Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!
In this episode I chat with traditionally published non-fiction author, Kevin Bryant about the writing and publishing process of his new book, Spies on the Sidelines: The High-Stakes World of NFL Espionage.
Kevin shares the three things all agents are looking for in an author, how to refine your book to make it publishable, why LinkedIn is surprisingly helpful for research and marketing, as well as many more tips and tricks to help you on your publication journey.
You can connect with Kevin here: https://www.spiesonthesidelines.com
IG & FB: @kevinbryant.author
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Find the full transcript of this episode below.
Episode 22: Whatever It Takes: Traditionally Publishing Non-Fiction with Kevin Bryant
Jo: Hello, my writerly friends, I am so excited to share this episode with you today. If you’ve ever considered writing nonfiction and getting traditionally published, or just want to look behind the scenes, then this episode is for you.
So today I’m interviewing nonfiction author, Kevin Bryant, about the writing process and the publication of his new book, Spies on the Sidelines: The High Stakes World of NFL Espionage. So even if you’re like me and maybe sports isn’t your thing, I really think you’re going to want to check out his book by the end of this episode. You’re also going to want a pen and paper, because Kevin has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to getting your book noticed by agents and in the hands of readers. We talk about the three key things agents are looking for in an author, how to refine your book to make it publishable and why LinkedIn is surprisingly helpful for research and marketing, as well as lots more tips and tricks to help you on your publication journey.
So when you’re ready grab a drink, find a comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the show.
Hello, my lovelies! Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. I’m so excited to share with you today’s guest. Honestly, his bio is as fascinating to me as the premise of his book.
So today I’m chatting with author Kevin Bryant. Kevin is an army veteran with over 20 years of experience safeguarding and gathering information for the Department of Defense, including 13 years as a special agent, during which he conducted national security investigations and instructed federal agents in training.
Kevin graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a BA in history, and graduated with top honors from American Military University with an MA in intelligence studies and an MS in sports management. During his senior year of high school, he was selected onto the East West Ambassadors National Select Soccer Team, composed of elite high school players from across the United States. And in college, he played NCAA soccer for UCSC. So welcome, Kevin, thank you so much for joining me today.
Kevin: Hey Jo, thank you so much for having me on.
Jo: So I’m really excited just to kind of jump in here and I’d love if you could share not only about your new book, but what set you on the path of wanting to write this book and what inspired you to write it?
Kevin: Oh, geez. Yeah, so, so the book is called Spies on the Sidelines: The High Stakes World of NFL Espionage, and it is all about the collection techniques that NFL teams use to gather information on their opponents in order to get a game day advantage, and the countermeasures they use as well to defend against those collection techniques.
So I would say what really inspired me to write this book was Spygate and Spygate 2. And Spygate was when the Patriots under Bill Belichick were caught videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets, and it dated back years and years from there. And then Spygate 2 was when the Patriots former offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, moved on to Denver and became their head coach, and he brought a videographer along with him to Denver, a former Patriots videographer. And that videographer was found out to have recorded footage of another team’s practice. So I got really interested at that point in just wondering, you know, how much spying really goes on in professional football.
And I started reading on that topic, seeing what I could find on the internet. And I did that for probably a couple weeks and found what was available, and then looked on Amazon for books to read on the topic. And there was only one and it was only on the Patriots and that was it. And after that I realized, you know what, no one really knows the answer to this question. And I think it’s a really interesting and a really big question too. And so I said, you know, this is my book and I’ve been trying to write one for so long, just couldn’t find that ideal topic, that ideal fit. And I said, this is it, I’m gonna do this.
Jo: That is cool. That is so cool. And it’s so fascinating because you shared with me the blurb and a little bit about the topics in your book. And even for somebody like myself who doesn’t really follow sports, I was so intrigued. My husband is definitely going to be purchasing your book, that’s without a doubt. He’s Canadian and so he grew up with NFL and the Superbowl and whatnot. But you talk about, in your book, things like covert surveillance and tapped phones, and secret listening devices, stolen documents, and then you even mention a little person dressed as a baby in a stroller who was spying on a team as well. Like there is so much fascinating, fascinating intrigue in your book. So how did you go about finding out all this information? Was it a lot of interviewing or did you kind of have to put your spy cap on and go undercover? Or how did it come about?
Kevin: Well, yeah, I started with the internet. I was like, okay, let’s see what’s out there, right? I mean, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel on to find some material. So looked what was out there. And after that I probably had, I don’t know, there’s probably a good 30 – 40 pages worth of material out there on the internet, which I was like, okay, great, good starting point.
The problem is, you know, 40 pages doesn’t make a book, right? So I, you know, I was a nobody in NFL circles. Nobody knows me. So I did get interviews. But it was always a challenge to scrap, scrap those up. Now it’s easy as can be, once you’re, once you’re published and once you’re out there and you have that name for yourself, it becomes, you know, all those doors open. However, this being my first time writing about the NFL or having a book published, it was much more challenging.
So what I did by and large was I started reading football books written by or about former NFL coaches.
Kevin: And for the most part, I got maybe a page or two worth of material that I could use per book to be able to insert into mine. You know, some stories. And so I would read these 200 and 300 page books hunting for these bits and pieces, sometimes a sentence or two, sometimes a paragraph. Sometimes the full five or six pages, and I was like, oh, yay, you know, this ones a treasure chest. I read about 60 books, just combing through them and looking for what I could find and sucking out the bits and pieces that were relevant, and obviously, you know, using some of my experience and background to put pieces together. I’ve been an investigator in the past, so I’m well trained on how to do that. So it was a really interesting, long tedious process. I spent about eight years writing and researching this book. And most of that, that was researching the book. So, yeah.
Jo: That’s fascinating. I saw that you spent eight years and I’ve imagined that a large portion of that would be the research. Now did the NFL know that you were putting out this book? Was there any pushback? Because it’s like a multibillion dollar industry and you are uncovering and sharing with the world things that people might not necessarily want shared. So was, did you receive any pushback or anything?
Kevin: So, no, I have not. So no, per se, the NFL did not know I was writing it. I’m very convinced that they are at this point. They’re aware of it. Having said that. So what I’ve tried to do for the book, one, most of the materials already in published books. I simply sucked it out, condensed it and put it in one book. The other stuff is out there on the internet. Now I have drawn, you know, connected some dots that I think is very interesting that yeah, there’s gonna be some material that’s controversial in there.
Yeah. For the most part, I think what’s going to be interesting. And one of the things I really found in during the interview process of this book, I, you know. I talked to people working for NFL’s teams and I’ve interviewed coaches, et cetera, et cetera. And one thing that I’ve really learned is that by and large, most of them have a very limited understanding of everything that is out there. Not to say that, you know, there’s some coaches that are just like, yeah, it happens, but it’s not a big deal. And there’s other coaches that are completely paranoid about it all. But what I’ve seen by and large is that when it comes to collecting information in professional football is that this is, this is an activity that is done by and large by coaches.
These guys are not experienced collectors of information. They’re not former special agents or anything like that. They’re not spies. These guys are normal football coaches. And so they’re not aware of everything. And then the other thing is when they try to do this stuff, it obviously sometimes ends up in some really fascinating and hilarious anecdotes because a lot of times they really don’t know exactly how, uh, how to do everything and they, you know, in a professional type of manner. They’re winging it. They’re figuring it out. And sometimes they’re very creative because of that, because they’ve got their own ideas that are just, you know, whatever they dreamt up in their head, such as putting a little person in a stroller and giving them a video camera to be able to film practice while his quote unquote, mommy pushes them around in the stroller.
You know? I mean, it it’s…
Jo: That’s just crazy.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s wild. But it, you know, I think it goes to the theme of my book, which is whatever it takes. Like you said, it’s a, it’s a billion dollar industry and there is a lot of pressure to get those wins.
Jo: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, my husband is really into NFL, but he also likes to learn more about those controversial kind of dodgy things going on in the background, and that. And this is why this book I can see is gonna appeal to so many people. Even myself, I’m really excited to read it because of all the intrigue and the unusualness that I think just watching sports or something on TV or whatnot, you don’t really think about too much. So, yeah. So it just sounds so fascinating and reading through your bio, it almost seems like this is really kind of the perfect book for you, cuz it really pulls on a lot of the strengths that you have. Like you’ve got a degree in history and so that, uh, I’ve got a degree in history as well, and so I know the heaviness of that research component and everything like that, but you’ve got a big background in sports is obviously a passion for you, but also with the Department of Defense and your time in the army and everything like that, seems to have set you up perfectly to actually write this book.
But then you had mentioned that you’d wanted to write a book for a while, you were just waiting for the right idea. Was it always going to be something along these lines where you were kind of using your skillset or did you just want to write a book?
Kevin: Well, so, you know, my first love was fiction and I would still absolutely love to write a fiction book. I don’t know if I’m as well suited to it. So the first book I ever wrote, I think was back in roughly 2002, 2003, and I wrote a fantasy book and I love reading fantasy and I, I completed it. I submitted it to an agent, literary agent and a publisher. And yeah, the feedback was not, it was not what I was hoping for.
And so I took some time to process that I took a few months before I even looked at that book again and I read it again. And I was like, yeah, I there’s there’s problems here, and it needs to be completely reworked. And to be honest, I did not have the heart, you know, I just spent two years working on it and I did not have the heart to do it. I was just like, I’m starting from scratch again.
So I dropped that and I, you know, I started writing a few other books here and there with some ideas, but I never got very far. And like I said, I was living in Germany at the time and everything was Spygate, that had already come by. Spygate 2 happened. And I kind of felt like I hit my topic. So yes, I did feel like it was very much a great fit for me. I was working on my master’s degree in Intelligence Studies at the time. I was using up my army GI bill, which gives me, you know, I’ve got this money to go to school after having been in the army.
So I knew I was gonna finish that degree with extra money still to burn. And I thought, you know what? I’ve got this book now I wanna write. And I thought, if I can pair this with a sports management degree, I was like, that would really be just about perfect. And I had been involved with a lot of soccer stuff where I was actually the president of United States, Youth Soccer Chapter, living in Germany. It’s kinda like an Olympic development theater program. Yeah. I just thought, it would pair really well. And so I tried to set myself up for success while writing the book of getting the degree so that when I submitted it to an agent that I would have all those boxes checked off. Uh, because as I’m sure as you know, at any point you’re an unpublished first time author, you are fighting a very big uphill battle.
Jo: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. That’s so interesting, but that’s also a lot to juggle. Like I love how you managed to also make your learning and your degrees work in with the book that you are writing. So they complimented each other really well, but that’s still a lot to take on writing a book while studying as well. So, uh, were there other things going on as well? Were you like, did you have a family at that time or was your entire focus really just on your studies and writing this book?
Kevin: Yeah, so I’m married and have a daughter and they… So I was talking to my wife about this matter last night about, you know, writing and life balance. And my wife’s comment was there is no life balance. And so that is something I very much have struggled with. I’m a type A personality. I like doing everything well, and frankly, I like doing everything. I have a lot of things I want to do in life.
Kevin: And so, while I was doing this book, I was working a full-time job, uh, a very, a demanding job.
Kevin: I was well, studying foreign languages. I, I speak Arabic and French. I’m always trying to keep those up. I was doing my, both the master’s degrees. I was coaching high school soccer. I was the president for a United States youth soccer chapter. I was coaching two teams for them, and I was writing this book. So I struggle with work life balance. And maybe that’s the reason this took me eight years.
Jo: Yeah. yeah. That’s unbelievable. I tend to, it’s definitely an issue that I have as well. I’m quite similar in that respect, and I feel like I have a busy life, but I, it doesn’t even compare to everything that you were fitting in right there. Like that is just insane to me. So did you have a routine or something like, you know, sometimes authors are like, well, I got up first thing in the morning or stayed up late at night ,or was it just squeezing it in whenever you could?
Kevin: Yeah, so I travel a lot for work. And what I would find is that writing when I’m at home is very challenging. Family demands time, and rightfully so, you know, you gotta put your family first. So whenever I would go away, I would, do that, you know, nine to five job, but once that nine to five job, you know, I would be up probably at six in the morning, if not earlier, working on the book, and then as soon as I was done, I’d be working till nine, ten, at night on that book. And if I had a week or two, sometimes longer stretches that I was away from the family, that is what I would do. And you know, the hardest thing for me is when you’re constantly, you know, you may have an hour to write, but if you’re starting and stopping, it’s really hard to get in that flow and to get going. When you can have six hours left to yourself, you know, I can get more done in six hours like that, than I could could in 12 hours of trying to do it at home with the constant starts and stops and interruptions.
Jo: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so obviously you were very, very passionate about it because something kept you going for that eight years. And I know you’ve said the theme of your book, and I really love this, whatever it takes. Is that what kept you going? Is having that in your mindset, that whatever it takes this book was gonna be written, even if it took eight years?
Kevin: Yeah. So that’s an expression that two NFL coaches used, Al Davis and Chuck Noll. And so, you know, originally that was gonna be the title of the book. However, there’s about 200 books out there with that title. The publishing company was like, eh, it’s, you know, it’s gonna get lost in the shuffle. However, I got to the six year mark, and it’s a lot of work to get there and to submit it to an agent. And I submitted it to agents out there and I had one who was kind enough, who said, you know, I’m, I’m not going to take this, but I’d love to talk to you. And talk to you about what I think and what I feel and how recommendations I have for you. So I sat down and had that conversation and it was really, it was so helpful, incredibly helpful. However, I hated the guy for like three months because his recommendation was put an opening anecdote in for every chapter that’s two to four pages long and then come up with a bunch more contemporary material. And I said, well, okay. So if it’s three pages on average, 18 chapters, you know, okay. So I’m at 50 plus pages I have to write of new material, and plus I have to do all new research. So I ended up reading about 20 more pages, writing about 50 new pages, uh, dropping several chapters. It took me two years, with a deployment in there, so I’ll say a legitimate year and a half of working on it, to get it back and to be able to resubmit it, uh, once again. So yeah, and during that time, absolutely. I mean, I was just, I was so passionate about getting it done. I was just like, I’m just not going to accept no. I’m just gonna keep on going until I hit the yes. And keep refining the book until it’s good enough.
There’s a song out there called whatever it takes, and I would sometimes, you know, I’d hear that. Okay. This is my motivation. Come on, do it. It’s a struggle though. It really is. I mean, you have to be very passionate to, to get over that, get over that finish line with a book.
Jo: Yeah. It, it’s amazing. And, maybe not all authors agree with me, but I tend to believe once you’ve done that first book, it’s almost a little bit easier because writing a book is such a huge goal, and it always just seems just maybe a little bit out of out of your reach, but once you’ve done it once you’re like, okay, I can actually do this. And so it does in that sense, get a little bit easier maybe for some people anyway. Were there times though that you just wanted to throw it in and give it up?
Kevin: I took a break when I spoke to that agent and had that, you know, conversation with him and, you know, there was things that I just didn’t wanna hear, frankly. You know, it was painful. Anytime you have your work critiqued, that I had invested six years in, I didn’t wanna hear it. I really had to wait about a month or two months, at which point I realized he was right. But I needed that time to just let it go, become a little detached from it. Because it is very, very difficult to hear.
Jo: Absolutely. Yeah. I totally agree with that. And I just kind of wanna go back. I love your title. I’m so glad you went with Spies on the Sidelines: The High Stakes World of NFL Espionage, because that just totally grabbed my attention so much more, I think, than Whatever It Takes. So I, I think it was a fantastic choice for your title.
Kevin: Thank you. I had my dad here visiting with my wife and it was kind of a collaboration of all of us coming to the title. Yeah. So it worked. Thank you.
Jo: It really does. The title alone just was like, Ooh, I’m so intrigued and I’m not even an NFL fan, so no, that’s really cool. So it sounds like, you were really focused from the beginning of being traditionally published as well. I speak to a few authors who are, quite a few authors really, who are indie published, as it’s kind of a big thing now, but were you always focused on being traditionally published? And why was that?
Kevin: So I was. I was focused on being traditionally published. When I started all this, your first book, my goodness, you learn so much. And like you said, right, I mean, once you get the first book, you kind of, you learn the secret recipe, and you just have to go through it and go through that learning process. And it’s a steep learning curve. And the same thing is true for when you’re, when you’re learning about the publishing industry/ you know, I would love to say, yeah, I had all my ducks in a row and I knew everything about it, and I was super smart on it. I, I don’t know. I just wanted to write a book. Right? Yeah. So, and I wanted to be published. I wanted it in, you know, bookstores and blah, blah, blah. Well, I’ve learned a lot. I would say that there’s a lot of great things about being traditionally published the first time around, because working with a traditional publisher is very enlightening. You learn a lot, just say the title of the book. I would’ve named it, Whatever It Takes, and there would’ve been 200 other books with the same name out there. And when someone went to look it up on Amazon, after they look through the first five pages of searching for my book, they’d be like, forget it. I don’t know where it is. I give up. Just simple things like that. And working with an agent. Oh my goodness. Working with an agent’s so helpful on just getting those tips of, Hey, here’s how to make your book better.
Jo: I want to know a little bit more about that process of working with an agent. So the first agent, did you say, that kind of showed interest you didn’t end up going with? Is that right?
Kevin: I did not. So I, I actually resubmitted the book back to him the second time and he said, Kevin, this is a really good book and you’re going to get published. But I’m only taking on one new author this entire year and I’m just, I’m holding out. And so it was a little heartbreaking cuz I really liked the guy, he’s fantastic, we have kept in touch. And he’s published, he was the agent, or the co-author or editor for a bunch of the books that I actually used in my research. So he he’s got all these ties and these NFL coaches, so, you know, but it was great to get his feedback because he was obviously, I mean, so involved with the type of book that I was writing. So his, he knew exactly what I needed and he was spot on. So it was very, very helpful.
Jo: That’s cool. Was he able to direct you to an agent who possibly could take you on? Or how did you go about finding the agent that you’re with now?
Kevin: No. So what I did, I just hopped on Amazon, found the literary agents guide. It’s a big, it’s like the Bible of how to find a literary agent more or less. And books are broken up by category. So I went through and found everything that was sports or espionage related, all the agents, uh, that dealt with that subject and just started firing away. And you know, luckily, luckily found one.
Jo: That’s cool. And so you’d already gone through, it sounds like, a lot of rewrites and that from the previous agent who wasn’t your agent, just reworking your book and everything like that, so how was your new agent able to help you bring your book even further towards being publishable?
Kevin: Well, so to be honest, after the first one, so I knew like you’ve only got so many shots when you’re going to publish a book, right? There’s only so many agents that are dealing with sports and espionage. You’ve got a list of probably 30 or 40, okay? And I’ve already gone through previously probably 15 or 20.
So I know I’ve got 15 or 20 left and that’s all I’m getting. So when I say I use the theme, whatever it takes, I absolutely knew not only do I need to finish the book and plug in all that guidance, but this book needs to be as good as it possibly can. So I was going through and doing things like, looking at verb selection. Do I have a bunch of just filler verbs or do I have really high quality action verbs in here that I’m using?
I looked at the whole book for humor. Hey, I need to have humor in every chapter. Where can I insert it? Where can I add this? I, I was looking for, you know, obviously all of your grammar, which my dad who’s fantastic, better than me with it, went through and scrubbed this thing, clean a bazillion times for me. Over and over, uh, gosh, I owe for life for that. And then obviously fact checking your book, all of that. I probably had 10 different steps of things that I would look at for this book and read it from start to finish, at least once just looking at how do I improve this portion of the book. And I felt that was really key in refining it and making it better and better.
And then also with the opening anecdotes that I had for every chapter. I made those as strong as possible. Cause I knew, you know, that’s your, that’s your introduction for every chapter. And I knew if I could sell the book there that it would go a long ways.
Same thing for the prologue. You have to have something that jumps out. So, my dad helped me through this whole book. He’s been amazing and incredible helping me out with most of this. But you know, his big idea that that really helped was, Hey, Kevin, you need to have something in here that describes what the book is all about, right at the start that kind of encapsulates everything. So I have a paragraph in there that just, and you read a little bit, that goes through all the different types of collection activities that are out there. And I think was great because after you read that, you’re going, wow. Yeah, it’s crazy. Like all of that really takes place. So, I think having a little bit of that wow factor and having a strong prologue to kick it off and just to get you going, because like I said, you’ve only got so many shots and you really have to be able to make it count.
Jo: I haven’t read your book yet, obviously, but it sounds like you’ve done an amazing job because everything from the title to the kind of blurbs and that, that you shared with me, just really grabs your attention and it makes even non-sports fans like myself, want to read it, like it’s, it’s just, yeah, you’ve done a fantastic job with that. And so it sounds like your dad was a huge help, which is so cool. Did you also employ a professional editor or anything before you submitted it to an agent, or did you just use your own experience and call on your dad to really go through with everything from, like you were saying, the grammar, the verb selection, everything like that? Was this just stuff that you knew or did you get professional advice as well?
Kevin: Yeah, so I, I did not get any professional advice on the editing end of it. I am extremely lucky to have a dad who actually used to edit textbooks, math textbooks. So he’s a math guru, but his command of the English language is, it’s better than mine, frankly. And he’s a super smart guy. Nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, uh, wrote a thesis that I can read like three words of the entire thesis. So I was very, very lucky in that sense.
Jo: That’s awesome.
Kevin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I was lucky. But to go back to one of your points, you brought up, Jo. So you mentioned how, you know, one of the things I tried to do for this book was write it in very simplistic terms, if you’re not an NFL fan. And I think for writers if you’re going to get down in a subject and you want a general audience to be able to read it, you can’t get to… I want it to be interesting to NFL fans, but I also want someone like yourself who’s not a big NFL fan, not a big football fan to be able to go, wow, this is really cool. This is just a bunch of really neat spy stories, which is really what the book is about. And so that was a challenge. It really helped me because I had quite a few readers go through it and read it, who weren’t big NFL fans. And I said, let me know what you don’t understand. I wanna know that. Because if you don’t get it, I need to simplify it. And I think that was very helpful in streamlining the book for a mass general audience.
Jo: And you know what, that’s not an easy thing to do either, particularly when your background leans a little bit more towards the academic. Like you’ve got master’s degrees, you’ve got a history degree. And from my experience, when you’re at university you’re essays and thesises and everything like that is much more technical language. So being able to bring it down for just the general population is not always an easy task for everybody. And then, you’re really mindful about inserting that humor to make sure that you’ve got those really engaging stories and it’s not all serious and everything like that, which is a real talent to be able to do that because that’s not something that comes naturally to everybody. Yeah, that’s really cool.
Kevin: Yeah. So I would say, when it comes to the what I call jargon, your technical words for whatever profession or background that you have, I think that’s where it really helps having some outside readers. Because having a master’s degree in intelligence studies, I was very familiar with a lot of the terminology that was associated with collecting information, but my dad would read it and he’s like, Kevin, what does this mean?
I was like, oh really? You don’t, you know, to me, it was, it was common sense. But to some people, it wasn’t, so you really do need those readers that, that can go in and give you your feedback on, on what you’re doing, especially before you submit. Because if Joe and Jane have those questions, then your agents and your publishers are certainly going to, and you wanna flush out all of that out obviously as early as possible.
Jo: So it really sounds like you were very, very organized with this. Like you really had a game plan in place with making sure that you had like beta readers and everybody, getting lots of feedback, having extra eyes on your manuscript, all of that, and this was all before you kind of made your real strong, last dash at trying to get an agent?
Kevin: Yeah. So I had some organizational issues in my life. If I saw psychologist, it would probably be about that. You know, my dad likes to tell a story about when I was like, I think a second grade or so. And he said, Kevin, we’re having some guests over, you need to clean up your bookshelf. And so I took every single book out of the bookshelf and put them back in, in alphabetical order.
Jo: Of course.
Kevin: So, cause that’s what I thought it meant to organize your bookshelf. Right? Yeah. So yeah. I am very organized, but everybody has their own system of what works for them. However, I find that it really helps to be super organized for all of this, and even more than writing the book, which is a very creative process.
Jo: Yeah, yeah.
Kevin: Marketing your book. Oh my goodness. So I remember someone telling me in a reading in an article by an author that said, writing your book is only half the work.
Kevin: And I said, yeah, okay. Whatever. And I said, yeah, for most people maybe, but I spent eight years working on this. That can’t be true. And I’m very slowly learning how true it is. It took me two years to like, I mean I’d got that original feedback from the agents, I did two years of reworking it and then trying to find a publish or another agent again, and then a publisher and now marketing it. And I started marketing the marketing plan nine months from the release of the book, which is 13 July. So by the time you’re listening to this, it’s gonna be released already. Right?
Kevin: But nine months out, I started working on the marketing plan and I’m so glad I did because there is so, so much stuff involved if you wanna do it well, and everybody wants their book to do well. It’s not just something that you can say, okay, I’ll I don’t know, I’ll send a couple news releases, try to do a couple show up to bookstores and see if I can do some book signings and. I mean, especially for the book I have, it is about the NFL and espionage. Just think about how many internet sites there are out there that cover the NFL.
Kevin: Hundreds, if not thousands, right? And all of these are potential sources to be able to use as a marketing tool for the book. So I have to look at it. I have to analyze it. I have to be realistic. Okay. Who can I possibly get? And so I started small. I need to start off with some smaller podcasts, websites, you know, all of this type of stuff and build it up. How do I get to national? How do I get on ESPN? How do I get on NFL network with this?
And so I took a very organized approach to building it up in a structured layer and trying to take it from being a first time unknown author to a guy that can be on national media. And will it work out? I don’t know, but I do know this: it won’t be for lack of trying or a lack of organization or putting a plan together.
Jo: Yeah. I think you’ve set yourself up brilliantly to do really well with this. So I wanted to ask you about this because I still hear so many authors or people who aren’t authors say, oh, but when you’re traditionally published you don’t need to do any marketing or anything, they’ll do it all for you. And I’m like, oh no, that’s not right. But people still believe that. That pretty much if you go traditionally published, then you can just sit back and it’ll all take care of itself. Or the publisher will take care of everything, but that’s not the case. Has your publisher also encouraged you to go out there and do all this promotion of your book?
Kevin: Yes. So my publisher has sent, basically sent you a packet. Hey, here are tips and tricks and recommendations that we have for you for how to market your book, because by and large, it is on you. So being a first time author and just being at the beginning stages of marketing the book, it is difficult for me to tell you exactly how much the publisher does versus you.
Now, there’s some huge benefits. Being traditionally published, they put your book out there on Amazon, the publisher’s website, mine’s on Barnes and Noble, Booksamillion, all these independent ones, and then they have their worldwide, their international sales branch. So it’s out there in Australia and the UK and Canada, Japan, China you know, in trying to do that on your own, I can’t even imagine. So trying to think that I could do that and be everywhere like that by myself is completely unrealistic. So there was a huge benefit there for me. They’ll help when I send out something on social media, they’ll retweet or like something and all of that. But, my feeling is other than that, maybe they’re doing 10 to 15% and I’m doing the other 85%. Uh, yeah. And I could be wrong. They could be doing so much more in the background. I don’t have a completely strong grasp of that, but I will say as an author, your book depends on you. And if you’re depending on your publisher to do it I mean, I’m working on book two and I have completely stopped for at least the next six months to do nothing but market because it is on you. And if you wanna be able to take it to the level you want your book to get to, there’s nobody else you can rely on you. You have to do it yourself.
Jo: I think that’s just so important for other authors to know, or people considering writing a book. In this day and age, it really does come down to you. Whether it’s gonna be successful or not, it depends upon how much energy you’re gonna put into it, once it, or even before it’s out in the world, you know, but once it’s been written and everything. And so did you have a platform before you got the publisher? Were you on social media talking about this book and everything before you even had your agent submit it to a publisher, or did that kind of come afterwards?
Kevin: Yeah, that would’ve been a really great thing for me to do, but the answer was no. So there are really, there are three big things that any agent, and I say agent because if you don’t have an agent you’re not getting a publisher these days, by and large. I mean, it’s nearly impossible. So to get an agent they want three things. They wanna know, are you the right person to write the book? So in a non-fiction book, that means are you the subject matter expert? Okay. Then they wanna know, do you have the platform?
And I’m completely blanking on the third thing…
Anyways, so, you know, I had two of the three, the big ones, but I completely lack that social media background. And honestly I had no social media presence whatsoever before landing a publisher. So it’s been a very steep, uphill climb. It’s been, , it’s been almost comedic at times, like, you know, at being 40 plus years old, trying to learn to use social media and, you know, my daughter knows it better than me. And my wife’s like laughing at me, you know? And so I’m, I’m learning it, I’m picking it up, but yes, it really helps to have that platform built up. If you can set yourself up with a podcast or a blog ahead of time to be able to talk about your book, to be able to have those followers, because that’s one of the big things that any agent or publisher is looking for, to know that, hey, this individual is going to be able to sell books because they have a following. Yeah. And I didn’t. Luckily it all worked out for me, but if I was redoing it, if I was starting from scratch and going to invest eight years, that is certainly something I would look at again in the future and consider
Jo: That’s really interesting. I think that’s really good advice actually, for anybody who might be starting out on this journey, just how important it is to kind of establish yourself out there so that you’ve got a platform to be able to promote your books and everything from cuz otherwise yeah, it is quite a steep learning curve to try and do all that as well. So you are utilizing cause I can see that you are on most like of the, uh, most popular kind of social media networks. You’re on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I think. Is that right?
Kevin: Yes. So I am on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. And what am I forgetting?
Kevin: Facebook, yeah. Facebook, correct? Yeah, yeah. Yes. Yeah. So, you know, it’s funny, I hear a lot of feedback from different people and reading articles on what social media platform should be used as an author. And I thought, okay, Facebook’s decent. And I found Facebook to be pretty effective for me. I do like it. Let me go in real briefly and I’ll talk about what I find is helpful on each.
So Facebook, there are a lot of groups out there that I find very helpful for authors. Mm-hmm. One of the ones that I found is, like there are sports podcast groups. And just the other day I reached out on there, I said, hey, I’ve got this book, I’m publishing, or that it’s being released, and I wonder if anybody would be interested in having me on their podcast? And an hour later I’ve got five podcasts, more podcasts lined up, which I was like, geez, this is really easy. Like, this is cool. And obviously, you know, you’re building your fan base through your posts on there on Facebook and all the other platforms. But I found Facebook to be very helpful for that.
Twitter, I’m terrible at, if anybody wants to help me on Twitter I would love to have that help. I’m slowly building up the base, but honestly, I’m not great at it. And, and it’s hard to be really, really good at all of them. It is.
Instagram, same. I’m not great. I’m getting there. I’m getting better. It takes a lot of work to figure out how to craft your posts and to get the most bang outta your book and the size of your posts very dramatically. I mean, I can write an essay on Facebook. Yeah. And on Twitter, it’s gotta be three or four sentences. Mm-hmm. So it’s, it’s very different.
Now LinkedIn, my wife laughed at me when I decided to do LinkedIn. She’s like, oh, don’t even bother that’s that platform’s completely useless. And it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to my book. Because I’ve been able to connect with all the NFL players and coaches and everybody around the league. So I connect with them and not only build interest in the book, but if I wanna do interviews or get blurbs for my book, have people read it, give me feedback, there’s this whole network. So I’ve connected with over 1500 members of the NFL now that I’m all tied into and it is extremely helpful. And then there’s all these NFL groups on LinkedIn as well to be able to market and advertise the book to there. So I would just say experiment. Keep experimenting. And don’t worry about stuff that doesn’t work. Don’t get fixed in your head that I have to do this thing. You know, I thought book signings were gonna be, you know, get all these bookstores and do book signings and blah, blah, blah. And I’m finding, you know what, it’s really not the most effective means for me. Doing a podcast like this, where you can have hundreds or thousands of people listen to you at the same time can be so much more effective than say, speaking to your local club where you may speak to 10 or 20 people at a time. Not that that’s not great, and you get right in front of people, you get that one-on-one interaction. That is great. But if you can get on a podcast or a radio interview that is out there to 2000 – 5000 people at a time. You gotta figure out how to maximize your time, especially if you’ve gotta a book that is very appealing to a mass audience. It’s a big learning curve, and I’m, I’m still going through it.
Jo: Oh, wow, sounds like you’re doing amazing. And I totally agree with you, the podcast is such a great avenue right now, and because the content’s always available. So if somebody doesn’t listen to it in the week that it’s released, it doesn’t matter because if they’re listening to that podcast and they, you know, people go back and they listen to previous episodes and that, so this is something that sticks around forever. So it’s that ongoing promotion, in a sense, which is really cool.
Kevin: Absolutely. Yeah. I think it’s like, it’s the new radio. But like you mentioned, the benefit is it’s going to, if a listener isn’t tuned in they’re not gonna miss it, like they would do a radio show. They’ll just catch it later. So yeah, I would say one of my top recommendations is get out there and get on podcasts. And there are websites now that you can actually apply to that will match hosts and authors up so that, you know, you write your description of who you are as an author and what your book is about and then you get paired up and it works pretty well. And then as I said, there’s all these groups out on social media that you can use as well. Very, very helpful.
Jo: Yeah, it’s a really good time to be living in, in that respect because there are so many opportunities for different ways to promote your book and you don’t have to do them all, it’s about finding those things that are right for you. Like, I would never have thought of LinkedIn as being a good avenue to make those connections and that, but it totally makes sense, particularly if you’re writing nonfiction. There are people who swear by TikTok, and I haven’t got there yet, but you know, there are so many podcasts, there’s lots of different avenues. I used to manage bookstores and the majority of the book signings, particularly for first time authors, were never really that beneficial, I think, for promoting a book. So I think it’s really great that there’s all these other avenues open up possibilities. That’s really cool. So you are onto, well, you mentioned that you are writing book number two. Is this also non-fiction and is it a similar kind of theme or have you gone off in a different direction?
Kevin: So it is non-fiction as much as I would love to write fiction I’ve put that on hold for a while. And I’ve always got ideas. So I’ve got about ideas for five or six books swimming around in my head and obviously very, very, uh, limited time to be able to write all of them. So, but I am working on book two. I’m probably about somewhere between halfway and two thirds through the first draft of it with most of the research conducted, which is, which is good. So yeah, it’s about a similar topic. Same topic, but on college football oh, which sounds like, oh, that’s the exact same book, just college football. But it’s really not. It’s very different because of the rules of the game. Because one of the things I cover in my book is draft collection. And obviously there’s no draft in college football, it’s recruiting. Yeah. And the recruiting world in college football is absolutely bonkers. It is wild what all goes on. People will be shocked and amazed. There’s a lot of different stuff in there. But the nice thing was for the research, when you read a book by a former NFL coach, he obviously came up through the college ranks and has stories from the college ranks, so when I was doing all my research for the pro book, I simply would highlight all that material in a different color and say, you know, if I ever do a college book, I’ve got it all here for me. So that saved me a lot of time. And I’m in the process now of interviewing a lot of people that work in college football. Which now that I’ve written Spies on the Sidelines, and getting that published, all these doors are open to me and it’s been such a breath of fresh air just being able to ask people, Hey, could I interview you? And they’re like, absolutely, that’d be cool. And so it’s, it takes a lot of work to get that first book. And then once you’re there, like you mentioned earlier, it flows, you learn the secrets, and you get a little bit of street cred, and the second one is much easier.
Jo: That’s cool. And so has your publisher already picked this one up? Are they encouraging you to write it or is it something that you’ll have to kind of, promote to them?
Kevin: Yeah, no. So I haven’t, I haven’t even broached the subject with them yet. And you know, I would say the main reason for that is I have a nine to five job and I like being able to write at my own pace. And as I mentioned before, I’ve got my fingers in a lot of cookie jars. I like to do a lot of things. And so I don’t really want the deadline of, Hey, Kevin, you need to have this book done in the next six months or a year. I wanna do it and I wanna do it right. But it’s not what I depend on for my living. So I would just as soon do it under my terms than the publishers.
Jo: Totally understandable. Absolutely. Cuz it does certainly create a lot of extra stress when you’re writing to somebody else’s deadline. For sure. So is this gonna take eight years or you think this one’s gonna be a little bit faster?
Kevin: I think it will be much faster. I am hoping to uh, well, let’s see, like I said, six months after marketing, I would say probably a year after that, I hope to be submitting it again to to a publisher and hopefully going from there. So that’s the goal, but like I said, I’m not stressing on that date and timeframe.
You know, writing for me, it’s, it’s a joy, it’s a pleasure. It’s something I like doing. And I will tell you that when you do anything for a living it becomes stressful. I grew up wanting to play professional soccer. That was my dream, right? Then I got to NCAA soccer where, you know, during the summers you have three, eight day practices and you get so sore that you literally start practices by walking, because even though you’re in phenomenal shape, you’re so sore, you can barely move. And it becomes a job, you know? And I was like, man, like, I mean, I, I did it and I played four years of NCAA ball, but I would tell you, it does suck some of the joy out of it when you’re taking it that seriously when you’re training that hard.
And I don’t want writing to be like that for me. I want writing to be something that I love to do. Now if I get that chance to make a living outta writing and you know, it sets me up, would I turn it down? You know, I won’t say I would. However, I’m enjoying just being a recreational author that doesn’t have to depend on writing for my source of income.
Jo: That’s cool. I think it’s so important to keep that joy in writing. And for many of us it means that we don’t want to do it full time or have it as our primary income. And that’s cool. It’s just more important, I think, to do those things that keep you happy, light you up, all that kind of stuff. So that’s awesome.
So do you have any final words of wisdom, you’ve given us so many cool pieces of advice here, but any other final words of wisdom for somebody who’s maybe considering writing their first book or their first nonfiction book?
Kevin: Yeah. So I finally thought of the third main criteria for writing a book, which is have a unique idea. I can’t tell you how much easier it was to get published, having a book, writing about a subject that no one had ever written about before. Because everybody’s like, huh, that’s a, that’s a neat, different subject. And it’s very hard to stand out these days and I think everybody’s, everybody’s looking for the million dollar idea and we’ve all had ’em from time to time. And normally you get a million dollar idea for creating some whatsit that, you know, oh, this would be the coolest cookie cutter ever or whatever it is in life, right? But, do we have the means to be able to carry it out? Usually the answer is no. Oh, it costs too much money. I don’t have the background for this, whatever it is. I think the secret is finding what fits for you. What are you capable of? What are you a subject matter expert is what is something that’s unique and different? And how do you combine all of that together to find your perfect idea? Because it all flows together once you find it. And like I said, I wanted to write fiction. I still want to write fiction. It doesn’t mean I should be writing fiction, you know? And I would say some authors, when you’re stuck, right? And we’ve all been there as authors. You know, you just, you wanna write, but it’s just not flowing. If you’re there for too long, I’d consider change it up. Okay? If you wanna write fantasy, maybe you need to be writing romance. If you write in fiction, maybe you need to be writing non-fiction. Just keep writing. Try something different. Eventually it’s gonna click. And it took, geez, it took 15 years for me writing to figure out what the heck am I doing? And what am I good at? And then, oh, I, I finally, I, I figured it out. It took writing a master’s thesis to realize, oh, I’m pretty good at writing nonfiction. I wrote it and I was like, oh, I could maybe turn this into a book if I just expanded on this. Which I didn’t, but it gave me that confidence. So, just keep writing, keep tinkering, don’t get stuck in want thinking, you know that you have to do this because that is what your interest is. There’s so many things in life, so many different things and just keep exploring.
Jo: Aww. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that, cuz I think that is just phenomenal advice. So, so good. So I appreciate that. And I’m wishing you all the luck with the release of your new book, Spies on the Sidelines, which will totally be out there in the world when this goes to air, which is really cool. If people want to connect with you, so you’re on all the platforms and that, but how do they find you? So what’s your handles?
Kevin: So if you go to my website: www.spiesonthesidelines.com. It has all the information about me, about my book and also, uh, at the very bottom of my webpage it has all of my social media platforms. So you can find it all there, find all my handles and I’d love to have you guys follow along. I’m going to be doing a lot more platforms. I’ve got some radio interviews coming up, all of that. And I’d love for you guys to be along on the journey.
Jo: So cool. So very exciting. Well, thank you so much, Kevin. So appreciate having you on today.
Kevin: Oh, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.
Jo: So here are some takeaways from today’s episode.
1. Be intentional with your title, do your research and make it stand out.
2. Do whatever it takes, keep refining your book, take expert advice to heart and get critiques, edit, rewrite, do all the things to ensure your book is as publishable as possible.
3. Research agents in your book category and genre. There are only so many agents so make sure you’ve done your research and your book stands out. Make it as good as possible.
4. An agent is looking for three things: One, they want to know if you’re the right person to write the book, such as being a subject matter expert. Two, that you have a platform. And three, that you have a unique idea.
5. Make sure your prologue and the beginning of each chapter is as strong as possible to keep the reader reading.
6. If you’re writing for a general audience, make sure your book isn’t filled with too much industry jargon. Simplify and get non-industry beta readers to check.
7. Even being traditionally published, if you want your boat to sell, you need to market. Use social media do book signings, consider LinkedIn for networking and podcasts for getting in front of a large audience.
8. Keep writing, keep experimenting and keep enjoying the process. If you really want to write and publish your book, do whatever it takes.
So I really had such a great time chatting with Kevin and I hope you enjoyed this episode, too. As usual, I’ve put links to connect to Kevin in my show notes, and I do highly encourage you to check out his book too. And if it’s not something that you want to read, consider it as a gift for the sports fan in your circle of friends or family.
If you did enjoy this episode, I’d be super grateful if you could write to review and share with a friend. It not only makes my day, but allows me to keep making more episodes and sharing more tips and tricks and advice to supercharge your writing career.
And if you want to stay in the know, you can sign up for my newsletter at www.subscribepage.com/manifestationforauthors and download yourself a free copy of my tip sheet by the same name.
So I hope you have an amazing week, my friends. And until next time, happy writing!