Young Upstarts

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The Myth Of The 20 Percent

By Robert D. Smith, author of “20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course For Mastering Your Life Right Now

Are you being fooled by the 20 percent?

If you have any desire to write a book, start the next big blog, be a speaker, be on stage, etc… the answer is most likely yes.

What is the 20 percent? Let me go to a slightly different industry for an example — show business.

When I first started managing Andy Andrews, he wasn’t an author or a corporate speaker; he was a comedian, an entertainer. Therefore, we spent a lot of time on the road with people who were huge in show business at that time — Kenny Rogers, Joan Rivers, the list goes on.

What I soon discovered was that “show business” was actually only around 20% “show”… the remaining 80% was ALL “business”!

Don’t get me wrong — that 20% that was the show had to consistently, night in and night out, be running at 110 percent. But without the 80% that was the business side of things, none if it would have been possible.

So should I have been surprised when, years later, I discovered that the book and speaking businesses were exactly the same? Well, all I can say is that most people are so surprised that they can’t even wrap their minds around it.

My point is that if you think writing a great book, finding a publisher, and showing up for the book signings are the ingredients for a bestseller, you have been duped into believing the myth of the 20 percent. Putting 110% into the content of your book, or into your development as a speaker, is a must if you want to be successful. But if you don’t have a clue as to what goes into the remaining 80%, you will not make it. I guarantee it.

The 80% Process that Has Produced 3 New York Times Bestsellers

I want to give you a brief snapshot of what our 80% looks like for a book release. However, before you continue, I want to remind you that I do not claim to have ANY idea what I am doing. All I can tell you is that I know what has worked and what has not for myself and a few others over the past 30 years. Here we go:

Between the time that the manuscript is turned in and the book actually makes it to the general public, a whole team of people behind the scenes will put 10,000 man-hours into this one project.

Here’s a list of all that has to be done during that time:

  • Creating a website
  • Writing and designing a media kit
  • Working with teachers to create school curriculum
  • Working with pastors to create a sermon series for churches to use
  • Securing endorsements
  • Coming up with video content
  • Shooting the video content
  • Editing the video content
  • Posting the video content
  • Writing emails about the book to send to the email list
  • Working with graphic artists to create a visual identity that matches the feeling of the book
  • Developing a media campaign (usually with the help of an outside PR firm)
  • Mailing out over a thousand copies of the book to friends, influencers, decision makers, etc. This is more complicated than it sounds — a letter must be written and signed, books must be autographed, bookmarks must be designed, printed, and placed in every book, postcards must be sent out, shipping labels must be printed, addresses must be verified, etc.

The list goes on and on! And this is just all that has to be done BEFORE the book is released.

AFTER the actual release, you have another 90 days where it feels like you’re just beginning.

Hopefully your media campaign worked and you now have interview requests to respond to and show up for. Hopefully your website is getting traffic and you now have content to continually update. Hopefully you have schools, churches and businesses asking for the curriculum, sermon series and/or workshops you had created. Hopefully you have an accountant to count all the money that’s coming in as a result of your efforts for the last 12 months.

To some degree, it never stops. Ten years ago, we released Andy’s first New York Times bestseller, “The Traveler’s Gift“. And it hasn’t stopped yet. It continues to sell in the top 20 of books every month from Thomas Nelson. It’s in over 25 different languages.

So now we are still promoting, still re-announcing… because we know there are still millions of people who haven’t read it.

The point is that once you jump in… you better be fit and not fat. You better LOVE to think positive and eat no’s for breakfast. You better have INTENSE stamina to keep up the 20-hour days. And you better not believe that the 20% is all it takes to be successful at anything.

The good news is that now you know. YOU can master the 80 percent. All it takes is persistence and the will to keep after it every single day of the week.

Now stop reading… and get back to your 80 percent!


Author of “20,000 Days and Counting” Robert D. Smith is a leader in providing life-changing entertainment resources, a global customer service rep, and a favorite uncle. For more than three decades, he has managed and overseen the career of Andy Andrews, a three-time New York Times best-selling author and in-demand speaker. He has served as a private consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, entertainers, and cutting-edge organizations.



This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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