M&M 45: Writing a Book to Support Your Mission
Are you on a mission with your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel? In this episode sponsored by Down Payment Movement, Joe Saul-Sehy interviews Roger Whitney, author of Rock Retirement: A Simple Guide to Help You Take Control and be More Optimistic About the Future, about his journey and struggles of writing a book to support his mission.
Intro Roger Whitney – author, podcaster
1:45 Deciding it’s time to become an author
2:45 Refining your message through content creation
7:15 Doing the research and preparation to write a book
10:15 The process of writing the book
13:00 Finding a ghostwriter to work with
14:55 Using his network to explore publishing options
23:30 The difference between a publishing house and a hybrid publisher
26:55 Roger’s unique ideas on book marketing
28:40 Mistakes Roger made during the process
31:00 The Retirement Answer Man podcast
About 3.5 years ago, Roger decided it was time to become an author. Writing a book seemed to be a natural extension of the podcast he had been hosting and the overall mission he had been refining.
When he began his podcast, Roger didn’t have a clear sense of mission but as an iterator, doing the podcast over a period of time helped to form that mission and eventually, to crystallize it. It was the same with the book.
He didn’t start out with a mission for the book but as he wrote, the mission became clear. But let’s jump back in time a bit and dive into the podcast.
Refining Your Message Through Content Creation
When Roger decided to start a podcast, his avatar was very broad. He really had no idea what the show would be like or what direction he was headed. It was only in the doing of it that he began to see where he was going with it and who the audience was.
When he started the podcast, it was for everybody. Now, 4 years later? He speaks directly to the retirement community as The Retirement Answer Man.
His audience is one of the smallest segments of people who listen to podcasts but that’s who Roger is. The people that he now calls his “peeps” weren’t on his radar when he started but now that he knows who he is serving, he wants to serve them even more.
Roger’s book had it’s own refining process as well. The original title was Screw Retirement. Roger chose that title based on his opinion of how we view retirement. Throughout the process of writing however, Roger came to realize that people tend to respond more positively to encouraging messages rather than sarcastic ones.
Preparing to Write a Book
If you’ve never written a book, you may not even know where you would begin. Do you just go to the bookstore and grab the Dummies Guide to Writing Nonfiction?
The first thing Roger did was attend a seminar by a well-known writer, Ray Edwards. The goal was to leave the 2-day event with a tight outline, a title, and a portion of the book written. He didn’t accomplish everything he had wanted in those 2 days, but he was able to talk to others and get some coaching from them which was a huge help when it came time to do the actual writing.
Getting the outline tighter was a big step in knowing what message he was going to be trying to get across and where the book was headed. Once he knew that general retirement was going to be the message, Roger bought every book on retirement he could find.
What he found surprised him. The books were filled with all sorts of great tactical advice but they were boring. Roger made the decision that another book of advice wasn’t what was needed. Rather, he needed to write a book of wisdom which completely changed his mindset on the language to use in the book.
He has received some criticism on the book not having any of the technical advice in it but Roger’s feeling is, why write another book exactly like what’s already out there? You have to find your own space in your niche and be different than what everybody else is doing.
The Process of Writing the Book
If you imagine sitting down at your computer and just beginning to write a book, you might be surprised at the process Roger and his co-writer embarked on.
First came the outline. They spent two weeks nailing down the outline, “beating it to death.” But once that outline was done, the book was pretty much written.
If you have a tight outline, with chapter heading and subsections within the chapters, you’re only left to write the stories to fit it all together. You’re putting flesh on the skeleton, so to speak. It was like starting with an extremely detailed map and just filling in the blanks.
And then, rather than write from start to finish, Roger worked on whichever section was top of mind for him, what he had current data on, and what he felt like attacking that day. The process of writing those sections was also not what you may imagine it to be like.
Roger and his co-writer would have a video meeting where Roger would basically do a word vomit on a section for an hour or more. His co-writer would take that video and write a rough copy which Roger would then add to or edit. They worked together this way, back and forth, to get each section written and polished.
Finding a Ghostwriter
Roger decided to use a ghostwriter simply to keep him “not so much in his own head.”
Because Roger has a financial planning business, along with a podcast, it would have been easy for him to say he didn’t have time to write a book. And yet he did write a book. He found the time but a big part of that was hiring someone who did a lot of the legwork and who also knew the process better than he did.
Roger knew that his natural bent was not writing. He is more comfortable speaking. The idea of him sitting at a desk and pumping out a couple thousand words every day was just not going to happen. What he didn’t want was to have a book with his name on it and him not have written a word of it.
Writing a book opened up an entirely new network of people for Roger and he was able to interview several possible ghostwriters and ultimately found the one who was the best fit for him and his vision for the book.
Using Your Network to Explore Publishing Options
When it came time to decide whether to self-publish or go with a publishing house, Roger again turned to his network of authors for advice.
He knew of several other authors who had used a hybrid publishing company, Morgan James. Roger knew he wanted to go with a publisher but he also knew that he didn’t necessarily need a big New York publishing house. Morgan James focuses more on entrepreneurs that have platforms.
But even though Roger had friends who had been published through Morgan James, he still had to submit a proposal and get approved. They publish around 200 books per year and receive several thousand submissions, so he still had to get his book in front of them and get it read.
When Roger first toyed with the idea of writing a book, he says he knew nobody. But what he did was take action. He joined masterminds and small groups and began fostering relationships so that when the time came to make some of these big decisions, he had options.
Using a Hybrid Publisher
When it comes to publishing a book, there is more than one option. No longer are the large publishing houses the only way to get a book to the market.
Obviously, the big houses still publish thousands of books every year and they aren’t going away anytime soon. But another option these days is self-publishing. You own everything, you pay for everything, and you do all your own marketing.
What do we mean by a hybrid publishing company like Morgan James? Simply put, they help shepherd you through the process of writing the book and creating graphics. They do the entire layout. You have input on the title and positioning of the book which is different than using a large publishing house.
You also receive coaching on promotional type things that will help you to market the book. They have ties to large bookstore buyers where you will want to have your book distributed. While the large publishing houses don’t market the books they publish, they certainly take their share of any proceeds.
The difference with a hybrid model is that you do receive the coaching on marketing and your share of the book’s sales are larger.
A Unique Take on Marketing Your Book
Because of his many obligations, Roger didn’t have the time or resources to do a huge book launch. Instead, he did an extended launch. This plan was modeled on his friend, Dan Miller. Dan’s book, 48 Days to the Work You Love, came out 10 years ago. Dan still promotes it to this day.
The Kindle version of Roger’s book came out first. After that release, he came up with a plan to move physical copies. He encouraged his listeners to leave an honest review. Next, he would send them a physical copy himself. He actually bought 2,500 copies of his book with the hopes of giving every one of them away to folks who left those honest reviews.
The cost of doing that was far less than a massive launch campaign. Additionally, the return on that small investment will far exceed anything he would have received through a paid professional marketing campaign.
Mistakes Roger Made During the Process
If you’ve ever remodeled a house, you know that you see every ding in every corner. People who come in don’t see what you see because they aren’t up close and personal with it, but you know. Books are the same. There are cracks and dings and Roger shared a few of them with us.
Some of the working titles Roger had planned to use for the book are still lingering inside the pages. So while the book took on a different direction, some of the original ideas and phrases are still hanging around.
Another couple of mistakes he made were not hiring a co-writer sooner and not getting the word about the book out on other podcasts. He didn’t have a plan in place for getting on podcasts. Roger also says he should have been more aggressive in that area.
Roger admits that the marketing piece is not his strong point and that the book might have more traction if he was better at that. He is even considering hiring someone for that at some point.
The Retirement Answer Man Podcast
Roger does monthly themes on the podcast and he’s just finished covering Healthcare Before Medicare. They also did a month-long series on bond investing. Next up is a live case study and a retirement plan is created live for a listener.
Roger also just launched a YouTube channel. Here he does weekly videos answering listener questions on a show called Roger That.
Be sure to check out everything Roger has going on and build a better retirement plan for yourself.
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About Our Host
Philip Taylor owns and operates FinCon as well at the personal finance website PT Money.
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