JF Benoist: “Who you hire depends entirely on your budget”

Who you hire depends entirely on your budget. If you can afford to hire a marketing team and book publicist and carry out a book publicity campaign, I’d say it’s a good idea. However, you’ll still need to work closely with them and make sure you’re doing everything in your power to talk about your book. […]

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Who you hire depends entirely on your budget. If you can afford to hire a marketing team and book publicist and carry out a book publicity campaign, I’d say it’s a good idea. However, you’ll still need to work closely with them and make sure you’re doing everything in your power to talk about your book.

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 JF Benoist.

JF Benoist is the founder of The Exclusive Hawaii, a non-12-step, holistic addiction treatment center.

The Exclusive Hawaii uses JF’s experience-based methodology (Experiential Engagement Therapy™) to teach clients practical ways to create long-lasting change.

JF is also the author of the bestselling self-help book, Addicted to the Monkey Mind: Change the Programming That Sabotages Your Life, which has sold 27,000 copies in the last 18 months.

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?

At a very young age, I was introduced to the concept of self-help. I attended my first seminar at age 15 (I was the youngest person there by ten years.) Here I learned that our mindset influences everything — our relationships, our behavior, and our bad habits. And most of us, unknowingly, are stuck in a mindset that drives anxiety, self-doubt, and a lack of self-confidence.

After learning this idea, I decided that I wanted to show people that there is a way to think differently, and I devoted my life to educating people and helping them heal.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

In the early ’90s, I started a small publishing company with my wife, where we sold books to independent bookstores.

However, this was around the time when the big box stores were really building a name for themselves. From 1995–2000, 40% of independent bookstores closed.

At the end of the decade, we ended up closing our company and declaring bankruptcy. It was gut-wrenching at the time, but it taught me three very important things about business.

  1. Failure isn’t personal.

As entrepreneurs, when we start a business, we often think of it as our baby. All of our hard work has culminated in this one entity — and this company represents who I am!

In reality, you’re still you whether your business succeeds or fails. When I learned not to over identify with my work, I released a lot of the shame I was feeling.

2. Failure is essential to success.

At the time, I hated myself for letting my business fail. But after speaking with many successful business owners, I realized how many of them had also had a business (or two) fail before they found their success. They learned from their failures and used their wisdom for future endeavors.

3. Timing is everything.

With our publishing company, we didn’t realize we were selling to an industry that was dying. I learned that no matter how innovative you are, the world has to be ready to receive what you’re offering.

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

We’ve been thrilled with the success of my debut book — we’ve currently sold over 27,000 copies, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to help that many people work through their emotional issues.

I’m currently working on my second book. This book will be based on the understanding that in today’s world of technology, we’ve become too separated. This book, much like my first one, will follow the journeys of the characters to demonstrate how we can all feel a greater sense of belonging.

In addition to the book, I’m working on creating an academy to train therapists in my therapeutic methodology, Experiential Engagement Therapy. The focus of the training will be to move to a more collaborative, hands-on approach to therapy.

Additionally, my book, my rehab, and everything I do is working toward a movement to help people live a more authentic life and experience a true sense of belonging. It’s called You Matter to Me, and the goal is to help people create meaningful connections and experience how our lives impact each other, as these are the essential pillars of mental health.

Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. 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?

The book is written in a way where you follow the journeys of two main characters. They each have their struggles — with relationships, careers, addiction, and more — but they learn that the mindset that they’re stuck into is the real problem.

The characters learn how to stop listening to their “Monkey Minds” and instead develop an “Observing Mind,” which doesn’t get caught into the false stories that we tell ourselves.

At the same time, they’re learning how to incorporate this change at a body level, which is often the missing piece in creating long-term change.

Passage from Addicted to the Monkey Mind:


Many of us are raised in such a way that we believe that outside circumstances and other people can create our experience. Yet, it’s evident that our beliefs do affect how we respond to a situation, because different people react differently to the same exact stimulus. Can you imagine how freeing it would be to know that you are the one in charge of your life? This is what you can achieve by addressing and releasing your self-defeating beliefs.

Let’s take a look at an example of how a group of people may all have completely different reactions to the same scenario.

Different People, Different Responses

It’s a wonderful summer night. Paula — Elizabeth’s dramatic friend from the salon — and four of her friends have gathered at a chic new Chinese restaurant. They are sitting together at the same table, sharing the same food, talking with the same waiter, and listening to the same upbeat background music. They’ve known each other for years and always look forward to getting together.

Interestingly enough, while they’re all sharing the same outer circumstances, each person is having a very different personal experience. Thomas is feeling quite happy, Lucy is feeling hopeless, Greg is feeling nervous, Paula is feeling extremely depressed, and Susan is feeling frustrated.

If the outer circumstances are the same for everyone, why are they having such drastically different experiences? This is because each person is viewing the events through a different set of beliefs.

Thomas believes there’s nothing better than a meal with friends, so he’s in a great mood. Everything he tastes and sees delights him. He can’t stop talking and laughing.

Lucy finds the waiter gorgeous, but that stirs up internal drama from her recent breakup. She barely notices the food and is distracted from the conversation every time the waiter comes near. Her Monkey Mind reminds her, You’ll never be with anyone that attractive. You’ll end up with some loser, if you end up with anyone at all.

Greg can’t move past Susan’s announcement that she is getting a promotion. His jealousy is getting the better of him, and his Monkey Mind is reminding him of all the reasons why he won’t get promoted anytime soon: You’re so slow — they’d never give you more responsibility.

Paula is on her fourth cocktail. No one has complimented her on her new outfit, even though they commented to Lucy on how nice she looks today. Her Monkey Mind spouts, Your friends don’t even notice you. They probably don’t like you anymore.

Susan is on edge. Her perfectionist streak has come out, so she thinks the service is impossibly slow and the waiter is incompetent. Her Monkey Mind fuels this story. At these prices, everything should be perfect. It’s been ten minutes since the waiter checked on you. This is ridiculous.

Each person has come to the same basic situation with a very different set of beliefs and, hence, a very different perspective. Each belief is creating its own reality from the same, very simple, raw material: a meal out with friends.

Putting on a Show

Think back, for a moment, to when you were in high school. You probably believed you had to act a certain way, whether that be in the form of a peppy cheerleader, honor roll student, or punk rocker. While we’ve moved on from our high school personas, many of us still harbor the belief that we need to be perceived in a specific way by our peers.

To maintain this facade, some of us try to cover up our emotions by continuously chanting positive affirmations. “I am SO happy! I am SO happy! I am SO happy. Damn. I still feel sad. Maybe if I just say my happy affirmations ten more times, I’ll be fine…” In actuality, this is a way to disconnect from authentic emotion and start an internal war.

This idea of putting on a show for others creates what I call “garbage cake.”

Imagine having a bowlful of spoiled, stinking, week-old garbage that you blend into a thick brownish-green goo. You shape this goo into something resembling a little cake. You place the “cake” on a lovely plate, and proceed to frost it with delicious, white buttercream frosting. With special care and pride, you pipe lovely scrolled icing around the edges. You decorate it with miniature fresh flowers and set it in the center of your table.

Sound ridiculous? Exactly. Regardless of who admires this pretty creation, you can’t magically turn your garbage cake into red velvet.

When we’re not authentic with our feelings, isn’t this more or less what we do? How many of us have stuffed our uncomfortable feelings into some hidden place, over which we frost our affirmations, our manners, and our attitude?

Eventually, the stuff we’re trying to hide starts leaking through the frosting, and we can smell the stench. So can other people. Then, we start shaming ourselves.

Instead of covering up our inner emotional chaos, the Observing Mind has a different approach. It assumes that it’s always best to be aware of what we’re truly feeling. Why? Because our feelings communicate with us. When we listen to this inner flood of information and attend to our own authentic emotions, something amazing happens: the very issues that we’re most ashamed of bring us to our greatest wisdom, power, and compassion. Our feelings lead us to our core beliefs; from there, we can change our world.

You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Innovative

I’ve always had a fervent excitement to create change in the world, and I’ve spent decades learning different modalities on helping people heal their inner wounds.

However, after learning all these methods, I realized that so much of them rely only on cognitive change. Based on my own experience with addiction when I was a teenager, I knew how important change at a body level was as well.

So, I began creating my own therapeutic methodology — Experiential Engagement Therapy (EET). EET is based on the idea that we learn better by doing. Think of when you learned to ride a bike — did you learn by talking about it? Or by getting on the seat and pedaling?

The same is true for self-regulation tools. When we practice them, we’re able to change our fight-or-flight response in anxious situations.

2. Passionate

I absolutely love to discuss mental health and ways to improve our well-being. I’m constantly reading a new book on the subject or connecting with other professionals in the field about their work.

This passion drove me to start my current business. In the late 2000s when I was working as a counselor, I found myself wanting to help my clients more than simply meeting with them for an hour a week. So, my wife and I founded a residential treatment center in Hawaii, and we incorporated all kinds of holistic services and experiential therapy into the program. Now, I was able to be with clients for 30, 60, or 90 days, and help them create real, long-lasting change in their lives quite quickly.

3. Resilient

After our publishing company failed, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to start up another business. But this time, it was so empowering to know that it’s better to try something and have it fail, than not try at all. And it worked out for me the second time around — we opened our rehab in 2011, and we’ve been growing every year. Coupled with the huge attention we’ve received from the success of the book, our brand is in a place I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.

In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?

The biggest thing that’s changed after writing a book is that people are now naturally seeking out our services.

We’ve had therapists and medical professionals reach out to us and say they’re recommending my book to all of their clients. They’ve also referred clients to our rehab program after first hearing about us from the book. We’ve had people come across the book on their own and reach out for treatment as well.

The book’s popularity has also allowed me to connect with therapists who want to sign up for my continued education courses. Additionally, I’ve been able to offer self-help workshops to anyone who wants to learn how to improve their quality of life.

What I’ve really enjoyed about the book’s success is sharing with people that there is a new, experiential way to change your way of thinking. Along with that, hearing about how the book has helped them reevaluate their lives has been so gratifying. When we read reviews that say, “This book changed my life!” or “This book may have saved our relationship,” I feel so blessed to have been able to provide positive change for these people in some way.

If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

First, I’d identify what the person’s expertise is, and then ask some questions:

Is what they’re doing groundbreaking? Is there a need/desire for the service or product they’re promoting? Are they an expert in their field?

Then, I’d ask their commitment level to writing a book:

How personally connected are they to the material? Will their idea relate to the readers? Are they willing to put in a lot of time and effort to make the book a reality?

Their answers would dictate the advice I give. If they say, “No” to one of the above questions, I’d have them think on their idea a little longer.

A book can be a very lucrative marketing strategy because you now have a tool to promote your services. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Because now, if you connect with the right influencers and groups, they can be promoting your work for you with your tool.

Writing a book is also a great way to get your foot in the door with conferences and different speaking engagements. Now, you can be physically in front of a very engaged audience, to whom you can sell other products or services.

Additionally, the obvious lucrative opportunity is to make money from the book sales alone. If you choose to self-publish, you’re able to receive a higher cut of the book royalties. Additionally, when you offer your book in every kind of medium — audiobook, paperback, e-book, hardcover — you open yourself up to even more possible revenue streams.

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 some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

When I self-published my book, I decided to set up an online store with Amazon. With an online store, I could print my books in bulk through a printer, store the books in an Amazon warehouse, and then sell my books through my online store. You have a year to sell off your inventory before incurring high fees from Amazon. Overall, the profit margin of this option is much higher than printing through Amazon.

However, what I didn’t know was that Amazon wouldn’t allow me to advertise on their platform through my online store. If I wanted to advertise, I had to set up a print-on-demand account with Amazon, called KDP. So, I set up a KDP account as well.

Ideally, it’s best to have both an online store — to sell directly to your audience — and a KDP account — to be able to advertise on Amazon.

I also wish I had done more promoting prior to my book’s release. If I could go back, I would have found a book publicist and built up a months-long campaign about the new book. If you do this, you can even offer some freebies to get people to sign up to your email list — maybe a short online seminar or a chapter from your upcoming book.

Then, on your release day, you have an army of people that will buy your book and leave reviews; this can help make you a bestseller on Amazon on your first day. And further down the road, you can stay connected with these people and sell them additional services, products, or books.

Another tip I’d offer is to conduct some testing among your friends, colleagues, and existing audience members. See what they think of your title, and then your book description. Find some beta readers to give critiques on your first draft. The more insight you can get, the stronger your book will be.

Finally, I’d warn budding authors to carefully vet who they want to work with — from publishers to editors to designers. Do your research and make sure they have a track record behind them before you sign up with them. If you can, try to work with established experts in the field.

For my book, for example, I had Jennifer Read Hawthorne, the co-author of two New York Times bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul books, review my book and give advice. It’s also a nice confidence boost when these established experts like your book!

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?

First off, know that there’s never going to be a better person to talk about your book than you. Even if you hire a book publicist, expect to do a lot of promoting on your own.

Before hiring anyone, try to think of creative ways to reach out to your audience. I remember reading about a man in the 1970s who loved skydiving, but couldn’t find a book on it. So, he wrote a book and sold it to local airports. When other skydivers would get to the airport, they’d see the book and snatch it up. The book ended up selling tens of thousands of copies because he was directly tapping into his target audience. Unique marketing strategies like this can end up paying off big time for people who take the time to think outside the box.

Who you hire depends entirely on your budget. If you can afford to hire a marketing team and book publicist and carry out a book publicity campaign, I’d say it’s a good idea. However, you’ll still need to work closely with them and make sure you’re doing everything in your power to talk about your book.

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. Don’t be afraid to give away your book.

Giveaways are fantastic ways to get your book in the hands of interested readers. First, try seeing if professionals in your field would be willing to check out your book. While it can be nerve wracking to ask a stranger to read your book, the possibility of them talking about it with their friends makes it worth it.

Personally, we did this by reaching out to self-help Facebook groups and professionals on LinkedIn. This created a buzz — to the point where we started having professionals reach out to us on LinkedIn about the book.

2. Get on podcasts.

After releasing my book, I’ve been a guest on dozens of podcasts, on a variety of topics. These podcasts allow me to let large audiences know about my book, the work I do, and the business I run.

Try reaching out to a variety of podcasts — small ones with a few hundred listeners and big ones with thousands. You never know who will connect with your message or where you’ll get your next client.

For a personal example, I had a woman reach out to me who had heard me on a podcast. Her son was in need of help for an addiction, and eventually became a client of mine.

3. Reach out personally.

Take the time to reach out to influencers yourself and make a personal connection. Don’t be intimidated — remember that you offer an expertise that could be beneficial to their audience. It’s a win-win!

I did this when I reached out to bestselling authors and thought leaders in my field, like Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind, Tommy Rosen from Recovery 2.0, and Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

4. Educate yourself on Amazon Advertising.

You can either hire an Amazon Advertising expert to help set up your campaigns, or you can learn as much as you can about the system and experiment with your own campaigns.

Remember, even if a campaign isn’t performing as well as you want it to, let it run for a little while. They can often take some time to get all the kinks worked out.

Originally, I was doing Amazon Advertising myself. After my first year of being published, we had sold about 1,000 copies. Then in early 2020, I hired an Amazon Advertising expert who whipped up my campaigns, and I started seeing 40–50 book sales a day. Today, about half of my sales are from Amazon ads.

*Bonus tip on this one — make sure you choose your book’s categories very carefully when you first launch. Some categories are easier to gain traction in than others, so do your research.

5. Build your email list.

Email lists are the best way to sell other books and services to established customers. You can build your list by finding online events in your niche and asking to be a part of them. Or you can put on your own events and publicize them online, offering free snippets of your book or various tools. You can also attend conferences and make connections in person.

I did this by attending several therapist conferences, where I’d meet counselors who were interested in my work. Then, I’d host a workshop after the conference — where I invited the therapists I had just met. I made some of my strongest connections with fellow mental health professionals at these events.

I also hosted several online events with other influencers in my niche. Each of us reached out to our email lists and audiences about the workshops and were able to create some great connections and get valuable leads.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I’d love to have a conversation with Trevor Noah. He’s all about humanity; he stands for changing the ways in which our world is dysfunctional and promoting those who try to have a hand in that change.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My treatment center’s website: TheExclusiveHawaii.com

My personal website: JFBenoist.com

Link to buy book: Amazon

Facebook: @JFBenoist

Instagram: @JFBenoist

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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