David Meerman Scott on the New Rules of Writing (and Profiting From) Great Books

David Meerman Scott is an internationally acclaimed strategist whose books and blog are must-reads for professionals seeking to generate attention in ways that grow their business.


David’s advice and insights help people, products and organizations stand out, get noticed and capture hearts and minds. He is author or co-author of ten books — three of which are international bestsellers. The New Rules of Marketing & PR, now in its 4th edition, has been translated into 26 languages and is used as a textbook in hundreds of universities and business schools worldwide.

It is a modern business classic with over 300,000 copies sold so far. Scott also authored Real-Time Marketing & PR, a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Newsjacking, World Wide Rave, and his latest hit book The New Rules of Sales & Service. He co-authored Marketing the Moon (now in pre-production as a feature-length film titled The Men Who Sold the Moon) and Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead.

In this episode David and I discuss:

  • How his writing drives his speaking business
  • His business model of taking stock in businesses
  • How he actually makes money from his books
  • Why he doesn’t take book advances
  • How he ramped up his speaking fees over time through writing more books
  • How he comes up with new ideas for books
  • Why speaking is a skill that needs to be practiced and honed


The Show Notes


David Meerman Scott on the New Rules of Writing (and Profiting from) Great Books

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Jim Kukral: I remember reading The New Rules of Marketing and PR when it first came out, and I thought to myself, “This is the perfect book at the perfect time.” What year did that book come out again?

David Meerman Scott: Thank you for your kindness, Jim. 2007 was the first edition, and just last week, I submitted the manuscript for the fifth edition of the book.

Jim Kukral: Yeah, sometimes timing is just as important as the message, right?

David Meerman Scott: I think that’s right, but you know, there’s something really interesting that’s going on right now about that. You and some other people noticed that this book came out and that it was the perfect timing, and I’m glad I put it out then because it was the first book of its kind, and now there’s been thousands of books like it.

I spoke with my publisher last week, Wiley, and they told me I’m selling more books now than I ever have. What’s interesting to me is that the ideas that were really, really radical back when we thought about this stuff in ’07 is now mainstream. To me, that’s remarkable.

Jim Kukral: It’s not surprising to me one bit, because the book really is an amazing message. It was the first book to put the new meaning onto all of this online marketing stuff we were all doing. People were still talking about press releases back then.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah, I had a whole chapter on press releases in the book.

Jim Kukral: I know, and you were the first one that really put it into a format where people were like, “Wait a minute. This old stuff isn’t working any longer.”

David Meerman Scott: Yeah.

Jim Kukral: Anyway, it was really well done.

David Meerman Scott: Thank you.

Jim Kukral: If you haven’t read The New Rules of Marketing and PR, it’s one of the must-read books here. Enough blowing smoke, here.

David Meerman Scott: Thank you. Thank you, Jim. I appreciate that. Also, I’ve been very, very diligent to keep updating it. Like I just mentioned, the fifth edition is in the can, coming out in October. The fourth edition still obviously makes sense to read, but I was really scared of having the ideas become old and stale. I have to continually update it to make sure the new rules really are new.

Jim Kukral: Let’s talk about being an authorpreneur, because that’s what the whole show is about.

David Meerman Scott: Yup.

Jim Kukral: We’ve been talking with lots of authorpreneurs about this. Do you consider yourself an author first, or a business first?

His Business Model of Taking Stock in Businesses

David Meerman Scott: I consider myself a one-person media company, and by that, I mean I’m definitely an author, and my writing is what drives my speaking business, and my writing and my speaking business is what drives my advisory work. I am not a consultant. I do not take money for consulting, but I am an advisor, and I take stock, equity positions in companies, to advise them.

Jim Kukral: That’s an amazing business model. That’s the first time I’ve heard anybody do that.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah, it works really well for me. It works really well for me because if I take money for a consulting project, it means I have a work product to produce. I haven’t done that in probably 10 years, almost 10 years.

Jim Kukral: Because you’re getting pitched a lot, aren’t you?

David Meerman Scott: Yeah, but I’m okay with that.

Jim Kukral: You’re okay with getting all those pitches?

David Meerman Scott: I’m okay with that, yeah, totally. I don’t invest money. I invest time. And in exchange for time, I take equity positions in the companies. I’m very careful, just like a venture capitalist is, in the companies that I choose to invest my time in.

I tend to focus on things that I know and like. Specifically, I’m focused on SAS-based software products that are disrupting technologies in the sales and marketing space, as a general idea of the sorts of companies that I work with. I’ve had some good luck. I was an advisor to Eloqua, and Eloqua went public and then was acquired by Oracle. Since the Oracle acquisition, I have no longer been associated with them, but that was a nice payout.

I’ve been an advisor to HubSpot pretty much since they started. I started working with them when they had less than 10 employees and less than 100 clients, and I think they’re at about 900 employees and something like 14,000 clients now. It went public last year, and the stock price has doubled the IPO price.

I’ve had a couple of other hits as well. I’m really bullish on a company called Expert File. I’ve been on their advisory board for three or four years. GrabCAD is another one I’ve been working with. These are good companies that are doing interesting things in the sales and marketing space.

Jim Kukral: Now, I have to ask how many have you invested in with your time that just haven’t worked out?

David Meerman Scott: Probably 10, but my hit rate is better than the average VC, so I’ll take it.

Jim Kukral: Let’s back up a little bit for a second, because I want the people listening to get a breakdown of what your profit matrix is. There’s so many ways that authors use books to make money: obviously speaking, consulting service, businesses, agencies they own, workshops. Give the audience, quickly, a breakdown of how your business makes money based upon the books that you write.

How He Actually Makes Money from His Books

David Meerman Scott: Absolutely. First of all, I actually sell books.

Jim Kukral: One of those guys that actually sells a lot of books.

David Meerman Scott: I say that with a chuckle — because I fully well know — because my first two books did not sell. But they did generate revenue because of speaking. The first book I wrote was called Eyeball Wars, and the second book I wrote is called Cashing In with Content.

Cashing in with Content is really interesting. It came out in 2005. It was the first book about content marketing, although I didn’t make the title ‘content marketing,’ darn it, which I wish I had done. You know, I’ve been talking about content marketing for more than 10 years. The first book on content marketing came out 10 years ago. That was a book I wrote.

Those books did not sell well, but they did do great for me. By ‘not selling well,’ I would peg them at about 2,000 or 3,000 copies each over their lifetime. The Cashing in with Content book is hopelessly outdated at this point, because I never updated it, but they generate speaking gigs.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR has sold 350,000 copies in English, and it’s published in 26 other languages.

That book, over the course of the eight years that’s been in print, anyone who’s got a book contract can do the math in terms of how much I’ve made from just the book sales. I publish with Wiley, so it’s a traditional publishing contract where I get royalties.

Jim Kukral: And an advance, I’m sure, as well?

Why He Doesn’t Take Book Advances

David Meerman Scott: I do not. This is important. I’m glad you brought that up. I do not take advances. Advances are archaic and should be avoided. The reason for that is advances typically were created when people were full-time authors, and you had to loan them the money that they had to live on while they were writing the book, which they would then recoup.

Now, the reason I always tell budding authors to not take an advance, or if they take one to just take a minimal advance, is because if you do not earn your advance back, it is unlikely you will ever write again for a big publisher. Because if you don’t earn out, the publisher you’re currently working for won’t have you back.

If they won’t have you back, another publisher won’t want to have you, either. It’s definitely such, in my mind, that taking an advance is not a good idea. There’s people who constantly argue with me about this, but that’s my position. You asked me how do I make money.

I actually do make money with my books. My royalty statements are quite nice. I can’t live off them, but they are very nice royalty statements. I do about 40 speeches a year, and my current rate is $22,000 for a speech.

Then, as we discussed at the beginning, I also have these advisory role positions that I do. I’m on the advisory board of, on average, about six companies at any one time. I try to keep them in various stages of their lifestyle from very early startups through to companies that are quite well-developed, and in the case of HubSpot, have already gone public. I’m still on their advisory board.

Jim Kukral: You weren’t always making $22,000.

David Meerman Scott: No.

Jim Kukral: I guess my next question is, was there a business first, or did you become an author first, or was kind of all the same time?

How He Ramped up His Speaking Fees over Time through Writing More Books

David Meerman Scott: I got fired in 2002. I was working for a company called News Edge Corporation that was acquired by Thompson, which is now Thompson Reuters, back in 2001, and they gave me my walking papers in 2002. It was just a couple of months after 9/11, so there weren’t any jobs to be had. I started doing consulting, which I found, “Hey, I kind of like this stuff. I kind of like consulting.”

I decided I would make a go of consulting and not take another job at least for a couple of years to see if I liked it. Then that led to me starting to write magazine articles, and then led to the several early books that came out before The New Rules of Marketing and PR. In the early days, I was earning almost all of my income from consulting.

Then, when those early books came out, I at first would speak for no fee, but they paid travel expenses. Then, I started to get very small fees, like $1,000 plus travel expenses. I think the highest speaking fee I got before The New Rules of Marketing and PR came out was 2,500 bucks.

Then, when The New Rules of Marketing and PR came out, it was instantaneous that I started to ask for $10,000 and get it, and I went to $12,500 and started to get that. Then I went to $15,000 and started to get that. I tested $20,000, and that was too high, and I dropped down to $15,000, so I was at $15,000 for probably five years. I would book 25 to 30 a year.

Jim Kukral: So you are road warrior, for sure?

David Meerman Scott: I love it. I love it. A lot of people don’t like it. I love it. I love a stage. Oh my god, it’s the coolest thing in the world. I spoke two days ago in Orlando for the Fortune Magazine Leadership Summit, and it’s just the greatest thing. In this case, it was 650 entrepreneurs in the room. Lots of them are CEOs of their own companies. To be able to have a great stage and be able to — I’m very physical — run around and do my thing, I think it’s the greatest gift in the world.

And not only that, but I get paid for it. It does certainly doesn’t feel like work. It certainly doesn’t feel like I’m working for a living. Do I like to get on planes? I could live without getting on planes, but I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy the speaking. I enjoy going to the cocktail reception after and schmoozing with folks that have heard me talk.

I especially like international gigs. Unlike a lot of people who don’t like to do them, I like them. I’ve spoken in 41 countries on all seven continents, so I really like that aspect. I’m a sucker for a cool international gig. This year, I’ve got one booked in London; Melbourne, Australia; Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve got already a pre-booked one in 2016 Warsaw, Poland. I like those sorts of speaking gigs.

Jim Kukral: You’ve got quite a few books.

David Meerman Scott: Ten, believe it or not.

Jim Kukral: With new books, is the approach, the strategy, just to continue to try and capitalize off of The New Rules and continue to write? I guess the question is, how do the new books help you continue on this path?

How He Comes up with New Ideas for Books

David Meerman Scott: When I think of a new topic for a book, I really feel compelled to write it. It’s like a spiritual thing. It’s like there’s an idea in my head, and it has to get out. Every one of the books, well almost every one of the books, that’s the way that they’ve come about. I didn’t say, “Oh, it’s been two years. I need to write a book.”

I didn’t say, “Oh, I need more money, so I need to raise my speaking fee, so I need to create a new topic.” There’s never a calculation like that. It was always something like, “Oh, my gosh. Over the last two years, I’ve written 10 blog posts about the Grateful Dead.” Brian Halligan, my friend, and I did a webinar on the Grateful Dead. Brian is the CEO of HubSpot. It was the most attended webinar in HubSpot’s history to that point.

“There’s something going on here,” so I turned to Brian and say, “Brian, there’s something going on here. The spirits are telling us that there’s something here. This is your most-attended webinar in your company’s history. These are some of the blog posts that I had the most fun writing. Let’s write a book about the Grateful Dead.” He said, “Sure,” and we did it.

That’s how I tend to write books. I have an idea that’s in my head. It’s like worming into my brain, and it kind of needs to come out. Those are the ones that I’ve done. It’s an idea that just feels like it has to get out. If it were like, “Oh, I need to write a book because I need to make more money,” or, “I need to write a book because I haven’t written one for a few years,” I don’t know that I’d be able to do it.

Jim Kukral: Answer this question, but you can’t answer with the answer, “Write better books,” all right?

David Meerman Scott: Okay.

Jim Kukral: What’s the biggest factor, besides writing great books, that has transformed your success? And you can’t say, “Write better books.”

David Meerman Scott: Can’t say “write better books.”

Jim Kukral: The biggest thing that has helped you get to where you are.

Why Speaking Is a Skill That Needs to Be Practiced and Honed

David Meerman Scott: I have been a student of public speaking for 25 years. I have viewed public speaking as an art form. I have seen it much in the way that somebody like Mick Jagger sees what he does for a living. In fact, I studied Mick Jagger and have written a couple of blog posts about what he can teach a public speaker in terms of skills.

Twenty-five years ago, I was the co-founder of a Toastmasters club in Tokyo, where I was living at the time. For five years, I was active in Toastmasters and delivered a little speech every single month for five years. I spoke at the companies I was working for at the time. I was in the corporate world until 2002, as I mentioned earlier.

I spoke a lot for the companies I was working for. When started doing my presentations on my own, I read books on speaking. I really wanted to focus on getting better as a speaker. When I started to make pretty good money as a speaker after The New Rules of Marketing and PR came out, I told myself I wanted to be much better than I was.

There was no excuse for me not to be voted the best speaker in a conference even if it was a huge conference with really famous speakers. I wanted to be voted the top speaker. So I hired a speaker coach. His name is Nick Morgan — great guy. He’s got a bunch of books out. I highly recommend Nick Morgan’s books. If you’re going to buy one, buy the latest one. Just go to Amazon, and choose his most recent book.

Nick and I have worked together now for about five or six years. He’s gone to some speeches that I’ve done locally and helped me to craft some speeches from scratch when I was coming up with ideas for new topics. He’s worked a lot with me on technique.

I think it’s really sad when somebody writes a good book. It’s a bestseller perhaps. They get invited to speak. They take a big speaking fee, and then they screw up their speech. I see it all the time. And I see people who have been on the speaking circuit now for two or three or four or five or even 10 years who haven’t bothered to become professional at speaking.

It’s sad, because the conference organizer gets the name. They get the ‘author of.’ They get someone who’s well-known, but it’s not somebody who’s developed the skills as a speaker.

I’m the opposite of that. I really focus on the skills, and because I have — and I’ve delivered probably over 500 speeches by now and have focused every single time on “What can I learn from this particular speech?” — I’ve gotten much better and have gotten to the point where I just really love it.

I’m always looking for a little bits of room to improve. That’s probably worth double the income for me over the last, say, five years. I would probably still be in the $10,000 to $12,000 range and doing 20 a year instead of the number I’ve got now and that I’m making now.

Jim Kukral: We’ve only got a couple of minutes left with you, so I have a couple more questions I want to ask.

David Meerman Scott: Sure.

Jim Kukral: One of the things you’re doing that’s really smart, and I know Jay Baer started to do this with his Youtility book, is you have The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and then you released another one: The New Rules of Sales and Service.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah.

Jim Kukral: So you’re essentially taking the same type of concept and applying it to a different industry. Do you see this going even further, beyond sales and service? Like The New Rules of Sales and Service, The New Rules of something else?

David Meerman Scott: I don’t have any bright ideas right now. Like we talked about earlier, when an idea gets in my head and it just feels like it’s a great idea for a book, it worms its way in there and has to get out. The way that book came around is two years ago, Brian Halligan — and again, I bring up Brian — my buddy and I were drinking beers at a bar in Nantucket Island. We were talking about how Brian started HubSpot the very same year that I wrote The New Rules in Marketing and PR back in ’06.

At that time, we both saw that the rules of marketing were changing. He started a company. I wrote a book. Two years ago, we both saw that the world of sales was changing. He then created a part of HubSpot that works with sales, and at the same time, I had this idea that, “My gosh, I should be writing a book about sales,” and it kind of went from there.

I have no clue whatsoever what another ‘New Rules of’ might be, but if it fits within the rubric, then I think it might make sense. I don’t know what that would be right now, because it seems like we got marketing and public relations and sales and customer service. I don’t know what else I would do. I can’t say The New Rules of Law. I’m not qualified to write The New Rules of Business Law or something like that. The New Rules of Public Speaking, perhaps, I don’t know. I don’t have one in mind.

Jim Kukral: We do this kind of fun segment — I hope it’s a fun segment — on the Authorpreneur show where I drop a bad review of one of your books.

David Meerman Scott: Okay, all in fun. All right.

Jim Kukral: I’ve got a bad review of one of your books. Now, have you ever seen like Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets thing?

David Meerman Scott: No, I know what you mean. I’ve never seen it, but I know what you mean.

Jim Kukral: Okay, so I’ve picked one of the bad reviews off of one your books. By the way, there are 99.9999 percent awesome reviews. But I have a bad review here for you, and I’d like you to read it if you’re game.

David Meerman Scott: You’d like me to read it, okay. All right, now how are you going to get it to me?

Jim Kukral: I’m going to paste it right here in Skype, and you can read that. And you can respond to it in any way that you want to respond. You can laugh or say, “no comment.”

David Meerman Scott: All right.

Jim Kukral: It grounds me when I read things like this.

David Meerman Scott: Nice, okay. From The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Subject line: “You’ve got to be kidding me with all these five star reviews” — nice — by Alicia.

Okay, here we go: “I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that people gave this book a good review. What a waste of time this big, boring read was. Honestly, if you know nothing about social media, this book could useful, but if you have ever even log on to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or LinkedIn before, you probably could have figured out his helpful tips for yourself. This book couldn’t be more vague. If you want a book that actually helps you put together a social media strategy for your business, don’t waste your time with this read.”

Jim Kukral: How do you feel when you read stuff like that?

David Meerman Scott: I love it. I absolutely love it. Let me tell you the reason why. First of all, this kind of review doesn’t have any specifics.

Jim Kukral: Right.

David Meerman Scott: This could have been written by somebody who has some sort of professional jealousy and just wanted to ping me. This could have been written by somebody who, for whatever reason, just wanted to pick a bone.

The other thing that’s really interesting — and I almost stumbled reading it, because I haven’t read the word in probably three years — the person said ‘MySpace.’ I was like, “MySpace? What the hell is MySpace?” I used to have a whole three-page section on MySpace in The New Rules of Marketing and PR. I dropped it down over the years. It now gets barely a paragraph. I love that aspect, too, because it kind of shows just from the words in there.

I particularly like bad reviews for this reason: if I look at any product on Amazon that I’m considering buying — and I buy lots of stuff on Amazon, but it doesn’t have to be Amazon, it could be any review site — if I see all five-star reviews, I think there’s something fishy going on. The author’s friends have been recruited to write five-star reviews or the author invested in some dodgy company in India that writes reviews for them for money or whatever it is.

When I see a couple of bad reviews I’m like, “Okay, cool. These are real reviews, because there’s both good and bad.” I am more likely to buy a product that has 95 percent good and 5 percent bad reviews than I am to buy a product that’s a 100 percent good reviews. I just feel like there’s something fishy. If there isn’t someone who’s a detractor, then I’m just kind of fishy.

Yeah, I’m cool with this. You know, whatever. Do what you like.

Here’s the other thing that’s really, really interesting, Jim. Why in the world would you finish a book that you don’t like? I don’t understand it. If I start reading a book and I don’t like it — like 20 pages in — I’m too freaking busy, and there’s too much amazingly great stuff out there in the world for me that I could be doing to read a bad book.

This person says, “Don’t waste your time with this big boring read.” I mean, you read the whole thing! What in the world?

Jim Kukral: Funny that you talk about– it’s the Cialdini effect, right? It’s the social proof, right? If you look at books and you see they’re all five-star, in your brain, you’re like, “Wait a minute. Something is up.”

David Meerman Scott: Yeah, that’s what I say. So, you know, the odd bad review. If I was getting 50 percent bad, I would freak.

Jim Kukral: You pull the book, and you say, “Something is wrong with it. Let’s fix it.”

David Meerman Scott: Yeah.

Jim Kukral: All right, we’re almost out of time. I do want to ask you one or two last questions here.

David Meerman Scott: Sure.

Jim Kukral: I am a traditionally published author with Wiley as well.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah.

Jim Kukral: I have one book with them, and I did not like the process of being traditionally published. It’s way too slow for me.

David Meerman Scott: Yup.

Jim Kukral: I wanted to move faster. I’ve since self-published 10 books on my own.

David Meerman Scott: Sure.

Jim Kukral: Question: why do you stay traditionally published? And this is not a leading question. I really want to know, why not self-publish? Or what’s the big reason you stay traditional?

David Meerman Scott: Yeah, so I have published basically all the different ways. I have self-published free ebooks. I have self-published a print book. I have gone with a very small publisher called CyberAge Books that published my book Cashing in with Content. My first book, Eyeball Wars, I published myself. That’s a hardcover print book.

I’ve published with an academic press. My book called Marketing the Moon was done with MIT Press, and I’ve done seven books with Wiley. I publish my books with Wiley for two basic reasons. Number one, I don’t want to deal with it. I do not want to personally get involved with ISBN numbers and print counts and warehousing and pricing and cover design and all that stuff.

More importantly — and this is very important for me in my business because what I mentioned to you earlier — my books are in 26 languages. The New Rules of Marketing and PR is in 26. The average of my other Wiley books is about 10 languages each. My books are being published all over the world as well.

My books have sold extremely well in English language countries outside the United States: Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, India, other English language-speaking countries. The distribution that I’m able to get with Wiley, both English language books getting in physical bookstores outside the United States as well as translated editions of the book in local language in multiple countries means that I’m actually reasonably well-known in countries around the world.

Practically every week, I’m invited to speak at a conference outside the United States. Typically, in a given year, I speak at approximately 10 conferences outside the US. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve spoken in a total of 41 different countries to date.

I would say if it’s 10 speeches a year at $22,000 — and my international rate is $25,000 — 10 speeches a year at $25,000, that’s quarter of a million dollars. In my mind, I’m making a quarter of a million dollars more in speaking fees by going with Wiley than I would if I go on my own.

Jim Kukral: All right, great answer. Lastly, before we move on and get you off and get you back to work, where can people go to learn more if they want to hire you as a speaker or read one of your books?

David Meerman Scott: If you want to read a book — and I’m happy to take another three or four minutes if you want to talk about this, Jim. One of my books is called World Wide Rave. It is a Wiley book. It was published about five years ago as a hardcover — $24.95 or whatever the price point was — book.

Wiley and I have made that book completely and totally free in all formats, electronic formats. Yeah, you can get it totally free as a PDF. You can get it totally free on Kindle, iPad, Nook, or whatever it is. I would suggest to anybody who wants to take a look at one of my books, get the free one first. It’s called World Wide Rave. Just go ahead and Google that phrase — World Wide Rave.

On Twitter, I’m @DMScott. On my website DavidMeermanScott.com, I’ve got a whole bunch of information about my speaking, and in particular, for those who are interested in going down this path, I’ve spent a lot of time on my own site and the videos that I have in there of me speaking and the way that I’ve organized around “I’m an author, speaker and an advisor.”

Just as one way to do it — I’m not saying it’s the only way, I’m not saying it’s the best way — but it’s one way to do it. Take a look at how I’ve organized my business from the website perspective.

Jim Kukral: All right. Well thanks, David, for coming on the Authorpreneur show, and everyone listening, please check out DavidMeermanScott.com. And again, I really want to stress this. The New Rules of Marketing and PR is really one of those books. If you read anything, you have to read that one. It really changed a lot of stuff.

David Meerman Scott: Jim, you are so kind. I really appreciate it. We should talk more often. This has been a really fun conversation. You are a very good podcast host, my friend.

Jim Kukral: Thank you very much. Then after you go visit and grab a copy of David’s books, I want you to think about being an authorpreneur. Head on over to my website, AuthorMarketingInstitute.com. Learn more about the business of writing and marketing books. You can grab our free video course called The How to Sell the First 100 Copies of Your Book.

All right, cue the music guys. It’s time for all of us to get back to work writing books and building businesses.

My name is Jim Kukral. I’ll be back with another Authorpreneur show guest soon who can help you in your journey to becoming an authorpreneur yourself. Thanks for listening, and as always, reviews and shares of the show are greatly appreciated. We’ll see you next time, everybody. Bye-bye.