This month’s Featured Author is Chris Westfall. To most folks, he’s known as a speaker who is the National Elevator Pitch Champion, the owner of Westfall Online, and the author of The NEW Elevator Speech and BulletProof Branding.
People turn to him when they have a very specific problem that needs addressing. You know the one… It’s that feeling when you are so close, but not quite there yet? Yeah… That one…
Well, Chris helps people move beyond that so that their business and brand can flourish.
And while I appreciate all of those things about Chris, to me he is also a great friend, colleague, inspiration and client. He’s just one of the sweetest guys I know. Every conversation I have with him leaves me smiling, and I’m pleased to be able to introduce you to him today.
So without further ado, here are Chris’ answers to my Featured Author interview questions…
Tara: What motivated you to write a book?
Chris: You know, they say there’s never a good time to make a bad presentation. When I was recognized as the US national elevator pitch champion, I felt compelled to turn this recognition into something that could benefit others – something beyond just a 118-second pitch. But the question was: What exactly?
I knew that I had to share my story, and try to make my experience meaningful to others based on the strategies I had developed for interpersonal communications – focusing on influence and persuasion.
So, the recognition as national elevator pitch champion was the defining moment that led me to write the book.
It also launched a consulting practice that has led me to work with clients on four continents, and coach businesses that have landed on “Shark Tank” and “Dragons’ Den.” But, blah blah blah…
Recognition doesn’t mean much unless you can turn your accomplishments into something meaningful for others.
Tara: What publishing options did you consider?
Chris: Originally, I worked with Greenleaf Book Group in Austin, TX. This organization is terrific, and I can’t say enough good things about them. In fact they helped me edit my first book for content, and I had a great experience working with them. However, they are expensive. If you have the budget, I think that Greenleaf is a great investment.
They recently published Grant Cardone’s book, Sell or Be Sold. That’s a terrific title! The book is well produced, and a great representation of what they can create for their authors. When I was working with Greenleaf, I reached out to some of their other authors for advice, because you won’t find the inside scoop on Yelp!
Vince Poscente (a good friend and author of a terrific little book called “The Ant and the Elephant” among his other best-sellers) spoke very highly of his experiences; likewise my friend Les McKeown, who published with these guys.
However, for economic reasons, I decided to take my title in-house, meaning my own house. I created my own publishing company, Marie Street Press, and in the last two years I have published four books on my own. Two of the books are mine: The NEW Elevator Pitch and BulletProof Branding (which launched earlier this month, with editing and layout by the fabulous Tara Alemany, I might add). I’ve also published two other titles, The Millennial CEO by Daniel Newman, and 7 Steps to Entrepreneurial Victory by Chris Vanderzyden (whose layout was also done by Tara).
Tara: Why did you settle on the option you chose?
Chris: At the end of today, I’m a businessman first. The economics of self-publishing made too much sense.
I still believe that Greenleaf is a good investment for those who are able to make it. It just wasn’t a choice that fit for me or my budget. I’ve been thrilled with the choice to self-publish.
Additionally, I’ve been thrilled that my experience has allowed me to offer other authors an opportunity to publish their books, through Marie Street Press.
Tara: How easy was it to get your book done?
Chris: Anyone who tells you it’s easy to get a book done has not gone through the process.
I really like my friend Ann McIndoo’s approach to publishing and writing a book. She seems to have cracked the code in terms of simplification and building a process that authors can follow. (Her process is outlined in 7 Easy Steps to Write Your Book.)
But creating the book is never easy. For me, I chose to create the book on my own, and take the journey from Square One all the way to publication.
It’s been tremendously gratifying, but it’s also been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
As they say, anything worth having is worth working for, and creating a book is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had in my professional career.
Let me clarify when writing a book was difficult for me. I am an extrovert by nature. (You can see it clearly in any of my videos.) So, that means that I take my energy from other people.
To be left alone with my thoughts and ideas, which is necessary when you write a book, can be difficult for someone with my personality type. Writing a book was a particularly challenging experience in a way that it might not be challenging for others who are more introverted or of a different personality type, if that makes sense.
There’s a lot of isolation involved in churning out a book. So, to adapt to my personal style, I used the book as a platform to connect with industry experts I really respect, and featured many of our conversations in the chapters of the book.
Tara: How did you distribute the book after publication?
Chris: Worldwide distribution is handled through Ingram, which is the largest book distributor in the world. I utilize print-on-demand services through Lightning Source.
For The NEW Elevator Pitch, I used BookBaby. I recommend this service very highly. I had a great experience with BookBaby, and they take no royalties from the publication of the book online in eBook format.
For my other authors, like Chris Vanderzyden, I’ve used Kindle Direct Publishing for the eBooks, and that has worked great as well. Although Amazon does take a royalty on every publication, you have a lot of flexibility: running promotions, Amazon Prime Lending, and other ways to get the word out.
Tara: How are you marketing and promoting your book?
Chris: I get by with a little help from my friends…. I have over 12,000 followers on twitter, 2,000+ contacts on LinkedIn, and I’m very active on social media. I utilize my extensive network to help promote the book.
I also send out to an e-mail newsletter, which is not a large audience but I share information with them and they seem to appreciate what I have to offer.
Tara: What’s working best for you to generate sales? Are there things you’d recommend avoiding?
Chris: The best way that I have found to generate sales is through public speaking. Being in front of a group of 100, 300, or 500 or more people is a great way to communicate the value proposition.
The book serves as a great leave-behind, to help reinforce the learning and the communication after the keynote is over.
I’ve worked with a lot of Fortune 100 companies, such as Unilever, HP, Cisco, and others as well as multiple small businesses. I do a lot of work through Vistage international, and this work takes me all over the US and Canada speaking to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
Both audiences (large companies and entrepreneurial organizations) have been very receptive to my message and my books. My recommendation is to be smart about when to sell your book and when to give it away.
Obviously, there is a value associated with my book and I don’t want to give it away for free. But if giving the book away is an investment in a future client, I am not hesitant at all. I often use the book as a tool to create a deeper relationship, or a greater consulting arrangement, with important clients.Or if an organization purchases books in quantity, I will conduct a workshop at no charge.
At the end of the day, the revenues generated from a consulting assignment or keynote are much greater than the revenues from a single book sale. So the book serves as a calling card, or a point of entry, into larger opportunities.
Tara: Which social network do you use the most and why?
Chris: I have found great results from Twitter, and that platform is at the center of my social media strategy.
I use a service called triberr that allows me to connect with like-minded individuals, authors, speakers and people in the media who have some terrific content. I enjoy being able to share their material, and they retweet mine, creating an even greater reach.
I highly recommend triberr for any author (it’s free, by invitation only) and I also highly recommend Twitter. It’s in the centerpiece of my strategy to help drive traffic to my website and to my blog.
Personally, I think Facebook is losing steam… and sometimes I also think I should be doing more stuff on Facebook. Actually, I’m conflicted over the value there. I haven’t really seen it, but I haven’t really invested in it.
Tara: If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a book, what would it be?
Chris: Keep your options open. There are many paths to getting your book published.
Which one is best for you? Well, only you can decide that.
If someone comes along and offers you a big fat advance to publish your book as a first-time author, take it! (But… Does that story have everything but a unicorn a fairy godmother in it? Yeah.)
For me, setting up my own company and publishing through Marie Street Press was the right move. And that decision has helped me to be able to publish books for other authors, which has been very satisfying to me.
I firmly believe that everyone has a story to tell. It takes courage and skill to tell your story in a way that’s compelling and engaging. As an author, you owe it to yourself to make sure that your story is the best it can be.
The best advice I could offer to anyone else is just to share your story. Find help and coaching, if you need it, to package your message, because presentation matters, but get your message out there.
Our stories are what connect us; the single unifying point to the human condition. If you’re willing to share your story, you are doing something to make a difference, and furthering the connections that make up the fabric of our lives. (If I were more sophisticated I would probably use the word “zeitgeist” somewhere in here, with a tie-in reference to social media…but keep your expectations low and I’ll never disappoint you.)
In all seriousness: Don’t be afraid to share what you have to offer. There’s never been a better time to bring your voice to the conversation.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning from Chris!
I also wanted to thank Chris for the hat-tip to our book design services. This has been a fairly recent addition to Aleweb’s service offerings, and the response thus far has been great! If your manuscript is just about ready for publishing, take a look at how we can help you go from manuscript to masterpiece!
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