While over a million books are published each year, very few are ever actually purchased or read in large numbers. The average American reads about ten books a year, but a quarter of Americans don’t read a single one. This begs the question: if my book won’t be read, why write it? Mary Abbajay, an expert on leadership management and career development, recently released a book: Managing Up, and has a strong argument why nearly every business leader should have a book under their belt.
ABERMAN: Well, I have been told many times that writing a book is surprisingly difficult. What was it like, and why did you do it?
ABBAJAY: Oh my gosh, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Now, the why I did it was kind of interesting. I actually didn’t have any interest in ever writing a book. It wasn’t really on my radar. I knew it’d be hard, didn’t really I had anything to say, and Wiley, the big business book publisher, they actually came to me and asked me if I would put in a proposal. To which I said, no, but I’ll think about it. Then, everyone on my team, and my family, were like, what the front door is wrong with you?
If someone asks you to write a book, a publisher, you need to say yes. So I said yes! That’s the why behind it. Writing a book is really hard, and I think one of the hardest things about it is that it takes a lot of concentration. You have to close yourself off to your everyday world, for hours and hours at a time. I’d finish a chapter and feel like I gave birth, and I’d be so excited, until I’d realize I had like, 24 more to go. So it was long, it was arduous, but at the end of the day, I think I secretly kind of liked it.
ABERMAN: And there’s no painkiller!
ABBAJAY: There’s no painkillers! I tried writing with wine and that did not work. Caffeine works, but that’s about it.
ABERMAN: That’s a fair point. Now that you’ve gone through to the other side, and you’re out talking about the book with people, has the experience worked out the way you kind of hoped, or has it surprised you in some way?
ABBAJAY: It’s a little bit of both. So this is my first book, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I did a lot of research, and I talked to a lot of people, and I definitely hired a publicist, and I think what has surprised me the most has been, when I thought that I have told everybody about the book, the number of people in my circle that still don’t know I wrote a book, is still surprising to me. Because I feel like I am overdoing the social media, I feel like I’m talking about it too much. But as all the publicists and the publishers tell me, you can’t talk about it enough, because there’s still people who don’t know. You have to cut through the clutter and the noise. So, that’s what really surprised me, how many people still don’t I’ve written a book.
ABERMAN: That’s funny, because I find that, with the column I write in the Business Journal, or my hobby with the band, and things that I do, you just assume that, because of social media, everybody knows what’s going on, particularly people that you know. But the reality is, there’s so much noise there, you have to push through. Is that why you really think that every business person or leader looking to succeed really should be thinking about writing a book?
ABBAJAY: I think they should! I think if you have something to say, you have a unique twist on something, and if you think you can write something to help people, then you should think about writing a book. And you know, the other thing about the book, why a lot of people write books, and this was certainly one of the reasons why for me, besides that I was asked to do it, is to help your business platform. So, as a consultant and a public speaker, having a book really, hopefully, is going to help elevate myself, and my company, into being thought leaders in our space.
So, if you’re going to do a book, make sure you have both your personal reasons, and your business reasons, and they need to be a aligned. When you’re writing the book, you need to, right from the start, be thinking about, what’s the purpose of this book, both in terms of what it’s about, and what’s the purpose for me or my business or my company? And you have to think about marketing before you hand that in to the publisher.
ABERMAN: What I consistently hear from folks who look at my career, always say I should write a book. Of all the things you do in life—I mean, you’re highly accomplished, you’ve worked at big companies, small companies. You’ve started companies, even nightclubs, a very diverse career. What is it? What’s the ticket punch, the union card about writing a book?
ABBAJAY: I don’t know! And I’m telling you, for so long I resisted it because I’m like, oh, books are so yesterday, and I’m an English major, so it’s not that I don’t love books. I love books, but I thought, there’s nothing new in the world to talk about, but it still matters. I mean, people see that you wrote a book, and they will pay you more, they will give you more respect. It’s like what a masters or doctorate degree used to be, now it’s about a book.
ABERMAN: What does it say about our society, do you think?
ABBAJAY: I think it says that we’re shallow, and that we like shiny objects. I don’t know, I shouldn’t say that, because I’m very proud of my book. But I’m still the same person before I wrote the book, and after I wrote the book. The workshops, and the work we do were the same before and after. So, maybe if the book allows more people to tap into your message, and maybe if the book does give you that ticket to play for different organizations, then it’s well worth it.
ABERMAN: That’s interesting to me. It’s almost like, as we look around about the platform from which we can be authoritative, it’s an important part of the resume. Now, returning to Managing Up, which is a great book, we talked about it last time you were on the show. Do people absorb the message in the book.
ABBAJAY: Yeah, they do. And it’s stunning because Managing Up, to me, isn’t rocket science. It’s a very pragmatic approach to relationships, but people will say to me, oh my God, I never thought about it. Or it’ll help them remove some of the resistance they have to managing up, and to understand it’s about their career, or, I just got an email yesterday from a reader, her fiancé is working for a toxic boss, and won’t leave, so she wants advice for the spouses of those who are stuck in toxic workplaces. So, I think the message is myriad, and it resonates, which makes me so happy.
ABERMAN: So listening to you, and seeing the enthusiasm, I wish we were on T.V., so people could see how excited you are. It seems to me that, at least for you, writing a book is a continuation of your desire to be empathetic and influence others.
ABBAJAY: Yeah, I mean truthfully, I’m like, oh, they made me write it, but truthfully, I am passionate about helping many people have great work experiences. We spend our days at work, I want them to be great places. I want them to be the great times in our life, and I am very passionate. I am a do-gooder, Jonathan! What can I say? I want to help people.
ABERMAN: You want to help people?
ABBAJAY: I do!
ABERMAN: I’ve got a feeling that the itch that you scratched writing this book is the same itch you scratch when you run a nightclub.
ABBAJAY: You know, in some ways, it is. In some ways, the itch I scratched when I ran a nightclub was that I’d had terrible bosses, and I was tired of working for jerks, and I thought I can be my own jerk. So, it was the itch to take control of my career, to empower myself in my work life, which is exactly what I hope this book does for other people. I hope it helps some take control of their career, and control of their work life.
ABERMAN: I’m probably going to go home and start working on a book proposal.
ABBAJAY: You should! I’ll help you!
ABERMAN: Mary Abbajay, as always, it’s great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.