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May 3, 2018

Our guest on this week’s Just the Tips is a man who spent 14 years in investigative and tactical policing, but that’s not the most interesting thing about him. He also went on to start a company that eventually sold for eight figures, but that is not the most interesting thing about him. He also started an international supply company that did $34 million in two years and, you guessed it, that’s not even the most interesting thing about him. Our guest Ken Dunn has done a lot and lived a full life, but what’s fascinating about him is that he’s now turned his attention to reading and writing, not only helping people write books, but helping create the next generation of readers. He’s the founder of, one of the leading online retailers for books and a man who has helped dozens of authors finish their books. This is an episode that’s going to surprise you, and not just because it’s the first one that ends with Dean and me in a duel.

The publishing roller coaster

My first question to Ken, because he’s written so many books and been neck deep in the publishing industry for nearly two decades, is how things have changed. And he had some pretty surprising insights to share. He talked about how Amazon first started to grow market share in the early aughties, and how that really brought credence and credibility to self-publishing. And what’s really fascinating is that ebooks, while the grew quickly to grab the largest market share in 2011, that was their peak, and since audiobooks have really become the preferred method of reading (with print books holding steady). Ken knows this business inside and out, and if you’re an entrepreneur looking to get your book out there, you have to listen to this episode.

Helping people produce non-shitty books

When Ken started in the publishing industry, one disturbing trend stood out to him: the sheer number of shitty books. He told us that 50% of authors who write books, don’t even read books, so they don’t know whether they’re producing good work or not. And as he says, his heart went out to entrepreneurs who wanted to write books because they’re so vital to getting one’s name out there, to repurposing the content for courses or whatever else you’re doing to market yourself or your company. But the self-publishing game was full of companies that will take your money and happily let you publish a crappy book.

The mistakes every entrepreneur makes

Ken has a fascinating approach to writing that may sound counterintuitive if you’ve never written a book before. As he says, most first-time writers have stories about themselves they want to tell, their own rags to riches stories. But as Ken says, it’s about the reader’s journey, not the author’s, and so the book has to address the reader where they are now, and show them the way to get to where the author is. They published just under 500 books using this system now, and it’s really a revolutionary way of looking at business books, even if it seems so simple, and you have to hear him walk through it in detail on this week’s episode of Just the Tips.

Write and read more

Ken has a program where a new author can write a book in 30 days, using up just 20 minutes a day. But he also has a great system for reading more, vital to anyone who wants to not only improve as a writer, but drive change in their business. Two quick tips include reading as soon as he wakes up for just ten minutes before getting out of bed, and always having the next book ready, so you don’t lag, trying to figure out what to read next. Ken is a trove of information about writing, publishing and everything you could possibly want to know about books, and it was so generous of him to be here on this week’s episode of Just the Tips.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:31] How publishing has changed
  • [8:53] Writing non-shitty books
  • [12:30] How to write a good book
  • [21:15] Improve your reading habits
  • [26:55] Ken’s free book for authors
  • [33:51] James throws down the gauntlet

Resources & People Mentioned

Music for “Just The Tips” is titled, “Happy Happy Game Show” by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Connect With James and Dean

James P. Friel:

Dean Holland: