Don’t doubt yourself. Writing a book is hard work. If it wasn’t, there would be fifty million books published per year instead of a million. Remember that no one else can tell your story because no one else has lived your life. Be bold and persistent. There is only one you, and only one writing style or story like yours.
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 Tonya Eberhart and Michael Carr, partners in BrandFace®.
Tonya Eberhart is the founder of BrandFace® and Branding Agent to Business Stars. She’s also the author of four books on personal branding. Tonya’s humble career began while selling vacuum cleaners door to door to pay her way through college. That led to a job in radio, where she observed local business owners who were featured in their own advertising and positioned as local celebrities in the market. That’s when she realized the power that personal branding has on a business. Almost two decades and many successful brands later, she founded BrandFace®, a personal branding firm consisting of a book series, speaking series, and personal branding program that is designed to help business stars differentiate themselves.
Michael Carr is America’s Top Selling Real Estate Auctioneer and the Abundant Life Broker. During his 28 years of experience, he has been actively involved in over 78,000 real estate transactions and licensed in as many as 31 states in the continental U.S. as a broker and an auctioneer. Michael first met Tonya in 2013 when he became a client. He immediately put her exclusive personal branding concepts to work at his own brokerage, and as a result, his real estate business quadrupled over the next year, and continues to grow in recognition, revenue and recruitment. On the heels of that success, they decided to co-author BrandFace® for Real Estate Professionals and BrandFace® for Entrepreneurs, both of which became #1 international bestsellers on Amazon. And today, he is a partner and the COO of BrandFace®.
BrandFace® is the only comprehensive personal brand building system across the globe. Our exclusive, step by step program helps business stars build a personal brand that STANDS OUT from their competition and attracts their ideal customers so they can become recognized and sought after authorities. Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr are the partners behind BrandFace®. Their mantra is, “People don’t do business with a logo. They do business with a person.”
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?
Tonya: I started my career selling vacuum cleaners door to door, and I figured out rather quickly that I couldn’t just walk up to someone’s door and expect them to let me in. I needed a ‘story’, and I needed to present myself the right way. I did that for three years to pay for college, until I was discovered by someone in the radio industry and started a job in media sales. That’s when the benefits of personal branding really became clear. I noticed that business owners who were the face and voice of their business were well recognized and treated like rock stars. From that time forward, I focused on helping people build authentic brands that attract ideal customers by being the face of their business.
Michael: I was playing high school basketball and I had a coach who wouldn’t give me the opportunity I clearly deserved. It was then that I decided I would never allow someone else to dictate my future. That carried through into my professional life as well, and even though I worked for several different employers in my teens, I took the leap at age 19 and became self-employed. Since then, I have become an auctioneer, a real estate investor, a real estate broker, and a partner in BrandFace®. As a result, I have co-authored books about both real estate and entrepreneurship.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
Tonya: When my daughter was twelve years old, she expressed great interest in Asian culture. It began with exposure to manga (comics or graphic novels originating from Japan), then progressed to music and fashion. That fascination had two consequences. One was that it gave her great joy. The other was that it made her feel very isolated because no one else in her school seemed to have this passion or understand it. I thought I could potentially help her turn those feelings into something positive. I told her I would take her to Japan if she could figure out a way to pay me back. One of my suggestions was that she would chronicle the trip and turn it into a book. That project turned into a once in a lifetime opportunity, and a book called, Kati’s Journey (One Teen’s Journey to Japan), and includes the experiences and accounts from both mother and daughter. The book became the first experiential book written by a U.S. teen, and contains 30+ QR codes throughout the chapters, which link to short videos from our trip. Watching what that experience did for her self confidence and recognition is what made me realize that a book can bring to light your own strengths and uplift you, as well as help you gain credibility. It will probably be the most important project of my life for those reasons.
Michael: I was seven years old, attending a night auction with my Dad. I watched a blue Cadillac Eldorado pull up to the entrance, with a white carriage top and white leather interior. Out steps a man in a trench coat and fine suit, with diamond rings on his hands and a Rolex on his wrist. I asked Dad, “Who’s that? And what does he do?” Dad replied, “That’s Steve. He’s the auctioneer”. And from that moment, I knew it’s what I wanted to do. Since I became an auctioneer, I have sold billions of dollars in land, commercial & residential real estate, auto, and heavy equipment. For a seven year period, I crossed the country to auction properties, traveling 250,000 miles a year. I once helped to sell 122 million dollars of real estate in a single day at the Los Angeles County Convention Center. To date, I have been actively involved in the sale of over 78,000 homes and have been licensed in as many as 31 states in the continental U.S. as a broker and an auctioneer.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
Tonya: I’m currently writing my Dad’s memoir, The Raising of a Rebel (12 Turning Points from a Child of Alcoholics). It’s been a two-year project, and one that I believe holds lessons for people of all walks of life. It’s a story about his heart breaking struggles and the effects of his upbringing as a child of alcoholics. Both of his parents were products of the moonshine industry and culture, which brought both prosperity and poverty…and a lot of pain along the way. It’s a labor of both education and love, and it should be published in June of 2021.
Michael: My latest project is taking my 28 years of real estate knowledge and putting it into a new course for incoming agents called Launch. We’ve grown to 22 agents now, and I love helping each one of them become successful. Just like I was not going to be beholden to a former basketball coach that operated under a different strategy, I wasn’t going to build my business on someone else’s strategy, either. I decided to build a framework through this course that fit my own experience and direction, teaching my agents the principles that I have personally used to gain success. I’m very proud of our agents. We have an incredible group, and each one is a rock star in their own right.
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?
Tonya: Our BrandFace® book series contains four books that teach professionals how to build and promote their personal brand in order to grow their business. The books are written specifically for business owners, real estate professionals, home improvement professionals, and entrepreneurs. Our mission with these books and our personal branding programs is to help serious professionals define, develop, and display a differentiating personal brand so they can upstage, out-market and out-sell their competition.
Michael: When Tonya asked me to contribute to the real estate book in the series, I was honored. We had been working together for almost a year at the time she approached me about it, and my real estate revenue had quadrupled as a result of the work she had done with us. I didn’t know it when we first met, but she was writing the first book in the BrandFace® series, designed to help business owners, and we were using all of those same principles to build our real estate brand and do our marketing. In the real estate book, I got an opportunity to share my side of the journey, which I hope helps readers understand what it takes to grow a lasting brand. Another year later, I also contributed to the next book in the series, written specifically for entrepreneurs. It’s been an amazing journey.
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?
Tonya: The first is passion. You have to believe in the concept, and know that it can truly fill a need and help a lot of people. If that’s the only thing you focus on, you will be more persistent in protecting that passion. I’ll never forget the first time I uttered the word BrandFace®. I was asking two people, whom I truly respected, what they thought of the word as the title of the business and books. They both tried to steer me in a different direction, but I knew with great certainty that it was the right word. Within minutes of that conversation, I filled out the trademark forms and I’ve never looked back. The second is vision. We are not all visionaries on a large scale, but we know based on individual experience when something is important. Don’t lose that vision. In fact, manifest it, and see the end of it result every day. I believe people give up too early. The third is the ability to ‘let go’. Whenever you launch any project or business, there will be both supporters and naysayers. Although it’s great to have approval and admiration for what you do, there are times when it won’t be there. However, if you feel in your heart that your project has merit and is built on moral ground, you need to let go of all of the unjustified and unconstructive criticism and follow your heart.
Michael: The first is persistence. I learned at a young age that you couldn’t control life, but you could control your reaction to it. No matter what happened…good, bad or indifferent, you could control getting up the next day and being productive. That persistence in productivity has helped me tremendously, and provided a mindset over time that has made “every day a Saturday” for me. The second is consistency. I have been lucky enough to do what I love to do my whole career. When you can do that, the repetition is easy. I have never felt like I’ve worked a day in my life. I still enjoy auctions, real estate, teaching, and marketing. The third is boldness. Not too long ago, I began looking back at all the times in my life when I should have been bold, and I made a decision to be bold from now on. One of those bold decisions was becoming an author.
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?
Tonya: Even in today’s self-publishing world, a book can bring great credibility to its author. Prior to writing the first BrandFace® book, I had co-founded a marketing company to help traditional media companies utilize digital media more effectively. Though it was successful, it felt like an uphill battle to become recognized in that space. There were so many marketing companies, and we were an ant on the anthill. We had credibility and experience, but prospecting was nothing like what I experienced after writing the first BrandFace® book. It was much easier to attract the right type of prospects and get initial meetings. The book became an incredible prospecting tool. There was literally no way that I could say everything in one introduction email, phone call, or meeting. But the book could. And I’ve never forgotten that.
Michael: Writing the book was an honor for me. I had always been a writer, but I didn’t realize that I had anything to teach. After the book, I realized that I did have something to teach, and it was valuable. The information that had been in my head all those years had finally made its way onto paper, and it brought out the teacher in me even more. After two decades of performing my craft, I had gained confidence in the knowledge that I had actually attained, and it had just come to life in those pages.
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?
Tonya: First, I’d ask them about their expectations for the book. I’d ask whether they want to make money from the book or use the book as a tool to make money. Those are two very different things. Most authors will never reach the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. They will likely never see book sales hit six figures. They can, however, make millions from the concepts and credibility that come as a result of having written the book. Writing a book can position you as a thought leader, and almost instantly turn you into one of the business leaders that I was so enamored with when I first entered the radio industry. In other words, it can provide a shortcut to credibility.
Michael: Absolutely, it’s worth the effort and expense. You learn more about yourself when you’re forced to put pen to paper. Thoughts are put down for dexterity. It’s a big world out there, and someone is going through what you’ve gone through and needs the knowledge you have obtained, including what you wish you’d done differently. Worst case scenario, you’ll have the satisfaction of a job completed.
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?
Tonya: I learned that the knowledge and skills that I have in marketing only go so far when it comes to promoting books. Yes, I know how to write compelling promotional language because I ‘wrote the book’. However, I didn’t know how to navigate the various platforms (like Amazon) and work those platforms very well in order to rise in ranking. Today, I let someone else handle that. The good news is, it’s never too late to improve your book rankings. The bad news is, it can come later than desired. Just like anything else in life, hire the professionals:)
Michael: The first book I published was a poetry book. I’ve learned how hard it can be, and why the big publishing companies actually take on very few authors. If you really want the book to grow legs, it takes knowledge, connections, and lots of promotion. You need knowledge of the platforms, connecting with the right people and companies to help you promote, and of course money, to keep your book top of mind.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?
Tonya & Michael: We believe it’s critical to promote your book with your voice. You know the purpose behind the book, and you have lived through the experience it takes to write the story. No one knows your story, your target audience, and what you’re trying to convey better than you. We have always written the promotional language for all of our marketing. However, when it comes to advertising the book, we generally recommend leaving that to the experts. Different platforms have different algorithms and various means of expression. It’s like the difference between strategy and tactic. The strategy is the story that never wavers, but the tactical elements (like the different platforms, search terms, etc.) can change.
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.
Tonya & Michael:
- Be clear on the purpose of your book. Is it a ‘how to’ book, designed to educate your audience, or is it a story you’ve created to move someone’s emotions. When your reader has completed the final page of the book, how do you want them to feel? Imagine a critic writing an article about your book. What do you want them to say?
- Know your audience. Think about them each time you make a decision about the book. Whether you’re deciding what goes into the book or where to promote it, know who you’re speaking to and what’s important to them. If you don’t know some of those things, do some research and learn more about their thoughts, trends, challenges, goals, and needs before you begin writing your book.
- Make your book cover rock. There are up to one million books published every year in the U.S. alone. It’s difficult to stand out. Before someone reads your book, there are three important things to consider about the cover. Your title must be insanely unique, the graphics on the cover should make someone do a double-take, and your description must be captivating.
- Don’t measure success by book sales alone. Instead, measure every sale you receive as a byproduct of having written the book. Yes, of course, you may end up being another John Grisham, but most authors are not. However, they can make millions of dollars in selling the products and services based on the principles behind the book. So, don’t worry about how many books you sell. Focus on how much you can sell from your book.
- Don’t doubt yourself. Writing a book is hard work. If it wasn’t, there would be fifty million books published per year instead of a million. Remember that no one else can tell your story because no one else has lived your life. Be bold and persistent. There is only one you, and only one writing style or story like yours.
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 🙂
Tonya: I’d love an opportunity to meet with Robert Kiyosaki. I have followed his teachings for years, and believe I could gain invaluable insight from him as we prepare to take our BrandFace® concepts to more countries across the globe.
Michael: My choice would be Andy Florence, the Founder & CEO of CoStar. I’ve been impressed with his business strategies. He dominates the commercial real estate data space, but at the same time, continues to support and protect localized real estate agents and the people who need their services.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit BrandFaceStar.com for more information, and follow us on:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube: @brandfacestar
Tik Tok: @brandface
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.