SEASON 2 EPISODE 3 – The Business Book Podcast – Sally Haldorson
Derek: Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to The Business Book Show I’m your host Derek, it is my distinct pleasure today to have with me Sally, Sally I realized that I did not ask how to pronounce your last name is it, Haldorson?
Sally: It is, perfect.
Derek: Awesome, so I have Sally with me, she is the General Manager of 800 CEO Read now if you’ve been listening to the first season of the show you may remember that we interviewed Jack Covert who is the founder of 800 CEO Read so Jack is now riding off into the sunset and kicking back and he has passed the reigns off to the great management team at 800 CEO Read and Sally is actually the General Manager over there, their addition to keeping everything flowing and a keeping the place spinning as they say. She is also one of the co-authors of Third Edition of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, now Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten first put that list together and published it in Sally what year was it I wanna say 98, 2008?
Sally: I would’ve 2008
Derek: 2008 okay I was only off by a decade you know
Sally: Kinda, yup.
Derek: (laughing) You know I, I’m doing good I remember phone numbers
Sally: These are not my things so that’s okay
Sally: I could’ve said that and I actually helped out with it so yeah.
Derek: Yeah so why don’t we, why don’t we start there Sally, talk to us about you know, the first time that Jack and Todd put together the list to the Third Edition of the book that you all put out. What ha, what changed, how business books changed just over not even the 10 years from the First Edition that it was out.
Sally: Sure it seems incredible that would, that it’s been less than 10 years. First of all thank you for having me and I love the business that I’m in which is selling books and I’ll credit Jack and Todd for the majority of what I know about both running a business and how to read and promote business books so you know I’ve tweak, tweaked it my own way over the last 20 years so that is the sort of fresh look that I’ll bring to the conversation. And to answer your question directly
Sally: understand and you yourself understand right?
Derek: Yes as every good book is
Sally: Yeah so I acted as, I had many different roles in the background behind the first edition of the hundred best and I think that in the acknowledgements in the back it does sort of acknowledge it pays a respect to the fact that I not only worked as a writer on the book but I also worked as a psychologist, I worked as a therapist for the two of them you know, I worked for being a sounding board you know. So I, I participated as fully as I could in creating the book and we had a great team around the book. And as you know it was also meant not only to capture industry knowledge and knowledge of the genre but it’s also meant to be exemplary of the kind of book that we believe it makes it in the market place you know we had, we had, we hadn’t asked for a lot of control over the way it looked from the cover design to the inclusions to the voice all of that kind of stuff was really driven by Jack and Todd’s vision of what a great business book looks like. And a great and that sort, just sort of you know what a great business book looks like and all of the great business books that everyone should also have access to.
Derek: Well you certainly did an amazing job, helping them on the first one and then taking an even bigger role in the, in this latest incarnation of it, it is I liked what you said how it is, it’s not so much this are the 100 bestselling books these aren’t the 100 best-written books these are the 100 best examples of what business books should be and should cover and should be models for.
Derek: And I think that makes sense that when you know whenever Time does it you know its Person of the Year it’s a different person every year because even though the person from the previous year may still be a big player, times change they’ve changed. And indeed if you have to make a current list you have to make sure that list is up to date as possible.
Sally: Yeah it’s, it’s important that people as they gather their business knowledge understand you know how the wheels have turned and in the five books that we added into the hundred best it really also reflected the change in the genre and you know again if we go back to the 80’s and we follow the timeline up to present about business books is that you can question to some degree whether the business book category is real of this number and that maybe the question is what books do business people read. And it’s just that now it’s a flip way of looking at how we look at the boundaries of the genre and in the five books that we added back into the hundred best it reflects sort of the humanistic management that has come into play over the past decade it represents the entrepreneurship and startup with Eric Ries’ lean startup it reflects the Wall Street banking drama in Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin and it also gives respect to sort of the human psychology aspect or the social science aspect that we see in a lot of business books nowadays through adding in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman you can track that book and find it has influenced in so many different business books because of this idea of businesses are only as good as the people in them and the people in them are only as good as how clear their thinking is.
Derek: Yeah whenever I asked Jack in our, in my interview with him about how he designed the business book he said (laughing) I’m a merchant and business book is anything that I can sell (laughing) I like yours a little bit better, it’s what business people read and I think that (crosstalk)
Sally: (laughing) It’s what business people read.
Derek: Right because you know they’re plenty of books that we think of as, as business books that we don’t even take you know whenever you and stopped to question is this really a business book such as the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People but whenever you go to look for the book it’s almost always shelved in the self-help personal development section.
Sally: Right back when we were doing the first version of the hundred best it was rather daring for Jack and Todd to put a chapter in that was titled You meaning that these were books that were speaking directly to the reader as in ways to you know improve yourself that fall within the personal development category. And as other people at the time would say oh these are just self-help books but again it always comes back to the person and we have a lot of books eve
Derek: You know I almost think that there should be at the front of any kind of business book there should be a section that says who we wrote this book for. Because some authors say they are writing a book for you know for the CEO who is establishing a strategy and even the members of the the board of directors who are establishing strategies and small and medium size enterprise so while it’s interesting and I enjoy it, it doesn’t really help me in the place that I’m and the I guess that’s one of the exciting things about the genres that we now have such a wide variety of authors and audiences that the authors are writing to.
Sally: I think that’s very true, and what’s also interesting then is the fact that there are a number of books that, that really do strive to speak to a wider range. They’re not as specific maybe as having a single audience as much as really talking about theory that can be applied to different sized organizations can be applied you know you can be an entrepreneur you can be a startup general for lack of a better word within your company, more companies are willing to support and acknowledge sort of the individual drivers there within the company and those things serous can then be stretched out and looked at with an entire organization. So that is definitely one of the trends that we see, that there’s an empowerment of, I’m gonna sound like a broken record here but there’s an empowerment of a person in order to influence the structure of an organization.
Sally: That’s a really good catch there I think you hig – sort of crossover a few is exactly that and I would suggest another book, the book that we actually chose for a for the hundred best or sorry the 800 CEO Read Best Business Book of the Year for 2016 is Iris Bohnet’s What Works it is about gender equality and achieving gender equality in organizations and her theory is well she sort of passes this idea that using social science and psychology to get at the root of the individual’s cognitive bias is sort of what will actually help us solve gender inequality within organizations a lot faster than trying to get huge organizations to move a needle, or for single individual people to be sort of you know knocking down the wall. But that there’s, there’s sort of an institutionalized bias in the way that we are thinking and she provides strategies as to how we can break those habits. Even from saying you know how we interview she gives a good example of how high schools or any kind of any schools have a tendency to have really high numbers of women teachers, and so one of the ways that you can bring in more men is to look at the ways you’re even putting your employment ads out there, are you highlighting skills that generally appeal to man, are you highlighting skills that generally appeal to women, what questions are you asking in interviews that kind of stuff that really goes to sort of our habits and our internal structures rather than trying to make huge key change and that’s a really useful way to look at all of these sorts of habit books that it’s really about changing the way we think and that changing the way we think can feed into changing the way we do things.
Derek: Sally can we, can I switch gears into going a bit more macros. So talking about what works talking about the selection for the 100 best whenever, whenever some someone like yourself is looking at
Sally: area- that the idea it you know it should be original, it should be contemporary but I think one of the important parts of that we get to a point where it’s actionable right, that what carries a great book from start to finish is a deep understanding of the concept or idea, some really great story telling to get people invested in the book that they’re reading, and the ways that the reader can either apply it to their own life or take it into their working life in order to actually enact change. And that can that helps the writer to scope you know that part from start to finish that you want to leave the readers with something and that is what carries, that’s what you know if someone asks you hey what book are you reading that’s the thing that makes you tell them about it, that’s the thing that you can turn into a speaking engagement performance, that’s the thing that becomes your elevator pitch. If this is the idea and then this is what it gift, gifts to people. I’m sorry that’s hard to say (laughing)
Derek: Well you know I think the way I heard Todd say it one time is the book has to answer these three questions, how did he put it what, so what, and now what. (crosstalk)
Sally: Right, right
Derek: Right. So what being you know this is what the the book is about or this is the problem. And then the so what is okay well so what why do I care about it I’ve got so many things going on in my life why do I need to, to give any kind of time or – credibility there to whatever you’re doing out there, and then you convince them that it’s incredibly important that they need to do this like the power of habits or instead of habits of how they take the people. And then
Derek: Once you’ve finally convinced the person they say okay now what, now what do I do? How do I go out and actually take action and put this into practice in my life and on my business?
Sally: Uh huh
Derek: (coughing) Excuse me. Okay so let’s, let’s jump from authors writing books to authors actually getting their books out there. So 800 CEO Read is not a publishing company.
Derek: But at the same time you’ve got your fingers in a lot of pies and y’all work with a lot of business publishers and business authors so could you own (stuttering) where this is a two part question so for the first part let’s make sure that everybody understands what 800 CEO Read is and what you do and then let’s talk about this is how you can, this is how you can work for authors and publishers and some of the things that you do that publisher don’t do, which leaps into really the second part of the question how do business authors get their books out there? Writing a book is one thing, selling it is a completely different animal.
Sally: Let’s see you make sure to ping me at the end of everything I bring in to this to make sure I answer both of sides of your question. I think I would start with something that we believe very whole heartedly is that every book is a business onto itself. So one of the ways that 800 CEO Read can help authors is to encourage and guide them to set a strategy to sell more books so that gives us a mission to the author to help authors that have books or ideas for books with the sort of lay of the land right? We can help map out what it looks like to be a successful business book author, so what does that look like? I like to think if that also as an arc right, that there’s an arc to the life of a book there it starts at sort of the germ of the idea its starts with the decision making of how a person invest in that idea, so it’s one thing to write a book but it’s another thing to pitch the book, it’s another thing to find a landing spot at a publishing house, it’s another thing to find a publicist, it’s another thing to maybe decide to publish it on your own so there’s a lot of decision making that happens really early on. And I think that there’s a mythology that it’s actually not quite prevalent anymore I don’t think that once you publish a book that sort of you know you’re planting a flag at the top of a hill and you’re saying I did this thing, but there’s so much more around that that we would like we love to help people understand and that is to at the same time you’re coming up with the germ of the idea and you really want to spread your message a good way to get attention from a publishing company, a good way to ensure the fact that you’re gonna have strong sales or you’re going to have longevity is that you need to start creating an audience early on and it’s just like any kind of product or any kind of business you need to know that someone’s going to buy what you make and so that creating that demand early on, talking to people you know Seth Godin is a master of all of these, he’s sort of the one who started this whole permission marketing and getting people to follow and getting the people who follow you to find other people to follow you so platform is a huge part of that, that initial arc. And once a book is published then you have other issues right? If you wanna be a speaker, if you want to out there spreading the word and your business book is, is and I don’t mean this in a bad way but it’s your business card, is the thing that you’re leaving with people so that they remember you, so they take your ideas forward into their company or give it to someone else. That there’s a strategic plan around those logistics as well until you’re actually getting that product out into the hands of the people who are going to be reading and promoting your book. So we have again every book is a business onto itself, you sort of have to strategize from start to finish in order to create the most success for yourself as possible. Then where 800 CEO Read comes in on the second half of the arc, you know the first side we can help you with consulting, we can help you in terms of like guiding you in the ways that other authors have been successful, we can help connect you with people, we can help guide that (stuttering) first half of the arc. And then when it comes to having that book in hand we can assist with all of the serge- service, and logistics of getting that book out into the public. Whether it’s mailings whether it’s a custom check out online where anyone you know a year before your book comes out you can ha- you can be gathering email addresses so that book all of the updates, all of the pre orders come through our site and ultimately get reported. And of course, bestseller reporting is probably next step on our thing on our list to talk about. So again it is this arc that starts out with an idea starts out with platform building and ends with getting your book in the hands of the people who want to hear your message.
Derek: A little bit more about the bestseller because I, I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve had a, a potential client you call up and then talk to me about the book that they wanted to do, talk to me about the ghost writing and what all that involves and with, on, if they’re, if they’re, if they haven’t done a lot of homework if they’re on the very early they inevitably say something you know they make some kind of joke along the lines that you know how is this to be a best seller, this is gonna be a New York Times Bestseller
Derek: And it I, it breaks my heart a little bit to have to you know tell them that there’s a lot that goes into becoming a bestseller and, and that’s not always what you want it is something impressive, and it’s something that opens a lot of doors if you can say that you’re on the Bestseller List the New York Times being one of them but ithaaaah
Derek: the Bestseller List so give us, give us a harsh dose of reality
Sally: It’s interesting that I would say over the past couple of years there’s probably been a handful of articles or blog post you can probably find them on medium that are excel of days on the best, on being the bestselling author right or how to break the bestseller list or how the bestseller list is broken, and I think that is your first sign that there is a mythology around being a bestseller, bestselling author in this day and age that they’re someone as looking for the trick right? Someone’s looking to expose a magician and I’ll share a secret, and I think that what our experience is, is that there is no guarantee, there is no magic, there is hard work, there is strategy, there is planning, there are some key considerations when it comes to bestseller reporting, you know you do wanna buy your books from reporting stores like ours, you do want to buy your books from more than one source, not just us, and we will be the first people to tell any author that. But none of that actually guarantee that you’re gonna be on the bestseller list because as you said there are some metrics that the individual list has that are their own. So the New York Times does what the New York Times does they have ways of recognizing books that they believe are too heavily weighted in their initial launch that they suspect of being somewhat manipulating the numbers. They have ways of identifying books that they feel should be on the list, and those are things that we, that nobody has the preview too, but the one thing that I can tell everybody and that I firmly believe is that there is still great value in reporting your books. So even if you don’t make the New York Times Bestseller List, even if you don’t make the Wall Street Journal List reporting to bookstand is a really big deal in a sense that it tracks your sales and those, that tracking goes back to your publishing company and that can do a lot in terms of getting a second book done, another printing was done, more sort of publicist and marketing stick behind it. So all of that actually does, even if you’re not going to get the aha and you’re not gonna get the sticker on your book which I have to say when getting on a list becomes sort of you book with us accomplishment it doesn’t always mean what you think it’s going to mean right? How many fiction books do we see in the aisles where you’re like oh that was an over pick and that’s a New York Times Bestseller and that, that it becomes somewhat I’m not gonna say meaningless but to some degree, you don’t know what the, what the criteria are. So as being the author yourself, you still care that your books are reported even if you don’t get to the top of the mountain.
Derek: Sally I am going to confess my ignorance, I didn’t realize that authors a, that they could report their own sales, I thought sales were always reported by either the retailers or by the brokers if they (unintelligible) if they bought I don’t know 5,000 books in wholesale from their publisher or if they bought
Sally: Oh no I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be unclear, no I mean like in terms of decision making on who you have your purchases through so yes you do need to arrange the purchases to be through reporting retailers but it
Derek: Okay so that makes me feel better cause I thought I had (crosstalk) (laughing)
Sally: Right no that’s part, no no no I apologize, no simply that, that’s part of the strategy, right?
Derek: So this is a question that I’m not really sure what the question is because I realized that I should have sent you this article before the interview to make sure that you had had read it so you can actually prepare a response for it but we’re gonna wing it anyway.
Derek: So in the, I believe it was April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine there is a full-length article in there about, about business books, and one of the things that the author of the article is pointing to is that there has been this huge insurgence in self-published books but not, but mostly of the mostly of the low quality variety so they profiled one of the companies they profiled an interview was Book in a Box this company and I may have the numbers so I apologize if I do, I don’t have the article sitting in front of me again because I, I wasn’t prepared for us to talk about it. But the gist of the article is that there are these companies like Book in a Box where you talk to someone for you know 8 to 10 hours you send another 5 or 6 hours reviewing your book and then they create this, this quick book that you put out there , and you may not have even truly have, have read it, it is, it’s a lot of flaws it’s a little bit of your own experience but it’s basically almost a template in book just that you can hurry up and rush through that you can stamp your name and say I’ve got a book. So they are by moaning the, they were a loss of quality in business books out there because the average reader doesn’t know to pick up the book and pick up the imprint and try to figure out was this, was this published by a traditional publisher or a legitimate publisher, was this published even by a publisher that has some kind of screening filter betting process such as Green Leaf,
Derek: Green Leaf Book Group or is it just a, an author who wrote whatever they wanted to write had zero editorial processes send it off to a printer and boom they have a book, it’s a book that’s not worth reading that maybe the author hasn’t even read but wow they’ve got a book.
Sally: I did read the article
Derek: Oh good
Sally: And for a section of it (crosstalk)
Derek: You actually sound like your intelligent whenever you talk about it (laughing)
Sally: No I feel you hit all the high points’ right and Todd Sattersten was interviewed for it which is how it came to my sensibility
Sally: Yeah and it’s you’re right, there is a lot in this article that reflects our experience to that, that you know Jack was always so good at pu- you know in his thing in the way that he said that I’m a merchant and he would put this sort of bumper sticker you know drill down diluted ways of encompassing what we as a company did, what our beliefs were and one of them was something that I already said with that there are a lot of people, authors, CEOs, executives, speakers who use books as a business card and I think that the Book in a Box approach is exactly that right? It’s about positioning; it’s about creating a lead behind it’s about sort of documenting the the pitch in the presentation that the professional wants to get across. So that is certainly a historical way of using a business book that has happened over time. That is really for personal gain right? And I don’t mean that in the bad way I mean that in a I wanna create the most items whether it’s a website, whether it’s a newsletter, a mailing list and a book that represents all of the things I am as a professional, as an idea maker, as a change maker and make that available to the people who want to hear my message. And there is nothing wrong with that, I think that that’s a very valid way of communicating. Will that you know engage the super fans who then want to go and spread the word of the work that you’re doing, you know if there are worst case and I’m not saying this about Book in a Box but I’m saying this about some publishing, self-publishing decisions that get made is you know, if the content isn’t well crafted, I the book isn’t well edited, if the book has taken some shortcuts in terms of the heft and the feel and the look of the book, that really does affect the engagement that people have with the book that they’re reading. I mean we can extrapolate off that and say this is one of the reasons why e-book sales have flattened, and I’m not saying it’s the only reason, but that is one of the reasons because well people still want to engage with the idea, they also want the experience of holding and interacting book. Whether that’s a bitch rule whether it’s you know going to be true 20 years from now I can’t speak to that at my thoughts but I can speak to it for sure that there will always be a place for a well-crafted book and people who invest a lot in their, their idea of a novelty and the originality of their idea, of the force of their message should also maybe consider investing that amount of love and care into the actual end results.
Derek: Seen as a, a great point if I, if I could rephrase it
Sally: Please do (laughing)
Derek: No no no no, I’m sorry there are a lot of great thoughts in there but the one that I’m latching onto is that different business books serve different purposes and are used as different tools
Sally: Yeah, yes
Derek: So there are, there are some people who have, there are some business writers who have made a career out of writing business books and they are writing a business book in order for it to be a commercially viable, they wanna you know go through a traditional publisher, they want to have the royalties, and they master as this is an actual book is still one of the best business one of the best marketing investments that someone can make. And so
Derek: I think that that’s the takeaway that there are different tools for different, for different jobs, and their case if it fits or what their market and their audience is looking for.
Sally: Right I think that that reinforces this idea that every author should set a strategy right? You’re creating this book to what end and be very clear on the steps that it takes to achieve that particular goal that you have and that just to circle back to the reporting issue, you know there is certainly you know everybody dreams of being a millionaire or a billionaire what whatever right? But we all know in our heart of hearts what we do and what we’re willing to do, and what our end goal is for everyday lives and that some of those really big dreams are there to excite us and to inspire us but were okay with that being way out ahead and I think that that’s the same thing with a New York Times Bestseller List or however you wanna you know if you wanna go into a second printing or whether you just wanna have you know Jack had very clear goals about what he would, how he would see the 100 Best Book as a success, you know what he wanted to end up selling. And they were very modest goals, he’s a pretty modest person and so I think as long as you go into the process with some realistic goals for what you really want and what you can and are willing to put into the promotion of your book, or creation and promotion of your book then a it’s a win-win, it’s a win0win to get the work done.
Derek: Well Sally you have been incredibly generous with the, with your time, I don’t wanna keep you any longer you have a, you have an entire company to run before I let you go is there any are there any parting words any pearls of wisdom that you’d like to leave with a, with business authors who are writing their book and aspiring for it to maybe one day land on the, on the 100 Best Business Books of All Time List
Sally: I think that we’re moving into a time of I’ve circled back to the very beginning of this conversation is that the quickening phase of how change in businesses reflected in business books that we continue see trends moving a little bit faster in business books they’re going to continue to be sort of a dove tailing of human interest or I guess personal development to some degree and or the reflection of that with the organizations who need to respond to people so you know we see a lot of books about generations, the new generations, gen z, millennial that kind of thing being integrated into the organization being respected work changing in that way so I think it’s really important. My point here is that I think it’s really important for authors who are setting out to write a new book or setting out to promote a book is to really be on top of the book set are already coming out and in some ways you wanna ride the wave so you don’t want to you know get lost in a trend but you wanna make sure that you’re sort of riding the waves, leading the trend, adding more insight to something that people are already interested in you to know you don’t have to be unoriginal you don’t have to be repetitive in any way you don’t have to be saying the same old thing but you wanna make sure that, that you are as contemporary as business becomes more and more sort evolved in terms of how organizations connect to people and vice versa. So that sort of I yeah
Derek: I think that makes sense I think you want to, you want to take advantage of the strong current that’s there instead of trying to strike out on your own or start completely from scratch you can be a pioneer but a, who was it that said problem of being, I see what do pioneers get arrows in their back and cholera. (laughing)
Derek: Well Sally again thank you so much this has been a treat for me and I certainly hope that more business authors get the chance to work with 800 CEO Read and really get the best experience of how to publishing a business book is possible
Sally: Thank you I would invite anyone to give us a call our name is our phone number, and just have a conversation with one of us about, about business books it’s the topic we know the most about. And we are happy to share what we know with anyone who is really interested in adding to the conversation.
Derek: I wish there were more people like y’all out there think that business books have such incredible, have incredible influence and the ones that are being written have incredible potential to influence, and I wish more people realize the value that they could either get from business books or that they could deliver the business books. I’m glad that we’ve got some people out there like y’all
Derek: who share that vision
Sally: Spreading the good word, I mean I think one of the reasons why we all so feel passionate about what we do is because when you work, make work better for people then you make people’s lives better.
Sally: And it’s just it’s the opportunity that we have in promoting the books that we really feel our revolutionary on that end
Derek: I couldn’t agree more. Alright Sally well for the third time thank you again and
Sally: (laughing) Thank you
Derek: If you see Jeff or Todd please tell them that I said hello.
Sally: I will do so thanks so much for your time