A book is a live entity. It has a heart and it has momentum. You have to look at it as a living, breathing entity with a purpose and direction — a final, published, official book! That will help you carry the project through to completion when the going gets tough. Taking those two things into consideration, a book really helps reflect, explain, and engage with your readers your heart, your brilliance, and who you are.
Aspart of my series on the “5 Things You Need To Know To Write A Bestselling Book” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruth Klein.
As an award-winning entrepreneur, soul-centered coach and 6-time bestselling author, Ruth Klein harnesses the power of Brand Influencer Positioning to launch her clients beyond their wildest potential.
Both the “Marketing Maven for Business” (The Wall Street Journal) and the “Wayne Dyer of Branding and Marketing” (Oreen Zeitlin, former client), Ruth is a highly sought-after speaker, author, and brand strategist. An international speaker who holds Masters Degrees in Clinical Psychology and Spiritual Psychology, Ruth has been quoted and featured in national and international media, including: O: The Oprah Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Prevention, Chicago Tribune; on all major networks; and has had her books translated into fourlanguages.
Using her Winning Branding Strategies, Ruth’s clients: host PBS specials; commandhigh five-figure international speaking fees; become best-selling authors whose booksbecome a centerpiece of a lucrative career; and have become a $100 million business.Ruth has been a television and print spokesperson for AT&T, AOL, FoodSaver, and3M, among other top brands. As a media expert, red carpet correspondent, and bookand branding strategist, Ruth teaches her clients how to engage and connect with their audiencesauthentically and organically as they reach more people with their message to growtheir businesses and book sales.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I come from a family where I never got to meet any extended family — including grandparents on both sides, and most of my aunts and uncles — because everyone perished in World War II. My mother came from a family of nine (seven children), and she was the only survivor. She never knew anyone from her family. My father came from a family of eleven (nine children). My dad, one of his brothers, and one sister were the only ones to survive Nazi Germany. So growing up, I knew there were so many loved ones in our family whose lights were extinguished far too early. This is something I see all the time, in people all around the world: people who die with their song still in them. The cause doesn’t always have to be traumatic situations like genocide or war, but I see people everywhere who struggle to get their authentic voice out into the world.
It has always been my desire for everyone to sing their song, and it occurred to me many years ago that this is foundationally what I do as an author. My true purpose is to help people find their voice, and connect that to a message, to their story, to their song — literally, story, poem, whatever that might be, and get it out into the world. This is where writing books started for me, because I just have so much to say!
When I was younger, I actually talked and walked in my sleep, my parents said. There’s just so much that I want to share, and I love extrapolating from what is going on, making insights and growing. As I continue to grow and learn, I share that through my books and through my consulting with my clients.
What was (so far) the most exhilarating or fulfilling experience you’ve had as an author?
The most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had (and even I can’t believe it!) was right after I had written my sixth book. Five of my six books have been traditionally published (one was self-published), and this sixth book, De-Stress Diva’s Guide to Life,was traditionally published. It had been 14 years since my first book had come out! I was going to be doing a book signing at the Barnes & Noble on the Third Street Promenade here in Santa Monica where I live.
I happened to be strolling the Promenade one afternoon a week before my book signing. When I passed the Barnes & Noble, I was blown away with what I saw: Barnes & Noble had half the window filled with a picture of me, and all of my books were stacked and available, my newest one front and center. I literally stopped in my tracks, and for the first time saw myself as an author. In fact, I remember thinking, “I’m an author!”
I had always just said I wrote books– it hadn’t yet hit me, viscerally, that I was living as an author. It transformed what I was doing in that moment for my own consulting business because I saw myself through an author’s lens. It still gives me goosebumps to think about that window display and how proudly it reflected all of my effort and hard work over fourteen years!
What was the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience you’ve had as a bestselling author?
When I wrote my first book in the mid-1990s, Where Did the Time Go?(Prime Publishing), I never expected it would be in demand over ten years later, but it was. In 2005, we re-imagined, extended, and re-published Where Did the Time Go? as Time Management Secrets for Working Womenfor Sourcebooks. I knew the exact same amount the day before it was re-released as the day after. But what happened when it hit the shelves in 2005?
It sold like hotcakes! This book took off and was flying off the shelves — and suddenly I was an in-high-demand expert, fielding media requests left and right and with a stream of calls for print, radio, and television interviews. I couldn’t believe it, because I was the same person the day beforemy book flew off the shelves, but suddenly I’m a hotly-requested media expert! Even though it had been an effort over a decade in the making, when you hit something big, the phrase “overnight success” suddenly makes sense! It has been an amazing experience to get to livethat.
Another wild experience was seeing myself in O Magazinewith my book without any advance knowledge. At first, I got a kick out of it — another Ruth Klein who’s a published author, what a coincidence! But when I saw they were talking about me, and my book, I couldn’t believe it — it was completely surreal!
What is the greatest part about being a successful, bestselling author? What is the worst (if anything) part?
I think the best part of being a bestselling author is that it’s so much easier for me to get speaking opportunities and share my message. And writing books is really about sharing our message with the world. So, the more opportunities to do that, the better. It also is so much easier to attract media attention and a following as a bestselling author.
There’s also something very satisfying about being a bestselling author — it’s one thing to be an author with a book, but to take it to the next level and craft something of a very high quality and have it become a bestseller is something different entirely. It brings such gratification and a level of self-confidence that keeps me moving forward. It inspires me on those days when I don’t have the motivation to write or work in the way I need to. Being able to go back and reflect on my past success as a bestselling author quells any lack of motivation or limiting beliefs and brings me back into balance.
Something that is frustrating about being a bestselling author is that today, anyone and everyone can publish a book and be called an author. So many books haven’t been professionally edited or structured, and it has diluted the fabric of quality books. It doesn’t mean the authors aren’t good at what they do or what they have to say isn’t important, it’s that their message gets lost in the quality. When authors come to me frustrated about their book’s lack of success, it’s often because of the execution of the content — not the messenger themselves.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
Perseverance and discipline have had the biggest impact on my success as an author. Finding a routine that works for you and committing to stick to it is the most important thing you can do as a writer, because it’s so easy to waste hours doing nothing but spinning your mental wheels if you’re not setting yourself up for success with your writing.
For me, I tend to do my best writing first thing in the morning. So what my writing session looks like is this: I literally wake up, brush my teeth, and go straight to the office. I’m usually still half-asleep, but I don’t turn anything on, I just get some water and sit down and get writing. I’m in a good zone at that time. I don’t look at my phone, I don’t check emails, and I don’t have anything on to potentially distract me. Removing distractions — being disciplined about it — is key to getting the work done.
The second discipline I have that has contributed to my success is to write a book proposal, every single time, no matter how it’s being published. Of course, to have a traditionally published book you have to have a book proposal, but I always recommend it for anybody writing a book, no matter which publishing route they are taking. Once you have a finalized book proposal, you have a plan for what you’re going to write, so you’re never going to be sitting at your desk trying to figure out what to write next. You just have to look at your proposal, which is an outline of the book, chapters and all, and pick a section or chapter you feel like writing. I always encourage writers to write what they’re drawn to from their proposal in that moment — going with what feels right is what will be easiest, will flow best in that moment, and will help them be productive. Following your gut is so important with writing!
One final tool I use has to do with scheduling. As soon as I get a deadline (self-imposed or from an editor), I schedule my writing sessions. I figure out how many sessions it will take me to complete whatever I’m working on (and a writing session is not a full day, but only about 2–4 hours — it doesn’t need to be more than that! You’ll likely get burned out if you push yourself to write for a longer stretch of time) and then mark off actual days in the calendar that I’ll be in a writing session. In addition, I usually add in about a third extra sessions than I think I need — this way, if something interrupts a session (so helpful if you’re a working mom), or I just don’t have a productive session, I know I have plenty of built-in time to make it up, and the process never has to become rushed or stressful.
Which writer or leader has had the biggest impact on you as a writer?
Deepak Chopra’s 7 Spiritual Laws to Success & Howard Schultz’s books have had a huge impact on me as a writer. I remember when Starbucks first launched and was kicking out family-owned coffee shops around the country — I was not a fan. One day, I was in Santa Barbara, and there wasn’t anything open but a Starbucks, so I went even though I didn’t even like their coffee (I used to think it tasted chalky).
Howard Schultz had just published his first book, Pour Your Heart Into It, and it caught my eye in their store. I picked it up and started reading it right then and there. I read it in two days! I was struck by his leadership, his message, and his story about how he wanted to bring the Italian coffee bar social experience to America. This was before I was an author, and it really hit me how a book can help the audience understand who someone is as a person beyond the business they run or the façade we see of them. His book demonstrated to me the impact of a book and a personal story on a business and brand. I became a big fan of the company, and today, I don’t think the coffee is chalky at all! (In fact, I love the pumpkin spice coffee they have during the autumn.)
Deepak Chopra’s 7 Spiritual Laws to Successwas an interesting one, because I didn’t fully understand the material at the time that I read it, but it rang completely true to me and the overall message and impact stayed with me. Years later, now that I have a Master’s degree in Clinical and Spiritual Psychology, I understand the material better, and I realize how much his work had an impact on me and informed who I was and how I wanted to be in the world early on in my journey.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?
I wrote my first two books within two years of each other. At a critical point at the editing process of each book, some traumatic event happened. The first book, my mother-in-law died, and the second book, my dad had a heart attack. He survived, but it was a scary time for our family.
What happened next? I started associating writing books with something horrible and traumatic happening in my life, so I stopped writing. As much as I wanted to write another book, I was fearful. That’s what the biggest challenge was and can continue to be — fear. Fear and limiting beliefs will stop you in your tracks and be your biggest obstacle to writing.
It took ten years to work through, but as soon as I got past the internal barriers, I wrote four books in four years. Now, I’m still human, and fear will rear its ugly head at times! When that little trauma or fear around something bad happening will bare its little tush at times, I simply thank it for coming, and remind myself it’s a gift for me and my readers to get my books out into the world. You need to have tools for working through your fears — and sometimes they take years to process! But it’s normal, and everyone struggles against them.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?
One thing I learned in my writing career is that I am not an author who will write on assignment for a book or series that is pre-determined. Sometimes, especially if you’re a known expert in a topic, you’ll be offered opportunities to publish or write for projects that are under your name, but for a different “banner” or “label.” These can be good opportunities, but the process will be much different from what it would be if you were writing your own book whose proposal you had crafted and whose vision you are in 100% control of.
I learned firsthand that I’m not an author who will take a for-hire project with a nice advance instead of writing an original book with a share of the royalties. You might think you need the bigger label or banner to get your name out there, but just make sure you understand what parameters and expectations you’ll be under before you get involved. In my case, I ended up having to spend so much of my advance money on hiring someone to properly format the manuscript for me that it really wasn’t worth it for my effort. I learned I won’t do that again!
What are the 5 things you would tell your younger self who was just starting out on their writing journey?
1)The first thing I’d share with my younger self is: don’t be intimidated or think that you don’t have the expertise or information to write a book. Years ago, when I had just started to write, I went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference. It was a fabulous conference, and every year people like Ray Bradbury and Charles Schulz attended, in addition to many other big name, very successful authors. The conference lasted a week, and the very first night, we heard Ray Bradbury’s welcoming remarks. Afterwards, I remember calling my husband and saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, I don’t know why I thought I should come to this, I’m going to come home.” And he said, “No you’re not, we already paid, you’re staying for the week.” That whole week, I had diarrhea, because I didn’t feel I belonged or had what it took to write a book. And now, of course, here I am, six books later, working on my seventh! I had what it took — and so do many others.
2)The second thing I’d share with my younger self is: You HAVE to truly be engaged and on purpose with writing your book. A book is a live entity. It has a heart and it has momentum. You have to look at it as a living, breathing entity with a purpose and direction — a final, published, official book! That will help you carry the project through to completion when the going gets tough. Taking those two things into consideration, a book really helps reflect, explain, and engage with your readers your heart, your brilliance, and who you are.
3)The third thing I’d share with my younger self is: Never give up! Know that you will have your book published. I’ve been very fortunate to have my books published via traditional publishers, and yes, you have to have a strong platform these days in order for that to happen. However, there are somany opportunities today to be published (and, just because you don’t have a strong platform already doesn’t mean you won’t get traditionally published, it just might be harder). A hybrid publisher (a cross between a traditional publisher and a self-publisher) is an option for those who really want a traditionally published book but may not have the platform currently.
Additionally, when you get rejections, you have to remind yourself that it’s just part of the process. I find it helpful to think of all of the famous books I love that have been rejected! The Diary of Anne Frank was pulled out of the rejection pile at Doubleday; Dr. Seuss’s first books were rejected; and my favorite story is about Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, who received 139 rejection letters until finally the 140theditor read it and liked it and published their first book.
And don’t forget — in rejection, there’s information. If people keep rejecting it for the same reason — as in Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen’s case, they thought it was too sweet and nobody would read it — it won’t matter what other people say if you’re truly connected to the authenticity of your message and your book. Feedback can be important, but you can’t be swayed by rejection!
4)The fourth thing I’d share with my younger self is: Once you have published a book, you are now not just a writer, but an author — and the media is interested. The reason I share that is because it took six books before I saw myself and was able to position myself as an author. It took me seeing a huge Barnes & Noble window display, with a picture of me surrounded by my six books, to hit me that I was an author. I don’t know why it took me so long to get that, but it was a game-changing insight, and I wish my younger self had taken hold of that identity sooner! Adopting the identity of an author (which is exactly what you are when you publish a book) will help build confidence in your abilities to sell books and attract the kind of media attention that will help promote your book, your message, and, most importantly, YOU.
5)The fifth and final thing I’d share with my younger self is: You do nothave to wait until your book is published to sell books! This is where having that book proposal comes in handy! You can start pre-selling your book halfway through writing your book. Why? Because at the halfway point, you not only know what the book is about in a much clearer way, but you know exactly who you’re going to market to and how. I would suggest any non-fiction or fiction writer to write a mini book proposal, even if they decide to self-publish or get a hybrid publisher.
Start with a brief summary of what your book is about. Then, do a book positioning section, e.g.: “Generation Why Not®? sits between John Mackie’s Conscious Capitalism and Ariana Huffington’s Thrive.” Include a Marketing Section where you list venues and conferences you’d like to speak at in relation to this book you’re working on — get yourself out there well before the book is published, and once it’s published, sales will be a breeze.
This is a huge paradigm shift for many people, but if I could have told my younger self to start marketing as soon as possible, I really would have benefited from it!
What are you most excited to work on next? Most excited to read next?
I’m in the middle of reading a couple of books right now, so I’m not sure what I’m excited to read next. But I’m most excited to work on my seventh book, Generation Why Not®? It’s all about how your attitude, not your age, is what matters when it comes to creating a purposeful and successful career and life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Today’s business landscape is rife with “perceptual disruptors” who are opening up a clear path to allow innovative entrepreneurs, professionals, and business thought leaders to achieve success in their businesses and lives, driven by attitude, not age. It is a new generation of thinkers with whom I have coined the term Generation Why Not®? and it’s my goal to show everyone how they can be part of this movement!
The goal is to help people, no matter their age, get to the point where they say, “Why not be a CEO? Why not start a new non-profit that serves my school district? Why not run for office and help change my community? Why notdo whatever I want to do?” This mission is the message of my newest book, Generation Why Not®? I want everyone to know they have the power and ability to live the life they’ve imagined for themselves — they just have to get out there and do it!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have two final thoughts: your bestseller will result directly from your own marketing efforts, and don’t ever, ever, ever give up!
Don’t be intimidated by marketing, and it’s never too early to start! I always encourage authors to think creativelywhen they want to get their book out. Think big, think broad. Look at current events; look at holidays; look at trends that your book hits on; find all the different ways the world around you relates to your book. By getting out of the mindset that she hadn’t achieved any success, she was able to free up mental space to think of new ways she could market her book and generate new sales — and she did!
Published your book years ago? No reason you can’t keep selling it! One of my books is turning 25 this year, which is a huge milestone — and the topic (time management) is as relevant as ever! There’s so much to do with that 25-year birthday around marketing, social media, and actionable advice. If the information in your non-fiction book has become obsolete or been updated with new research, update your book and re-release it — you’ll give old readers something to look forward to, and you’ll be able to find new ones as an established expert in your subject area.
Start a book club (both fiction and non-fiction authors can do this) — this keeps you in peoples’ minds as an author who has a book (and keeps you in peoples’ minds as a go-to person for all things book-related, which is another helpful thing as you build your profile as an author). Even if your book isn’t due out for a few months, start the book club as soon as you can and stick with it! You never know who you will speak to or who will decide to use your book in another setting. It really cements you as an author with people in your community.
All books, non-fiction and fiction, have important messages, themes. Many times, several, throughout the book. Again, think creatively: what about starting a mastermind group or mentorship program around some of the themes in your book? Create an online component to your book with additional resources people can download for use in their own lives or in their book clubs and courses. This is creative, it’s informative, it’s fun, it’s meaningful, it’s insightful, and it can act as a very purposeful afternoon or evening.
Finally, whatever it takes, don’t give up! I was working with a client who had a book that was self-published and a bestseller in many categories — she sold over 1,000 books in nine months. Now, most books sell maybe 100–200 copies over the life of the book, but my client was very discouraged by her sales numbers, despite her obvious success. My client was very hard on herself, and when she came to me, she was very close to giving up. Fortunately, I was able to reflect back to her that she had had significant success already — and that was the slight perspective shift she needed to keep going.
It’s helpful to have a mentor or coach who can keep cheering you on from the sidelines, because writing and the work of being an author are often solitary endeavors, and it’s so easy to get discouraged or to fall victim to tunnel vision. Like anything else, it’s critical to have a strong team around you to keep you going when you need it!
Thank you so much for these great insights!