The launch of my latest venture: Ripples Media

I hope everyone is gearing up for the holiday season! For our Atlanta friends, we just took our family to ice skate at Atlantic Station and to see the lights at the Horse Mansion (yeah, I’d never heard of it before either). Both were lots of fun and highly recommended!

TL;DR

I got frustrated and quite frankly disappointed with the traditional publishing world and decided to start my own publishing and media company called Ripples Media. With this email, I’m officially launching the company, and I’m beyond excited to announce our first non-Hilimire author: The Weaponry Founder and CEO, Adam Albrecht!

His book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?, is brilliant, inspiring, and so, so funny. I really hope you consider buying it (plus it would make a great gift during this holiday season; I’m giving it to several people). It really is a special book and I’m so proud to have been a tiny part of helping Adam bring it to life.

Oh, and you can hear more about the book and why Adam wrote it on this podcast episode we just recorded!

With Adam being our first new author, we’re excited about the first six months of 2022 when we will help these amazing leaders publish their first books: Alex Gonzalez, Jo Ann Herold, and Michael McCathren. 🔥Now for those that want to follow along, below is the story of how we got here…

My (failed) attempt to find a publisher

Way back in 2018, after I finished the initial draft of my first book (The 5-Day Turnaround), I started the process of looking for a publisher. Going into this process, I thought it’d be tough, but not impossible, to find a publisher that would be interested in taking me on. After all, I had built and sold two businesses, had been writing a fairly successful blog for a decade, had a decent amount of followers, and gosh darn it, people like me :) I kinda thought I’d be interviewing them.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not one publisher even responded to my outreach. I then started reaching out to authors to find out how they did it. About half told me that self-publishing was the way to go, the other half advocated for a traditional publisher, but they all said the same thing: you can’t get a publisher without an agent.

So that’s why the publishers never got back to me (I naively thought). As you might expect, I then set about looking for an agent. In this case, only about 90% of them failed to get back to me, so things were looking up. Of the 11 that responded, ten of them turned me down flat, but one agent, after hearing my pitch (and maybe seeing the desperation in my eyes), decided to sign me.

We worked together on a book proposal, which she then sent out to all the major publishers and a dozen or so smaller shops. And whether it was through a short, concise email, or an actual phone conversation, they all said the same thing:

“We don’t think you can be a successful author.”

(If you can believe it, the thing I heard the most was, “You’re from Atlanta, and we don’t think that’s a big enough market.” Say what?)

One publisher actually said that he liked my premise, but first needed to believe I could sell 10,000 books on my own. (I know, why would I need a publisher if I could sell 10,000 books on my own?) So I tried to convince him that sure, I could sell 10,000 books on my own, but he wasn’t buying it (literally). He then said, “Here’s what I’ll agree to. You buy 10,000 copies of your books from me at $12.50 a book, and you try to sell them on your own, and I’ll take you on as a client.”

Hold up a minute. You want me to write YOU a check for $125,000 in order for you to take me on as a client?! So I guess an advance is out of the question?

Obviously, I didn’t take that deal from him. And, as you can imagine, the entire process turned me off a great deal. I thought back to my earlier conversations with authors that had used a traditional publisher and they all said essentially the same thing: they’ll help you produce a great-looking book, but they aren’t going to do much to help you sell it. You still have to do all the hard work to market and sell your book.

(I should point out that I do have friends who have had very successful book launches with publishers, and it can work out great. But my prevailing thought is that the industry overall is outdated and ill-equipped to sell books these days (everyone I spoke with was easily in their 60’s, and I doubt they’d know a Snap Chat from a hashtag), and even if they do take you on (assuming you’re from an important city like New York or L.A.), they’ll do little to help you sell books…until your book takes off from your own efforts. In which case, why do you need them?)

When an unstoppable entrepreneur meets an immovable object

It didn’t take me long to realize that I simply needed to find some experts and self-publish. Only, I knew that having a publisher on the jacket of my book would help certain people take it more seriously (conferences, press, my mom…kidding). So I decided to start my own publishing company for that reason, thinking that at least it would appear that I have a publisher. (I’ve never lied about self-publishing, but I can’t help it if people judge a book by its cover.) 😉

My team at Dragon Army (and some crafty contractors we found) helped me figure out how to publish the first book, and then in 2019 something unexpected happened. Dragon Army acquired a brand and content agency called Watchword Brand, and Rachelle Kuramoto and her team became dragons. What I did not know was that a service offering that the Watchword team provided for clients was book editing.

In 2020 I wrote my second book, The Crisis Turnaround, and suddenly I had an internal team that was very, very good at all of this. That book was published much more efficiently, and we were able to use the learnings from my first book and Rachelle’s team to do a much better job marketing it.

It was around this time that I started hearing from some people I knew who wanted to write books, and they sounded like me back in 2018. Unsure even how to approach the process, and unclear about the benefits of publishing vs. self-publishing.

Rachelle and I started talking about the possibility of taking what we were then calling Ripples Media (originally I called the publishing company Ripples of Hope Publishing, but we ultimately opted for the more concise and less limiting Ripples Media) and making it an actual publishing company. You know, one that didn’t only publish books written by yours truly.

The idea

As we brainstormed (hat tip to Alex Gonzalez for a lot of help with the strategic direction of this) we realized that we knew how to produce books that were of a high quality and well-written. And, wait, don’t we run a marketing agency?! It was our belief that the traditional way of publishing was too ‘old-school’ and that today, the way to properly promote a book is a combination of the following:

  • Promote the author (personal branding, writing counsel, and basically anything else the author needs to bring their words to life)
  • Maximize current media channels (social media, word of mouth, podcasts, newsletters, etc.)
  • Secure speaking opportunities for our authors to share their awesome-sauce
  • And most important: Build a community with and around our authors

We know how to do all of those things, and pretty darn well. But it’s the community aspect that we’re most excited about. Imagine a collective of authors who support each other, rooting each other on and cross-promoting each other when a new book comes out. We also have visions of putting on our own Ripples Media annual event where we bring the community together and all of our authors speak.

We’re definitely still in the ‘wet clay’ stage of forming the business, but if there was ever an industry that was ready for disruption, I believe it’s the book publishing industry.

Introducing our first (non-Hilimire) author: Adam Albrecht!

Adam and I got to know each other when my first company, Spunlogic, was acquired by Halyard Capital back in 2008. Halyard acquired the agency where Adam was a creative leader a few months earlier, and it wasn’t long before I decided that this was a guy I wanted to be friends with.Fast-forward almost 15 years, and we’ve become good friends with a bunch of similar traits: both college athletes, both entrepreneurs, both just about the most optimistic people you’ll meet, and now, both authors!

I can’t say enough about how great What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? is. I know that, after Adam’s wife, I’m probably the most biased person in the world to be saying this, but it’s truly a terrific book. If you listen to our podcast recording talking about the book even for a few minutes, you’ll see what I mean.

Do me (and you) a favor and grab a copy of Adam’s book. He actually gives his personal phone number in the book so if you don’t like it, you can call him directly and tell him :)

I hope you’re happy,

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