Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marketing Ideas from Jack Canfield

Today I listened to Steve Harrison interview Jack Canfield, co-author of the wildly successful "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series. Here are my takeaways.

His credentials: He sold over 115 million books over 41 languages, has been on Oprah, Larry King, etc. One of his Guinness World Records is to have the most books on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time.

His motivation: to change the world and make a difference.

How did he get started?

In college, he majored in Chinese history. But he took an elective class in psychology and fell in love with the subject. In grad school he studied education, then taught in an inner city school. He wanted to learn how to motivate his students and succeeded to such an extent that he began training other teachers. He then wrote a book about helping students, but discovered that if you didn't let people know about the book, that people wouldn't buy it.

At a teacher workshop he was leading, a person said, "My husband's company needs this." He hesitated to accept, thinking it was out of his field. But she assured him, "They're just kids in big suits."

He always illustrated his concepts with stories. People would ask if the stories were in a book. So he made a list of 70 stories, hooked up with Mark Victor Hansen and his stories and created their first Chicken Soup book.

But they were rejected by 144 publishers. They were both in debt, not making much money, and had to market it themselves. 18 months before it hit a bestseller lists, they began interviewing scads of people who had written successful books, asking, "What do you do that we need to learn?" They looked for patterns and created a marketing plan. By the end they had a #1 bestseller and later a bestselling series. A Chinese company just got rights to use their books to teach English in China.

Had he not said yes to teaching those businessmen, he would have never gotten to where he is today. Now he speaks to thousands.

His mission: "To inspire and empower people to live their highest vision in a context of love and joy." He helps others to live their vision, not to adopt his vision.

Harrison: "Did you just get lucky? What made the difference?"

Hanson: We make our own luck. We started thinking differently; thinking like a marketer. It took several years to get beyond the stigma of marketing - thinking that it was something less than legitimate for an author. It took a shift in attitude, a learning of techniques and strategies.

Harrison: Many authors have passion to serve and make a difference but feel awkward about self promotion. What would you say to them?

Canfield: If you had a cure for cancer, would you have a fear of being a self-promoter? Believe that what you have is extremely valuable. To not share it hurts people. If you have food for the hungry but don't tell the starving you have it, you've done them a disservice. You're not an egoist, you're simply helping people.

Don't hide your light under a bushel.

There's both a feminine and masculine aspect to creating a book. First, there's the creative part of giving birth to the book. Then there's the masculine sideof pushing it out into the world and supporting it. Don't put the baby in the dump.

Mark Victor Hanson was more outgoing than me. You might need to team up with a person who's more out there.

Mark and I had to become our own ad agents. We couldn't afford to hire a PR agent. But we won both a book publicist award and an Abby Award, beating out the professional PR people.

If you wanna be successful, you've got to do the work.

Things authors can do:

1) Decide (from Latin "To Cut Off"). Cut off alternative paths. We have over 2000 people who've said they didn't commit suicide because of a chicken soup book.

2) Expect to succeed. A publisher said, "You'll be lucky to sell 20,000 books." The publisher laughed out loud at them when they told them they wanted to sell 150,000 by Christmas. Now the publisher has profited wildly.

To visualize success, we took the NY Times bestseller list and typed in "Chicken Soup for the Soul" and put them in hallways, in our office, etc., to visualize the goal. We would visualize whole bookstore windows with their books in it. Today there's often an entire category of books called Chicken Soup for the Soul in bookstores.

We spent 8 or 9 minutes each day visualizing images of success.

Rather than say, "We're writing a book, we'd say, "We're writing a best-selling book." Dream big. It doesn't take any more energy or time to dream a big dream than to dream a small one.

What he learned from W. Clement Stone:

Get into action. Get off the couch. Do something that brings results. Stone would take a wooden quarter with the letters TUIT on it and give it to people who said, "I'll do it when I get around to it." He'd give them one and say, "Here's your round TUIT. Now get going on your project." It's the ones who act on ideas that make them happen.

I use a vision board screen-saver on my computer. Images of my goals keep going before me.

Every book you get into someones hands can change lives forever. Read You've Got to Read this Book. Every goal I've visualized has come through, although not all came through on time.

What visualization does:

You begin to believe it's possible.
You start your subconscious working on it.
You activate a new part of your brain that will help you achieve your goal.

Stone also taught him to use affirmations.

Harrison: And you studied marketing. I saw you at a marketing seminar, having already filled a spiral notebook full of new ideas and having to get out the hotel notepads.

Things to do:

First, be a giver. If you want the best for your reader, this is the 1st. We always identify a charity to share in the profits of each book. Put the charity on the back of your book. People like to buy, knowing that part goes to charity. Plus, it's hard to give without getting. Charities then started putting the book in their literature to sell more - they make more that way.
Give away articles to parenting magazines free of charge. Give free talks. For the first six weeks we went to churches and chambers of commerce. Find the connectors who can introduce you and your books to others.

With our last book, we gave away 2500 copies.

I can point to every free talk I've given an identify people who came up and said things like, "I want 100 books for...."

Become a joiner. He's part of 12 organizations, so that he can network. People are typically weak in finances and networks. Volunteer your time in organizations. He started volunteering in a hospital cutting cheese balls. But that's where he met leaders of organizations.

Harrison: It's the power of 6 degrees of separation.

Speak at conferences. If you're not willing to give it away free, you're not passionate about it. You get to meet other speakers and connectors.

Get out of your office. Writing books is like an iceberg - 10% is writing. 90% is marketing.

Harrison: What if have money issues?

Canfield: Read Speak and Grow Rich. The best way to make things happen is to talk to real, live people. There are lots of strategies. Call associations. It's all learnable.

Buy catologues to find lists of places that get speakers. Know the American associations.

We want to make large sales, not small sales. If Amway could buy it for their employees.... They called numerous organizations that hung up on them. Then got to "D" and a toy store owner talked to them and bought thousands.

We got lists of radio shows and started calling them. We did 600 shows that first year.

On interviews:

We asked Scott Peck (The Road Less Travelled) for his secret. He did 3 interviews a day. Even 10 years later he was doing one interview a day. One hour interviews are best.

Now he does a satellite radio interview, then radio shows. You can do virtual tours. But whatever you do, KEEP GETTING OUT! As long as he does interviews, sales go well. When he takes a week off, sales cut in half.

Harrison: Why do you still do the small stuff?

Everybody's listening to every radio station, otherwise, they couldn't stay going. So start with the radio. Take a 1:00 in the morning slot that nobody else wants to do. Somebody's out there listening. They may hear about the book, read it, and pass it on. It could change that person's life.

He takes internet radio shows, though may be small. We do constant and never-ending marketing. "I never wrote books to get rich; I wrote books to make a difference." So he takes small and big opportunities.

One of the big tools is bypass marketing. Only one out of seven people go into a bookstore to buy a book. So, 6 out of 7 aren't going where our books are. We had Chicken Soup in a Shell station and a bakery. We put them anywhere people had to wait - doctors offices, salons, etc. We sold hundreds of thousands that way. We went to Petco and Petsmart with our book about pets. We use blogs.

Have other speakers sell your books. Sell their books as well. That way you have more to offer.

Think of things I can do for others and what they can do for me. 99% of our stories are written by others. Many have a third or fourth author. I make less per book, but we have another seller.

Watch The Secret. Twenty-four speakers are in that movie. Later became a book. They all cross promoted. Since several biggies were recommending it to their contacts and people were getting it recommended repeatedly from people they respected, many watched it.

Harrison: Give us a key lesson to remember and act upon:

1) Write a great book. Learn the craft, get feedback.
2) Learn how to market books. (Go to the programs. Sit at the feet of the masters. Learn more to earn more.) I spent half of my early money on attending seminars. Become a master. Invest in your education to become a master marketer.

Steve Harrison and Jack Canfield are currently promoting a seminar they'll be doing. You can find information at:


  1. Steve, I also listened to the Canfield interview today from Calif.

    Jack was talking about W. Clement Stone, the founder of Combined Insurance Companies of America, founded in the early 1900's in Chicago. Stone is dead now, but was a mentor to many gurus, including Jack.

    I met Stone as a 16 year old at a Boy's Club concert my H.S. band was playing during the summer. Mr. Stone was very gracious to us all, and gave a short inspiring speech to a group of gangly teens.

    Years later, I met his daughter, Donna Stone, who founded the National Assoc. for Prevention of Child Abuse. I joined the org. and became part of her speaker's bureau for a year.

    A more gracious and sweet lady you'll never meet. Just like her dad.

    Reece Franklin
    Senior Events of California

  2. Reece,

    Thanks for taking the time to give me Clement Stone's name! I'll correct it in the text.

    I noticed you're with Senior Events of California. I'm about a month away from publishing a book on personal money management for young people. As a part of my research, I'm trying to ask 100 people over 50 years old (5000 years of experience!) three simple questions to help the younger generations:

    1) What's something you did wrong with your money that you'd like to warn the younger generation about?
    2) What's something you did right that you'd recommend?
    3) Any other advice about money?

    People seem excited to share. So few young people draw from the vast wisdom of older folks (I'm over 50 as well.)

    Any ideas for getting more input?