So, you’re thinking about writing a book! Behind the scenes of “Who’s Your Mike?”
It’s been a few weeks since we released my debut book: Who’s Your Mike? A No-Bullshit Guide to the People You’ll Meet on Your Entrepreneurial Journey – A very hectic few weeks! I wish someone would’ve told me that the work isn’t done when the book is printed. Writing a book involves more than that – a lot more.
I’ve been appearing on podcasts, doing promos, and booking speaking engagements. Hell, no one told me I’d have to plan a damn party (the official book launch party will take place early October)!
Many readers, LinkedIn connections, and friends have asked me a ton of questions about the process of writing a book. I think, in part, because many entrepreneurs have thought about writing books of their own.
We’ve all got our own stories and journeys and advice we’d like to impart, and it’s natural to want to put it down on paper at some point. So I decided to share some lessons learned after two years working on Who’s Your Mike? After all, sharing stories and lessons learned is a major theme of the book.
On one hand, it’s been one of the busiest and craziest times of my life. But on the other hand, it was so fulfilling to finish the book—I love the way it turned out—and hearing the positive impact the book has had on fellow entrepreneurs is so rewarding.
I’ve been humbled by the book being named a USA Today and Barnes & Noble bestseller, and it even reached #1 on Amazon in three categories (Startups, Business Teams, and Business & Investing). The only negative feedback I seem to be getting is from guys named Mike who wish I had given the title character different name!
This feedback has been really validating. First of all, I want to thank everyone who has shared their stories with me over the years and encouraged me to share mine. Second, writing a book is HARD!
How it all started
There were many times over the past two years that I felt like we’d never get this thing done. And there were times, where my insecurities wondered if it even should get done. But after seeing the finished product and hearing from you, I’m absolutely confident it will help you on your entrepreneurial journey—and that’s exactly why I wrote it..
If you had asked me a few years ago if I’d ever write a book, I would have laughed at you. I didn’t have time, I was happy sitting here in my little bubble in Austin, Texas—and I thought the last thing the world needed was another business book.
But my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Craig Wiley challenged us all by proclaiming that the pandemic was a “once in a lifetime opportunity to reexamine everything!” As I wrote recently, I leaned on my strengths as a connector and facilitator and created “CEO Forums” during the height of COVID, when we were all looking for a way forward.
It quickly became apparent that the lessons learned, shared experiences, and community building happening on these Zooms needed to be shared with a wider audience. So I did—first through written articles, then via LinkedIn Live sessions, and podcasts. Then I started writing a book.
Build Your Book-Writing Team
Early on in my newfound “writing career,” it became clear—as with most things entrepreneurial—I couldn’t do this alone. My strength is in telling stories, but left to my own devices, I can ramble forever and bounce around with cool stories and no point.
After fumbling around on my own, I decided to assemble a team to help translate my ideas, stories, and advice into something that would actually be readable.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Since one of my gifts is connecting, I began connecting—first, by looking for a first-draft partner. I needed someone to take my lump of clay, my jumbled stories, and shape it into something coherent and structured.
I didn’t have to look far after realizing my nephew, Evan Spencer, is a damn good writer. He’s a historian by trade and was able to dedicate time to our cause during the pandemic.
Then, I brought on my friend and “word guru” Rod Kurtz. Rod is a longtime business journalist, founder of a successful media-strategy firm, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UCLA’s business school. He wasn’t only able to pull ideas and concepts out of my head, but he has a real gift with words and was always able to find the right way to make them sing.
This team ultimately helped take my spoken words–stories I’ve told dozens of times–and turn them into book chapters.
Decide on your approach
So in late 2020 we began meeting and talking and talking and meeting. Every week. Like I said before, writing a book is hard! Especially when you want the finished product to be good—something to be proud of.
There are other ways to “write” books that are just as legitimate, but didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t feel like I could hand off my story to a full-time ghostwriter, then slap my name on it at the end.
Nothing against that style, but it wasn’t for me. (Although sometimes during a late-night edit-a-thon, I wished I’d done it that way!). I wanted the finished book to feel authentic, to be in my own words.
Trust the Writing Process
The writing process for Who’s Your Mike? was fairly straightforward, but definitely required commitment. We met weekly on Zoom for over eighteen months with few exceptions, with emails going back and forth between calls.
Meeting over Zoom was something we couldn’t, or wouldn’t, have thought to do prior to 2020—so there’s one positive that came out of the pandemic!
On those video calls, Evan, Rod, and I would discuss a character pitch. I’d lay out the basic concept and tell some stories about the Mikes, Bettys and Sams I’d met over the years. Then we’d brainstorm and ask questions, essentially interrogating the character: How common is this problem? How would they react to constructive feedback? What should an entrepreneur do when they have this person on their team?
A few weeks later, Evan would send an outline and rough draft of the chapter to me to wordsmith and add my voice. After putting my signature redneck-cajun-hillbilly spin on it, Rod would assess the overall messaging, tone, and focus of the chapter. Then we’d edit, re-edit, write, and re-write until we got it right. (I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to this stuff!)
This method kept our team moving forward, even when I felt like we’d hit a brick wall. Of course we got better and more efficient over time. Evan and Rod started learning what questions to ask to really bring out the full flavor of the character; and I prepared by asking more and more friends for stories relevant to a particular character that was bouncing around in my head.
Our process mostly worked, but like anything in business, it wasn’t without setbacks. For example, five chapters in, we realized that a lot of the “advice” we were sharing at the end of each chapter seemed repetitive.
How many times can you say, “Fire that asshole!” before it becomes repetitive? So we discussed it on more than a few calls and identified the right solution: intermission chapters with advice on multiple characters, Q&A style.
A key for us was that anytime we suffered a setback or questioned our methods, we hashed it out, looked at it from multiple angles, and found the way forward. Sound familiar? That’s how you succeed as an entrepreneur, too.
Evan was great because he always asked questions about the actual writing. You know, the structure and format of the words on the pages (stuff that never crossed my mind!). Rod attacked things from the reader’s perspective—keeping us focused on how the words worked together to tell a cohesive narrative that was worth reading.
The team took the process seriously, and without them, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten very far with the book.
It took me a while to realize it, but the team I assembled to write Who’s Your Mike? is almost a perfect metaphor for a key message in the book itself. If you assemble a team that leverages each person’s strengths, checks ego at the door, and understands the mission at hand, you’re gonna kick ass.
I have no doubts that had I tried writing a book on my own, or if I had handed it off to some classic “business book” ghostwriter, the end result wouldn’t have been as good – wouldn’t have been authentic. I’m not sure I would have been proud of it. Having the right people in the right roles was exactly what Who’s Your Mike? needed—especially since it’s a book filled with stories about getting the right people in the right roles.
I know this book will help you on your entrepreneurial journey! And I hope this first-hand look at what it takes to write a best-selling book will help you decide if it’s something you want to pursue and how to get started.
About Who’s Your Mike?
Who’s Your Mike? is not a traditional business book: every chapter guides the reader through a different people challenge, so you can quickly identify how to solve troubling scenarios. In fact, I encourage entrepreneurs to “choose their own adventure,” by reading just the sections that’ll be most helpful to their situation. Here are just a few of the things you’ll learn:
● There’s no secret formula to hiring smart – we all make hiring mistakes
● Whether you’ve outgrown members of your current team, and what to do next
● How to handle the people you’re sure to meet on your entrepreneurial journey
Who’s Your Mike? is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best seller and is available in print, audiobook, and e-book format. I also invite you to take my free No Bullshit Team Test to identify your people problems and learn how to solve them.