Just by talking to Lisa Tener, you can tell she is a great book coach. Her enthusiasm and passion is unparalleled. She is someone who wants to help authors achieve their dream of writing and publishing their book. I got to sit down and talk to her about her upcoming call on September 17th and class, Bring Your Book to Life, where writers of all levels will receive support, accountability, and breakthroughs on writing the book that will be the change the author wants to see in the world.
If this already sounds like what you’re looking for, sign up here. Otherwise, read on to meet Lisa.
What challenges do you see coming up for people wanting to write their book?
It varies for everyone, but some of the more typical challenges are people just can’t find the time. They’re excited initially. Either too busy, too much on their plate, haven’t fully committed to it. Haven’t made it one of their biggest priorities. As Steven Covey would say, “One of the big rocks.” They’re excited, but then there is not the follow through. “Okay, I have to put it on the calendar, make time sacred.” I think accountability and support help with that. So I’d say those are some of the biggest: time, accountability, support, and commitment. There’s also that piece of, “Okay, I’ve got this idea where do I start? How do I structure it? What are the first questions I should be asking myself?” So there are these technical aspects on, “How do I start writing a book?” I do see people coming to me sometimes with all these different little pieces they’ve written, written here and there at different times, and there are people who have written books that way, but it takes longer and it can be a little more frustrating or challenging.
Like putting together a quilt.
Yes. And sometimes that works. You can work that way, but in my experience having some structure helps and it actually allows for the creativity. And the other thing is the book may still change. It’s not like the structure sets things in stone, but it provides this jumping off point. It’s like if you go to write a poem. If you sit down and say, “Oh, I’m going to write a poem,” it can be harder than if you say, “I’m going to write a haiku poem” or “I’m going to write a poem about such and such.” Then you have some parameters that are actually going to help you ground it and actually bring out the creativity.
Why do you think people don’t make writing a book their priority? Especially if this is something they want to do.
I think sometimes it’s just a discipline issue, you know? “Oh yeah, I’ll just throw this in the mix,” and just really not get honest and clear about it with themselves. I also think it’s not being in touch enough with, “Why am I writing this book?” and “Why is it important to have it now?” So when you get in touch with why I want to have it now and what am I losing out on if I don’t have it now, it gets clearer. I think also there can be emotional issues. Fear of success, fear of failure. Sometimes there’s a need to break through those and what I find in my Bring Your Book to Life Program is those things will come up in the course of the class and it’s a matter of working through them and because it’s a fairly short time frame, 8 to 12 weeks, that we’re usually writing a how-to or self-help book. Sometimes it’s a memoir, but then usually they take the class twice. I let them do that at the same price because memoir tends to take longer, but because it’s this tight timeline. We’ve got to break through those blocks pretty quickly so I’ve got some good techniques I’ve developed over the years that help people have some pretty quick breakthroughs. I emphasize that need for people to get in communication with me. If you get stuck, you can’t wait 2-3 weeks to reach out. You have to do it with in a couple of days.
Do you want to share one of those techniques?
Sure. I won’t actually do it in full. I can give you a link to Meet Your Muse.I lead people through a visualization. We go through the meadow, into the woods, and into this clearing where there’s some type of structure. When people enter, their muse is either there or in another room, but they usually know where to go. Then we usually have a couple of questions we’ve planned upon ahead of time. We’ve planned to ask the muse and it may be “What’s getting in my way?” or “What do I need to move forward?” or “Please help me move forward.” It’s just amazing what comes up. I’m thinking of one client, he’s a big meditator and that a lot of his theme. His place in the woods is this temple and somebody’s sweeping out the temple. It was such a beautiful metaphor. I find when people go inwards they get these metaphors that work on a lot of levels. There’s this answer that’s obvious or, “Oh right, that’s the answer,” then there’s this deeper way where the metaphor works where there’s actually a powerful inner shift. Sometimes it takes more than one call, but a lot of times in one call there’s an inner shift that accompanies the answer so they do have a breakthrough which is cool.
I don’t know if this happens for anybody else but when I do something like that I’ll see and I’ll get a feeling but then I’ll start second guessing that feeling. It could be this or it could also mean this.
Yeah and sometimes it has multiple meanings. That’s the power of a symbol too.
What are some things writers should have organized before writing their book?
The first thing is to be clear. What’s your vision? What’s your goal for the book? What’s it going to do for you, for your reader, the world? All those pieces in terms for you personally, for your business, finances. All those pieces of, “What am I trying to do here?” Some people will come to me and have 3 book ideas, but there’s one that fits with their vision and goals, so we go with that. When you’re clear with that it’ll be easier to write the right first book or the right book for this time. But then we think of that from a linear point of view. Then we do that Meet Your Muse exercise, too, so we get at that deeper creative piece. Sometimes there’s a deeper answer. Those are important things to do to connect to vision and goals. Also connect to deeper creativity to understand who you’re writing for because if you don’t understand who you’re writing for, you may be off. If you do understand, it’s going to resonate for them. It’s going to be the book they want and need and the book that speaks to them. I’d say those are important. All your decisions will stem from that: the features, the voice, the structure, and organization. That’ll stem from knowing those 2 things.
What are some ways people are leveraging their books to achieve their dreams and creating the lives they want?
It varies so much, but one person I think of is Pat Hastings because she had this dream of travelling. She said, “Oh I’m not a writer,” then we solved that problem and I taught her some things that brought out the writer in her. Then she said, “I’m not a marketer,” then her book came out and she realized she feel in love with marketing the book because it was all about connecting with people. So she had this dream of travel and she published this book and started to lead a few retreats in Bermuda. That was very exciting for her. All expenses paid then to get paid in addition for the work. She did a few workshops on cruises, did a Mayan cruise and some others. Then she had this dream of going to Hawaii. She gave a talk at a church based on her book, Simply a Woman of Faith, and someone came up to her afterwards and said, “I’m so touched by this,” and invited her to come visit her in Hawaii, where the woman was moving or lived. She went out there. Hawaii was her big travel dream. She loved it, taught some other workshops, did some radio interviews, and ended up moving out there for a long-term house sitting situation. She came back and then ended up going back to teach more workshops and moved out there. There’s a whole life style change there, but I see other people using their book to do more speaking, to do more coaching, or private consulting. Often they’ve already been doing some of it, but now they’re getting a really targeted client base or commanding higher prices because of being a published author, so there’s the financial piece certainly.
Evana Maggiore is an interesting example. She has passed away, but her book was Fashion Feng Shui. She did amazing things with that book. She not only used her book as a business tool for herself– people would find the book online, order it, read it, in one sitting, then sign up for the $3500 training. But it also helped build the businesses for all the people who she trained in Australia, Europe and all over. She’d train these people; people would find the book online, and then want to find a consultant near them. It really helped support the people she trained and it also gave them something they could give the person so they could remember all the things they learned in their consultation. It helped in many, many ways. That’s just a smattering. I think there’s so much. People do teleseminars based on their books, retreats, workshops.
I also think of Kathy Lemay. Her book is the Generosity Plan, published by Beyond Words and Simon and Schuster’s Atria Books. She’s all about making a difference and social change. She used her book to reach new audiences and to get them more up to speed about philanthropy. She would go into a big bank, like Citibank, and she would train the financial planners, who worked with different clients, on helping advise people on not just how to invest their money in investments, but also how to invest in philanthropy. They could advise their clients on amounts or goals, what would be a strategic gifts, how do you want to strategically proportion your giving so you can make an impact. That I think was extremely powerful because she reached this whole new group. This was making this big difference in the world. That’s what I think is true with all authors—they want to make a difference in people’s lives, so that’s a big piece too I think.
I also think a way they’re leveraging is just achieving their dreams. They’ve wanted to write this book for a long time but they haven’t been able to do it or figured out how to get started.
There’s a huge part of feeling that sense of achievement. I think also there’s this sense of achievement, but also just this confidence and this personal growth. When you write a book you grow.
In good ways!
Kind of a forward question but you said on the website and in newsletters that some of your clients are getting 6 figure deals. Do people get 6 figure deals anymore? All you hear about are advances are getting smaller.
They do. Advances are getting smaller, so I have had some clients with smaller publishers that are getting 4 figure deals or low 5 figure deals…
That still sounds great.
So we are seeing some smaller advances, but what I think has happened is the middle range has gone away. You do still see these 6 figure deals, but then you see these smaller deals. You don’t see much in the middle. And that makes it hard because agents aren’t interested unless you have a really big platform. I’ve seen that with agents. If the author has a big platform, they’re still interested. I have clients who are getting top agents who I think are going to get nice book deals. Others who only have a bit of a platform, but not much, agents are shying away from them, because they know there’s not much in the middle range. They’ll probably get a smaller deal. Agents just don’t have the time. Because they’ve got to make a living.
I found myself with a few authors, in particular the ones who feel they don’t want to go out there and do any platform building. As a woman said, “You know, I’ve got my audience and people I’m used to working with, like organizations, but I’m not willing to go out there and do a lot of platform building.” It just wasn’t her interest. She’s nervous about TV and radio. She said, “I don’t want to go out there and do all that.” I said, “Okay. I’ll contact some publishers I know and we’ll see if they’re interested.” The first publisher I contacted said, “This is just what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a book on this subject for 2014 or 2015.” It was like the first thing and since then she has sent it to their editorial board and they’re about to send a contract. We have to be a little bit creative and that’s a book to have a good-sized audience overtime. It really could build. So, yeah, she’s getting a smaller advance, but once that advance is done, royalties start to kick in once it’s published. It could do quite well, but the publishers aren’t going to take as much of a risk on a person who doesn’t have as big a platform. So again, the 6 figure deals are wonderful, but come back to what’s your goal, what’s your vision. With her, it wasn’t worth what she was going to need to do to get there when she’s happy to just get the book out there with a good publisher with a great reputation. They have a great catalogue. They do some good sales. That was going to be perfect for her.
Do you go into platform building in your classes?
A little bit. One of the things we do, I think it’s week 5, and it’s one of my favorite classes, is we talk about the media hooks in your book. One of the reasons we do that was my first book was The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger and I came up with this idea for exercises called “Anger-obics.”
I love it!
You could tell, right? That’s catchy and especially as it came out when aerobics was still popular. It’s just one of those catch phrases. We got tons of national publicity. We were in Glamour, on CNN Headline News, ESPN radio, PBS TV… I’m not even remembering half. There was tons. It just went on and on, great national publicity. I realized a couple of things with that book, that the media hooks, like the name for the book, exercises, or a name for you, a type of guru, if you work that into your book could help. Tip lists. We didn’t work tip lists into our book, but what we did was work with our publicist to do a lot of tip lists, present pieces, later and that really helped us get a lot of publicity, too. Now I suggest people might want some tips lists in their chapters. Maybe one in each chapter. Clients have done well with that, too.
Awesome. You also say people can write a best- selling book in your classes. Can people create a best- selling book? There seems like there’s a lot left up to chance.
Yes. Linda Joy’s a good example, and then we have a lot of award-winning books, too. I’d say if you’re going to write a best-seller here are the factors, right? It’s got to be fresh. I think of the 4 Hour Work Week. Now it’s not so fresh anymore, but when it came out, that was really fresh. And it was timely. There’s something about it being the right book, at the right moment, and so some of that is circumstance. I do really think you can help yourself by visualizing and kind of all that personal work, too, can really help you be in the right place at the right time. I think we get the success we’re ready for. The more you can do that personal growth that will help. Then there’s platform. No question. The more people you reach, the more books you can sell, so that’s an important piece if you’re going to write a best seller. I work with a colleague, Rusty Shelton, who was actually our publicist on our book. He’s had lots of New York Best Sellers, but he also does the digital media for the Chicken Soup books. He is a great example of someone who can really help people build their platform to the point of being a best-seller. So if someone wants to be a best-seller, I often recommend people work with him because he knows what you need to do, particularly in the digital world. Certainly luck is a factor, no question, that there’s something about that piece, too. So there are a bunch of factors, but there are some very specific things you can do to help.
I like how there are things we can do, because I think a lot of us think it’s all up to luck.
No. If you look at all the best- selling authors, luck is just a piece of it. The other pieces may be more powerful than the luck part.
Good! Because I can control those parts. How did you create your programs?
It took me, and this is embarrassing to admit, seven years to go from idea of a book to actually having a published book with a major publisher that I could hold in my hand. There were a few factors in that, but the big one was I had no idea what I was doing, so it took me a long time figure it all out. Well, my book came out, and it was The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger. I realized while this was such a great idea and I like the idea of helping people tap into creativity, their sense of humor, and inner wisdom to work with their anger. When I started to do anger workshops, I realized, “Wow, I don’t want to work with people’s anger. I want to work with their creativity.” So it was one of those things you see the contrast and see what you really want. There was this, “Okay, how do I work with people’s creativity?” and I started with the steps I used to get into the zone to write, but quickly people started coming to me for, “How do I write the book?” and “How do I write a book proposal?” I had a lot of luck with that it really played to my strengths and my skills. I helped a lot of people get publishers, get top publishers, or even self- publish, and write a great book and get awards and things like that.
Then actually Rusty was the one who introduced me to Julie Silver the director of the Harvard Medical School Publishing course and that was also helpful to be on the faculty then and get to know agents and publishers very well because we were on the faculty together. All those things helped form my body of knowledge and excitement in this field. I do feel a little divinely led, or maybe luck, to what I do. Then it was a matter of, “Gee, it’d be nice to create some type of program people could do to get their book written. I think I know how to help people do this. Let’s put it into a book or ebook.” I developed this e-kit with a colleague, who actually was a client of mine, Jen. I knew I needed accountability and support. I had experience co-authoring before, so I thought I want to do this project with someone. We created this e-kit. Then I got the idea of turning it into a teleseminar, something I could really interact with people more. I did that. I didn’t like the teleseminar format at the time, because it wasn’t very interactive, you know? With a very small class, you could have a lot of interaction, but as the class got bigger, the technology at that time was limited. Gave that up. Did a little bit of in person training on an 8 week program.
Then I discovered something called Maestro Conference and it transformed my teaching. because with Maestro Conference you can have this teleseminar format, but it can be very interactive. First of all, I can take a poll at the beginning of the class, “Okay, press 1 if you did everything you said you’d do. Press 2 if you did some of it, and press 3 if you had challenges this week.” And I could see if 1 person had trouble this week, I’ll tell them to talk to me off-line and we’ll figure it out. But if everybody had challenges with time this week, we need to talk about that as part of the class, even if that’s not the specific lesson for the day. I can also find out who wants to talk about this topic of time management or what other questions are coming up. Does anybody need to do a hot seat and get some laser coaching? It gives me a lot of ability to respond to what people need at that moment and I can see on my screen who’s pressing 1 so I can ask, “For questions, press 1,” and I can call on people who really want to be called on.
The other nice thing is I can put people in pairs or small groups. What that does in it’s like being a in a workshop and saying, “Turn to the person next to you. We’re going to do an exercise.” That makes this class so interactive. I can actually walk through the room and hear all the people doing the exercises in the different so- called rooms. We can come back to the big group and say, “Who had insights? Who has questions that came up?” Again it makes it much more interactive and powerful. For instance, the week we do the media hooks for your book, we might do a laser coaching, but then we’ll go into pairs and people will work with each other and come up with some great ideas. It’s really great some of the insights people get. Some also say, “Well, we were struggling a little bit with this. Anybody have any ideas?” and then the larger group can contribute. It makes these calls different from anything else that is out there and much more powerful. You have to be pretty comfortable as a presenter with the spontaneity because you don’t know what’s going to come up in class. Some people are like, “This is what I’m going to teach. I’m a talking head.” This is not going to work. For me, there’s such a richness. Then people in the class teach each other what worked for them, so I learn new techniques as they bring them up. I could give you a whole bunch of things that we learned from the students as well. Now I get to share with everyone else because they’re such good tips.
The Bring Your Book to Life won the Stevie Award from American Business Awards for Best New Product or Service of the year in 2012. I think it was because I have all these products and tools that I use. I took the teleseminar and turned them into CD’s. The information was revamped. That all became part of the program, so people get great materials. It’s funny — I created the cd’s from recordings of the class, so they’re edited and condensed to be the rich stuff you need without any red herrings you don’t need, and made cd’s or mp3’s. I thought these would be great for people doing a self-study program, Inspiration in Under 8 weeks. I didn’t think people in Bring Your Book to Life would use the CD’s, but I’ll give them to them along with the written materials. What I found is people saying, “I listened to that CD 3 times in my car. It reinforces the concepts and I found I got new ideas. Every time I listened, new insights came.” It’d be them staying in touch with the book even when they weren’t writing. They were driving or commuting on the train. They’d still do something related to the book. It kept the book alive the rest of the week, so its’ funny how it’s evolved in ways I didn’t expect.
I also like how you said on Maestro Conference you can make little groups. It creates a community so people don’t feel alone in this process. Now people can find each other on Facebook or LinkedIn and develop their social media.
Totally. When you’re on a call with a lot of people, some people might make connections. My classes are pretty small any way, but when you go into these pairs you get to know these people and their books. There’s all these magical connections. Someone just said to me– she’s a spiritual teacher and teaching in Australia and Europe, all over–she needs to fund raise now. On one of the calls, she was paired up with Cindy, who is a person who consults to nonprofits about fundraising from a sustainability stand point.
So she really knows what she’s doing.
And she’s writing this great book about it. So it was perfect and now they’re working together. I find those great connections happen on the call because of the ability to pair people up. They also have an accountability partner in the class. Sometimes that becomes a useful relationship. Sometimes they’ll continue that for years even. Part of it is I have these 5 questions they ask each other. They’re not getting into the story of excuses, you know, “Why I didn’t write,” but they stay empowered with, “Okay this is working. This isn’t. What’s next? What’s going to help me move forward in the next week?”
What’s your favorite thing about working with authors?
It’s hard to say just one, you know. One I’ll definitely say is the variety. I only take on projects that interest me. I find what people are writing about and their ideas are so exciting and thrilling. Then there’s this creativity when you working with them, especially in those early stages. That brainstorming of ideas to make the book really great. I think it’s that variety and collaboration. I guess there’s this other part about seeing people grow and step into their power because writing a book definitely speaks to self- expression. I think we often have a little work to do there to get to the next level. Especially becoming an author, you want to reach and impact so many people. You have to step over limiting beliefs or whatever it is from the past, so part of the job is facilitation. That’s an honor and a thrill to walk through that with some body and see them expand in that way.
What’ s the best part of the whole process for you?
I think it’s that co-creation and helping someone go deep. I get to witness these powerful moments. Often it’s with these Meet Your Muse exercises when I get to witness some really deep shifts that take place and some amazing creativity that comes through when they’re doing that visualization. People can find that visualization at http://www.lisatener.com/meet-your-muse. I do have that for free and people can listen to that. Sometimes it’s useful to do it with me, because there’s that powerful witnessing piece, or I can customize the visualization. I encourage people to try it on their own, too, because it’s very powerful. For me it’s fun to see the surprises that come up in that process.
You have an upcoming call about your upcoming class. What inspired you to have this call before the class?
Well, I’ve been doing the preview class for years, but this one will be a little different. I do the call to get the word out about my program and to reach new people who may not have heard about my work before, as well as serve the people who are on my list and maybe have heard other calls, so I want there to be some freshness, too. This year we have a bunch of sponsors, too, so it’s been exciting seeing different communities getting excited about this call. This year I’m doing the call with Joshua Holmes Edwards, who is a colleague I’ve worked with for years. He’s actually at Maestro Conference. He facilitated the technical aspect of my calls for years, but he’s also facilitates calls for Martha Beck, Marianne Williamson, SARK, the President of the United States…
So he knows how to facilitate…
Yeah! Neale Donald Walsh, and the list goes on and on. He knows what works and doesn’t. He has seen what’s the best teaching. After our calls, he’s given me feedback, “This really worked, but I think you missed an opportunity here to get people really engaged.” He’ll give me additional training. He’s made me become a better teacher, so I love working with him. He actually wrote a book in one of my classes from facilitating the calls. He is a neat guy and he’s helped me come up with fresh things to do on this call. One of the things, we’re asking people to do is to bring an object to the call. So if they’re at their desk, place that object where they can see it, or where ever they go, to bring this object and the object will represent their why. Why are you writing this book? It’s so exciting to me that we’re adding this new element where people are thinking before the call about their why, getting that before the call and bringing it in a tangible form. That’s exciting for me.
We’ll also do some writing on the call, so people should bring pen and paper, iPad, computer. I think that’ll bring more people to the call. I’m sure there will be some people who don’t come to the call because they’re used to listening, but for people who come to the call, they’re going to get insights on their book, more in touch with their book. They’ll definitely learn some how to’s on writing a book, but there will also be some real movement on their own book. That to me is exciting
Sounds like a great call and the whole program sounds great. What’s the number one thing you want people to know about the call or the upcoming class?
On the upcoming call, if there’s someone who is thinking about writing a book, I think it’s a powerful way to potentially have a break through about it or at the very least get clear about it and what are my next steps. I think they’re also going to take some steps on the call, get some clarity. It’ll be a creative and fun call. I really appreciate this opportunity to let people know, so thank you.
You’re welcome! Thank you. What about the #1 about class bringing your book to life? Besides bringing your book to life?
Writing a book is on people’s bucket list. Many people don’t finish their books and then do. This is an opportunity to get that one on one attention. I’m going to be working with them individually on the book concept as much as they need to get clear, and with the outline and the structure, but also getting feedback on 30 pages. Being there if they need a break through. The calls are interactive, but then they get one on one with me, so there’s that piece of being with someone with a lot of expertise in both on the publishing end, and what sells, and helping them boost their activity. It’s a nice combination of someone with business background. I got my business Masters degree from MIT School of Management, concentrated on Marketing. I got a gold Stevie Award for Marketing in 2012, but also I have that creativity piece. I studied writing in college. It was my minor. I think I’m able to bring that out of people, taking good writing to great writing, and that creativity. It’s a nice mix. Then there’s having the accountability, the support, and the 8 to 12 week time frame that gets people.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up now. Sign up here.
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach, author and speaker. Her clients have gotten 5- and 6-figure book deals with Simon and Schuster, Random House, Scribner’s, HCI, Beyond Words and other major publishers, as well as self published. They have appeared on CBS Early Show, Oprah, Good Morning America and much more. Her Bring Your Book to Life Program won The Silver Stevie Award for Best New Service of the Year-Media in the American Business Awards 2012 and she was awarded The Gold Award for Marketer of the Year in Media.
Lisa serves on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School continuing education course on writing and publishing books. She is a regular columnist for Aspire Magazine Online and her articles are often featured on the front cover with articles by luminaries like Cheryl Richardson, Colette Baron-Reid, Marci Shimoff and Marianne Williamson. Lisa served on the magazine’s advisory board as well as the advisory board of the International Association of Writers.
Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, WebMD and other national venues. Her clients include doctors, consultants, company presidents and managers, success and life coaches, people with unusual true stories, university professors, therapists, holistic practitioners, healing professionals, moms and others.