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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information that you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. In this episode, we are joined by Jon Gordon—11x Best-selling author of 23 books, speaker, positive leader. 

Today’s episode is continuing the author journey series, based on Becky’s book, which is scheduled for release from Berrett Koehler publishers in April 2022. The book is called Reach: Creating Lasting Impact for Your Book, Message, or Cause

About Jon Gordon

Becky: So the interview that you’re about to listen to with Jon Gordon is one I recorded as part of my book writing process. I interviewed Jon to talk about what he’s learned about creating lasting impact for his books and ideas in the world. Jon Gordon is an author of best-selling books and a keynote speaker, and he’s worked with fortune 500 companies, professional and college sports teams, school districts, hospitals, and nonprofits. He’s authored more than 23 books, and his timeless classic, The Energy Bus, has sold over 2 million copies. So Jon knows quite a lot about creating lasting impact for his work, and I think you’ll find this conversation to be really valuable to listen to and enjoy.

What has been the most important tactic in gaining reach for your books, ideas, and work?

Becky: Hey, Jon, thanks so much for taking some time to talk with me today. I’d really love to learn from the great success you’ve had authoring over 16 books. So, Jon, I’m curious what has been the most important tactic for you in gaining reach for your books, ideas, and work in the world?

Jon: Hey, Becky. I think the number one thing that we’ve done over the years is my newsletter. We have a weekly positive tip. I started it in 2002, right? And so years ago, I’ve been doing this newsletter every week for let’s see, 18 or 19 years now, and so every year, every week, over and over again, the repetition of it, more and more followers, more and more readers, people share the newsletter to others. And over time, that consistency, that focus, that value add to people, sharing constant value is something that people share with others, and it grows and grows. So I would say that newsletter is probably the best thing I’ve done. 

Also, I would just say showing up every day, and doing the work. Sharing a quote every day on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. Sharing encouragement, providing value, sharing content to hopefully help people. Doing it over and over again, as I said, every day, every week, for the last 18 years, over time you get, reach doesn’t happen overnight, but the reach then exponentially grows and you reach more and more people. When you show up and do the work you earn trust that way. And then when people trust you, they show up and they tell more people about you.

Becky: Wow. So if we could just dial that back and slow it down a little bit. You started in 2002?

Jon: Yes, 2002.

Becky: Yeah, I’m guessing that was before a lot of thought leaders were out there doing newsletters. So did that predate your writing and publishing any books, Jon?

Jon: It did. So when I decided I wanted to write and speak, I knew I wanted to do this. I started with a newsletter, and initially it was a fax. I was sending out faxes to people, getting their fax number, then I would get their emails and I would actually send emails out, and it was not really professional. I would write something up and then just email it. And I think it was like 5 people initially, then 20, then 100, and eventually, we started using Constant Contact, which was just beginning at that time. And no one was really doing newsletters back then. There were no blogs, there was no social media, it was the way to reach people was this weekly, positive tip. Now, it seems like everyone has a newsletter. Everyone’s on social media. But back then it was very early on and I was just beginning.

Becky: So tell me about where your newsletter list is right now.

Jon: 250,000, I would say. 

Becky: Amazing, and they get a weekly, positive tip from you?

Jon: Right. We do a weekly positive tip and then, mid week, we’ll do a promo for something that we have upcoming, an event, a training, or a launch of a new book. Our power of positive summit is this week, so we’ll be promoting that. So we’ve added that promo piece and people don’t seem to mind that. We don’t want to bombard people with too many things, so we try to keep it with a newsletter and one promo per week. We started the promo about two years ago. So for years it was just the weekly newsletter, and we started the promo because we had so many things going on that we couldn’t fit it all into just the newsletter. So we added the promo piece and I think that’s worked out well, as well.

How did you convert people who saw you speak into staying connected through your newsletter?

Becky: So I know Jon, that you’ve also been, prior to COVID, traveling a lot and speaking a lot. In what way did you convert the people who saw you speak in person to stay connected to you long term through the newsletter?

Jon: When we’re on stage or giving a talk or something like that it was always “Hey, sign up for my newsletter.” There’s always a PowerPoint slide at the end giving a contact information for people to sign up. We do a free seven step action plan for people to sign up, so we’re always offering that. The goal is to provide ways for people to connect. They either have read my books, or they’ve seen me speak, and then from there, if they want to connect even more, we provide these other avenues for them to connect. And so during COVID, it was the newsletter. It was my social media following, all the people that have connected to me through my books, my work, and also the podcast now as well. And from that was an audience that we were able to reach during this time. I did a lot of work this past year, virtually. A ton of virtual events, probably the result of all the years of work I’ve been doing, reaching out, conducting, speaking, going everywhere and anywhere to do the work. It just shows you again, over time you build up an authentic, real, genuine, and organic following. My following is very organic because I don’t do a ton of advertising. It’s a lot of people who have either seen me, heard me speak, or read my books.

When did you start publishing books and what have you learned along the way?

Becky: So talk about the books a little, when did you start publishing books and what have you learned along the way, as it relates to how each book increases your reach in the world? 

Jon: Well the book that really kicked off everything for me was The Energy Bus, and that came out in 2007. I would say the book, talking about the book, speaking on the book, really built up my following and also created a lot of interest in the book. So I would speak about the book, and then people would buy the book, and then they read the book. And then a lot of people who read the book, who didn’t see me speak, then invited me to speak. So one built the other. I always tell people, when you’re starting out, speak on your book, make your topic that’s in your book your speech topic. And that way, it will be a flywheel effect, your talk promotes the book, your book promotes the talk, and then you’ll grow that way. 

So for me, initially, it was really focusing on just getting the message of The Energy Bus out there, and then as I would speak, and meet different leaders and organizations, I would get new ideas. And that would lead to another book, which would lead to another book. So for me, it wasn’t writing a book to market myself. I was writing a book to share something and say something that needed to be said. And so each book was something I wanted to say. But that book would then reach more people and build on the following because some people would read The No Complaining Rule or Training Camp, or The Carpenter, and not even know about The Energy Bus, and so people found me through other books that I wrote and then they’d come in and then read the other books. So having a lot of different books creates synergy. It’s like you go to a town center and there’s one store you’re going to see, but then you see, oh, they got these other stores here, and you go check out the other stores, and the synergy builds. That’s why a lot of restaurants want to be near each other. You don’t want to be isolated as a restaurant, you want to be near the other restaurants, so you can try all the other places.

What are some pivotal lessons you’ve learned along your journey?

Becky: So Jon, could you share some pivotal moments or lessons you’ve learned on your journey?

Jon: So many. I mean, just getting rejected by over 30 publishers when I wrote The Energy Bus, that was a pivotal moment. Just staying with it, trusting, believing, a lot of prayers, finally getting that publishing deal from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. It coming out. Bookstores wouldn’t carry it, but it was a best-seller in South Korea. So that was a big moment. Being told I wasn’t very good as a speaker early on, that was a pivotal moment. I should have given up many times, but I didn’t. I kept doing it even when I wasn’t good. Working on my craft over time, feeling like I had a message to share, knowing I wasn’t great. The wanting to get better, wanting to improve, so that was a pivotal moment, as well. Being on the big stages initially was a really big moment in terms of being in front of all these people, and not really performing great in those big moments, like being onstage and not being your best, the moment was almost too big for me. And then learning from those moments, growing from those moments, and then being on the big stage again and being ready for that moment. And bringing the content, the passion, and the gift that you developed over years and the talent…that was pretty cool to be able to then rise to the occasion in those moments. Knowing those tough moments, difficult early moments, led you to this moment. Getting on TV and The Today Show was a big moment. 

For the first time, early on in my career, I got into The Today Show and did a four week series with them, and that really created a lot of exposure. Doing the governor’s conferences in Texas and reaching all these different audiences as part of those big conferences was great. And then just getting called different times when you least expected it. Someone would reach; they heard about you, they read your book, and it was a moment that maybe you were having a tough week and all of a sudden you get invited to a big stage event. And you go, “Okay, I’m meant to do this.” And now years later, you go, “Okay, this is what I do.” But back then it was like, “Okay, am I meant to do this?” and then you get the gig, you get the book deal. One thing after another leads you to realize, “Okay, I’m doing what I’m called to do.”

How valuable is your email list when releasing new books? 

Becky: That’s really helpful. So I’m thinking a little bit Jon, just about my own observing of your work over the years. Because I work with authors to market their books, I’ve watched when you’ve had various book launches, and I can’t remember which book it was, it was probably several years ago, and I remember it was your book launch day and I saw an announcement on social media, I went over to Amazon, the book was selling like crazy. But I didn’t see any massive promo coming out from you the way you often do with authors. And I asked Daniel Decker, who I know is someone that you’ve worked with, and he said, “Well, all Jon needs to do when a book comes out is to send out an email, and he sells a lot of books.” 

So I’m curious how accurate you think that is, and what your experience has been like, in terms of the value of your email list, in helping you at those moments of releasing your new books along the journey?

Jon: Oh, it’s huge. Because they are loyal followers, because they’re people who read your books, and you’ve built up a lot of trust with them because you are always providing value, always sharing weekly content. You’re not asking for anything. You’re not charging for your newsletter, you’re just providing value over time. You build up the trust, and a lot of those people wind up reading your books. So when you come out with a new one, and in your email, as you say, “Hey, I have a new book coming out,” those amazing people who support you wind up getting your book. And so it goes a long way in selling a lot of books. That list again, started out at five people, and is now over 250,000. That’s a lot of people, right? And so a lot of people who read your books now, a lot of them don’t though. So there’s a lot of people when a new book comes out, they may read it, they may get a book for the first time. They’ve been following you for a while and they finally decided to buy your book. I’ve had people on social media say, “Hey, I’ve been following you for a year now. Love your content. Decided to buy one of your books.” So again, I’m not asking for anything from that person. I’m just doing what I’m here to do by providing content. Same thing on social media, right? Twitter, constantly share it, but then it leads to that person buying my book, great. So I never started this to sell books. I always started to provide content and value, and the newsletter was a great example. I didn’t know the newsletter was going to lead to all these great people who buy my books. I never knew it would lead to the growth of that. You asked me what’s the number one thing I’ve done. That’s it. I didn’t know that when we started this, it was just to be able to reach people to share information with, but it’s led to so many speaking engagements as well. So it’s the number one thing we’ve ever done, but it was not intentional. Now there’s a lot smarter people who know what they’re doing, know how to do it, and all that. So it really came from a good intention and a good state of mind. 

The other thing is the launch team that we do with Daniel, that’s been huge as well. Every book now we have a launch team that helps us promote the book, support the book, and those are the people who are, again, people who like your work. They might be considered fans, readers, whatever you want to call them. They love your work. We ask them to join our launch team and we’ll get between 1000 and 2000 people to join the launch team now. And the launch team markets the book to their list, to their audience, to their page, to their friends. They get to read the book in advance, they get to be part of the community, and they even buy the book to help support it. And so the launch team has been very helpful and successful in getting our initial thrust out there when the book first comes out. So very thankful for the launch team and all the people who have followed me all these years who support the books, obviously couldn’t have done it without them.

Any surprises on your journey? 

Becky: So any surprises on your journey, Jon? Besides ones you’ve already mentioned in terms of you didn’t set out to do the newsletter knowing the great benefits it would bring, but only just to add value?

Jon: Yeah, I think surprising for me is just that I’ve written so many books. Like, I never expected to do this many books, right? So we’re up to 23, now 24 actually, I think with the new one, and 5 children’s books, 11 bestsellers. So I think for me, it’s surprising that we’ve reached as many people as we have, and surprising that I said the newsletter because that, again, is probably the biggest surprise. But also surprised that when I don’t think a book is going to do well out of the gate, it does a lot better than I expected, because sometimes I won’t even promote a book hard, because I’m like, alright, we already promoted this other book and I wasn’t planning on writing a book this year, but I did. I don’t want to promote it too much. I don’t want to be too promotional and yet, the book will still do really well. It’s been fun to try out different books like alright, The Coffee Bean, I’m going to do an illustrated little fable that you can read in 20 minutes, let’s see how that does. And you get surprised at how well the book does, even though it’s just a little book like that. So I won’t write a book to just write a book or to try to sell a book. Like my publisher one time, maybe four or five years ago said, “Okay, we need a book out this year!” I’m not ready to do one. I’m not going to do a book unless I need to say something or want to say something, and then I’ll do it. I’m not gonna write a book just to write a book. The minute I do that, I’ll be done. So I’m thankful, and what I’m proud of is that people say the quality, like people say that I haven’t written a bad book. You know, most people, if you go to Amazon, you’re gonna find some reviews that just don’t like it and they just don’t like you. But for people who know my work, like, yeah every book he does, there’s something valuable there, and that I take pride in. I don’t want to just put a book out there. I want it to be meaningful, and I work a lot on them and I’m involved in every aspect of the book until it gets launched.

Favorite book you’ve written? 

Becky: So do you have a favorite amongst them?

Jon: Training Camp, for sure. I mean people always ask me and definitely Training Camp, just the story. The main character has to overcome his fear, find his faith. The emotions I had in writing it. The Energy Bus, the most popular by far, but Training Camp is probably my favorite. People say The Carpenter is probably my best work or The Garden, my newest one. But definitely, definitely The Training Camp

Anything you want to share that you haven’t had the chance to say yet?

Becky: So Jon, is there anything that you want to say about reaching people with content that you haven’t had a chance to say yet?

Jon: Just show up and keep delivering it. A lot of times people reach out to me, “Hey, how can I build up an audience? How can I build up my brand? How can I grow it, it’s really small right now?” You have to start and just do the work every single day. It’s gonna take a while. It doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be where you provide the value in the content, you are consistent, you build trust, and over time, your following will grow. You want to be able to reach the right people who then will share it. But for the most part, you have to just continually produce the content and get it out there so people can see it. So whatever that takes for you, it might be again, social media, Twitter, Instagram, putting stories out there. Now there’s so many different ways to do it, but it’s continually doing it. And over time, you become known as a go to person in that area. 

Also finding your niche, and standing out with that niche doing something unique and different that is not being done. So you’re known for that. What are you known for? Becky, what would you say I am known for?

Becky: Either positivity or leadership

Jon: Yeah, you nailed it. So for me, it’s like you just said it’s positivity and it’s leadership. I was positivity in the beginning, then moved towards positive leadership, and really knew I wanted to be focused on that positive leadership. So much so, that’s what I will drive and drive and drive and share and share and share because I know that is what I want to be known for. It’s also what I am meant to be known for, what I’m meant to share, and being clear on that is key. Clarity leads to focus action. So really being clear on the message you want to share, and what you want to be known for, is really helpful in building your brand and reaching more people.

Action Steps

Becky: I want to share a couple of action steps with you as we wrap up today’s episode. 

  1. One of the things that Jon talked about was the multi-channel approach that he has to marketing his work, with the most valuable one being his newsletter. If you do not already have an email newsletter, I want to encourage you as an action step today to watch my free webinar about the value of creating a permission based list. We’ll put the link to that webinar in the show notes for you, here
  2. I would encourage you also, if you haven’t yet started a newsletter, to subscribe to one or two. And why don’t you start with Jon’s? He has a highly valuable newsletter, and you can sign up for it here
  3. As another action step, what I want to encourage you to do is think about the long term impact that you can have, by being consistent with your approach over your journey. You know, Jon mentioned that he has been doing a newsletter in one form or another for more than a decade. And it’s that ongoing effort that has helped him to reach so many readers around the world with his books. So I would just encourage you, after listening to today’s podcast, to think about what it might look like for you to invest over the long term in your book and ideas. 

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