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The New Publishing World with Melissa G. Wilson

February 7, 2022
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

Book publishing has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. Traditional publishing no longer has a monopoly on distribution, and authors can thrive independently. Hybrid publishing models are springing up. What does it all mean for experts who write a book?

In this episode, Melissa G. Wilson and Alastair McDermott discuss the new world of publishing, what’s different about thought leadership books, how a series of books can be trademarked, and how to use books to build an audience.

They also discuss the importance of book covers, how to use Amazon to research ideas, and the reason why you should study fiction when writing nonfiction.

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Melissa has taken her twenty years of experience in publishing to help more than 160 thought leaders get their books written, published, and launched. Her clients have included people like the head of diversity for Hewitt, the president of Holland America Cruise Lines, the head of a division of Allstate, the head of HR for the NBA, a seven-time Inc. 500 entrepreneur, the head of Digital for Cisco, and entrepreneurial executives rom many small and mid-sized companies around the world.


book, people, authors, thought, called, sell, leaders, publisher, publishing, niches, read, write, series, great, outline, amazon, linkedin, shorter, net galley, melissa

Alastair McDermott, Melissa G. Wilson


Melissa G. Wilson  00:00

I think that’s where it’s at. I think shorter books are the way to go, if you want, if you want to do that first book, but I also do help people write books, I usually suggest 35 to 50,000 words, not 60.


Voiceover  00:16

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:31

Today, my guest is Melissa G. Wilson. Melissa has taken 20 years of experience in publishing, and used it to help more than 160 thought leaders to get their books written and published. Her clients have included people like the head of diversity for Hewitt, the president of Holland America Cruise Lines, the head of a division of Allstate, the head of the HR for the NBA, and a seven-time Inc. 500 entrepreneur, the head of Digital for Cisco, and loads more. And Melissa has a really impressive, what would you call it bibliography herself. And as somebody I’m just really happy to have her on the show. So welcome, Melissa.


Melissa G. Wilson  01:10

Thank you. I’m really happy to be here. Appreciate.


Alastair McDermott  01:13

So before we get into talking about the books and thought leadership type stuff, first, I want to ask you about being part of Seth Goden’s street team. Can you can you tell us a little bit about that?


Melissa G. Wilson  01:23

Yes, in 2008, Seth came out with a request that he would like to reinvent publishing. And I was following him at that time. And I thought, That’s right up my alley. And I had already been working on other books, like helping the the head of diversity at Hewitt turn his white papers into a book and helping the head of HR at Mercer come out with a book that he took to Davos, which to me is a wonderful kind of Shangri La sort of thing. So I’ve had two books go to Davos. And with Seth, when it was, let’s reinvent publishing, I thought, Yes, I love to be an early adopter. So he put out a call through his 3 million followers, for people to fill out a form and that they be considered. And I think I sent my form in three times, just making sure that he got it.  And I was very honored to become part of 70 people. I think he started out with the concept of 50 and the grew to 70. And it was so much fun. And we got to work with amazing people throughout the year. And I believe I want to say we brought up eight books. And at least a quarter of a million were sold from my understanding, including a book called “End Malaria”, where he had partnered with Amazon. And that book, Amazon took no revenue from and each book would buy a malaria net for a needy child in Africa.


Alastair McDermott  03:01

Very cool. Very cool. And yeah, so what were you doing on like, what, what were your activities as part of that group?


Melissa G. Wilson  03:07

Well, we would get to do a lot of what launch teams do go out and promote with and in malaria, they, he came up, I want to say he came up with it, the team came up with it along with him to do a prequel to the book. So I ended up sharing a story. My son actually went through Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and ended up taking his bike and riding from Chicago where were we live all the way down to Florida and what’s called IO. Marotta flew to Cancun and then went six countries down to Panama, 3600 miles, six weeks, and he was doing that writing for cancer. And he did this all by himself, even on major highways. So that was my story. And that was the book that came out that with the prequel and then with the book that sold the most copies.


Alastair McDermott  04:08

That’s amazing. How old was your son at the time, by the way?


Melissa G. Wilson  04:11

I believe he was 28.


Alastair McDermott  04:14

Okay, cool.


Melissa G. Wilson  04:15

And he’s good. So thank you for referencing that he’s he’s if you don’t have cancer return for two years with Hodgkin’s because it’s located in the lymph nodes, you’re pretty much considered healed. So I’m, I’m very grateful for that.


Alastair McDermott  04:32

Yeah, no, that’s, that’s good. Okay. So, one of the things we were talking about, early on, earlier on was I was asking you about thought leaders and thought leadership books and if they’re, if they’re the same thing, do thought leaders always write thought leadership books?


Melissa G. Wilson  04:48

It’s a really good question. And and I think it’s it’s almost paradoxical. It’s like, you know, it’s, it’s, I would say yes, and, for me, thought leaders are thoughtful. They’re, they’re constantly coming up with new ideas. So what’s interesting is my husband would argue with me back and forth that he didn’t like that word at all. And yet, it’s used so often. And it’s, it’s turned into who has been my audience. So I have about 15 authors a year. And for whatever reason, it’s almost like the right ones come to me, and I only work with authors. Now, I told you now, that thought leaders who number one focus is making a difference in the world. And my publishing imprint, which I gift I don’t charge for, if an author comes to me, they pay for my support, which I do everything, I call turnkey book creation. However, if they really are that kind of author that’s focused on making a difference, and there’s a great match, I will highly consider gifting my imprint to them. But they own all the rights to the book, which is very important.


Alastair McDermott  06:06

Right. Okay. So so they get the benefit of self publishing, and the benefit of having a publisher.


Melissa G. Wilson  06:13

Correct. So they would they did, they wouldn’t say they are self published, they would say they are, usually they would say their hybridly published. So for example, Berrett Koehler, very similar to I had at least four major publishers, and one of them was Josie Bass, they did three of my books, and Berrett Kohler would pay advances, or would not pay advances, but Josie Bass did. So you know, the end, they were publishers, so it’s, it’s this gray space, if you will, but they do pay royalties.  In this case, when I work with an author, and they’re a thought leader, and they have a following, when we were talking, before we started, I explained that I have fees that I charge, but I have a sliding scale, because I love helping people and I usually am able to get to a win-win, where they feel this is worth it. And I feel like I’m getting paid enough to spend four months, which is an average time, you know, to, to get a book out there successfully.


Alastair McDermott  07:21

Let me ask you about thought leadership, what, what actually is thought leadership? What what’s different about thought leadership than other books?


Melissa G. Wilson  07:28

Well, I would I would reference, if you will, the, the 10,000 hour rule which everybody attributes to our good friend, people love Malcolm Gladwell. And I but he did not come up with that concept, but amplified it. I would say somebody who’s put in such significant amount of time into that, into one or another area, that they, to me a thought leader would be somebody who had that very high level of insight. And that also I would add that they’re creative. They they like to push the boundaries.  For example, the idea of you know, Seth, I mean, he’s a thought leader, he coming up with an idea like re reinventing publishing is very, is very, very bleeding edge. And that those are the kinds of people I love to work with. And they come from all different places in the world and different walks of life.


Alastair McDermott  08:30

One of those is Tom Peters, can you can you talk a little bit about what you did with Tom?


Melissa G. Wilson  08:36

Yeah, so I work with a company called Un/Teaching, which is a wonderful company. And they’re also they also have a design element they, Donovan and Green is, is one of the the owners in that company. And they they did for reference the American girls experience, they took it from catalog to experience. And so I had the pleasure of getting introduced to Tom through one of those, those owners and leaders in that company. And they like the idea that I am focused in the niche that I am in, I’m a boutique book creation firm. And so we worked on Tom’s book, and it was the last in the series, in the In Search of Excellence series that overall sold more than 4.5 million copies.  And it’s considered to be one of the top two books business books of all time. And we brought that book out last year. I believe it came out in March. And it’s been great. I also have access to selling books to through an agent, a foreign rights agent and we’ve sold it to eight different countries including Korea, China, Russia, so that’s been very exciting.  But Tom also won a leadership book of the year award. And he said, he made a lot. He made very, you know, a nice amount of money on “In Search of Excellence”. And, but he had never won an award, which I thought was fascinating. So that books getting a lot of attention. It’s called “Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism”. He’s, he’s a lot of fun to follow. And that book is a beautiful book. It’s just beautifully designed too.


Alastair McDermott  10:31

Yeah, I had a look at the, on Amazon with the look inside feature is absolutely beautiful design. So, okay, there’s, there’s so many different directions, we could go. I’m interested, let’s just talk about the design for a second. We, we always talk with the phrase, you know, he shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but everybody does a bit about, you know, design of books. Is that something that you talk to thought leaders?


Melissa G. Wilson  10:58

Absolutely. And, and to that point, I follow at least 10 thought leaders in the publishing space, and they’re all over the world. And they, they’re straight shooters there, I look where if you will, like a Venn diagram, like where do they concur, you know, and this and that, and they all agree, a cover is so important. So you can spend, you know, 25,000 on a cover. But you can also spend 400, on a cover and get a beautiful cover. And so that really is the good news, I’m all about highest quality, lowest cost to new thought leaders, new authors, thought leaders who want to become authors.  So I packed into that into, if you will, a one stop book creation plan, because my attitude, because I went through 15 of my own books with traditional publishers, and then I’ve done at least another 10 in and publishing them myself, that it’s so important to look at that design. And, and, and have a great cover and a great title, because it truly is everything’s about content. And you’re looking at keywords and, and, and being discoverable. So I focus a lot on that too, with the cover.  So it would be beautiful cover, you know, keywords that take you directly to the book, and what what rules in marketing in the world of marketing. And, you know, especially so much most of its online, would be the idea of search engine optimization with the right keywords, and then the riches and niches. There’s so many fascinating niches that actually still have lots of opportunity for thought leaders to explore.


Alastair McDermott  13:02

Right, okay. Yeah. And that’s not the first time that phrase has been on this podcast into niches, as I would say, on this side of the Atlantic. But yeah, so so let’s get a little bit practical then. So if somebody is listening to this, and they’re an expert, and they’re a consultant or an independent consultants, and they do have, they do, they’re somewhat specialized, they have a problem area that they focus on. Maybe it’s not the client that they focus on, and they’re interested in writing a thought leadership book, where should they start? What advice would you give them?


Melissa G. Wilson  13:36

I would start with, with, I–the recommendation that comes to top of mind because I’m such a big fan of Dave Chesson C-H-E-S-S-O-N. He’s, he’s absolutely superb, probably the one of the most giving people I’ve ever known. And he has a tool called publisher rocket. And they just added on keyword searches in there for audio also, because when you publish a book, you can publish in an audio and ebook and, and now Amazon KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, which is Amazon, where 82% or more of books are sold, they allow for a hardback and a softback, so you’ve got at least four formats already.  And, and so looking at that, and exploring the path that you could take with it. I would look at Dave’s publisher rocket. And I would look at the area and we talked about a little bit of shorter books, because to me, it’s counterintuitive. But if you start reading, even if you went into Amazon and looked at the best sellers in thought leader books or business books, leadership books, you would see that shorter books do sell well. So having the opportunity to get a shorter book out there and by a shorter book, I mean something 20,000 words or less, that would, that would help you because you would get your thought leadership. And, and you would, you would go to the next level. And the next level looks like getting speaking engagements.  And speaking engagements could be, you know, take your career to the next level. So one of my clients who I basically co-authored a book with, my expertise was around networking, ergo network building the term. And he now gets $10,000 speaking engagements on a regular basis, because of his book. So I would look at the shorter book, get it done faster, but I would also, I always tell people look at the one star, the three and the three star reviews to get a really good gauge on where you’re at with where you want to, to really focus to pick up a niche that’s unique, you know, to be something that, you know, find an area for you that you haven’t thought of before.


Alastair McDermott  16:11

Okay, really interesting. I like him, I have a look at Dave Chesson stuff and, and he has loads of tools available to help authors. Okay, so you talked, you talked about writing shorter books. So is, is that something, you know, I’m thinking of somebody coming into to an office with a book and it’s, it’s really thin, and it’s kind of like, almost like a pamphlet? It doesn’t really have… It doesn’t have the thought effect as some consultants say…


Melissa G. Wilson  16:42

A very thick book. Yes.


Alastair McDermott  16:43

Yeah. Yeah.


Melissa G. Wilson  16:44

So, yes, that’s an interesting point.


Alastair McDermott  16:47

Is, is that an issue? You know, like, I can imagine wanting to have one book, like have a series of shorter books, but having one kind of one kind of, you know, this is your, your life’s work type of book as…


Melissa G. Wilson  17:03

Right, and I hear you, I think


Alastair McDermott  17:06

…is the word.


Melissa G. Wilson  17:07

Well, it is it is an interesting things. Because let’s, let’s go to some examples, let’s go to the “One Minute Manager”, let’s go to “Who Moved My Cheese”, let’s go to there’s a book something like “First Make Your Bed”, you know, something like that by a Navy SEAL. Who, that books, 100 pages.  There are a lot of books that are around 100 pages. So what I usually recommend is go with a five and a half by eight and a half size. And then I also find because I’ve done a lot of research on larger type. And I don’t mean very large type, but I mean, just large enough to not give you eyestrain, which, and I’ve been researching that too. So many people even in their 30s are getting tremendous eyestrain. So you look at a book with small type and you resist it.  So my hypothesis is that these books are are some something that will sell well. And if you look at publisher rocket, and you’ll find them under books that are 100 pages or less in there, too, they consider those a two-hour read. Some people call them an airplane book, marketing professors have totally agreed with me a number of them that, that they see the same thing. And then if we think of gamification, you know, the whole thing is meant to accomplish something, oh, look, I actually read a book, you know, and and I got that book fully read. And the statistic is that I want to be fair about it. But I’ve even heard 90% of people don’t finish books.  So I’m an advocate for the shorter book. And so I did a series I had told you about. It’s called 33 Ways Series. You can look it up And what’s fascinating about it is that people aren’t just reading one of the books I brought up four so far, they read all four of them. And I actually wanted to challenge the dummies series because I didn’t like the dummies title. So this is 33 Ways How Not To Screw Up, you know, your finances is one business emails is another creative entrepreneurship is another and then the fourth one is consulting. And these are all experts and they were able to write it in half or a third of the time and it’s it’s a fascinating thing you know, I shared with you I love to experiment.  This is something that I think will be hot and continue to to grow because I think we’re getting to the point where we enjoy the shorter reads and then move on to the next one. And and I’ve got a lot of space for a lot of books. So for example, I’m doing one on nonfiction publishing, and I’ll make that what’s called perma free, because over on your side of the pond, there’s a guy named Nick Stephenson, who I also think is wonderful. And then there’s Mark Dawson, who I’m sure you know. But Nick says something like a perma free book gets downloaded 50 times more than a book, you know that you’d probably sell a shorter book at maybe 299. But you’re building your mailing list, and the gold is in the list.  So for me, I think it’s a wonderful idea to use that book. And then I’ll probably also have another free book that I’m creating. But I think that’s where it’s at. I think shorter books are the way to go, if you want if you want to do that first book. But I also do help people write books, I usually suggest 35 to 50,000 words, not 60.


Alastair McDermott  20:54

Very interesting. So first off, we have had Anne Janzer on the show. And she did,


Melissa G. Wilson  21:01

She’s wonderful.


Alastair McDermott  21:02

She’s the author of 33 Ways Not to Screw Up Your Business Emails, which part of that series?


Melissa G. Wilson  21:07

Yeah, I’m saying it’s wonderful. They said, There’s not one extra word in the copy. It’s like, you see so many reviews saying this book could have been a third of the size or a half of the size. So that not Anne’s book, but I mean, other traditional books, so that I call it fluff and stuff. You know, why put it in if it doesn’t make sense?


Alastair McDermott  21:31

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. On again, unless you’re looking for that third factor, which is maybe something that some people want to want to do. I’ve actually had a book published just recently, where it was it was published as a, as a free, I don’t know, perma free is that the phrase, it was posed as a free ebook by a business publisher here in Ireland, and it is about, I think it’s about 15,000 words, and it’s just about how to look better on Zoom, and how to sound better on podcasts. But,


Melissa G. Wilson  22:02

Great! You’ve got to send me that. I will definitely promote that and read it.


Alastair McDermott  22:06

Cool. Yeah. So and this was just this, this came from a blog post that I wrote last year, and then I started updating. And I think, because so many people are working from home and working remotely. So many people who I talked to want to go on podcasts as a guest. And so it’s just something where I was starting to share some information on it, it turned into something a bit bigger. So so that was taken on it. I’m actually I’m working with that same publisher now on the second book, which I think at the moment is about 27,000 words. I don’t think it’ll go much more than that. But it’ll be interesting to see where that ends up in that word count. And that’s about specializing and niching down.  So yeah, so um, that’s part of the reason why I’m so interested in asking questions about covers and some of the kind of detailed stuff. But yeah, I’m interested as well, in the kind of the move to shorter because that’s something that Brian, Brian, again, is the name of the publisher, from Oak Tree press here in Ireland. That’s something Brian is talking to me about, you know, the you having these shorter books. And I had said to him, you know, I do want to have something a bit longer at some point where I can, I can kind of drop it on some of these desk. And he’s like, yeah, that’s, that’s great and all, but people want to read shorter books. So I’m really fascinated by that.


Melissa G. Wilson  23:19

Well, you know, the other thing that I think is, is here that should be pointed out, is, when I’m working now, with companies, my recommendation is that they do a series because I also have a law degree, you can’t copyright a title, you cannot. So people could have the same title you have, but you can trademark a series. So now what, because I watch trends, what I see on Amazon is they have a special page on the series. So 33 Ways has its own page. You can do that on Kobo, and you can do that on Barnes and Noble.  So the books cross sell each other. And because the other thing that Dave Chesson offers, which I think is great is Atticus, he’s come out with a tool to help write typeset and I use vellum, which I think is fantastic. It’s cut down so much time. But when any of my authors do another 33 Ways book, I’m able to change all the books, especially with the ebooks, so they all cross sell each other. So also buy or also in the series. So you can have your own series do that and keep raising, you know, the rising tide is going to lift all ships. So if you think about it, and a lot of arguments have been made of, okay, you have to your point, like for me if you’re do this second book should be part of a series and now you can name the series and so forth.  So, if you had four books that were you know, 17,000, 20,000 words, you’re going to make more and they’ll cross sell each other and they will complement each other Because with our brains being neural networks also, and I’m also a social scientist, it’s this focus that people have and go, Okay, I got this one now. And then they really build their their awareness. I think they get ahead faster by breaking it up putting it in a series


Alastair McDermott  25:19

Fascinating stuff. Yeah, I really, I could talk about this all day. But yeah, I really do think that you know, presenting your thoughts, well, first of all, just the process of going through the writing process.


Melissa G. Wilson  25:33



Alastair McDermott  25:33

It just makes you think better about whatever you’re doing, it makes you more organized. And then taking that and actually publishing it and sharing with the world, you’re demonstrating that you know what you’re talking about that I mean, people can just see it, it’s there on the page. And see, you’re showing people that you can do what you what you’re talking about. And I think that, you know, some people don’t want to reveal their secrets. But I think if you do reveal those secrets, you’re much more likely to have people coming to it to work with you.


Melissa G. Wilson  25:59

You do in the in the one little thing I’d add there too, is I help a lot of authors turn their thoughts into a how to book and if you have a process dash system, it like with net worlding, it was a process that for networking, and I actually give it away now. And, and I have fun with that, because it’s a great, you know, added value tool. But now I’m I told you before I blended my methodology with another thought leader, and he’s out there in the corporate world, speaking all the time making 10,000 a speech. So I said, Why don’t we since we blended our methodologies, why don’t we turn it into a course. Because by the way, on LinkedIn, the five terms that are most searched on there, and I got this from Tim Denning, who I also love, he’s over on your side of the pond. And he said, it’s leadership, careers and then the other three are referencing careers, like career, like interviews, and so forth.  So by blending it and turning into a course, then on average courses sell for high end courses sell for about 500. So your book might sell for whatever, you know, $3, if it’s a short one, as an e book, upwards of, you know, not I usually price the ebooks, you know, of course, just to 999. So they get the full 70%. And then a soft back and go like Tom’s book goes up in hardback to, I think it’s 2999, something like that. So you’ve got a lot of opportunity, doing it that way. And, and you know, it’s just thinking differently thinking out of the box, how to turn what you’re doing in and turn it into something that produces passive revenue, and also other opportunities for you to build your client base.


Alastair McDermott  27:57

So can somebody be successful with the book, if they don’t already have a big audience?


Melissa G. Wilson  28:02

A lot of people talk about that. And the other thing I’ve done is like, take every course out there to see, you know, what’s being offered out there. And I would say, I’m, and I’m sure you, you know, Jeff Walker, the “Launch Formula”, what a book and he’s got a new edition out, I would say the first time I brought my course out, I didn’t have I think I had 1000 followers, and the course selling it built the audience. Now I have triple that, and continue to grow, I have about 14,000 connections on LinkedIn, and the majority are connected with me. So that’s another thing is so many people have LinkedIn connections. And, and I’m working on a process now of how to engage with those people and move them to the mailing list to, you know, through a process of giving things to help people know like, and trust, who I am and what I’m doing, which is what it’s all about. Without leadership, you still want people to know, like and trust you.


Alastair McDermott  29:07

Mm hmm. So, so you can start off with with a small audience, and by virtue of the fact of publishing, and in particular, publishing more frequently, maybe shorter books, maybe as a series that you can turn that into an audience. And then also you can take, take that take that knowledge and turn that into a training course which you can sell for, you know, higher profit margins.


Melissa G. Wilson  29:32

Absolutely. And the one other little thing I will add, because when thoughts come to me, and I’m, I’m using it a lot and I’ve built an online community, and if you’re an author of mine, then I bring you in and it’s like just $25 a month, but the The wonderful thing about that community and I did it through a site called Mighty Networks, and I call these practice circles, author practice circles and we talk every Friday, and what’s happened is all the authors have started to help each other, and actually decrease the effort, I have to put out in there all validating what works, what doesn’t work. So everybody’s getting clearer, faster and moving faster.  So that, my goal is to try, you know, keep the cost down as much as possible. But I do think what I found out is, it’s good to charge something, you know, to a base, because they’ve got to have I hate the term, but some skin in the game, you know, they’ve got to have something in it. But that’s working out very well. And I’m very grateful that I did it. And it took a lot because, you know, trying to set up a call every Friday, and it’s, it’s your commitment is hard. But if you build a community, that’s another amazing tool that surprised me. So…


Alastair McDermott  30:54

Yeah, I’ve seen that kind of feedback loop before, when people are bought in. They can be very active in the community, and they can, you know, do support for you basically. And and also, they can sometimes give better answers than you would. So it’s a real win win. Yeah.


Melissa G. Wilson  31:13

Yes, yes. And we all have social media platforms now. So everybody’s helping each other. And my one line I use all the time is, people don’t read one book anyway, you know, though the, and they love to go on recommendation. So I spent, you know, 20 years plus in teaching the science of networks in corporations all over, and then just said, you know, I’m tired of doing that. I learned a lot. But now I want to help authors. So that’s the 12, the last 12 years.  But I’m enamored with books, and all those books up there, I would say the majority are mine. There’s some from from other authors. But it’s, it’s been fun. And the one other thing I did want to mention is this idea of storytelling. Because to me, those of you on the other side, over in Europe, you are master storytellers, and, and something that I have recommended through the years seems to help people is write out your 10 signature stories, and use them for everything, practice them, use them in conversations, and then put them in your book, because people will remember those stories. And, and they make a big, big difference in it. People love a book or don’t love a book.


Alastair McDermott  32:38

Yeah. And that’s something that I took, I did a training course recently on YouTube. And that’s, that’s probably the biggest thing I took from that was my videos need to be educational, sure. But I really need to bring more entertainment and more storytelling into them. And that includes things like, you know, the hero’s journey, or the three act structure, or however you doing, adding more attention to it. I’ve got to bring that more into the into what I’m writing, and so on into the videos. So that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’ve been been learning about stories and storytelling and reading different books on that as well. I think it’s really good so…


Melissa G. Wilson  33:15

What about save the cat? Have you?


Alastair McDermott  33:19

I have heard about that. And that concept of you know, they’re all they’re all basically the same story. I’ve seen that before. And what’s amazing about that is, yeah, so they’re all basically the same story, but yet we keep paying to go and see them in the movie cinema we keep, we keep watching them on TV, because because they’re all different variations, you know, so yeah, that,


Melissa G. Wilson  33:42

It is true. And and the other thing that that I’ll give you that I think would be wonderful the way to position it and people like this is I’ve written post on how the reason why you you should study fiction for writing nonfiction, because of the story element. And that’s really what you’re saying, which is so real. And, and you can do a lot with it. Like when I used to give talks, like one of the talks I gave was how leadership, how Cinderella had leadership and she was actually a domestic engineer. And she when she went to the castle and she saw enter and got her shoes back she was running, running down the steps. She really knew that she could go back to that place and help with fixing the steps because she knew all about engineering and puttering around in the castle and people thought that was so funny.  And it reminds me of I’m trying to remember his name who wrote the snowflake method. He’s got the most fantastic book out and he uses he’s got Goldilocks and the Three Bears in it and eat the snowflake method is like being a combination of a pantser you know by the seat of your pants and a plotter, plotting out the whole outline. But it’s a fun fun book to read to say, you know, to get into storytelling and get you motivated to tell your stories.


Alastair McDermott  35:11

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think they’re, they’re really important. Okay, Melissa, what are some mistakes that people are making when they’re setting out to write a book?


Melissa G. Wilson  35:21

The worst one is write the book and then go to somebody for help. Because it would be like going into a hoarders home. I would go in there and go, Oh, my God, what do I do? I mean, what do you do? If you’re the organization specialist who comes in to help the order? What do they do? It’s like, they take everything outside, usually in or in the garage, and then they go, Okay, this is where the all the throwaways go. And this is where this goes in. And it takes so long and it’s so painful.  So the most important thing to not do that is to spend the time outlining and what I like to say is great ghostwriters constantly say, if you create a great outline, you can write a great book. And so I spent years doing writers workshops, doing outlining sessions. And they work so well, because everybody was focused on the outline. So a trick with that for you, for anyone who wants to do this is because Amazon is like the goldmine of research mine, you go in and look for books that are like yours, and then look inside and then type up because unless you want to take a snapshot of the take a snapshot at the table of contents, and then type those up. And do that for three to five books, and then really look at what’s being done, and see how you can complement that. And that could be the start of your outline.  And then usually I say inside the outline, in each chapter, usually, I recommend now, actually just eight chapters, maybe 10. But once an introduction and overview, just like a speech, tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them and then the ending, tell them what you told them. And, and so spend that time on the outline, do not write that full book, it’s not going to work for you look at the reviews, like I said, the one to one stars, three star reviews, three star reviews, people will tell you what they liked, which you want to keep in your outline, and what they didn’t like, or what where the gaps are, especially look for gaps.  So just as an example, I was studying, like, what are the steps in publishing, and you will find from lots of top resources, every different kind of suggestion. It’s like, no one’s got the solid here, the whatever, 10 steps, 14 steps, they say they’re there, but I see things missing. And you want to find where the gaps are and capitalize on the gaps. So don’t make that mistake of just writing without thinking about researching and planning.


Alastair McDermott  38:15

That is great advice. Is there anything that’s worked really well for you in actually making book sales?


Melissa G. Wilson  38:21

And that’s something that’s the whole focus, I would say 99% of the focus with the community, because I look every week and I Oh, look, here’s a new thing. And this comes up in that comes up. So I’m really liking Lawrence from Books Go Social. I think he’s wonderful. You can tell him I sent you and he always gives people discounts. And, and he’s, he’s just so amazing. And his group is so amazing. And they’re from Dublin. And they’ve got like a launch plan. That’s like $750 for those who want to write fiction, I I’ve been working on a series called Ninja Girl Adventures. And it started in middle grade. Now it’s in young adult. And I finished the second book, gave it to two beta readers, which cost me maybe $200 And I got back the best feedback and in my book, I even have a young kid who’s a Deaf Wiggler he widows and he’s helping the Ninja, you know, to the beginning of a love story there with the the main ninja and her name is Moira,


Alastair McDermott  39:36

Good connections here.


Melissa G. Wilson  39:38

Yeah, and it’s so it’s so cool. In the end, they gave it to one of the beta readers is deaf and they gave it to him. And I got the best advice. So I was able to then go back and say, Oh, I’m gonna change these five things, but actually add on to them because they really liked the book, but they felt that there could be more this or more that And it was so helpful. So I would definitely go to them. And and look at what they’re doing get their newsletter, because wait, you know a little bit over time and you’ll see patterns, which is what I look for and go with that they also have access to Net Galley that traditional publishers use.  And once you get about four to five reviews, Net Galley has over 300,000 reviewers, so that is a great tool. And that’s incorporated in that launch program that they give you the look at your cover, though, they’ll help you with all kinds of things. So that’s, that’s where I’d go. And the other thing a lot of people don’t think about are book descriptions, I would go to Fiverr there look for people who have a thousand five star reviews who do book descriptions, there’s some that cost you maybe $30. And then you can edit from there. There are people who will do press releases, I use Fiverr all the time, F-I-V-E-R-R and they they help a great deal.


Alastair McDermott  41:05

Cool. Okay, really interesting. Okay, so what I’m interested in asking people at this point is about failures. And can you tell us what you’ve learned from your biggest business failures?


Melissa G. Wilson  41:18

Yes, the biggest failure was not selling something. And, and I noticed that with thought leaders too, because the ones that get it sell something, even if it’s a $25, something. Because the way to get to move through, everybody has what’s called that inverted pyramid. So you’ve got free, you know, and and, and that’s great, I give lots and lots of free stuff on that worlding away, if you sign up for the newsletter, you get three free books, but it takes a while to know, like, and trust someone.  But I think if people are getting things for free, too often, they aren’t necessarily committed, and you want people who are committed, I mean, the best case scenario is that they spend this much and they get these results. Like if I go up, right, big results, little, little mouse big results. That’s what you want. And, and that, you know, that takes some thinking, but creating some kind of products, I think, you know, at a $25 level or at a $50 level, and then going up from there, and having a community, like for me, I’m always trimming my my newsletter list, because if somebody doesn’t open it for two or three months in a row, I’ll send them a separate email directly, not through the email program and just say, “Are you getting these? Do you want this, and if you don’t, thank you”, you know, “That’s fine. See you later, come back, if you need”.  And those are the people that you want, because those people make a difference. And Nick Stephenson also says, the way he builds his mailing list, he’s got I’m sure he’s got at least 50,000 on his list, he finds that they’re worth about $50 a person, you know, over across the board. So when you think of that, I would read everything I’m taking three courses on a mailing list now because I never want to stop learning and that’s that’s where it’s at. You know, you want to offer people value and and that equation does change over time.  And then the other cool thing I think you’re gonna love this one. I do go on LinkedIn. Do you…


Alastair McDermott  43:36

Yeah I am on LinkedIn, yeah.


Melissa G. Wilson  43:38

Good. So so people like it when I say this, and I’ve added on Tiktok and Net Galley or not get Net Galley, but Instagram. So LinkedIn is the boardroom. Facebook is the barbecue, Twitter’s the watercooler, Instagram is the art gallery and Tiktok is the performance stage.  So understanding all that, on LinkedIn, I have a friend who unbelievable overview this you should get her on to talk about polls. She’s been doing polls on LinkedIn as Anne Janzer did. Her poll I think she, Anne had one for her email book, 450 people responded.


Alastair McDermott  44:21



Melissa G. Wilson  44:22

And now but with Marty her poll on careers and I think she called it something like the 100 year career something you know, the the idea of people are living longer and they’re staying in work longer. And I think she had 3400 responses on that poll. And one of the tricks to it was writing an article that prefaced more detail with the pole and then did the pole and she’s all about keeping that pole really simple. And and so I’m fascinated by that. I think that would help with the book. Any thoughts leader book you’d write, I mean, if you come out with a book and you tell me you have a, you know, 400 500,000 people that weighed in on it, I’m going to read that book. So I think that’s a really good piece of advice.


Alastair McDermott  45:12

Yeah. Okay. Okay. Really interesting. Well, I’m gonna ask you two last questions which are about books. Do you have a particular favorite business book or nonfiction book?


Melissa G. Wilson  45:21

Yes, I would definitely have to say, you know, because Tom’s book is so iconic. And he’s all about humaneness. That, you know, “Extreme Humanism” is is a brilliant book, a wonderful book to read. And I’m, I have I haven’t read it yet. But Dan Pink’s new book on data is is fascinating me. So I think I’m gonna go get that one. So those would be my two. And


Alastair McDermott  45:52

“Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism” by Tom Peters.


Melissa G. Wilson  45:55

Yeah. “Excellence Now: Extreme humanism”. And then you–what was the second question?


Alastair McDermott  46:00

What about fiction books? Do you read fiction at all?


Melissa G. Wilson  46:03

Yes. Oh, of course. So so I’m a Mark Twain fan. Love Twain. And they also have a movie out by the people who did Downton Abbey. And it’s called “The Gilded Age”. So I and I have a master’s in English. So I’m like, I’ve got to go back and read that book. So I would have put Twain at the top of the list.


Alastair McDermott  46:24

Right. So do I get this right? You’re a master’s in English. You’ve you’re also a lawyer. And he works in social science. Have you got


Melissa G. Wilson  46:33

Yeah, that but sociology and social social work were my double major undergrad.


Alastair McDermott  46:39

Right. Okay. Well, you really bought into the lifelong learning thing anyway.


Melissa G. Wilson  46:44

That’s right.


Alastair McDermott  46:46

Melissa, where can people find you online if they’re interested in finding out more about you? Can you just give a quick elevator pitch on what you do so they know what, what they’re going to get?


Melissa G. Wilson  46:57

Sure. I and I love to talk to people, you know, I’m not trying to pitch what I do. I take on maybe 15 authors a year, but there are people that I help just because they need help, and they’re wonderful. And I need a lot of people and happy to talk. Net Worlding. Net and then world and then ing dot com. And there’s like I said, people sign up for the newsletter, you get three free books like I come out with something now every week. I’m always looking for the cutting edge. So and check out to just see that series grow. My my goal is to make it to at least 100 mark within the next couple years.


Alastair McDermott  47:41

Cool. We will link to all of those and your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Melissa G. Wilson, thank you so much for being with us.


Melissa G. Wilson  47:48

Well, thank you. It’s been such a pleasure, appreciate the time.


Alastair McDermott  47:55

If you would like some help with the journey to authority, I have a free webinar available at And there’s a link to that in the show notes. You can sign up for the live webinar. If you can’t make it there will be a replay available. It is purely an informational webinar. There’s nothing for sale. It is just a webinar to help you take that next step on the journey to authority. I’ll have some free downloads and tools to help you with that available if you sign up. So that’s at


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