Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator: How To Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book
Be a good literary citizen. Buy books. Help other authors when their books come out by reviewing their work, retweeting their tweets, talking about their ideas. You can do this for new authors as well as with celebrity authors. Everyone appreciates being lifted up. And it will be much easier to ask other people to help you in these ways when you have been generous yourself.
As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennie Nash.
Jennie Nash is the founder and CEO of Author Accelerator, a company on a mission to lead the emerging book coaching industry. Author Accelerator has trained more than 90 book coaches in both fiction and nonfiction through their book Coach Certification Program. Jennie’s own book coaching clients have landed top New York agents and six-figure book deals with traditional publishing houses such as Penguin, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette, and won dozens of national indie book awards. Client KJ Dell’Antonia’s book, The Chicken Sisters became an instant New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick in 2020. In 2021, client Jenn Lim’s book, Beyond Happiness, became a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Jennie is the author of 10 books in 3 genres.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?
I was teaching at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program and taking a more strategic approach than many of my colleagues. Most writing courses focus on craft — which are all the elements that go into good writing — but so many of my students were enrolled in the program because they wanted to be published. That’s a different goal, and the changes in the industry made it a goal that was more accessible to more people.
I brought a marketplace focus to my classes, and urged my students to think about the overall shape of their book idea, the characteristics of their ideal reader, the competitive titles that were already on the shelf, and their reasons for seeking publication. One of my colleagues, Lisa Cron, who is a brilliant story analyst audited my course. She asked if I would coach her in developing and writing a book. I eagerly agreed to try my ideas in a more holistic way — to give a writer all the support they needed all the way through — and Lisa ended up getting a two-book deal at Ten Speed, an imprint of Random House. That was the beginning of my book coaching career.
At the time, book coaching was not a thing. Big changes were coming to publishing, which squeezed the nurturing out of the process for a lot of writers. I happened to get into the work at the exact moment when the work was most needed.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
After I became a book coach, I thought that was what I would be forever. I loved the work and I found that it used more of my talents than writing did — I got to teach and inspire other creators. One day, however, I gave a talk to a group of entrepreneurs — also at UCLA, this time at the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies — about how writing a book could help them become thought leaders. I presented a framework for how to approach the writing of a book. After the presentation, one of the instructors came up to me and said that it was very unusual for a creative person to think strategically the way I was doing — to think in terms of replicable systems and processes. He asked if I had thought about scaling and did I want to meet to discuss that. I had no idea what he was talking about so I said no.
He was persistent and kept contacting me and asking to meet for coffee. I finally agreed, and when I heard his idea — which was a way to teach others the process I had developed and to develop a kind of book coaching agency — I got so excited. I had never once imagined that I would become an entrepreneur; I thought of myself as being firmly rooted in the writing space. But I took the leap and started Author Accelerator at the age of 50. It had been a thrilling ride and uses even MORE of my talents than book coaching did.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
My book Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel From the Inside Out came out in 2021. It provides a framework for novel writers to do the hardest work of writing a novel before they start to write and is the core of what we teach in Author Accelerator’s book coach certification program. The most exciting project I’m working on now is a nonfiction version of the Blueprint. It walks writers step by step through the development of a nonfiction book proposal. This is the book that I will use to help other people build their brand by writing a book.
I write and coach both fiction and nonfiction and have long been struck by how similar they are. There are obviously structural differences and craft differences, but every book is trying to change the reader’s mind, to give them a new experience of the world, and every writer is using the same set of tools — words and story, ideas and emotion.
Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?
Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel From the Inside Out makes the case that you really need to think before you write. Writing a book is a complex intellectual and creative undertaking, and odds are very high that you can’t just wing it and create something compelling. You need to lay a strong foundation to build upon. You need to set your intention and choose your structure. I give novel writers a simple 14-step framework for doing this critical work. It’s not going to make the work any easier — there are no shortcuts. But it’s going to make the work more efficient while you do it and more impactful when it is done.
This book is helping me build my brand by getting my framework and my philosophy into a lot of writer’s hands. It’s often the first step in people knowing about me, trusting me, and getting to know my process.
You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?
When you’re running a business, it’s easy to push writing a book to the side. Other things are always more pressing and a book is, after all, a long term project. The persistence comes in small actions over time — taking ten minutes to do a bit of research, taking half an hour to draft a case study, chipping away day after day even when it feels like nothing will come of it.
This may seem like an odd trait, but when I think about where other people are in the process of writing and about the pain they are experiencing in their writing journey, I know I can help them. My expertise is exactly what they need. Maybe another word for it is actually authority — I know I have what they need. But I think of it in terms of compassion because I really do feel for them. I think about that when I write and find that to be motivating. If I finish the book, I can help people. If I never finish….? Nothing is going to happen.
- Knowing my WHY
A lot of writers stall out because they don’t know why they are really writing a book. They think about the obvious ROI — fame or money. But you have to know your deeper level why. For me, with these Blueprint books, I want to codify the ideas I am teaching to others. I want to claim the tools I am teaching as my own. I want to cement my reputation as an authority in my field. And as I mentioned above, I actually really do want to help writers. Tapping into these reasons helps me stay motivated.
In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?
There are so many ways that a book helps grow your brand but they’re often hard to quantify. People often ask me about the ROI of writing a book because they are considering a large financial investment (of working with a book coach) and they want some assurance that it will be worth it. I usually tell them this is the wrong question to be asking. A book doesn’t often earn money back dollar for dollar, but it does a whole lot of other heavy lifting for your business or your brand. You want to think about ripples of impact — a phrase I learned frim my client Jenn Lim, author of Beyond Happiness: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose and People for Growth and Impact, a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
Before I wrote Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel From the Inside Out, I was teaching the Blueprint method to about a dozen writers a year whom I coach and to several hundred book coaching students in my book coach certification program. This is a wonderful impact to be sure! What the book allowed me to do, however, is to spread my ideas to thousands of people — and fast! It allowed me to have a greater impact in a concentrated period of time.
I did a number of presentations about the Blueprint to large online audiences — 200 here, 400 there, 8,000 in one mega event. I held a workshop of my own about the book and attracted about 500 participants. Excerpts of the book appears on some prominent blogs and I was invited onto podcasts, one of which is arguably the biggest podcast in my particular corner of the internet right now. None of that would have happened without the book.
In addition to all that, for months leading up to the publication of the book and months after, I had something to talk about in my own newsletter and on social media — something that could be of use to other people.
What began to happen is that people began to talk about the Blueprint as a concept, and specifically a tool at the heart of it called the Inside Outline. I see tweets and Instagram posts about the Inside Outline now — it’s becoming part of the conversation that writers are having.
You can’t underestimate that impact! That’s an AMAZING impact to have. Instead of keeping my idea small and hidden, a book lets it shine!
There are other impacts, too. At the back of my book, I have a page that drives people to my website, where they can be matched with a book coach or sign up for our book coach certification program. Every book is an advertisement for what I do, and an invitation.
The book has also helped cement my reputation as a thought leader in the industry. People in positions of power have heard about it and reached out to me. I have established some excellent new partnerships as a result.
And look at what just happened with Jenn Lim. Because she wrote a book, I mentioned it here. Her “ripples of impact” term will therefore become just a tiny bit better known. People will see that mention, read her book, maybe hire her company. You never know what will happen, but a book opens windows, doors, and pathways.
If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?
As the above story illustrated, it’s not just about ROI on the book itself. You can’t think only about the money you’ll make from the book itself. It’s about impact — claiming your authority, raising your voice, being known for the work you do, starting conversations, and establishing new partnerships.
I have a client who is a big corporate speaker. Her job is giving keynote speeches. She already has a lot of lucrative opportunities, a lot of ears listening to her, a lot of power and influence. So why would she need a book?
Back of the room sales, for one thing. Everyone who hears her speak asks if she has a book: they want to spend more time with her ideas, go deeper than just listening. She could be selling 500 to 1000 copies of her book every time she speaks. Those readers would be more likely to remember her, and recommend her, and return to her ideas.
But the real reason for her to invest the time and money in writing a book is for her brand. Instead of someone you have never heard about (unless you happened to be in one of her talks), she will become someone you likely have heard about. Her business book could very well sit on the shelf with all the big books people read. She will become known.
What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?
It takes a lot of energy! And no one can do it as well as you can. Anything you can do to build up your community and your connections in your field before you want to start selling your book is time well spent.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?
Promoting a book is a long game with so many moving parts. The author needs to be engaging with their community, reaching out to other people, being part of the conversations they want to be a part of. No one can make those connections for you because connections are about authentic relationships. But you can hire people to help you execute various elements of a promotional campaign — everything from making Instagram posts of words you have already written to helping send pitches for podcasts.
As a book coach I obviously believe that getting expert help on the structure and writing is a key investment. And the same is true for anything else you are not a pro at — newsletter segmentation, podcast pitching, PR, social media. Decide on your strategy, understand your zone of genius, decide what you have the time to learn or do yourself, and hire people for the rest.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Write a good book. This is far and away the most important thing you can do if you want the book to sell. Word of mouth is everything when it comes to promotion and readers don’t promote books they don’t love. You only get one chance to make a good impression.
- Be a good literary citizen. Buy books. Help other authors when their books come out by reviewing their work, retweeting their tweets, talking about their ideas. You can do this for new authors as well as with celebrity authors. Everyone appreciates being lifted up. And it will be much easier to ask other people to help you in these ways when you have been generous yourself.
- Be generous with your ideas. You will be working with your ideas for years before you publish your book — giving speeches, hosting webinars, writing newsletters, talking to clients. Share what you know as widely as possibly and get known for what you know. This is how you built up awareness, trust, and loyalty — and what leads people to buy a book when you bring it out.
- Plan a big launch. Concentrating your efforts on the launch of your book is a smart way to get attention. That’s the moment when your book is newsworthy and when you can shout out about its release. It’s also the moment when you can get the most editorial coverage for it and when you can leverage your connections to get in front of audiences. That launch effort usually takes at least a year to orchestrate.
- Write another book. Writers who have more than one book have many more opportunities to sell their work than writers who have only one. Writing another book is a fantastic way to market and promote the first one.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
Tara Mohr. Her book Playing Big is speaking to me big-time right now and she has built a robust business around her process and her ideas, which I am in the midst of doing, too. She breaks down the barriers that hold women back — many of which are inside our own heads. I love her brand — and if books are powerful tools in brand-building, she’d done a great job leveraging hers!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Jennienash on linkedin, Jennienashbookcoach at IG, jennienash.com, bookcoaches.com, authoraccelerator.com
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.