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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 Lisa Kohn—award winning author, leadership consultant, and executive coach.

Today’s episode is part of a new series. The series is based on my book, which is scheduled to come from Berrett Koehler publishers in April 2022. So this is the first time ever on the podcast that I am going to announce that the book is coming. The book is called Reach: Creating Lasting Impact for your Book, Message, or Cause. Lisa Kohn is an author friend of mine, and I’m interviewing her for the purposes of talking about her in the book. So we decided that we would use our own approach, which is to repurpose content, and that we would record a podcast with Lisa so that you can learn from her now, so later, I can put some of her lessons into my book. And we have some other surprises along the way about how we want to repurpose our content in a way that will help our audiences the most. 

About Lisa Kohn

Becky: So Lisa, let’s start, and I would love for you to introduce our audience to you and talk about your work in the world and your books, as we get started.

Lisa: So yes, thank you for saying books. So as you know, my story starts broad and comes down narrow. I’ll start with the way I described my childhood is: the best seats I ever had at Madison Square Garden, Were at my mother’s wedding because my mom got married on July 1, 1982, with 2,075 other couples, because I grew up in a religious cult, a member of the Unification Church. On the other hand, the best cocaine I ever had was from my father’s friend, the judge. Yes, really a judge, I’ve been asked. 

And that was then, and now I am an author, award-winning author, leadership consultant, executive coach. I work with C-suite leaders in Fortune 50 companies and nonprofits, helping them be more thoughtful, more intentional, more present, and more authentic in their work and in their lives. So that’s me, the two sides, and the books reflect that. So a number of years ago, we put out our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership, which is truly, long story short, my life is saved many ways by daily readers. The Power of Thoughtful Leadership is basically a daily reader where you can find a topic and find a quick thought on how to stop and ground and be more intentional on how you show up. And then two and a half years ago, tomorrow, my memoir To the Moon and Back: A Childhood Under the Influence was published. So those are my two books that I have been pushing and riding the waves with for the last few years.

What was the journey of publishing your memoir?

Becky: Thank you so much, Lisa. Let’s talk specifically today, I’m really interested in diving into your book To the Moon and Back. Because when I first met you, you had a draft of that memoir, and it took a few years before you brought it to market. But I’m curious what aspirations fueled that and tell us a little bit about that journey to publishing your memoir.

Lisa: So I get asked many times why I did it. What was the reason? What fueled me to do it? And I hate to admit, I don’t know fully. So long story short, I crashed and burned in the mid, almost late 80s, and was engaged to someone who drank a hell of a lot and was just on the road to destruction, self destruction, and I crawled into a 12 step program called Al-Anon, saying, “tell me if he’s an alcoholic; there’s no way I’d ever be with an alcoholic.” First of all, there are a myriad of reasons why I would be; I grew up in a cult. I would tell my story, and people with their jaws would drop, right? As my brother says, when you run with like hundreds of people who tell all these incredible stories and you tell yours and everybody goes, “Wow,” you go, “Oh, there’s something there,” and everyone would say you should write a book. 

So fast forward. Still a long time ago, probably about 20 years or so, I decided to write, because I was a coach, I was gonna write a powerful, hopeful book, and I was gonna write a half memoir, half self-help. “Here’s what happened to me. Here’s how it messed me up. I got better, you can too.” I would get incredibly warm glowing rejections from agents, “amazing story,” “you’re actually a good writer,” “you’re not famous enough,” “where will they put you in Barnes and Noble.” Then in around 2009, an agent called me and said, “If you write a memoir, I’ll represent you”, to which I famously said, “Please excuse me, I don’t want to write another Glass Castle because I want to write a glimmer of hope.” And she said, “You should be so lucky as to write a Glass Castle.” And she’s right, because it’s an amazing book, but I wrote the memoir, and she didn’t take me on. Then there was a series of many years finding another agent that I then lost. Finally, I found my publisher directly. It’s an indie house in East Village where I grew up in New York City. I found her in 2016, and signed with her in 2017. The book came out in 2018. So you have more to your question than that, but that’s a long story. 

Now, I have reasons why I’ve spent the last two and a half years strongly promoting the book, and even bringing the book very clearly into the work I do with leaders and bringing my past into it. But I did it, because someone said it was a good idea. And one of the scars of my childhood is that if you put something in front of me, I will do it. I will do it no matter what. I will do it till I die, even if I die, I will get it done. I was persistent and got amazing rejections for a really long time and never gave up. Now the book is out there making a difference in the world, which is why I care about it. So where do you want me go further with that question?

What are your greatest hopes for your book?

Becky: Sure, I’d love to hear what your greatest hopes for the book are. So now that it’s here, you mentioned that you’ve been marketing it for two and a half years. What is it that you want this book to do? What are your hopes for it?

Lisa: So the week it came out, it came out on Tuesday, and that Thursday morning, I was on Megyn Kelly back when there was a Megyn Kelly show. And that Thursday evening, I had a book reading in my hometown where I live in Pennsylvania, outside of Philly. And in the afternoon, I was sitting on my side porch, and my next door neighbor said, “Hey, what’s going on today?” And I said, “Funny, you should ask, I was on national television this morning.” And I told him the story because nobody really knew. I always kept it quiet. And within weeks, his wife emailed me and she said, “thank you for giving us all the courage to tell our childhood stories,” and that’s why I do it. 

So I have three messages. My three main messages are that extremist situations exist, they are really prevalent, they are all over. They’re highly intoxicating. It is the best drug ever to have a Messiah, and they’re very dangerous. Message two: for anyone who feels hopeless or damaged beyond repair, there is hope and you are not damaged. I realized when the book came out, I still thought I was damaged. I have them, I have scars. I’m not damaged. It’s a very different perspective. And the third that I know from my own life, from my work as an executive coach, is that as a species, we are way too hard on ourselves. We’re self-critical and self-judging and we just need a huge dose of self-love, and self-compassion. 

So my hope for the book is that it will spread these messages that will reach the people who have been in or grown up in extreme situations, and those who’ve had any sort of situation, and help them realize that the shame they’re holding is not theirs to keep. They don’t need to be in shame and they can truly let it go. I’m still trying to let mine go, but I’m daily letting it go. As I said to someone just the other day, if I’ve only reached the thousands, maybe tens of thousands, I’ve reached with the book and with the message, then that’s enough, because I am lucky to be happy, right? And I just want to spread that message of hope and love, self-compassion and self-love, to as many people as I possibly can, which I also do in my work. I like to say I’m the executive coach who talks about love in the C-suite, right? But now that books out and you Google me, you know my story. So I will tell everybody, I grew up in a cult. Yep, I ended up in a 12 step program. And yes, you deserve to be happy and to take care of yourself. And let’s help you do that. So that’s why!

How do you feel looking back on being on national TV?

Becky: I love that. So Lisa, you mentioned being on the Megyn Kelly show, and I watched that clip, it was amazing. And that’s obviously national TV. A big platform is a huge one for any author. So I’m curious if you would share with us briefly about what that achieved for you or how you feel about it looking back now?

Lisa: You know, that’s a funny question. So when the book was coming out, I hired a branding firm to help me, not yours, but a different branding firm to help me do the cover of the book and stuff, and then I hired a publicist, because I was determined to do this. And they did get me on Megyn Kelly and it was a wonderful experience. I don’t know that it did very much for me other than let me be able to say I’m on Megyn Kelly and know that I could be on Megyn Kelly and be fine. Like literally you just talk to Megyn and talk to Megyn, and she got something completely wrong before the commercial break. And you can kind of tell because we went to commercial break and I said, “That’s not what happened.” So when we come back from commercial break, she starts to say something and she’s like “Well, maybe you should tell us the story,” because she realized she had no idea what the story was. But you think, “Megyn Kelly! Millions of people will buy my book!” No, no. You know, and my message was less honed then. I was just starting out, my message has truly developed as I’ve spoken somewhat endlessly about it over the last two and a half years. So I’m happy I did it. I got a lot of great publicity, probably the best thing I got was, I was in Marie Claire, and that went on Apple News for the weekend, which was really cool. 

So publicity is great. But publicity, sometimes it feels like it only got me the chance to say that I have publicity, right? Which can get me more publicity, but you never know. You never know where one, just the one right person is going to see it. There’s currently potentially a documentary on the church that I’m involved with, because the producer was looking for something and stumbled on my book. So you never know who you’re going to reach and when. 

What do you think has worked best for you for expanding the reach of this book?

Becky: So I love that you said that, Lisa, that you never know who you’re going to reach when. So could you talk a bit more about what you think has worked best for you and expanding the reach of this book.

Lisa: I honestly say the good thing about believing I have an important message is it means I asked just about anybody and everybody, if they know somewhere I can speak, somewhere I can do a reading, somewhere I can promote. So I just keep asking. I do think it’s those, that it just keeps going and beginning more and beginning more and beginning more. 

There’s the potential documentary. There’s something else maybe going to happen that’s really cool. And if it does, we’ll probably help it push really high. But it’s just asking this person and asking this person. And I guess guest blog posts in places, and I speak just about anywhere, I just keep going. I do as many podcasts as possible, whenever someone reaches out if it makes sense, I’ll do it. Because on one hand, it will help it take off, and on the other hand, if I reach that one person who’s in pain, then that’s why I’m really doing it, right? It’s the emails and the Twitter direct messages and the Instagram messages. It’s those things I get that blow my mind from strangers that keep me just going. I wish I had a plan other than try this, try that, and try this and try that, and try and try and try and try, and keep asking people who they know who’d want to help me spread the message.

Becky: I think you hit on something really important, Lisa. You have to keep going.

Lisa: It’s not even a marathon. It’s like a triathlon and I can’t swim. So it’s a hard triathlon, right? It’s constantly reaching my leadership consulting business, right? And the book, there’s always at least a couple hundred things, I should be doing more, right? There’s always more, there’s always another. So it’s this combination of, what do I want to do today? What am I going to do this week? What am I going to do? And then also, when am I going to stop? When am I going to practice what I preach? When am I going to take care of myself? Because I could work nonstop and never get it all done. But each week there’s one more email I send or person I ask or place I can speak. I literally ran into a neighbor and was like, “Oh, I didn’t know your husband was the pastor of the church. What do you want me to talk to anybody about extreme religions?” Right? Because I’m able to say it’s not about me. Yes, I’d love to sell millions of books. Yes, I want to be in the New York Times bestseller, but one because it’s fun, but mostly because I want people to hear the message. So it allows me to just keep asking and just keep going and take some time off and then pick it up and do a couple more things.

What is your attitude towards fame and fortune?

Becky: Love it. So you alluded a bit to it, but I’m wondering if you would tell me what your attitude toward fame and fortune is?

Lisa: My attitude towards fame and fortune. If I’m lucky enough to get it, I’ll probably wonder why I wanted it. Right? If I was really famous, right? Because I know that it does a whole warpy thing to one’s life. If the documentary and a couple other things actually happen, it could be really fun. And I’m just determined to have fun with it. And again, I go back to the message I want to share is so important to me, that fame and fortune is a way to share that message. So I know that the world doesn’t need me to share it, but I can be one more person who can share it, right? And if I can get famous enough that my story is big enough that other people can be in their situation and know that they have hope, then it’s all worth it. If something interesting happens, I might make the money I’ve spent on the book, I may never make the money back I spent on the book, but I did it. I did it for a reason. I did it for all of those who were called second gens or third or fourth, like those of us born and raised in extremist situations. I did it for all of them. I did it for anyone who’s stuck in an extremist situation. I did it for anyone who has this dysfunction in their family and in their childhood and in their current family and is in pain and suffering. That’s why I did it. So I’m determined to have fun with whatever happens. But I’m also out here to hopefully have one more person reach out to me and say thank you, you really gave me hope.

What role has generosity played in your journey?

Becky: So Lisa, tell me what role generosity has played on your journey.

Lisa: Well, I probably am very generous with the book itself. Actually, I’m keynoting for a not for profit, annual luncheon Women’s Resource Center here in Wayne in April. And I am obviously donating books to give away in the hopes that it makes more people sign up. If I meet someone in an extremist situation, or born and raised in an extremist situation, I will always give them the book for free, give them an electronic book or send them a copy of the book. So I tried to be generous. I try to be generous with my time. I try to be generous with my story. I will answer almost any question, as long as it’s not about the immediate family right now, I’ll answer any question. I will just bear any part of the weirdness inside me in order to help people, so I’m hoping I’m generous. And I clearly have gotten a lot of generosity. I have people introduce me to people. I have people open their homes to have me come and speak to their friends. I’ve had people sponsor things for events for me. I will do any book club. I will do anything and I’ve had people open themselves and invite their friends to come and hear it. So generosity has been given to me and I try to be generous as I keep going. 

What is a book Fairy?

Becky: I’m trying to remember back before COVID stopped most air travel. I remember that you had this approach of leaving books in airports. Talk about that.

Lisa: It’s called book fairies. I believe it originated in Scotland. It’s still going, they’re doing it in a different way. But it’s a worldwide initiative where authors will leave their books and other books, called book fairies. And it’s like, leave a book, enjoy the book, pass it on. And it’s just the idea to spread the message of your book and other books and get people reading again. The book fairies, it’s great, and they are still going in some ways. Clearly, it’s shut down a lot since COVID, and hopefully it will pick back up a lot when things open up again. But yeah, it was fun. I had friends who I gave eight of my books, and I’m like, “leave them every time you’re anywhere”, and then they would leave them and then post it. And I did it so many times. The first time the person reached out to me, and then they left it that next day, and that person reached out to me. And most of the other times I didn’t hear from anybody, but you never know. You never know who’s gonna read it. You never know who’s going to read it, who’s going to pick it up or pass it on or whatever. So yeah, it’s just another way to spread the love.

Is there anything you’ve learned about book marketing you wish I had asked you about?

Becky: So Lisa, is there anything else that you’ve learned about book marketing that you wish I had asked you about?

Lisa: It feels daunting, right? You’re probably going to say there are specific things one should do and, and there are, but I always say it feels like there’s always more that I could be doing. And there must be a secret sauce that I haven’t figured out yet. 

But I don’t know that that’s actually true. And so for me, it’s just one day at a time. One more thing. One more thing. Do I need to sign up for this class? It tells me exactly how to do it. Maybe, maybe not. There’s always more. That’s not supposed to be the answer I’m supposed to give. But it’s this combination of, what do I want to do today? Why am I doing this? When do I need to take a break? And what’s one more thing I can do? I was told I’d be lucky if I sold 200 books. I’ve sold a lot more than 200 books. They say nonfiction books sell about 200 on average from an unknown author. So that is what it is. Always be willing to look one more place, talk to one more person, ask for one more idea, listen to Becky, and have her tell you what you should do, and then not beat yourself up too hard if it doesn’t make you the biggest best seller, because who knows. I’ve had to really think about why I’m doing this and manage my own expectations for it so that I am happy with how it’s going rather than upset with how it’s going. 

Action Steps

Becky: That helps. So at the end of every episode of the Book Marketing Action Podcast, we always like to leave our listeners with one or two action steps that they can take and implement this week. As you said, Lisa, this idea of, “what am I going to do today” that you have to ask yourself. And so I’m wondering if together we can co-create a couple of action steps based on our conversation, some things that people could do today. 

  1. Tell your neighbors about your book.  I’m going to pull one out, Lisa, you talked about talking to your neighbors about your book. And I wonder if there are any authors listening today who live in a situation where they haven’t told their neighbors that they wrote a book. I’m gonna challenge you today, talk to someone who lives where you live, and if you haven’t ever told them about your book, tell them.

Lisa: I think that’s a great one. I like to say, mine’s a memoir, right, and so in my neighborhood, I would say, maybe half the women and a quarter of the men had read the book. So I go to a party, and I’ll be like, please don’t answer this, “Hey, when did you lose your virginity? Okay, so we’re even.” Everybody kind of knows these things. So probably your book isn’t quite as revealing as mine. So yeah, talk to your neighbor is a dang good idea because you never know who has a cousin who runs a bookstore, who has a cousin who is a professor, you don’t know, until you put it out there. 

And so I would add to that, two points: 

  1. Sharing your message isn’t self-promotion. One is to find a reason to do it so you don’t feel like you’re self-promoting. Because self promotion doesn’t work, right? Self promotion doesn’t work for me. I can’t, as much as it feels, people may think I self-promote, it doesn’t work for me just to be promoting myself, right? I have a message I’m trying to share. 
  2. Start sharing your message. You can hone in on it as you go. And then when you know that message, there are ways to get on lists for podcasts. People have podcasts, they reach out to you, or to reach out to other podcast owners. Find the next thing you want to do and find the way to get the list to find those people and just start spreading your message and seeing where it goes and honing your message as you go along. 


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