ISTM #38 Why I Give It Away

Recently, I spent a pleasant hour talking with Chris Nalty about a book he wants to write about how he found his way through a painful divorce, because of his Christian faith. While I am looking for a new book project, I told him almost at the outset that I was not well-suited to help him.

I write exclusively about tech-related issues for tech-focused audiences.  I am not well-suited for any book about religion particularly because I consider myself an ethical atheist: I am loyal to my Jewish heritage, but a believer in data and science.

When I went through my own painful divorce years ago, I turned, not to god, but to serial dating. Later, I found Paula Israel: If there has been a guiding light in my path, it has been her.

What’s My Catch? 

So why was I spending this time with Chris?  That’s easy: he had responded to my often published offer of giving one free hour of consulting time to anyone thinking about writing a book: While, it must be nonfiction—it does not have to be about tech. 

Sometimes I get questioned about my motives for giving anything away during these tight-fisted times. One friend observed that I must be very lonely, and another older colleague suggested I try selling Ginsu Steak Knives.

But the people I give my time to, don’t make fun of me: They seem to appreciate it, and I find that I enjoy the time spent and learn something new about aspiring authors in almost every conversation. 

But like my friends these conversations often start with a teaspoonful of suspicion: I often get asked what the catch is. Why am I giving away my time for free?  

Of course, there is a catch, just like the 20 hours or so that it takes me to produce these free ItSeemstoMe issues. In fact, both the conversations and these newsletters are my essential marketing tactics. And they only work if they remain available for free

I could write a book about why I do that. In fact, I did: Lethal Generositypublished in 2017. It was my most favorably reviewed of the seven books I’ve published under my own name—even though it wasn’t even close to being my best seller.

Lethal was about using contextual technologies to personalize customer experiences, and in so doing, it argued that by treating people with incredible kindness, a merchant could build an unprecedented level of loyalty, one strong enough to get consumers to ignore competitors and pick you. I even argued that such generosity could reduce your marketing costs.

Lethal was about using contextual technologies to personalize customer experiences, and in so doing, it argued that by treating people with incredible kindness, a merchant could build an unprecedented level of loyalty, one strong enough to get consumers to ignore competitors and pick you. I even argued that such generosity could reduce your marketing costs. 
 
Let’s go back to my new friend Chris Nalty. We had a great talk. He asked me if I would help him write his book and I declined. But I did connect him with a respected professional who might be thrilled with the chance. I don’t know how it’s working out, but both thanked me profusely. Chris even posted on Facebook about how generous I had been and how useful the talk was.  
 
I’d love to say that the Facebook post had generated me a new paid client, but at least so far, it has not. Yet the experience has made me feel good and it motivated me to write this long overdue ItSeemstoMe issue and maybe that will generate a lead or more conversations. Perhaps it will just insert my name into a few social networks where I am currently unknown.

Lethal Generosity turned out to be my last book under my own name. I simply could not afford to spend about a year without revenue in the hope the book would generate the catch-up income. So, I decided to focus on ghostwriting books, articles and presentations for tech CEOs. Early on, I started looking for ways to practice my Lethal Generosity strategy thinking it might get people to prefer me to other ghostwriters and to generate a little word-of-mouth.  

So far, I have given away about 30 hours of my time. Twice, my practice has led to ghostwriting deals, which has rewarded me with thousands of time more revenue than those 30 hours would have generated.

I am in no position to write for free, but I do have enough time to talk to people about their book ideas, The offer has never generated a flood of inquiries, but it has generated some. People who I have talked to for free have recommended me to others more than a year later. 

I am reasonably confident that I have received more inbound leads through my free hours than by any other means.  Not only that, but most of these talks are fun, which is needed during these pandemic-laden times. I almost always walk away having learned something new and feeling good for having helped someone.

Not just that, but every now-and-then, the free hours have resulted in significant revenue, which may not be exactly lethal, but it is most certainly necessary. 

Here’s the Pitch 

In keeping with my Lethal Generosity pitch, here’s my closer:

If you have a nonfiction idea for a book and you just want to get a sense of what it takes to develop, publish and market a book, send me an email Tell me a little about your idea and what you’d like to learn from me, and we’ll find a time to Zoom chat—so long as you can adjust to the Pacific Time Zone. 

If your book is about technology for tech community audiences, then the free hour I give you may result in you becoming my new favorite client. 

 

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