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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 Mark Miller—Author and Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A.
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 Mark Miller
Becky: The interview that you’re about to listen to is a part of my author journey series. I’ve been working on the first draft of my book, due to be released in April 2022 by Berrett Koehler publishers. My book is Reach: Creating Lasting Impact for Your Book, Message, or Cause, and throughout the process of writing my first draft I’ve been interviewing some past clients, authors, and nonprofit leaders to get their insights on my topics. I was so excited to have the opportunity to reconnect with Mark Miller. Mark Miller was an early client of my company, we started to work together in 2012 and our team served him through eight or nine book launches. We’re anticipating supporting him with the launch of his newest book, which is going to be released in 2022. I was so happy to catch up with Mark and I think you’ll enjoy this thoughtful conversation.
So I want to let you know a little bit about Mark. He is the Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. He’s also the author of many best selling books, including The Secret, The Heart of Leadership, and Chess Not Checkers. His new book is coming with BenBella Press in January of 2022.
How did you measure your goal of reaching leaders with your content?
Becky: So Mark, when we were working together, you wanted to quantify a goal about how many leaders to reach with your content. Can you tell me about that big goal and how you’ve measured it?
Mark: Well, as you’ll recall, it’s always been an aspiration to reach as many leaders as possible. I mean that’s actually why I’m doing what I do. Even though some people still to this day, look at me and go, that’s kind of a strange goal. I feel like I’m on the planet to encourage and equip leaders, and I can’t encourage and equip anyone I can’t reach. So reach has always been a desire and a quest.
As you and your team tried to help me figure out, there are a lot of ways to measure that. And my scorecard continues to morph. I’d like to reach 100 million leaders before I die. In fact, I think I’ve got something written down about 2030 to add value to 100 million leaders. And, I know books are important, but you can’t reach 100 million people with the book, more than likely. I don’t think there is anything other than the Bible that’s probably sold 100 million copies. So I think the books are a piece of that reach, but social media is going to have to be the anchor.
And as you recall, we’ve tried to look at that, almost like a sales funnel, where you have Twitter and Instagram and Tik Tok, and whatever you want to put at the top of that funnel to get people in, and then you’re probably gonna get a smaller percentage of those men and women who will actually go to your website, or read your blog post, or download your free resources, or purchase resources that you have for sale. But for me, my scorecard is still a composite of all of those things, and as you recall, we have toyed with and continue to tweak this idea of weighting those things, which I know this may be over complicating it, but it’s not the same for somebody to read a blog post as to buy a resource. So if you’re really trying to have impact, that’s our latest quest, is do you actually assign point value to the different levels of impact or engagement? So still working on the scorecard, but the ultimate end is to reach people.
Becky: Any idea how many you’ve reached so far?
Mark: Well, we had some years when we were probably reaching 8, 9, 10 million people. So, we haven’t done as much recently. I don’t know if you know, I kind of went dark for a little while, for a lot of reasons, but hoping to relaunch a refreshed brand, maybe in the next 30-45 days.
What’s the difference between reaching people online and in person?
Becky: That’s exciting stuff, Mark. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between reaching people online and reaching people in person, and how you feel about that?
Mark: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. I want to add value, and if I can add value in any arena, I’m up for it. I think that based on some of the skills that I’ve been able to develop over the years, I might have a higher probability of impact if I’m in a room with somebody than if they’re reading a tweet halfway around the world. But I’m not quite so sure that’s true anymore. That’s probably my personal paradigm. I’ve got a few anecdotes that make me think that might not be the case.
One story you’ve heard before, it was right after I got started. This was 8 or 10 years ago in the whole social media space, and I got pushed and pulled there by my team. They actually got me a Facebook account and brought the password into my office and said, “You’re now on Facebook.” I mean, I sort of got pushed into it, and they told me I needed to start blogging and tweeting. And I said, “Well, I got the blog, but why should I do Twitter?” And they said, “We’ll take it on faith.” And I said, “You know, I’ve got faith in a lot of things, but I’m not sure Twitter’s one of them.” And they said, “No, you’ve got to do it on faith.” And so I remember again, you’ve probably heard this story. I had been writing blogs for about two weeks. I was doing three a week and those first couple weeks went really well, from my perspective, because I had 30 years of content built up so it was easy to write 8 or 10 blog posts that I thought were really good. And then I got to week three, week four, and it was like, oh and I wrote a post, and I said, I’m not sure this is that good. I mean, it didn’t feel as good as the stuff I’ve done in those first few weeks. I had a moment where I needed to decide what to do. I remember you and others had coached me that it’s about authenticity. It’s about transparency. Are you telling people what you’re thinking about? How are you failing? And I said, “Okay, it’s probably not, A work, might be B- work, but I’m gonna send it anyway.” And within 24 hours, that blog post had been re-posted, retweeted to about 400,000 people. And that was the moment I began to understand the power on a big scale.
And then a smaller example, not too long after that. One night about midnight, I got a message from somebody saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping me start my day. You’ve inspired my entire team.” And I’m thinking, it’s midnight. She said, “Good morning,” what’s going on? And of course, you had taught me a little bit about how to do some analytic discovery and she was in China or Thailand or somewhere. They had started their day with my content and so even though I want to be in the room with people, and I believe I can have more impact, I’m not sure that’s the world we live in anymore. I think I can probably have more impact if I can continue to develop the requisite skills to touch people through social media.
What is your point of view related to spacing out book launches?
Becky: Those are some amazing stories, Mark. I’m going to shift a little bit. As I was starting to put together some thoughts for the book, one of the things I was thinking about was these conversations that you and I had about spacing out the launches of your books and products over the years, because we together launched about eight of your books, I believe. I’m curious if you’d be willing to share with our listeners about your point of view related to the spacing out of launches?
Mark: I’m not sure my point of view on this is going to be helpful, because I don’t know the right answer. Let’s go back to I’m doing this to serve leaders and so when I’ve got resources that I think will serve leaders, I want to release them to the world. Now, I have talked to many authors, and many publishers, and there is a conventional wisdom I would say, in the traditional publishing world, that if you’re doing a book a year, you’re oversaturated. But that’s not universally held. I would rather say I’ve got a new resource that’ll serve a leader, and the publisher says, “yeah, but you’re going to cannibalize sales of your previous resources, and you’ll never reach the peak sales.” Well, what I have always wanted to believe is that new resources would actually help the backlist, and I would say we’ve had mixed success with that.
I mean, I could sell more books if I spaced them out. But book sales are just one indication of success. Again, if it’s about reach, if it’s about impact, if it’s about serving leaders, maybe it’s that new content that’s going to serve a new segment of the market or serve leaders that weren’t served by previous titles, because many of my titles are relatively narrow. A book on engagement, or a book on creating a leadership culture, or a book on building teams. Well, if you’re not trying to build a team, or if your team’s great, and it’s two years before I share something with you on engagement, maybe I could have served you earlier. So I don’t know the right answer. I just want to get resources out into the world.
What has writing and publishing books over the past decade taught you about creating reach for your work?
Becky: Actually, I think that’s a really helpful perspective, Mark. So I’m curious if you can share a little bit more about what writing and publishing books over the past decade or more has taught you about creating reach for your work?
Mark: You know, it’s actually been two decades now. When we did, Ken Blanchard and I, it’s not quite been 20 years, but it’s been 20 years since we started the research that became The Secret. I learned this from Berrett-Kohler and you’ve probably said it as well, I think books are seeds and if you don’t plant seeds, you’re never going to get a tree. If you don’t get a tree, you’re never going to get fruit, and not all the seeds are going to produce fruit. Not all of them are even going to produce trees. Right? Some of them get returned to the publisher, which breaks my heart.
But a book, I think, does a couple things. One, is it forces the author to codify their point of view, which I think matters. I think there are a lot of smart people in the world that have never organized their thoughts in a way that they are transferable. There’s been stuff written over the years about having a teachable point of view, you can have a point of view, but is it a teachable point of view? And I won’t say that everyone that writes a book instantaneously has a teachable point of view, but I think they’re a step closer, because they had to organize it, they had to illustrate it, they had to distill it down to something that they could put on paper. So I think that’s one thing it does for you, which helps reach, right? Because if you have a codified body of work, if you have a teachable point of view, whether someone else buys the book or not, they may be able to share that with someone else. “Let me tell you what I learned.” “Let me tell you about something I read.” So I think that’s one great reason to write a book.
Another, and you’re about to experience this with your new book, your IQ is going to go up 50 points in the eyes of the world when you’re a published author, which of course, is nonsense. I mean, in my case, it is nonsense. Yours may really go up 50 points. But people give you higher standing, they give you more credibility, they give what you say more validity. It’s a little bit scary. I mean, I’ll even have people want to talk to me about topics I’ve not written on and I’m really quick to tell people, that’s not my area. I’m not an expert on that. I could introduce you to an expert. I’ve literally had people say yes, but you’re an author, like answer my question, you’re an author. And so be careful with that, I would say to your listeners. But it helps with reach, because when you show up, and you’re a published author, people listen more intently to what you have to say. So those are a couple of things that I think books actually help an author with reach, beyond the obvious that somebody bought the book.
Becky: Well, and Mark, I have to admit that I use that idea of books or seeds in my work all the time. I met with a woman yesterday morning, who’s written her first book, it’s a Bible study. I was encouraging her to give away as many as you can. Books are seeds. If they’re not out there, they can’t do the job they’re meant to do. So thank you for that. Because every time I use it, it’s a nod to you.
Mark: Well, and let me say this, as far as giving away books, I appreciate that you’re encouraging that. I’ve always felt like I’m an outlier on that, and thankfully, I’m in a position I can do this. I’m not assuming every author can do this, but I love to give away books. And historically, my publisher, they’ve actually said that I’m crazy. And I said, “Well, let’s don’t debate that I’m crazy. I know, I’m crazy.” Remember, my objective is to serve leaders, and if they don’t have the book, I can’t serve leaders. Now, if they buy them, that’s great, because I’m gonna give the profits to charity, that’s great, too. But my historical practice has been, you better give away at least 10% of what you want to sell. Last I heard, they said we’re chasing 2 million books in the world. And I wish I’d have kept up with it. But I have given away tens of thousands of books. It wouldn’t surprise me if I’d given away more than 100,000 books over 20 years. We give away a lot of books, but again, I think they’re seeds. And when somebody reads a book, they may buy 100 copies for their organization or they may give it as Christmas presents to 20 of their friends. And even if they don’t do that, you’ve hopefully had an impact on their life.
What are some challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Becky: So Mark, I’m wondering if you could share with our listeners about some challenges you faced along the way?
Mark: Well, it’s hard to sell books, and it’s frustrating to me as an author. I would say to any author because you’re writing the book because you want to share it, and I just think that’s been a challenge and one that I would say, I’ve tried not to succumb to, and you’ll know this from the conversations we’ve had over the years. If something doesn’t work, let’s try something else. I don’t know that we’ve ever done two book launches alike. In part, because I was always saying, we’ve got to sell more books, we’ve got to sell more books, and I’ve had conversations with publishers and other authors and they’ll say, “Well, I got 500 likes on Instagram on my book summary,” or whatever. I said, “Well, I’m proud of your likes, but aren’t you trying to sell books?” So I think that gets lost sometimes, and that’s been a challenge for me. I think some of it’s an industry situation and where the book world is today. I think part of it is me as an author having unrealistic expectations. When somebody comes back and says, “We sold 100,000 copies.” I said, “We’ll have a party when we get to a million, right?” I mean, I’m not excited about selling 100,000 books. And they’ll say, “Well, the average book only sells 3,000 or 4,000 copies,” and I’m going, “We’re not trying to write average books. We’re not trying to help 200 people.” So, I think, for me, the biggest challenge is the challenge you live with every day, it’s just hard to sell books, for many, many, many reasons.
That’s probably another whole podcast on all the reasons it’s hard to sell books. But I think for authors that believe passionately in their content and their message, you just have to accept that challenge. And you have to keep finding new ways to try to reach. I mean, I’ve got an upcoming book and we’re now talking about, do we include a free digital, if you buy the hardback, you get the digital free? Or if you buy the leader’s journal, do you get a free assessment? I mean, these aren’t things that other people haven’t tried. These aren’t new ideas. But we’re now saying, what are other people doing to try and sell books? We’ve talked about, do you do enhanced ebooks and embed video, all this stuff? Some of it is probably gimmicks and gadgets, but if it helps sell books, I’m up for it. To me, the challenge is, how do you get people to buy books in today’s world? And I’m looking forward to reading your book, I’m assuming it’s gonna have some more answers in there to help us do that.
What has surprised you along your author journey?
Becky: Let’s do a bit of context setting, Mark, you’re saying that selling books is really hard. And you have an executive level position at one of the most iconic brand companies in the United States. So for those of you who might be listening, who are new or emerging authors, I want you to let that sink in. Because if it’s hard for Mark Miller, those of us who are really just emerging as authors, need to realize it’s going to be hard for us too, and it doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong, it just means that it’s difficult.
So Mark, what are some surprises that you’ve seen along the journey? You mentioned some with your earlier stories about the ability of content to reach people around the world and have an impact. What else has surprised you?
Mark: I mentioned the fact that people are gonna think you’re smarter once you’re published, that surprised me. I don’t think that I necessarily think that about authors, maybe because I know too much. They may be people who’ve worked really, really hard to create a book, but I don’t attribute any enhanced IQ because they went through that journey. So that was a surprise.
Another surprise is how hard it is to sell books. It’s just been surprising, particularly when people tell you that the book is amazing. “It changed my life.” “It changed my organization.” It’s like, “Oh, yeah, that’s great. I mean, that’s fantastic.” And then you’ll go out and you’ll sell 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 books of a book that is potentially life changing, organization changing, it’s like we ought to sell millions of a book like that, right? If it’s good, then why can’t we sell it? So that has been not only the challenge we faced, it has been my biggest surprise over the last 20 years as an author. And I actually think it’s getting harder. There’s more noise, there are more channels, there are more distractions, I think attention spans are shorter. People are now asking me, can I create some two minute videos that will change lives? And I’m going, “I don’t know that I’m that good to create two minute videos that will change lives.” I mean, somebody can probably do that. So maybe the rate of change, the acceleration in the rate of change has probably been a surprise to me.
I was surprised that the posters we bought for the airport promotion didn’t help us sell books. That was very expensive, by the way. It was one of those things where we were trying because it’s like, well, let’s try to sell some books a different way. It surprised me that we didn’t sell a lot of books, with the big posters hanging all over the Atlanta airport, which my friends liked. They all took pictures of it and sent me pictures of the posters, but I don’t think any of them bought a book.
Any parting advice or wisdom?
Becky: I’m wondering if you have any parting advice or wisdom for authors or aspiring authors who might later listen to this interview?
Mark: The world needs your content. I mean if you’ve got an idea, if you’ve got a concept, if you’ve got content that you think will serve people, whether that’s one hundred people, one thousand people, or millions of people, you need to do the book. You need to write. Then do what you can, with Becky’s help, to extend your reach. But that’s not your first responsibility. Your first responsibility is to get the book finished, because the world needs it.
Becky: I want to leave you with a few action steps that we do on every episode of the Book Marketing Action podcast, and part of my conversation with Mark centered around the idea of creating metrics. How are you going to measure success? How are you going to measure the reach of your ideas?
- So what I’d like to encourage you to do, is to think about what success looks like for you. Maybe open up a Google doc or get a piece of paper and a pen, and in light of what Mark said about his scorecard, think about what a scorecard looks like for your book and your success.
- As a second action item, I would encourage you to take a look at the various resources that Mark has created that help to expand the learning from his books, and you can find those at tmarkmiller.com. Mark has a variety of field guides, quickstart guides, and assessments that go along with each of his titles. I would encourage you to take a look at those and to consider what else you might do as it relates to creating complimentary resources to go with your books.
- Learn more about Mark Miller and the work he does in the world.
- Get started with his free ebook, Leaders Go First: 10 Ways You Can Set The Pace For Those You Lead, here.
- Connect with Mark Miller on LinkedIn.
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I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.