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Make Sure You're Writing the Right Book with Nicole Kalil

Mar 29, 2023

Nicole Kalil is someone who practices what she preaches.

A fugitive of the C-suite at a Fortune 100 company, she has coached hundreds of women in business and speaks around the world.

When she was gearing up to her launch her book, Validation is for Parking, she heavily invested in social media (to the tune of $9,000 a month!) She also set out to write a book debunking some of the advice doled out by male entrepreneurs. But she realized two things: one, social media didn't make her feel good. And two: she didn't want to write the book she had already started working on.

In this conversation, she talked about how she switched courses for her book topic, why she left social media when she was "at the top," how she handles the "head trash" that creeps up when you're writing and launching a book and how her book has impacted her speaking career, among many other topics.




 Anna: Well, so now that we've established that we can curse, let's establish Nicole, you were so brilliant at social media. Why did you leave?

Nicole: Oh, my gosh, well, first, thank you for saying that it was brilliant, because behind the scenes, it felt like a hot mess. Um, the reasons for being on social media were really to promote the book and increase engagement. And I was, I always had this thing that I hated social media, but I thought most of why I hated it was because I wasn't good at it. Because I wasn't getting success, because I was doing all this work for like, you know, 55 likes or something like that. And so, the focused effort on increasing both the following and the book promotion, but also the engagement on social media was mostly because I wanted to test out this theory. Like is it just because I'm not good at it? Like will I love it when I start getting results? Also, I didn't want to have there be any regrets, like, I didn't want to get on the other side of my book launch and be like, oh, I wish I would have invested. I wish I would have given this everything that I got. So that's why I did it. Ultimately, why I got off of social media is because I do in fact, hate social media. I, I've tested it out, I've had success, and obviously all success is relative, you know, I don't have millions of followers. But I went from, like 3000 followers to like 40,000 followers, and that felt massive over a six-month period. And, as you already know, before we hit record, as you already said, you know, my engagement was really high. And people were commenting and liking and, and at the end of the day, I was headed in the right direction. I think my trajectory was where I wanted it to be. And I still hated it. And I still felt exhausted, and I still found myself falling into the comparison trap. And I still feel for me, the confidence doesn't live on social media. And having just written a book about confidence, especially for women, it felt inauthentic and out of integrity for me to keep being on it. So mostly a personal decision, I am by no means saying that this was a smart tactical business decision. It just, you know, I had to listen to that inner voice. And I knew, even with the success that I was having, that I wasn't enjoying it anymore. And, and that was the surest sign I could get. It's just not the right place for me.

Anna: So was it like, in my life, this would be compared to like, someone's going to rehab January 1. Were you like, okay, I'm gonna do it through the end of the year and then I'm going cold turkey? Is that how you did it?

Nicole: (Laughs) Yeah, kind of. Well, so I had hired a team. And I was paying them just under $9,000 a month. So this was no small investment on my part, and then the time part of it even. And so yeah, there was a lot of communication happening with them in the 60 days prior to the decision. And then, you know, there was about a month from when I made the decision to like, kind of tapering it off and, and tying up all the loose ends. And I had this thing, like if I start feeling like I regret it, or if I start like that, then I'll pay attention to that, but never want. So yeah, it was pretty cold turkey. I mean, I still post funny memes and stories, because they make me laugh. And, you know, I go on here or there. But yeah, it's kind of been…

Anna: Whoa, let me just have a delayed reaction to $9,000 a month.

Nicole: (Laughs) I know, isn't that nuts?

Anna: That’s insane!
Nicole: I know.

Anna: So okay. But it was it, was, how long were you doing that for?

Nicole: Seven months.

Anna: Seven months? And, and it was all because LinkedIn and Instagram were like, really your main one, yes?

Nicole: Yeah. I don't I don't actually think I'm on any other platform. If I am, it was a long time ago. And it's, you know, but um, yeah, it was just those two, the priority being LinkedIn. And Instagram was a little bit more of a plan B.

Anna: And did it quote unquote, work? Did it result in book sales? Did it get the word out in the way you wanted?

Nicole: You know, yes and no. We created a unique link that we used on social media so we could track specifically what sales were coming directly from LinkedIn or Instagram platforms. And certainly there were sales there, but they weren't by any means my biggest contributor to overall sales. Nothing replaced the word of mouth, the relationships that I build, the clients that I already have. And then equally as effective was kind of this podcast tour, being on different shows, but very specifically shows with hosts that I love and admire like you, or with, you know, that were really on brand for me. A lot of women hosts, a lot of, you know, people talking about confidence. So those were the two biggest things. I do not regret that I tested this out. I want, I want to be really clear about it. But I would love to get that 9000 a month back over seven months (laughs). And knowing what I know, today, I would have spent all my energy on, you know, those relationships, on a podcast tour, and I probably would have invested a little bit more into even paying for publications and things like that.

Anna: Well, it's interesting. I feel like you'll, you'll get this, even if the listeners will. Okay, I moved to New York, to go with me for a second 2007. And I hated it so much. I hated it, I hated it. And in 2010, when I finally decided to move back, I said to my sponsor, I realized I only did this because I thought I'd never meet a man in LA. And she said to me, if all it costs you was three years of your life and 10s of 1000s of dollars to learn to never make a decision again out of fear, I'd say you got a great deal. So if that $9,000 a month for seven months taught you you never need to spend another minute on this. Maybe you got the deal of the century.

Nicole: Oh, I feel great about it. A) the team I worked with was A+, like I learned so much from them and it did…

Anna: I would hope so!

Nicole: (Laughs) Right, right? It did work for all intents and purposes. But mostly because I now know without a shadow of a doubt, this isn't ah, you know how sometimes you want to achieve something, you want to accomplish something and then discomfort or fear or doubt gets in the way? None of that is what's going on here. I'm not not on social media, because it's uncomfortable for me here, because I'm not willing to risk or make the investment. I'm not on social media, because I tested it out to the fullest of my ability. And now I know (laughs) without a shadow of a doubt that I don't need to, need to waste, as you said, any more time or any more energy in that space. And I felt great about it.

Anna: So that's an interesting question. How can you tell if you're, you're resisting something because it makes you uncomfortable and challenges you or you really just don't like it and it's not for you? How can you tell the difference?

Nicole: Yeah, I mean, I think that's unique to each person. But if I am coming from a place of worrying how it's going to look to other people, or fear about whether or not it's going to work or not, or if I'm you know, going to fail. Or that those are usually the things where I'm up to something big, but my, what I call my head trash, that voice that's inside of our minds, that says things to us about us that are never kind, very rarely true. It's the difference between the voice that's being a bully, versus the voice that's coming from a place of love and kindness and, and knowing and listen, you know, distinguishing between the two and knowing which one to listen to. I, I just knew it was draining me. It was exhausting me. This wasn't fear, or doubt, or fear of failure or, you know, concern about what other people thought. This was everything in my being resisting it. I mean, I didn't even like go on and look at my own stuff other than what I needed to do, you know, to meet the commitments to my team. I don't know, I just knew. I think we know.

Anna: Yeah. I don't know, my, my head trash and my fear can get, they can get mixed up and confuse me and it really can be hard to tell the difference between something. It's kind of like that thing. Sorry but, frog in my throat. That thing, when you can't tell if the universe is saying don't do this, or the universe is saying you just need to try harder and you're gonna have that amazing story in 10 years about how you never gave up. You know what I mean?

Nicole: Yeah, yes. So I should rephrase what I said. I think you know when you know (laughs). Not that you just know. Because the reality is if I knew, I would have never invested $9000 a month into something like this. I would have never tested this theory out. I would have never doubled down. I think that was, it was because I did that, because I wasn't totally sure. Do I authentically hate this? Is this just not a place confidence lose for me? Is this not where I want to be spending my time or am I not good at it? Or is this where I just need to double down? Is this you know, you get in what you put out or, you know, success is on the other side of your comfort zone? All the things that we hear that are, in fact, true. But I just needed to figure out how to test it out so that I could distinguish the difference so that I would know when I know. Does that make sense?
Anna: Yeah.

Nicole: And at some point, I just know. Like it was just blatantly obvious to me.

Anna: So let's talk about that. When it comes to launching a book. I have almost never worked with someone who hasn't said I, either I don't know why, my story is not interesting. Who am I to think I should publish a book? All of the, the head trash that comes up around that. I would love any advice you have around that.

Nicole: Yeah, I um, so in my book, it's a book about confidence. And I talk about these confidence derailers. These are the things that chip away at our head trash. One of those things is overthinking. And I think that's like the cousin to head trash. It's the negative thoughts. But then it's the over thinking that happens. And we get stuck in the what ifs. And, you know, should I this or should I that or does this and like, all of those things, and perfectionism. All those things were playing a part in my journey. But ultimately, the biggest confidence builder is action. Action builds confidence. And I think a lot of times we think there needs to be, you know, big risk, huge step, you know, bold moves. And it's really one foot in front of the other towards what matters. I knew I wanted to write a book, I had all the head trash about whether or not I could or whether or not anybody would read it, or whether or not it'd be good, or whether or not I get five-star, one-star reviews or no reviews. I had all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I knew I wanted to. And so it was just one foot in front of the other. It was one conversation with an author. It was writing one outline. It was thinking about. and just always being in action towards what mattered to me is the only reason that there is a book. And a loving reminder that we get to decide what we say to ourselves. Our head trash is not something that we have zero control over. And so really practicing the exercises of reframing my own thoughts. Choosing something more productive, more empowered, and also acknowledging I'm making it all up anyway. You know? It's, it's all happening up in my mind. So as long as I'm in action, and as long as I'm doing the work to shift my thoughts. That's how we create just about anything that's scary and risky and worth doing.

Anna: Yeah, but old therapists used to say we're making it up. So why not make up good stories, right?

Nicole: Yes. Yeah.

Anna: So let's walk through. So, so how long ago did you, let's talk about your process of doing the book. How long ago did you decide you wanted to do it? And what was your, what were your steps that you took?

Nicole: Sure. So I decided I want a book, like when I, write a book when I was in my teens, so lots of overthinking lots of excuses, lots of reasons, lots of head trash. But I didn't really get serious about it until two years before the release of the book. I had spent about six months navigating the, talking to different authors, asking questions, researching, understanding the different options of publishing You helped me with that quite a bit too. You know, do I want to self-publish? Do I want to go traditional? Is there a hybrid? How does one even write a book and so it was a lot of, that is, prep action work? Not a lot of thinking but like a lot of talking and researching and learning, deciding. Then I hired a writing, writing partner. For me, I knew I needed that accountability. I needed somebody who, I needed to get pages to by certain dates. I needed somebody who knew how to create an outline of a book, and who, you know, could give me really good feedback. And so that accountability piece was really important to me. I will tell you, I, without that I would have never actually got to writing. I'll also share I started writing a completely different book than I ended up releasing.

Anna: Tell me more.

Nicole: I had, so I was going to write a book debunking some of the more masculine business theories or approaches. And, and by the way, I'm not, I advocate for women not at the expense of men. But the reality is, when I started writing the book, is 92% of business books were being written by men. So as women or really as people in the workforce, we're learning mostly about what it is to be professional, what it is to be successful, what it is to be confident from that masculine perspective. And so my initial thought was to debunk some of the more popular grit, grind, hard work, morning routine theories, and sort of balance those out a little bit. I realized it was gonna take a lot of frickin’ work to do that because I had to do a lot of research. These were ideas, but I didn't, you know, hadn't formulated all of the thoughts or the chapters. And um, my writing partner at one point was like, why aren’t you writing a book about confidence? This is what you speak about. This is what your podcast, like this is what you do. And I was like, I don't know why I'm not writing that book. Maybe the other idea is a second or a third book. But the book about confidence, frankly, half the book was already written because I do go across the country and speak on this topic. I've been learning and reading and researching and speaking about this for years. And so I had to, you know, check in with myself about is this first book, Is it easier, simpler to go with what I already know?

Anna: So how far into it were you?

Nicole: About three months.

Anna: About three months?

Nicole: We were, we had like outline and all that.

Anna: So when you say writing partner was this, how did you find this person? And was it a coach? Were you trading pages back and forth? What was the process?

Nicole: Yeah, so a friend connected me to a publisher who connected me to the writing partner. And I hired her and she was phenomenal. Her name is Peggy. And Peggy has written, I think she's ghost written several books? And she writes her own books and everything in between. I was very clear. I didn't want a ghost writer. My voice and the way I say things is so important to me. And I knew, you know, nobody's going to say things the way I say things other than me. That's, I mean, that's true for all of us. And so we did calls like every other week where she would ask me a bunch of questions. And then she would record everything I said, and then she would type out what she heard. And then I'd go in and add, delete, add some color to, you know, create the story, blah, blah, blah, then get it to her. She'd make her edits, and then we'd talk about it our next call, and then so forth and so on. I skipped the part too where we spent months figuring, well, months because we ended up changing the book in there. But on the outline and the purpose and what was the goal and all that…

Anna: I will clarify, a great ghost writer is going to sound just like you. I think that is people's fear is they say I don't want a ghost writer because it's not going to sound like me. Most, most authors came up as magazine writers at least ones in my generation where one day they were writing for Cosmo, the next for the New York Times, the next year Playboy, and it's all voice. And so a good writer can do your voice and I really look at a ghost writer as a sort of documentarian, who's, who's a tape recorder that's just making it all sound exquisite.

Nicole: I also would add, though, you, I'm assuming you pay a pretty hefty premium, at least when I looked into it, the ghost riders who I think were, you know, writing books of other or well-known people, it was in the six-figure mark.

Anna: Yeah.

Nicole: And I was like, I mean, I've already invested, I invested a ton into the creation of this book, and I only had one business goal. And trust me, it was not profitability from book sales.

Anna: Amen. Yeah, we know you're not afraid to invest, because we've already busted out with the social media. So okay, and so how smart, so many people, hi, actually get the, get the idea this is not the book I'm supposed to do but go ahead anyway. Because it's that like, what's that thing where you've already invested like, you don't want to throw good money after bad? You know, you keep, so, so you double down more. So how smart that you saw that and listened to that voice, and did it different and went a different way.

Nicole: So funny story. A quote actually came up when I was thinking about it, and I just, it will stick with me forever. Don't keep making a mistake just because you already spent a long time making it? Something along those lines. And then I was like, oh, yeah, that’s what I needed to hear right then. And yeah, it felt like a scary shift.

Anna: Yeah, I mean, it's not unlike what we were talking about before, which is how do you know when it's fear and how do you know when you need to listen? And um, and I think oh, the sunk money fallacy or whatever the, I don't know, I'm getting that thing wrong. So, so you guys, you shift directions and how long did it take you to do the book once you got going in the right direction?

Nicole: Um, from that point to locking the book was about eight or nine months.

Anna: Um, and then, and then did you, did you work with a hybrid publisher? Did you work, I don't actually know.

Nicole: Yes, I did work with a hybrid publisher. Yeah.

Anna: Because, because getting the idea, from getting the idea to two years is relatively fast, I would say.

Nicole: Well, and I think again, this shift to writing a book about confidence where, I mean, I already had half the book technically written it in my mind, in my, in my work. So that half the book was really, really easy. Chapters two through four (laughs), we went, you know, all around on, but chapters six through 10? That was easy peasy. And speed was a priority for me, not at the sacrifice of quality. But my speaker’s agency had said, in no uncertain terms, they're like, you need to write a book. It doesn't even need to be a good book, which was like a knife to the heart (laughs), for an avid reader like me. But they're like, you need to get a book out there and so speed was a little bit important. Two years felt long.

Anna: You are not, yeah but you are definitely not someone who would sacrifice quality. I really will say this, this is not like, I just, quality like oozes from you. And even just when I was on your podcast and you sent me a copy of your book, it was just so, you're just a class act. You do it, you cross every T and dot every I. It's very obvious.

Nicole: Thank you. Oh, that's so kind. That means a lot.

Anna: It’s true. I don't blow smoke. Now, now, so…

Nicole: One of the many reasons I love you (laughs). Not a big fan of… well, anyway, sorry.

Anna: So, so, I’m not, let's, we're fellow non smoke blowing fans. Now, now, okay, so your goal was not book sales thank the Lord. What was your business goal?

Nicole: So my business goal is to see an increase of speaking engagements and an increase of revenue from that particular, I guess, arm of my business. For me, the book is a calling card for, it's a business card for speaking engagements. I know if, you know, you're looking at two potential speakers, and they're all things being equal, you're always gonna choose the one with the book. I also felt like, you know, sometimes when people are looking to book speakers, that there is, is this person the right fit? Do they have the right voice? This is, it was really important to me that this is like, this is who I am and this is what you'll get. Um, so that was the one business goal. And thank God, I didn't think I was gonna make money from books (laughs) because it’s sort of depressing on that side.

Anna: Very, I, you're talking to someone who's never checked her book sales. Because I don't, I don't like to be depressed. I'd rather be happy. But what impact has it had on your speaking career?

Nicole: Yeah so, a lot of good things. I mean, completely new clients I've never worked with before. And it's hard sometimes to make the connection, right. I know, in every case, the book played a role. But I can think of one, which was a big one, I got to speak at Sales, Sales Force at the end of, the last year. And that was 100% via connection from the book. So that that was exciting.

Anna: How do you know that?

Nicole: The woman who booked me told me (laughs).

Anna: Okay, so you have the book, your speaking agent says, so how do you start using the book as a tool to get speaking engagements?

Nicole: Yeah, and I, I have not totally cracked this code yet. So if anybody has any ideas, reach out to me. But I think um, first, the social media team actually helped me with this a little bit. They were very purposeful, of connecting me to people who, you know, are event coordinators or HR, or you know, that run the logistics of like the Massachusetts conference for women or blah, blah, blah. So that rather than just randomly connecting me or, or trying to get any follower under the sun, they were strategic and purposeful about, you know, who, and then also in my messaging, we focus a lot more on me as a speaker. Or my content and a lot less on book sales or, you know, that type of thing. So they were smart there and they helped me build connections. I often send my books with little handwritten notes to people, there are lots of speaking engagements that I know about, that may already be booked, or, you know, I've just heard about them. I'll shoot my book off in the mail. You know. I am mindful of the people I know and where they work. And um, always try to be conscious of making that connection, sending them extra books, so they can pass them around, that, that type of thing. Follow through is really important. A lot of my speaking engagements come from relationships, or conversations from three years ago, and I just, when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. And I think sometimes it's a matter of timing, and it's just a matter of like, oh, this woman isn't going away (laughs). She's gonna keep reaching out. Those are just a few thoughts that jump into my head. But it's a work in progress.

Anna: If somebody listening wants to use their book in order to get speaking gigs, what would you recommend? Should they look up HR contacts at big companies? Follow these people on social media? What would you recommend?

Nicole: Yes, so I did a little bit in reverse, I built kind of the speaking side of my business and then wrote a book. And so, I will tell you probably the, the things that have had the greatest impact on building the speaking side of my business was, you know, I basically made it a point to have 10 different connection calls every single month. And so I started with the people I knew who I worked with in the past, or relationships, or previous clients, and I reached out and just said, you know, hey, I'm looking to build the speaking side of my business. And I didn't, you know, reach out to book something right there. I wasn't, I did some free things here or there. But mostly, it was just everything in my world has worked via word of mouth, and relationships and referrals. And I believe that people want to help. Not everybody will help or help in the way that you want them to. But the more people who knew what I was up to, the better it was going to be for the long-term growth of my business. And so I just did that. And, you know, when you do a good job, then you ask for an endorsement and ask if they know anybody at any other companies who, you know, do the work that they do. And it just sort of spiraled from there. Now, I also want to be clear, you know, there are people who speak on 100, 100 stages a year, that was never, that's not my goal. And that is also not my experience. I don't want to be traveling, I don't want to advocate for confidence, or for women at the expense of my daughter. That seems counterproductive. And so I do do quite a bit of virtual work, but I try to only be on the road at most, twice a month. And some months, it's six times and then some months it’s zero times, but it sort of averages out to like 25 stages a year. So you know, I don't, that's not big time but it works for me.

Anna: It’s perfect, I think. And did it, did the book raise your, allow you to raise your fees?

Nicole: I did raise my fees in conjunction with the book. But my fees up, my fees are always negotiable in my mind. So I have gotten one booking at my rate. But I got to negotiate down on other ones from a higher rate. So like I negotiated down to the rate I was asking for before, if that makes any sense.

Anna: Yeah, yeah. So and, so your, people ask me all the time, they say, can you connect me to a speaking agent? They actually want to, they think they can sort of hire an agent. And I'm like, agents are taking commission. So how does somebody get a speaking agent?

Nicole: Yeah, I have four. Yeah, four speaking agents. And I will tell you, each of them are good to book me on maybe one or two things a year. No disrespect to anybody in the speaker's agencies, but my experience is kind of like publishing. It's if you're Brené Brown, or Michelle Obama or Glennon Doyle, it's like, yeah, they're going to turn themselves inside out and it's going to, they're going to do all the work for you. But for the people like me with not a huge amount of name recognition, or you know, where people aren't calling the speaker's agencies going, hey, I want to book Nicole. Um, you know, I typically get pitched when somebody can't afford like a Mel Robbins. That's uh, you know, so oh, you don't have Mel Robbins budget? I've got somebody for you. Right? So they maybe get me one or two a year each. The vast majority of the speaking engagements I book, I book via word of mouth, via connection, or people reaching out directly to me after hearing something or other or reading the book or, or something like that. So all of that to say, I mean, unless you find somebody totally different than my experience, I don't think the answer is finding a speaker's agent. And yes, you do give at least 20% of any booking to them, which is, maybe they might be able to get you bigger fees sometimes. But that hasn’t always been my experience either. I don't know.

Anna: It's kind of like how the people who most don't need the free things, like the Kardashians, are given the free things. The people who most don't need the agents have agents work so hard for them. So…

Nicole: That’s exactly right.

Anna: Yeah. Yeah. This is fascinating though. So, so any, we'll get, we'll start wrapping up. I mean, we did so many fun little topics, but what would your advice be for somebody who is maybe in the midst of a book wants a speaking career? What would you tell them?

Nicole: Yeah, I'm gonna circle back to our earlier conversation about social media is, well, first and foremost, ask yourself and be honest with yourself, what is the experience you're looking for? What's most important to you? So you know, if the most important thing for you is book sales, then you know, I don't know if social media is the number one biggest place to invest? Certainly don't do $9,000 a month, you know. Learn from my mistake on that. Or if, you know from, what is your goal with speaking, is it to impact as many people or is it to make the most efficient and productive amount of dollars? Is it to sell something? What is it that you're looking for in all aspects? And then talk to the people who are doing it, who, not the, I mean, if you can get to the big name people, that's great. But in my experience, their advice is so far removed from what it takes from somebody like us to do and it's like, find the person who's a year ahead of you. So find the person who's a couple $100,000 ahead of you. Find the person who is a couple books ahead of you and ask their advice. That's where I've always gotten the best, most real, most effective, most relevant advice. And then take all that advice and go, what most directly connects to the experience that I'm looking for, the outcome, or what really matters, why I'm really doing this, and then start testing those things out. And I think test is a really important word. Have an idea of how much for how long? With what boundaries, you're willing to test that thing out. So you don't keep making a mistake, just because you've already spent a long time or a lot of money making it.

Anna: I love it. I love it. So if people want to find out more about you, get the book, where should they go?

Nicole: Yeah, so my website's the best place for all things at The book is Validation is for Parking. You can find it really anywhere. And yeah, that's the best place, best place to find me. You can go to social media, but you won't see me much there (laughs).

Anna: I know. But you'll see some amazing posts from last year.

Nicole: (Laughs) That's right.

Anna: And it, well Nicole, thank you so much. This was amazing. And thanks to…

Nicole: Oh my gosh. My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.