An Interview with Shep Hyken, One Amazing Author

I met March’s Featured Author in a mastermind group we shared. As first, it was a little intimidating, since I’d known him from Twitter for some time, and considered him to “above” where I was in business. “Networking up,” as it’s called, can often be an unsettling experience.

Shep Hyken - One Amazing AuthorHowever, Shep Hyken quickly put me at ease with his easy-going nature, his genuine interest in people, and his teasing. At one particular mastermind meeting, I was meeting a friend afterward back at my hotel and Shep insisted on coming along to make sure “this guy was alright,” even though I assured him there was nothing going on between us.

But Shep’s a good guy and I appreciated him looking out for me, however misplaced the concern was.

I’m really pleased that he accepted my invitation to be a Featured Author this month, and think you’re in for a treat as he shares his experiences as a successful author and businessman.

Shep is a New York Times and WSJ best-selling author, and his latest book is called Amaze Every Customer Every Time. His field of expertise is in customer service, and he’s definitely been a pleasure to learn from both online and in person.

As a special treat, I’ve included one of my favorite clips of Shep speaking at the end of this post, so be sure to check that out when you’re done reading the interview.

Tara: What motivated you to write a book?

Shep: I’ve actually written five books plus another five that were co-authored.  My first book, Moments of Magic was written back in the ’80s and based on my customer service speech. I believe it was Nido Qubein who said that I would make a million dollars off of the book. No, I wouldn’t sell a million dollars’ worth of books. However, the book would give me the credibility to bring me a million dollars’ worth of business. The book has been my best brochure and business card. 

By the way, after twenty years, I did a second edition. Over the years, I’m estimating that I’m coming up on 100,000 of books sold. So maybe a million dollars of books isn’t out of the question.

Tara: What publishing options did you consider?

Shep: My first two books were self-published, mainly because I wasn’t known well enough to get a publisher to look at me. My third book was published by Wiley, and they approached me about writing it. I provided my marketing platform, but other than that, didn’t have to provide the typical proposal. It was very easy. The last two books were published with Greenleaf Book Group. They give the author a lot of control over the book.

Tara: Why did you settle on the option you chose?

Shep: So, you can see that over the years I’ve published three different ways. Of my five authored books, I’ve self-published, hybrid-published and published with a major publisher. All three have their advantages.

My first two books, Moments of Magic and The Loyal Customer, were self-published. The advantage there is that I get books at cost. The disadvantage is that it’s harder to get distribution into retail stores.

Then I published The Cult of the Customer with Wiley. This was a great experience. Nice sized advance and worldwide distribution. Other than writing, I didn’t have to do a thing until the book came out. Then, just like the self-published book, I had to promote, market and sell. The disadvantage is that the books cost me a lot to buy and give away or resell to my clients.

The hybrid route is exactly that – a combination of self-published and big house publishing. My last two books, The Amazement Revolution and Amaze Every Customer Every Time, were published by Greenleaf Book Group. I may have to put some money into the project to get the book edited, designed and produced, but the hybrid-publisher can get bookstore distribution, sell foreign rights – basically everything that a major publisher can do. The big advantage is once the book comes out, I can get the books at a deeper discount, which allows me to resell the books to my clients, offering a huge discount to them. And because the books are bought at a deeper discount, I can better afford to give samples away – or use them as brochures and expensive business cards.

Tara: How easy was it to get your book done?

Shep: The first book may have been the easiest. I simply took my typical customer service speech, had it transcribed and then filled in a few gaps with stories and examples.

The books to follow were based on articles that I’d written. I remember printing out about fifty articles, grouping them into “chapters,” and then blending them together. That may have been harder than starting from scratch. However, I’d already done the research for the articles, so it really was a writing project.

For the fourth and fifth books, I did a lot of interviews. For that fifth book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, I actually interviewed over 60 people. While it took a long time and was a lot of work, it was one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had with my writing projects. It’s not an easy task to write a book. I tend to get the unedited manuscript done in a few months. It’s really a labor of love.

 Tara: How did you distribute the book after publication?

Shep: I don’t believe in waiting until the book is published before distributing or selling it. Even for my first book, I sent copies of the manuscript to my clients and had more than enough sales to cover the cost of the project.

All of my books are available on Amazon.com and other online retailers. It is easy to get distribution through Amazon.com. We even reprinted my early books through their CreateSpace program. 

Tara: How are you marketing and promoting your book?

Shep: It’s not how I’m marketing. It’s how often. All of the time. Every new client gets a copy – or sometimes a few copies for others on their executive team. I’m constantly writing articles, doing interviews and mentioning the books in my videos and blog posts. It’s an ongoing effort. It’s not like: “If you build it they will come.” The secret to selling books is to keep it out there all of the time.

Tara: What’s working best for you to generate sales? Are there things you’d recommend avoiding?

Shep: I start with my existing clients and my newsletter subscribers. That is a great place to start. They are already fans and appreciate my work. And, I VERY MUCH appreciate them for their support. I’m not sure what to avoid. I’ve tried many different ways to market and sell books. For the right person with the right book, any of these methods work. But to me, there is no better way than letting my clients know they are available.

Tara: If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a book, what would it be?

Shep: Don’t think about it. Do it now. It is credibility and shows your audience who you are and what you are passionate about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning from Shep!

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Tara R. Alemany

Award-winning author and speaker, and owner at Aleweb Social Marketing
Tara Alemany defies a simple definition. She is an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker, as well as a serial entrepreneur. Her publishing company, Emerald Lake Books, benefits experts and thought leaders as they grow their business by taking their words from manuscript to masterpiece. Her consulting company, Aleweb Social Marketing helps authors and speakers to get found online, on-stage and on-the-shelf. In addition to publishing, consulting, writing and speaking, Tara serves on the Boards of Directors for a Christian writers’ critique group, as well as acting as co-president and chaplain of the group. In her spare time, she is a novice winemaker, a martial artist, a juggler, a military Mom to 2 teenagers (one of each), step-Mom to 2 dogs (one of each) and is owned by a black cat.

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