Are you the next Oprah? Richard Branson? Martha Stewart? Maybe. Okay, probably not. But you still may feel the stirrings of a book inside of you. I know I do. To that end, I've started slowly feeling my way through my divorce by getting things down on the page. I'm not saying I've got the next Eat, Pray, Love, but a book is definitely starting to take shape.
I shared this aspiration with Leah Komaiko, brand consultant who works with small businesses that are looking to become iconic and with some of the world's biggest companies and authors who want to become brands. She started asking me questions; some hard and seemingly crazy questions. Here's the first one:
"Let me ask you this--Where is the pain, what gets you riled up when you're reading, writing, researching? What frustrates you? What is it that you want to read and can't find out there in the published world?"
Leah's questions tend to come in groups and she asks them quickly. Then, she'll give you a short moment to form a response without letting the overthinking brain kill all the impulsivity from your answer. Her next question surprised me. She wanted to know who my childhood hero was. Simple, it was Harriet Tubman. Why? Harriet Tubman was fierce, badass and led people to freedom. She also taught herself to read.
Leah's next question embarrassed me. She wanted to know how I'm like Tubman. The wonderful thing about Leah is that she's genuinely interested in your answers and your story. As a middle aged white woman from a middle class family, the parallels between Harriet and me are not immediately apparent.
Then it was my turn for questions- What does this have to do with writing? What does this have to do with me completing a project and actually writing a book? Are you telling me I should think of myself, my work as a brand?
"It comes to recognizing the simplicity of a message and how it takes a little bit of doing to get to the story and not be afraid of the story that you can tell. Getting to that story is part of what I do with people. You said that you were really into Harriet Tubman. This says a lot to me about where you come from. But if somebody said what kind of book do you want to write? You'd probably say that you want to do a book about women or divorce. It's not really about Harriet Tubman, but it's the message, it's the voice that gets in there. I guess you could say, without trying to get too woo-woo about it, it's a message that connects with you on many levels."
From there Leah went on to explain that when she works with people, she's not just thinking about their book, she's helping each client develop a plan for a larger vision.
"Going through the divorce process there are a lot of really wonderful books out there. It's somebody's story from a sad or sarcastic point of view usually. Lots of people go through the divorce process. The point is--since nobody's gone through it in exactly the same way that you have--if you have the courage to write about it, somebody else will be glad that you said it. It comes down to knowing that you can't be the only person who's thought this same thought, even though you'll tell it differently than anyone else. When we get to the insane thoughts, the ones we think we shouldn't be telling, then we reach people.
The key is how are you going to stand out in a crowd and actually be someone who makes a living from what you do. For so many people looking to build a brand, a book is the initial connection. It needs to be the key connection...Many, many people are just happy to write a book if their family gets it and they sell 100 copies. And that's great. But if you're looking to build a brand and a business, change your career around, earn money, lead webinars and get speaking gigs, then you're looking at something different."
I've been struggling with how to take one of my really good ideas and see it through, turn it into a business, make some money. Many writers struggle with the same problem. The skills that make someone a good businessperson seem elusive. Leah bridges that gap. She is the author of 20 successful New York published books and has had many successes helping authors become bestsellers and write books that build businesses. She works with businesspeople on the creative process and gets writers thinking like businesspeople. But it's also deeper than that.
"As far as turning a book into a brand, I help people identify what their brand is, what their message is. I found with a lot of people who are very successful that they recognize their brand is something different once they start working on the book.
Once you've got a book going, you figure out what your strategy is. You figure out what your platform is. Most traditional publishers won't even talk to people unless they've got a platform to sell from. The nuts and bolts of it, the marketing part of it are secondary to making sure you have a decent book or great message. Otherwise, you're wasting your time. The message, the voice and the commitment to the two are everything. From there, how you market it, how you do the other things, become the plan. They are how you leverage the message.
"Do you know Anne Lamott's work? Everything she writes is about her life, but it's really about her spiritual development. She speaks the words that I can't. That's what a brand will do."
You can find out more about how Leah works with clients, check out who she's worked with in the past and see her list of publications all on her website. In the meantime, take a minute to think about your childhood heroes. Do they still speak to you today?