Tanya Hall CEO of Green Leaf Book Group discussed how to use a book to grow your personal, business or CEO brand. By adopting the best of both traditional and self-publishing methods, any author (be they a first timer or best selling scribe) can gain greater and brand recognition. We will discuss how to determine if your content is right for a book, and the biggest publishing mishaps to avoid.

Listen to the Podcast here:

Using a Book to Grow Your Brand

The following is an edited transcript of this podcast. Since how we talk and how write is often very different, this transcript may contain uses of the English language (including grammar) that are not 100% correct. We are counting on your understanding in advance.

Karen Leland Branding ExpertHi everyone; welcome! My guest today is Tanya Hall, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, and we are going to talk to us today about using a book to grow your brand.

Hi, Tanya. So glad you could join me today.

Hi, Karen. I am glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

It is my pleasure. We met at the American Society of Authors and Journalists Conference a couple of months ago, and I sat in on a talk that you gave. I was really impressed with what you had to say. Of course, I was very familiar with your company, Greenleaf Book Group, and I thought that you would be a perfect person to have on the podcast.

Thank you. Yes, that was an awesome event; I was happy to be there. I met a lot of really interesting and qualified writers. It was my first time there in an event that I would recommend to anybody who is dabbling in the writing world, or in the brand positioning world. There’s a lot to learn there.

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Greenleaf Book Group knows all about using a book to grow your brand.

I agree. I wanted to talk to you today about using a book to grow your brand. I think an appropriate way to start that is to talk a little bit about what Greenleaf is and what they do and who your clients are, and take it away with that, if you don’t mind.

Greenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor for independent authors and small presses. We have been around since 1997, so we are on the cusp of our 20-year anniversary, which is fun. It just dawned on us the other day that we need to start planning a party. What makes us different is that we are one of the first of what they call hybrid publishers. Our business model is in between the worlds of self-publishing and traditional publishing, with the intention of bringing the authors the benefits of each of those models while eliminating the downfalls of both. From the self-publishing side, our authors do invest in the production of their books, so they are essentially buying their inventory. Because of that, it is basically like bootstrapping versus venture capital for by business folks. They are putting money in on the front end so they keep the lion’s share of the royalties on the backend, which means they have to be comfortable with bearing that risk, but it’s up to them.

It is a model that works really well for people who have a strong direct sales platform, whether they are speakers or consultants, because they do not need to buy their books back from their publishers. Just like on the self-publishing side, they have the creative control, they have the ownership, they have the speed to market, but operationally we are very much like a traditional publisher. We deal directly with the airport accounts, with Barnes and Nobles. The muscle at the core of Greenleaf Book Group is our distribution system. It is very much like a traditional house in terms of the vetting process on the front end. We have a staff of 40 people here in Austin that work on developing the books and taking it all the way from editorial to design, marketing, and distribution. Branding plays a huge part in this all through those elements, because we want to make sure that there is a consistent message and audience that we are speaking to throughout.

It is definitely a unique business model, and one that people are increasingly finding refreshing, given that it used to be only two choices: Go at it alone in the self-publishing world or give up perhaps more control, time, and money than you would want to on the traditional side. It is not for everybody, of course. I don’t believe there’s any right or wrong way to publish. Well, actually, there might be a wrong way to publish.

Publishing badly is a wrong way.

It is just about fit and you making a business decision on which priorities are kind of leading your list. Then, hopefully, finding the right fit from there.

Do you know approximately how many books you’ve published in the history of your company?

It is definitely thousands. We do 120 or 150 a year, and we have been doing that consistently year to year. I have been here 12 years now. We also pick up some books that are already produced, and we drop them into our distribution system if it is something we believe we can sell. At the heart of what we do, it is all about getting it out into bookstores. Brick and mortar is still more than half of where our book sales come from. It is still a huge element of focus for us. It is definitely in the thousands.

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What do you consider a successful book? How many copies does a book need to sell for you to consider it successful? Maybe not a best seller, but a reasonably successful book?

That’s kind of a loaded question!

Being a nine-time author, I know that.

Ha, you are going to drag me right into it, but of course it is different for every type of book. We have some health titles, and health books just have a broader audience, period, than a book on leadership, even though business books are our wheelhouse. Most of our New York Times best sellers are business books, although we’ve got increasingly more health titles falling in that bracket. New York Times best sellers are best sellers for a reason. Best sellers are standout performers, where it is selling tens of thousands. It is all about velocity of sales, selling quickly in the first few weeks.

For a book to be a solid performer on our list, we like to see it move two to three thousand units a year through our channels. I say through our channels because our authors do not have to buy their books back from us. I don’t have any visibility as to what they are doing through back-of-room sales and so forth. It’s probably a bigger number than that. I can only share what we invoice here, so probably two to three thousand units.

Does that include Amazon as well as brick-and-mortar stores?


That’s actually helpful; that’s actually useful. How do you think the world of book publishing has changed in the past five years?

The last five years have been really interesting. There has been a shift, of course. There is the first shift of e-books lighting a little bit of fear to a lot of folks. I think that inspired some concern about what is going to happen to our brick-and-mortar accounts. For us, that was really the impetus to making even an even harder push to diversify our brick-and-mortar account base so that we are not just relying on Amazon. We have very strong sales, and I mentioned the airport accounts; they are great examples, as well as the corporate accounts. In the industry itself, book sales are still very healthy. There has definitely been a change in terms of the retail stores processes. Barnes & Noble has closed some stores, and the overall makeup of their stores has been shifting. If you walk in the children’s section, it is very telling. There are more toys than books now. Granted my girls are teenagers, so I am not in that section much anymore, but it is really interesting to see the shift there. Books are getting less shelf space. Instead of that, they are moving in some toys and so forth.

On the other side, from the author perspective, I think the biggest shift in the last five years has been an acceptance that there can be more than one way to publish. There used to be this awful stigma around self-publishing, and people would turn their nose up at it as if it wasn’t good enough. Increasingly, we are seeing very high-profile authors walk away from traditional houses saying, “Well what are you bringing me now? I’ve got this great platform.” So often, it’s just a matter of proofreading, and distribution, which is no small thing, but if their sales are primarily occurring online, they are kind of connecting those dots and seeing that they can do it themselves and keep more of it. It seems like more people are experimenting in self-publishing. In general, they are more accepting of the fact that there are more ways to publish that are not necessarily good or bad, just different.

That brings me to the next question: Do you think there is any significant difference in using a book to grow your brand with a self-published versus the traditionally published book?

I am biased, of course. For a couples of reasons, I can kind of go either way on that.

Give me the pros and cons on both, just to be fair and balanced.

I think some authors are very hell-bent on being published by a traditional imprint. They believe that it carries a certain amount of cachet. There is some legitimacy that is transferred to them by virtue of being published through that brand. I would argue if you ask Joe Reader what the imprint was on the last book they read, they could have no idea, that really nobody pays attention to imprints, except those of us who are accepted by one of them with an advance. In terms of building a brand, in most cases, I don’t think the imprint really lends much. The distribution can lend something, so I will say that if it is a traditional house, you are in good hands from a distribution standpoint. That is certainly going to help your visibility, which is half the reason in doing the book, of course.

From the opposite perspective, when you are working with someone like Greenleaf, being on the self-publishing side, for a lot of the folks we work with, the creative control is really important. The book is there to support the brand and a certain message that they’ve honed carefully on the business side. We are very accustomed to walking the line between creating a book that was marketable to our retail accounts but also serves the business purpose that the author needs it to perform in the marketplace. That might be harder to achieve in the traditional model because you are less likely to be able to exert that much control in the process.

That is a really interesting point, because authors do use books and they can use books to build their brands, particularly if they have a business that the book can help support. I always tell people that I think of my book as very expensive business cards. Because it’s really designed not so much to… Of course, I like selling books, and all my books are traditionally published, and I want to sell books, and I do sell books, but really the books are for driving traffic to my website and driving traffic to my business. Part of what I want to ask you, and I know a lot of other authors use their books in that way: What are the best ways you think that an author can use a book to grow their brand and their business?

I think there are two major components to that. First of all, the very process of sitting down and writing a book can be very daunting. It can be daunting for a good reason. It is often a deep dive into really understanding what is the core message and value proposition of your business and who that audience is. And I think we get so busy in knocking out the day-to-day operations of our business that these bigger and strategic questions can move to the back burner. Maybe you looked at them a long time ago, but things have changed now, and we need to differentiate in a different way now.

The process of writing the book is very healthy in terms of sitting down and figuring out the tone, message, and promise that we are making to our readers. How are we different from our competitors? What does this book need to do? Number one, that is definitely a great asset in terms of solidifying your branding and making sure that all your messaging is consistent and on point. From there, the release of the book is an event. When it comes to doing things like publicity or having a campaign around your company, it’s always helpful to have something to talk about. That is rule one of word of mouth marketing: Give them something to talk about. The book release allows you to have an event that you can publicize: “This book is out. It talks about this or that. It makes this new revelation about whatever your business area is,” and hopefully that is something that is pushing some buttons or a little controversial and gets a lot of coverage in the media. It is a tool. It is a means for visibility.

As I mentioned, the airports, for a lot of our authors, that is a huge business driver. Somebody will pick the book up in the airport, read it on the plane, love what the author says, and realize, as so many of us business leaders do, that “I don’t have the time or the knowledge to execute this on my own,” that “I need to hire this person.” They will bring them in for the coaching, or the key note, or whatever it is — and that pays for the whole book project.

Another way the book drives business is through, just like you said, being a really expensive business card. Then it’s the general visibility and differentiation, being able to say that you wrote the book on whatever subject still carries a lot of weight. It is the legitimizer, and it opens a lot of doors. You also have a physical product where a lot of people will choose to do a mass mailing and send the book out as a thank-you, or as something you bundle with other things that you give to your clients. They have a high perceived value. People are not inclined to throw away a book; they are typically inclined to putting it up on the shelf or leaving it on their desk. As far as an imprint goes and impression, it has some staying power.

I think there are a couple of things that are really important that you’ve just said. One is being able to give it away. When you see a potential client or are on the phone with a potential client, to be able to send them a book as a follow-up or bring them a book that they can have, I think that really does help bring you to a higher level in their eyes — if the book is done well. I had this conversation with someone who is a book designer the other day on the podcast, and I think there is still a quality issue around books that are solely self-published. I hope you can address the importance of the quality of the book, not only in the writing, but in terms of the look, feel, and layout.

I agree. I unfortunately see a lot of self-published books that come to us where the author is seeking wider distribution, where the quality is generally poor. Partly because the author is not a book publisher, so I would not expect them to publish at the quality level of a publisher with 20 years’ experience like we have. Also because, typically, a self-publisher is working in a vacuum. They don’t have access to the retail accounts that are giving them current feedback about what is currently working in the marketplace. That cannot be overstated in the importance of having a high-quality product, because there is enough self-published garbage out there. If you do hand them something that has that awful gloss lamination cover on it, and the layout is uncomfortable on the eyes and difficult to read, that can backfire and would leave a poor impression. You look like, perhaps, this may be your first rodeo.

Having a really high-quality team behind you makes all of it worth it. It is such a time investment that you want to make sure that you get that right from the outset because it is your brand. It is quite difficult to remove once it is out there. There are ways that we can try to pull it off, different systems, but in terms of having an impression around your business out there, it is always better to do it right the first time and will probably save you money in the long run to put some resources behind a professional team.

What do you look for in authors? Because you don’t just take anyone who comes to you. You really select and curate your authors, correct?

Correct. We do only take about 10 percent of what comes through here.

So really you only take 10 percent of what comes through and curate your authors. What do you look for in an author that you accept to be part of your group?

The content has to be of strong quality, what I like to call practical nonfiction, something that explains to the reader on how to put this to work. Actionable is the word I love to use, and that is ultimately what sells. People can find a million and one books on leadership, health, or dieting, but they really want you to put a bow around, “Here is what you need to go do next.” That is probably one of the things that we spend the most time working on from an editorial side, on how to make this content very actionable and something that the reader can immediately apply to their lives to get the result that they initially bought the book for. Content is always important. I tell my authors that we are asking our readers for two weeks, not $20.

That’s a really good point: It’s their time, not their money.

For that reason, we need to spend a lot of time in crafting that experience. That goes back to the point about the layout, some of the graphics elements that we would incorporate into the design, to make sure that we are using those as carefully as we can to have a unique and purposeful reader experience. To make sure that the process of reading it should not get in the way of the content itself. Content is hugely important, and ultiamtely that goes a long way toward selling books, as much as it pains me to say this, but then the marketing and PR helps it to go a little farther.

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Using a book to grow your brand requires a comprehensive creation and marketing strategy.

That’s part of my question. How much does it weigh in if the author has a platform already in place, and you know they can do the PR and the marketing?

It is huge for a number of reasons. Number one, if an author comes to us with a platform that we can quantify to a degree, and even better if they’ve already had other books and we can point to a sales history, this will be so much easier to sell it into retail. It is not as risky for the retail accounts. They can look at how this author performed and make some assumptions on whatever their system is telling them about where it sold, when it sold, the whole curve of the sales pattern, versus when we go in with a debut author. It is like credit. If you go in with a sales history, you have good credit, they will say, “Okay; we’ve tried you before. It worked, so we will do it again.” If you go in with no credit, that is not bad that there is no sales history, it just means that we have more work to do in terms of conveying what is going to move this book because there is no credit.

We will look for somebody who is showing a very strong intent to support the book, who is hiring a publicist who is hopefully doing some speaking or has a sizeable list of people they can already reach. That allows us to turn to our retail accounts and say, quantifiably, that there are all these things in place to move that book off of your shelves. That helps drive the initial buy-in from those accounts.

There are a lot of people who are telling me these days that social media is making the length of books smaller. I also read that e-books that are over 50,000 words do better than e-books that are shorter than that. Do you have any opinion about that?

I think it is dangerous to get sucked into the mindset of: It has to be this length or that length. It has to be the length required to express the idea or belief logically. With some books, that takes 150 pages. With other books, it takes 400. With business titles, there is a trend overall with those becoming a little bit shorter. With some of our authors, we are taking material from the book that is not necessarily unnecessary, but it is not the meat of the book. We can take some of the case studies and so forth and we can put those on the website as added bonuses to the reader. It’s a good form of list-building as well. We can still be strategic with that material, but when somebody has questions about the length, I tell them to not worry about it. They just need to get the idea out and do it in a way that comes naturally and completely. The editors can figure it out from there.

I think that is good advice, because what you are saying is that it has to serve the book and what the book’s purpose is. That might be longer or shorter depending on the topic or content.

I know one of the reasons authors write books is to build their brand and to build their business. Are there specific ways that you have seen authors use their book to impact their business in terms of building their business?

Yes, I have seen a number of authors use the book, and the distribution of the book itself; getting it into the new customer’s hands is one way of building the business. Another thing that people will do is very smart presale campaigns where they are using the book not only as a way to give a premium or a reward to people that they’ve worked with, like being a speaker at an event, but they are also using that to build some momentum to build that new release. They’re doing things like offering folks an immediate e-book copy of the book if they agree to buy 20 hardcovers upon release date.

They are building on this really strong ground swell of preorders that they use when the book comes out to build momentum. That momentum can be used to hit the bestsellers list, which is a huge credibility boost. That is the most common tool that I see people use. Of course, the press and the media that talk about your book launch are also involved here.

You mentioned earlier about mailings and being able to follow up with a book. We have other folks who really use it as an influencer or outreach tool. They will offer the book, very nicely packaged sometimes with a letter or a little tschotske, just to send it to people who are complementary to their business and might be able to use the book for their clients or in some other way partner to have that content help both businesses.

I know you guys specialize in business books, or that one of the things in your wheelhouse is nonfiction business books. Are there other kinds of books that you’ve published that you like? You don’t do cookbooks, is that correct?

We have some cookbooks. Some of our top-selling books right now are cookbooks, actually. Paleo cookbooks; we do really well with those.

I stand corrected! Tell us about some of the other categories of books that you do?

Once upon a time, I was able to say as a joke that we would consider everything but poetry or porn. We then took a poetry book and I was like, “Aw, I lost my joke.”

It was such a nice alliteration too.

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Taps on the Walls by John Borling. Published by Greenleaf Book Group.

It really goes to show that you can’t get too married to your own ideas sometimes. The poetry book we took was fascinating. It was titled Taps on the Walls. It was poetry from prisoners of war at Hanoi Hilton, where they were tapping out Morse code to each other as a way to stay sane while they were held captive. There’s a foreword by John McCain, and it is an absolutely fabulous book, and we would have been stupid not to take it. It sold really well. Apart from that, we haven’t accepted any other poetry books.

Have you accepted any porn yet?

It actually sells really well, but no. We haven’t accepted any porn. But to answer your question seriously, we have primarily nonfiction, but we do have a kind of smattering of fiction. If I have to pull a thread through all these books, even the fiction stuff that works on our list is typically a book that helps someone improve their life or their business. There is some moral or story behind the fiction or the nonfiction that has that sort of ultimate truth of how are we becoming better people, and how are we creating a better world? That is the strength that we built in terms of our sales channels; that is the type of content that they like. Something that follows along those lines, then we are open to considering it.

You will take people who are first-time authors? They don’t have to have been authors before, correct?

Yes. I would say most of our authors are first-time authors. We are very used to working with them. It is different because publishing is a very backwards business, especially when business people first start to learn about it and they start to shake their heads. It can be a learning curve for them, but we are very used to sitting down and explaining the why behind why we do what we do verses just saying, “Here’s how it is.”

There are also other authors who might have moved over from the traditional side, and there are people who have self-published and were tired of dealing with the administrative side of that and just wanted to focus on creating. So those types used us as the back end for their publishing operations.

What percentage of the people who are your authors have shifted to this hybrid model with you?

I don’t know a percentage off the top of my head; annually, 20 percent of our list, maybe. It’s definitely increased over the past few years.

Is it because they can make money per book doing that?

That is a big part of it. Number one is just awareness. I think despite our efforts to get our name out there, a lot of people don’t know that this third option exists. As they are understanding that they can have all the distribution and have the creative control and get it out faster and make more money on any direct sales, for that author, this is an option that makes sense for them. A lot of it is just awareness and getting the word out. I think the other part is the stigma is lifting. I don’t think they are as concerned as to how it looks for their brand if they move away from those traditional houses.

If you have a CEO or executive who is really smart and sharp, has something to contribute, but they are just not a good writer, but they want to write a book to build their CEO brand, what do you suggest for people like that?

I frequently come across that person. Just as common is that person is a speaker. That is perfect actually.

Some people say to me that they just want to record their speech. I’ll tell them that It’ll give you content, but the way you speak does not translate to the way you write.

Absolutely, and that is correct. At the same time, I’d rather have someone who can speak or has that CEO brand and experience than someone who can write and can’t do either of those things. We can hire a writer, but we can’t hire a speaker or a thinker for you. We have a whole process built out. We work with so many busy business executives and CEOs, people who understand the power of a book but don’t want to sit down. It takes a lot of time and discipline. Often, life gets in the way and work gets in the way, and we totally understand that.

There is a project development process that those folks go through where we can help them go through the heavy lifting of creating the outline. The outline is really the meat of the book. That’s going to help you see the logical structure of the content, understand the flow for the reader, identify any holes to the content, and see if you need to pull together some case studies or outside information. Usually, that is where we start. That is often enough to get them to the point where they feel like there is a weight off their shoulders, and they can see how it will come together and see where they might need to hunker down and write some extra material. From there, depending on whether they enjoy writing or not, they might run off and go ahead and fill in the blanks from the outline that we created, or they might say that they love it but they don’t have time.

In that case, we will find them a ghostwriter and go through the process of finding someone with the appropriate voice. Even then the ghostwriter needs their time. But because a ghostwriter needs to spend their time initially with the author in understanding what they’re trying to convey and to really find the fine point in their voice and making sure that they get it right, there are frequent check-ins to make sure that everything is staying that way. So one way or another, we can get them there.

It is interesting because I’ve worked with a lot of clients where I helped them write or ghostwrite a book, and about half the time, it does not work out with ghostwriters. When I ask why it does not work out, they say that they just did not understand the things that they were talking about or the voice of the person, that they didn’t “get” them. Talk more about that.

I agree, and it makes sense; it is a frequent concern. Nobody has the world view that you have. . It can be a bit of heavy lifting on the front end to find that right person who has the ghostwriting ability to write in your voice, and we are talking about hiring a thinker for you. In a way you are hiring a thinker, in a degree, in a ghostwriter, because you are hoping that the voice that they lend to your manuscript does take into consideration some of the business knowledge and wisdom that you’ve picked up along the way. A ghostwriter will specialize in a certain area. The good ones are booked up for years. They make good money because they have some very solid business chops that they can draw on, and it helps to make sure that your voice comes through clearly.

It is also important for the author to understand that they are still the author and it is their idea. They have to take ownership of making sure whatever those unique elements are that makes their voice their voice, that they are stressing that on the front end so there isn’t an unpleasant surprise down the road.

What is the typical cost for a ghostwriter?

It is absolutely all over the map. I would say a really good one could easily make six figures; $100,000 in six months, I would say, for someone who is very, very good. Ghostwriters can’t publicize the books that they’ve worked on in the past, so it can be a bit of a challenge. Many of these conversations are by phone. We have a sense from having worked with them over the years of which books they have done. You can get a decent ghostwriter who may not have quite the list of credentials as somebody who’s been at it for a decade with $20,000 to $30,000. It is still an investment either way.

That’s one of the things that people I have talked to often are shocked about, but really, that person not only has to write the book, but they also have to interview and look at your materials. They are not only writing, but they are also researching.

It is a huge time commitment on their part. If you do the math on how many they can do in a year, the good ones make good money by doing that. It is a lot of work that goes into this six-month process of immersing themselves into this author’s world.

There was someone on the show the other day who said that they think every business person should write a book. I don’t quite agree with it. I would like to know what your take on that is.

I definitely don’t agree with that. I actually did a presentation at the National Speakers Association titled Why You Should Not Write a Book. If you’re struggling to get through even the process of writing an outline, it is more for reasons that perhaps you are not behind the idea versus someone who does not have time. You certainly aren’t going to have the right type of energy behind the promotional side of it, and it’s going to sit there and not sell, and you’re going to be upset. I think everybody who’s got a book understands the real effort that goes into the marketing and promotion. That’s not to say that writing it is easy. But if you are struggling just to get the thing produced, then I worry about what is going to happen when the pedal needs to hit the metal and you need to be out there hustling. That would be one reason to not write a book. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be creating some type of content.

A lot of times, an author will come in and think they need to write a book. We then look into the nature of their idea. Sometimes it is something that is timely, like technology or current affairs. It is just not appropriate to put in a book because by the time the book comes out, it’s outdated, and you have to do a print-on-demand scramble to correct it. Sometimes, it does not have the legs to flesh out an entire book, and it should be a webinar series or presentation or blog. There are so many ways to put ideas out into the world. People want to consume those ideas in different types of formats. There is nothing wrong with that; everyone learns in a different way. There is plenty of demand for content in different packages, if you will.

When I find somebody who is really feeling as if they are being pushed in writing a book, I would definitely steer them toward finding a different vehicle for that content. When you have the things that should be your book, and it absolutely drives you when you wake up, that is the time to sit down and say, “This is my book.”

For me, I write books when I am bursting with the subject. I feel like I just need to get it out to make room for the next thing. That’s when I write books and when I would encourage someone to write a book so they can use that book to grow your brand.

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So I have some questions that aren’t related to using a book to grow your brand, but that I like to ask everybody on the show. I’d like for you to think about somebody in your life who had a negative impact on you and how you dealt with it and learned something from it. Don’t say that person’s name.

Like a lot of people, I had managers who were frankly not well trained as managers. While going through that, it was painful, and I learned a lot on how to lead my team that I have now. This helped me as the CEO. I just had a flashback all the way to my TV years, which was the late ’90s, and one of the earliest things that I have learned and that I still hold near and dear to my heart is: You do not speak ill of your competitors. I think that is very important. I am really bothered when I see other folks in this industry do it.

When I was working in television one day, I was a segment producer at E! cable networks. E! was always the redheaded stepchild of getting celebrities on air. They always went to Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight, and then to us. One day, we were given this printed out list, a very sort of spun statistic about these other shows. We were supposed to use them to try to counter the publicists who we were campaigning to try to get them to give us the exclusive with some celebrity or give us the red carpet interviews. I had this feeling of, “Ick,” is the way I want to describe it to this day. They insisted that we give it a go. The very first time I tried it, it blew up in my face. I was begging for this exclusive interview, and I read off whatever statistic I was supposed to read, and there was dead silence on the end for about 15 seconds or so. Right there, I knew that I had just absolutely burned this relationship and lost her respect all in one breath.

She said to me, “They would never do that to you, and I’m expecting you to behave in the same way.” Just her tone told me that I completely screwed that up. I tore that thing up and threw it away. I never used it again. That is such a great story and speaks volumes.

There are times when we do that stuff, and it is against our own nature or our own intuition or own sense of values. We do it and realize that, yep, it was not a good thing to do. Hopefully we learn from it and never do it again.

Absolutely. You can sense that. Like I said, I have this very grown-up word, “Ick,” to describe that feeling of, “This goes against what I believe, this lack of integrity. This also is just not logical. I’m not buying it; they are not going to buy it.”

The other side of the question is: Who is someone in your life who made a very positive difference on you, and how did you learn from that? How has that changed you? You can say that person’s name if you want to.

It would be honestly hard to narrow that down to one person. I am in the unique position of being able to work with thousands of very accomplished people by virtue of the authors on my list. I became CEO here in 2014 but have been in the company for 12 years. I know so many of these people; they are an extension of my family. When you are really deep in someone’s ideas, you become very close to these people. Launching a book is like having a baby in some ways. You are going through this roller coaster of emotions. You build these strong relationships. It is so fascinating that when I became CEO, I had tons of emails and phone calls from the authors of my list, not only congratulating me, but saying, “Hey, if you find yourself in a situation where you need my help on strategies, social media, leadership — all these things we publish their books about — please give me a call.” At first, I thought that would be kind of awkward, to talk about a business issue, because that is my client.

But I tried it. They are people who already know my business, know me, know the culture at the company, and have already expressed wanting to be of help. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that? Those people have had a great influence on me, not only because of the knowledge that they were able to share with me but also what they taught me on how to be generous and being free with sharing that with people. It is not always about getting whatever fee per hour for being able to share your knowledge. All of that builds goodwill that comes around in one way or another.

Berny Dohrmann of CEO Space calls that “brain tithing.” It’s like you are tithing, but with your brain.

Thank you. For authors or would-be authors who are interested in finding out how to work with you, what is the website for people to go to?


This is wonderful. Tanya, thank you. You are just a joy to talk to.

Thank you. It was a lot of fun. I am happy to do it any time.

Thanks for joining me today, everyone. My guest has been Tanya Hall on using a book to grow your brand. She is the CEO of Greenleaf Book Group.

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Tanya_036-newAbout Tanya Hall – CEO of Green Leaf Book Group

Tanya drives Greenleaf’s growth efforts and fosters a culture built around serving authors. Prior to her current role, Tanya worked directly with Greenleaf’s authors to develop publishing strategies (including multiple New York Times bestsellers); spearheaded growth strategies, including Greenleaf’s ebook program and the River Grove digital-first imprint; and built Greenleaf’s distribution organization, working directly with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest-growing distribution businesses in the industry. Before joining the publishing industry, Tanya worked in digital media and as a television producer for Extra! and E! Entertainment Television.

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This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, (Entrepreneur Press, 2016) is available online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and in bookstores now.