How Author and Speaker Michael Port Drives His Business with Books

And how he can help you book yourself solid …

Michael Port has been called an “uncommonly honest author” by the Boston Globe and a “marketing guru” by The Wall Street Journal, which he thinks is cool because he may be the only former professional actor to also be a New York Times bestselling business author.

Michael has written five books including Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, Book Yourself Solid Illustrated, The Contrarian Effect and The New York Times Bestseller, The Think Big Manifesto.

He’s been on virtually every television network, and these days can be found keynoting conferences around the world on how to get booked solid or performing his one-man show, The Think Big Revolution.

In this 50-minute episode Michael Port and I discuss:

  • How books have changed his life and career
  • How books are his #1 marketing strategy
  • How he uses his books to get more speaking engagements and customers
  • Specific business model concepts about making money from his books
  • Why he traditionally publishes his books
  • How to deal with negative book reviews


The Show Notes



How Author and Speaker Michael Port Drives His Business with Books

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Jim Kukral: I want to start with a little story about Michael and myself. About five — well, six — years ago, Michael, I was coming out with my first book, Attention!, and I was having it traditionally published. I called you because you are somebody who was an authorpreneur, even back then, and I said, “What do I need to do to make this book a success?” And it was really funny, because you told me, “Jim, the first thing you should do is increase the pricing of your consulting by three times.” I was like, “You’re crazy. That will never work.” But you said, “Just do it. Once you have a book out, it’s going to make all the difference.” It’s so funny — I did it, and it worked. Michael, thanks very much for that.

Michael Port: That’s probably the only piece of advice I’ve ever given that actually worked. That’s great. That’s fantastic.

Jim Kukral: It was funny. I remember this conversation because you were getting ready to speak at a conference. You were at a pool bar — not a bar, you were at the pool.

Michael Port: No, I was actually just sitting out by the pool. I had just a swimsuit on, and I remember this conversation specifically because I remember thinking, “This is the life. This is the life. We’re talking business, and I’ve got a speech later, and I am in Vegas, and I’m by the pool.”

Jim Kukral: Yeah, I was like, “Wow, this is great that this guy doesn’t know me from Adam and is giving me this advice.” You are, in fact, one of the biggest and best authorpreneurs out there in the world, and that’s why we’re having you on here in the show, because this is a show about what you do. You are the poster boy for what’s going on in the world of being an authorpreneur. Thanks so much for doing this.

Michael Port: It’s my pleasure.

Jim Kukral: Yeah, it’s great to have you here. On the show, we’re going to get right into it. We like to talk about business models and the things that authors do and the impacts books have on their businesses. We all know that having a book is the best business card you will ever have. I think we can both agree on that, right?

Michael Port: Yeah, absolutely, as long as you do something with it.

Jim Kukral: That’s exactly right. Let’s get into that point now. Can you talk about how your books help you make your businesses succeed?

How Books Are His #1 Marketing Strategy

Michael Port: They are my number-one marketing strategy, period. My first book came out in 2006. I wrote it in 2005. In 2004 and 2005, I’d get about, if I was lucky, $1,500 to give a speech. Most speeches I was still giving for free. Then within two months of the book coming out in 2006, I started getting calls regularly, and I was charging $10,000 and then up and up and up, and now I’m at $30,000 per speech. But I still don’t even base my business model on speaking, because I think that’s a dangerous way to go unless you want to be on the road, in airplanes, and staying in hotels all the time. I look at it differently from a business model perspective.

Nonetheless, you see how the first book changed everything. Now, that first book is Book Yourself Solid, and it hit number two on Amazon in the world — not just in the category, but in the world — and it stayed there for a few days. It was just behind Dr. Oz, but he was on Oprah all week, so it’s a little tough to compete with him. That made all the difference in the world. Steal the Show is my sixth book. I’ve been pumping them out year by year by year.

Jim Kukral: Like I said, you’re the example of what people should be doing. It’s interesting for you to say that you don’t do the speaking model, because that leads into my next point here. I don’t want you to share any numbers with us, but I do want you to share and shed some light on the financial profit matrix of how your business breaks down off the books.

Most authorpreneurs make money in several ways. You get speaking fees — like you mentioned, you don’t like to do that much — consulting service businesses or agencies they own, training workshops, selling information products, and of course, book sales, which is usually the lowest, especially in the non-fiction world.

What’s your profit matrix? How was your business structured for the books to funnel into what you do?

Specific Business Model Concepts about Making Money from His Books

Michael Port: We like to be very strategic, and we do a fair amount of planning. We set our revenue goals for the year, and then we look at exactly how we’re going to hit them, meaning what products and services we’re going to sell, and then we put a plan together so we know how we’re going to sell those products and services and at what price points so we hit those financial goals.

There are certain things that I do and my companies do that generate revenue that we don’t even put into our financial planning. For example, book royalties — they don’t even go into the numbers. That’s just gravy.

Advances don’t go into the numbers. But now, the last book advance I got was around $200,000. Of course, that’s against royalties, but it’s nice. I’m definitely not going to complain about it. In this market, it’s a pretty good advance.

Jim Kukral: Absolutely.

Michael Port: Still, I don’t put that into our projections as something that I expect we’re going to do, and the same thing with speaking. If I’m making $30,000 a speech, I’ll do maybe one or two a month, but I don’t put those into our projections at all, because I don’t want to rely on it.

From the get-go, I wanted to have a business or multiple businesses rather than practices. My father is a psychiatrist, and he has a practice. He’s sat in the same chair for his entire life working with patients. He loves it. He just loves it. He loves the clinical aspect of his work.

I could not sit there. I couldn’t do that. There’s just no way. But I love helping people. I had to figure out, “How do I create a model that doesn’t require that I do the same thing every day from the same place but still allows me to be with the people that I want to be in one way, shape, or form, either on the phone, on webinars, or in person?”

Jim Kukral: The breakdown — let’s talk about that, because I’m assuming that most of the breakdown of financial success comes from the coaching, the training, and the business software, and things like that.

Michael Port: That’s right. I have two different companies. One is focused on Book Yourself Solid Worldwide, and we have two primary offerings. We have lead-gen-type offerings. We have entry-level-type offerings, which may run $250 to $500, but I’m not referring to those as our two main offerings. Our two main offerings are the Book Yourself Solid School of Coach Training and the Book Yourself Solid Mentoring Program. They’re both obviously based on the intellectual property in Book Yourself Solid. In the School of Coach Training, we license the intellectual property in Book Yourself Solid, and we train people over the course of a year so that they master the intellectual property and are able to teach it.

We also mentor them over the course of two years so that we make sure they are booked solid — that they are doing what they’re teaching — and that’s an essential component of that process. People from all walks of life — different types of service professionals, from financial professionals, lawyers, doctors, coaches, consultants, photographers, fitness professionals — lots of different types of services and professionals are in the Book Yourself Solid Mentoring Program.

When they enroll, they enroll for 14 months at a time. They usually continue their participation after that because we know that our results are produced from continuous, regular, long-term efforts. We like to play the long game here rather than the quick-fix, quick-launch kind of thing. That’s the Book Yourself Solid side of the business.

Then there’s the Heroic Public Speaking side of the business. In the Heroic Public Speaking side of the business, we run an immersion program, which is a pretty large program. But we do that all via Google streaming with lots of supporting materials inside a learning environment, of course — highly produced videos and assignments, et cetera.

We have a live event once a year, which is a very big event as well. We’ll do master classes here and there. Instagram just called in to ask if I could come for the day and do a big master class on public speaking there. We have some relationships with franchise companies and some other associations where they will bring the people to the programs, and then someone from our team will go and deliver those. There’s leverage and scale there as well.

The Mistake Michael Made for 13 Years

Michael Port: But here’s the thing, and this is critical. The mistake that I made over the last 13 years is writing too many books. That’s the mistake that I made.

I think I had this idea that I had to show people that I was really smart: “Look, I can write as many book as Seth Godin.” That kind of thing. When I was younger — I still am — but I was dyslexic, and I wasn’t very academic, and maybe I wanted to prove myself by writing a lot. I think that was an immature idea. I also just thought from a business perspective that it made sense, but when I look back, I think it was a mistake. Book Yourself Solid did so well that I should have just focused on that for 10 years and designed all our offerings around that — that kit building, that branding — we have 250 coaches in 29 countries.

If I had spent all of my time focused on that brand rather than writing Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect, and The Think Big Manifesto, that brand would be even bigger. There are more revenues associated with that brand than there are with the other books. I don’t sell any products or services that are based on The Contrarian Effect, Beyond Booked Solid, or The Think Big Manifesto although I do a key note now called ‘The Think Big Revolution,’ which is, of course, based on the book. The other ones, I don’t.

I did three versions of Book Yourself Solid: the first edition, the second edition, and Book Yourself Solid Illustrated, which is a complete redo of the book where I cut about 35 to 40 percent of the text and worked with an illustrator to create 500 illustrations so that people can see the concepts, not just read about the concepts. That book is a $45 book. It’s a very different price point and is a very different type of book for a different type of buyer. Both of the books — the original and the second edition, though, and Book Yourself Solid Illustrated — both sell consistently.

Those three books — afterwards, I think it would have been smart not to do them and just focus on the brand. Now that I set up a second company called Heroic Public Speaking, I’ve written a book called Steal the Show, which I think is the best book I’ve written. I know this is going to be the next 10 years of intellectual property. My agent already wants me to write the next one to sell right away: “When you’re hot, you’ve got to sell the next one.” I’m going to tell him no because I want to focus all of our efforts on producing revenue based on the programs and the products that we sell that are derived from the book Steal the Show, which of course is the methodology for Heroic Public Speaking.

Jim Kukral: It’s so amazing that you talked about that, because that’s one of the things I think most people fail as well is thinking, “I’ve got to write a million books.” I struggled for years and years testing out what my thing was. You have Book Yourself Solid, right?

Michael Port: Yeah.

Jim Kukral: You realize now you should have tripled down on that and just stuck with that. For years I was trying to figure out what I should do, and then I finally figured out getting involved with helping authors succeed. Now, I’m doing exactly what you said. I’m trying to triple down, double down on that idea and use content in books and video and all kinds of forms to really drive that.

This leads me into my next question, which is, do you consider yourself an author first or a business first? It’s a chicken-or-the-egg question. They both exist with each other. What do you think?

Michael Port: Internally, I think of myself as a business first. Externally, if someone says, “What do you do?” I might say, “I write business books,” because many people find that interesting. They said, “Really? What kind of books? Have I heard of them?” I say, “You probably have.” We get in a conversation about it, and then of course, from there it leads to, “We run a major training company based on what’s in the books.”

People like that. People like the idea of it, and most people couldn’t even imagine writing a book. When you’ve written numerous books, especially if they sell well, people tend to sit up and take notice.

Jim Kukral: The authorpreneur model that you’re breaking out, let’s walk through it. You’ve written a great book. It gets in front of somebody who’s an event planner or somebody who works at Instagram or a company and they say, “Wow, this is helpful information. We want to have you come speak.” You say to them, “Well, I’d be happy to come speak,” whether you’re going to charge a fee or you don’t, and you come. Of course, they get to learn about all of these other amazing products and services that you offer. That’s the model, right?

How Michael Uses His Books to Get More Speaking Engagements and Customers

Michael Port: That’s part of the model. Technically, it’s business-to-business, where our customers, our clients, are business owners for the most part. But it’s still to the consumers in a sense because it’s selling to one individual. Most people who come to Heroic Public Speaking are individuals. The people who come to the Book Yourself Solid School of Coach Training or the Book Yourself Solid Mentoring Program, they are individuals who either want to grow their business or get licensed to become certified as a Book Yourself Solid coach.

There are deals, however, that we also do with corporations where we license our intellectual property to the corporations to use inside their company to train. Then we either train them up, or we’ll send in trainers to work with them. There’s also deals where we’ll create information products– say, video courses — that these franchise companies, for example, will sell to their franchise owners as part of their training. The franchise company takes a small percentage, and we get the rest.

Jim Kukral: The first book, I want to ask this question, and we already asked it, but I want to make sure I have a clear answer. Did you have the product first or the book first?

Michael Port: I had some of the product first. I had been working on this concept for a number of years, and I’d certainly been coaching people individually on it, and I started to do some group programs — 12, 15 people in a program. I was writing the book at the same time. When I wrote the first book, I had a fair amount of the content, but there was no narrative around it. It was just information. So then I created a narrative and a real philosophy around it that would support the book that I wanted to write. I improved the model when the book came out, and things grew.

I had some of the model already designed before the book came out. I would not write a book now if I didn’t know what the model for the business was going to look like that the book supported.

Jim Kukral: Yeah, that’s all part of the whole authorpreneur plan.

Michael Port: Yes. When I wrote The Think Big Manifesto, to me, that was more of a personal project. I didn’t care about selling anything specific after it. I just wanted to write this book. I felt, “I need to write this book,” so I did. At that point, of course, I already had a business. If I was going to do another book like that, I would be very conscious of whether or not it was a book that was going to drive revenue or just a book I wanted to write because I wanted to get it into people’s hands. Sometimes that kind of book become so big that you end up, “Okay, fine, we have to put something together because it’s so popular.”

Most people will just speak on the material. That means you’re on the road all the time. If you don’t have kids — or you have kids but you don’t like ‘em — that’s fine. You might like being on the road.

Jim Kukral: If you don’t like kids, you just go on the road.

Michael Port: If you have kids and you don’t like them, you have a spouse that you don’t like. I’ve met a certain lot of speakers who I feel they don’t like being home, so they like being on the road. They say, “This is how we have to run the business,” but I also know a lot of speakers who love their families, and they have a hard time with it because they’ve got to go out a lot.

What they’ll do sometimes is they’ll just book two week straight, lots of gigs, then they come home and stay for two weeks. Or some will go for one or two days and then come home. If you want to make a lot of money just speaking and there’s no other model around it, you’re going to be on the road.

Jim Kukral: Let’s crush this point a little bit deeper here. You were building a product at the same time you’re writing the book. I’m assuming it was much harder to sell the product before the book was out. What happened when the book was released? Was there just this amazing light coming through the clouds and everything just became easier?

How Books Have Changed Michael’s Life and Career

Michael Port: Honestly, there was, it really did. Now, that doesn’t mean that everything was easy after that, but there was, for me, a seismic shift after the first book came out. There’s no doubt about it. We had many more people subscribing, which meant we had many more people who would pay attention to what we had to say and what we had to offer. That of course meant we had more people buying. It made a big difference. Of course, then, more influencers were willing to talk to me and develop relationships, which meant more opportunities for collaboration, for co-marketing.

It opens a lot of doors as well. That’s important. People start to see you differently, which of course is important. It was quite a big deal when that first book came out.

Jim Kukral: Yeah, it’s a big moment. One of the mistakes I made was I was doing consulting at the time, and I wrote a book about the consulting that I was doing, and I’m no longer doing that. That’s really not helpful to me now, right?

Michael Port: Mm-hmm. Sure.

Jim Kukral: I want you to answer this question, and you can’t answer this question with, “Write better books.” What’s the biggest factor, besides writing great books, that has transformed your success? It can’t be, “Write better books.”

Michael Port: Certainly your ability to market the book is critical. It’s absolutely critical, and part and parcel of that, which I think might be the most important, is your relationships with other authors.

In our space — business help, self-help, et cetera — authors promote authors. It’s very hard to succeed without other authors. You can extend that out a little bit and say ‘people with platforms.’ Somebody who has a major podcast but doesn’t write books is very influential. They have a platform that’s very big, just like an author who might not have a podcast but writes books has a platform that’s very big.

Your relationships with people that are influential amongst the people that you serve are your most important relationships. The more you cultivate those relationships, the easier it is to market your book. That’s essential. That’s the most important thing. You’ll see lots of books that will come out with a huge bang from great marketers, and then they fizzle out after a while, because maybe the book doesn’t catch on. Maybe it’s a good book, but it didn’t really catch on. Or maybe it wasn’t a very good book, so it didn’t catch on.

The long-term success, turning something into an evergreen product, is the goal for most authors, unless you’re writing something that is political in nature and only relevant to what’s going on right now. If you write a book about the next presidential election cycle, that’s only going to work for you for a little while.

Jim Kukral: That’s why your books are so great. Book Yourself Solid is such a great brand because it’s timeless, right?

Michael Port: Yeah.

Jim Kukral: Everyone is always going to need to book themselves.

Michael Port: One of the things that I learned over time is to write more timeless books, to not put links in books that are not your own links, to not put dates, to not reference events in such a way that they are time sensitive.

In the second edition of Book Yourself Solid, I added 20,000 words because I added sections on Facebook and Twitter and all of these things that didn’t exist when I wrote the first book, but I also cut a lot of resources, small ones that were no longer around, or changed things so that they didn’t seem dated. That’s one of the reasons that people do second, third, and fourth editions. But if you can write the book from the beginning in such a way that it will never feel dated, you’re more likely to have an evergreen book.

Jim Kukral: Michael, what’s the best lead funnel or call-to-action in your books, and how does that specifically work? Which one generates the most leads for you?

Michael Port: Interestingly, Book Yourself Solid generates an enormous amount of leads simply because I offered a free workbook with the book. The workbook is just a download, a PDF download, that’s 92 or 93 pages. But all it is is the same exercises that are in the book on paper so that you can do them outside of the book. It’s not a different book. It’s not other material. It’s a workbook that has the questions from the actual book in them. That drives a huge number of leads because people want to do the workbook.

Book Yourself Solid is really a coaching book. It’s not something you read in the weekend and say, “Oh, sweet, done.” You work through it.

Jim Kukral: Specifically though, what happens? They get the workbook, or they read in the back of your book, are they asked to go to a form to fill out?

Michael Port: The front of the book, in the very front of the book.

Jim Kukral: Not the back.

Michael Port: In the preface, it says, “Look, here’s the thing — this is a working book. This is a coaching program, and the exercises in the book require your attention. You have to do them. This is a must. If you want to just read through first, great. You’re then going to go back and do all the exercises. The exercises, I make a really strong case for them because they are the coaching questions that I would put my students and my clients through.

I said, “Right now, what I want you to do is go to — the link is in there — and you’re going to download this workbook. I’m going to send it to you immediately.” It’s going to be automated of course. I’d walk them through how it’s going to go: “You’re going to print that up, and you’re going to start working through that as you work through the book, but you do it now because if you start with the exercises now, then you’ll continue with them. If you start just by reading, you might get into reading, but you won’t get into the habit of doing the work. And I need you to do the work.”

Jim Kukral: What do event planners and people look for when bringing in a speaker? Obviously, they want to look at previous video of a speaker and the message. What is that attracts people who book speakers? The book is a big part of it, but what do you think gets them to say, “We’ve got to have you?”

Michael Port: That’s great. You’re getting into my second area of expertise here, which is public speaking, so I love it. I teach the performance side of public speaking, because I was an actor. That was my first career.

Jim Kukral: Really? I didn’t know that.

Why Michael Left Acting to Pursue His Business

Michael Port: Yes, I have a master’s in acting from the graduate acting program at NYU. I was on shows like Sex in the City, Third Watch, All My Children, Law and Order, 100 Centre Street.

Jim Kukral: I had no idea.

Michael Port: Yeah, I was in films like The Pelican Brief, Down to Earth, The Believer, and Last Call, and I did lots of on-camera commercials. You might remember some of them. I was one of the Jersey guys for Budweiser. Remember the “What’s up?” guys? “What’s uuuup?” Remember those guys? They did a spinoff for the Jersey boys. We all look like mafia guys, and all we said was, “How you doin’?”

Jim Kukral: Oh my …

Michael Port: “How you doin’?”

Jim Kukral: I have to go look that up on YouTube now.

Michael Port: Yeah. It’s on YouTube, and I was the guy at the very end that said, “You don’t want to know.” That was my job. I did hundreds of voiceovers. That was my bread and butter. I did voiceovers for Pizza Hut, Coors Beer, Braun, MTV, et cetera.

Jim Kukral: What made you want to get into the business of this stuff then?

Michael Port: I love acting. I was working, and I was actually paying the bills, but my personality did not fit with the waiting around. I’m way too impatient. I have urgency. I want to do things now. When I have an idea, I want to do it now. I’m an entrepreneur. That’s it.

At that time, there was no YouTube. Digital film was brand new.

Jim Kukral: This was early what, 2006, 2005?

Michael Port: No, way before that. This is in the ‘90s, in the late ‘90s. The culture of creating our own films wasn’t quite as popular. Ed Burns had just come on the scene with his $15,000 movie that became a big hit.

Jim Kukral: The something brothers.

Michael Port: Some Irish brothers. In any event, I left, and I thought, “I’ll go into business.” I talked my way into a job for which I was completely unqualified. I told them I was unqualified, but I made my case for why they should hire me, and I got lucky and they did. Six months later, I’m running the whole division for the company across the country. I said, “I think I’ve got something here. I think I should keep doing this.” A couple of years later, four or five years later, I said, “I can’t work for other people,” because I want to move too fast. This was always my thing.

In order to get things done, you’ve got through all this red tape. I would fly under the radar, and I’d get in trouble for flying under the radar, even if what I did worked: “We’re really happy that it worked. We’re so happy we’re making more money, but we’re really pissed you went under the radar.” I’m like, “Forget it. I’m out of here. I’m going to do my own thing.”

That’s when I started it. I had about five years on the business side of the fitness industry before I went out on my own. With that said, the reason I mentioned the performance is because at Heroic Public Speaking, we’re focused on the performance side. Because if you’re best in class, if you can go up there and nail it, if you can steal the show, you get booked again and again.

Jim Kukral: Absolutely.

Michael Port: This is bottom line. There are lots of people who are not strong speakers who work because they have great content and their books are very successful.

You ask, “What is the thing that gets you booked?” There are a couple of things. Number one, your platform. When they put you on the brochure, they put you on the website, is your face, is your book, is your bio going to get people in the room? If they put Seth Godin, Jim Collins, Dan Pink, Marcus Buckingham, and any other name like that on a roster, they’ll fill the event. They’ve got to pay a lot for it, but they’ll fill it. That’s one of the first things that the meeting planners look for.

The second thing they look for is originality. Are you unique in any way? Are you going to bring something different? Are you going to provoke the audience in a good way? See, people who are contrarians just to be contrarians or are controversial just to be controversial tend not to be as exciting to audiences or meeting planners who book the speakers, but people who provoke the audience in a way that’s positive — even if it makes them uncomfortable — are really, really effective. Meeting planners love that.

I gave a speech on Monday night. I got an email from someone, and she said, “You really pissed me off,” and then her next line was, “Could I hire you to help me?” Because I pressed her buttons. She’s like, “I haven’t been willing to admit X, Y, and Z. I see it. I’m happy you said it, but I was really pissed at you last night when I woke up in the morning.” I wasn’t talking to her. I didn’t know what she looked like. She was just in the audience. She woke up that next morning and was like, “You know what? The guy is right, I’ve got to do something about this.”

That’s part of your job is to focus on results, not approval, because as a performer, if you focus on approval — “How do I look? What do people think about it? Did I wear the right outfit? Did I get a lot of applause? Did they stand up?” — if that’s what you’re focusing on, you’re not serving the audience in the same way.

If we focus on results — “What are we trying to produce? What are we trying to make happen?” — then we’re generally better speakers. That’s number one, is performance.

Why Other Speakers Are Important to Your Success as a Speaker

Number two is provocative: making sure that you are saying something, your big idea and the promise that you make to the audience actually moves the needle for them, gets them turned on, gets them excited. They want to do something about it, and your relationships. Speakers get speakers work.

For example, if I go give a speech and it goes really well, then I’ve developed a relationship with the people who hired me, but it’s unlikely they’re going to bring me back next year to do the keynote again. They want some variety, maybe there’s another opportunity for me to work with them, but that slot, probably not. What I would say then is, “Listen, have you booked your speakers for next year?” They usually say no, because they just finished the conference. I say, “Listen, I got a guy. His name is Jim. He’s fantastic. I think he’d be perfect for your audience, and here’s why. Can I introduce you?”

You could hook up with your colleagues and put together a little speakers group and do that with each other. Every time you speak, you then introduce people in your group to that particular decision maker. They do the same for you. You’re essentially marketing each other. It’s very effective. Speakers get speakers work. It’s important.

Jim Kukral: It’s all great advice, specifically, though, the book. I know that there’s a big trend to digital books today, and print books are still a very, very powerful thing to give to somebody like that. Sending somebody a link to your book on Amazon is great and all, but actually giving somebody a hard copy of your book makes a big difference doesn’t it?

Michael Port: Of course. One of the things that we will often do is we’ll put book sales as part of the contract. “You give me X number of dollars and buy this number of books, and I’m there.”

Jim Kukral: I’ve done that.

Michael Port: That’s a strategy that many speakers use. It’s not a primary strategy for me, but it’s a strategy that many speakers use. Certainly, when the books are in the room, it makes all the difference in the world as long as it doesn’t look cheesy, as long as the book is incredibly well-produced so that you couldn’t tell the difference between a Random House book and your book.

Jim Kukral: In the old days, you’d be in the back with a credit card machine trying to get people to buy your book.

Michael Port: Yeah, exactly. Still, there are the tables in the back set up. In these days, there’s someone else taking their credit card. That’s good.

Jim Kukral: They’re using a phone to swipe through and get it.

Michael Port: Right, exactly. They’re just putting the phone up to it. The other thing is that when you sign a book for somebody …

Jim Kukral: Big deal.

Michael Port: It’s a big deal to them.

Jim Kukral: It is.

Michael Port: I always feel funny signing things, because my first time I ever signed an autograph was when I was in the Pelican Brief, and that was the smallest role I ever had. I had one line. I had just graduated from college in 1993, and they were shooting The Pelican Brief in New Orleans, which is where I went to college at Tulane.

I auditioned for it right at the end of my senior year, right after graduation, and I got cast and played this law student. I had one role with Julia Roberts and Sam Shepard. I was in this little honey wagon, which is a small, 18-wheeler truck that has lots of small dressing rooms, whereas the star gets this huge trailer. You just get this little small thing to sit in.

I was standing at the top of the stairs right in front of the door. There are stairs that go up to it, about four stairs. I didn’t have a shirt on. I was wearing my jeans because the costume designer was there having me just change some shirts. Usually you do it in private, but she just ran over there. We didn’t have a lot of time.

There was a huge barricade of hundreds of people standing by these barricades hoping to get a sight of Julia Roberts. They got a sight of me. Two women broke through and ran up to me saying, “Can we have your autograph? You look so familiar to us! We know who you are! Please, please, please?” I signed the autograph, and as they’re walking away, I realized they were librarians at the school library, and they had just seen me in the library as a student.

Jim Kukral: My god.

Michael Port: I said, “See? This is the ridiculous nature of celebrity culture. They have no idea who I am, yet they felt my autograph was important because I was standing in front of a trailer trying on a shirt.”

I still feel funny signing autographs, but I like writing messages to people in the books. I know that people love it. People just love when they get to connect with an author and the author signs the book. It has meaning to them. When you get to sit in the room, they feel it.

Jim Kukral: It’s a personalized memento. You take it back to your home or your office, put it on your shelf, and always remember. We’re running out of time, here, so I want to ask you one more question, and then we’re going to go to some bonus questions.

I’m looking specifically at, and there’s a call to action on the page that says, ‘Get booked solid instantly,’ and you’ve got to put your name, your phone number, and your email in. I want you to quickly walk me through that process as a business. What happens when somebody fills out that form?

Michael Port: When someone fills out that form, we immediately give them exactly what we said we’re going to give them. An email comes to them that says, “Here’s your link to download all the chapters from the books that you want.” We actually give them more free chapters than we say we’re going to as a surprise because I think it’s very good to over-deliver.

Jim Kukral: Over-deliver.

Michael Port: The last time I looked at it, there were probably eight free chapters from the different books up on the page that people can get access to, and then we start to help them consume the content: make sure that they’re reading it, ask them questions about what they’re reading, point them to different pages, different concepts in what they’re reading. And of course, we suggest that they go buy any of the books that they think are relevant to what the need now. That’s the beginning of the process.

We had tons and tons of different sales processes over time that we’ve used. We’ve done things where we give people a complimentary session with one of our coaches, which has worked very well. We’re not running it right now because it takes a lot of coordination and time. Fifty people a day will be signing up for their slots, and it’s a lot of work. We don’t always do that, but it’s one of the things we do.

We have long-term, 12-month follow-up sequences that are very intelligent that respond to the actions that the new subscriber takes, so it’ll tag them one way if they do something, tag them another way if they do something else, remove a tag if they do something else.

We’re trying to communicate with them in the most relevant and authentic and specific ways that we can so that they find it helpful.

Jim Kukral: It’s a comprehensive lead funnel, is my point.

Michael Port: Yeah. If I was going to answer that succinctly, which I didn’t, I would say that. It’s a very comprehensive lead-generating process that hopefully builds trust so that we can make sales offers. Sales offers should be proportionate to the amount of trust that we’ve earned, so we design the sales process to make offers that are proportionate to the amount of trust that we’ve earned.

Jim Kukral: I always tell people, “Look, if you want to see how people are doing it, go sign up.” Everyone should go to Michael’s site and sign up and exactly how it works. You can get a good idea.

We’re getting close to being done here. We’re testing a new segment on the show here called the ‘Bad Book Review Challenge.’ One of the things that every author has is some people just don’t like their books, right? You get bad reviews. Even if you’ve written the best book in the world, you get bad reviews. This is going to be fun, I hope. We’re going to see how it goes.

I’ve gone to Book Yourself Solid, and there are over 300 amazing reviews, and you have a couple that aren’t so good. I’m going to read one of those to you, and you can comment on that or “No comment” or whatever you want to do. How does that sound?

How to Deal with Negative Book Reviews

Michael Port: This is like the Jimmy Fallon ‘Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.’

Jim Kukral: This is exactly like that. Actually, I should have you read it.

Michael Port: That’s exactly right. You should have me read it.

Jim Kukral: Can you pull up Amazon real quick and go to one of your bad reviews and read it?

Michael Port: I could. Sure. Yeah, hold on. I have to open up Chrome because I closed it.

Jim Kukral: That’s because I have it queued up here. You know what, I’ll post it right here on Skype here. Let me post the review here on Skype, and you can read it, because that’s a funny idea — having you actually read it. Here is the review, and it’s from Brass in Her Pocket, Rebecca M.

Michael Port: Rebecca M., she sounds lovely, because the first line is, “Tell me where he lives, I want to slap him,” by Brass in Her Pocket, Rebecca M. Okay, so that’s her name, by ‘Brass in Her Pocket.’ Don’t know what that means. Format, Kindle edition, that’s for sure. “I forced myself to read this book waiting for the big reveal: how do I book myself solid? It never came. I don’t even know what the hell he was talking about most of the time. He speaks in circles. Constantly self-references, but without regard to the topic at hand, whatever that was. Possibly the worst book I’ve ever read but somehow he fooled me to believe, and that any minute he was going to say something important.

“It’s like those ads that try to convince you to buy a book that will make you healthier, thinner or learn something quickly and easily. You keep reading the ad thinking they will reveal the secret right then and there, and they never do. That’s what this entire book is like. I really want to slap him.”

Jim Kukral: Sorry, I love reading my bad reviews.

Michael Port: It’s funny how I’m happy to read that for you. I’m glad I didn’t get slapped. Apparently she’s a violent woman.

Jim Kukral: How do you feel about stuff like that? It centers me when I read bad reviews. Obviously, you’re only got a couple of those. Not everyone is going to like what you do. How do you feel when you read stuff like that?

Michael Port: I don’t, actually. In the early days, I would go read reviews, and if I got a bad review, it would really upset me. I’m sensitive. I’m a little too sensitive, I think, because I don’t understand a) why people are mean. I just don’t like meanness. And b) I just wouldn’t write reviews like that. I just think, “Well, it’s not for me. It’s for somebody else.” We all resonate with different things. They make me feel bad. I just don’t go. I don’t read them. I don’t read the good ones. I don’t read the bad ones.

Jim Kukral: Don’t read them?

Michael Port: That’s my strategy. Actually, I learned it from Seth. Seth Godin said, “I don’t read them. I just don’t read them.” Now, something like that is interesting, because she read the whole thing as if I somehow tricked her into reading it. It’s 90,000 words. It’s amazing. That’s confusing. Then there’s some people who said, “I read the first three pages and none of the strategies made sense.” What? There are people who will write a bad review and you know they didn’t even read the book. Sometimes they don’t like the way you look — I’m bald. They don’t like bald people. They don’t like you because they think you’re rich. Whatever it is, there are all sorts of reasons.

If you focus on that and you’re not focusing on the people that you serve then it’s going to be really, really difficult. I just don’t look at it at all. I’m just focused on the people I serve.

Jim Kukral: The worst ones are the people who leave a review and say, “Well, the book wouldn’t load on my Kindle so I’m giving it a one-star review.”

Michael Port: Right, as if it’s your fault.

Jim Kukral: Yeah. So anyway, thanks for being a good sport with that. I like reading my own ones because it really grounds me.

We’ve got just enough time for a few quick bonus questions and we’re going to get you on your way. First question is: traditionally or self-published? I know you’re with Wiley.

Michael Port: No, I’m not with Wiley. I stopped. I’ll tell you specifically why if you’re interested.

Jim Kukral: I am.

Why He Traditionally Publishes His Books

Michael Port: Yeah. Matt Holt is the publisher, a good friend of mine. He was my editor on my first book, and then he moved up to publisher over time. When I sold it to them in 2005 — it came out in 2006 — they were a more traditional publisher. They paid you in advance. They produced the book, and they distributed it. They never helped you with any marketing. I never expected them to. I did everything myself, and then I did the next four books with them, and same thing. I just wrote the book. They gave me an advance, and I write the book. They proof it, but no editorial feedback whatsoever, and then I market it. That was the model.

As I got bigger, my platform got bigger, there were other publishers who were willing to give me a lot more money and put resources behind it. Wiley changed their model. They wouldn’t do this with me, but they would do it with new authors, where if you want to publish a book with them, you have to guarantee that you’re going to buy a certain number of books. That’s not trade publishing. That’s self-publishing. If you have to buy 3,000 copies of a book from them, and let’s say, hypothetically, it costs $10 a book. That’s $30,000 you’re giving them to publish the book. That’s not trade publishing. That’s self-publishing.

If you’re going to self-publish, I will self-publish rather than taking a tiny little royalty from a trade publisher who is making you pay them to work with them and keeping all the rights, absolutely. That’s that.

And then, when I wrote Steal the Show, I went out to all the big houses, and I was really fortunate. Every single one wanted it. It was a great run. I’m with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt now. And man, I’ve got the best publicist in the world. There’s a great marketing department. My editor is the head of the division, and he’s published more bestselling business books than any other editor in the business from what I understand.

He actually edited my book editorially. He said, “Cut this chapter. Move this over here. I think you’re going too far at this. You got to pull it back to this,” and he made it a better book. That’s what I wanted. I wanted a team that would work with me on the book because for me, with everything going on, if I didn’t sell the book for a fair amount of money and have a date that I had to deliver it, it might not get done. That’s the thing. I needed that kind of contract signed where I’m in big trouble if I don’t get the book done.

People ask, “Why don’t you self-publish because you have a platform? You’d make more per book.” I think it’s a really good question, but I do it in part because I want the accountability from all these very high-level people to help me write a better book. That’s part of it. So far that’s made sense. Someday maybe I’ll do self-publishing, but my thing is, if you want to write a book and you shop it for six months trying to get a major publisher to give you good money for it and help you publish it, that may be the way to go. And if you don’t get a great offer, then you self-publish.

I think it’s really specific to each individual. I don’t think it’s one is better than the other. I think a lot of it depends on what you’re trying to do with the book.

Jim Kukral: Yeah, and if you don’t have a platform — you’re just starting out — you’re not getting a book deal.

Michael Port: Yeah, not today, it’s tough. In 2005, you could do it. It’s a little bit easier, but it’s just tougher now. It gets harder and harder.

Jim Kukral: Next question is — and we’re going to wrap this up — who is out there who’s an authorpreneur that’s like you who’s really crushing it, doing the same kind of things you’re doing that you can recommend that other people check out? It doesn’t have to be in the same genre or industry.

Other Authorpreneurs Michael Recommends

Michael Port: Sure. I love John Jantsch. He’s a great friend of mine. We’re actually going to do a retreat together at my boat, which is going to be fun. Never done that before, bring people out there.

Jim Kukral: What a great brand.

Michael Port: Isn’t that fun? We’re going to go swimming, cruising, and work at the same time. John Jantsch is great. He’s Duct Tape Marketing.

Let’s see, who else should you take a look at? Take a look at Jordan Harbinger, even though he hasn’t written a book yet. They keep asking him to write a book, and he keeps saying no, but I think he’s going to. The reason I said this is because he’s got a great platform.

To compare how people are doing the things they’re doing is always interesting. One guy doesn’t have a book, but he’s got a great platform. The other guy has tons of books, and he’s got a great platform.

I think that Jordan will also write a book now that he has the platform. Sometimes the chicken comes first, and sometimes the egg comes first. Mike McCullough is another great person to look at.

Jim Kukral: The entrepreneur, yeah. Those are all people that I will probably be interviewing in the future.

Michael Port: Good, yeah. Also, Sally Hogshead. Look at Sally Hogshead because her books are incredibly popular, and she has one of the best business models I’ve seen behind her books, one of the best.

Jim Kukral: That’s what the show is all about. Thank you very much. Put your marketing hat on now. Quickly, tell people where they need to go to get information about you.

Michael Port: has got everything all in one place. I definitely want you to buy Steal the Show, because I think it will help you steal the show, especially if you do any kind of speaking in front of other people. Those are the two things I want you to do.

Jim Kukral: All right. Thank you for coming on the Authorpreneur show, Michael. I really do appreciate it.

Everyone listening, please head on over to, and after you do that, if you’re an authorpreneur or if you’re an aspiring authorpreneur, you can and you should head on over to my website, to learn more about the business of writing and marketing your books. Grab our free video course called ‘How to Sell the First 100 Copies of Your Book.’

Cue the music. It’s time for all of us to get back to work, especially Michael, because he’s a busy guy. We need to start writing our books and building businesses. I’m Jim Kukral, and I’ll be back soon with another authorpreneur show guest who will help you on 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. Bye-bye then.