah, I think if you want to get a job done, one of the fastest things you can do is surround yourself with other people doing the work too. Because then you feel like a heel if you're if you started slacking off, right? I love that environment that you've created. Chad, what's the what is your? What's the breakdown between fiction nonfiction is, you know, I come on my reading and writing comes on the nonfiction side. But in boot camp, what are you seeing for the breakdown?

Chad Allen 17:55

Yeah, so I I've spent my whole career in nonfiction. I did work on one novel at Baker. And I certainly read novels. Right now I'm reading Ernest Hemingway. So but so my expertise is in nonfiction. But there are definitely some fiction writers inside bootcamp that get a lot of value from both the training and the community. So So if a fiction writer shows up, they certainly won't be the only one. But I would say the majority are nonfiction.

Tobin Slaven 18:25

And are these first time authors? Or are you also seeing some folks that maybe got the first one out in birth, but then they're saying, I need to find an easier way to you know, they've got a second or third book in mind. And now they're really trying to create that environment around themselves.

Chad Allen 18:44

Most book campers are, are on the the early end of things, some of them have already got a book or two into the world, but many of them have not. And we don't have very many at all, who've, like published 10 books, you know. So it's, it tends to cater to the to the writer who's passionate about getting a book into the world, they have an idea they have an audience they want to serve, or they have a story. They want to get into the world. They just don't know how to get there, and they're looking for some help some community some accountability. That's what we provide.

Tobin Slaven 19:21

Chad, I have one last question. I want to ask you this is I'm going to be upfront. This is totally selfish on my part, because the question that I had been trying to understand and just dig into a little bit from my direct experience for the audience out there, I hope this is beneficial for you guys. If not, I'm going to win on this one either way, like I'm so interested in this topic, but when, when. So how our book developed. I took the first cut out I was writing my book first and then it then it became a co authored book. So I wrote 50,000 words in the first rough draft of this book and that that collection of writing was done as a series of letters. Interestingly, I was there were a bunch of people whose name started with B that I was I had, there were people I knew that had them in mind. And I was writing letters to the bees, dear Bee, and I would answer a question or I, you know, knew where they were at, or I was anticipating what I thought they would ask in a given situation. It was 50,000 words of a series of these. I thought that that was magical and getting information out. I thought I did a really good job of getting some information out with that mechanism. And really difficult. Okay, if Kat were here, she'd be like throwing things at you how difficult it was to pull it into a cohesive plot of the story. No plotline, I say, but even for nonfiction book, is that comment? I mean, what what is your was there a better process? Or a better way to pull that together? What is? Have you heard of that before? Like, I, I was just following my gut on this, but I feel like I, I dug a hole and put myself in it. But it was a good hole.

Chad Allen 21:04

Yeah, well, I think it's a great way to get a first draft out. But and like, you know, there are there is a kind of book that I'm thinking of like Chicken Soup for the Soul, or coming out of the faith based marketplace, you know, devotionals or meditations where it's just short snippets, you know, from what they're you often daily readers, you know, and that can work really well. You just need to have a consistent format, you need to have a theme in mind, maybe a theme that runs several days, that then transitions to a different theme. But of course, most nonfiction books don't work that way. They're they're not daily readers, they're chapters. And so it can be a challenge. And this might have been what cat wrestled with was how do you take that 50 those those fit that you know, 50,000 words worth of, of letters and turn it into a longer form piece that is constructed well has a unifying idea. And, and and that provides a great experience. For me reading is nothing if not an experience. So my guess is that cat was trying to figure out how do we turn these letters into a great experience into an experience that is not disjointed? Where I sometimes use the metaphor of wrestling with wrestling with an octopus, where there's all these different, you know, trajectories going on. And they're kind of in competition with each other. And so you could actually have five different books because they're different, different themes. And you got to somehow wrestle that octopus into one cohesive unified thesis or mission. And, and that can definitely be a challenge. But you know, rewriting, rewriting is what none of us wants to do and what we need. It's kind of the medicine that we don't want to take, but we really need rewriting is where it's at. That's where, you know, decent books become awesome books, bad books become at least good books, you know. So and it's hard work. It's hard work. But that's where the that's where the magic is.

Tobin Slaven 23:13

Yeah, I think that's, that resonates with what I've seen. And I again, I give credit to, you know, the team on this. Because if we if I got something started, but I was really struggling to get it over the line in the end. So, Chad, this has been great. Tell us a little bit more. What do people need to know about boot camp? Where do they we've got the URL on the screen, so boot camp.us anything else that they should know about? What's coming up in your world in the next few months?

Chad Allen 23:44

I think your story about your book and needing some help from a team is actually a great segue. Because, you know, I have a friend who says when it comes to anything worth doing, you alone can do it, but you can't do it alone. And, and you know, often we don't have trouble with the first part, you alone can do you alone can do this, you know, we get that we kind of pull her pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going. But you can't do it alone. That's the harder part. How do we reach out to other people and let them know when we get stuck and ask for help. And that's really what boot camp is there for? It's a it's a it's a it's both training. There's lots of training involved. But there's a lot of great community involved as well. It's a monthly membership program. It's a low monthly fee to join. And you can stay in as long as you want. There's no there's no contract to stay in any longer than you want to. But obviously we hope it's so valuable that writers will stick with us until their books are in the world and we can celebrate with them, if not multiple books so so that really was is what boot camp is all about.

Tobin Slaven 24:52

Yeah, I love that aspect of celebrating the wins together as well. Chad, this has been great. I appreciate you taking the time. The breadth of experience that you bring from the days at Baker all the way to what you're doing with boot camp now, in folks, I'd encourage you to check out boot camp.us. Again, chat down and appreciate you coming on and joining to share some of this here on booking experts TV. Thanks so much for having me.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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