I had the pleasure of getting to know this month’s Featured Author through social media these past few years although we still haven’t met in person or even spoken on the phone. (We’ll have to remedy that, Chris!)
We met through mutual contacts and interest in the Lead Change Group, which is the organization that published one of the books I co-authored, The Character-Based Leader.
S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams. Since 1995, he has also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies.
Like myself, Chris is a speaker, author and musician (although he gets to indulge his music passion a bit more than I do!). It’s been fun getting to know him through social media over the past couple of years, and to drool over his mandolin, banjo and guitar collection thanks to his Facebook posts.
Chris is the author or co-author of six books, including Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and I had the pleasure of reviewing his most recent book, The Culture Engine, when it came out earlier this fall.
Here’s what Chris has to share about his writing journey.
Tara: What motivated you to write a book?
Chris: The primary motivator was the success I’ve had in helping senior leaders create workplace inspiration – safe, inspiring cultures that demonstrate trust, respect and dignity for everyone involved. Most workplaces are not fun to work in. There is more frustration and anxiety than there is inspiration and engagement!
My culture process has helped clients enjoy significant benefits, including increases in employee engagement (40%), customer service (40%), and results and profits (35%), all within 18-24 months of culture refinement.
I wanted to bring these proven practices to anyone and everyone that leads teams; big teams, small teams, global businesses, local shops. These practices work in for-profit, non-profit and government work environments, even in volunteer teams like PTAs and such!
Everyone deserves to engage in a high performing, values-aligned team. That’s what I hoped my book would create.
Tara: What publishing options did you consider?
Chris: There are many avenues available to aspiring authors today. I didn’t want to go the self-published route. I think every author would love to see their work, and their name, on a hardcover book on the shelves of bookstores.
That was the dream I had.
I went into this process with “eyes wide open.” I’ve authored four softcover books through @ThinkAha so my understanding of the publishing world has grown thanks to them.
Mitchell Levy, founder of ThinkAha, was one of my early Featured Authors. Find out more about Mitchell and ThinkAha in “An interview with Mitchell Levy, Thought Leader Architect.”
I’m a co-author with Ken Blanchard of one of his best-selling books (Leading at a Higher Level), so that experience helped me understand the need for a very strong book proposal. I also relied on the expertise of my brand strategist, Mark Levy (@LevyInnovation).
My ultimate goal was to find a big publishing house that was excited to partner with me on this book. Mark and I decided to start there with a very strong proposal. If a big publisher didn’t show enthusiasm, I’d go to a smaller publisher and hope someone responded to this opportunity.
Tara: Why did you settle on the option you chose?
Chris: I presented the proposal to a publisher that was familiar with me and my thought leadership (from my blogs and podcasts on drivingresultsthroughculture.com). Their senior editor loved the proposal and my “big idea:” creating workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Key decision-makers weren’t as excited about the idea. After about six months of discussions and proposal rewrites, we parted ways.
The experience helped me do some refinements to the proposal, including adding two chapters that really enhanced my “big idea” and its application.
Two months later I presented the proposal to Wiley & Sons. Within 24 hours, their senior editor called me back and said they wanted to do this book with me. Board approval came within days.
We had a deal, and I began writing the full manuscript within a week.
Tara: How easy was it to get your book done?
Chris: My proposal was accepted by Wiley in January 2014. I set aside four weeks in April 2014 to complete the 60,000-word manuscript. I submitted the completed manuscript on April 25, 2014.
Writing the book was really easy for me. Mark Levy helped me craft chapter outlines that flowed beautifully and logically to help leaders create and embed their team’s organizational constitution. Those chapter outlines totaled over 7,000 words, so I had a terrific foundation to work from.
And I’m passionate about my “big idea!” I’ve been blogging on these proven practices for five years. I’ve been speaking about them for over fifteen years. I was operating from crystal clear ideas, which made the writing a joy.
Editing was a breeze. No significant changes were made to the content or flow (!). I’d set aside two weeks in June 2014 for the edits, but they took less than a day to refine.
The Culture Engine launched on September 29, 2014, just nine months after the proposal was accepted.
Tara: How did you distribute the book after publication?
Chris: Wiley is one of the oldest publishers out there. They handled hardcover and eBook distribution through all the major online outlets, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc.
Wiley also handles distribution to brick-and-mortar stores. Bookstore shelf space is hard to come by! I’ve not seen the book on shelves yet but know that’ll happen before too long.
I partnered with 800-CEOREAD to handle bulk hardcover sales of the book. They’re terrific to work with, easy, talented and passionate about books.
Tara: How are you marketing and promoting your book?
Chris: Book marketing is entirely the author’s responsibility. I knew I needed experts to help make the book launch successful. I chose a team approach. To complement my talented, committed marketing manager at Wiley, I hired Becky Robinson’s Weaving Influence team.
Main activities include:
- Creating a website for the book (http://thecultureengine.com), which houses a free sample chapter, sharable graphics, “click to tweet” quotes, bulk offers, and more.
- Interviews (video, podcast and written) with journalists (Investors.com, Huffington Post, Forbes, About.com, Business News Daily, The Network Journal, etc.) and thought leaders (@scotteblin, @4epicomm, @davidburkus, @tshnall, @theshawnmurphy, etc.).
- Securing regular contributor avenues on Entrepreneur, Careers in Government, LeadChange Group, etc. I am also a contributor at Smartblog and LinkedIn.
- Book launch team members have promoted tweets, posts, interviews, etc. as well as writing their own posts on the book.
- My own daily tweets and weekly blog posts and podcasts that feature insights from the book, client success stories, and more.
Asking for Amazon reviews of the book has generated 34 five-star recommendations so far.
Activities continue today, and they will for months to come!
Tara: Which social network do you use the most and why?
Chris: Twitter and Facebook are my two most utilized networks. I see greater engagement and interactivity on these two platforms with Twitter being slightly in the lead.
Hootsuite is my platform manager, which allows posting to multiple sites easily.
Tara: If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a book, what would it be?
Chris: Before the book proposal, before the marketing and PR, you must have a well-written manuscript. The most important thing for an aspiring author to do is hone their writing chops.
Write blogs regularly (at least once a week). Ask people to review your posts, white papers, etc. If your ideas are not clearly presented, you have little hope of gaining readership.
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Interested in learning more about The Culture Engine? Check out the book trailer below.