As a person and a writer, you want your words to catch people’s attention. Sam Horn is here to offer some tips on how to be an intriguing communicator.
Sam Horn is the CEO of the Intrigue Agency. She helps people create respectful, collaborative, one-of-a-kind communications and projects that add value for all involved. Her books – including POP!, Tongue Fu!®, ConZentrate, What’s Holding You Back? and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been endorsed by dozens of thought leaders including Stephen Covey, Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, and Miki Agrawal.
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Sam Horn, Kevin Tumlinson
Kevin Tumlinson 00:02
Well, hello, everybody, thank you for tuning in. If you’re tuning in live, welcome. Make sure that you ask questions in the comments. I’m just gonna put that out there now, because I’ll probably forget to mention it later. But we are chatting … I am for one very intrigued by our guest today, we’re talking to Sam Horn. And she’s got a litany of credits to her name that she’d given me just before we started, and I apologize, Sam, I don’t remember a single one of them. But welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital.
Sam Horn 00:35
Thanks so much, Kevin. I’m really looking forward to sharing some actionable insights with listeners and viewers. And by the way, if you don’t already have pen and paper, I hope you do and get ready to ink it when you think it because we’re gonna rock and roll with ideas you can use immediately.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:51
Homework, okay, that’s the good stuff. And that’s the best kind of homework because you’re actually telling people, you’re giving people some practical advice for what to do. And mostly in terms of story, right? We’re aiming mostly at craft at this point.
Sam Horn 01:06
Well, Kevin, you told me that we have want to be writers, we have working writers, we have aspiring authors, we have already published authors. And so I agree with Carrie Fisher. Some of you may know that I helped start and write the Maui Writers Conference, which Writer’s Digest called the best writers conference in the world. And our authors only agreed on one thing. Let’s see, Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes, would get up and say, you have to write first thing in the morning and Dave Barry would get up and say I’m a night owl, I didn’t get going until six. And Terry Brooks would say you have to work with an outline. And Elizabeth George would get up and say, I never work with an outline. The only thing they agreed on, ink it when you think it. We make our living from our mind. So get out that paper, we’re gonna rock and roll.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:54
That’s good advice. The modern equivalent of that could be, I guess, tap it when you think about it. I don’t know, that didn’t rhyme very well. If you’ve got your phone, you can use your phone. I’m a big advocate by the way, Sam, you probably don’t know this about me yet. But you’ll get there. I have the write anywhere philosophy. And I have a whole story about writing in a line at Disney World. And I have other stories that involve using the phone. So big fan of using your phone.
Sam Horn 02:23
Our life is our lab, and the world needs our material. And so when we use it, we don’t lose it. And when we jot those thoughts when they’re hot, then we have a voice that is clear and alive. So looks like we all believe the importance of this.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:43
Yes. So what’s your method on that? Let’s talk about that for a second.
Sam Horn 02:47
And I really do mean this, because Carrie Fisher said, one of our favorite keynoters at my writers conference. I introduced her and she came up and she took the stage. She grabbed the lectern. And she paused for the longest time. And then she said, instant gratification takes too long. So you’ve carved out time from your day to be here. So please put a vertical line down the center of your notes right now. And here’s why. It’s that people say, Sam, how does your brain work? Well, I juxtapose everything. I think it’s the clearest way to make complex ideas crystal clear. So at the top of the left hand column put infoobesity. We are not going to have infobesity in writing our books, marketing our books, appearing on podcasts, et cetera. Over on the right, please put intrigue. And Kevin, if you would like, we’re going to we’re going to share real life ideas that you can replace infobesity with intrigue, so people’s eyebrows go up and they care about what you care about.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:46
I love it. Yes, I’m on board. Let’s do that. So what’s our first step for avoiding …, infobesity? Is that what you said? I didn’t write it down. I thought it and I didn’t ink it.
Sam Horn 04:00
Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do. Now I tell a story. And then I give the key word and then what we can do instead and unpack it so that you can replicate it and apply it in your life. So the very first year, the Maui Writers Conference, we did something that was unprecedented. You could jump the chain of command, you could pitch your screenplay to Ron Howard. You could pitch your novel to the SVP of Random House. And so I watched the pitches and after that first day, a woman came out with tears in her eyes. And I went over I said, are you okay? And she said, I’m not okay. I just saw my dream go down the drain. And I said, well, what happened? And she said, I put my 300-page manuscript on the table and the agent took one look and said, I don’t have time to read all that. Tell me in 60 seconds what it’s about and why someone would want to read it. And I talked with Bob Loomis that night and Bob Loomis is just a legend in the publishing industry. He published Woody Allen, Maya Angelou, etc. Tom Clancy. And I said, what is going on? He said, Sam, we’ve seen thousands of proposals. We make up our mind in the first 60 seconds whether something is commercially viable. So over on the left, please put on and on. Because Paula Poundstone said, we need a 12 step group for non-stop talkers. We’re going to call it on and on anon. So over on the left, put on and on. And over on the right, put 60-second sound bites. In our call today, I’m going to teach you how to craft 60-second sound bites that are so intriguing, they get people’s eyebrows up, and they want to know more. Okay, so shall we do the first one? Okay, over on the left put tell. Over on the right, put ask. Now quick little story, and then we’ll unpack it once again. So you have step by step ideas that you can apply to your book, and it’s marketing and promotion, your book signings, etc. So tell. Haven’t we been told to tell people what we’re going to tell them, and then tell them, and then tell them what we told them. Right? That’s a prescription for being a bore, snore or chore. So here’s what we’re going to do on the right. One of the things I do, I was pitch coach for Springboard enterprises. And we’ve helped entrepreneurs generate $26 billion in funding. This is Robin Chase of Zipcar. Gail Goodman of constant contact. So one of my clients came to me and she said, Sam, I got good news. And I got bad news. I said, what’s the good news? She said, I’m speaking in front of a roomful of investors. I said, that’s fantastic news. So what’s the bad news? She said, I’m going at 2:30 in the afternoon, and I only have 10 minutes. She said, Sam, you can’t say anything in 10 minutes. And I said, Kathleen, you don’t have 10 minutes, they will have heard 16 other presentations at that point. If you don’t hit the ground running, you’re going to lose them at hello. Well, Kevin, this is the 60-second opening we came up with that helped her win millions in funding, and she was business week’s most promising social entrepreneur of that year. You ready to hear the 60-second opening?
Kevin Tumlinson 07:16
I am more than ready, I’m gonna deconstruct this for my own purposes.
Sam Horn 07:21
Okay. So Kathleen Calendar, CEO of Pharma Jet, said, “Did you know there are 1.8 billion vaccinations given every year? Did you know up to a third of them are given with reused needles? Did you know we’re spreading and perpetuating the very diseases we’re trying to prevent? Imagine if there were a painless one-use needle for a fraction of the current cost. You don’t have to imagine it. We’re doing it.” And she’s off and running. Are your eyebrows up, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 07:57
Oh, yeah, I’m already on board. Yeah.
Sam Horn 08:00
Let’s unpack this. First, what was her before? Her before was infobesity. When people said. what does Pharma Jet do or what is your book about or tell me about your book, she would say, it’s a medical delivery device for subcutaneous inoculations. It’s a what? See, aren’t our eyebrows crunched up? If people’s eyebrows are crunched up, it means they don’t get it. And if they don’t get it, we don’t get it because it means they’re confused. And confused people don’t say yes. So she got eyebrows up by asking three “did you know” questions about the problem she was solving, about the issue she was addressing, about the need she was meeting. So after this call, you can go online and you can put right into search, what are startling statistics about blank? What topic are you writing about? What demographic are you writing to? What issue are you a passionate about? Up will come things even you don’t know. And if you don’t know them, your readers won’t know them. And the quickest way to get people’s attention is to introduce something they don’t know. Plus, you’ve turned a monologue into a dialogue in 20 seconds. Want to know the next step? Write down the word imagine, because imagine pulls people out of their preoccupation because they’re picturing your point. They are seeing what you’re saying. So they’re not distracted. They’re fully lit up. And now hook the word imagine with three benefits of your book, or three benefits of your message or your blog or your essay or your white paper. So go back to Kathleen to give an example. She put herself in the mind of her decision makers. Who are your decision makers? What are they thinking about? What are they worried about? What do they want? What do they wish for? Well, what her decision makers were thinking about were those reused needles. So she made it one use. They’re thinking about painful inoculations. We made it painless. And every decision maker thinks about money. So we made it a fraction of the current cost. Do you see how in a world of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah infobesity, we distilled into one succinct sentence. So who wouldn’t want that? Ready for the third step?
Kevin Tumlinson 10:26
I am, but I got a quick question from someone. They’re asking. This is Jenny and definitely not Jeremy. And that’s an in joke between me and her. Which side was she supposed to put imagine on?
Sam Horn 10:38
Well, we are infobesity. And tell us on the left, and ask is on the right. Did you know is the first step. Ask three did you know questions that go to the problem, the issue, etcetera. Still under this three-step process over on the right, use the word imagine with three benefits of your book. So ask three did you know questions. Next, say imagine this and this and this, and people are going, sounds good. And then next step, still under this whole 60-second opening, say you don’t have to imagine it. We’re doing it. Or you don’t have to imagine it, my book will show you how. You don’t have to imagine it, in this essay … And now come in with your precedents and your evidence to show that this isn’t pie in the sky and speculative, it’s not an empty claim. Here’s a testimonial from a reader. You know, here is who you spoken to on this issue. Here’s your educational background to position you as an expert. Now Jack Welch said, if you don’t have a competitive edge, don’t compete. I think if we don’t have a competitive edge, we can’t compete. This will give you a competitive edge. Because in a world where people have goldfish attention spans. Goldfish, nine seconds, human beings, eight seconds, you hit the ground running, you earn attention and respect and intrigue. And at the end of this 60 seconds, people will want to read more, want to listen or watch more. That means you got what you care about in their mental door.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:14
Yeah, I’ve got to tell you by the way that I was a copywriter in the marketing world for many many years, and this is the very similar to the process that we would use to craft like a good tagline or an eye-catching headline or something like that. So this is all very useful. So what are some of our next steps then? What do we look for next?
Sam Horn 12:40
A tagline. So over in the left hand column, please put forgettable, because in a world of infobesity most blah blah blah goes in one ear out the other, goes in one eye out the other. Over on the right, please put repeatable and retweetable. So how, instead of our content being forgettable, how could it be repeatable and retweetable? Well, under repeatable and retweetable please put AIR, because we’re going to talk about how to create airtight sound bites. So A is alliteration. And Kevin you were talking about being a copywriter. You know that alliteration, words that start with the same sound make us instantly eloquent, make our language lyrical. So now listen to these words: bed, toilet and shower. Best purchase, dirt vacuum, Rolls Jaguar, kind of clunky, right? No, just rearrange the words so they start with the same sound. Bed Bath and Beyond. Dirt Devil, Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts. So if you’re thinking eh, okay, it’s wordplay. What the heck? No, it’s word profits. I’ll give you example. Kevin, do you drink coffee by any chance?
Kevin Tumlinson 13:57
Do I? Yes.
Sam Horn 13:58
Now have you ever had one of those cups of coffees and you put one of those cardboard insulating sleeves around them so you didn’t burn your fingers? Okay, well, it’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. It’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. So cardboard insulating sleeves is a commodity, it’s generic. And Jeff Sorenson had a beautiful idea because he didn’t call them cardboard insulating sleeves. Do you know what he called them? Java jackets. He cornered the market in two words. He said people who meant to get in touch with his competitors get in touch with him because they can’t remember the competitor’s name. So now this is not petty. This is pivotal. Look at your chapter titles. Look at look at the rally cry of your book. Look at your website. Look at your Amazon description. And if there is no alliteration, it will go in one ear and out the other because there is no hook on which to hang a memory. Now put down I. AIR. I is for iambic meter. When you put it in a beat, you make it easy to repeat. When you put it in a beat, you make it easy to repeat, because finish these sayings: Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin. Boom, okay. I can’t believe I ate the …
Kevin Tumlinson 15:32
Whole thing? I can’t remember that one. Whole thing?
Sam Horn 15:36
Do you know, those sayings are 50 years old. And yet for many people, they’re still tip of our tongue and top of our mind. Wouldn’t you like your sayings, taglines, on the tip of people’s tongues, the top of their mind, 50 years from now? Las Vegas saying what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas has generated $1 billion in added revenue simply because the tagline associated with their city. When you’re thinking where you’re going to go on your vacation, what’s top of mind because you can repeat it? Boom. That’s the power of what we’re talking about. It is not enough just to write your book. What are you doing to make it memorable, repeatable, retweetable, so people become your brand ambassadors? So shall we go down to R?
Kevin Tumlinson 16:31
if we don’t, we’re wasting our time.
Sam Horn 16:38
Okay, R is for Rhyme. Rhyme is sublime, because it’s remembered over time. Now, the US government was very concerned years ago about injuries in car accidents. So they mounted a multimillion dollar public service campaign, buckle up for safety. Nothing happened, because as Duke Ellington said,it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. So they went back to the drawing board. What did they come up with this time?
Kevin Tumlinson 17:12
Click it or Ticket. That one has personal resonance in the Tumlinson household. I can’t tell the story. But we say that all the time to each other. So that one definitely stuck.
Sam Horn 17:27
You know, Kevin, isn’t it something because, as you say, I don’t know your story. What I do know are the statistics. And the statistics are, compliance went up, injuries and fatalities went down. So folks, once again, this is not petty, this is pivotal. It can save lives. And it can save the life of your book. Because I’m guessing that you spent months or years on your project. And when you get it out in the world, you don’t want it to be out of sight, out of mind. You want it to stay in sight, in mind. And this is following up on something Gary Marshall said. Did you see the movie Pretty Woman by any chance?
Kevin Tumlinson 18:08
I might have noticed it, yeah.
Sam Horn 18:11
Well, Gary Marshall was the director and he said something so profound at Maui Writers Conference. I remember it as if he said it this morning. He said, Hollywood directors can predict when their movies will make money based on one thing. You know what it is? Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard, word for word. Because see if they walk out saying, make my day, show me the money, I’ll be back. When someone says, seen any good movies? They’re talking about your movie because they remembered, they can talk about it in a way that motivates other people to go. So not only are they taking your movie viral, they become brand ambassadors for you. So authors, I’m talking to you right now. Look at the cover copy on your book. Can people repeat anything they just read word for word? Look at your Amazon copy. Look at your intro. Look at your first page. Are you using alliteration and iambic meter and rhyme so that something resonates with people, it pops off the page. It’s sticky. It stays in people’s minds. So when someone says, so what are you reading? They’re talking about your book. They’re taking your book viral and they’re becoming your brand ambassador.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:30
Yes. I remember, early days I used to write science fiction. And I did an omnibus of one of my series and the tagline I came up with was, “Get your ship together.” That one really stuck. People still quote that one to me today and I haven’t written sci fi in years.
Sam Horn 19:48
So Kevin, think about the context. Because, you know, when we’re an author, we just get so much advice, and people tell us you got to do that and you got to do that. And sometimes we don’t know which is going to be worth our time, mind and dime, right? It’s like, well, that might cost money. And is that going to be an ROI, a payoff for me? I’m telling you right now, if you put your eggs in this basket, if you care more about the crafting of your language, and you make it repeatable and retweetable, you are taking responsibility for the success of your work so that it is top of mind, and people are still talking about you months and years from now.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:31
Yes, that’s exactly right. And what I think people need to realize is that is, this is marketing. This is a form of marketing, that you’re making your ideas sticky. That’s the same way. But you’ve got more, I sense more.
Sam Horn 20:51
Am I so predictable, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 20:55
Not predictable, I just can feel the vibe of more coming from you.
Sam Horn 21:02
Well, next, we got another column. Over on the left, please put explain. And over on the right, please put example. And whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, this can once again be a determinant about whether people care about your characters, whether they care about your book, or your blog, or your essay or whatever. So when people say what’s your book about, whatever you do, do not explain it. Explanations are infobesity, they’re often confusing. People crunch up their eyebrows, we go on and on, the more we talk, the less interested they are. So here’s what we say instead. Now once again, the story and then we’ll unpack it. I was reading the Washington Post two years ago, and I saw an article by Shankar Vedantam. He does the brain podcast on NPR and is a brilliant scientist. And he was talking about an oil tanker that had caught fire 800 miles off the coast of Hawaii. A cruise ship happened to be going by and was able to rescue the 11 people on board. And the captain gave a press conference when they got him back to Hawaii, and he talked about how grateful he and his crew were to be rescued. All he can think about is his dog Hotget that got left behind abandoned on that tanker. Well, that press conference went viral. And money started pouring in from around the world, $5, $500, $5,000. The US Navy changed the exercise area of the Pacific fleet to search 50,000 square miles for that drifting oil tanker. They found it. They sent a C130 to fly low to see if there’s any signs of life. Here’s this brown and white blur racing up and down the deck of a tanker. They mount a quarter of a million dollar rescue mission to get that dog, and they are able to safely bring Hotget back to Hawaii. But now what’s the point? Here’s the point. Why did people from around the world mobilize to save one dog when there are thousands of people in their own cities and states and countries going without food, water and shelter? It’s because of something called the empathy telescope. And the empathy telescope says we can put ourselves in the shoes of one person, we cannot put ourselves in the shoes of many. We can put ourselves in the shoes of an individual, we cannot put ourselves in the shoes of an idea. So here’s my question. What’s your dog on a tanker story? Because I just helped a lot of my clients go to Kauai Writers Conference. And there’s this opportunity to meet agents and editors, decision makers, Hollywood directors, Academy Award winners, etc. And for many of them before we work together, and I did the pitch shop, if someone says, what’s your book about? People would start talking and they wouldn’t stop and the interest would go away. So what is an example of what your book is about? If you put people in the scene, not of like, well then this happened, this happened, this happened, this happened. Well, here’s the lead character. And then there’s the antagonist and then there’s this sister and then … Nope, you just lost them at Hello. One individual, put us in this view of that one individual and their hero’s journey, quest or the problem they have, or the catastrophe, or what they want. Put us in the heart and soul and seeing of one person, tell the story from their point of view, put us in the scene so that we can care about your characters. What are your thoughts about that, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 25:04
Well, first of all, I am very relieved that the story with the dog had a happy ending. I’m not alone, by the way, others are commenting about that in the comments. So what I’m not doing is, I’m not writing things down, because I want to be focused on what you’re saying. But I’m going to actually play this back afterwards so that I can make my own piece of paper with my own columns on it. That’s how potent this is so far.
Sam Horn 25:37
Wonderful. That’s great news.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:39
I don’t want to derail your what you’re saying, but do you have a moment to answer a couple of questions that have popped up? Well, this is one, and Jenny has asked this in a couple of different ways. So I definitely want to get to her question on this one. But can anyone attend the Kauai conference?
Sam Horn 25:56
Absolutely. In fact, David Katz is the founder of CO Writers Conference, and it’s live once a year, however, they have online programs. And Kevin and I were talking about Mark Coker of Smashwords was one of the online guests. Dan Pink, one of the top social scientists of our day, along with Dorie Clark, and you get people who are New York Times bestseller authors, you get the top agents and editors right now, Reese Witherspoon winners, Pulitzer Prize winner, National Book Award winners, and they all reverse engineer their process. How did they get their book deal? Or how do they turn a serious topic into a page-turner? Or how do they organize their thoughts? How do they do their research? In fact, we’re going to talk about James Rollins in just a moment.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:44
I have a note, you made me take a note, I put a note up.
Sam Horn 26:48
So it’s Kauai Writers Conference. And I don’t recommend things unless I’m 100% about them. I really believe in what David Katz has created there as the founder, and every single faculty member that I met was genuine in their commitment to opening the curtain to what it is they do to become a fully paid professional writer that is earning a good living doing what they love, and helping you do the same. So I really hope you check it out.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:21
Excellent. Now the next couple are not questions as much as they are comments that I thought you might appreciate. This one from Phil says, “I tuned in for a few minutes to take a break between projects and within seconds was scrambling for pen and paper.” I think there’s probably a lot of folks in the comments who are doing the same. And then Mary says, “I think I just came up with an alliteration for my series. Going to try it with ad copy to go with a book trailer I already have.” So excellent. So you’re already making an impact, Sam. Thanks for that.
Sam Horn 27:58
You know, Katharine Graham of the Washington Post was asked what it was like running a newspaper, and she said, to do what you love and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun? And that’s how we writers feel, we get to do what we love. We know that it matters, and we get to do it with people we enjoy and respect. Does it get better than that?
Kevin Tumlinson 28:18
Right. No, it does not. And that’s been a motivation for me for sure. Both in as an author with a reader community, but also, as part of this writer community. You know, it’s been amazing to just encounter people that are impacted by what you say and do. I interrupted your flow a little. So I hope you can get back to it. Or did you want to talk about James Rollins before we move on?
Sam Horn 28:44
Well, let’s do that.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:45
Let’s do that.
Sam Horn 28:47
So on your notes, please put inertia over on the left and over on the right initiative. And the beauty of modeling the many joys of being a writer is that we have autonomy for our career, there are no barriers to entry. Like Kevin and I were saying, Mark Coker and Dan Poynter, who are really at the forefront of this movement of understanding that it is not right or fair for publishers to have the keys to the kingdom, that if you have a story to tell, if you have lessons learned to share, if you have a cause you care about, you have complete opportunity and responsibility to get those out of your head and out into the world because ideas in your head don’t help anyone. And here’s one of our favorite success stories, is that back with Maui Writers Conference, once again, we get something unprecedented. Many agents and editors, excuse me, many authors can go their entire life and never meet an agent or an editor in person. They never have an opportunity to get face to face feedback on their work, to have a golden opportunity to get a deal on the spot. So we offered something called the manuscript marketplace, was a guaranteed look by guaranteed agents and editors. And so there was a veterinarian in Davis, California, and owning his own practice he worked pretty much six days a week, and then there’d be an emergency on the seventh day week. So he’d have to go in. He came home on his 40th birthday, and he sat down. And he was flipping through the TV channels on his birthday, you know, at nine o’clock at night eating a TV dinner. And Tony Robbins comes on. And Tony says, what’s your dream? And if you don’t get off the couch and do something right now to set that dream in motion, it’s never going to happen. To make a decision and not take action is to not make a decision. Well, James made a decision. And he stood up and he walked over to his phone, and he called his local Barnes and Noble. And he asked, do you have a writer support group? And they did at that time. So every Tuesday night, there was James Rollins at his local Barnes and Noble writing his thrillers. And so he submitted two books to the manuscript marketplace. And then he carved time out of his schedule to come. And the very first night he was at the opening reception, and he hears someone behind him talking about the manuscript marketplace. And this individual is saying that he was a judge. And not only does he know who is going to win, he is going to give this person an introduction to his agent and get him a two-book deal, because he was that good. And James Rollins realized, they’re talking about my submissions. Very nice. Well, and James Rollins has what, 127 at least New York Times bestsellers now. And it was because he got out of inertia and into action. And because he made a decision that stories on his laptops aren’t helping anyone. Books in his head aren’t helping anyone. So if you have something that you think might add value, not only do you have the right to write, you have a responsibility to write. Write on.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:02
That’s excellent. That’s very poignant. And it’s something I tell people all the time, it’s the same with marketing too, you know, you have a responsibility to let people know that this book exists that they’re going to love. All right. Well, let’s get back to your columns. I don’t want to run out of time.
Sam Horn 32:20
Now I want to add something that comes from James Rollins, because, Kevin, if you were going to say, of people who are part of your community, would you say two-thirds are fiction and one-third are nonfiction? What would you say?
Kevin Tumlinson 32:33
That’s probably not far off. Yeah.
Sam Horn 32:35
Okay, good. All right. So let’s talk about this, because James Rollins, of course, is a veterinarian, a medical scientist, and he has that left brain logical, academic mind. So what he’s done is he is reverse engineered, what makes a book a best seller? He’s reverse engineered what makes characters likable? And do you know the number one key to a character being likable?
Kevin Tumlinson 33:02
I’m hoping you’ll tell me.
Sam Horn 33:04
Good. Do they have a pet? Do they have a pet? In particular a dog but also a cat, a horse, a potbelly pig, or something. Because what it does is it makes your characters likable, it makes them lovable. And by showing that even if they’re a bad guy, even if they’re a villain, even if they’ve got problems, even if they’ve got flaws, it shows the human condition in a way we relate to them, and we want to keep reading about them. So do your characters have pets? Or if you’re writing nonfiction, are you including taking you know the ID you got while walking your dog or something? Now the number two thing is, do they have quirks? Because think about, whether it’s Janet Evanovich or Michael, the great LA writer, writes about crime in LA, Michael, it’s not Michael Collins. Michael Connelly. Yeah, Michael Connelly, you know, his characters like jazz, or they’re foodies, or something like that, or they drive a convertible Mustang. So you want your characters to be iconic. So what is a quirk? They can recite the lyrics to every song from the 60s or something. So what is it that makes them iconic and quirky in a way once again, you like them. Now the third one, I’ve got skin in this game. Because one of the books I’ve written, had an opportunity to write 10 books and Tongue Fu was written 25 years ago. I just heard from the National Public Library in China. They said it was the number one checked out book in China for the year 2018. It’s in Russian and Chinese and Japanese, in Saudi Arabia, Iran, et cetera. And now here’s the thing. On your notes, please put on the left column words to lose. And over on the right put words to use. And what tongue foo is about, I hope you use in your writing, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, because there are certain words that I believe if we lose these words, we are going to stop unintentionally creating conflicts or resentment or resistance. And normally, I have a whole course on this, I’m just going to give you some of the words. Look at the word but. I hear what you’re saying, but we tried that before, and it didn’t work out. You did a good job on that, but you forgot to do this. I understand, it’s important to you, but … If you’re using the word but with your characters, what is happening is that you are creating dissonance there, because it’s a shutdown word. People feel they’re not being heard. And with the best of intentions, if characters are using the word but, we are not liking that character, because they’re actually creating this impact of like, well, I know you put a lot of time and effort in on that, but … Another one is the word should. You should have been more careful, you should have called if you are going to be late, you should have let me know you didn’t understand that. Should is a scolding word. Once again, it’s a domination submission, it’s a top-down word. And once again, people are distancing themselves from your characters, if they’re using the word should. And the next is, you’ll have to, you need to. Well, you need to be more careful. Well, you need to coordinate this with Bob. That’s an ordering word, and especially in a relationship, the romance goes out of a relationship. It’s well you need to pick up the dog today. Well, you need to stop by and pick up the kids, it actually causes affection to go out of a relationship. And how about just one more? Oh, by the way, what do you do instead? So instead of but, it’s and. I hear what you’re saying, and we tried that before. Instead of you should have been more careful, next time please keep in mind … So we’re coach instead of a critic. And we’re shaping behavior instead of shaming it. Instead of ordering people around, you know, you need to get gas in the car today. Could you please get gas in the car today? So there’s courtesy instead of commands. And here’s, Kevin, are you a parent by any chance?
Kevin Tumlinson 37:12
I’m not officially a parent. Unofficially to the entire writing community, I am their parent.
Sam Horn 37:20
Write that down. We’re gonna be getting in touch with Kevin and ask him for the keys to the car.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:27
I’m cutting all of your allowances, just so you know.
Sam Horn 37:32
So here’s one, as a parent, that will resonate. And once again, if you are writing about characters who are parents, or are in a love relationship, if this word is being used unconsciously, what is actually happening is it’s alienating readers from that character. So it just put down the words in left column can’t because. And let’s talk about Mom, can I go out and play with my friends? Well, no, you can’t because you haven’t done your homework yet. Mom, can I watch the TV? No, you can’t because you haven’t done your chores. And then we usually start stacking, you know the rules around here, that TV doesn’t go on until those chores are finished. How many times do I have to tell you? When are you going to start listening to me? Over on the right put yes, as soon as. Or yes, right after. Yes, you can watch TV, soon as you do your homework. You know, finish your math, let me have a look at it. And then you can. Yes, you can play with your friends. As soon as you do your chores, pick up your room. And whether you’re dealing with customers, whether you’re dealing with family members, whether you’re dealing with employees, or whether you’re dealing with your characters, is that James Rollins talks about whether people like a book, there has to be at least one character they like, even when you have villains and lots of bad guys and people who are, you know, criminals or whatever. There’s got to be one caring, consistent character you like. And make sure that character is using these words to use instead of words to lose, so that they continue to care about this character. And your readers will continue to turn the pages as long as there’s one person who’s likable instead of using these off-putting words.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:12
Just don’t put too much space between saying yes, and then the rest of the …. Yes … When you finish your homework that’s how you cause resentment. All right, what’s next? I feel like we can’t get enough of this. Everybody in the comments is very excited about all this, by the way. So several people promising to play it back later so that they can pay closer attention and keep up.
Sam Horn 39:45
I’m so glad Kevin. You and I talked about, we already talked about Katherine Graham, is that I’ve had the privilege of not just being a writer and a speaker, having an opportunity to work with people on their books, on their TED Talks. As I mentioned, Richard Branson’s New Now Leaders brings me in to work with their project managers, NASA brings me in to work with them, South by Southwest, etc. And so when I have an opportunity to share what I’ve learned with others, and I know they’re going to run with it and benefit others, add even more value. Well, that’s a rising tide opportunity. And I really appreciate it. So thanks for your comments. And so let’s go ahead, let’s put down No on the left, and let’s put Yes on the right. And now what about whether you’re going to pitch your project and you’re going to ask as someone to represent you, you’re going to ask someone to do a book signing for you, you’re going to ask someone to buy your book, and you anticipate the answer is going to be no. Well, wouldn’t it be nice ethically to be able to turn a no into a yes? So once again, a quick story. And then we’ll unpack step by step how we can ethically turn a no into a yes. So I had a client who was going to be pitching the CTO of the London Olympics. And I said, Mike, how much time do you have? And he said, I have an hour. I said, Mike, you don’t have an hour. Put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker. What is he thinking? And Mike thought about it for a moment. And he said, he’s probably thinking, I don’t have time for this, we’re 212 days out from the Olympic Games. I said, then you say that. So step number one of turning a No into Yes. Put yourself in the shoes of your decision makers. What are they thinking? Why will they say no? Why will they say they can’t afford it? Why will they say, I get asked this all the time, why will they say well, I tried that before and it didn’t work out very well. Say it first. Because if we don’t say it first, they’re not listening, they’re waiting for us to stop talking so they can tell us why it won’t work. I said, now we’re going to use the word and then the second step is to use the word And. You say I imagine you might be thinking, we never say I know what you’re thinking because that’s presumptuous isn’t it? So you may be thinking, I imagine you might be thinking, and then plug in why they don’t want to do this. Now be sure to use the word And, because And is a bridge. But blocks, And bridges. And now ask for and take less time than you than they expect, ask and take less time than they expect. And here’s why. Richard Branson said time is the new money. I think time is the new trust. And if we start talking, and if we don’t tell them how long we’re going to take, they’re not listening. They’re resenting they’re thinking, don’t you know, I’m busy? Don’t you know how I’m right in the middle of something? So if we not only tell them how much time we’re going to take, and we tell them, we’re going to take less time than they expect, we just got their eyebrows up. They are favorably impressed with us, and predisposed to like what they hear afterwards. So Mike said to the CTO, I can only imagine you’re 212 days out from the London Olympics, you’re thinking, I don’t have time for this. And that’s why I’ve condensed my one-hour pitch into 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, if you have other questions, if you’d like to continue the conversation, I welcome it. If you have higher priorities, you will have our information and you’re welcome to get back in touch. Now here’s the thing, Mike said, Sam, there’s no way I can get it down to 10 minutes. I said, Mike, don’t you understand? If you take more than 10 minutes, not only is he not listening, he is just waiting for an opportunity to say no, because you’re taking him away from his priorities. So furthermore, if you always get known for taking less time, for putting a sock in it, they will always take your phone calls, they will always show up to your meetings, they will always respond to your emails. And one last point is, make moot their objection. So if they say, well, we’d love to have you for a book signing but we usually only have book signings by publish authors, by major publishers, authors. You never argue, well, I know but … No, you say, I understand why you normally only have book signings by published authors. And I’ll put cheeks in the seats. Let’s pick a time where you normally do not have much traffic in the store. And I promise that we’ll have at least 30 people in the audience who will buy books. You just made it a win for them. You pick the time that’s low traffic, you’re going to have 30 people in the store all buying books, why would they say no to that? So why won’t they want to do it? And you get creative and come up with a way to remove that objection so that you can turn a no into a willing and a happy and a mutually beneficial yes.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:03
I like all of that. One of the things I like about, you were talking about earlier condensing down and saying, look, I know I’ve got an hour, but I’m only going to take 10 minutes. And you tell me if you want to talk more, like you’re basically putting the ball in their court and saying, you know, why don’t you come to me? And once they’re engaged that way, psychologically they’re there in. I mean, they’re probably going to say yes, there’s a higher likelihood of yes.
Sam Horn 45:29
Kevin, you really pulled out a crucial psychological win of this. Amy Poehler said, I get a little itchy if I don’t have some kind of control. And this is what I noticed the first year at Maui Writers Conference, is that people knew that these people had the power to give them a deal on the spot. So they would rehearse their pitch to death. 10-minute pitch, tell me about your book, talk, talk, talk, talk. And often these agents and editors are smart, they would get it in like 60 seconds. And they would want to ask the question, well, what’s the status of the manuscript? Have you published another book before? And they would want to ask you a question. And guess what? The person would keep talking because they hadn’t finished their pitch.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:17
Breathe and let them have a chance to ask their questions.
Sam Horn 46:23
Because who’s in control, right? And it’s like, you know, my mom used to say, whoever does the most talking has the most fun. So the sooner we put a sock in it, the sooner they’re in control of the conversation. They’re asking what they want. They’re in charge of the time. They’re hearing what’s relevant, and what’s going to help them say yes, it’s just smart on so many levels.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:44
Exactly. And the unspoken part of that, by the way, is you want the person whose job, who you’re hoping to give you a yes, to have the most fun in the conversation. So, speaking of which, unfortunately for me, and for everybody, we are out of time. And so I really wish we had like another 45 minutes or so. But I want to respect your time. But thank you so much for being a part of the show. I went and grabbed a URL. I hope this is the right one. I have SamHorn.com. Is that is that going to work for you?
Sam Horn 47:19
You bet. You can find my TEDx talk and articles and blogs there, a whole lot my books. So I hope you check it out. And I hope you subscribe to our newsletter, because we share inspiring success stories and actionable insights and we never ever spam. So hope you continue to stay connected.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:37
You know I definitely will, Sam. I’m glad that we had this chance to chat. And I really truly enjoyed this. I can’t wait to play it back and take my own notes. But thank you so much for being a part of the show.
Sam Horn 47:52
You’re welcome. And one last lesson learned with the audience is that in all the years I’ve had an opportunity to help people get their books out of their head and into the world, I have never met any authors who are sorry they wrote their book. I’ve only met authors who are sorry they didn’t write it sooner. Write on.
Kevin Tumlinson 48:12
That’s exactly right. So don’t be somebody who’s sorry for anything. Jump in, do it. Break stuff and move fast. That’s my motto. So thank you again. And to everyone who tuned in, thank you for tuning in. Make sure that you bookmark D2Dlive.com. So you know, you’ll get a little countdown and you’ll see when new episodes are going to be going live. We’re happy to have you there. And we hope that you will continue to tune in every single week for Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital for amazing guests like Sam Horn, and take care of yourselves out there and happy writing. We’ll see you next time.