What Your Non-Fiction Book Needs with Elizabeth Lyons

Jun 01, 2022

Elizabeth Lyons is the creator of the Book Writing Accelerator and a five-time author whose first book, which she wrote because she couldn't find another book on the topic and really needed it, sold over 20,000 copies.

As someone who helps aspiring authors write and publish books, she's become a bit of my comrade-in-arms the past few years, where we regularly text each other questions, concerns and the occasional (or not so occasional) gripe.

We have so many feelings and thoughts about publishing, in fact, that in this episode we delve into beginners luck, navigating self-publishing and much more before we get to the meat of it: what to include in your non-fiction book. She breaks down how to start (you write a letter to your reader [genius!]), how to approach your Table of Contents and how to see it through to the end.

Did I mention she's a mom of five and super funny?

You'll like this one, I promise. (Who are we kidding, you like love all of 'em!)


USEFUL LINKS: 

Elizabeth's site

Elizabeth's podcast

Elizabeth's courses


RELATED EPISODES:  

The Debut of Launch Pad with Dave Chesson

Writing a Book in Public with Jesse J. Anderson

How to Write a Book Everyone Recommends with Rob Fitzpatrick


TRANSCRIPT:

Anna David: This is so long overdue. Would you not agree?

Liz Lyons: I would totally agree. It's so funny because right when you messaged me, I had been thinking the exact same thing, that I need to get you on mine. 

Anna David: You came and spoke to my class. And I get that confused sometimes with oh, this person has already been a guest. But so we quote unquote, met early pandemic I would say. Where I noted your existence, and I did what I will sometimes do and I say, “I need to know this person.” So I reached out and I said, “Should we know each other?” And you basically said, “Yes.” Is that how you remember it? 

Liz Lyons: I mean, who remembers anything from two days ago? Like I barely remember, did I eat breakfast today? I don't even know. But yes, that rings true? 

Anna David: Yeah, it doesn't ring false.

Liz Lyons: It does not ring false.

Anna David: So, and I thought, Oh, my God, we do such similar things that we need to take over the world together or do whatever. And it's, and it's been glorious, on several levels, A, that we refer to each other, clients, because we kind of offer different ish yet similar things. And B, just to have someone to go to text and go, whoa, do you deal with this? Right? Yes, right. Yes, yes. Yes, I do. 

Liz Lyons: And you know, what I love about it, too, is that we do similar things. And as you said, we do them slightly differently. And sometimes it's really reassuring, I think, in any space to recognize that at every there's a devil at every level, so to speak.

Anna David: Oh, tell me more. 

Liz Lyons: Well, just meaning that it doesn't matter if you're offering a free course, a $47 course, a $1,000 course, a $25,000 package, $100,000 package, when it comes to just managing expectations, setting expectations, getting really clear about what a client is looking to do and whether or not you're the right person to help with that. It doesn't matter. Right? So you have packages at levels that I don't have packages at, and we still talk about some of the same things.

Anna David: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, sometimes I just, I feel like I've sort of given you this talk, it's like, my, the, the people who pay the least are the most demanding, and the people who pay the most or the least demanding. And I don't know if it's part of some, you know, 8020 principle, or just that having clients is the most fascinating experience in expectations. What it's taught me is when I haven't been a good client doesn't actually do that to you, because I just had a surgery. And I try to think of it the way that my clients think of our service when they come in, they don't know anything about it. What I know, I forget they don't know. And so it's constantly knowing that what you're dealing with is people's fear around the fact that they don't understand. And they shouldn't because.

Liz Lyons: And that's what I say all the time. Because you and I both deal with incredibly, you know, successful, confident, and I don't just mean success in terms of their bank account. I mean, they know of what they speak, they are confident and who they are. They walk with a certainness to the whole thing. And yet, sometimes they feel like there's something wrong with them, because they can't figure out this book writing and publishing thing. And that's what I say all the time is why would you know this? Like, why would you know what the surgeon is going to do with your intestines? It's not something that you have an interest necessarily in spending time researching. 

Anna David: Right. That's why you've hired us. So let's talk about your journey. Totally different from mine. Let's also talk about how you have five children and I really don’t understand, but go on. Okay, so it starts with you looking at, I want to publish a book, let me look into this traditional thing. What happened? 

Liz Lyons: Kind of right. So it started with, you know, finding out I was having twins and always having wanted to write something, not being sure what was I actually capable or qualified to write. Because I didn't have a degree in writing and all the things that people back then this was 2002 said you had to have. So I find out I'm expecting twins and I want a book that basically doesn't exist. And so I think maybe I can write that. And the first thing I thought to do was go traditional because back then that was the only thing I mean, that was the only thing to do really. So I tried and I queried and I queried and I queried some more and everybody was like nope, your market's not big enough. That's all I heard and this was before Amazon, social media. It was just all based on the market. Like, how big is your readership? And the feeling was that because my readership wasn't in the potentially millions, that I didn't have a viable product? So I thought well, I don't like the word no, I've never liked the word no. 

So I thought, well, how hard can it be? Right, famous last words. So I did go initially with I guess what you would call a vanity publisher, you know, and it didn't go great. Because as we were just saying, I didn't know what questions to ask. So when I was told things, like, we're going to do this for you. And we're going to do that for you. I was like, Oh, my god, that's amazing. Not really realizing what that meant. And didn't mean. And so it became clear very quickly that I was on the losing end of this deal. In this particular case, because I was, I was fronting all the money, which is a fine business model, in my opinion, for book publishing, or really anything else. But they were keeping still, like 70% of the profit. I couldn't figure that out. So, it just didn't make any sense. So I quickly cut ties with them, and then started all over on my own. And that's where I figured out step by step by Google and then it did well.

Anna David: It's interesting, I was just reading Jane Friedman's hot sheet. And there's been this huge exploration of what they call hybrid publishing, which hybrid publishing means two things. It's what we do, where people pay us in order to do the work for them. And it's also when you pay somebody, and they take a percentage, and nobody in this report has any judgment about what we're doing. But there's great judgment about that model.

LIz Lyons: And I agree, I'm not gonna lie, I have great judgment about that model. And that's exactly why I don't run my publishing house that way.

Anna David: It seems like a terrible idea, even from a business standpoint for them, since most books sell 300 copies, because they’re setting themselves up for people to be upset.

Liz Lyons: Not only that, the accounting end of it, the administrative end of it for the publishing house, I have to imagine is insane. Because I know what it is just for my books, yeah, I'm just checking my own personal books, the books I've written and published and what they're earning on all the different platforms each month, and some pay 90 days and some pay at 30 days. And then there can be returns, if you're with, you know, IngramSpark, and you therefore are distributed to bookstores or whatever. And so all of those things come into play, and to figure out what you owe an author number one, and number two, for the author to look at that report and have confidence that it's correct. And I'm not suggesting that it's not correct. I'm just saying that I know, having worked with a wonderful distributor way, way, way, way back in the day before Amazon, to get my books in bookstores, I would get their report at the end of the month, and we could not figure out if it was even right. 

Anna David: Right. I'm very challenged with reports and numbers anyway, so I don't even try. I've never looked at my book sales ever, ever, ever. I just take a check if it comes. So okay, you get everything back from this company, and you figure out all the things which back then must have been extremely challenging.

Liz Lyons: Extremely. Yes. I mean, that's an understatement. Because it was really, I don't even know if I was just a masochist or extremely determined. Because when I think back now, there's so many resources, they're almost too many resources, which is an opposite end of the spectrum problem for people. Because you can google deep dive all day long and never really know which approach you quote unquote, should choose. And so but that's what I did is I just kept diving and figuring it out. What's an ISBN? Do I need an ISBN? These people are saying, I don't need an ISBN. Does that feel valid, you know? And really just finding out to be honest, who my mentors in the space were, like, who, who's who was I listening to? And then if I trusted them, and I did, I took their advice, and I went from there and if it worked, it worked. And if it didn't, I pivoted again. 

Anna David: Then was Jane Friedman, the only voice or she wasn't even there doing it.

Liz Lyons: Yeah. Back then I didn't know of Jane Friedman. And it's funny. I am so excited to see the hot sheet in my inbox this morning. So I learned about Jane Friedman, probably six years ago because I think Jane and I don't want to speak for her. But I feel like she's pivoted a little bit. She was very much more in the traditional space, puzzles and things like that. And that's not the space I've ever been in. Because ever since going indie in 2005 I suppose. I don't follow some agents now because I'm still interested in what's going on in the traditional space. I follow Jane, Jane is an absolute unbelievable wealth of information. 

Anna David: Future podcast guest, just secured her. 

Liz Lyons: Oh, good for you. She's, she's remarkable, remarkable. And, one of the things I really like about Jane...this is going to become the Jane fan show...is that she sits fairly squarely in the middle, like, she doesn't tell people you should do this, or you should do that. She just presents information as it becomes available to her. And I really respect that. 

Anna David: It's funny, because when I first stumbled across her, you know, my big, my big heartbreak and publishing was when Judith Regan was fired, you know, she acquired my book for a lot of money. It's all exciting. And then she's fired by a woman named Jane Friedman, who was right under Rupert Murdoch at Fox. And who now I think does audiobooks. And like, she was the focus of my ire. Because it's like, I'm not gonna focus on Murdoch. And so it was like, and then I discovered Jane Friedman's an expert on publishing. I mean, literally for five years. That's who I thought it was.

Liz Lyons: That's funny. That's a great story.

Anna David: Oh, I wrote a piece that she published on her site. And when I pitched her I was like, by the way, I thought this was you for a long time. So who were the following back then? There were those dudes, there's that JT something like there was a guy that really made a lot of headway. He made a lot of money as an indie author. And he was one of the first I can't remember his name, people I discovered. Sorry, what his name was Barry, something.

Liz Lyons: Oh, that rings a bell, though. So Admittedly, I had blinders on. So I don't even remember, because to call them my mentors actually is probably a little bit of a misstatement, because it's not like I was following. Nobody had newsletters back then, we didn't have social media. I wasn't following anybody. It's just per se, when you did a Google search on, how do I know if I need an ISBN, for example, there were certain websites and resources that would always come up at the top of the Google search. And so I became uber familiar with those. And one of the first people that I started following very seriously, although this was probably after I had done at least two books, and maybe three of my own was Dave Chesson. Because he too, is just an absolute wealth of not just information, but tactical, like, here's how you do this. 

Anna David: Yeah. I love him. You know, he writes his books under another name, because he told me he was the first guest I had when we switched this podcast to being about books. Because he's like, Well, I don't want to exploit the fact that I have a name in publishing. Bow down to him, it was Barry Eisler. I just Googled. 

Liz Lyons: That name is very familiar. 

Anna David: Yeah. And it's saying he turned down half a million in publishing contract for two books, and then went and did self publishing. And it's, you know, been terribly successful. So you figure it out, and you publish your book, and what happens, your first book? 

Liz Lyons: So I published my book, and in my opinion, really, nothing happened, to be honest, because we didn't have Amazon. We didn't have anything. I didn't have an agent or a publisher telling me oh, these are your required sales. I was just getting a check every month and it wasn't earth shattering. It wasn't tens of 1000s of dollars, but it was, I mean, I was at that time, a mom of, I don't know, a four year old, two year old twins, and I think I was pregnant with the next one. Like, I was happy for anything, but it was more than anything. Right? I mean, you know, it was like, Okay that’s interesting. I mean, it was four figures. It was in the low four figures every month. And it was like, wait a minute, like, I'm not promoting this. I'm not, I don't understand. And so I didn't really have a handle at all on what the sales numbers were until several, probably years later, I had hired a publicist who was helping me get on radio and local TV and mostly radio. We didn't have podcasts yet. 

And she mentioned a girl to me by the name of Jenna McCarthy, who is well, now she's in Texas, but at the time she was in California. And somehow she connected the two of us because Jenna had just written a book called The Parent Trip that was released by one of the big five traditional publishers, and she said, you know, you guys are so similar, you should connect. So Jenna and I connected. And then Jenna was mentioning my book to her agent at the time. And her agent went into Bookscan, out of curiosity, and said, “Oh, my God, she has sold more books than most of my clients who are traditionally published.” And at the time, the number was like 25,000 copies or something like that. And I was like, really? I was like, okay, and what's interesting about that, though, Anna, is that if that had been one and done, if I had only done that book, I would be sitting here telling you a very different story, because I'd be sitting here going, it's easy, right? Write a book with a niche market, and you just put it out there and it just goes. 

Anna David: Don't you think the universe just doles these out usually in the beginning of our careers? Oh, it's like, I wonder if I'd never thought about this. Just the gateway drug. The universe is like, we're gonna give you this and you don't realize this is your blessing. You're like, I've always kind of deserved this. So here we go with my career. Right? 

Liz Lyons: Right. I am raising all these children. Come on, I deserve something. Yeah. That's an interesting perspective. Because, you know, when I did Book Two, it was the sequel to book one. Book one was Newborn Twins, First Year with Twins. Book Two was Toddler Years with Twins. And so that was a natural, it didn't sell as well as the first but it sold well. Then I did three, total flops. Now, in my opinion, here's why. Same market, same demographic, but the demographic wasn't just moms of twins or multiples. It was all moms. So now I was competing with Stephanie. I can't remember her last name right now. 

Anna David: Yeah, Baby on Board. Stephanie. She's a friend of mine. Taylor, Stephanie. Or something? 

Liz Lyons: Yes, Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay. Yeah, it was the book that came out right around the, plus Jenny McCarthy, she had her books, every but all the celebrities and the people had their books coming out. And they were on the Today Show and what was mine? Right? Am I alright, no press. I had no not so and I had no email list.

Anna David: That's interesting. You know, we always talked about the riches are in the niches. I always thought of it like, you know, what I really learned from Ryan Holiday, which is you drill down on a niche, and then that those people feel that there's a book that's written precisely for them. So they start recommending it, but I actually hadn't thought of it that your competition grows to the most popular authors that exist if you're not niching down.

Liz Lyons: Well, and to be fair, because I'm kind of comparing apples and oranges. If I had known how to communicate with the 30,000 people, you know, who had purchased the first and or the second book, I could have sold a lot more books. I mean, Ryan Holiday, who I think is magnificent, has always been more, back then and sometimes even now. But back then I didn't have a business mind about being an author. I wanted it to sell. And I liked the check that came in and I felt creative. But again, I was raising four very young children. So I wasn't thinking about what I have loved to get on the Today Show or do something with it. And did I try to do it absolutely. But I wasn't. I wasn't as knee deep in it, as I am now. And even now, to be honest, my knee deepness is not about promoting my own books. It's about helping other people write theirs. 

Anna David: Exactly I mean, I don't know about you, but I basically write books in order to stay on top of the latest and try techniques out that I can try on clients. Do you think that's an interest? 

Liz Lyons: That's very interesting. Yeah. I mean, when I wrote my last book, The fifth one, it was really something I wanted to say because it was something that I was experiencing as an entrepreneur. And it was a bunch of stuff that had been on my mind for a while that I had figured out how to think about differently and have a different perspective on and and I wanted to say, but I do think a lot now that I'm book coaching, I think a lot now about how did I write all those books? You know, what was my process for doing that? And I incorporate that.

Anna David:  What I think that you said that's really interesting is that, you know, it has to be something you're interested in exploring when I was on the traditional publishing, like God do a book a year path. I was writing about stuff I didn't really care about, which is crazy to me. And I released this podcast episode today with Paul Angone and he was just talking about, you have to be so passionate about this, that you're willing to talk about it for years and focus for years. And I have written books where I don't feel like that at all. 

Liz Lyons: Well, because, and here's the thing is that from, admittedly, I've not been traditionally published, but from what I understand it, because I know a lot of people who have, it's more of a business over there. You know, it's like, what cover will sell what content will sell what voice will sell what topic will sell what controversy will sell. And so that's why sometimes people, not all authors, but some authors get quote unquote roped in to writing a book that they're not super passionate about, or they write a book that they were passionate about. But then once the editor gets a hold of it, and makes it into what they think is marketable, all of a sudden, this isn’t even my book anymore, it doesn't feel like my book anymore. And therefore it's hard to talk about it and promote it. But that's something I stand very, very firmly on. And this is something you and I have talked about, and I believe I'm gonna let you correct me if I'm wrong, of course, but I'm pretty sure we share this opinion. If you're gonna write about, please let it be something that you're super passionate about talking about for as long as you're passionate about talking about it. If you decide in six months, or three years or 10 years that you don't want to talk about it anymore, totally fine. That's when your sales are going to drop off because somebody else is talking about it.

Anna David: And it's ironic. Well, I mean, when you said this thing about traditional publishing, it's more like a business. But I've never really thought about it like that. But the business is for the traditional publisher, because they don't think about it at all, as a business for the author, which is why they're capturing the email address. I mean, they're not really capturing email addresses with Amazon anyway. But the idea is, you know, when a book is finished, they don't want you to know, the number one thing that people want to do when they finish a book, if they finish it, is connect with the author, not connect with a publisher. Why would they care? 

Liz Lyons: And that's what I say all the time. People don't buy books from publishers, so people will come to me and they'll say, Well, Elizabeth, I really want a traditional publisher. And the main reasons why people want a traditional publisher, in my experience, are they think there's a huge advance. Yeah, they think that there's huge marketing and connecting. And also they don't understand the timeline, they don't understand that it's going to be three years, if not more, depending on how long it takes to get the agent etc. But when they talk about marketing, I'm like, this is such a huge misconception, because people don't buy books from publishers, they buy books from authors, especially in the day of social media. Yeah, when you can actually connect with those authors. Nobody's out there connecting with Penguin on social media.

Anna David: I know. And it's interesting, Jennifer Armstrong, who I had on the podcast, who has a New York Times bestseller, she's like, I think you've got to just think of them as a printing service, you're just going to be disappointed if you think of them as more than that. So how did you start getting in touch with your readers and getting your newsletter subscribers and all of that?

Liz Lyons: Really, that started when social media started. And when there just became a way I mean, I went through all the like, rigmarole that we all hear about, you know, have a lead magnet and have the word funnel, I have a visceral reaction. And it's not good, because it makes me think of funneling cattle into a pen. But I understand what people are saying when they say it. And the idea is go out and find them, which is easier now than it's ever been, and then offer them a reason to stay connected to you, which is not in my experience. Like it depends on your genre to be clear. Yeah. So I don't work with fiction writers and their opportunities for connecting with readers are very different from nonfiction or memoir, because it's more character based. And it's more story based, whereas especially with nonfiction, it's more self development based.

Anna David: And it does seem like a massive generalization. It's far easier for certain genres of fiction writers to churn it out and to really have their business model be backlist and giving a perma free one book so that they get the series and all of that. And I do think it's much harder to churn it out, if you're doing nonfiction.

Liz Lyons: It's a completely different approach. Like you can almost look at it, I think of it. Most people don't realize that on Amazon, the paperback store and the Kindle store are two different stores. Even though they merged together, they are two different databases on Amazon. I think of this in the same way. When you're a fiction writer versus a nonfiction or a memoir writer, it's two completely different you're all writing books. But the approach to marketing and the like you said the perma free on the first one and then building up a backlist and getting people involved in the next character and doing pre orders and all those sorts of things, which is what people do very successfully in the fiction realm is wildly different from the nonfiction and the memoir realm. And especially in the nonfiction realm. So many of my clients, at least, are looking to build their business, which revolves around it's either based on their book or their book is an extension of something where they're already coaching, teaching, guiding whatever verb you want to use, to other people.

Anna David: Absolutely. And that's the same with ours. But wait, okay, I do want to go back to one thing. What do you think it was with your first book, just straight up beginner's luck?

Liz Lyons: You know what? The truth is, I don't know for sure. What I suspect. I don't think it was beginner's luck. I think that I hit without realizing it. I like that whole preparation meets opportunity thing. And it's like I hit the opportunity. Because there were no, there were, there were only a few books on the market about expecting twins to begin with. And they were all at the time quite like, your life is over. They weren't you know, and this was when Vicki I vine was really big with her Girlfriends Guide stuff, and honestly Anna, that's what I wanted. I was like Vicki, why couldn't you have had twins and written the girlfriends guide to twins, because that's the book I need right now. But she didn't. And so I just, I, I saw that as an opportunity. And I think that there happened to be a lot of people who wanted that. And the other thing was, it wasn't just book orders. Unbeknownst to me for a while there were hospitals ordering in bulk. Because they were running what was called Marvelous Multiples, which was a program that had been put together by a nurse who was also a mom of twins that was being offered by different hospitals. And the hospitals were ordering volume and giving the book to all of the participants in those classes.

Anna David: Don't you think that was your big thing? I mean, do you know how many sales there are?

Liz Lyons: I don't, I don't because the only way to get that information is through Bookscan. And even Bookscan is unreliable when it comes to off market stuff. Like it was all through the distributor I was working with. And I just if you had seen, I mean, my reports from a distributor every month, we're 15 pages long.

Anna David: Wow, So have you tried to reverse engineer that and be like, I'm gonna write a book that I know, institutions can bulk order?

Liz Lyons: I haven't because and it's an interesting question. And I guess the answer is because right now the answer is because that feels formulaic to me and I don't write in a formulaic, you know, I'm not.

So there are certain modalities that say, here's how you can figure out what kind of a book will sell, you can go out on Amazon and you can see what people are searching for. And if you know a lot of people are searching for this certain thing, then you know that if you write a book about it, it will probably sell well. But that is just an approach that has never felt good to me. I write, stuff just comes through me and. That's how I write. 

Anna David: Interesting. I know I've read those things. I've read those and it literally be like, lots of people are searching for kids playing tennis. I've never played tennis, but I'm gonna write a book about that. That was really effective for a while. I will say I use it and I teach it which is you know your book and I mean, I got this from Dave Chesson. So start looking on Amazon to see how it auto populates because you're already reading the book. So include sections that people are already searching for. I do find that really helpful.

Liz Lyons: I find that really helpful too. And another thing that I find very helpful is recognizing what the keywords are that people are searching for and making sure that those are in not only your book description, but if possible, your reviews. 

Anna David: Yes. By the way, your author bio, the whole thing, the whole thing? Yeah. So by the way, remember we said, Of course you remember it was yesterday, we're going back and forth about gotta find an exact angle for this episode. And of course, because we have so much to talk about, we really haven't gotten into the angle. Well, we're kind of verging on it now. Which is, what do you put in your book? That was the angle we decided, how do you basically come up with it? I don't know, your table of contents? 

Liz Lyons: Yeah, I mean, you know, one of the things that I find, and I hear all the time holds people back from actually writing their book, because, you know, my clients are doing the writing themselves. So they are like, I have a story, I have something to share, I either have a story, like my life, or I have a process if we're talking about business. And sometimes there's a little bit of crossover. But where they get stuck most of the time is it's like, I'm so overwhelmed. So they do what's normally suggested or often suggested, which they do this big brain dump, and one of two things happens, either it's 75 pages long. And they can't figure out how to make it all come together with a nice bow. Or it's like four things. Because they're overthinking it. And they're trying to think through like, should I talk about that? Or should I talk about that?

Well, I don't know, have I been working on that long enough to actually position myself as an expert air quotes on it. And so that's where they get stuck in figuring out what do we should include? And what do we not include? And when you're ghostwriting, which you're intimately familiar with? Obviously, you guide them through that process of figuring out well, what is the you know, what is the table of contents, and I'm working on a ghost writing project right now. And that's something that had to happen was, you know, what are those, but that's where people get really stuck, and they don't progress from there. Because they come up with some story pun intended about clearly I shouldn't be doing this, because I can't figure it out. 

Anna David: So how do you guide them? What's the process?

Liz Lyons: Well, it's different for nonfiction versus memoir. So nonfiction in my world is much more tactical. What do you want to say? First of all, what is the thing that your book is guiding people through? Because it's not a whole mess of things. It's not everything you've ever done? It's like, what do you want this book to help a reader overcome? And then what are the steps that you take people through? And more often than not, with that sort of a book? If the author is operating in integrity? They have gone through, that's the process they created for themselves? So it's like, take yourself back three years, five years, whatever it was, and identify what were the steps that really worked for you? What were the things that you needed to hear and know, back then? And then that's kind of where we start to get clear on that.

Anna David: I loves it. It was always interesting to me, when people differentiate between nonfiction and memoir, I was like, it is nonfiction. But you know, it's interesting. Rob Fitzpatrick, who I recently had on the show, was talking about how to book. How to versus memoir. Because really, that's what, that's what we're talking about. And so is there anything else about like, okay, take it back six months, five years, however long it is that you developed this process, and you're now explaining to other people, what do you do next? You go, okay, so for instance, I'm doing a book right now about how to plan and promote a book. So this is different, because I'm taking podcast interviews, and I'm doing it but like, how would we do that? How would you guide someone through that? You go, okay, so what was your starting point? 

Liz Lyons: Exactly. You know, one of the things that I find very effective is for authors to write a letter to their reader first. And more often than not the reader is them, who they were three or five years ago. So essentially what you're doing is you're getting outside of yourself and outside of your I have to be you're getting outside of your perfectionist tendencies in order to say dear whomever name them if you want, here's what I know to be true about you. Here's where I know you are right now, here's what your fears are. Here's what's keeping you from moving forward. Here's what you're really really good at. But here's where you're stuck. And I have great news. Like again now we're going into like the typical copy editing stuff, but right or marketing, stuff like that. Good news is there's a path. And one of the things that's really important is that authors not hold themselves as the savior to the reader.

So all you're saying is here is a path, you're not saying here is the one and only path that takes the pressure off everyone. But here's the thing I want to share with you, my process that I use to get through this and/or, that I utilize, when I'm helping my clients, or however you do, whatever, get through this. And here's what we're going to talk about. And you start to get really clear, and you don't have to get into the nitty gritty of it at that point. But what you're doing when you do that, is you're creating the bubble. Okay. And then it just comes down to what goes into the bubble. Like you're creating the hub of the wheel, and what's in what's encapsulated in that hub. 

Anna David: Do you have a certain set number of chapters that you recommend? 

Liz Lyons: I don't, I think most nonfiction ends up between like 12 and 18 chapters, and it just depends on you know, I don't subscribe to a word count. I think anything under 40,000 words, or under 35,000 words is a pamphlet not a book, I’m kind of a stickler about that. Maybe 35,000. But I don't believe in adding words, just to add words. I think that when you're really connected to helping, that's what a book really is about, is serving. So when people come to me, and this doesn't happen much anymore, but and they say, Look, I just want to hit the bestseller list for five minutes, so that I can say I'm a best selling author, and that's going to sell me tons of books and make me millions of dollars and make me the sought after expert on every stage. That's not the right person for me, you know? Yeah, I know. You know, I know we share this. So when you're really looking to serve another person through telling your stories, it's not hard to get 40,000 words, 50,000 words or even 60,000 words. It's just not. 

Anna David: But I know, on a personal level, I like reading shorter books now. I hate to say it, but I do.

And studies are showing because it just means you can read more, and some authors are just going on and on and on. I find self help has never been my thing. And it's like, I always feel like the first chapter says it and then the next 10 are repeating it. But that's me. 

Liz Lyons: You know, I think that often is the case that often is the case. And if you don't have enough to get yourself to, you know, something solid, I mean, 80,000 words is such an old, old paradigm, because it's what was the average back in the day for traditional books, mostly fiction based. Yeah, or mostly, you know, fiction, but I think there's always an exception. So there are a lot of people who say, “well, I don't  like to read long books.” And you have to kind of dive into why that is. Because when those people find a book, that's 250 pages long, that is just chock full of amazing information and stories. They read it. So it may not be that they don't like reading long books, it may be that they don't like reading repetitive nonsense, number one. And number two, if there's someone who wants to be like, well, I read a book a week. But in order to accomplish that goal, they know the book has to only be 97 pages. Well, then there's their motivation.

Anna David: Right. Well, okay, so we have to get to wrapping up. Do you have any final advice for somebody who, I guess who wants to write how to book, what they should do?

Liz Lyons: I mean, whether you want to write how to or memoir. And to be clear, the distinction between the two for me is that when you're writing what I call transformative nonfiction, or how to call it, whatever, you want to, you want the reader to take an action; there is a very specific action that you are giving to the reader with the hope that they may take it; when you're writing memoir, you are not attached to what they take from the story. Yeah, that's to me, is the difference. But I think it's really important, and I've always said this, to just understand why you really want to do it. And then what's the why under that? And you do the six layers or whatever deep of why? Because as with anything, once you really uncover why you want to do it and what you want to get out of it, you can execute it more efficiently. Whether that's write it yourself, hire someone to write it for you, write a 30 page ebook, do a novel, like whatever it is.

Anna David: I love it. So if people want to reach you what's the best way? And let's just also quickly say all your offers because you have courses you have coaching. Go.

Liz Lyons: So, I've minimized, I've simplified.

Anna David: So you still have courses?

Liz Lyons:  I have one. Yeah.

Anna David: I think I've told you I'm so frustrated by trying to sell courses. It's just, you know, when the beginning of the conversation you were like, is this masochism or is this determination. That's how I feel about trying to sound like you guys, my Courses are so good. And you don't find them?

Liz Lyons: Yeah. And I feel exactly the same. And I know your courses. And you know mine, I get it, I think for me, so I have the book writing accelerator, which is my 12 week intimate group program. And it's a coaching program through writing nonfiction, or memoir, writing nonfiction, and memoir is an experience period. It's not something that in my world, we sit down and do on a weekend, it is a full on experience. And you're learning about yourself as you're as you're writing the book period. And then I have my course, the only course I have now, which is how to publish a book, how to self publish a book that can be sitting next to any New York Times bestseller and be indistinguishable and quality. So those are my two things.

Anna David: Well, so people can take those courses they can sign up for your coaching. You know, you just launch a few times a year? 

Liz Lyons: I do the next one which launches in July. We start in July, and it goes for 12 weeks. And I usually do two or three containers a year of that. And then the publishing course IS evergreen.

Anna David: And then of course they can get your books? 

Liz Lyons: Of course.

Anna David: And so where can they find you online? 

Liz Lyons: The best place is Elizabethlyons.com. And that'll take people out to the course sites and the coaching site, wherever they want to go, but the hub is Elizabethlyons.com.

Anna David: Well, this has been such a delight. I'm so glad we finally did this. And you guys, thank you as ever for listening. Go find her. So good.



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