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The Published Author Podcast

JOHN KOTTER, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR, TALKS ABOUT PUBLISHING 21 BOOKS

In his youth, John Kotter didn’t intend to become a writer of bestsellers and a professor at Harvard Business School. 

But early on in his career he fell in love with digging into a topic very deeply and finding value for readers. 

His first book, Mayors In Action, kicked off a life-long love affair with research and writing. John, a Harvard Business School professor, has become a highly respected change management leader. 

In fact, Leading Change, released in 1996, has been named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential business management books ever written. John is also author of the global bestseller Our Iceberg Is Melting

John’s latest book, released in June, is Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times. In this interview, John talks to Published Author Podcast host Josh Steimle about his books, ideas, and writing career. He also shares some advice for new authors. 

JOHN KOTTER’S ADVICE FOR NEW AUTHORS!

John will spend a lot of time working on a book outline until he is satisfied with it. He takes the same approach to his chapter ones, reworking them until he is ready to proceed. This, he says, makes writing the next few chapters much easier. 

“Writing is much more than writing,” he explains. “It forces you to confront inconsistencies that don’t quite hang together.

“I’m not throwing away my writing,” he continues. “I’m throwing away a piece of analysis that has been informative. With that clear in my head I can set it aside and go back to writing.”

A second tip is never to stop writing if the work and flow feel forced. It may lead you in a direction that you don’t want to go in, and it’s better to stop and let your brain figure it out.

For new authors who are working with publishers (as opposed to self-publishing), John says  they should go in with low expectations.

“Publishers are operating under difficult circumstances,” says John, referring to the massive amount of change they’ve faced since the rise of the Internet. 

“The model doesn’t necessarily fit an author’s needs. Consider self-publishing insead.”

THE REWARD OF BEING A CATALYST AND INFLUENCING OTHERS

John finds a lot of satisfaction in influencing other people’s work, or discovering that people are referring to him as a significant influencer. 

“You also get terrific feedback from people. And if someone goes out of their way to send a note or email, that really says something,” says John.

“Hearing stories about how people used your information to create something new is very rewarding,” he continues. “People say John Kotter made it happen, but they made it happen. My role was more of a catalytic one.”

BOTH RESEARCH AND EXPERIENCES SHAPE BOOKS

John says his books come from research, but also a lot of his life experiences. He believes his brain is active 24 hours a day with information at the back of his mind, and a focal point emerges as some point, sparking a flurry of writing. 

For example, John’s latest book Change began as an official research project with his consulting company, Kotter.

He explains: “We had a group of five of us talking about some new ideas from brain science and how they were informing us about human nature that fit in an interesting way with some of the research we had that had nothing to do with neurology.

“Our research was observational and had to do with why organizations were much more change-efficient and effective than others,” he continues. “That group met on and off for a few years, and one person said ‘OK, we’ve got enough. Let’s write!’.”

But John said the timing didn’t feel right. He agreed that the group had learned a lot, but believed that it had further to go. However, a year later, John got up one day, went to his iPad, and began writing. 

“For me, it happens because my brain gets to the point where it says we've figured out the basics and we're ready to put them down on paper,” John explains. “So we can be more systematic about working out the inconsistencies or the missing data, or are there questions that aren't quite answered yet?”

SHOW YOUR BOOK DRAFT TO OTHERS

John has consistently shown drafts of his books to colleagues and readers. He did this methodically with one of his most famous books, Our Iceberg Is Melting. John and the book’s co-author Holger Rathgeber self-published that book first, and then self-published seven more times. With each version, they sought feedback. Today, the book is published by Penguin. 

“When you get negative feedback, most of us cringe and kind of hide and hate that. But nevertheless, as a way to improve your thinking, your writing, your capacity to produce something that will be used and be useful to people, it's invaluable,” says John.

And for first-time writers, John encourages them to put on a suit of armour and simply get their book out there!

Learn more: If you appreciated this episode, listen to:

Overcome Imposter Syndrome To Finish Your Book

And:

A Hook Point For Your Book Will Win You More Clients - Brendan Kane

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ABOUT THE HOST

The Published Author Podcast is hosted by Josh Steimle, founder of Published Author. Josh is a book author himself and his article writing has been featured in over two dozen publications including Time, Forbes, Fortune, Mashable, and TechCrunch. He's a TEDx speaker, the founder of the global marketing agency MWI, a skater, father, and husband, and lives on a horse farm in Boston. Learn more at JoshSteimle.com.

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