There Is A Book Inside You | From Blank Page To Best Selling Author With Chandler Bolt
Even as the world is becoming technologically driven, the influence of books has not dwindled one bit. Chandler Bolt, the CEO of Self-Publishing School, joins Chad Burmeister in this episode to talk about getting the book inside you out into the world. Chandler ended up as an author without really aiming for it and ultimately started teaching people how to write. Are you thinking of writing and publishing your own book? Then tune in to this episode as Chandler outlines the things you need to do to become one. In addition, as everything is slowly transitioning into the digital space, he talks about the development of AI and what it could look like for entrepreneurship in general.
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There Is A Book Inside You | From Blank Page To Best Selling Author With Chandler Bolt
I've got a very special guest. We both happen to share the same initials, Chandler Bolt, CB. It seems everybody that I've met with the initial CB I've had great luck with, and Chandler's one of those. Chandler, welcome to the show.
Chad, it’s great to be here.
Chandler is the CEO of Self-Publishing School. This one is near and dear to my heart because the title of this conversation is, There's A Book Inside of You and Chandler's goal is to help you find it and turn it into a bestseller. Chandler has got some amazing resources. If you're thinking of writing a book, I highly encourage it. I'm going to share a little bit of my story, and then we're going to ask Chandler some questions. Let's get started.
In July 18, 2002, I had moved from transportation sales into software and I was a little disappointed in the way that software salespeople went about doing business. I ran in Chandler to people that would say, “Sell the million-dollar deal on a Friday. By Monday, if we can't deliver it, we've got their million dollars. Who cares? Take the money and run.” That was the normal traditional software sales path. As an ethical God-loving person, I came into that environment going, “What in the world is this?” I started with the best of intentions to write a book.
From 2002 until 2015 is when I finally published the first book. Thirteen years after I had the vision of writing it. From then on, it became easier. The snowball rolls down the hill. I was able to publish book number 1, number 2, number 3, and then number 4 was cool. This guy, Tom Cunningham, who's a legend. It's rheumatoid arthritis or he had a bad disease throughout his entire life and yet he was able to speak on a lot of very amazing success and motivation topics. He reached out to me and asked me to write a chapter in his book which turned out to be his last book. He passed April 9th of 2018 and I got to share my story of belief in God and how I rely on God to get me to where I was.
To me of all the books I've written, this is probably the one that gives me the most goosebumps, because it was a combination of a lot of amazing authors telling their story of how they got to where they are. That was probably the most amazing book that I'll ever be a part of. That's my journey to get to here. What's interesting about my conversation with Chandler was I was humming a song on the lift, getting off in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, and Chandler goes, “What are you humming right now?”
I said, “Needtobreathe. Have you ever heard of them?” He goes, “Yes, my brother's in the band.” First of all, I went to all three Red Rocks concerts and it turns out you did, too. For those who don't know Needtobreathe, it's a South Carolina band that is amazing, very religious as well and with strong beliefs, I believe. I'm at this concert in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and my business in March of 2019 had had a bad month. I went from $100,000 to $200,000 in sales down to $30,000 and I was devastated. I was like, “I've got too many employees. I've got too many costs. What am I going to do?”
I'm listening to the song Difference Maker. I'm in the audience with my wife and I started thinking, “I've written four books. How can I monetize the book? I'm going to go build a new book because AI was showing up on the scene.” I reached out to 30 or 40 different companies that I know, Coris and ZoomInfo and I said, “I'm going to write a new book. This came from this song. Would you like to be on the cover? Would you like to write a chapter in the book?”
I sold sponsorships starting at platinum of $15,000. Then I sold the next one down was like $10,000 and then I sold a bunch of $1,000. $35,000 later, it was like a free and clear line of credit with very little cost on the backend because when you self-publish, it can be $2 to $3 a book. Needtobreathe, Chandler Bolt's business practice of Self-Publishing School literally helped me keep ScaleX AI afloat for the month that I needed and that's why I thought our conversation was going to be compelling because in these hard times, there's no better time than now to write a book. Think outside the box and let's get into it with Chandler. He's had way more experience with something like 5,000 authors and he's written six books himself. Chandler, that's the backstory. I don't think I shared that with you before.
I'm going to have to tell my brother that story because he’s going to love that as well.
He saved my company and a year later after we saved the company because of the song, we're going to have the best month we've ever had in the history of the company. I wish I ran into Self-Publishing School in 2002. I don't think it existed back then. How did the idea come about? What's the story of Self-Publishing School?
I wrote and published a book when I dropped out of school and the book did well and started making a few thousand dollars a month. It was one of those things where I dropped out of school to start a different business. That business was totally failing. Meanwhile, because I'd done multiple books, everyone was asking about the book stuff. It was one of those things where you can only get slapped in the face many times before you turn and look. You turn around and look and everyone's standing there with money in their hand wanting to pay you. At that time, I would get on for free and teach them everything I knew for like an hour and say, “Good luck, I hope the book goes well,” just to be a nice person.
Finally, I decided to launch our first cohort of students back in 2014. Since then, it's evolved to the point where we've helped thousands of people write and publish their books. We've been on the Inc. 5000 list. It’s one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies several years in a row. We now own SelfPublishing.com, which is another big resource for people who are looking to self-publish. It's evolved and we've helped people. Mainly, our bread and butter are writing and publishing a book and as little as 90 days and using that book to grow your business. That's most of what we do.
Let's distill that for a second. You had a skill and you found people knocking on your door to supply that skill to them. If you're reading and you start looking over your shoulder and someone's tapping on you, “You're good at topic X,” listen to that little voice in your head because there's a way to monetize that. Not monetize but to help people. You truly have a passion for this. That's the key. For me, people are saying, “I have to let go 30% 40% of my workforce and my salespeople, how can you help?” We had a customer who sells masks.
They converted their entire production line over to masks and twenty million a day, Amazon bought 100 million and then the CEO of the company called me and said, “Can you help me get the message out to all of the top Fortune 2000, like McDonald's and Burger King, anyone who has workers who are going to go to work and need masks?” We did a voicemail drop of 2,000 voicemails over two days to all the top chief procurement officers. Within day one, they sold $550,000 in masks. Listen to those voices. I was able to help someone in a time of need. I gave her a discount in this case because I want to help people and it was a good way to give back. By putting that in a book, what a great way to build your business.
The one thing that we probably align on Chad is his sell then build. Listen to the thing that people are saying and asking about. Sell it, then build it. By doing that, you're going to, A, validate that there's something that they want and B, they're going to tell you exactly what they want and you'll build exactly what they want. You're going to end up with a better product, happier customers and not wasting years of your life trying to build something that people don't want.
It’s the DOE model. Negative inventory. Sell then build. Don't build it and they will come. You've got to figure out what the market needs, ask the market and then build it. These episodes are about AI for sales and we talk about that. I'm curious, you've built a company from $0 to nearly $20 million over the last several years. Are you seeing AI enter the workforce? It's a two-pronged question. On the sales side, are you using AI anywhere? I wrote a blog and I click one button. I said, “AI for Sales,” and there are fourteen articles cited. It's 89% original. It's highly found via SEO. It's good for my purpose, which is to drive people to the site. On one hand to me, I'm like, “That's not original content that I wrote either.” How do you balance the ethics of writing? Do you use AI in sales and do you use it in your book publishing?
As far as the sales team. We've got 9 or 10 people on the sales team. We've got 5 reps and 4 SDRs. It's the structure of the team. We use a tiny bit of AI on the sales side of things. We've been working with a company called Persistence AI. It's mostly text space stuff and follow up. We have many leads. It’s like, “First, no problem. You got so many leads.” We get hundreds and hundreds of leads a day. Our problem is trying to narrow in. That's been very helpful for that specific use case where they can have an AI conversation. This isn't necessarily sales AI, but it's more so on the bot side of things.
It's for support, like a help center support bot. We use a lot of bot stuff on the backend to where it pulls them to help center articles so they can answer their own questions. That makes that more efficient. Those are the two main ways that we use it. As far as using AI for content generation, there's a lot of use cases on the content and SEO side of things. There are some solid use cases. I haven't seen a ton of people use that for a full-length book because I think it has to have the human touch and some of the content will be that way as well. It’s like anytime someone tries to outsmart Google, they end up getting slapped. A lot of the AI is freaking good. The piece that you created is 89% original content. There is some low hanging fruit there, but then I'm a big fan of using it to accelerate the human connection, not using it in place of the human connection.
I love that phrase. I'm 100% in alignment because if you can outsource the low-value work that reps and support people, they don't want to answer the same question, “Where do I go to download the 90-day PDF file for how to write a book?” If I had to answer that 1,800 times a day, I would go out of my mind. I think, slowly that line of where the AI can handle those conversations will start to move up, but accelerating it to get to a human conversation is dead on. That's a killer. Let's learn a little bit about your background. You told us, you wrote a book and people tapped on the shoulder to get there. Was this something you were interested about? If I go to the next one. In college, did you study business? What was your major? I think you said you dropped out halfway through.
I studied entrepreneurship. It was called business administration or business management. It was business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, but I've known that I wanted to run my own business for a very long time ever since I was little. My parents sent me to a scout camp with a bunch of snacks and I came back with money and a switchblade. Instead of eating my snacks, I sold them all and had like a little business going. I always loved that. Growing up in a super small town in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina, the teachers and people didn't understand it. It was like, “You got 4 or 5 paths. You can be a lawyer, a doctor, a janitor and an accountant.” What they tried to push me into was financial advising. That was the closest thing on the path that they had when you take the little test it's like, “Here's what you should be when you grow up.” It was like, “Financial advisor.”
I went and shadowed a financial advisor and I thought it was cool. Looking back now, I'm like, “I would have hated that job.” It is not a fit for me. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but on the flip side, I'm a C-level English student and a college dropout. I hated writing and I was not good at it. I always imagined I would run a business. I never and it's ironic dropped out of school and created Self-Publishing School and now teaching people to write books. A book was a mechanism to deliver the message that I had. We talked about this a little bit. It's like, “The message is bigger than the method or the mechanism.”
For me, I wasn't a huge fan even of the mechanism, but I knew that I had a message that was worth sharing and I needed to get over the fears, the insecurities, all those things, to be able to create something because over my shoulder leveraged impact. I believe wholeheartedly is that I book is one of the best ways to impact a large amount of people and to create impact, income and to grow your business.
The fact that you're able to do work once and then that piece can go on and help tens of thousands, millions of people. I would have never guessed that we would be doing this, but now it's something that I went from hating writing and hating reading to, I read a book a week, I've written multiple books and all day, every day, we're talking about books and how to use them to grow businesses. Maybe the growing business piece makes the book stuff a whole lot more fun.
Entrepreneurship is a tough word even to spell and write. Like you, when I was little, it was selling suckers on the bus. I think we'd buy a gross back then from Sam's Club at the time. I buy 144 of them and I learned that when you got down to the bottom of the barrel, the last two, instead of selling for a quarter, you could sell for $1. I remember, after a while, I got good at keeping about eight of them in my backpack and I would say, “There's only two left. They're $1 each.” I created this false sense of scarcity, but God forgave me for that one I think.
Influence by Robert Cialdini is one of the best sales books of all time. That's not even a sales book and the fundamentals of persuasion and scarcity being one of them, urgency, reciprocity, social proof, commitment and consistency. Literally, almost every other book is an off-spin and regurgitation of that book.
You said you were into sales, let's go a little deeper there. I have a memory of when I was five in the kitchen with a good, best new friend of mine spilling some water on the wooden floor. It's probably totally inaccurate. We probably didn't even have a wooden floor, but that's what I remember. I remember having fun. I remember being competitive. We'd do the rope climb in gym class and from 1st grade to 5th grade, I always held the record. I knew at those moments that my goal in life was to do something that required me to be competitive.
I didn't know what that meant at the time, but I use that as true north. A lot of people go into life and they end up in a certain area. The good news is I think a large percent end up in exactly where they're meant to be. My son's into building Legos and he was going to be an engineer in college. He's going to follow his passion. As we look at where you are now, entrepreneurialism running your own company and you've done things that a lot of people want to do, think back to when you were younger, what lit you up in the morning? What sparked you?
Have you ever taken Wealth Dynamics? There are the star and the mechanic or the two of the ones. I've always liked making people laugh. I've always liked being goofy, having fun and having high energy, but I definitely resonate with what you're saying about competition. Love sports and love anything that's merit-based and where I can control the outcome. Meaning, if I work harder, I can increase what I get paid. I can increase what the outcome is. It's funny, I published a video on my YouTube channel. Self-Publishing School is as best as the standard. I tell the story about bringing a report card home to my parents and I've got As, Bs and a C or two and they get mad.
I'm like, “My friend had Cs and even a couple of Ds and his parents aren't mad. Why are you mad?” They said, “Chandler, because this isn't your best. If you would have given your best, it doesn't matter if it's all As, Bs, Cs these whatever. As long as we knew it's your best.” This whole concept of you never competing with the competition, you're only competing with your personal best. That's what best is the standard means, in essence, is we give everything in everything that we do. I love the Nike quote.
I think this is from the Phil Knight documentary Shoe Dog, which is another one of the top books of all time for me. It's this quote that's, “Beating the competition is easy. Beating yourself is a never-ending pursuit.” That's what I love about sales. That's probably what you love about sales and competition, but also about the game of business is that it is a never-ending pursuit where when you improve things and make them better, you're creating value. I could have never articulated that at five years old, but I love the competition and I love the ability to get better, learn, grow and progress.
It's funny because my parents got me my entire grade thing and my kids giving me a hard time. They were like, “Tell me how do you do?” I'm like, “I always had As and very few Bs. I think I had one C ones that I could ever remember in my history.” The proof's in the pudding. A+, A-, and B+ in Accelerated Math. I always thought I was an A student in Accelerated Math. English A, Intro Social Studies B+, but it was a 3.714. On your other point, on Easter Sunday, we do an egg hunt every year. The kids are getting a little older, 18, 17, 16, 15, my cousins and nephews. They do an egg hunt. My parents have a rule that says, “There's a minimum of ten eggs. If someone gets 50 and another kid gets five, then they have to balance them out.” The older kids were like, “We're done. This is egg communism that you guys do.”
We did this funny little video and got them on camera. They sit in there and I'm like, “What are you guys doing?” They're like, “We're going to get our ten eggs. The best-case scenario is we get 12 or 13.” We changed the rules at a different house. We said, “This is no longer egg communism. We're going to play a new game.” We had 100 eggs for six kids. We said, “You can get as many as you want max but there is a minimum of ten per person. At least there's an upside to the situation.”
Somebody walked away with 32 eggs and then the other two kids still played a little lightweight and then I came in with a $10 on top at the end, and said, “Here's $10. Good job.” The person who won. Merit system is what meritocracy is built on. It's fun to be part of that. The last question for you, I'm on book five and it felt like once I got out of my own way from 2002 to 2015, it became easier. I will say I do not have a bestseller yet. There's a reason for me to look at Self-Publishing School here. How do you choose your first book and then how did you decide five more?
We have three questions that we'll run through. There's a couple of different buckets. For the readers, you have no idea, you're not quite sure. You have an idea, you know what you want to write about, or the third bucket, you got way too many ideas and you're trying to figure out which one to write first. If you're in the too many ideas bucket, there are three questions that we ask. Question number one is, which one can I finish the fastest? I have a lot of content for this and I can get a rough draft done. The number one most important thing if you're thinking about writing a book is get your rough draft done as quickly as possible because then when you have the rough draft done, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It goes from this thing, “I think, I might do this thing. I am doing it.” Getting the rough draft done is by far the most important. Question number two is similar, which one most likely to finish? Not only am I going to get some quick momentum, but I'm going to take this all the way to the finish line. Question number three, it depends on why you're writing the book, but it's either which one am I going to enjoy writing or for the business-minded people, which one is going to revenue for my business? That's the three questions that I asked to narrow in on the idea. The cool thing is that learning how to write a book is like learning how to ride a bike. Once you know how to do it, you'll never forget it and you can do it again.
That's why a lot of authors don't have one book because once you know the process, you can repeat the process. Obviously, that's why you've got multiple books, Chad, is because you learn the process and then you repeated the process. I certainly didn't set out to write six books by any means. I probably won't write another one for a while because I think I did six books in the span of 3 or 4 years and that was insane. I'm probably going to rewrite and publish an updated revised version of my book Published because that's like the flagstone. I'm a big fan of writing a drop the mic book and then keep pointing to it. I've been pointing to that book for years. I don't even know how many tens of thousands, if not over 100,000 copies of that thing out in the wild, and it keeps going.
It spiked again with everything going on.
We integrate giveaways, too. We’ll free plus shipping funnels, but even with some of the COVID-19 stuff, we are giving away 3,300 copies. About $50,000 worth of books. We've already given away 1,300 physical copies and 2,000 digital, like PDF and audiobook copies. The crazy thing is this is a give-back thing and then inevitably, a decent amount of people go through this and they're like, “I want to work with you guys and use this time to get my book done.”
In the span of two weeks, we already had $130,000 in new customers that came from that and a ton of people was buying. We got our program called a 90 Day Author Success Journal. It's like a day by day journal that walks people. You can set your goals. We sold $1,000 worth of journals on the backend. It's an amazing thing where you're able to give back, do good, create economic value and grow your business. There are 1,200 some people that got a free book and that's going to help them. There are twenty-something people who are like, “I want to work with you guys.”
When we signed up the book sponsors. About ten sponsors of the AI for Sales book and we shipped out 1,000 to one company. They gave that out at trade shows, conferences and it's sitting in their lobby, I'll get people that call still and say, “I saw your book. I read it.” “Where'd you get it?” It's quite a tentacle from a business outreach perspective when you can sell some of those sponsorships. Chandler, I’m glad to have you on the show. I wish you the best of luck. Thirty podcasts in thirty days, I think that’s your goal. May you achieve that goal and then some.
Thank you, Chad.
It’s great to catch up. We'll catch you on the flip side. I'll see you in a beautiful Canada by 2021 on the next ski trip.
I’m looking forward to it.
We'll be right there skiing side-by-side.
I can’t wait.
Everybody, thanks for joining the show. We are out.
- Chandler Bolt
- Self-Publishing School
- ScaleX AI
- Persistence AI
- 90 Day Author Success Journal
- AI for Sales