In a world full of distractions, how do we make our books unskippable?
We are more distracted than ever, but once we find content we love, we binge it and become dedicated fans, so how do we become one of those trusted voices? I discuss this and more in today’s episode with Jim Kukral.
In the intro, The Hotsheet discusses the purchase of Barnes and Noble by the activist hedge fund, Elliott Management, the same company that owns Waterstones in the UK, and gives some thoughts on the possible disruption ahead. Plus, Penguin Random House buys the publishing assets of bankrupt F&W Media which includes Writers Digest imprint [Publishing Perspectives].
In the futurist segment, check out the Zuckerberg deep fake, and I also recommend Sleepwalkers Podcast if you want to get a glimpse of coming technologies. Plus, on a personal note, why I am stopping my YouTube channel, and why my Mum’s Penny Appleton sweet romance books are going into KU.
Jim Kukral is the author of 14 non-fiction books, an international professional speaker consultant and co-host of the Sell More Book Show podcast. His latest book is Your Journey to Becoming Unskippable in Your Business, Life, and Career.
- How being elected to public office changed Jim’s mindset
- On how readers are seeking honesty and transparency from authors
- How do you get someone to pay attention to you in such a complex world?
- What else makes an author unskippable?
- The rise of audio as technology improves
- The value of a non-fiction book in a business ecosystem
You can find Jim Kukral at JimKukral.com and on Twitter @JimKukral
Transcript of Interview with Jim Kukral
Joanna: Hi everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today I’m back with Jim Kukral. Hi Jim.
Jim: Hey, how you doing Joanna.
Joanna: I’m good. Just a little introduction.
Jim Kukral is the author of 14 non-fiction books, an international professional speaker consultant and co-host of the Sell More Book Show podcast.
His latest book is Your Journey to Becoming Unskippable in your Business, Life, and Career, which is fantastic and I’ve just read it myself.
Jim, I wanted to ask you: you’ve written a lot of books over the years and I have been following you since, Attention! This Book Will Make You Money back in 2010.
You’re a successful entrepreneur. Why this book now?
Jim: It’s funny because I don’t think I could have written this book even two years ago because of some experiences I had in my life and just a mental place that I’m at. Because this book right now is more of a mindset book than Attention! Attention! was more marketing and business stuff and this has elements of that in it.
But I try to work in a lot of stuff about mindset and where you want to be in your life and try to weave all those things together, which is why I think it’s applicable for authors as well as plumbers.
There’s a lot of different things in this book. So the ‘why?’ was really because I made a really dumb mistake in my life.
A couple of years ago I decided to run for political office in the United States of America right about the time when social media had reached this pinnacle of divisiveness. And everyone was so negative and angry and it became something that almost ruined my businesses. It almost ruined my marriage, almost ruined my health, almost ruined my relationships with my friends and my family. To the point where it almost completely broke me, being elected, and I had to change the way I think.
But I also learned a lot about people because marketing yourself to people when they vote for you, they’re buying you.
It’s like that steak sauce right. If you market steak sauce. If people don’t buy your steak sauce, they just don’t buy it. But when you lose an election and when people come at you and don’t buy you, it’s a much bigger hit on your ego to feel like people are mad.
They hate me. They didn’t vote for me. So I won the first election, lost the second one and I’ve been slowly climbing out of this hole for a couple of years and that’s when the idea for Unskippable book came about.
Joanna: It’s so interesting and a couple of questions about that. You’ve obviously written a lot of nonfiction, and there’s a ton of nonfiction books out there on all kinds of topics.
But your personal story and your honesty and transparency in your experience there, which I didn’t know about. I had some inkling of it, but it was fascinating to read your story more than anything.
How important is this kind of authenticity and honesty in writing nonfiction now and where do you draw the line?
Jim: Joanna, you and I both know, we monitor what’s selling and selling books is a business. So you can see the trends of what genres are hot and what books are selling.
If you look back at the last couple years, you will see that there are certain types of books in the nonfiction space that are doing really well and they’re like I hate to call them self-help books but there are books that are motivational inspirational self-help type of books. Girl, Wash Your Face. You are a badass at whatever.
Those types of books right now are resonating with people where they didn’t used to be as much because there’s just been a mindset change in how people think and react to other people and businesses.
And that’s really what Unskippable is about. It’s about understanding what people are looking for in today’s day and age because everything changed overnight.
It’s not like it used to be.
People are thinking differently they used to be. They want to support businesses that share social causes with them and they want to ban companies that they disagree with. And that’s really what this book is all about is understanding how everything has changed and that goes for you as an author as well.
And to back to your original question the transparency and authenticity is so important nowadays. When you look at authors like Cecilia Mecca who has a wonderful Instagram account and she shares her life on there and she builds this tribe of people who really care about her, not just her books.
And Joanna you’ve been doing this forever. You’ve been podcasting about this industry longer than I have. And I’ve been doing it over five years. You understand that people want to get in and see who the real person is. So that makes a lot of sense to me and that’s what people want nowadays.
Joanna: I totally agree and in fact, that’s what we remember. We remember those personal stories and it makes you a real person more than anything else.
Let’s get into the book then because the word Unskippable is an interesting choice.
I’d like you to start by talking about how has the world become skippable and why does that matter for authors.
Jim: The world has become skippable.
DVRs allow us to fast forward through the commercials when you’re watching a show on Netflix or Amazon Prime. As soon as the show ends they give you like five seconds where you can click the button to start the next show because who can wait five seconds for the next show to start.
We’re being bombarded more than ever with ads and content marketing, which I still content marketing still ads as far as I’m concerned. And we’re just being hit every single moment of the day and we’re more distracted than ever.
My first book, Attention!, which is nine years old now, was really about that topic. So I try not to cover too much of that. We don’t really have an attention problem nowadays. We just have a problem with trying to decipher through all of the content that’s being thrown at us and then figuring out which ones we want to pay attention to.
So in this really complex world how do you get someone to pay attention to you?
Did you know that most college students and younger people watch television or Netflix, I just put Netflix in with television, they watch it with the closed captioning.
Joanna: I did know that. And that was really interesting. And also the double screen thing. I do this myself. I’ve heard you talk about this and you say let your kids do this. I do this. I sit watching Netflix and I sit with my phone in my hand.
Jim: That’s exactly right. And the reason they watch it with captioning is not because they say they can retain more of the information. I make this case in the book; it’s like be honest with yourself. When was the last time you sat down and watched a show or something and you didn’t have your phone or your tablet on your lap that you checked while you were watching it? That’s the world we’re living in now.
And that’s why you have to learn how to become unskippable because our minds are just being distracted by so much stuff.
Here’s what’s interesting about that though.
We are distracted more than ever. However, once we find content that we love, we will consume it voraciously.
So once we’re into it, once we get past that pushing the stone over the hill and we get somebody into our content, which is why it’s so important for authors because this is a show about authors, which is why it’s so important.
And to have multiple books because if you only have one book and somebody reads it and then they’re like oh OK well now what. When you finish a show on Netflix and it’s over and you’re like, “That was amazing”, you’re depressed. You’re like oh my gosh what am I going to watch.
And so you go to social media and you’re like Hey well I just finished watching this show. What do you guys recommend? You see that post every single day on Twitter and Facebook and the same thing happens with authors.
They start to read the book and then there’s nothing they’re after. And they’re like OK now what do I read. So they try to go find somebody else. It’s very important to have multiple books.
Joanna: I think that’s part of the binge culture idea and in fact Game of Thrones is a good example. We didn’t watch it live but we were so happy to watch it in a binge over two nights. We just binged the whole of the final series of Game of Thrones. And actually, it was far more satisfying to just watch it in that binge way. And it’s the same with books as you say.
So apart from having multiple books what are some of the other ways that authors can become unskippable?
Jim: I mentioned a little bit here but unskippable people ship product and skipping people perfect. This is a business. This is the author business. And when you can put out good quality content consistently you’re going to have a much better time of being successful than people who are only getting a couple of done a year because they’re sitting around and they’re perfecting.
I understand it’s very difficult to write really great content over and over at a fast pace. But if you really look at the authors that are doing really well you’re going to see that they’re finding ways to do that.
So finding a way to get that content out and have a book launch every two months or every month in some cases. We just did a story on our my podcast with Bryan the other day about somebody who’s putting out a book every single month.
Jamie Albright’s another great author. She can’t write fast but she’s putting it out consistently in a model that works and she’s putting out good quality work. So shipping your product instead of perfecting your product definitely makes you unskippable.
The second thing for authors that I really think is a huge thing is the cover to market strategy. And you know this Joanna. I can’t tell you how many authors I run into who just want to try and do a different cover. They’re writing a legal thriller so they think, Oh well everybody has a gavel and the scales of justice on it and a silhouetted protagonist so I’m going to go do something different.
That line of thinking doesn’t usually work, because if you love legal thrillers and you read them voraciously and then you start to go look for the next one and you find a cover that doesn’t look like the other ones you’re your brain says to you, Oh well that’s really not like the one I just read which I love. So I’m just going to skip it.
So resist the urge to try and do something different. It does work every once in a while but in a general sense if you’re not doing a cover to market strategy I think that’s going to hurt your long run.
Joanna: It’s interesting you say that and this is something I’ve gone on about for years is that we should be able to upload different covers for different markets. Because if you compare an American book cover even to a British one, let alone to a cover that works in India, for example, or Asia, where the covers are very different.
We should be able to have the same book but different covers per market in the same way, back on Netflix, they actually show different images depending on who you are. So you might see a series with a male protagonist on the screen and I might see the main female character. It’s convincing us that it’s maybe a slightly different thing.
But isn’t that interesting that this perception, as you say, is so fast that there has to be an image that portrays what people are looking for.
Jim: That’s what this book is about: the distraction that everybody has. We spend an average of three hours a day looking at our phones, not talking on them.
These are little devices that are sitting in our pockets or persons or on our countertops that we don’t use as phones we use them as browsers, we use them as text. These little devices make it more and more difficult to get the attention of people.
Most of the mobile browsing or most of the browsing that people use on social media like 80 percent is on a phone. How do you get through to those people and especially a little tiny thumbnail on Amazon for your book cover and things like that.
You have to be able to do something different and the cover is like one of those little things. But in terms of an author you know being unskippable, obviously writing great content and producing it more quickly is something that’s going to make you more unskippable.
Joanna: Let’s come to audio because I must admit to being attached to my phone. It is right here in my hand right now. I have it right by me but I don’t talk on the phone to hardly ever except to my mom like once a week. But today I listened to almost an hour of audio.
I listened to a podcast and I listened to an audiobook as I walked around town and did some chores and things like that. So for me even though I skipped some things I am deep diving on audio.
You and I’ve been podcasting for years. You have an A.I. assisted audio business.
How can voice and audio help authors become unskippable?
Jim: Absolutely it’s the fastest growing market in publishing and the audio market. The problem,, as you and I both know and have spoken privately about, is that it’s cost prohibitive and time prohibitive to produce audio.
Until the technology catches up where it’s easy to create a high-powered audio that’s closer to a human narration we’re still going to have these problems. There will be a time when that comes and you’ll see, in my estimation, through the research I’ve done, 1 to 3 percent of all books on the Internet are in audio. 1 to 3 percent. That’s it. And it’s probably closer to the 1 percent.
So think about that. Let’s say there are 10 million or 20 million books online, that’s not a lot of audio books because it takes forever to produce them. So that is absolutely the future.
And that is absolutely where people are going to go. The thing about audio though is that there are people listening to this right now who are listening to this at two times speed.
This goes back to my original point; just because it’s audio, it’s still another piece of content. People want to find ways to skip things. Their brain says, I’m busy, I’ve got other things to do, I’ve got to go do this, I need to find a way to skip that. And one of those ways is they’ll turn the speed up on this podcast two times.
I know it’s going to make them sound like chipmunks but I’m going to get through this content faster because I have other things to do. And probably while they’re listening to this, they’re probably checking e-mail, checking Instagram, whatever else they’re doing. Rarely does anyone sit and listen to a piece of content or read a piece of content all just at that one time like I was talking about.
Joanna: I disagree on that as someone who’s in Europe. I think we walk a lot more than Americans. That is a massive topic, but Americans have a lot of cars. A lot of Americans are listening to audio while driving. And while I think a lot of the emails I get and a lot of tweets about people listening to this show people are at the gym they are walking or they are doing chores. So they are doing something physical, say with their hands or with their legs, so that they can’t necessarily skip.
I agree with you on the speed because I listen on 1.5 speed for both audio and audio books and podcasting but I didn’t think that skippable. I think that’s just because my brain can go that fast and over time you can move it up.
I know someone who listens on a much faster speed and I have a friend who’s blind who listens at a speed that you and I couldn’t even understand. So I think that’s not the same as being on skippable.
I think that is just a way of consuming.
Jim: Absolutely. But I would push back a little bit and say how much are you really retaining if you’re speeding things up. And let’s face it even if you’re at the gym there’s 30 screens on the television of different news channels and sports that you’re seeing.
It’s not like it used to be where we would sit down and consume a piece of content. We’d sit in front of the TV set at 8:00 to watch the show because there was nothing else to distract us. In a general sense.
There aren’t a lot of people in the world who can really retain information as much as they want to with all of these different things coming that’s kind. So I agree with you and disagree with you.
Joanna: We’ll leave it with that.
I do want to ask about book marketing with audio because my feeling is, again this is the type of consumer I am; I don’t read blog posts anymore. I read books and I listen to audiobooks and I listen to podcasts.
Most of my nonfiction book recommendations come from podcasts. For me that voice is not just content production as such, it’s also book marketing.
I wonder, with unskippable, what are you doing for book marketing? How much are you focusing on podcasting and how much should authors think about that?
Jim: I’ve got a podcast that it’s associated with. I launched it a couple of months ago and I’m going to retool it now.
But the audio is going to be a big part of the book marketing for this. I’m recording my own audiobook. I’m going to use Findaway Voices for that and I’m going to go wide.
I know you recommend people that go wide. I’m going to try and go wide with the audiobook at first and not get stuck into like a seven-year contract with Audible and do it on my own.
The problem with book marketing and audio is since Audible controls that space, they give you such limited ability to promote your book. I think they give you 20 coupon codes or something like that. Maybe it’s 10. I don’t even know.
And of course, they control the price. And there are so many things that you can’t do to market your book in audio form because you’re stuck in an ACX contract and that’s why I’m going to go with Findaway Voices, so I have way more control.
Joanna: Let’s talk about the business angle because you and I both believe in multiple streams of income and there is an ecosystem that you can build around the book.
I wondered what is the ecosystem you’re going to build around on Skippable, which may include speaking, for example.
Jim: Yes, speaking is definitely what I’m focusing on for this. I had younger kids in the last 10 years and I didn’t want to be away from them. So I stopped going on the road and now I’m back to the point where they’re in high school. One’s going to graduate next year and I’m like, all right I want to get back on the road.
This book is really about getting myself back on the road and using it as a business card. I want to go out to inspire and teach people and help them to think differently and help them to build better businesses and become entrepreneurs and things like that. So this is absolutely a speaking thing.
I model myself after a speaker by the name of Andrew Davis who was an amazing keynote speaker. The best I’ve ever seen and he’s doing three to four gigs a month he’s traveling all around the world. He was in Prague last week. He’s all over the place and he really has I think three books.
Books used to be the biggest thing you needed to be a professional speaker. Now you can get away with having a book as an add on to that. But it used to be such a big thing. Like if you didn’t have a book you couldn’t be a speaker.
Nowadays if you’re a great speaker you don’t have to have a book. So I’m really going to use this book as a business card to get myself back out on the road and speak. So I.
Joanna; So really interesting that because speaking can be the way to make the most money when you’re a non-fiction author. Is that the plan for Unskippable, like you said a business card or are you also looking to do consulting or that other product.
How is the ecosystem going to work with all your other business ventures because you’re a busy guy.
Jim: I still get leads from Attention!. the book I wrote nine years ago.
I’ll tell you a story about a lead I got from that book. A couple of years ago somebody read the book, like seven years after it came out, and at the end of the book they got to my back matter and they saw that they could contact me through my Web site. They contacted me we had a conversation.
I ended up going into their office, talking with the CEO of the company. They booked me to speak for an hour. They booked me to do a workshop after then I ended up getting a six-month consulting contract. That was five thousand dollars a month.
So I don’t need to sell Seth Godin amount of books or Mark Dawson or Joanna Penn level amount of books because my business is getting in and getting speaking gigs and consulting from the books. I make more money doing it that way in nonfiction indirectly from the books the business around the book.
Joanna: And we both agree on that. I think a lot of the times the nonfiction ecosystem is what makes it so powerful, whether that’s products or affiliate income or consulting or all these other things.
I didn’t ask you about speaking. You spoke at the Sell More Books summit, which was your and Bryan’s conference this year. And you mentioned that you’ve got a really good response to a 10-minute talk now.
This is really interesting to me because I’ve been doing speaking for years and generally I only do really long talks. Like I’ll do a full day. I struggle to go from a full day to 10 minutes.
What is the key to going from a content speaker, like a teacher, to being a keynote speaker, which I presume is what you are now doing.
Jim: The keynote speakers are the ones who get paid in the business of speaking. The people who get paid are the entertainers the people who don’t normally get paid are the ones who do the 30-minute sets that where they have the top 10 tips to something. The educational stuff. They don’t really pay those speakers.
Nowadays the people who make like Andrew Davis who probably makes twenty-five thousand dollars a keynote. He’s informing people but he’s entertaining people. So if you want to make money as a speaker you have to be a keynote speaker, which is where you actually entertain people, make them laugh, you draw, all of those things. It’s different.
If you just want to be on the road and do conferences and trade shows and stuff like that in today’s speaking world, they normally don’t give you any money for that kind of stuff anymore. There are two different types of speakers; there are paid speakers and then there are people who just do it for the fun of it and just do it for leads for their business which are both great.
But I eventually want to be Andrew Davies. I want to be the guy who they bring in for the final closing keynote that people are wowed by, but that takes years.
It’s like being a standup comic. You have to spend so much time and effort honing your craft and having that perfect talk, just like writing a great book. You can’t just mail it in. It takes years of practice but it can be very lucrative if you could do it. I’m going to try to get there eventually.
Joanna: And if you enjoy it as well, which I think is the interesting part. You have to love doing that.
In the book, you talk about joyful experiences as highlights for being unskippable And I will be joining you, I’m very excited, at the Career Author Summit in Nashville in May 2020, when I will be doing a content talk and I hope you’re going to pay me.
What are some of the reasons that authors should consider in-person events?
Jim: Attending them, even if they are introverts. I write about this in the book. It says there’s a poll that says the average American hasn’t made a real friend in five years. But we have all of these Facebook friends.
And what we’ve done now is we have replaced our social media friendships with real friendships, at least here in the United States according to this poll. Of course, this is not true for every single person but in a general sense.
These people did a study a seventy-five-year study on people and they said that friendships are really what makes us happy. So when we think about where we’re at this vicious circle now where we’re all we have friends and social media and friends on Twitter these aren’t really our real friends. They’re people we may associate with and things like that but they’re not the person you call when you get put into a Tijuana jail at 4:00 in the morning and somebody needs to come and bail you out.
So we’ve gotten to this vicious circle of replacing our friends, our real friendships, with these virtual friends and getting back to the joyful experiences. Joyful experiences are really powerful.
Banks are a great example. I’m 47 years old, so I grew up in an age – I don’t know how it is in Europe – but in the United States when you walk into a bank it’s like walking into a secure vault. There are lines and there’s a security guard standing at the door and you feel intimidated when you walk into a bank. But that’s again that’s all changing.
Capital One is completely redesigning all of their banks. Instead of it being like the old version of a bank with the big columns and the security guards it’s like a coffee shop you walk in now and there are free Wi-Fi and couches and friendly people at the counter. Because they understand that it’s about the joyful experience for somebody.
If you’re a twenty-five-year-old ready to choose a bank that you’re probably going to bank with for the rest of your life. Are you going to your parents’ bank or you going to the one that’s more like the coffee shop where people are friendly and they make it easy and I can sign up online?
It’s this whole thing; joyful experiences are what drives people. When we don’t have things to look forward to we get depressed. And if you are running a business and you are creating friction and you’re not creating joy with people during your process or your email sign up or whatever else you do, if you’re bothering them, they’re not going to pay attention to you. They’re not going to become lifetime loyal customers if you are not creating joy with them.
And that’s something that I think I need. I want to try to get through to every single person who reads this book is you really need to think about how you’re interacting and what joyful experiences you’re creating for your readers.
Joanna: That emotional resonance actually goes back to the keynote speaking as well. It’s often I looked at my notes after a talk that I thought was amazing and didn’t write anything down or over one ridiculous phrase down. But I felt good that people remember that emotion. It was amazing, maybe the best speaker even, because of how they felt and afterward.
I did want to come back on banking because here in Europe certainly I’m sure it’s the same in America the biggest growth in banking is online apps. People don’t even go into a bank anymore. I know the banks are closing.
Jim: I write about that in the book too. People don’t want to leave their house anymore. There’s a reason why car dealerships are going to be on the wayside in the future because companies like Carvana, you go online, you find the car you want, you order it online, you get the financing online, and then they deliver it to like this big vending machine near your house. You walk up, you put your token in and your car comes out and you drive it home.
Why? Because a joyful experience is not having to deal with a dealership. Walking in and spending three hours on a Saturday talking to a car salesperson who has to go check with the manager and maybe I can get you a better deal. And then they put some extra fees on it. People don’t even want to leave their houses anymore.
There’s a company called Enjoy Technologies and what they do is if you want to order an iPhone you can go to Apple store and wait in line and make an appointment or you can go to the AT&T store or whatever. Or you can order it online or you can have Enjoy Technologies order it online. They’ll send somebody to your house.
They come into your house, set up your phone, transfer all your files and show you how to use the phone and unpack it for you in your house. Oh and by the way it’s completely free.
That is a joyful experience. That is the expectation that the new consumer has moving forward from 2019. And that is why you see companies like Payless Shoe Source here in the United States closing because nobody wants to get in a car drive to the store. And more when they have so many options in so many ways to save themselves time and effort and money where they don’t have to do anything.
It’s sad but that’s really the world we’re living in now. That’s all these companies are skippable. And what makes these new companies that are disrupting that process unstoppable.
I want to go back to this joyful experience thing. Did you ever hear of the KonMari method?
Joanna: Oh yeah I love her. She’s amazing. Marie Kondo
Jim: Yeah. So there was a bestselling book that it was made into a Netflix show and the entire concept and I’ll summarize it here just for the Cliff Note version is if you are going through your material possessions in your life, if they do not bring you joy, get rid of it.
And that mindset is taking hold and all kinds of people, not just younger people. All throughout the world that’s the phenomena. That’s the disruption that’s happening. People don’t have time, and don’t want to put the effort into things that do not provide them joy any longer and they are looking for the substitute to that.
And when you’re running a business, if you first understand how people think then you understand that that’s why they think the way they do. Then you can change your business and change the way you interact with your customers or your readers and you’re going to have much more success going that method of creating joyful experiences. Get rid of that friction that people don’t want to have because that’s skippable.
Joanna: Very true. Okay, so where can people find you. And Unskippable and all your books and everything you do online.
Jim: Just go to JimKukral.com.
Or actually, if it’s easier to remember, just go to be Beunskippable.com. That’ll take you right to my website and you can grab a copy of it.
I’m really excited about this one. This is the best book I’ve written since Attention! It’s different.
I’m a gold miner. I love gold mining. I have never actually gold mined but the analogy is I’ve written this book. It’s got a lot of different thoughts in it and I guarantee you that even if you’re an author who writes romance or legal thrillers or whatever you’re going to get inspired by this book.
You’re going to get at least one nugget of information. I guarantee you that you’re going to go, Wow, I think I could change the way I write or the change the way I run my business from this book and that’s what this book is all about.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time Jim. That was great.
Jim: Thank you, Joanna, it’s always a pleasure to be on your wonderful show and thank you for continuing to lead the way in the publishing space. You are an inspiration to everyone and I can’t wait to see you in Nashville.