The interviewer becomes the interviewee, as Write On! speaks with Brian Schwartz, 50 Interviews : Entrepreneurs, in today’s Author Q&A. Schwartz recently made a voluntary leap from employee (of more than 20 years) to entrepreneur, and his passion is encouraging people to make the change from spectator to participant … and to live a life of purpose.
How did you come up with the idea for 50 interviews?
The genesis of the book came from my wife. After 10 years in sales, I told her I was tired of making other people wealthy. I was tired of “renting” (being an employee) and wanted to “own” (become the employer). As the primary bread winner for our family, she wasn’t going to give me her blessing until I talked to 50 entrepreneurs, so that I knew what I was really getting myself into. Originally when I began doing the interviews, I was just gathering information to find out if I was cut out to be an entrepreneur. After about the 5th interview, people kept asking me what I was going to do with the information I gathered. They suggested I write it down and put it in a book. From that, 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs was born.
What was your process from idea to getting it published?
It’s somewhat unique in the sense I interviewed 50+ entrepreneurs, and while I edited their content down to something that gets their points across clearly, I really see the book as having 50+ authors. I do estimate roughly 500 hours went into the book: between drive-time to the interviews (most were done in person), the interviews themselves, editing, proof-reading, and final layout.
What was favorite part of the writing process?
The transformation I went through during the writing of the book from employee to entrepreneur. Learning about an entire new industry has been exciting. As a consumer, I’ve always been a big fan of books—it’s really something else to be on the other side now.
The biggest challenge has been getting the book out there. I’ve received great reviews and feedback from those who have read it, but as a first time author, it’s an uphill battle getting my message to the masses.
How did you go about finding people to talk to? Do you have any tricks for keeping track of all of your research/interviews?
I started with people I knew. After the interview, I asked if they knew anyone else they thought I should interview. I always got two or three names, and they made the introduction for me. In very little time, I had over 100 people to interview. My suggestion on keeping track is to stay on top of the editing and try not to let a lot of time pass. Some journalism classes in college would have probably helped. But timeliness is the key; if too much timed passed between when I interviewed someone and when I got them the interview back for their consent, then too much would change and they’d want to do the entire interview over again!
How do you balance all the aspects of your business?
I am doing what I can but have learned how important it is to outsource the activities that drain me. One of the epiphanies I had recently: entrepreneurs do more of what excites them and less of what drains them. But some of those less enjoyable tasks still have to be done. So until I’m able to hire others to do the work, I just block out the time and hammer through them. There is a lot of value to be gained in trying to do something yourself BEFORE hiring someone… in doing so, you have a better sense of the effort involved and therefore can avoid being taken advantage of, and know enough to ask the right questions and weed out those who think they know more than they do.
I will be adding a few more interviews to 50 Entrepreneurs and plan to release a second edition at the end of the year. I also just began interviewing speakers for 50 Professional Speakers. I’m writing columns for some entrepreneur organizations and publications, and will be spending a lot of effort over the course of the year raising awareness for 50 Interviews through speaking, media, and networking.
Any advice for writers?
Remember that writing is a business. I wish I had gotten involved in CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) sooner. Although I was trying to build some buzz for my book before it came out, I’ve found that actually having the book complete makes people a lot more receptive to my idea. Also, be careful about spending too much money on hiring experts on a topic you know nothing about. Try to do the research first, as there are plenty of people out there ready to take your money who claim to be self-proclaimed experts, but may only know slightly more than you do and may actually be learning on your dime.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
I think that if I had known how much effort it was going to be in the beginning, I may have never got started. There’s something to be said for “blind enthusiasm.” As Michael Gerber said during his interview: “It isn’t what you know, but what you are determined to do that makes the difference. Knowing actually gets in the way.”