Effortless Authorship System: Interviewed by James Brown

Apologies to my four readers for the long lapse between postings…

I was interviewed in March by Japan-based marketer, James Brown, about my experiences (to date) with the effortless authorship program. Posted below is an edited transcript of this one hour call.

In it, ‘JB’ refers to James Brown and ‘MM’ is Mark McClure (me).
By the way, James is Australian – this explains his use of ‘mate’ and ‘buddy’.

I think the call is a good example of a mentored conversation, with James as the mentor, and myself as the mentee.

Read through the text below and see if you can detect how he helped me decide which of two possible book theme statements I should begin with. My choice is mentioned at the bottom of this post.


JB: James Brown, here. I’m with Mark McClure. Mark is a fellow Japanster, living in sunny Tokyo. He’s a member of the mentoring group we have as part of the  Effortless Authorship Program. Mark’s goal is to self-publish a book that helps people coach themselves through a career change, and he has developed a set of guidelines for the book he’s calling “Just Five Rules“.

I think he’s really onto something super cool here. I have rarely seen anyone so well organized. Even established authors rarely go to the level Mark has to create a solid plan and structure for his book. He’s here to share some of his thoughts with the group. Mark, are you still there buddy?

MM:I’m still listening to that wonderful introduction, James. Keep going. It’s great.

JB:Well, buddy, it’s true. You sent an e-mail here asking for comments and feedback about two different themes for the book. I jumped at the chance to have Mark as a guest, as we can go deeply into the planning process together. Mark is asking, “Which of the two book themes do you like, and why?”

Let’s pull up his blog, where he’s posted a detailed plan for the book. Head over to JustFiveRules.com, and look for the blog post titled, “Self-Coaching Book Theme Statement.” There are two awesome ideas for the book’s structure, here. I told Mark before the program started that he could basically flick a coin and start with either one.  Mark, you have a technology background, correct?

MM:Yes, I’m an ex-IT person.

JB:Well, buddy, I’ll throw my first suggestion in the hat. You might design the book for those in the IT industry going through a career change. The IT industry has to be one of the most volatile industries today along with the financial sector. That could be the first in a series of books, or you could start with a generic one and follow up with one for the IT niche, applying these principles.

Let’s look at Mark’s doodling, which apparently was done while he was riding trains around Tokyo. Mark and I have shared many a beer together, so I happen to know that  Mark spends all day long riding the trains. Let’s look at Book Theme Statement #1:

Self-coaching is free, powerful and private. With practice and trust, literally priceless results can be achieved. This book shows you how to self-coach your own career change.

As we were discussing, the number of people between the ages of thirty and sixty going through career changes at the moment is staggering. Wouldn’t you agree, Mark?

MM:Yes, I do agree. This year has been another unpredictable year. Europe has got all sorts of economic issues going on. Even in Japan, as you know, there’s still a lot of trauma after the earthquake last year (I think trauma is the right word). So much has happened in the space of a year to affect Japan’s economy.

One thing about that first book theme statement. I’m sure your listeners realize that I’m trying to follow Michael in your course recommendation to get a better theme statement done, and then to drill into that first “I’m a Savior” chapter. But I feel I can’t get started on that until I know what I’m writing about, so that’s currently where I am.

I’m thinking there are two book themes I could go for. As you say, I could toss a coin and go for either. I have been thinking about this, actually, for the last couple of weeks. There probably is more than one book to be written with this theme.

I listened to Michael’s mp3 recordings a few times. He said something to the effect that you should aim to make your first book a really good book and leave nothing out, because you don’t get a second chance if it’s not very good the first time around. Remember that part? People get skeptical about a second one. That’s where I am at the moment.

JB:That’s more about book publishers, buddy. If you’re going the self-publishing route, it’s not such a big deal. But at the same time, you’ve got to bite the bullet and punch through. Spike, Michael and I have been writing a book together for the last eight months. There has been a lot of debate between us, but unfortunately you always have to go through this thrashing process. I intend to share this with our mentoring group over the next month.

You’re just never going to be happy, buddy. I have yet to meet an author who is completely happy with their book. I think a lot of authors feel like they’ve been slapped across the head when someone admires their first book, because they feel it’s their most embarrassing piece of work. That’s the really tough part of the writing game—the fact that you’re never going to be happy.

The beautiful part of writing a book today is the options you get through electronic publishing and print on demand. For instance, it’s very easy to do updates. You can do that easily whenever the time is right. You might put out a version two. I’ve seen a couple of very successful books that are updated on an annual basis. One thing you don’t have to worry about anymore, in this day and age, is the difficulty of updating a book.

Let’s go back to your question. You’ve got two really powerful themes, here. I love both of them. What made you decide to write this book?

MM:The self-coaching theme came from my background. Before I became a freelance writer, I was interested in coaching—both career coaching and life coaching. I found out pretty quickly I didn’t want to do that full-time. It didn’t work for me because I realized I was selling my time a lot (creating a second job for myself). I’m in Japan, and I was coaching people in different time zones, in Europe and the U.S. So, I quickly ruled out coaching people one-on-one.

But I realized, from working with other coaches and from just keeping an eye on the marketplace, that a lot of people are frightened to hire a coach because they don’t know what’s going to happen; and they’re not sure if they can afford it. Yet, they would like to benefit from coaching, by self-coaching themselves.

Everybody I know has heard of self-coaching. The people I used to work with have read some stuff, or HR told them, or their managers told them. Yet, they have no clue how to do it, and they actually don’t have much confidence that they can do it. Hence, the crutch of having an outside coach to tell them what to do.

So, I know there’s a market for it, especially in these times of turmoil. When times are good, people aren’t so worried about coaching, but when times are not so good, a lot of people look around and think, I could be next for the axe. Or, how do I handle it if I am going to be sacked, or if I have to leave my job and take a pay cut? How do I deal with all those issues without going crazy?

There is an endless flood of self-help books about how to do this, that and the other, but I haven’t seen very many about self-coaching. That is driving what I want to create and put out for people who are interested in self-coaching and prefer a physical book over working with a coach one-on-one.

JB:And self-coaching is so prevalent today in business. More and more IT departments are plugging people into trainings. There are self-coaching programs. Programmers can keep their software certifications up-to-date. I think having the book focus on the IT industry (which requires a lot of certifications) could be a winner. And generically, too, there’s been an explosion in self-education online; everything from yoga classes to origami to learning to speak English.

You can’t pick anything hotter than career change, right now, with all the turmoil in the markets. And the economy will improve. Economies go down, and then they go up. And then they go down again. If you go swimming, you’re going to get wet. I think you’re really going to see some major changes in technology. There’s going to be a lot of changes in the next ten or twenty years. And these changes are going to wipe out a lot jobs. That also makes this book very exciting. It gives it that evergreen potential.

Technology is changing so fast. So many companies in the U.S. are shutting down and moving their manufacturing plants to Asia, and it’s not just China anymore (which is now becoming an economic powerhouse). Manufacturers are moving to India, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia. And as you and I know, whenever there’s a change in technology, new career opportunities open up.

MM:That’s right.

JB:Just think of all the new careers that were created as a result of the Internet. It’s staggering, isn’t it? I think it’s going to be the same for the next fifteen years. And you don’t have to wait for downsizing to force you to change your career. This is actually a great time to change your career, whether you wish to improve your skills, upgrade your pay scale, or find a business that you can run from home.

MM:You’re certainly right about change happening in Asia. There’s a tremendous catch-up going on here, to keep up with the developed world. Apart from Japan and maybe Singapore, only a few other countries are obviously very well developed here. Australia is one, for example. But there are many other smaller Asian countries (and bigger ones, too, like China) growing quickly. So, that presents opportunities.

Another thing, James, that came to mind when I was listening to you talking there.  There’s a lot of lifestyle creation books out there, like Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek. There are also lesser-known authors writing books about people retiring in their forties or other books aimed at people in their twenties. “Don’t get a job in the first place, but become a backpacking entrepreneur. You take your laptop and you work anywhere.” That kind of theme.

People in different age groups and demographics are looking for ideas to help them deal with all this economic turbulence. While I don’t want to write a Tim Ferriss-type book (that’s not what I’m aiming at), there are people (and this is partly driven by the folks I know and have worked with) who will never leave their jobs and become what you and I would call entrepreneurs. They would never be able to take that risk, to be frank, because they have too many other commitments. They’re still caught, however, between the devil and the deep, blue sea.

The days of a permanent job have long gone. They don’t know what’s going to happen, even in the next quarter. They could be sacked or told their job has gone to Singapore. Then they’re in one country and have to move to another. So, I feel that many people looking for ways to take back some control of their own (career) destiny, even though the majority will probably end up still having to work for somebody.

It’s just that their lives are completely controlled by their employer, and they don’t want to be called into an office one day to be told, “You’ve got ten minutes to pack your bags. Nice to know you. Bye, bye.” That happens to people, as you well know, and very few are prepared for it when it does happen. They get ‘shat’ on because the company no longer is run well or is closing.

Those are some reasons why I think people would be interested in a book that could help them get ahead of this curve rather than have it overwhelm them.

JB:I totally agree, buddy. You’re totally right. There are so many people now who don’t want to be in that situation and are becoming entrepreneurs, but there are many others who still love the career-style opportunity. I’m not here to debate whether that’s good or bad. What’s important for your book, buddy, is to focus on those who want to make that change, rather than trying to convince anyone to become a small business owner. You’re giving them an option.

Sometimes people are forced into it. I have mates that just can’t get a job, so they’re forced to create a job for themselves in order to feed their families. They’ve sent out hundreds of resumes, done lots of interviews, but they just can’t get a job. They’ve got to do something to make money. Savings can only going go so far.

At the same time, there are tremendous career opportunities available for people. There always will be. I just think those career opportunities are going to continue to change as drastically as they have over the last fifteen years. There will still be a variety of industries, but we’re watching a technology explosion.

Of course, career change and career development is a personal thing. Everyone has got their own unique feelings about what they want out of life, and it shifts. On the average, people change jobs now every five to ten years. Your book will guide them through self-reflection and self-coaching, helping them to evolve through these changes. I think that is awesome, buddy.

Let’s go back to your themes. Has anybody you know gone through a career change using these principles? What things did they do? Have you used any of these self-coaching techniques yourself, buddy?

MM: Oh, yes; from about 2005, when I first got interested in personal growth materials. That led to two years of looking around for transition work. I left the corporate world in 2007. A lot of my ideas, including the “Just Five Rules“, started to develop a bit earlier, in 2002 or 2003, when I first came across the personal growth movement.

JB:I think the simplest one to start with would be your Book Theme Statement #2, which we haven’t spoken about.

How to self-coach career change using just five rules and some intelligent conversations with your inner sensei. Japan-based author and international career changer, Mark McClure, shows you what’s possible.

That’s awesome, and I think that would probably be the simplest one. When a book is broken down, you’ve got your dedication (Thanks, mum. Love you so much). Or you dedicate the book to your wife or daughter. It’s usually just a few words to a sentence. It’s not actually required these days, but many people have forewords.

MM:Michael didn’t recommend it in the audio. He blew it away.

JB:What most of us are about today, including Michael, is that you have to move fast, and nothing is going to be perfect. You can wait all day and forever for something to be perfect. The problem with having a foreword is that usually the person who is invited to write it wants to read the book before they put their name on it, because they’re usually famous. Then you’ve got to fit it in with their schedule. I’ve seen books held up six months to simply get the foreword done. You’re better off to just forget about it unless you’ve got somebody that can quickly do it.

Get your introduction together. Take your theme. Express your theme in greater detail with some personal interaction about who you are and how this came about so that it sets the story.

And then each of those rules is a chapter. Introduce your five rules, and that’s a chapter. Rule 1, chapter. Rule 2, chapter. Rule 3, chapter. And then after the chapter for Rule 5, you write a conclusion and summary. Tie it all together for the final chapter. Then decide if you want to leave the door open. That’s the next question to ask. That’s the simplest book you’ve got there ready to rock ‘n’ roll right out the door.

It’s laid out there for you. Introduction. Five chapters explaining the five rules. You need some sort of summary or conclusion and how these five rules combine together. Maybe some examples where you change the name to protect the innocent or guilty. Use some career examples and talk about how they would apply.

MM:Actually, James, it’s funny you should say that. I also heard Michael say that on the tape. He used the phrase, “make things up to protect the anonymity of people” (and also yourself) so they can’t come back and sue you later. Which is true. In the coaching world, that’s actually very important, too. You’re not supposed to reveal your clients’ identities. It’s all meant to be confidential. It’s like a doctor, almost. You shouldn’t be disclosing private information unless they sign off on it and agree to it in advance.

JB:You might have somebody you know very well be cool about it. Anyway, that final chapter helps tie together the five rules and gets them using their inner sensei, as you call it. I love it.

MM:Yes, I’m trying to find a Japan angle, because I’ve spent so much time here. I’ve been here since 1994. There’s a lot I learned here that I didn’t learn when I was in the U.K.

JB: I think that’s brilliant, mate. I think that’s brilliant. The Asian twist and flavor of philosophy is going to appeal to certain people. It won’t appeal to everyone, but who cares? It’s not going to be a book for everybody. There are very successful businesspeople I know who think Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek is a pile of crap.

MM:Yes, I’ve heard people say different things about it.

JB: And these are very successful people. A friend of mine sold a business for ridiculous amounts of money recently (and when I say ridiculous I mean ridiculous amounts of money). A very successful career entrepreneur. Sold many businesses. Used outsourcing and many of those concepts. But just after recently selling a business and taking a holiday, that was one of the books he read on his holiday break. I asked him, “What did you think?” He said it was the biggest pile of shit that he’s ever read. That was his description of it.

Then there are other friends I’ve got who are in the same category as him, and who think it’s the ‘bible’. And this is the funny thing about books, buddy. We’re not going to please everybody. What’s most important is that you’re passionate about the book, because those that are interested in it are going to feel that passion, and feel the excitement, and be in tune with the principles and philosophies that you share.

And that’s what will produce 10,000 raving fans. That’s what Tim Ferriss has. There might be 10,000 people who think it’s a pile of shit, but there are also 10,000 screaming, raving fans that bought The 4-Hour Body book in a heartbeat. This is the most important thing. Love it or hate it, agree with it or not, he set this up very well, and that’s the next point.

I can see this book as one that will be really easy to put together. You’ve got a tying together chapter, and then your chapter where, as Michael likes to ask, “would you like to continue this conversation?”

MM:Yes, he has that nice chapter at the end.

JB:Where would you like to take these people? Now we’re talking about extending the potential for the book. One important point that I always stress to Michael, and the other authors, is what additional books could you write to continue the conversation?  That’s where Book Theme Statement #1 might work really well, the first one we chitchatted about.

I think that theme gives you the opportunity to talk about self-coaching at a deeper level. It depends a lot on the model you create for the book. But it’s super important to keep focused on the funnel at the end. As you said, you don’t want to be trading your time for money. But I’ve seen people who started trading their time for $2,000 an hour once they published their first book.

MM:It changes their opinion, does it?

JB:Yes. A buddy went from a struggling marketing consultant to charging $2,500 an hour, seeing two or three clients a week, and having people lining up to make appointments. And you’ve got the same potential. In the HR and recruiting game, there is big money and large fees paid to people. And when their contracts are terminated, they come to you with their compensation packages.

These people will invest money for professional growth. They will invest in themselves. These are the people that have done four years of university, or more, and are lifelong learners. These courses are worth a lot of money—whether they’re several hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. A few thousand dollars to learn self-coaching is not unrealistic.

You just need to think that through, but you want to produce the simplest one that will get out the door the quickest. That’s really the key these days. Perfect is never there and never will be. You can save that for version two.

I think we’ve flipped the good coin. Personally, Book Theme Statement #2 and the “Just Five Rules” looks super duper easy to me. What really caught my eye was “the intelligent conversations with your inner sensei”. I mean, I just love that. Like you, I’ve fallen in love with Japan. I’ve had a longtime interest in Asian martial arts for twenty years, and there are a lot of people like me. You’ve got something that’s going to appeal to a wide range of audiences.

The career niche is a great one, because it’s one of the things that everyone wants to be able to control. I see career self-coaching as something that will appeal to a wide swathe of people. There’s not too many other things we get to control in our life. We’re told when to do this and when to do that. Don’t you agree, buddy?

MM:Yes, I think so. You’re spending the best part of your waking day in somebody else’s place usually, and they’re paying you to do certain things. Whatever control you can exert in your field of influence is very important for your personal happiness, really; aside from earning a living. If you’re miserable at a place, it doesn’t really give you a nice, happy feeling, does it?

JB:Exactly. No. So, what do you think, buddy, about getting crack with Theme Statement #2?

MM:Yes, I always like this type of conversation, James, because I’ve been trained as a coach, too. Sometimes being the client helps you see things from a different perspective, and it’s really helped me to listen to your feelings about where I can go with this. (Theme) two seems easier to do. If your listeners or readers check me out later on, they’ll see that two links up well with my background. I’ve been here. I’ve been a coach. I’ve changed careers twice, actually; once in the U.K. in my twenties, and then once here, again, in Japan in my mid-forties.

JB:It’s your introduction, buddy.

MM:That’s probably the first chapter that Michael’s talking about. My own version of that.

JB:Exactly. That’s your introduction. Then these five rules. There’s a chapter on each rule. Use the interviewing technique, if possible, even if you’re just interviewing yourself (and talking in voice sync, which I quite often do much to the dismay of people around me). Talking to yourself I consider a really important thing to do, because it helps you to clarify your ideas and chew them around. But at some point you’ve got to come back and get cracking.

I think you’ve got something simple there. It will be a nice 100 to 200 pages, which is the ideal mark. I love content that has numbered, step-by-step rules, because it tells me exactly what I’ve got to do. It would also be great if you could put it into a particular time frame—the usual marketing gimmick of “in seven days” or “thirty days”. Even over a year could be helpful. It depends on the fit. But if there’s some sort of time frame that you can give it, that helps people map it out. Perhaps you could set a different time period for each rule.

I’m just throwing these ideas at you, buddy. You could add a checklist. Or affirmations. Something that will help them make these five rules a part of their lives and career change. Do you think this has been helpful to you?

MM:Oh, yes. I mean the timeline aspect of it—just thinking through what you said there—it will vary between people. Some of the guys you mentioned earlier might have been blessed with a sum of money when they were let go. Some of that they’ll use for retraining. They might want to get back in the game quite quickly, perhaps within a couple of months. They may want to self-coach themselves to a new position fairly quickly before they get [into] debt and appear unattractive to other companies. Whereas other people might have different plans. They might be thinking five or ten years down the line, and just planning now.

JB:Exactly, buddy. I’m sure the people paying a lot of money to go to university are planning their careers. While they might not start out that way, most people are going to put a lot of effort into managing their careers, and being able to do it yourself is becoming more and more important.

It’s one of the few things we get to control in our life. It can make us feel fulfilled or it can make us feel dissatisfied. It’s got to be one of the biggest causes of failed marriages, depression, illness, and even more drastic things people do to themselves because of the career choices they’ve made.

I think it’s a winner, buddy, and I think during our conversation it became clear that Book Statement #2 is just simple, neat, tidy and ready to rock ‘n’ roll. I strongly suggest you get that first one out of the way. Once you get over that hump and that bubble has  popped, you’ll understand a lot more. You’ll make some mistakes while you learn. Then you move onto your second one, or do version two of the first one. You might decide you don’t need to do a second book. You might choose to just keep the first one updated on a regular basis.

MM: That’s crossed my mind, too. In the career coaching or career development world, there’s a very famous book called What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. Do you know that one? I can’t remember if the original author is still alive, but it just gets edited or updated every year to reflect the changes in society. And it’s still selling.

JB:Oh, it’s hugely popular.

MM:It made a lot of money for that guy. It was a great idea.

JB:Yes. So, there’s your options, bud. I think the five rules appeals all around. Five rules, five steps. It’s very simple sounding. It sounds uncomplicated. Someone is at a crossroads, voluntarily or not. They’re got a lot going on in their lives. Now they’ll have simple and easy advice with just five rules to follow. They can do it themselves in the luxury and comfort of their own home or work cubicle. It’s self-coaching. Again, I think it’s a complete winner, buddy.

MM:I’m pleased to hear you say that.

JB:I loved it, and that’s why I wanted to record this, so others can hear the chitchatting we’ve done and then thrash around ideas for themselves. You rarely hear about the topic of career change when talking to people writing their first book. So often, we’re thinking up some grandiose, extravagant idea, thinking that’s necessary to get someone to bloody buy our books. This has to be one of the most regular, day in, day out sort of things we do, isn’t it, bud?

MM:And it’s a thing a lot of people complain about, too. I think Michael mentioned in one of his modules that people (myself included) tend to not think about how you can fix things before they break. You tend to bloody well get off your butt and try to put things together after they’ve started to break, or the ground is starting to give way under your feet. Then you try and scramble out of the way.

JB:You do. Great point, Mark.

MM:It’s true, isn’t it? For example, I was down at the tax office today, and there was a large queue of people down there frantically trying to get people (in Japanese) to explain to them how to do their taxes. They could have had that done by an accountant three or four months ago, but it’s mayhem (Japanese-style…) down there at the moment because they’ve only got about a week to submit. Now they’re focused on it, because if they don’t submit their return, then the tax people will start disallowing all these things that they thought they could claim. So, it focuses the mind, doesn’t it, when things are hurting a wee bit.

JB:It sure does. Or even the potential for hurt, yes.

MM:Can I make one other point, James? You mentioned earlier on about whether I would write it or dictate it. One of the things that attracted me to the offer was the word “effortless” in Effortless Authorship. Obviously, it has a slight marketing edge to it, but being a writer, sometimes you run into issues like writer’s block and all sorts of stuff.

I’m determined that the process for this book, will include doing the bare minimum of actual writing or typing. Obviously I’ve got this blog going, and that’s an experiment just to see how I self-coach myself through the book structure. But the chapters and the content is going to be dictated into the computer or a recorder.

Then I’m going to follow what he’s saying. I’ll upload it and get somebody on Fiverr or Elance or something to transcribe it and just see how that process works. I’ve never done that before. Being a writer, you always write. Then you’re editing while you’re writing and the thing becomes a mess. You don’t get anything done for a week or two weeks or three weeks, because you’re still thinking, “Oh, should I rewrite that second paragraph in the first chapter?”

JB:And the other thing, mate. This is the exact same process Michael does ghostwriting for his celebrity clients, but he charges $50,000 to $75,000 to write their books for them. It’s the exact same process. He does a dozen interviews with them. Each interview becomes a chapter in the book. The exact process he describes is exactly what they do, except they charge you monster bucks.

MM:He’s got a team around him. If you look on his website, he’s obviously got some top notch writers and editors to help him.

JB:Yes, he does. They’re all experts in their fields. The client wants their own voice captured in the content, so he’s got that great team of people there to help him recreate that voice and get it together. But the technique and everything that’s described there is exactly what he does. They’re not secretly doing something else behind the scenes. This is really it, and I’ve seen it in action personally. It’s the real deal.

The last two years that I’ve known Michael, it’s been so helpful to me. I’ve learned how to stop that process you were talking about—the starting and stopping, the constant editing. Starting a document and dribbling on and on, and it never seems to bloody end. What was it when it started out? A white paper? An e-book? It really knocks that out and forces you to focus. That’s the key. And it really becomes a key once it’s become a book and is working for you.

These keys open other parts of your business. You can have a series. You can create courses, or build up a coaching or consulting practice. Seminars, workshops. You can do public speaking.

MM:I heard him very clearly, and I read it in his sales letter, too. The book is the entry point if you want it to go that way, if you want to do that. It’s a door opener, as you say.

JB:Yes, it is. All right, buddy. Thanks so much for your time and letting everyone listen into our private conversation, here, and being so open and honest about your own book. I really appreciate that.

MM:My pleasure. It helped me. This is a dynamic process on the blog, so you’ll probably see a post in there within the next week which reflects this conversation and what I’ve learned from it.

JB:Awesome, buddy. I look forward to it. Thanks, mate.

Book Theme Selection:
I went with theme number 2.
See this followup post for additional thoughts on the logic behind that choice.

– Mark ‘just five rules‘ McClure

Posted in Effortless Authorship
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