On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, Dr Rick Brandon talks about his communication book, Straight Talk, and what inspired him to write it.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Dr Rick Brandon about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the work that went into his new communication book, Straight Talk.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Dr. Rick Brandon, founder and President of Brandon Partners, a global corporate training firm specializing in helping leaders and professionals develop the competencies of organizational/political savvy for greater influence and impact.
I’m a speaker, workshop designer and instructor, and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success.
I view my workshops as “edu-tainment” since I blend my thought leadership on influence skills with my sense of humor, theater experience, and now and then a trumpet laced delivery! I was trained in psychology and counseling, but got tired of people asking, “So you’re a shrink, eh?” I dislike the concept of putting people into diagnostic boxes with labels and realized I wanted to instead be a “stretch” because my turn-on is seeing people grow and expanding their boundaries and skills.
My non-work hobbies are fronting an 8-piece R&B cover band called The New Hip Replacements and volunteering to play TAPS at funerals of veterans.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Late 2001…Back in 2001, after three years writing trainers guides, scripts, and workbooks as the courseware for my leadership development workshops, I woke up with my own “2001 space odyssey” –– the idea of co-authoring Survival of the Savvy after clients in our popular workshops suggested a course text.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I’m action-oriented, and much of the first book’s content was contained in our already-proven Organizational Savvy programs, so it was soon afterwards in 2002 that Marty Seldman and I networked to a friend of mine’s book agent, who immediately helped us craft the proposal that quickly landed us a book deal with Fred Hills editor of Simon & Schuster’s Free Press business imprint, surprising us with a true honor at what our agent called “the pinnacle of a first-time author’s dreams.”
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
About 1.75 years. The proposal and book writing process over 6 months since the proposal dovetailed off of our workshop, and proposal included chapter summaries that flowed right into the book outline. I spent day and night for 3.5 months in a downstairs office, alternating between “The Author’s Haven” and “The Author’s Hell,” depending upon how the day went!
Re-writes and several editing steps went smoothly over two-three months. Collaborating on cover design, internal graphics, outreach for endorsements, and myriad details entailed another 3 months, so perhaps a year total. Then as S&S’s sales, marketing, and production moved ahead, for a total time frame between idea and release of 1.75 years.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
About the same, 13/4 years. COVID’s lockdown allowed me dedication writing time as my consulting business slowed. The proposal took weeks, my agent landed a publisher’s response in two days and a contract in five. Both the proposal and writing rocked and rolled since I was readily funneled my existing Straight Talk courses into a “workshop-in-a-book.”
Another 1.25 years for revisions, editing, jacket, internal design promo, etc. so a good 13/4-2-years all told. Who know, my math may be wrong since I believe there are three kinds of people in the world–– people who can count and people who can’t!
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Straight Talk?
A perfect storm of positive motivations:
(1) The Straight Talk model and skills had percolated and evolved over a decade of field testing in workshops, and I’d taught other kinds of interpersonal skills for 35 years, so it felt right to codify them, to my handprint on the age-old topic of interpersonal skills–– a fresh look.
(2) My workshop trainers and clients kept urging me get cooking’ on a book, saying my packaging was appealing and impactful, not the typical soft skills rap.
(3) Sounds corny, but I wanted to share the skills with far more folks than ever would be able to attend a workshop.
(4) COVID inspired me even more, since I kept reading about how socially isolated, depersonalized, lonely, and alienated many remote and hybrid workers were feeling. Straight Talk’s connecting and collaborating wasn’t “the cure,” but would surely ease the pain.
(5) Finally, in spite of getting on Medicare, as far as retirement goes, I’m on a five-year plan, and I’ll let you know when the five years begins. In other words, I’m to hyper to slow down! Wow, writing and promoting a book is indeed a full-time gig!
What were your biggest challenges with writing Straight Talk?
Being a man of few words (NOT!), keeping the book under 1,000 pages! My writing style is to get it all down and then pare it back, since this is essentially a brainstorming process for me. I thought it’d merely be my workshop, so confined to certain topics, but as usual for me, more and more ideas surfaced.
Finally, my wife said, “you’re gonna have to pull a Sophies Choice”— let go of some beloved ideas in order to save the book!
What was your research process for Straight Talk?
Now we’re talking my graduate studies in School Psychology and doctoral work since I was counselor trained with lots of study of the works of Carl Rogers, father of client-centered therapy and his communication cornerstones of empathy, genuineness, positive regard, and specificity–– all correlates of the Straight Talk speaking, listening, and conflict management skill sets.
Reading and practical experience from teaching communication skills for years made of the qualitative “field” research, since participants’ reactions and feedback over the decades informed my knowledge base of what really works as teaching interpersonal skills.
How did you plan the structure of Straight Talk?
Again, the organization flowed right off of my firm’s Straight Talk workshops, which is why I decided to call the chapters “modules.” This part was cake.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Straight Talk need?
Three kinds of help were invaluable. My mid-twenties at the time daughter Carrie was familiar with the content having grown up with the skills and editing lots of workshop manuals, so she helped me to “youth-anize” the book, rinsing out and replacing old guy phrases and movie references from back when the wheel was discovered, etc.
My wife and a great friend read through the first manuscript and gave both structural suggested revisions and some editing. Then BenBella Books’ stellar developmental editor worked her magic, although I was thrilled when he replied to the first draft saying, “very strong writing” and “I felt like I was in your workshop.” I knew we’d have relatively smooth sailing regarding editing, and we did!
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Think very carefully about your true goals and reality test them against what work, time, energy, and financial investment you’re willing to make. This isn’t to discourage you since I’ve found great satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment/pride, business networking benefits, and revenue (first book, fingers crossed for the current one).
That said, it’s key to go in wide open regarding the odds for income, how long it takes to find a publisher and then once written how long before release, how demanding promoting it is, etc.
All of these self-reflection wake-up call factors influence whether you want to self-publish or go with a publishing house, both with pros and cons.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
My musical theater singer/actor daughter Carrie and I have already written an in-depth proposal and chapter by chapter book outline for our late 2022-targeted publisher outreach and writing project, “The Stage Fright Rewrite: A Performer’s Pathway from Fearful to Fearless.” A dad-daughter blend of ten tools for managing onstage and pre-appearance anxiety.
I kick off each “scene” (chapter) with the psychology behind the tool and “how to” steps before Carrie brings in the day-to-day practical tips from the perspective of a performing artist (actor, singer, musician, comedian, magician, presenter—you name it!).
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
For sure worth it, just for the psychic goodies alone, whether or not Straight Talk: Influence Skills for Collaboration and Commitment becomes a bestseller advertised on billboards and with skywriters. I’m proud of having created the time and space in my life to pull off conceiving of the book, landing a respected publisher again so quickly, and seeing the writing through during COVID while retaining the “author brand” I’d envisioned–– an “edu-taining workshop-in-a-book.” I love that readers so far tell me I’ve fulfilled my vision.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Thanks, people can find my workshop training and book info at www.BrandonPartners.com along with a video of me blabbing about the book and giving away the Straight Talk Assessment and other learning resources at www.BrandonPartners.com/StraightTalkBook.
Please follow me at linkedin.com/in/rickbrandon.
And of course, the book is on Amazon.com: Straight Talk: Influence Skills for Collaboration and Commitment.
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