Michelle Vandepas | Positioning Yourself as an Expert in Your Field by Writing a Book

Adam LeanPodcast

On this week’s P is for Profit, we speak with special guest, Michelle Vandepas. Michelle is an expert for entrepreneurs and personal development experts who want to share what they’ve learned with the world by publishing a book. She is the Co-Founder of GracePoint Matrix and GracePoint Publishing, the gold standard in concierge publishing. She is also an esteemed TEDx speaker and TEDx Speaker Coach.

“In the process of publishing and marketing my first book, I started talking to other people about the mistakes that they made and what I do differently. Before you know it, I was merging my marketing consulting with book consulting and over 20 years, that morphed into specializing in publishing books. Eventually, I became Co-Founder and owner of a book publishing company. So I really understand the whole process, how you use it to market a business, how you go about writing a book when you’re not a writer, and all the way through to publishing and marketing. And that just comes from being years in the industry,” says Michelle.

We chat about Michelle’s journey to owning a publishing company, as well as:

  • Why business owners should consider writing a book
  • The importance of writing for your customers rather than for yourself
  • The process of actually writing a book
  • Common mistakes made by authors
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to generate sales by becoming a published author. We’re going to talk to a book coach and publisher about why you should write a book and what your next steps to take should be. This is P is for Profit. 

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is Michelle Vandepas. She’s a book coach and publisher who has worked with thousands of business owners over the past 20 years to help them bring their message to the world. Michelle, welcome to the show.

Michelle Vandepas: Thank you. It’s good to be here, Adam.

Adam: Yeah, I’m really excited to talk about, you know, writing a book and publishing. So I know that a lot of people have questions about that and they, you know, wonder if they could write a book themselves. So, I guess tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are and how you got to owning a book publishing company.

Michelle: Yeah. So 21 years ago, I published my first book about marketing because I’ve been a business owner and helped other business owners market themselves. 21 years ago, this book was about what color flyer paper to choose and how to appropriately hand out flyers at networking events. So we’ve come a long way since then. And in the process of publishing, marketing, that book, I started talking to other people about the mistakes they had made and what I do differently. 

And before you know it, I was merging my marketing consulting now with book consulting. And just over the 20 years, that morphed into specializing in publishing books, and then eventually I became co-founder and owner of a book publishing company. So I really understand the whole process, how you use it to market a business, how you go about writing a book when you’re not a writer and all the way through to publishing and marketing. And that just comes from being years in the industry.

Adam: So first question, why does anybody need a book? A business owner? Why do they need to write a book?

Why You Should Write a Book

Michelle: Yeah, great question. So there’s really two things. One is, many people really want to write a book. They say it’s on my bucket list. Someday I’m gonna write a book. I’m sure I’ve got at least one book in me. And so there’s a yearning, there’s a desire, there’s a passion to want to write your book, and that’s a really good reason. 

So we’re going to talk about all the money reasons and the business reasons but the first thing is entrepreneurs, business owners tend to be pretty passionate people that hopefully love what they do. And this is just another way to express yourself. It’s another way to talk about what you love in a creative way and get your message out in the world. 

So I always like to start with the heart because I think entrepreneurs and business owners are full of heart. The second piece though, which is what we’re all interested in, is the financial piece. How’s it going to help my business? And when you write a book, it sets you apart. It shows that you have experience and expertise in whatever it is you’ve written your book about, that you have something different to say or that you have some words of wisdom for somebody else. 

And it gives you a new way, not a replacement way but a new way to connect with your potential clients that might not otherwise find you. So let’s say you’re already doing some online marketing, you’re advertising old school, maybe in newspapers or print media, maybe or on radio or podcasts, you know, the old school, the new school, all of that. A book is just a different way to reach your potential audience.

Adam: Okay, so if the book has to have, you know, you have to be passionate about something, so you have to have that heart factor. But then the book is also a way to generate, you know, marketing. Let’s first talk about the heart factor or the why you should write a book. So, let’s say that somebody owns a heating and air company out there and they want to use that, they like the idea of writing a book, they’re passionate about heating and air, but who’s gonna read a book on heating and air? So I guess talk to us about that.

Michelle: Yeah, so let’s pretend I decided I want to put air conditioning in my house. Colorado, not everybody has air conditioning. It’s not always needed, but let’s just say I decided to put air conditioning in my house that is all different years old because it’s been remodeled and added onto. I have no idea where to start. What are the questions I should ask? What are the pitfalls I need to know about? What are the upsides? What are the different types of air I should be looking at? 

You know, what happens if I decide just to use box fans in my windows? I mean, I have so many questions. I don’t even know where to start. I see these big units outside, but I also see other units in a window. I’m not in a place where I’m used to having air conditioning, so different than the part of the country you’re in, but I wouldn’t even know where to start, how to shop for that. Especially right now when we’re all in shelter at home. I might love to pick up a book and start researching and getting these questions answered. How do you start shopping for air conditioning? 

How do you choose a good heat and air company? What are the maintenance fees I should be expecting? So that’s just one, that’s a very pragmatic way to write a book that you can either give away to potential customers, send out to people who are looking, use it in your advertising. You know, there’s not a lot of heart in that kind of book, but that’s definitely a book that will bring you clients. And I have no idea if there’s something like that out there yet.

Adam: Yeah, I mean, I could definitely see how that would make that person more credible. I mean, if there’s, you know, in my town, I think there’s over 1000 different, I mean, literally, different heating and air companies. And if somebody that wrote a book on it, it would be seen as the authority.

Michelle: Absolutely. Yeah, totally. And then, you know, if I make a call and you asked for my address and say, well, we’re just going to send you some information and I get a book in the mail as opposed to a brochure, that’s pretty impressive. And then maybe 

Adam: Even if they ever read it, it’s impressive. 

Michelle: Yeah, totally. And then, you know, what if there’s an intro chapter about, you know, why my grandfather started this business. And, you know, who knows what it would be? A little bit of story in there, it makes it a more interesting read. Maybe some stories about people who didn’t do their due diligence and had a disaster installing air conditioning, right? It’s like that movie The Money Pit, right? 

Where somebody’s remodeling their house and it just gets worse and worse and worse. You know, we all like disaster stories when it doesn’t happen to us. And so that would be great to put in this book too. So one of the thousand air conditioning and heating people out there, give me a call. We’ll write this book.

Adam: Yeah, and I think, let’s speak to a little bit on the sort of the overall concept of somebody’s blog. So we’ll stay on the heating and air as an example. Because I think this is so important. I want to get your take on this. In my opinion, and I see, you know, a lot of people, I live in the online world and, you know, just the nature of my business, I see a lot of people who write their own book, but they write a book about themselves.

Michelle: Oh, I love this question. You haven’t even asked it yet, Adam.

Adam: I don’t think anybody cares.

What’s In It for Me?

Michelle: Yeah. So we got to go do old school marketing, right? What’s the benefit? What are the features? And what are the benefits? What’s in it for me? So me, I’m the consumer. I’m the one that needs air conditioning. So why am I writing this book? I want a short story about why your grandfather started the business. 

But I really want to know what’s in it for me. I don’t want to hear about your life unless it helps me It’s all about me, me, me, me, me, right? So if you own a business, you know about sales. You’ve had to learn some sales skills to stay alive. And one of the things that we know is you have to listen intently and then answer the question that’s being asked, not what you think they need to know. 

And in a book, it’s the same thing. You really need to listen to your customer and answer those questions in the book. So I don’t really care about whatever ball bearings are in there. That’s not a question I would ever ask. So what are really the questions that your customers come asking you and that’s what goes in the book? So yeah, you’re not writing your life story unless somehow it helps me read and understand what my next step is supposed to be.

Adam: That makes sense. I heard sort of a cheesy saying a few years ago that actually stuck with me. So it made some impact, that everybody is tuned into one station. It’s WIIFM? What’s in it for me?

Michelle: Yeah, there you go. That’s it exactly. And that’s true when we write sales copy for a web page. It’s true if we’re out in public buying something or selling something. And when you’re in the position of sales, it’s a very powerful place to be super empathetic, rather than trying to be the powerful salesperson.

Adam: Yeah, I mean, you’re essentially delivering a sales message without you physically being there. Somebody in the comfort of their own home can read your book and they’re getting your sales spiel, but without the high pressure of you physically delivering it, right?

Michelle: And do you have time, which we don’t always have in a sales call, to take people through all the objections, to answer the elephant in the room, to show people what their benefits are going to be, to give testimonials? You have the time of going through that. So especially for any high ticket items. It’s fabulous to write a book. Having said that, there’s a lot of people who’ve written books that lead to $9 items online too. 

But I like to think of a book, especially in this genre that we’re talking about, there’s lots of other kinds of books, personal development and self-help and fiction, all of them. But in this particular niche that we’re talking about, it’s an opportunity to write your long-form sales letter, your love letter directly to your potential client and take them through the whole sales process.

Adam: So just to make sure we understand, assuming that the book itself is written just like you said, for the customer, for the end-user and it’s, the title and everything about the book speaks to your target audience, how does the process of actually writing the book work?

The Full Process of Writing a Book

Michelle: So if you come to someone like me, there’s, so, you know, there’s so many ways to write a book, right? There’s a million ways to write a book. But let’s pretend you’re working with me and I’ll tell you how I take you through the process. We would start by doing a 90-minute concept developmental call, where we would go through something like what is it that you want your potential client to do at the end? 

Pick up the phone and call you? Press something on a web page and sign up for an email? Order something? Like, what’s the result? What’s the goal here? Book you for speaking? Invite you to come to their club? You know, what is the goal? And then we work backwards. What do they need to know to be able to take that step? Do they need to have faith in you? Do they need to know you’re an expert? 

Do they need to believe that you have something no one else has? Are you giving them an irresistible offer? What is it? And so we start working backwards. And then we give them, maybe it’s your FAQ in the book, and maybe it’s some stories and we start developing out the whole book and how it will lead them through the process of why you are the expert in the field. We don’t want it to just be a sales letter, right? But I’m sort of doing the outline for you here. 

This is, this would be the outline of how we get this book written. We’re going to punch it up with feel-good stories and disaster stories and other things to make it an interesting read but we do want to get the meat in there as well. And so we would lay all that out and in a number of different ways. I might interview a business owner, spend some time myself or one of my book coaches actually on the phone, interviewing and transcribing that. So a lot of business owners don’t have time to sit down and write, or maybe they just, they want the book, but they’re not writers. 

So that’s one way. Another way is they may take a bullet point that we’ve worked on, and voice text it into their phone, and then get that transcribed. Other business owners actually are going to sit down and write for 20 minutes every single day on one of the bullet points we created. And then we start fleshing out the book, getting some meat in there. And then it goes to an editor, a really good developmental editor that will start moving things around in the manuscript, putting it in the right order and telling you, the author, where it needs to be fleshed out a little bit. 

So you’re working with somebody like myself and an editor all through the process to help you get this book written. It’s a different process than somebody who wants to write a self-help book who’s digging deep into their own process of how they moved from trauma to healed or something like that. That’s a different process. And I just want to be clear that I don’t use this particular process with every author. But for business owners who are busy, have a lot on their plate, want to get a book out to help them build business, this is a process that works for the majority of people.

Adam: I like how you said at the beginning, you know, before anybody even puts pen to paper, let’s figure out the goal. What is the next step? When you, when somebody reads your book or has your book, what do you want them to do? Is it to get booked to the or, you know, chamber meeting? Is it for networking? Is it to build just trust. Is it to give away on Facebook, you know?

Michelle: Yep. Yeah. And we can address many of those things but we want to talk it through and think it through because if you want them to pick up the phone and order a high ticket item, we want to make sure we’re building lots of credibility in there.

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. Trust.

Michelle: All the things that you would have an opportunity to do if you were meeting face to face. We want to get those same, the trust factor, like you said, and just the comfortability out on the paper, so the person will pick up the phone and order.

Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. So I mean, I’ve obviously you’ve helped several authors over the years write books. What are some of the common mistakes that authors make when they, you know, write their book and publish it?

Common Mistakes in Writing and Publishing

Michelle: Ooh, there’s so many. Just like with starting any business, right? Being a business owner, we all make tons of mistakes. You know, some of the mistakes are not really understanding who your audience is and thinking you can write a book for the general public. That doesn’t usually work. So even if you have a great story, I’m not a big fan of avatar marketing and niche marketing. 

And a lot of people teach that stuff. But I do think you need to know who your audience is and write your book for your audience. Because otherwise, your book tends to be too diluted and you’re not speaking directly to the person that needs to read it. Then there are mistakes like, not the right kind of editing, not enough editing, a really bad book cover so you can look at it and go well, I’d never read that book. 

And then things like ISBNs and how when you buy them ISBN you really need to understand who owns the book project. So if you work with a publisher, you would not own your ISBN, the publisher would. If you’re self-publishing then you get your own ISBN and this is a piece that any reputable consultant book publisher, self-publishing company will explain to you and take you through it. 

But I have seen authors come to me after they’ve published with somebody else, it may have been a self-publishing company, but that company owns the ISBN and then they cannot take that work and republish it elsewhere. So there’s not a right or wrong, it’s just understanding what you’re doing. It’s like any decision, just knowing the facts so you can make an educated decision about what’s best for you. I’m not saying buy your ISBN in or don’t buy your ISBN. I think each author and each business owner is going to have to make that decision based on what’s best for them after they get some facts.

Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. Just for clarification, what does, can you explain the ISBN concept and why would want to own it or, versus letting the publisher own it?

Michelle: Yeah. So if you open up, so anybody who’s listening to you, I’m sure you have a book on your desk. Pick up the book. And on the back cover by the bar code, there should be an ISBN. And when you open the book on the copyright page, there’s some ISBM. And that’s a little bit like a social security number for the book. 

It explains where the book was born, who, where the book came from, all those kinds of things. Whoever owns the ISBN owns the package of the book. So to get a little bit technical here, if you write the book, you own your words, you own the copyright to your words, but whoever owns the ISBN owns the package of the book put together in that package with the cover the book, the editing, and so forth. 

And so it’s a little bit like if you write a song and then you have a producer produce and publish the song, the producer might own the rights to that song under that packaging. So I don’t know if that’s a good example. So in other words, when the contract’s over with your publisher, you can take your words and go republish it a different way. But while the book is under contract, it has to have that particular cover, it has to have that particular layout and design, it has to have that ISBN attached with those words because there’s now a package that is altogether under that ISBN. Does that make sense?

Adam: No, it does. It does. 

Michelle: Okay, yeah. Good. 

Adam: How long does it typically take for somebody to write a book from start to finish working with you?

Timeframe for a Full Book Process

Michelle: Yeah. So in this particular way of writing a book, so if someone comes to me and says, you know, I’ve got all this stuff in my head, I want to use the book to get business specifically, to get more clients, to make myself known as an expert in the industry to build my credibility, because I want to be an author, right? So I want to write down my stories. And we do something like this process that I just talked about, maybe I interview you whenever. We can get a book done in 90 days. 

Adam: Really? 90 days?

Michelle: We can. Somebody who has a self-development, self-improvement kind of book and it’s more process-oriented and you have to dig deep through some more feelings and the process, that takes longer usually. It’s a different type of writing, it’s not business writing and so that may take longer. The editing, however, we may go back and edit and then if you’re working with a good editor, a good editor can get you changes within a few days. And this is where most authors get stuck and they need some help. We go into our self-doubt, we go into is this really what I want to do? It triggers all of our middle school red X’s across the paper. 

Our English. So no matter how self-confident we are about our subject, there’s something about when you go into editing that everybody freaks out and goes into self-doubt. And so my job is to continue to push people through that time so that you don’t get stuck, so that you can continue publishing the book, you know, editing the book and get it into publishing and not get stalled out in that process. So that’s a, that’s just a place that I’m aware of. And then I always talk to authors. Don’t worry if you get stalled out, I’m here to help you, push you through. 

And then the actual publishing process can take anywhere from three weeks to three months, depending how much testing we do on book covers, how much we go back and forth on layout and design. I mean, we can get it up and done really quickly in a week, or we may take a lot of time to do some pre-book launch things and like I said, book covers and so forth and it might take three months. And so the fastest is like three months from beginning to end. I have worked with authors that have taken years to get books out, but the average book is probably, a business book is six months.

Adam: Okay. Well, Michelle, this has all been fascinating. Yeah. So I guess one last question. Where can people find you? Let’s say they’re interested in learning more or just even starting the process and where can people find you?

Michelle: So I’m at gracepointpublishing.com. And you can set an appointment to talk with myself or one of our book coaches just by clicking on the link. There’s also a free download of, you know, things to know before you hit that publish button. I’m all over social media, not hiding out. And, you know, I love to do this. So if you think you have an idea for a book, give me a call and we’ll talk it through and see if you do.

Adam: Excellent. Yeah, so gracepointpublishing.com. We’ll put that in the show notes. Michelle, thank you so much for being here.

Michelle: Thank you, Adam. It was a pleasure.

Adam: So if you would like to see if Michelle and her team can help you write a book and help promote your business, feel free to reach out. I’ll put her website, again, in the show notes at gracepointpublishing.com. Thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit than last year and to turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.