Al Kushner of Superior Mutual: “Doing a few things right early”

Doing a few things right early in the production stage saves time and money later. For example, preparing your manuscript properly at the outset for e-book distribution makes it easy to sell it for the Kindle, iPad and other book readers. Design decisions affect print book distribution too. Be strategic in your book production decisions. […]

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Doing a few things right early in the production stage saves time and money later. For example, preparing your manuscript properly at the outset for e-book distribution makes it easy to sell it for the Kindle, iPad and other book readers. Design decisions affect print book distribution too. Be strategic in your book production decisions.

Book production is complex and involves lots of industry details that can befuddle an amateur. Hire it out so you, the author, can focus on marketing.

As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Al Kushner, a recognized Financial Educator, Author, Speaker and Retirement Specialist. As the Founder and President of Superior Mutual Inc, Al and his team help families and individuals preserve, protect and pass on a lasting legacy. He is a warm and gifted communicator who has a passion for helping hard working seniors keep more of what they have worked a lifetime to save.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about? Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

Let me take you back to 1986, the year in which I became an insurance agent. I was young, just out of college, recently married and I was eager to make as many sales as possible. This was also a time in which I, as an agent would learn a very important lesson. I would learn that as an agent there is more to this job than selling a policy, there is more to this job than closing deals, or winning awards.

My job as an insurance agent is to protect you, and to insure your family that should tragedy strike you won’t be left stranded. It’s my job to make sure your family won’t be left having to sell everything you own if you die suddenly.

Today’s insurance world leads us to believe that all there is to insurance is a price. With every fiber of my being, I hate that stigma, I hate the market that has been created by the 1–800 companies and the dot com’s of the world. It drives me crazy, that you as a family, as a client, and as a friend might be left high and dry because some companies and some agents focus on price vs protecting your family.

In 1998 I had just wrapped up a sale at a home in Staten Island, NY when I decided to do one last door knock for the evening before heading home. The lead was right around the corner, and had no contact information, so I figured I’d head on over. What do I have to lose?

That’s when I saw the prospect, pulling into the driveway. There was a sign, that read, “WARNING! Never mind the dog, BEWARE of the owner!” (with image of a gun)

I reflected for a moment. Should I continue driving on to risk my life or go home?

“Screw it!” I said to myself. Guess I still was feeling the high from the last closing.

As I approached halfway down the driveway I could see an elderly man slowly rocking back and forth in his chair. When I parked the car, I took a happy-go-lucky attitude and started the conversation:

“Mr. Gomez, right?”

“Depends who’s askin’.”

“You’re the gentleman I’m looking for!”

Mr. Gomez said nothing.

A little disturbed, I jumped directly into why I was there, explaining to him that he sent the card back, there was no phone number, and it’s my job to speak with him briefly about the information he requested.

“Hold on, let me go grab my wife. She probably did that.”

Moments later, Mrs. Gomez came out of the home. While Mr. Gomez walked off to work in his garage, Mrs. Gomez and I discussed final expense life insurance.

She was the dictionary definition of the perfect life insurance prospect. Her second husband died with coverage, and she understood the importance of it. She wanted a small policy on her husband, as he had prostate cancer a few years back, and didn’t have any coverage whatsoever.

I offered her a small policy to fit her tiny budget that would pay for most of his burial. She liked it right away, and suggested we head over to Mr. Gomez and get his agreement and signature.

This is where things turn south…

Mrs. Gomez walks up to Mr. Gomez and asks, “Hector, I need you to sign this life insurance policy we’re going to take out on you.”

Hector emerged from his truck and said, “I ain’t signing no f***ing policy!” He began frantically screaming, walking right up to me while yelling, “This mother f***er came into MY yard, on MY property, WITHOUT my permission.”

Holding back the urge to pea my pants, I calmly replied, “Mr Gomez, if you’d like me to leave right now, that’s totally fine.”

“MOTHERF*CKER, you’re lucky you’re not dead and buried in my back yard,” was his response!

What happened after that was somewhat a blur. I remember he and his wife arguing. Somehow… perhaps by divine intervention… not only did Mr. Gomez calm down, but he actually SIGNED the application!

Once I got that app back, I hustled back to the car, thanked the wife while I was there, and headed on home back to Brooklyn, lucky that some disgruntled husband wasn’t the end of me.

But this isn’t the end of the story. Mr. Gomez actually REFERRED me several prospects. And slightly 4 years after taking out life insurance coverage with me, I received notice that his wife filed his death claim with the company.

We tend to think things like this won’t happen to us. We tend to think that only happens to the families down the street. We tend to make things our priority vs our future. From that day forward I swore to myself that I would never hesitate to go through that situation. I swore that with each and every family I met with life insurance would not just be a discussion point, but it would be a priority.

I never want to see another family lose everything they have. I never want to see another kid be removed for their home. Do it with me, or do it with another agent, but PLEASE if you have not made life insurance a priority in your family do so. I will leave you with this. If tragedy struck your family, would you lose it all? Would your kids lose their home? Would you have to sell your family business? Make Life insurance a priority…

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

Working on my next book called “The Savvy Guide to Medicare: Maximize Coverage and Mistakes to Avoid.” Social Security provides the bulk of most retirees’ income and Medicare guarantees them affordable health insurance. But few people know what Medicare covers and what it doesn’t, what it costs, and when to sign up. Nor do they understand which parts of Medicare are provided by the government and how these work with private insurance plans — Medicare Advantage, drug insurance, and Medicare supplement insurance.

Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?

My book uncovers how you can plan for your funeral/memorial and other final arrangements in advance. It reveals affordable ways to fund your final arrangements, as well as plan for other expenses as a reception, flowers, permits and other government fees. As for burial insurance, if not done properly, you could be paying more in premium, face long waiting periods or worse yet be declined.

Many senior citizens and their families do not know about burial insurance, but it could potentially be exactly what they need. If you had seen or heard the terms final expense insurance or funeral insurance, what you’re looking at is burial insurance. Though used interchangeably, they all mean the same thing: a form of life insurance that purely covers funeral costs to ensure the bereaved are not financially burdened.

Unlike some life insurance policies, burial insurance plans never expire, never increase their monthly premiums, and never require a medical exam. Should a company ever say otherwise, they are flat out wrong. If you have been rejected from life insurance, need more coverage, or have medical bills to pay off in addition to final expenses, burial insurance might be your answer.

No one wants to worry or be consumed with the financial costs that naturally occur when a loved one passes away. Therefore, burial insurance covers a wide range of face values and medical conditions/illnesses. It provides extra coverage for the funds to pay off remaining medical bills or debt or need available cash for funeral expenses; burial insurance guarantees that those left behind will provide the best memorial they can and mourn without unnecessary stress or hardship.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming an author and promoting a book? Can you explain to other leaders why they should invest resources and energy into this? Can you share a few examples of how writing a book in particular and thought leadership in general can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

Writing and publishing a book grants you instant authority and credibility. As a published author you’re seen as an expert in your written topic, and as such people in turn value your opinion and look to you as a reliable source of information. Publishing a book provides the foundation on which to build a reputation for your business and career, as well as establish trust in what you have to offer.

Many are concerned about the number of followers on their social media platforms, not realizing that the quality of their followers is more important. Authoring and publishing a book allows you to attract the right followers to your work, and leads to connections with leaders and influencers in your field. When people find value in what you do and the information you provide, they become loyal fans of your work and are willing to support your projects.

As a published author, not only are you able to share your story with the world, you’re also in a position to gain speaking opportunities and influence others. Imagine being able to speak at schools, corporate functions, conferences, and non-profit organizations, and inspire your audience through your subject area. With your expertise and platform, a book places you in a highly-respected position where you have the ability to effect change.

Having a published book leads to media coverage for your work as an expert in your field, and also helps to create a buzz about your future projects. Journalists and reports are always seeking comments and quotes from experts, and depend on reliable sources to in turn provide valuable information to their audience. When an author gains media coverage, it encourages other media outlets to approach you for interviews and feature you in their articles. Additionally, they will see you as the ‘go-to’ person for information in your subject area.

Prospective clients are attracted to a solid reputation, expertise and value. A published book attracts quality clients to you, as well as allows others to refer you to their networks. Visibility through your book creates business opportunities that may have previously been out of your reach, and sets you up for even greater opportunities in the marketplace with current or future projects.

Whether you’re trying to build a business or already have a business, a published book adds to your business or personal brand. Think of your author status as an additional promotional strategy and advertisement for the products or services you offer. It enhances your resume and demonstrates your brand’s viability in the business market.

What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share a story about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

Putting together a street team can help take some of the pressure off you when it comes to getting the word out there about your book(s). Getting reviews for your book is the most challenging because that is what really helps sales and helps get endorsements

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging a book publicist or marketing expert?

Develop your social media strategies and choose which works best based on your audience. Since my audience is mostly on Facebook, that is where my focus was. Have a book publicist or a public relations firm is essential as it takes the burden of promotions to the experts. Expect to budget at least 50000 dollars a month with a minimum 1-year commitment to achieve optimal results.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. A well-written, well-edited manuscript is essential. It’s true that anyone can publish a book today. Any quality book at that. But if you want readers to appreciate your book, tell their friends about it, write good reviews and come looking for your next book, you’d better be sure that you have offered them a high quality product that’s enjoyable to read. Find and use a professional editor and proofreader.
  2. Doing a few things right early in the production stage saves time and money later. For example, preparing your manuscript properly at the outset for e-book distribution makes it easy to sell it for the Kindle, iPad and other book readers. Design decisions affect print book distribution too. Be strategic in your book production decisions.
  3. Book production is complex and involves lots of industry details that can befuddle an amateur. Hire it out so you, the author, can focus on marketing.
  4. Get comfortable with video platforms. Virtual events have become essential for authors promoting their books, so you’ll do yourself and your marketing team a service by learning the ins and outs of these programs. Zoom and Instagram Live are the predominant video platforms for publishers and authors, so familiarize yourself with how each one works.
  5. Mine your contact list. If you have contacts that may be helpful in promoting your book, share that information with your marketer sooner rather than later. Your team is eager to take advantage of any potential opportunity, whether it’s a quick social media post or a virtual book event. Communicating with your marketer about your contacts and relationships is always important, but especially during this ever-changing landscape. Similarly, if you have an email newsletter with subscribers or an equivalent audience who would be interested in hearing about the book, now would be a great time to reach out to them. Coordinate with your marketer to obtain eye-catching promotional images for use in your emails.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Oprah Winfrey! Oprah’s Book Club was a phenomenon, worthy of breaking news banners when she would announce her latest selection, each choice virtually guaranteed to sell a million copies. Few people in the world can bring us together like Oprah, whose compassion and grace celebrating the power of books are unmatched.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.

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