We engage in conversations with successful business owners to learn the little things that made the journey of building their companies special. Then we discuss how they plan to hand off their business to the next generation of leadership.
This episode is with special guest, Nancy Erickson, Founder of The Book Professor. Here is Nancy's bio:
Our proprietary process was developed by our founder, Nancy Erickson, when— as the owner of Stonebrook Publishing—she recognized the people who had the most transformative stories weren’t necessarily good writers. Stonebrook had received many manuscripts where the message could save lives, change lives, and transform society, but they were so poorly written that they couldn’t be published.
So, Nancy spent a year developing a step-by-step process that would turn people who weren’t writers into published authors. That’s when The Book Professor® and its offerings became available to aspiring authors around the globe.
Nancy holds MFA in Writing, is an international book coach, author, editor, international speaker, and she’s taught writing at various colleges and universities around the St. Louis, Missouri area.
You can contact Nancy at:
Learn more about what we do at Innovative Business Advisors:
→ Business Brokerage Services (Buy or Sell a Business): https://innovativeba.com/business-brokerage-services/
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About Steven Denny: Steven Denny co-founded Innovative Business Advisors in 2018 and serves as a Managing Member of the firm. Steve has been actively engaged in M/A activities in a wide variety of industries for the last 14 years and has developed specific products to assist clients in growing their profitability and enterprise value. His specialty is working with established private companies in the lower middle market with annual revenues from $1 – 50 million.
Welcome to the You Don't Know What You Don't Know podcast, by Innovative Business Advisors, successful business owners who have started, grown and led businesses share their journey and direction for the benefit of those traveling the same path.
Well, today we're talking with Nancy Erickson, who is the founder and owner of The Book Professor and Stonebrook Publishing here in St. Louis, Missouri. And Nancy has a mission of helping business owners get their story into a book. And we know that she is incredible because she took a couple of famous squirrel chasers by the name of Terry Lammers and Steve Denny, and was able to wrestle a book out of each of us, and actually multiple times now. So we know her process works and works really well. So Nancy, welcome, delighted to have you today. Thanks, Steve. I had to be here. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, because you are the taskmaster with a smile.
You were phenomenal to work with. And it's it really is about the process. I think that you have, not only do you lead it exceptionally well, but the process itself just works. Well. Thank you. I mean, I think a lot of our clients feel that way. Because, you know, we work with a lot of business owners, and they have a message that they want to convey and don't know how to do that. So it seems to be pretty comfortable, to follow a step by step process just to kind of pull that context and those stories and the meaning out of it in order to put it together in a book. So you started this kind of late in life, this is your second career. Tell us what led you to start this company? Well, my original career was in high tech, and I was a systems engineer for IBM and an account manager for Oracle Corporation. And I guess it's been about 18 years now. But my dad was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. And we knew he would only live about seven months. And so I quit everything and went down to Florida to be with my folks during his time while he was dying, and then a little bit longer after that to stay with my mom. And so when they came home, I'm kind of like, oh, okay, now what do I do? And number one, that was the best decision of my life, nothing was more important than ushering my parents through that difficult time. But I came home and I thought, Okay, well now is the time that I have some options. And I had always loved to write when I was young, I'd had some things published when I was younger. And that's actually what I had wanted to do with my life. But then I got into this high tech track and was earning money and having a family and educating kids and all that kind of stuff. So when I came home, I thought, Okay, this is where I can explore more of what I like to do. So I went back to school, and got a master's degree in writing. And that was a two year kind of around the clock program. And I loved it. And I specialized in nonfiction. And I really wanted to publish nonfiction. So I had this idea when I graduated that, well, I'm just going to start a publishing house. And at the same time, the university I graduated from asked me to join the faculty to teach writing, that's a little advantage that comes with being an older student. I mean, I gotta tell you that I was the oldest one in that program, even older than some of the instructors. So I did both. I taught at Lindenwood, which is where I graduated from. And then I started the publishing house. And I don't know what made me think I could do that. I mean, how do you just start something that's in a really old industry? And it’s one of the oldest industries? Yes. And one of the things that I've come to realize is that I didn't start off starting this big structural thing. I started off thinking, I'd like to do that. So I took a step toward it. And I had another friend who was starting a fiction publishing house at the same time. So we kind of got together and coordinated and what are best practices and how do we learn this and all kinds of stuff. So the first book I published had been written by a Holocaust survivor, who went to school with Anne Frank, and we ended up doing their book release at their school in Amsterdam, which was a really amazing experience. And then the second book I published was about a woman who was a quadruple amputee. It was a very faith based story. And anyway, we ended up getting back cover endorsements for that book from Sir Paul McCartney and Cindy Crawford. And so I thought, okay, I know what I'm doing. I got this publishing thing kind of rocking. But there was a nagging issue. And that was, I was strictly wanting to concentrate on material, nonfiction material that either saved lives, changed lives or transforms society.
And we were getting manuscripts that had a little seed of that in there, but they were so poorly written, we couldn't do anything with it. We couldn't edit our way out of it. And so I kind of took a step back and actually had a real spiritual moment where I just felt this presence in this knowledge that my job was to help 1000s and 1000s of people to get their story out into the world where it could do its work. And so I stepped back from publishing for about a year, and wrote a step by step process. So people who really aren't writers could actually become authors of high impact nonfiction books. So that's where the book map came from. That is, it was divinely inspired. It was divinely inspired. I love that. It was an interesting process. It's kind of like when you, I mean, I started a business just like many of your listeners do. And what do you do, you do the next thing that occurs to you that seems like it would work, a good idea. Now, not all of my ideas worked out the shoot, but we, you know, I eventually refined everything to where it was something that could be easily taught to others and followed by the writers. But you started by being what we call the technical expert in the field, right? Well, I was the everything expert. Yeah, you were the everything officer in the field. Yeah, you did it all.
That's why I said, I'm COE, Chief of Everything, right?
I don't do everything myself now. No, no, you've got a great team, but you know, I was one of those people that had what I thought was an almost finished manuscript and handed it to you. And you were like, you spoke the truth. And you said, this is not publishable, we need to go through this process. I don’t remember saying that, Steve.
I don't think you said it exactly that way. But that was, it was.
Well, the thing about it is I like to start with a plan, because the structure of your book is probably the most important thing. Yeah. And the problem with just writing it down as if you're not following anything, there's no cohesion between, or no idea of what am I trying to even create here, you know, it's more like, I want to write a book, and I've got this business that I want to tell people about. And you know, when your book is finished, it should do three things for you, it should establish you as an expert in your field, it should increase your credibility, and it should help you to attract a following. But it's only going to do that if it's well written. If people pick it up, and it looks thrown together or self published, or, you know, I have a lot of feelings about self published books, only because they're not professionally done. And they don't reflect the best of you, they don't look like the best of your business or the best of you. Because oftentimes, you just need to work with professionals to get a professional product. Boy does it make a difference. I mean, I always like to say things like my website, and my books, they look a little bit better than I really am, you know, because it's all of the best of you all at one time. And your book should be that way. I actually think your direct marketing is masterful. I'm on your email list, and I receive your emails. And I think you do an amazing job at that as well. Thank you. All of that looks really good. You've given us some of the nuggets of what makes your process kind of special and different than everybody else. What would you say about that? What are the things that you have kind of designed in to differentiate yourself? Well, I can tell you that nobody is doing what we're doing. I'm kind of surprised because we've been around for 12 or some more years now. And but we take you from your idea, all the way, not just you finished your manuscript, but a finished product, you know, that's on Amazon and marketed throughout the world. And so it was fortunate for me that I started off on the publishing end, because we had that down. And then working with authors, there's a couple things we do in the beginning that help you to know where you're going with your message. And that is that we, we take you through a series of foundational questions. And it's kind of like, why are you even doing this? And who specifically is your audience? And how are they going to be changed as a result of taking your material in? And then we take the answers to all those questions. And we distill them down into a purpose statement for your book that says, The purpose of this book is to do this specific thing for this particular audience period. And it's a one line sentence, where you're telling yourself what you're going to do in this book. And so we use that as our compass to keep us on track. And then I developed a process called Book Mapping, where it's like creating a mind map for your book. It's a visual representation of everything that's going to be in your book. And we always take the approach because if you're, you know, you're working with business owners
and, and all, we're problem solvers as business owners, right? So we organize your chapters in problem solution sets, what are the problems that your audience is likely to have? And what are your solutions, and so we present them in that structure and format. And it all flows together really well, at the end of the day, it does anything you imagine, at least better than I imagined it upfront. And your book is masterfully written, Steve, and you know, you do have to write it, I mean, you do have to sit down, and. There's a lot of work involved.
And we go through a lot of self editing exercises, but I would say, 90, well, all I'm gonna say all, 100%. Although you're never supposed to say 100%, all of our clients are so surprised at what they've accomplished, because it's so good. And I think it's the process and the structure that allows it to translate that way. You know, the other thing I’d offer to you is, you also kind of put the golden handcuffs on people, right? I had to start many times to get through it, but you wouldn't let go. You knew I wanted to get it out. But at the end of the day, you got it out. No, I didn’t, you did. And you got so
proud of. Yeah, you, you helped me facilitate it, right? Well, you definitely pulled me along. And many times when I needed to be picked up. Well, here's the thing about that, any coach is responsible for helping you to reach the end game. And it has more to do with me than the client because my job, my driving force, is to get these messages out into the world, where they’ll do its work. I don't want to just take your money and have a word document laying around somewhere not finished, I want you to finish it, because that's the thing that drives me is knowing that we're together are making this change in the world. Because then we can take it steps further, like I mentioned that we construct the books in problem solution sets. This is another differentiator. When your book is finished, you can take every chapter of that book out and repurpose that content for other material, revenue producing, or like podcasts, but you can do seminars, or workshops or online training or video courses. It's not just okay, I did a book. And that's that. I mean, it can be that if that's what you want. But it can be used as like a springboard to present your message across multiple venues. It works really well. Yeah, it does. And it depends on the client and what they want to do with it. But once you have a well crafted message that's well communicated, it's easier to communicate it across other venues.
As you've been going down this road so far, as you said about 12 years now, what are you most proud of so far in your business? I think what I am most proud of is the difference I see that these materials are making in the world. Because that was my driving force. I mean, we have so many problems in the world. And I think they're all solvable. But we have to just use our own story to create change. We've done a couple of books that I'm particularly proud, me I always love, I always love your book, Steve.
But I also always love the books that are not business books, because we do, most of our books are business books, but there are others, like, for example, like helped an author Linda Hoff, and it took us a long time because her book is over 400 pages. That's a big book. Yeah. But it's called Sisters in the Storm for moms of mentally ill adult children. And it's a handbook. And it's a survival manual for parents who have, you know, kids with severe mental illnesses. And you know, you can't control that. And you can't even influence it. So, you know, I love those kinds of things as well. But I don't know, I'm always just so proud of the authors. Because it's always been in you. It's always been there. You just didn't know how to get it out. And, you know, I can only do one thing really well in life. And this is it. So it rings all my bells when we get it finished. You found it well, it always amazes Terry and I the reach. So we'll get calls occasionally from people and they'll make comments and you know, it just astounds us that somebody's found that message out there. I gotta give you one other story. So I was trying to think of Dr. Cathy, the lady that wrote the hormone book. Maupin. Kathy Maupin. Yeah, I couldn't come up with her last name real quick in my head here. But I had a call with a business owner in Dallas, Texas. And somehow in the conversation I mentioned her name, because of one of the things this particular business owner, oh my gosh, have you read her book? And she just went on and on about her book. And I thought, well
not only have I read it, I know her publisher.
We did all the work on that book together. So yeah, she's got a big reach too. She does BioIdentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, which changes people's lives dramatically for the better. Yeah. Yeah. Amazing, amazing stuff that she's doing in that regard. So I can certainly understand what you're most proud of you really are making a difference in that regard. What are some of the challenges or some of the failures that you've experienced in 12 years that you've learned from? Well, first of all, I spent money in places where I wish I hadn't in the beginning. And it was all, I can't even remember all what it was, because it's been a while. But I can remember thinking, Oh, I wish I had that money back. But when I look back on that, I think those were necessary steps for me to find what does work. The other thing and I don't know, I try not to consider this a failure. But it always feels that way with me, but I don't like it when people don't finish. And it is a year long process. And I'm going to quote Steve Denny on this, because when I told you that, you were like, A year, why would it take a year, you know. And it only took you three. It only took me three.
No, but it is a long process. And you have to be invested. It's a weekly thing, where we're meeting once a week and talking about the progress and that sort of thing. But it hurts when people don't finish. And I never know, is it my fault? Or is it you know, what could I have done? But the truth of the matter is, I can't make somebody sit down on a keyboard and type their book out. But I, I always go back and ping, you know, can I help? Is there something else I can do to help us get over this hump? And
I don't like it when that story dies. It isn't easy to do. Terry says right? It's like sitting down and tasing yourself, right? No, I think he said I had the taser, taser. There's probably a lot of truth in that.
which is funny, but it isn't easy to get it done. But you will be proud of the product. Well, that's right. And I kind of like to compare it to going back to school to get a graduate degree. You know, you have to hunker down, you have to hunker down, and guess what, it's only a year. Or three. But the thing is, if you prioritize that, you'll not only get through it, but you know, the year is gonna pass anyway, why not have something to show for it like a professionally published book. And it's probably, and I tell people, this is probably a good idea and not to take on extra things on your plate during that time, because you'll be expecting too much out of yourself. So if you can get through that year, and at the end, you're going to get sick of your book, because I make you read it over and over and over again. And what a surprise, it gets so much better every time you read it. But it's a finite amount of time. And years pass really fast in my life. Now, you know, it just doesn't take long for a year to roll around. So we just ask for you to commit to that and to be focused during that timeframe. Have the business challenges changed over the 12 years that you've been running this business now? Well, I would say that the, you know, obviously, there's more competition, because people are, you know, writing books all the time. It's a little bit harder now, and I'm, since COVID, for people to commit to the process. Really? And I have some theories on that. Part of it was that I think it was just such a traumatic thing for the whole world to shut down. We didn't do anything. And we didn't want to do anything and didn't want to pick up anything because we didn't know how long we were going to be shut down. And so, but a lot of motivation has fallen in the last couple of years. My challenge is to find people who really want to do this, because I know we can help them through. I think attention spans have gotten shorter, too. And there's a lot of buzz out there about write your book in a weekend or in 30 days. And, you know, I suppose you could do a pamphlet type thing in that amount of time. Some of what they're calling out, books out there aren't really books, you know. And we do all formats. We do, you know, we certainly do the print and the ebooks and we have partners who help you with audiobooks and any other format you want to do your book in. But as we change our vocabulary to describe things that aren't really books, that makes people think, Well, why would I spend a year and this amount of time, you know, to do this? And can I talk about costs for a minute? Absolutely. You know, because the cost is, when you go through our group mastermind kind of thing, it's going to be around all in including the publishing and distribution and all the legal work
we do to register your copyright, I think you're gonna come in around 15 grand, maybe 12 to 15. I also work with people on a one to one basis and all in it's more like around 16 to 20. Yeah, but that's one to one coach. Right? Exactly, exactly. So you might be tempted to say, Oh, well, I can write the book myself, or I can have my kids really good at art, they can do the cover and be tempted to take advantage of everything that's available to people as self publishers, publishing is a really old industry, there's a lot of conventions, and you may not know them, but people give me their books all the time. And I'm, it's pretty impressive when someone's written a book, but I look at it, I think, oh, my gosh, please don't give this to anybody else, you have no idea what you've done, and they've invested a lot of money in this. And it's not good. And it is not anything that makes them shine. And so you're going to be spending a lot of money anyway. And particularly if this is for your business, why not just have some expert advice and coaching all the way through to the end, so that it comes out. So that stands shoulder to shoulder with any great book out there on the market. And there's still, I think, a huge opportunity. I mean, in in our space, we're in a really tiny niche in terms of, you know, working with lower middle market business owners, helping them buy and sell businesses. There are very few of our competitors that have books out there. So. Is that right? Yeah. Wow. I guess, it's probably a subject that a lot of people don't want to read about anyway.
I don't know. Well, when, if you're a business owner, you want to read that, because you're not gonna live forever, and you're not gonna want to work forever, either. It's been incredibly useful. I mean, your process, the way we have been able to stretch it out and to what is now our fifth book under production is incredibly useful, we get really good feedback. Well, I like what you guys are doing. And what you've done is created a series that You Don't Know What You Don't Know. Because I mean, the process is pretty easy to use, because you can just change the audience for it. So you've got like home stagers and other types of businesses that you're adding to your series. So it works pretty well for you guys. And I like that idea too. So if you have a business where you have a lot of different audiences, like let's say a financial planner, you could do a series of books where your advice might be a little bit different, but gear them toward your audience because you're different when you're trying to think about funding college, you know, students versus newly married people. For I always thought a great market for financial planners are resident physicians who are just got out of medical school, and they've got, what, three or four years of residency, then they get really rich. Then they start making oodles and oodles of money. And what a great market that would be. After they pay off oodles and oodles of debt. Yeah, there's that part too. Yeah, my kids just paid off all their medical school debt. So yeah, that's right. Your daughter walked down that road? Yeah, yeah. My son went into the law, the professional practice. Yeah, that's well, and Terry Lammers daughter's a doctor, too. So yeah, yeah. It's pretty cool. Well, it is very useful for the business. Right. And it does establish credibility. Absolutely. I think the other thing that kind of shocked us, and I'm curious if this is common for you. What you alluded to, a lot of times, the authors don't really know what they're in for, right. But there's so much in the publishing side. I mean it's, writing it is just one component of getting it done. There are so many components of actually getting it done and getting it, you know, through the Library of Congress and getting it in Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And wherever the heck you want it. They're just, you know, myriads of details. Well, not to talk about the artwork involved and with the covers and the interior designing as well. And who's going to endorse it? I mean, how do you reach a Paul McCartney to endorse your book for goodness sakes. Well, I have been in love with Paul McCartney since I was four years old. Well, I think all
people of all generations.
You know it's just we're never single at the same time. Anyway, well, he's probably been single more than you have. Yeah, he has.
Gosh, well, you're building something really, really special. Thank you. And it delivers an amazing benefit. It certainly delivered an amazing benefit for our business and I, everybody that I know that has been through that process with you has a similar experience. As you work into the future, we know that we birth these businesses, and they become kind of beings of their own, right? Have you put any thought into how will your business continue when you decide that you're gonna, you and Tom are gonna go, you know, circumnavigate the world and do other things? Yeah, everything's well, oddly enough, I always think really big picture when I’m creating things. Yeah.
And in the beginning, I had this idea because when I teach you every week, what you need to do that week, I've created a video series for that. And we work within groups with group masterminds. And I have always thought, anybody that's trained can lead people through those masterminds, because the core content is going to be the same, the teaching. So definitely I thought of that, you know, my idea was to have, like, adjunct professors teach that and they don't even have to leave home. If you’ve ever been an adjunct professor, it's kind of a
kind of a not very thankful job.
And then, of course, on the publishing house side, I've already you know, I hired a project managers and they take people through the process anymore. So I just hand that over to my staff on the publishing house side. Oh, excellent. So scalability was always a thought in my mind as it should be for every business owner and I, your words and Terry Lammers words, echo in my head, you got to get yourself out of it. You have to make it run without you. So we're definitely positioned on the teaching side. And then I have other editors in all too. So if I wanted to let go now I could. I could. I probably need a year to train. To really get it. Yeah. Optimize it. Right. Yeah. I mean, that's what Dave Ramsey did, right? I mean, yeah, basically created a simple process and then taught it to hundreds of people. Exactly. Now, it's, yeah, it's gotten huge, and it has changed a lot lives. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Nancy, this is an absolute delight. I hope people if they're listening to this, particularly business owners, I hope they will take a minute and go to your website, and perhaps reach out to you. So would you please give us the website and how would you like them to reach out to you? Yes, I would love that, the website is easy. It's TheBookProfessor.com. There is a link across the top on my website that says Schedule a Call with Nancy. And you click that link and it shows you my calendar and you pick your time. So again. And it actually schedules a call with Nancy. It actually schedule a call with me. And so it's just, again, TheBookProfessor.com. Awesome. Awesome. Well, it's been a delight. I wish you all the best, you do phenomenal work. We're looking forward to, Terry and I, I think we've got a dozen outlines so far. Yeah. So you know, we're on a track of trying to get two a year done. So we'll see if we can get that going. But thanks for everything you do. You are making the world a better place and we appreciate your time today. Thank you, Steve.
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