March 23, 2021

How to Market Your Book (and other Industry Secrets) with Tucker Max Ep. 10


Tucker Max is the co-founder of Scribe Media, a company that helps people write, publish and market their books.

He has written four New York Times Best Sellers, which have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He's credited with being the originator of the literary genre, “fratire,” and is only the third writer (after Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis) to ever have three books on the New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List at one time. He was nominated to the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential List in 2009.

He received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1998, and his JD from Duke Law School in 2001. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Veronica and three children.

>> 05:41 How huge is this year probably going to be for you?

>> 07: 36 What is the biggest differentiating factor of Scribe compared to your competitors?

>> 14:02 How do you market your book?

>> 25:15 Are you working on other books or do you see any books in your future?

>> 25:53 Do you have any other additional businesses or side hustles you're working on?

>> 29:19 What is the what is the industry average benchmark for net profit in professional publishing?

>> 30:56 How do you handle people ops?

>> 33:07 How many employees, including yourself do you have today?


Where to Find Tucker

Website: https://scribemedia.com/

Twitter: @scribemediaco

Linkedin: Scribe Media

Instagram: @scribemediaco

Facebook: Scribe Media

Youtube: Scribe Media


SPONSOR

This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items.

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Transcript
Natasha:

I'm putting the finishing touches on a digital course for entrepreneurs to learn how to scale and grow their companies and find more profit in their current revenue. To download the free Profit Finder Guide that I've created and also to put yourself on the wait list for the course, go to natashamiller.co.

Tucker Max:

Being an executive coach? That's not niche. Being executive coach for women? Okay, more niche, but non-niche. Being executive coach for women who were career executives, but now want to start their own business? Okay, that's pretty niche. Now you've got something there, right? And you can be the woman to those women.

Natasha:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit? These and the myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Tucker Max is the co-founder of Scribe Media, a company that helps people write, publish, and market their books. He has written four New York Times bestsellers, which have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He is only the third writer after Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis to ever have three books on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list at one time. He is smart. He is funny, a bit irreverent and has figured out how to work just four hours a week these days. Now let's get right into it.

Tucker Max:

I was fired from being a lawyer in two and a half weeks. My dad fired me from the family business. I don't like taking orders from people that I don't respect or people that are dumber than me. And I'm smart. And I don't like doing things that I don't understand or stupid things. So it basically makes me an unemployed boy.

Natasha:

Yeah. You're the quintessential entrepreneur. But did you know before you got-

Tucker Max:

If I'd known that, why the hell would I have gone to an expensive top 10 undergrad, expensive top 10 law school? That'd be a massive waste of time. No, of course not. Now at 45, if I had met 15 year old me, he wouldn't have listened, but I've been like, dude, you can go this whole other way and skip all that pain and agony. But I guess I had to walk that path along the lessons.

Natasha:

And when you were at 15, it wasn't as prevalent. And I don't think we even use the word entrepreneur back then.

Tucker Max:

Entrepreneurial magazine existed, like there was the social cache that came with entrepreneurship was non-existent. It was a thing, but like a small thing. Nowadays it's getting to the point where parents, if a kid says, I want to be an entrepreneur, run a startup. Parents understand what that means.

20 years ago, parents were like, no, you have to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever, get an MBA.

Natasha:

Yeah, it was the great unknown. So I would love to know what excited you most about Scribe when you started so that you can just go for it. What excites you most now?

Tucker Max:

Not a whole the company excited me about it at the beginning. I didn't even want to do the company, but we had so many people throwing so much money at us that we had to. And if I hadn't had my co-founder Zach around, I would not have done this. He's still young, he's 30. But like at the time he was 25, young, full of energy, smart as hell. And I basically dumped the whole company on him for the first year.

So I'm the one that like had the idea and knew how to write books and got the attention. He's the one who made it work. And then when the company got too big and outgrew him, then we hired our current CEO, JeVon McCormick who's a total rock star. And the only reason we're having a gangbuster year, last year, all because of him and his ability to scale a company, which is a totally distinct skill from starting a company, finding product market fit.

And I wasn't super excited at the beginning. I got excited for a while and now the thing sounds so bad, but it's true. The thing I'm most excited about with Scribe is not working in it anymore. I'm still a part of the company, obviously.

Yeah, you work on the business, right?

In the last six months, I have probably spent no more than shoutout Sam, one of my good friends, no more than four hours a week on this other company.

He like lives around the corner from me. Now we hang out all the time. He's a great dude, but I hardly ever worked in the business though.

Natasha:

I was wondering about that and I want to just make sure that all the listeners know that Tucker was early to this interview. And that means that to me, you don't have back-to-back sandwiched meetings. Okay. So cool.

Tucker Max:

What kind of horrible life would that- no.

Natasha:

Did you listen to Elon Musk last night on Clubhouse?

Tucker Max:

I did not. I read the recap of it.

Natasha:

He was talking about he was asleep in the middle of his factory so people could see how hard he's working. Anyway. I digress. Let's not talk about him. Let's talk about you.

So, Scribe. So I will say from my vantage point, seeing you first coming into your atmosphere a couple of years ago, you guys killed it. Especially last year, right? 2020 in my purview, you are all over the place. You were teaching courses. I sat in on some of that and then you wrapped it up. I think you're doing it now.

Still, but you don't actually have to do it, which is great. But it does take someone with vision to pull the company to a whole nother stratosphere. And I'm wondering how huge this year is probably going to be for you because people were able to take some time to figure their book out?

Tucker Max:

It's hard to tell last year was a massive record breaking year for us.

Obviously we grew almost 50% over 2019. And that was with a March that was awful. Like our March was 400 grand. I crushed it. Like everybody, even companies that did well, basically got crushed in March. And so we got crushed in March and then we had a December, our December was better than our 2015 and 2016 combined. Our December was insane.

Natasha:

That's amazing. I think I beat you on the crushing part by the way. We went from multi-million dollars to a flat zero. It was very exciting.

Tucker Max:

We hit sign like 400 grand by March 11th and then lockdowns hit. And then it was zero the rest month. So yeah, it was bad.

Natasha:

Yeah but that was the best fire under our ass.

Tucker Max:

No doubt. I don't understand all these people who complain about 2020, even if it was a really genuinely hard year for you. Let's say you had two businesses, commercial real estate and restaurants. And you got hammered. It's okay, I can understand that's painful. And no, one's excited about that, but there's nothing better than a crisis or catastrophe to show you what matters and who you are. And 2020 was amazing personally, professionally, financially.

It was very hard for us in March, but then it was like, we all rallied to it. And now things are going amazing in all ways, because we decided to actually answer the bell.

Natasha:

Yeah. And you guys did it full on. I was there to watch it. So I, am writing a book have written the final draft. I've done a lot of research about who could publish the book. It's with my agent now with major publishers, but I'm pulling it and I want to publish with Scribe. I want to ask you, what is the biggest differentiating factor of Scribe compared to your competitors?

Tucker Max:

So competitors in professional publishing or compared to traditional publishing?

Natasha:

In self-publishing.

Tucker Max:

So literally it's funny. I just finished a massive blog post about this. I didn't do this on purpose.

Natasha:

Give me the link.

Tucker Max:

It's going, no, it's not up yet. It's going on Tim Ferriss' blog in a month or two. I was talking to him a few months ago about how there's essentially a new category. Everyone knows traditional and everyone knows self, but in between traditional and self, there's a set of companies that have come up and take the best of both worlds.

And we call it professional publishing where like you get top and your book looks like it came out of a traditional publisher. You get full distribution, but you own all the rights and royalties, you have full creative control. So it's the best of both worlds right now. It's literally the best of both worlds. And so in that space, there's us. We're the leaders. We're definitely the biggest. And then there's another company who I think is really good called Page Two. They're really good. I would have no problem recommending them. They do a little bit different than us that we have some overlap, but if someone wanted to go with them over us, I'd be like, okay, I get it.

There's reasons to pick them. Other than those two, every other company in the professional publishing space is at best, they have major flaws, right? Someone like Greenleaf. They're nice people. They're not trying to screw you. They're not fly by night scammers, like a lot of companies in this space, but everyone I know who has ever gone with Greenleaf was fairly disappointed with the decision. And for a few reasons, one is they charge a lot for it. They make all their money on the backend. They charge you for warehousing. They have all these fees built in and they screw you on that. They say the offer goes writing and they offer all this other stuff now.

And they do, but they've kludged that on to their business to compete with us. Cause we're almost double their size now or something like that.

Natasha:

Looking at your marketing plan. I'm like yes. All in. Thank you. Oh my God.

Tucker Max:

You don't have to be, but if you're not full service, you're missing a huge part of the market and the people have got to go elsewhere. And we still have a ton of stuff to add that we're not doing yet. Like tons and tons.

Natasha:

When are you going to add that? Should I wait?

Tucker Max:

It depends. Talk to Miles and Ricky. We will always tell you the truth. We're really good at certain things. We don't do other things and the things we don't do, we're not going to try and pretend.

Cause we only add things. We get good at them. Then we add them as a service.

Natasha:

Would you consider per Roland Frasier buying a company that fills that need of what you're not great at too?

Tucker Max:

Yes, possibly.. It totally depends. Roland's doing a book of this too. I love Roland. It's hard to integrate companies in the service space, so it's very hard.

And a lot of what we're doing requires deep integration. I was going to mention the other major sort of player in the professional publishing space is a company called Advantage. They also have Forbes books and Advantage is in real trouble. Like I know for an abs, like I know when I tell you how, but I know. They have real financial troubles because two or three years ago, they basically got into the dentist space or something like that. And they did 20 million or 25 million, three years ago. And so they thought they had cracked the code. The problem was, they tapped that space and they didn't actually crack any codes. They just got in with a big influencer in one space and sold a lot to that group.

And so then they raised a bunch of private equity money. They took out a bunch of loans and they bought five companies. And I think at least three of those acquisitions have been complete disasters, like complete. They bought a ghostwriting company. The acquisition was so bad. They tried to unwind the whole acquisition could only unwind half of it, but fired everyone from that company.

They bought a bunch of other stuff. And I think one of the acquisitions worked okay. One was mediocre and three were complete disasters. And so we are not going to make the mistake that they made. Now I'm pretty sure we passed them last year in gross revenue. And the reason I know is they had two major waves of layoffs and a ton of their people tried to come work for us and they spend the whole interview bitching about advantage and telling us anything.

We want to know. Hold on. We didn't ask you all this stuff. But I want to tell you because I hate them and it's okay.

Natasha::

Your marketing is better. Your product is better. There's a reason why I chose you over them. And they were definitely in my purview. I was just talking to Cameron Herold last week.

Tucker Max:

And he did three books with you. And there's a lot of influential people that have no problem putting it on the line and just telling you how it is that are saying, yeah, Scribe. Okay, so enough about Scribe. Let's get back to you, but we're going to get back to Scribe later too. But how much is your book? I hope They Serve Beer in Hell, still selling? And do you still market it?

I do no marketing other than I have my website up that has some of the stories from it. And then I have a book up like of the leftover stories for free on Amazon. I'd have to look at the numbers. I still make well into the five figures a month on my books. I'm not willing to maybe 10 or 15 or 20 grand, a month.

So they're selling good costs.

Natasha:

That's a lot of money, by the way.

Tucker Max:

It used to be hundreds of months. Hundreds of thousands month.

Natasha:

Right. So the reason I'm asking is of course, I'm curious, but for the listeners that have books that they've published maybe five years ago, what can they do to keep that up and going? And do they follow your lead of letting it sit there?

Tucker Max:

My book's very different. My book's entertainment. So it's very different, my old memoirs, right? So no one buys those to solve a problem, unless your problem is, I need to laugh more. Then you buy the book. That's entertainment. And so whenever someone asks, I get this question a lot, how do I take my book and make it do better?

My first question is always, what's your book about and what are you trying to accomplish with it? Because if you positioned your book poorly, let's say your goal is to get more leads and clients for your coaching company. And you wrote about how much you love flowers in your coaching companies, not about flowers, then there's nothing you can do to connect those two dots, right?

That's obviously an extreme example, but we have people come in all the time. Like I really want to write erotic science fiction. Cool. But that's not going to sell your software. It's no problem. Just don't try and put those together. And so that's actually the problem for most people.

Natasha:

People are going to buy this book after hearing this podcast if they haven't read it or don't know you already. And I'm wondering, so this is a part of marketing. I brought it up. You may not have brought it up at all, right? It hadn't been your purview.

Tucker Max:

Here's the way to market your book. Get very clear on what you're trying to accomplish for yourself. First. What do I want? I want clients for my coaching business. Cool. Who do I need to reach to get clients from my coaching business? I need to reach people who have the problem that I help solve. And then the more you can niche that down, the better.

So if being an executive coach. That's not a niche. Being executive coach for women? Okay. More niche, but non niche. Being executive coach for women who were career executives, but now want to start their own business? Okay. That's pretty niche. Now you've got something there, right? And you can be the woman to those women. Like I am the woman to go to if you've spent a decade in corporate careers, and now you're trying to transition to a startup, what do you have to think about?

What do you need to know? What are your blind spots? How do you prepare? How do you budget? Like you can be the absolute authority and if you position yourself niche enough and you deliver value from that point, marketing is easy. All you have to do to market is get in front of your audience and offer them the value that's in your book.

That's what we tell people. If you position your book properly, then marketing is a couple things a week for the next two or three years, meaning like one podcast or one guest post or one blog post or whatever. Just put the value you've created for your audience in front of them. And that's why people are like, oh, my audience is women.

And it's, I don't know how to get in front of women. I know how to get in front of specific types of women or specific types of men or plumbers or whatever. There's no way to get in front of men or women or rich people, it just doesn't exist.

Natasha:

And I think a lot of entrepreneurs that are pretty savvy know that they need to write to their demographic, but then there's a lot of authors that don't. I will take myself as an example. The book that I'm writing is more like a business memoir, and I'm not writing it to get more clients from my core business, which is an event and entertainment production company.

I talk about that journey on that way to that business but I really like it. And I want to hone in on that. If you're writing a book, even if you're writing a business memoir, know who your target demographic is before you throw all this time and energy into it and then have to spend a lot of money, editing it to get it driven to the person you really need to talk to.

Tucker Max:

So what we teach our clients is, you know what a Meatball Sundae is, right? Seth Godin wrote the iconic book about you didn't come up with the phrase, but he wrote the book called like meatballs are delicious. Ice cream is delicious. When you put them together into a dish, it's disgusting. That's the problem that people have with memoir.

They try and take a memoir and make it a business book that doesn't ever work. It's never worked one time. You try and give me a counterexample. I can promise you. I'm going to tell you why it's not a counterexample. Oh, Phil Knight and Shoe Dog. No, that's not a business book. That's a memoir that has a few business lessons, but he doesn't try and teach them.

You can learn from memoir, but he didn't try and write a business book. He tried and told his story. Okay. So I think writing memoir is great. I think everyone on earth should tell their story and write a memoir. I think it's an amazing thing. I actually disagree with you about finding an audience for a memoir, because as soon as you start trying to write to an audience for a memoir, you are going to break the cardinal rule of memoir, which is tell the truth.

As soon as you're saying I'm talking to this type of person and they want to hear X, so I'm going to make my story look like X. No one has ever read a memoir to be preached to or pandered to. No one even reads a memoir to learn about you. No one cares about you. Even reading your memoir, they don't care.

Natasha:

They care about themselves.

Tucker Max:

They read your memoir to learn about themselves. Listen, if you're Elon Musk or Phil Knight, you can maybe say your carve out a little bit of an exception, because there are a lot of people who like, I want to know about that person. I would say, even in those cases, people are trying to tap into something about themselves through that person.

And so the whole point of a memoir is authenticity and honesty.

Natasha:

Yeah.

Tucker Max:

That's it. And if you can't do that, don't write a memoir.

Natasha:

Do you know, I may be using the term business memoir incorrectly. And thank you. You just did a little mini masterclass for that. But my story, my memoir, which is going to be a hundred percent honest and true really encapsulates my business journey because there's no way to separate it.

Tucker Max:

Of course they're not different things.

Natasha:

And I'm being challenged actually by a coach named Dr. Jeff Spencer to really look at what is your book really? You're calling it a business memoir because that's what my agent's calling it 'cause she's trying to find a niche in the genre.

Tucker Max:

Traditional publisher, and they need to fit it. For them, positioning is what shelf does it go in the bookstore? That's not the same thing as positioning.

Natasha:

And since we're not doing that anymore, then I'm going to have to look further into that.

Tucker Max:

You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.

Natasha:

No, I'd love to. I just don't want it to all be about me, but I'm going to just tell you now that you've asked. So to give you an idea about what the book is about, I'll tell you what the working title is, and it sums it up. Will that be the title going forward? Unlikely, but it's called Relentless Tenacity.

My journey from homeless shelter to the Inc. 5000. And I guess I've been an entrepreneur since I was 15, because I've been on my own since I was 16. So huge inflection points really positive, really frigging low, like just all the time up until about 10 years ago when I matured and really understood how to mold and sculpt my own life, instead of letting things happen to me.

And I've had incredible success. I far surpassed what I ever thought I would do. But now I see there's even more. And that is so exciting to me. And I think the people that will read this book will see those vulnerabilities in themselves and those questions of "Can I do this?" Or "Should I do this?" Or I'm homeless or I'm whatever it is.

Yes, you can. I'm ready to sleep in the doorway of- I'm on California street in Leavenworth, in San Francisco. I am mentally prepared to have to sleep in a doorway, but instead I'm living in this beautiful Edwardian place. That's the nutshell.

Tucker Max:

That's a memoir.

Natasha:

Yeah.

Tucker Max:

The only way to call it a business memoir 'cause a lot of your life has been about business. Like you can call Phil Knight's book, a business memoir, it's a memoir. So that's great. If you want to tell your story, just to tell your story. Not only is there nothing wrong with that? I think it's amazing. I think everyone should do it at some point in their life.

I don't think there's any better way to really understand your life is one of the best ways to really realize the gaps in your own. Self-awareness. I will tell you this. I don't know if this is true of our guy, because I don't know you. But a lot of people should be doing therapy are afraid to do therapy. And so instead they write a memoir.

Natasha:

I do both.

Tucker Max:

So the ones who were afraid of therapy are using memoirs as substitute for therapy. They have a really hard time with their memoir. 'Cause if they approach it, honestly, and they're okay, I'm going to really try and tell my story, then they get into all these deep places and difficult emotions they are equipped to deal with.

And aren't ready to, and don't know how to, because they've got no one else. I don't know of any way to do self-therapy, at least at lower levels or at almost all levels of consciousness. I haven't reached the ones yet where you can do some therapy. I hear they exist. I don't know.

Natasha:

You're amazing. If anyone's listening to this, you have to listen to Travis Chappell's interview of you which was amazing, a deep dive into all the things that you did.

Tucker Max:

But the point is like memoir is an amazing forcing function to see yourself clearly, but be prepared to go on that journey. Every bad memoir is bad because someone wasn't willing to go on that journey. So they wrote bullshit.

Natasha:

Lots of things happen to me when I wrote this book, but I'm going to tell you Tucker Max, I found a sister I never knew existed.

Tucker Max:

Biological sister?

Natasha:

Biological sister.

Tucker Max:

That's amazing.

Natasha:

It's because I had to admit to my brothers that I'm writing this memoir. I was afraid they would be a little, "Please don't put our stuff out into the world."

And one of my brothers said, "Do it. It happened, it should be noted." And that was the brother that I was like, I thought he would have a conniption. The other brother was a little more tentative. And I'll tell you, a couple of months later because I cracked open and went a little bit below the surface. My brother, Justin, took me to dinner one night and at the end he goes, "Tasha, I have something to tell you."

And I'm like, okay, this does not feel right. It doesn't feel good. And he said, we have a sister. And Tucker, I was like, "Really?" If I had to recount how he felt, it was like he was speaking a foreign language backwards and I just couldn't grasp it. And I just-

Tucker Max:

That's a trauma. That's a trauma response. You were in this mild shock.

Natasha:

Everything in my body. I looked at him and I pointed like my grandmother does. And I was like "I'm going to find her and I'm going to find her within 24 hours. Nothing is going to stop me." And that was 9:00 PM on a Saturday. And I found her by digging through 900 records of people looking for their biological families. I found her the next day at 4:30. And the reason why he knew about her-

Tucker Max:

It didn't even take you 20 hours.

Natasha:

No. He was keeping a secret from my mother for the last 20 years.

Tucker Max:

Is that a half sister? Or a full sister?

Natasha:

Yeah, half sister. And I'm sure it was eating him up. He took out of his wallet, this crumpled up piece of paper and said, "When mom was going into surgery, she may not have made it. She said, if I die, here's some information about a sister that you have, and you can try to find her."

And she didn't die. She's still alive. And they just swept it under the rug. And to bear that burden for that long is just incredible. So everyone think about writing a book because you never know what you're going to crack open.

Tucker Max:

But just be prepared. We have a memoir program than a non-fiction program in the coaching section. And I would say two-thirds of the people who start on memoir, oh yeah, bang this out in six months. Three years later, they're still working on it. And it's not the book. It's the emotional stuff behind the book.

Oh, that opened up a shitstorm. Like you wouldn't even believe, like I had to stop thinking about the book completely for nine months.

Yeah, I can imagine. I would too. No bullshit, Natasha. I've written, I don't even know now, nine, 10 books, four New York Times bestsellers, blah, blah, blah, blah. All these accolades. I'm working on a memoir right now. My next one that is so heavy. It has knocked me down and I have stopped working on it for three months.

When you go deep, it's hard. It takes time. That's just the process. It's okay if it takes time. It's okay if you need to do it in parcels or whatever. Yeah. I'm in the same boat.

Natasha:

So you answered my next question. Are you working on other books or do you see any books in your future? And Scribe, I'm assuming, this may be stupid but would you take a traditional publisher's deal at this point in your life?

Tucker Max:

No, no.

Natasha:

I didn't think so, but I know someone who owns a modeling agency that works herself as a model in a major modeling agency.

Tucker Max:

Yeah, no. No. I'm sure there's a number that they could come to me with okay, fine. I'll take $20 million, but the number it would take to get me is not even within the range of the number they would give me.

Natasha:

You are in such a great place in life right now. So in addition to Scribe, do you have any other additional businesses or side hustles you're working on?

Tucker Max:

Not only the side hustles. So right now there's three of us that own the company, me, my CEO and my co-founder Zach and JeVon.

And so JeVon's running Scribe and then Zach and I are both building sort of orthogonal businesses. Zach's brilliant, man. He just decided he wanted to start programming. And six months later, he's like an AI programmer, like a good one. I know. Seriously. It's amazing. And so he's building a couple pieces of software that we're going to start using internally and then probably spin out and sell once we get them.

I'm the other way. We're actually building a different model of publishing. So Scribe is a pure service company, right? We don't own any of the books. We don't take any of the royalties from the author. They pay us a fee. We do a kickass service and then they control the book, but we have a lot of authors coming to us who want some sort of rev share or quasi traditional deal.

There's a massive market for that. And I think the traditional publishers are killing themselves and imploding. And even if they all died, there's still a place for that model. I just think it has to be updated for the 21st century.

Natasha:

Do you look at some people's sales and go, oh, I think like opposite people are coming to you wanting a rough share. Are you looking at successes and going, wait a minute, we made that happen?

Tucker Max:

Yeah, like David Goggins sold two and a half million copies. He's most of it, if he'd go on with traditional, I don't think he would. It wouldn't have been anywhere near as good as it going with us. He still would have sold millions, but probably anywhere from 10 to 30% less than with us.

And the main reason is because David trusted us to make the creative. We brought in the best people and made the best decisions. Whereas a traditional publisher would have neutered the book. Anyway, so we're building a hybrid traditional arm. So like me, Zach and JeVon are partners and everything-

Natasha:

Wait, in four hours a week, you're building man.

Tucker Max:

Yeah, because I'm doing it right. I am the visionary and I am the one, the aesthetics person. I am not the day-to-day like, usually when I get into the day to day, I screw it up.

You just bone in your ideas. You're like, "Oh just woke up, here are my ideas. Now go."

Dan Sullivan is right. Like I, okay. So I'm a huge who, not how person, like actually we helped them do the book "Who Not How", which I love. And I love strategic coach. It was one of those things where like I thought I understood the who not how idea. And then once I dove into the book, I helped him and Ben Hardy, I edited the book actually. And it was the only book I worked on last year that wasn't mine.

And I was like, oh, I don't understand this idea at all. I've been totally screwing it up. I've been looking at it like delegation. It's not what it is. And so yeah, the hybrid traditional arm is, we're getting close to eight figures. Seriously. I'm an hour a day, maybe because we've hired the right people, that is Natasha like, your first thing, you make every mistake. And then your second thing, you make half the mistakes. And the third thing, you make 30% of the mistakes. I learned I'm slow, but I learn.

Natasha:

I don't know if you're that slow. You're a doer, right? You've got a lot of energy, so you're going to just consider yourself slow.

Tucker Max:

I'm slow to learn. The saying, the lesson will be repeated until it's learned. I feel like a lot of these things I've been hit with multiple times. Some people like Zach, my co-founder, he generally learns the lesson immediately. Like first time he's oh, okay. I'm never going to make that mistake again. And I'm like, no, you got to hit me four or five more times before I learn it.

Natasha:

It's not coming the way you're talking about him at 25, he was able to do what he did with you at that age. That is a very special person.

Tucker Max:

He is. He's 30 now. The dude just learned AI programming in six months. He's amazing.

Natasha:

He's like Mensa probably.

Tucker Max:

Oh yeah. He is.

Natasha:

Okay. So I want to get all these questions in, what is the self-publishing or the professional publishing, I'm going to correct myself, what is the industry average benchmark for net profit?

Tucker Max:

There isn't enough. Truly. Some people come in and they're like, I want to write a book about the flowers of Eastern Texas and it sells 10 copies, right? Or the poetry of-

Natasha:

Oh, I meant your business model.

Tucker Max:

Oh, for my model. I honestly wouldn't know because none of these companies are public. We have a weird space, like that space is so disjointed and it's been so down market for so long.

And so we were the first ones to come in really and make a serious effort to do a serious high-end upmarket version of that. It's why we've been so successful. But it's hard because most of the spaces down market, it's sorta like taking a Hyundai and elevating it to compete with Lexus. It takes time. It's not easy. And our space was a Hyundai when we came in it.

Natasha:

What would make your heart sing? What would you be like, "Yes!"?

Tucker Max:

For what?

Natasha:

Net profit percentage.

Tucker Max:

Percent?

Natasha:

Yeah.

Tucker Max:

We were last year, 11% last year? No, that's a service business where we heavily- we hired 25 new people last year, right? And so we were heavily investing in growth. Our goal this year is 15, and then we want to, once we get to a good mature space, be around 20% net profit.

Natasha:

Really thankful for you to answer that question, because I think a lot of people really focus on revenue, which has its place. But the profit margin-

Tucker Max:

If you spend $10 million to make 9 million, that's not good. You can say "I made 9 million!" But you spent 10 to get there. Yeah.

Natasha:

So the next question, I don't know how much you're going to know about this, cause you're not working in the business, but how do you handle people ops? So people operations, human resources at Scribe. And if you want to just say one small, what is the structure? What is the culture?

The reason I ask is I'm on the advisory board of Zenefits and it's really come up to my mind about how organizations work their people. And changing the thought to human resources, to a community or people operations.

Tucker Max:

So we have a famous culture because we put like- an entrepreneur two years ago named us the number one small company culture in America.

We've won all those cultural awards, which honestly are meaningless. They're just really good for recruiting. So we participate but like, we win them for a reason. We've had a couple of people leave Zappos to come to us. And Zappos is famous for their culture. And they're like, nah, it's a show. Maybe there was a day when it was like that. But now-

It's kind of heartbreaking just to talk about it really.

Oh, because of Tony, yeah. But like most of the companies that pay lip service to culture, it's lip service. We're very different. Because again, our company culture sprung out of Zach and I, who are like, we're just going to always be honest and tell the truth.

And we're going to build the company we want to work at, which seems obvious, right? It's an absolutely astoundingly revolutionary act in America. Anywhere, really. If you build a company where people are not a resource, but people are the point, that is a fundamentally revolutionary act. And almost everything you do is the opposite of the way most people do it.

Almost everything. Look, corporate America has 20 or 30% of stuff, right? Like certain structural things or here's how you do payroll taxes or what, or here's how you do your books or, okay. But like the way that people are seen as a disposable asset and they are assumed to have to leave their identities and their selves and their emotions out of work, that is an inherently dehumanizing process.

And we rejected it. Refused it. No, this is absolutely unacceptable. And so we have a company that is the opposite of that.

Natasha:

That's awesome. How many employees, including yourself do you have today?

Tucker Max:

So we are 62 or three full-time. And then we have another 250 who are like, kind of part-time freelance, but not random freelancers on Upwork.

We have a separate slack for them. And there's a lot of people who make all their money from us just about probably, or a lot from freelance or a huge portion of their income. And like the amount of work we do, we really have, it's almost like having 200 full-time. It's not literally, but the way that part-time full-time legal designations are so silly in America.

Natasha:

Oh my God. Tell me about it.

Tucker Max:

I know, if you're in the event space, this stuff really..

Natasha:

I know. I was proud to have a team of 15 full-time employees and over a million dollar payroll. That was so easy for me to have pre-March. Yeah. Right.

And of course we have hundreds of ten 99, if not more. What I found out Tucker is, after I had to do some layoffs and have this smaller team and we pivoted immediately to virtual, which I love by the way, I am loving my job every day I wake up. So much less stressful.

The people I have on the team now are absolutely the right butts and the right seats and has capacity. It's so exciting. Okay. What is one major strategy that you guys are going to take into this next year to scale and grow?

Tucker Max:

So that is definitely a question that I'm the wrong person to ask. That is a CEO question. And I am not the CEO.

Natasha:

You might've heard them talking about it though.

Tucker Max:

What's funny? Seriously, Natasha. I'm not in the executive meetings anymore.

Natasha:

Oh, my God.

Tucker Max:

No, it's true. I haven't been in the executive meetings in six months. Like I don't get enrolled in the day-to-day. Like I had a conversation with my CEO about this.

Like I said, listen, man, you need to think of me like a chainsaw. You don't keep a chainsaw in your house. You keep a chainsaw on the shed. And you don't need to use it much, but when you need to use it, it's the only tool you can use. It's the one you're super excited you have it. It's dangerous. You handle it with care, but it's amazing and effective.

And then when you're done with it, you put it back, you oil it, you clean it, you put it back. Treat me like that, right? Bring me in when you need me and I will absolutely cut through anything and get anything done that needs to be done.

Natasha:

Okay. You and Cameron or somebody needs to write a book and the title is "I Am the Chainsaw". Okay. I'll take a little line of credit in there as good for me.

Tucker Max:

It's the best though. It's the best for both of us, right? Because then they don't have to deal with my shit and I don't have to deal with errors.

Natasha:

It's good to you that you know that, and it's good that you found that at this time because there's some founders or co-founders that just hit it hard until they burn out.

Okay. Last question is, have you thought about what your exit plan is for Scribe and for you? Is it something you're building to sell? Is it something you're in for life?

Tucker Max:

There's so much money out there right now, chasing alpha. It's ridiculous. And so we're not a big company. You look at the scale of American companies, we're awfully on a dog's ass.

Like even though we're well into the eight figures, we're still a fully on a dog's ass. That's just the reality. And we have some of the smaller mid-tier PE firms coming at us offering. It's funny with this.

Natasha:

I do too, by the way.

Tucker Max:

So it's not that- exactly. Our revenue's good. We're doing well. And they're like, oh, we think you're doing 55 million a year. And I'm like, man, we look amazing.

Natasha:

No, our branding, my branding is amazing. We look so much bigger than we are.

Tucker Max:

Dude, we've had PE companies say, we estimate you're somewhere around 30 to 50, probably closer to 50. And I'm like wouldn't that be nice? We've had offers. And like I said, it's like the traditional. There's a number we would sell it.

We joke about this. Okay. If someone right now said a hundred million dollar cash offer, we'd seriously consider it. Maybe even take it. And then like us, me and JeVon, and Zach would take the executive team and go somewhere else to start a different company.

Natasha:

Your executive team.

Tucker Max:

Okay, fine. You guys stay there for a year and then when you're ready to come.

Yeah. So our exit plan would be to go do the same thing we're doing with the same people or something similar with the same people. And so, yeah, we were a long time ago like, all right, unless someone comes with a stupid obnoxious godfather offer, we're just going to keep doing what we love doing.

Natasha:

Awesome. I'm right there with you. When people were pressing me for my exit plan I'm like, what? Whatever.

Those are people who hate their lives and will escape. And I explain to people, the only way to be happy is right now, if you're waiting on a future to be happy, you will never be happy.

We just got to look inside the life of Tucker Max, the co-founder of the best professional publishing company today. He talked to us about their growth, his ability to step back and really be rooted firmly as the visionary, among other things.

Tucker was an absolute joy to talk to. And I want to thank him for his candid responses to questions that can be a challenge to answer, especially in a public forum. For more information about Tucker or Scribe, go to our show notes for the links to their websites.

For more information about me, go to my website, natashamiller.co. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Tucker Max

Co-Founder

Tucker Max is the co-founder of Scribe Media, a company that helps people write, publish and market their books.

He has written four New York Times Best Sellers, which have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He's credited with being the originator of the literary genre, “fratire,” and is only the third writer (after Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis) to ever have three books on the New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List at one time. He was nominated to the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential List in 2009.

He received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1998, and his JD from Duke Law School in 2001. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Veronica and three children.