SIGN UP TO KNOW WHEN WE RELEASE NEW EPISODES!

The Published Author Podcast

AUTHOR CHRIS VOSS TELLS HOW HE WROTE BESTSELLER NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE

A former kidnapping negotiator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the ideal person to write a book on negotiating. After all, what could be more challenging than negotiating the life of a hostage?

Chris Voss did just that, and used his many years of experience in international crises and high-stakes negotiations to launch Black Swan Consulting and publish Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, a Wall Street Journal bestseller, with almost 20,000 five-star reviews on Amazon!

In this interview with Published Author host Josh Steimle, Chris discusses how he worked with one of the foremost ghostwriters, Tahl Raz, to write his book. He also explores how he marketed it.

Chris was the case agent on such cases as TERRSTOP (the Blind Sheikh Case – Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman), the TWA Flight 800 catastrophe and negotiated the surrender of the first hostage taker to give up in the Chase Manhattan bank robbery hostage taking. During Chris’s 24-year tenure in the FBI, he was trained in the art of negotiation by not only the FBI but Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Josh Steimle:

Welcome to the Published Author Podcast. I'm Josh Steimle. I'm here with Chris Voss author of Never Split The Difference, one of my favorite books, I've read it twice. And I should probably read it a third time now. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Voss:

Thanks, Josh. Happy to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.

Josh Steimle:

So today we're going to get Chris talking about the story behind the book and how it got written and how it's helped him to grow his business. But before we dive into that, Chris, for those of the listeners who may not know you out there, can you give us a brief introduction to you and your career before you wrote the book?

Chris Voss:

Sure. I was an FBI agent, was the FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, probably between domestic U.S. and international kidnappings, worked about 150 cases worldwide. Just before I left, the FBI started getting involved with Harvard program on negotiation in law school, you know, sharing ideas on negotiation strategies. We decided we were pretty much doing the same thing. Right after I left the FBI, I was lucky enough to teach negotiation, being the teaching staff at Harvard Law School. And then right after that, I started teaching business negotiation, these ideas from hostage negotiation for business and personal life. First I taught at Georgetown University and their MBA program then at USC. About five years ago, published Never Split The Difference book on negotiating for everybody. You know, based on emotional intelligence of hostage negotiators, a Black Swan method is based on that stuff I learned back then. And we've evolved it and you know, I got a business now and the Black Swan group teaches and coaches negotiation for and business and casing personal life.

Josh Steimle:

So what inspired you to become an FBI agent? Was that something you wanted to do when you were a kid or how did your path lead to that?

Chris Voss:

I got inspired to go into law enforcement when I was about 16 years old. Originally, I just wanted to be a police officer. Saw a movie, the super cops, about two cops in New York City. True story was really inspired by their creativity and how much good they did you know, and their independence, I didn't realize that at the time. They were very much Mavericks. And I just found a story inspirational. And so then I became a police officer in Kansas City, Missouri. And then my father encouraged me to go federal, you know, he had, he paid for a four year college degree and I went and got a job that didn't require a college degree. So, you know, he wanted me to, you know, continue to improve and aspire and climb the ladder, so to speak. And so he thought federal law enforcement would be that gig and ended up applying for the FBI. Join there, was originally on a SWAT team, with the FBI and then transitioned to the hostage negotiation and loved it, just loved it. And it ended up building my life around it.

Josh Steimle:

So how much is working for the FBI? I mean, your book, you have some crazy stories in there and things that you were involved with, but how much of FBI life is like what we see in the movies, the Hollywood version? And if it's not like that, what's it really like?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, well, most of what you see in the movies is kind of an aggregation of a lot of different lives occasionally, like it would depend upon the movie that you were looking at. Whether it be for the FBI, whether it be as a hostage negotiator, most of hostage negotiation sounds pretty inaccurate, pretty overblown. But FBI is good stuff. I mean, you get a I get to do some interesting things. I worked on terrorism, I worked on surveillance, I followed people around in New York City. You know, we arrested bad guys, didn't get any shootouts, was prepared to and came very close number of times, but the FBI tends to be pretty organized. And you know, we don't encourage shootouts, which means we want to out man and I've gotten the bad guys so that they see that and they give up peacefully. So you know, arrested a lot of organized crime people with terrorists, literally, and had a great career travel pretty much all over the world.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. So at what point did you say I want to write this book? What was the original inspiration for it?

Chris Voss:

Oh, yeah. And that's kind of a critical issue, especially for entrepreneurs. Like when I got out of the FBI I went back to school, you know, worked on a master's degree in a special program for older students at Harvard. It's called a mid career program and you could get in based on resume, you know, those of us that don't test well, you know that I'm not going to knock the lights out of any test to get into a master's program. But a bunch of us had good resumes in that School of Government if you're in public service, and you wanted to continue to support public service, you could apply. And so I got in with a bunch of talented people that I was really impressed to be around and one guy particularly said, you got to write a book, if you're going to have a business, you got to write a book. It doesn't even have to be good. You just got to get a book out. And I thought, alright, so there's certain amount of sense that, but I want to make sure that it's a pretty good book, we, you know, my team, principally myself, and Brandon, who's the president of my company. Again, for entrepreneurs, you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go with a team. You have to have a team. And it's really been Brandon and I from the beginning as trusted coworkers. And he taught with me Georgetown, at USC, even at Harvard. And we want to make sure we had a system and then we just didn't want to put a book out there. Not a bad idea to put a book out. One security guy that I spoke to in DC when I was there before the book came out. He self published a book and paid to put it in Hudson bookseller. You know that's a phenomenal place to put your book. And he told me, he said, look, if I didn't know how much business I was gonna get this the best marketing I ever did, just getting it in Hudson bookseller business people walk through, guy picked it up in a train station, write it on the train, and hired him. So you know, there's a lot to just getting a book out, showing what your expertise is. We didn't quite want to pull that trigger. We waited a few years felt like we had the system down end to end, taught and refined it. The way we taught it in the MBA program, I made my students apply it in their real life. A lot of negotiation courses you know, at Harvard, we did all simulated negotiations. And then we wrote about the simulations. And there's a lot of shortcomings to that. So I thought, well, you know, I'm going to make them do it in real life, and then write about it. So we and the book is full of real life examples from my students in the different MBA programs, doing phenomenal stuff on their jobs, you know, whether or not they were government contractor, or whether they were on Wall Street. So then, when we had a lot of real life actual examples, we had the system we went out, we found Tahl Raz, who is a genius writer. I mean, read any business book. Now he's a business writer, I wouldn't hire him to write a children's book. But as far as business books go, probably the best that ever was. And we got, go ahead I am sorry.

Josh Steimle:

Tell us a little bit more about that. What made you feel like I need to go hire somebody to help me write this book versus just writing it myself?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, great question. From hostage negotiation I had learned, you know, hostage negotiation looks easy. And it is you got to study it. It's like any skill, you got a deep dive. So I'm like, I'm not a writer. I'm a teacher. I'm a talker. I fancy myself a thinker. You know, Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach said you're a simplifier. You know, you see how to explain things clearly. And my former boss, Gary Noesner one of the most entertaining people I've ever met my life. He wrote his own book Stalling For Time. Now his book is good. And Gary is great. And his book is entertaining as it is, is nowhere near as entertaining as he is in person, you know. It is the first story in his books about a place called Sperry Ville. And I've heard Gary tell the story of Sperry Ville in person and he's had me on the edge of my seat every time. And I know how it ends, and he still has me on the edge of my seat when he tells a story. And when he wrote it. It was good, but nowhere near as good as he is in person. So I thought, alright, I gotta get a great writer. And the cliche advice is go to the bookstore, find the book that you love, that you want to emulate and hire that guy. And I had been blown away with the book. Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi book on networking that Tahl wrote, loved reading, eminently readable and I used to carry that Never Eat Alone around with me with the different. I fired four writers in total on a journey. And I'd hand him Never Eat Alone and I'd say write this book. This is brilliantly structured. It's digestible. It's readable. Everything about the structure is magnificent, which is true. Tahl created the structure. I didn't realize how smart a researcher he was, in addition, because he captures the author's voice. And finally, you know, I couldn't find somebody that could emulate Tahl's writing style. I thought, well answer his obvious. I went straight to Tahl and we made the deal.

Josh Steimle:

Now, an established ghostwriter, like that is not exactly affordable for many entrepreneurs out there. And maybe you can't share exactly what you paid. But I'm guessing that it was probably north of six figures to get Tahl's assistance on this book.

Chris Voss:

Yeah.

Josh Steimle:

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who might be looking to hire a ghostwriter but they're not quite in that market to be able to hire somebody like Tahl?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, that's a scary thing. Because you're, that's exactly right. Tahl's fee was out of my range. Now, like, I could have paid his fee, he wanted to guarantee we sat down, didn't have any money back then. Well, you know, I had savings, but the business wasn't built.

Josh Steimle:

Okay.

Chris Voss:

He said, look, you know, I'd love to do this as a percentage collaboration, you know, I think it's interesting is help. But I got, you know, I got a wife, and kids, like, I'm getting X dollars, for these books, that's what I'm getting. If I take you on straight percentage, and that doesn't come through, I mean, he's going to kill me. I got a family. And we got the book deal. And then I went back and hired him. Because the book deal made it available. Now he has since told me, you know, there is some brilliant writers out there that just do proposals. And if I had it to do over, I hired, you know, a superstar just to do the proposal. Somebody who did business books, and then and I could have afforded that. It would have been, it scared me, I could have afforded it. If you think of two different guys, one guy to give you your half million dollar deal. So that you can then turn around and get the guy that you want. And Tahl has actually done that a couple of times. Tahl would actually rather write the book, he wouldn't really want to do the proposal and by accident, that's how we got him. I had somebody else had done the proposal, and we got a great deal so that we could afford Tahl.

Josh Steimle:

So you did have somebody write your book proposal then?

Chris Voss:

I did. My original vision was that this guy was going to do both. And it didn't work out that way. It would have cost me exactly the same amount of money and not now if I was struggling and starting out, I'd say look, scraped together your dollars, the book deal is going to be worth it. If you get to a business writer to do the proposal, get the deal and then turn around and get the star. You know, if you don't, if you're doing a business book, I'm here to tell you, you're not going to find anybody better than Tahl Raz.

Josh Steimle:

So you hired somebody to write the book proposal. You thought they would write the book too, with that book proposal, then did you go straight to publishers? Or did you find a literary agent who then helped you get the deal? How did the deal come about?

Chris Voss:

I'd already had the agent Steve Ross. I've been to a number of agents and nearly every several agents said this book and never saw. There's no appetite for another negotiation book, the markets flooded. I mean, sometimes you wonder why people take mix why would you take a meeting to just you know, bad mouth somebody's idea. And it happens like it, you know, shot the TV show a few times or sitting with a network in New York, we spent a lot of money to be there and we sit down with these bozos and a guy starts to tell me what allows you to do a TV show and I'm thinking like, how do you make a living spending your time not doing things? And then the agent, couple agents I we talked to like now you know, this book will never sell, nobody would be interested in it. And I'm thinking like, time is money. Why are you wasting your time? So then I stumbled over Steve Ross. Steve had agented another book business book by a guy named Joe Navarro [ph] what everybody is telling you Joe's a profiler wrote a phenomenal body language book. And that's how I ended up in Steve's office and and Steve said, look, I don't know how was gonna do domestically. I don't know what kind of appetite there is. But internationally, they love anything that have got FBI on it. So I know I can sell the heck out of this international, which, by the way he did, and we, you know, we went 36 countries. So he agreed. He was the first guy that had any sort of positive remarks. We pulled together the book proposal. Now he didn't expect it to be a big deal either and the publishers were nuts. Like he almost panicked. We had so many publishers coming after him and I'm a keep my word guy. And he called, he was in New York, I was in DC. He says, look, man, you got to come up, you got to spend two weeks in New York, there's so many publishers want this book. We got to make the rounds, we got to talk to everybody. I said, Steve, I got obligations over the next two months. And I keep my word. I got one day, I think he had a heart attack. He's like, alright, well, we'll do an auction. You come up and one day, I'm going to stack you meetings in the end. We're going to start at seven o'clock in the morning, we'll go to seven o'clock at night. You better get a good night's sleep the night before, because I'm going to work you hard while we talk to the publishers. And I'm like, cool. Because one of our core values, one of my core values is you will not outwork. You may be smarter than me. You may have better friends than me. You may be more well connected than me. You're not going to outwork me. And I'll prove it to you. So, you know, Steve telling me this, I'm like, cool, I could do this. I'll outwork anybody on the planet. And, you know, we met up with the publishers and he cut the deal on the auction, he says, we got to strike while the iron is hot. We actually ran the auction just before Halloween, on a Thursday and a Friday. If you're familiar with New York and literary world, they're partying on Halloween. Halloween is probably the biggest party night of the year in the United States. I don't know about globally. But you know, when I was a police officer, more people got locked out for drunk driving on Halloween than on New Year's Eve. I mean, Halloween is party time especially in New York, and all these publishers, like we got a Halloween party. We want to dress up, we want to have the office party. It seems like I don't care as the day the auction is. And it went really well and we got the deal. And the book has done. The agents were wrong, and the publishers are right. And there's a massive appetite for a good negotiation book.

Josh Steimle:

So it's interesting how things change there. I mean, you had all these people telling you there may not be any appetite for this, or there is no appetite for this. But the publishers got it. And they appreciated it and they thought it was going to be a big deal. Why do you think they got it but the other people didn't?

Chris Voss:

You know, that's actually a great question. I have no idea. You know, what, I've different mindset. Yeah, you know, I see the literary world and agents, you know, it's another aspect of the entertainment business, and the number of people in the entertainment business that take meetings to prove to you that they're smarter than you by telling you that your idea is a stupid idea. I mean, I believe that human nature is pretty universal thing in it and the laws of human nature. I mean, we call them laws of negotiation gravity when we're teaching a Black Swan methods, stuff that just utterly true no matter what. I like to think that people in the entertainment world and agents in particular, are not dumber than the rest of the planet for taking meetings constantly with the intention of shooting down an idea or taking a meeting with the intention of not moving forward on the project. I've been stunned at the number of meetings that I've been in the entertainment world where they want to give you ideas, but they have no intention of doing business with you, which is an utter waste of time. I don't know how that mindset get started. People convince proven to themselves that they're smart by shooting down other people's ideas. But it's just to the point now where there's a lot of things I don't even take, because we'll get a read in advance. It's going to be a waste of time, and we're like now no, thanks, not going to talk. And the agents are in that mindset. I mean, many agents are in that mindset.

Josh Steimle:

So ultimately, you went with Harper Collins business, [Inaudible] [00:19:47] and there are different factors that go into choosing a publisher to work with when you're in this situation where they're bidding for your project. Obviously, money is part of that. But what were some of the other things that influenced your decision to choose Harper?

Chris Voss:

Well, it was more what influenced that decision to outbid everybody else because we'd met with their reps [Inaudible] [00:20:10] and hit it off. I was really impressed with her when we met. And on the strength of that meeting, I turned around when the bidding got started. And as Steve, that exact question that you're posing to me, how do we decide. And he said, what you're going to find out is who puts in the most money is going to be the most committed. And then Steve and [Inaudible] [00:20:38] on a follow on [Inaudible] [00:20:40] on the side, and especially Tahl took me off to the side and said, look, you got to hustle this books. Do not rely on anybody else. Don't rely on a publisher, don't rely on the agent. He said, you need to get out there and put the hammer down for at least a year maybe two. And I remember hearing that the chicken soup for the soul guys. You know, they made it a point on their first book to talk to somebody every day. It didn't, you know, I don't know, maybe they willing to talk to a collection of homeless people, but they were going to talk to somebody every day. So what I'd heard about those guys, and then also the advice from Tahl again, this is up my alley. You want me to work hard on this you got it. Two years ago I will give you ten. And to this day, we have never stopped hustling on the book. I'm not sure that I talked to somebody every day. But I would bet that I do something podcast, talk to somebody just darn close to an average of one a day, we just, we have never let up and you know, there's been a couple of critical turning points also on that journey that made a big difference. But it was like, look, don't rely on anybody else. You make sure you lead the charge.

Josh Steimle:

So now when you got the book deal, the book wasn't written yet. Right? You had the proposal, you had the general idea. How much of it was fleshed out or structured or outlined?

Chris Voss:

You know, we almost threw out the entire structure previously and that was a cool thing about Tahl because, you know, we've done a number of other projects in a previous project, Tahl is an artist. And he'd already been proven to write business books. So you know, Brandon and I sit down with Tahl for basically for 36 hours. He comes down to DC stays at Brandon's house. And he brings two tape recorders. And he just downloads everything out of both our brains that he can for pretty much, you know, 36 solid hours, he doesn't let up. And then he goes home. And we don't hear from him again. But we got a massive amount of material that we've dumped on him. We must have given him videos of 50 classes that we taught plus he did a massive amount of research. You know, I could tell when he'd read a negotiation book because he asked questions. For example on stuff from Jim Camp, he started asking me stuff with start with knowing like, I know this stuff backwards and forwards. I'm like, cool, you're reading the right books. And then he delivered the middle of the book. Like I'm like, we get hit, the first chapters I get to review or like five, six and seven of a 10 chapter book and I'm thinking like, okay, I don't know how you are starting in the middle. And then he wrote the next to the last he wrote the last chapter next to last and he wrote the first chapter last. And that was his process. But he knew he also knew, like the first chapter sells a book at last. It's just so obvious, but we haven't I haven't worked with anybody since followed that I mean, we've got a real estate book in progress. Now that Tahl is not involved in and we've worked with, gone through several writers there and every single one of them wants to outline the 10 chapters and wants to read that 10 chapters in order which is a first chapter first. Tahl is such an artist that you know, came through and we just sat back and waited. Like after the interview, I waited three months, then suddenly I get an email and as is this work of art which took some editing on my part. You know, I had I own every word in that book and which is another thing he told me he said like you can't just sit back and take what I write. You're going to have to own and know every word in this book and be accountable for it. And so, you know, but minimal editing on my part because he got.

Josh Steimle:

So this three months period was this after the book deal then that he started working on that right?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, we got the book deal. About two or three weeks later, we had a conference call, the publisher call me Brandon and Steve. It's kind of interesting because at that point in time, the publisher didn't know that my son was involved. It was my name on a contract. That was pretty cool because we all sign in on a phone in different locations. I go Chris Voss, [Inaudible] [00:25:46] Tahl Raz, Brandon [Inaudible] [00:25:48]. And Hollis gets on the phone and she says, just so I know, what's Brandon [Inaudible] [00:25:55] doing on the phone. And I go dead silent, because I want to hear what Tahl was going to say. In Tahl goes having Brandon around, is having another Chris involved. And Hollis is like, cool. And then we're off to the races. So Tahl comes, you know, Tahl wants to know that we're going to hit our time marks. She hasn't spoken to Tahl yet. She knows of him because it dude's reputation of publishing world a huge. Publishers love it when Tahl Raz is involved because everything he touches is a best seller. And you know, you're going to make a timeframe. How do you feel about this? He tell us like, yeah, you know, he wanted a year, we gave him 10 months. And he says, yeah, but I can hit these marks. And we did the interview, he delivered, you know, on schedule, the middle part of the book, when he delivered the middle part of the book, we're about a third of the way into it. So I'm optimistic that this is going to happen, you know, it's tight. It's the best writing I've seen. He's a fourth writer. And when I've seen his work product, it's just better than anything anybody else has delivered. Minimal revisions, you know. Other guys had massive revisions. And so then I'm like, okay, well, your work product is this good. You know, I don't care if you write it backwards and upside down. It's just good. And so then, you know, we got a couple more chapters. And finally, we got the tail end and we finished well ahead of schedule.

Josh Steimle:

Okay, so total time from the time you got the deal until the manuscript was submitted to the publisher about how much time was that?

Chris Voss:

It's about 10 months.

Josh Steimle:

Okay, so you did hit that target. So then how much longer after you submitted it to the publisher until it actually was in your hands as a physical book?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, well, the publisher told us they said they want you know that, we want to know that we have a finished product six months before launch. So we're not going to guarantee you a launch date until we not only do we have the product, but it's been edited. You know, everybody's been through the editing process, and we were ready to go to print. And that probably took, that may have taken another month because, you know they did they did their own run through they had a couple questions the book, because I was a retired FBI agent had to pass through the FBI's pre-publication review, which I expected that to be painful. And it was not, you know, the turnaround time was great to get the bureau that I worked with, was phenomenal. They had a couple of minor glitches stuff that I had to fix. And tiny, I expected, but I'd done my homework in advance. So I'd anticipated and already handle headed off all the problems. So that I went smooth, and is probably from the time we get to the manuscript, to the time that they were ready to pull the trigger to begin the printing process was probably about a month I would guess. And then at that point in time, it's just them energizing their distribution network, and I said, we need six months for this. You know, because we can't energize the distribution network if we can't guarantee product to put in their hand on a certain date. Then we were making a call on a target date. You know, they were leaning in the direction of springtime, you know, late spring, and we ended up launching in May.

Josh Steimle:

All right. So the book launch is in May. What were your expectations for what would happen immediately after the book went live or was released and how did that match up with reality?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, you know, I don't know that I had a lot of expectations. So we had a traditional publicist. And I ended up being, you know, they were okay. They did a couple of good things. You know, everybody that I know that's doing well in books you know, they really are standing up their own network as much as they possibly can. You know, the publicist I was a complete unknown at that point in time and they did a nice job getting some placement in some magazine and that was helpful. We were trying to blow out the pre-orders so that on day of launch, ideally we could hit some kind of bestseller list. The biggest boost overall has been Amazon. Amazon is just just a phenomenal partner you know. They know that is the heart of a hustle for you the more money everybody makes, you know. If you were to criticize Amazon I don't know what you would criticize them for. But I mean like they will do whatever they can on the day your book launches to try to categorize you number one as something like you know this book over here Ego, Authority, Failure, which Derek Gaunt we sponsored Derek. Derek's on my team, hostage negotiator wrote a leadership book based on our same principles. Now he went, we did total self published route with Derek. He wrote it, we went through a completely other process, any other process with him. His process, they put them on Amazon. And Amazon found a way to put him in categories of best seller in this category on day one. So am Amazon is a phenomenal part to traditional publicist got us in a couple of magazines, that was somewhat helpful. They got us on TV day of launch on Fox. That ended up being massive. The only time that you can really get on TV for your book is the day it launches, and any decent publicist will pull that off for you. Nearly every publicist wants to become independent. They want to six month deal the hustle on your behalf. Well, we found almost all of them do is they're going to knock themselves out for you the first month, and then they got to coach for the rest of the time. And because I haven't learned that the hard way, we went back and I engaged another publishers, and I said, I will pay for a month. And they said, where we want to be, we want to six months. I'm like, no, and, you know, one of our negotiation techniques is a no oriented question. Instead of yes would you like to do this? are you against doing this? And I said to them, so you're telling me that you're against allowing me to hire you for months? Because I'm not going to hire you for six, you refuse to allow me to hire you for a month? And they go, no, no, no, we're not against that. We're not going to refuse that. And so we cut the deal for a month. And it's explicitly to get me into the media and TV. And it was hard for them. Because it wasn't launch. And thank God I only hired him for a month because it's harder for them if it's not your opening day. How do they interest you know, every media outlet wants you on opening day, if they can't tie you clearly into a story any of the time, they really don't want you because it's not interesting to them. And this publicist really struggled with that we find out for them for you know, TV and media appearances. Thank God, I didn't hire these guys for six months, because they had trouble delivering for the first month and they were working our tail off.

Josh Steimle:

So then, what was the reception like? I mean, it's become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. It's been on other bestseller lists. But did that happen immediately? Did it grow over time? What was the path to that bestseller status?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, doing a hiring the right publicist to put us on podcast. So opening day blasted out really good, because the two different Fox appearances one on Fox News, one on Fox Business, bang it. I mean, we were through the roof, we made top 10 Amazon, which is kind of arguably top 10 in the world, all categories, because Amazon is the biggest marketplace. And then it just started falling off a cliff after that. It did not stand. Like Tahl said, ideally, you're going to be in the top 100 for the first month. And we fell out of the top 100 like within a week. Like, oh god, you know, what are we going to do and so then I was taking any podcast I could get and we were kind of sustaining it, because, you know, the book had been out that long. And at that point in time it hadn't made any bestseller list, you know. Top 10 on Amazon one day is not good enough to make any bestseller list. But we continue to scrap and hustle and talk to anybody homeless people, you know, I didn't care people in the airport, you know, I didn't care wherever we could. I mean doing everything possible. Every bookstore went by, I went in and signed copies, I'd signed two copies, sign everything I could get my hands on. And so the first month, we were lucky enough to get into as some categories national bestseller. And I don't even remember, you know, what book list it was, it was a Wall Street Journal, was a New York Times by any means. But it was a national bestseller. So, you know, we, you know, it might have been Jack and Jill children's books. You know I didn't know what it was, it didn't matter. But it was legitimately our category where we could put that out there. So now we got a little interest. But then a real key point was I went to Ryan Holiday, and his company [Inaudible] [00:36:16]. Ryan has written a whole bunch of books. And he also has not only written books, but he also has a book promotion company and a book publishing company. And I'd heard of Ryan, I didn't know him personally at the time, this ended up being the best money I ever spent. Ryan says, alright, so probably what you really need is you need good placement on a high level podcast. You're going to find that people have a tendency to put you on their podcast if somebody else in their categories already had you on as an interview. So you know, I got some connections, I can put you at a good level. And he gets me out of Lewis Howes. Lewis Howes is a great guy, and a talented interviewer. And it's really invisible because you know, you got to watch several of Lewis's interviews to really understand how good he is at talking to people and bringing out the best in people. And he does the interview. He's an interesting, decent human being. Plus he does it with video. And then he's smart enough, he hustles the heck out of himself because it's in his interest. And nailed the Lewis Howes podcast and bang. Now we're hitting podcasts they're kind of the same tier as Lewis Howes and then the book sales are picking up. Now the thing that was cool about Ryan was, he said, this is what I'm going to charge. And you're going to hire me for a month. So Ryan did not want to become a dependent. He wanted to work for a month, he knew that if he could provide value, he could do it in a month. And that was all he needed to do, get us launched in the stratosphere and not continue as a dependent. Unlike all the other podcasts or publicists, who want to be dependent for at least six months so they could coast. I've found this to be universal issue. Anybody that wants to go on a retainer for six months or more they want to coast. They want to knock themselves out for a month in any want to chill for five. And Ryan didn't want that. Not so much so that when I came back to Ryan a year later, because I'm thinking like God, so a year ago, Ryan gave us a phenomenal boost. What can you do now? And I went back to Ryan and I said that same thing. I said, look, man, I mean, what you did the shot neon we gave us a year ago was phenomenal. Let's do it again. And Ryan said, no I did my thing for you. You could hire me for a month. I could charge the amount of money again for a month. And it wouldn't do you any good. I already did my thing. I'm not going to take your money. And I was like wow. Like you are so rare. You only going to take money if you can actually help somebody. And to this day, I mean, you know, we've crossed paths occasionally. We've spoken at a couple conferences. I got a couple of mutual friends that he has much more interaction with my mutual friends. But I got so much regard for this guy. Because he delivers value. It doesn't work for you.

Josh Steimle:

That's great. So you got on these podcasts and then the book sales started climbing. How long did it take until you got on to the Wall Street Journal bestseller list because that's a serious achievement to get on that list?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, it was pretty cool. We didn't get on that list till after the first year. I mean, you know, sometimes you just got to wait for the stars to line up. And you know, and every now and then it really odd waste stars are going to line up. And so we just continue to hustle. The book sales was solid. We started, you know, I heard little other hints here and there from people about how to hustle the book. You know there's a phrase, never take advice from somebody who wouldn't trade places with or, you know, similar to that, you know, never take direction from somebody who hasn't been where you're going. Another friend of mine, Eric Barker wrote a book called Barking Up The Wrong Tree, which I highly recommend. It's about actual success in life, it's regular guy, he doesn't care what it takes to be successful, but he's going to do the research on what it takes to be successful. And he's going to tell you, that's what the book is about. He's got a blog that I read all the time by the same name Barking Up The Wrong Tree, when I'm sitting with Eric in LA one time, and he says, look, this is what I do on a regular basis, on the postings that I do. This is how I structure my blog so that which affects my book sales. Like one thing, Eric said that it was critical to me. He says like, first of all, people are going to criticize you. For every every troll, every critic, you got at least 10 fans. So take every critic as a sign of success. And if you're not getting criticized, you're not working hard enough, you're not doing well, you should be scared if you're not getting criticized. He says I'll give you a case in point. In my blog, the very first thing in each one of my blogs is a link to buy my book. He says I've gotten a massive amount of criticism from the trolls for putting that first out, why are you putting it here. You're interfering with me reading your blog, you know, it's disruptive. You know, just critical stuff. He says every time that I pull that out of that position, my book sales drop and when I leave it in that position, which people complain about, my book sales are always higher. And I'm like, wow, cool. You know, don't be gun shy of the troll. If you're being criticized is a pretty good chance. It's an indicator, you're on the right track. You want to live a life where nobody's throwing rocks at you. You are not living in a real world, especially in today's social media, where the media and the social media specialize in finding people throw rocks at you to try to intimidate you out of doing what is in your best interest. And Eric was one of the first people that pointed that out to me. I pointed out to a number of entrepreneurs. You know, I've spoken to people. Carolyn Rim is a phenomenal motivational speaker out of Philadelphia. She was getting some vicious criticism on Facebook once. And I emailed there. And I said, thank God, you are getting criticize. You know, for every critic, you get 10 people to love you, if you haven't got, being criticized is the sign of success. And she was kind of like, because she's taking it personally. I mean, getting some vicious, vicious personal criticism. People trying to tear it down, and we're not on her side anyway. But you can listen to these trolls. And it distracts you from the fact that you're actually doing the right thing.

Josh Steimle:

So fast forward to today. It's been about five years since the book came out. How have sales gone over that five year period? Have there been ups and downs? Has it consistently sold more? Has it turned into one of those perennial sellers like Ryan Holiday talks about?

Chris Voss:

Well, it's a perennial because you know, we're relentless. The perennial nature is how relentless like we are. Now there have been a couple of ups and downs, it spiked into the top 10 on Amazon, two separate times after the old bang and I like. What I tried to duplicate and you know, both were complete [Inaudible] [00:44:02] Like I get an opportunity to speak at the global leadership summit in Chicago, which is affiliated with a church. It's supported by churches. It's non-denominational and spiritual conference. And my daughter in law, [Inaudible] [00:44:20] cuts deal. And I got no idea what I'm stepping into at the time. It's there, it's in an auditorium of 7,000 people, and in simulcast to 100,000 people. And then they repackage the simulcast. They put it all over the world. I got no idea I'm walking into a venue this big. And, you know, we've gone back and forth with them. They've been very supportive. You know, they were wonderful and and they were dealing with a troll of their own at the time. And when I got the gig a friend of mine, Sheila Heen wrote a great book called difficult conversations. She said, all right, so I recommend that you do this. And know that they have a critic out there, who has criticized them over some stuff that may have been legitimate. They made their adjustments and tried to make peace with this person, because they fixed you know, they corrected all their sins, if you will. And this person, this troll has so define themselves as being a critic, they're unwilling to stop criticizing. So, you know, there's nothing wrong with these people. They are good people. And you're going to take some heat. And because this person is so define themselves as being a critic, they can't be a decent person. So I'm like, cool, you know, I'm willing to take heat with the right people, especially if they've made whatever adjustments they need to make. So I walk in, and these are phenomenal people. This conference is phenomenal. And I'm looking at book sales that day, the numbers climb, and I'm like, what's going on here. So that was a delight. And it's it spiked one other time, when I did [Inaudible] [00:46:07] asked me anything because the stars happen to line up, you know. I did Read It subsequently, and didn't get the same results. So, you know, the bottom line is like keep hustling, keep doing the right thing, you know, don't get deterred if you try something, and it has no impact, because I did a Read It once, and it spiked into the top 10. And I did it again, a year later, and it was no impact. And you know, because we've refused to stop hustling, that it is remained, it's remained steadily. You know, I checked the numbers every day. And I checked our, you know, where we are in relationship to other books, because I'm trying to get a feel for where we are. And we're hovering about the rank number 200 these days. You know, it's got as low as 3000. But we're, staying in a ballpark of about 200 to 500 because we just don't give up.

Josh Steimle:

That's phenomenal. Now, the $20 million question here is, how has this helped your business to grow? What impact has it had on Black Swan group?

Chris Voss:

No better marketing tool. None. No better marketing tool. And way back to the security guy that I was talking about that self published a book and put it in Hudson books. He said, this is the best marketing money I've ever spent ever. And, you know, I get another guy that he does marketing on a much smaller scale in LA. And he put out a self published book. And it's you think, is a business owner, if you're a consultant with expertise that like look I'm a same dude before this book. You know, but your clients, they want to see that you got a book. I mean, it's the best business card there is. business cards are useless. Hand somebody's your book. I mean, there's nothing as a consultant, there's nothing that touches a Tahl has written books with CEOs and you know, they dumped a lot of money into hiring Tahl to write the book. And it is put those CEOs on the map in ways that nothing else would have. So there you know, the guys way back when before and before I would write a book, who told me get a book out, no matter what you do, get a book out. They were right. It's also an indicator a book project is a serious project in the end. If you can get a book out, you've proven that you have an amount of expertise in and around the area you're trying to get hired for. So there is no substitute for it.

Josh Steimle:

So one last question I've been wanting to ask was your book really makes good use of stories the way that you weave your stories into the practical content. Was that a discussion that you had with Tahl? Was that an idea Tahl had or how did it happen that way that you decided to weave your stories into the book and the way that it happened?

Chris Voss:

Tahl really pick the stories. I mean, we expose tall to a massive amount of information. And you know, we let him choose. Now we wanted, I'd seen previously a great way to illustrate a point and I learned a lot but also I took some speaker training from the National Speakers Association, to be a keynote speaker, and the training that they gave me actually is how we created the chapter that sold the book. And really the illustration was on a single given point to get people to get it, you needed to illustrate it three ways, you needed two or three stories. So our original design was, for example, the effectiveness of summarizing somebody's perspective in getting it, that's right out of the person, which is a game changing moment. I mean, just absolute game changing moment. So we tell a hostage negotiation story, where it changed everything, getting a terrorist to say that's right. Then a business negotiation story where it's not me which one of my students from Georgetown or USC, where they get it, that's right. And the other side gives them the deal. As soon as they say that's right. And then a personal story, where I get a that's right out of my son, Brandon, and it changes his behavior. So we knew that basic structure required stories, and probably several stories to illustrate the same point. So I already knew I had that. And that basically, is the structure of the book, where we illustrate everything. And then Tahl being both the technical genius and the artist then we relied upon Tahl to pick the best stories. There were a number of them that I recommended, you know. We had an organized. I had over 200 stories. We narrowed it down to 30 business, school students stories in specific categories. I categorize them in advance. And then Tahl as the artist picked out the most compelling ones.

Josh Steimle:

Cool. Well, Chris Voss, thank you so much for being with us here today. Once again, Chris Voss, author of the best selling book Never Split The Difference. If people want to reach out and connect with you, find more out more about you and the Black Swan group, where is the best place for them to go?

Chris Voss:

Yeah, but you know, the best way to learn a Black Swan method for us to help you to for the Black Swan group to meet you where you are, is to subscribe to our newsletter, which is complimentary. But better than that, it's actionable. Email will come to your email Tuesday morning, you know, get Monday behind you, get ready to get down to business on Tuesday. Wherever you are in the world, you get a Tuesday morning early, send a text message, text to sign up function which only works in the United States. But the number is 33-777 the number you're texting to is 33-777 to learn to Black Swan methods, send the message Black Swan method, three words, spaces between each word to that number. You get an email back asking a text back asking for your email. The newsletter takes you to the website. It's a gateway to everything. Website happens to be blackswanltd.com. Newsletters is a gateway to everything we have. We got a lot of free material. So you get your feet on the to get you to the ready to go to the more advanced levels with us. We'll meet you where you are.

Josh Steimle:

Perfect. Thanks so much, Chris, for being with us here on the show today.

Chris Voss:

It was my pleasure.

CONTACT US

Know someone who would be a great guest for the Published Author Podcast? Have a question or suggestion? We'd love to hear from you!

ABOUT PUBLISHED AUTHOR

At Published Author we offer online courses, mastermind groups, book coaching, and ghostwriting services to help entrepreneurs craft a nonfiction book they can leverage to grow their business.

LEARN MORE

© 2021 7 Systems, LLC. All Rights Reserved